Where to Start for your DNA?

A Blog Post by Michael Carragher
So you think you want to learn about your own DNA? Here’s the best route to take as of now November 2017.

First, understand the potential benefits and pitfalls. DNA results will show your ethnicity mixture and matches to cousins who have tested. The ethnicity mixture results are not an exact science and will improve with time. They are generally reliable on the “continent” level in telling you where your heritage is from but sometimes the specific “country” level can vary between the companies. Generally the cousin matching function is pretty accurate and you’ll discover known and unknown relatives. It is a great way to connect with others and expand your family tree.

DNA can also show unexpected relationships or non-relationships. Click this link here to learn more about Ethics for DNA testing. Read this blog by Kelly & Michael from the Wheaton Surname Study for dealing with unexpected results.

So you’re ready to go?

There are 4 major companies offering DNA testing: Ancestry, 23andMe, Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage. Buy a test from Ancestry first! Retail price is $99 but there are sales often, especially around the holidays – $79 now but Black Friday deal may be better. (Click here for DNA Bargains and Thomas MacEntee’s take on which test to buy). Ancestry.com has the largest database of people who tested with 6 million so far. They provide ethnicity mixture results as well as matching to cousins (up to 4-6 generations). You can only get into their database by buying a test. These DNA tests are called “autosomal” tests. Info on all 3 types of tests can be found here by Roberta Estes.
23andMe has the next largest database with 3 million people but as they also offer medical testing (extra cost), their focus hasn’t always been on genealogy. If you are deep into your genealogy, most will do a test there too at some point.
Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage have smaller databases but they will let you transfer your results to get into their databases (small fee). There is another site to use with mostly free tools when you transfer your raw data there too: GEDmatch.com. When you’re thoroughly addicted, you won’t be able to resist learning about their website.

Ancestry

23andMe

FamilyTreeDNA

MyHeritage

Autosomal DNA Test (male & female)

X

X X

X

Ethnicity Mixture

X

X X

X

Cousin Matching

X

X X

X

Chromosome Browser Tool X

X

Traditional Genealogy Records to research

X

X

Can download raw results to transfer to other websites

X

X X

X

Accept transfers of raw data X

X

y-DNA test (males only – results for direct paternal line only)

X

mtDNA test (males and females – results for direct maternal line only)

X

Preserves DNA sample for possible future testing

X

Use our “DNA Roadmap Worksheet” to keep track of your and your family tests (you’ll start testing other family members! And won’t be able to stop 🙂 ). Ancestry.com requires a unique account created for each test taker so you have to use a unique email address for each test. They don’t have to subscribe to see the results as you can assign management of the test results to one account. At least one account must have an active subscription in order to see cousin matches’ trees ($49 annual subscription).

For further reading and research, see our list of recommended online resources.

PDF copy of our worksheet: DNA Roadmap Checklist ver2

Opinions expressed are of the current President Michael Carragher.

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Online Resources for using DNA in Genealogy

Basic article to read on genetic genealogy overview: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_genealogy

Group Websites:

International Society of Genetic Genealogy – https://isogg.org/

Blogs:

Sue Griffith – http://www.genealogyjunkie.net/

Blaine Bettinger – http://thegeneticgenealogist.com/

Roberta Estes – https://dna-explained.com/

Kitty Cooper – http://blog.kittycooper.com/

Cece Moore – http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/

Judy G. Russell – http://www.legalgenealogist.com/

Companies to test with:

AncestryDNA (Ancestry.com) – https://www.ancestry.com/dna

Family Tree DNA – https://www.familytreedna.com/

23andMe – https://www.23andme.com/

My Heritage – https://www.myheritage.com/

Meetings Info

Join us at the Sachem Public Library on the first Saturday the month.
All meetings begin promptly at 10 am and end at 12:15.
Our meetings are open to DNA Genealogy Group of Long Island members and to the public.  All are welcome.
Note: in November 2018, we will meet at the Patchogue Medford Library.
We take a vacation in December and July, there are no meetings during those months.