DNA Testing and Genealogy


The traditional genealogical research which involves researching various records in the archives remains the most popular and the most common way to trace family ancestry. But in the recent years, genealogy also started to use DNA testing as it allows fast and accurate insight into an individual’s heritage. DNA testing in genealogy is done exclusively for studying family ancestry and does not reveal any medical history nor predisposition for certain genetic disorders or medical conditions. To avoid the confusion, DNA testing that is done for genealogical purposes is typically referred to as genealogical DNA testing.

Genealogical DNA testing can be used as a starting point, complementation or alternative to the traditional genealogical research. For example, you can take a genealogical DNA test if:

Genealogical DNA testing is painless – it usually involves cheek-scraping to collect a DNA sample which is then tested in a laboratory. The prices of genealogical DNA tests vary from one company to another but the most popular ones are about £100.

Several types of genealogical DNA tests are available. Most people decide for the so-called Y-DNA testing which, like its name suggests, involves the use of Y chromosome which is passed from the father to son. The main reason why it is the most commonly used type of DNA testing for genealogical purposes is the fact that the Y chromosome remains identical through the generations similar to surname which is also passed down through the male line.

If you are a female and would like to take a Y-DNA test, you will need a sample either from your father or your brothers. Another option is to take a mtDNA test which uses the mitochondrial DNA. In contrary to Y chromosome which is passed down through the male line, mtDNA is passed down through the female line. The mother passes mtDNA to both her sons and daughters, however, the sons do not pass it to their descendants. But in comparison to Y-DNA testing, mtDNA tests do not provide as valuable genealogical information although the newest discovery of variation in mtDNA could make them highly useful tool for genealogical research as well.

The last option are the so-called ethnic tests which, however, have a limited value for genealogical research. They are intended to reveal more about an individual’s ethnic background. But since national boundaries as well as peoples in particular geographical regions changed through time, these tests cannot tell you for certain that your ancestors are of Polish or Swedish origin for instance. Instead, the results will tell you the percentage of particular ethnicity or geographic heritage your DNA contains. These test use Y chromosome or mtDNA, or both and just like Y-DNA and mtDNA tests, they test only one line of your family.