My thoughts on DNA testing, genetic genealogy

I have been a member of the Genealogy DNA email group on RootsWeb for several months, and have been monitoring the postings by other members. What I have learned so far is this – the world of DNA testing for family history purposes has advanced considerably, but has yet a long way to go.

Keep in mind this is different from the DNA testing done for purposes of forensic science. What you see on an episode of “CSI” is not quite the same as what happens at a typical genealogical DNA testing lab.

I believe the realm of DNA testing and genetic genealogy has come a long way in a relatively short time and can be a very positive experience for anyone who wants the test done to compare with other potential family members, but also can have consequences for those who don’t understand the test results.

The companies that do DNA testing for genealogy offer many different types of tests offered to anyone wanting to do so, but for a price. The more markers you want tested, the more expensive the test procedure. The testing companies offer both mtDNA and Y-DNA tests, but most people don’t understand the difference and what relevance they provide. Plus, the testing companies are operated by humans, and like most people, they are apt to make mistakes that can lead to confusion and frustration on the part of the customers.

Those tests with fewer than 24 markers may be the least expensive, but are somewhat difficult to compare to other results for family connections. The more markers tested, the better. But be prepared to put out some major bucks for these expanded tests. Often you can save money by joining a surname or ethnic research group who will provide testing discounts to members. Plus, you will have a ready group of others you can share results with.

There are many testing firms, some more reliable than others. Personally, I have not taken any DNA tests, but have read comments of the other members of the RootsWeb DNA group, and am inclined to believe that there is still room for improvement in the quality of the tests, and reliability of the test results. Most of the testing labs provide websites with databases for comparing your DNA test results with others. Most labs also provide educational sites, allowing members to understand what their test results mean.

My conclusion is this: it may be OK to do the testing if you are able to afford it, but don’t put too much faith in the results. The more markers you have tested, the better the results may be, and the chances for a match to someone else’s results are greater as well. And do yourself a favor and get educated BEFORE you get your results back. After all, this is new and advanced science we are talking about. Not quite rocket science, but almost. The “experts” are debating it still.

That’s my 2 cents, for what it’s worth.

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