DNA testing for ancestry has been a high-tech new boon to those wanting to dig deep for their family roots. Whether just curious or have nothing else to go on to find ancestors, people are happy to spend $100 or so to discover their “genetic haplo groups,” (people groups) and perhaps link up with others whose DNA markers are close matches.
In my last post I wrote about adoption and finding your roots. In the old days, closed records were the norm, but nowadays many states will open the records if both parties have given approval. Kansas has wide open records and an online database for those searching. Open adoptions have thankfully become common, so both birth parents and their children aren’t left sad and wondering for years. My online friend, writing coach Cate Russell-Cole, was adopted and unable to find her birth parents. She turned to DNA testing and is happy with the results. Although she still does not know her birth parents, she found her lineage is strongly Irish, with Viking and Jewish heritage.
Cate used genebase.com in Canada which lets users create an online family tree, similar to Ancestry.com. Genebase offers a number of DNA testing options, starting at $119 plus shipping and handling: from paternal or maternal only to testing both lines, and from standard to highest resolution. The site even says it will test for immediate family, however that works. The tests require cheek swabs. Results, which are technical and complicated to read I hear, are viewable online through a personal profile. Cate chose to test through her maternal line of X chromosomes, but took the most extensive test to find “Mitochondrial Eve,” so she has a map of the movements of her ancient ancestors across Europe and even East Asia. She is periodically sent information about possible matches with others, but says these have been ancient lineage possibilities.
Author friend Kim Wolterman, who is not adopted and enjoys researching her own genealogy as well as the histories of old houses, had her DNA test done with AncestryDNA via Ancestry.com. “When they began offering their DNA test for $99, I decided to spit or get off the pot.” Ha, ha, Kim. The online results of Kim’s spit test took close to six weeks to receive. Here’s her response:
“To say that I was surprised when I went online to review my test results is an understatement. The pie chart indicated that I am 95% British Isles (England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales), and 5% unknown. My German and Swiss ancestors would be amazed to hear about this!”
Kim has documentation of numerous German ancestors and one Swiss. She is thinking of asking her brother to take the test to see if the same results come up. AncestryDNA also has a database of tested people who could connect with others who share DNA markers. Kim has found this “very disappointing,” with no close matches found.
Does DNA testing really work? From my own bit of research and from reading reviews, it seems to work if you just want a broad outlook and if the company has a huge database of results from all over the world (most don’t, especially not from Asia). For some people, results are in conflict with known heritage. And don’t expect to find lost parents or siblings. No1Reviews.com lists genealogy sites and some DNA test companies if you’d like to compare reviews by the site’s editor and by actual users of those companies. Before you spend the money, study up on the types of DNA tests and what kinds of results you can realistically expect. In the end, or rather in the beginning, we all came out of Africa. That’s your freebie result, no test needed.
Note: Women can have their mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) tested for maternal lineage. Men can have their mDNA tested for maternal lineage AND have their Y-chromosome male lineage tested. Autosomal chromosome tests will analyze not just the mDNA or Y sex chromosome but all 23 pairs of chromosomes in human cells. AncestryDNA, 23andme, and genebase.com’s combo packages test autosomal chromosomes. 23andme focuses on health and medical issues.
Addendum: Through a pingback notice about this post, I found a wonderful family history blog with a post that talks about experiences with DNA testing. Note the comments, too.