Help:DNA Tests

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DNA testing is genealogy's new frontier. Over 20 million genealogists have taken tests.


Why Take a Test?

A DNA test can tell you about your ethnicity. This can be very interesting. However, for most genealogists, it's all about the matches: you want to see which other test-takers share significant segments of your DNA.

Your matches are your close or distant cousins. Some of them may have family history information that you don't have.

Moreover, your matches can help you do something incredible: scientifically confirm your family tree. You think you know who your ancestors are. Now you can prove it, because your DNA is their DNA. You might even discover exactly which ancestors gave you which segments of your DNA.

Confirming your ancestors with DNA can be difficult but it's an exciting and fascinating project.

Types of Tests

The most popular DNA tests for genealogy are what are called autosomal DNA tests. This is the test AncestryDNA, MyHeritageDNA, 23andMe, Family Tree DNA and Living DNA sell for under $100 (sometimes as low as $50 or $60).

23andme_audna.gif ancestry_audna.gif ftdna_audna.gif myheritage_audna.gif

Autosomal tests are what almost everyone is talking about when they say "DNA test" these days. But there are two other types that have been used for genealogy for much longer and are still extremely valuable for particular purposes:

  1. Y chromosome (YDNA) tests. These are only for men. They tell you about your direct paternal line: a son inherits his Y chromosome from his father, who inherited it from his father, etc. Conveniently for genealogists, this is also how surnames are usually inherited.
  2. Mitochondrial (mtDNA) tests. Mitochondrial DNA is inherited by a child from his or her mother, so mtDNA tests tell you about your direct maternal line.

For a personalized illustration of how the different types of DNA are inherited, click the "DNA" link on your Profile Menu. The little icons show you whose Y.gif Y chromosome (if you're a man), X.gif X chromosome, mt.gif mitochondrial DNA and au.gif autosomal DNA you've inherited.

By the way, X chromosome DNA tests aren't offered. X results are included for free with autosomal DNA tests.

Which Test Should You Choose?

Which type of test?

The sheer popularity and low price of autosomal DNA tests means that almost everyone should start with one of these (AncestryDNA, MyHeritageDNA, 23andMe or Family Tree DNA's Family Finder test).

Y and mt tests are still awesome tools for genealogy. Their great advantages:

  1. They can be used for very deep ancestry. Autosomal tests can only confirm genealogy within the past 200 or 300 hundred years at most.
  2. Confirmation is simpler because you know exactly where the DNA came from: the ancestors in your direct paternal line (YDNA) or maternal line (mtDNA). Your autosomal DNA is a mix of all your ancestors.

Which testing company?

For Y and mt you don't have a lot of choices. Go to Family Tree DNA.

For autosomal, all the major testing companies (AncestryDNA, MyHeritageDNA, 23andMe and Family Tree DNA) offer essentially the same product. Some serious genealogists get tested at all the major companies.

If the test is the same, why take more than one? Because less serious genealogists take just one.

In other words, each company will give you different matches. Each company has its own customer base. If you want to see if you match anyone who's taken the AncestryDNA test, you have to take the AncestryDNA test. If you want to see if you match anyone who's taken the 23andMe test, you have to take the 23andMe test, etc.[1]

Of course, testing with multiple companies is expensive. If you're just getting started or can only choose one, which testing company should you choose?

Unless one of them is having a sale (it's worth clicking over to check), we'd usually recommend AncestryDNA.

  1. AncestryDNA has by far the largest customer base, i.e. the most potential matches.
  2. Most of their customers are interested in genealogy, whereas on 23andMe the test-takers may be more interested in health.
  3. Their customers are more likely to have a family tree that's on the site.
  4. Ancestry is the easiest to use.

That said, Ancestry does not have the most powerful tools. If you feel serious about genetic genealogy, go straight to our friends at Family Tree DNA.

If you're interested in the health-related offerings, go to 23andMe. If you're just interested in ancestry but are going with 23andMe anyway, be sure to select their ancestry-only test.

Ordering a Test

To order a test, or just check for sales, please follow these links:

If you are e-mailing a family member or friend or posting on Facebook or a forum, use one of these URLs to make sure that WikiTree gets credit for the referral.[2] Thank you!

See also:

  1. How to Get Started with DNA
  2. DNA: Why DNA + WikiTree = Awesome.
  3. DNA Features: WikiTree's many DNA features and tools.
  4. Frequently Asked Questions
  5. Your own questions: DNA

  1. Most companies' tests can be compared against each other. For example, you can compare someone's test results from AncestryDNA with someone else's test results from 23andMe by downloading both sets of raw results and uploading them to a third-party site, such as GEDMatch. Uploading to GEDMatch is highly recommended — they can compare your DNA with everyone else who has uploaded to GEDMatch, regardless of which company they used — but it's something that only serious genealogists do.
  2. WikiTree is free for all members because our expenses are covered by referral credits and advertising revenue. If you order or recommend a test, please use the links above. If your recommendation is in a comment on a WikiTree profile or inside a WikiTree page you can use these templates to create the link:

This page was last modified 16:37, 11 December 2023. This page has been accessed 255,224 times.