I remember whenever I stayed home sick in high school, I would spend my day on the couch watching daytime television. One of my favorite guilty pleasures was the Maury Povich show and the best episodes were always the one with paternity tests. Talk about drama! To a sixteen year old girl, this was television gold.
I blame Maury for skewing my ideals of DNA tests when they were first introduced into genealogy. I find that my thoughts then are what many are now…
“If I know my parents, why do I need to take a DNA test?”
First, let’s talk about the who of DNA testing.
There are a multitude of genealogy companies who offer DNA testing. There are too many for me to go into detail here. The most popular of the DNA tests is AncestryDNA administer by Ancestry.com. For that reason, I suggest anyone looking to take a DNA test for the first time to start with the Ancestry test. Ancestry gives a great overview of your ancestral makeup as well as DNA matches. Since AncestryDNA is so popular, you have better odds of matching with a long lost cousin.
Other companies who sell DNA tests include 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, LivingDNA, and MyHeritage. Each test has it’s pros and cons. If you’re looking for more information on specific tests, I recommend attending my Facebook DNA online class on Wednesday where I’ll be able to go more in depth about each company.
Next, let’s talk about the what of DNA testing.
What is DNA testing? Genealogy DNA testing takes your DNA, compares it with other test takers around the world, and with that information, gives your general ethnic makeup as well as potential new family members. Some DNA tests give you a bit more information. In particular, 23andMe gives you some medical information. While 23andMe does not substitute seeing a medical professional, it does give you some indicators of some things you may be more prone to.
There are two ways that companies collect your DNA. Some test require you to spit in a tube. Other companies have you scrape the inside of your cheek. Either way that the DNA is collected, it is all used for the same purpose…to open the gateway to your past.
Lastly, let’s talk about the safety of DNA testing.
After being asked which DNA test to take, safety is usually the second question I get. Is DNA testing safe….yes. All companies have a disclosure of how they use your information. This information is included with your DNA testing kit. I know there has been some issues lately with DNA testing being used to crack cold cases. While this is still relatively new, the ability to use your DNA for these purposes is covered in the disclosure by the company.
DNA is complicated, that is a fact, but is also a fascinating journey. It has many twists and turns but if you’re patient it can unleash a wealth of information.