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DNA in genealogy

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DNA in genealogy

Postby clarkjohnken » Fri Mar 13, 2020 7:18 am

I understand there was an article about this in a recent magazine, but unfortunately I failed to obtain a copy. Can anyone either summarise the article, or otherwise tell me how one might go about using DNA testing?
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Re: DNA in genealogy

Postby meekhcs » Fri Mar 13, 2020 3:15 pm

I think it fair to say regarding DNA in genealogy the simplistic view is it is used to try and find Family members currently unknown to researchers and/ or to prove your ethnicity.
To widen that idea some people know there is illegitimacy in their trees and are trying to prove their direct lines. Some have brick walls they are trying to break down and hope DNA results will help . Other people are looking specifically for Fathers or Mothers, brothers or sisters, or grandparents etc. and others just want to know where in the world their Families originated.
Ancestry has the largest database but other companies offer specific tests.
To answer more fully it would be necessary to know why you are asking, if you are able to tell us.

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Re: DNA in genealogy

Postby MaureenE » Tue Mar 17, 2020 10:57 am

FamilySearch provide the following guide
Click through to all the sections

There are also various videos on DNA related aspects from past RootsTech conferences organised by FamilySearch, under the category "RootsTech Sessions"

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Re: DNA in genealogy

Postby Lucretia66 » Fri Apr 17, 2020 8:59 am

My understanding of is that they will compare you to the rest of the American population. Which is great if you are American, but not so much if you are British. I think you should research the different ancestry sites to find out more and to decide which is the best way forward for you.
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Re: DNA in genealogy

Postby JaneyH » Fri Apr 17, 2020 11:51 am

Ancestry’s DNA database is far from being just American. It’s acknowledged that people in the USA started testing earlier than we did in the UK, and there are certainly many more American people than British in the database. It is the biggest testing site, so there’s a strong argument to ‘fish in the biggest pond’. Remember that you can also transfer your Ancestry data to other sites, but you can’t transfer other results into Ancestry.

I tested 3 years ago with Ancestry and have made lots of interesting connections that I would never have known about otherwise. I now have several distant cousins in the USA who are descendants of ancestors who emigrated in the 19th century. They’ve shared some fascinating stories of their pioneer lives while I’ve been able to help with their English roots.

I still have a big brick wall to crack in my tree, but DNA is giving me some possible chinks of light. There are five matches in the USA who all descend from the same original emigrant. It’s more than possible he is the father of my GGF, who was illegitimate. I don’t have ‘proof’ yet, but the evidence is slowly stacking up.

DNA research is no panacea; you still need to do traditional paper-based research with conventional records. But it’s certainly a helpful tool to have in your toolbox!

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Re: DNA in genealogy

Postby HardWork » Fri Apr 17, 2020 3:53 pm


I don't disagree with all you have said but everyone has assumed on here once again that DNA refers only to autosomal DNA. Though Ancestry have the largest autosomal database they don't do Y DNA testing. They used to, but scrapped their database and everyone's results with it. Family Tree DNA have the largest Y DNA database and also test mitochondrial and autosomal DNA as well as SNP test. As I assume the original enquirer is male, he may well be better off testing Y DNA to trace his line further back, if his surname is CLARK/E, as his user name suggests.

Though most of these databases contain a majority of American testers that may well also be because for many Americans, tracing the origins of their families is harder if trying to connect back to the Old World (as well as American records being less centralised). Autosomal DNA results are reckoned on average to enable tracing back over about the last six generations. Y DNA however has no such time limit, so any male trying to trace back their ancestry to say, the beginning of surnames, would be well advised to Y DNA test. If more men in Europe Y DNA tested, not only would it give a better chance for more people to trace back their male line further, but also help those in the New World to connect back to the UK and in particular to specific counties/areas of the UK of their ancestors. Of course, related females, would also be able to "piggy back" off the results too, if a male relative tested.

As you say, generally people need a paper trail tree too, and that is they key. If a male has a Y DNA test and a reliable tree, it means anyone Y DNA matching that male can discover if they are related in the male line. That is why it is so important for European males to Y DNA test so that those Americans can connect to a European line. Someone in the UK is quite likely to have a family tree traced back to the 17th or 18th century in the male line. If no male on that tree has Y tested though (preferably more than one in the same family) others may never be able to link to that tree with any certainty. That is why Y DNA is so very important.

Unfortunately, autosomal testing relies more on strings of DNA being attributable to surnames to be of use but often the strings are too small to identify, or the other family trees needed for comparison are not accurate, either because they are poorly researched or maybe because of unknown false paternities. Y DNA is not like that. A friend of mine, for example, instantly discovered on Y testing, even at a minimum testing level, that his unknown grandfather (illegitimacy) was obviously descended from a Scottish CAMPBELL, just by dint of the number of matches he received. And the county my friend is from was so far away from Scotland that it would have never have been suspected otherwise, without Y testing.

It is mainly advertising that has seen Ancestry have the largest database and probably therefore why people only think in terms of autosomal DNA, although autosomal DNA has the advantage of being an option for either sex. It has absolutely nothing to with the usefulness of autosomal DNA versus Y DNA, but more to do with a business model, and so Y DNA is much neglected.
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