Genetic Genealogy

Salvador Dali’s tribute to the discovery of DNA
(Courtesy of The Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, FL, USA)
Genetic Genealogy is a field that uses DNA matching analysis to assist traditional genealogical document research. Unlike with traditional documents, a DNA genetic test on its own is not sufficient to divulge any genealogical information. It is only after comparing the genetic test results with others, and then correlating that with existing genealogical work, can one begin to extract useful information about family history. So the field of genetic genealogy requires others be tested, compared to, and have done some genealogical work. Genetic Testing, on its own, is simply determining what is unique about a persons DNA.

Since introduced in the late 1990’s, testing has greatly expanded in scope with costs dramatically falling. Surname Studies, such as this one, are greatly enhanced as a result of this capability.

Read each of the subsections referenced in the table of contents below for more details.

In summary, at this time, here is what the project recommends:

  1. No matter what your biological sex, if you believe the surname exists in the last 5-8 generations of your ancestors, purchase a 23andMe ancestry-only test for $99 plus shipping. This will provide Autosomal, X, Y and mtDNA SNP test results. (Y SNP results are only available for males who test.) 23andMe is the only one to offer this single, all-inclusive product. Transfer your RAW Data results file from 23andMe to GEDMatch to fully utilize Autosomal matching with project members. Uploading to FamilyTreeDNA’s FamilyFinder is again supported directly also. Ancestry, while having a much larger match database to compare against. does not test mtDNA, less Y and requires a subscription fee to fully see and contact matches.
  2. If you are a biological male who believes you have a patrilineal descent from someone with a surname here, then additionally order a FamilyTreeDNA yDNA STR 37 Marker test through our project for ~$150 plus shipping. (If a female, try to find a male relative matching this criteria and have them do both of these tests.)  Join our FamilyTreeDNA project and your yDNA results will automatically become available for further analysis by project administrators. Ordering as a project member gets you a discount.
  3. If wanting to do anything more or different, then email one of the admins for options and variations. For example, to optimize overall money for a male tester, only order a yDNA STR 12 Marker test through the project and then order the FamilyTreeDNA BigY test with additional yFull analysis. This gets you all the yDNA testing currently available.  If you do this and do not need the mtDNA test, use FamilyTreeDNA FamilyFinder instead of 23andMe for the Autosomal test to keep it all within one test company and save a few more dollars.
The first test recommended above does SNP testing of ALL your DNA.  The Autosomal DNA (atDNA) SNP test (that always includes xDNA SNP results) helps with matching near-term relatives (common ancestors within the last 200 years). The Mitochondrial DNA (aka mtDNA) SNP test helps confirm a matrilineal (female-only) line and the ancient (5,000+ years back) Haplogroup. The yDNA SNP test, for males determines the ancient Haplogroup pedigree (5,000+ years) for the patrilineal line.  It also helps distinguish similar value yDNA STR results (false positive) matches that occur when frequently changing STR values happen to converge back with a different patrilineal line that diverged thousands of years ago.

The second test, yDNA STR, is the way a male participates in the surname study to try and match similar males in the genealogical time frame and slightly beyond.  Both the yDNA STR and SNP tests are needed for males to truly verify the patrilineal (male-only lineage) line.

Cracking Your Genetic Code

We encourage you to watch the PBS NOVA show “Cracking Your Genetic Code”. It gently (re)introduces you to some basics about DNA, reminds you of the possible surprises in testing, and touches on the ethical questions this all brings up. We encourage you to obtain the DVD or visit your local library to lend it. We have heard you may find the show, in its entirety, to view on youtube.

External References

ISOGG Wiki: During 2015 and beyond, Debbie Kennett and others have made a dramatic push; expanding the content and removing the extreme biases it exhibited earlier.
Cyndi’s List of DNA Blogs: A great reseource for current news and information; often from leading speakers