How DNA Can Help Your Genealogy

DNA testing has become a popular topic at genealogy meetings, and the growth in the number of DNA tests has been fueled by numerous promotional sales and promises to unlock secrets in your genealogy research. In some cases, DNA results have been powerful in producing clues and knocking down brick walls, but in many other cases, the results have been confusing.

Genealogists, who I talked to, gave me the following list of reasons why they submitted DNA samples:

  • They were curious about what the results would
  • They were curious about their origins and ancient ancestry.
  • They were hoping to find matches and possible distant relatives to exchange information.
  • They doubted their paper trail and wanted to prove or disprove their oral history.
  • They wanted to test relationship theories.

I have heard many stories of successes in finding matches to lost branches of families that led to the addition of many stories and pictures to family histories. However, I have also heard many people asking for help in understanding their results. The testing companies are now adding tools that help family historians better analyze and utilize their test results. One step that helps significantly is the ability to attach your family tree to your DNA test results.  Some of the tools I find useful include:

  • Identifying Genetic Communities
  • Surname searches
  • Identifying Shared Matches
  • Adding surnames and other comments in the attached notes for matches

These tools led me to a secret portion of my ancestry that one of my ancestors took to her grave. However, I opened this new side of my ancestry by identifying a dark secret. So be prepared. If you have to unlock secrets, there may be a dark side that you may regret discovering.

In summary, I would recommend taking the Autosomal test offered by Ancestry.com or FamilyTreeDNA.com. Take Y-DNA and mtDNA tests only if you need to explore specific relationship theories. Your results will probably be very generic and match your paper trail. If your DNA results do not match your paper trail, you may have some secrets to uncover. If your results have matches that project as first or second cousins, contact them because you may have an exciting new source for family stories and pictures of common ancestors.

Just have fun exploring your family history and heritage. Remember to save and pass along what you find to your children, grandchildren, and future generations.

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