DNA Ancestry Bleg

By Carl Zimmer | December 25, 2009 6:25 pm

So the wife and I are ready to investigate our distant past and discover all sorts of unsettling things about our ancestors. Anyone care to recommend any particular genealogical DNA testing outfit? I know of the Genographic Project and a few others, but I don’t know how full or accurate a profile they offer.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Evolution

Comments (15)

Links to this Post

  1. Testing for DNA Genealogy | January 25, 2010
  1. Harman Smith

    Among the many sites you found on Google, you picked the Daily Mail? Really? Reeeaallyyy???

  2. 23&me have an interesting geneological outfit.

  3. Daniel J. Andrews

    From what I know you will be getting just very general information like what group you belong to. I had mine done as part of a course (Introduction to DNA and Forensics at Trent University, in Peterborough, Ontario). It was an 8-week night course and quite fascinating. Perhaps you have something similar?

    Sometime in the last month I read an article by a journalist who was comparing 3 or 4 different DNA tests to see which ones gave her the more relevant information. I just did a quick search for it, but couldn’t find it. If you can find it I think that article will answer many of your questions.

    Hm, I did find this. It isn’t the one I read (it came in at 3 pages or so long), but a start.
    http://hubpages.com/hub/DNA-Genealogy-Test-Comparison

    Here’s one too…a bit dated now, but good information.

    http://genealogyreviewsonline.typepad.com/genealogy_reviews_online/2007/10/dna-ancestry-re.html

  4. ARJ

    I’d just take whatever results you get with a big dose of salt; genomics is still in its infancy, and most places likely offer more than they can truly deliver.

  5. Bryan

    I went with Genebase. Mostly in an attempt to further my family genealogy. So far, I have founds several people related within 20-30 generations. That is a few hundred years, so it hasn’t linked me to anyone that I already have plotted in my own genealogy research. It is set up like a social network, so I hope it takes off in the future.

  6. Darren Garrison

    “So far, I have founds several people related within 20-30 generations.”

    The number of direct ancestors doubles with each generation backwards. Two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents. 20 generations back, you are talking about 1,048,576 direct ancestors. 30 generations back? 1,073,741,824 direct ancestors. Go back 40 generations much less than 1000 years) and you have 1,099,511,627,776 direct ancestors. Go back a mere 2,000 years and (defining a generation as 20 years for the sake of math) and you have 1,267,650,600,228,229,401,496,703,205,376 direct ancestors.

    Now, I doubt that there were 1,267,650,600,228,229,401,496,703,205,376 people alive in the year 9 AD. So it is probably safe to say that there is a lot of your great-great-great-great-great-great grandmothers on your father’s side and great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother’s on your mother’s side are the same person.

    My point? After enough generations, it doesn’t make much sense to say you are related to Famous Dead Person X. If your ancestors came from Europe, you probably are a descendant of Alexander The Great. And Julius Caesar. And Genghis Khan. And pretty much everyone who was alive in Europe a few dozen generations ago. And so is everyone else with ancestors from Europe.

  7. James

    Personally I’m a fan of 23&Me; the platform they use determines your particular genotype at ~500,000 SNP locations. While the information provided by the company directly is mildly interesting (maternal and paternal ancestral geographic origins, relative risk for a small set of well-characterized diseases and even a ‘relative finder’ to search across 23&Me to find distant relatives (I recently was pinged by someone who may be my 4th cousin), more interesting is making use of the raw data file. You can download this file from 23&Me (and from Navigenics or deCODEme) and plug it into a tool like Promethease from SNPedia (a great resource in itself).

  8. I sent you the story I wrote for Discover’s November issue. I hope it goes online soon! Let me know which service you choose.

  9. Dave

    No one DNA test meets all needs. DNA tests can be used for medical screening as well as for genealogical purposes. No single test meets all these needs. Unless one has developed a family history through traditional means, there may be no context for applying the results of such testing. However, DNA is a very useful tool when combined intelligently with conventional genealogy.

    I have had very good luck with FTDNA for exploring paternal lineage issues (y-chromosome testing) and to a lesser extent for exploring maternal lineage issues (mitochondrial testing). Very recently 23andMe has expanded from its base of testing for medical testing to test for relatives who fall between direct paternal and direct maternal lines. This test by itself has little meaning unless one had already done considerable family history research and thereby established quite a list of ancestral surnames for comparison with the ancestral surnames of individuals with whom a common genome segment is identified by the lab test.

  10. First, you will get a lot more from testing if you do your genealogy.
    Second, you need to understand how DNA test will and will not help your genealogy.
    Third, you should go with a reputable company with a large database that allows you to freely contact those you match.
    Fourth, you would be wise to read the many tutorials (online and in books) to understand genetic testing for genealogy…or for other reasons.

    I strongly suggest these two companies:
    Family Tree DNA at http://www.familytreedna.com
    23andMe at http://www.23andme.com

    They offer different tests and together give you many opportunities to find genealogical cousins. 23andMe also offers some information on health possiblities (STRESS POSSIBILITIES)

    I would also suggest you read my blog from the beginning as it is geared to people who are new to DNA Testing.

    http://genealem-geneticgenealogy.blogspot.com/

    Another good resource is the International Society of Genetic Genealogists at http://www.isogg.org

    On the left side of this web site is SUCCESS STORIES. Read a few.

    Best wishes,
    Emily

  11. I think it is possible to give a simple objective answer to the question:-

    1. For genealogical testing, technology right now mainly restricts us to Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA (male line and female line) and in this type of testing there is a clear market leader, Family Tree DNA http://www.familytreedna.com . I admin several genealogical groups and have used most professional labs.

    2. For broader study of autosomal DNA, which is something more difficult to use for genealogy, but kind of interesting and “cutting edge” I think 23andMe is the current leader.

    Good luck
    Andrew

  12. Robert

    The Personal Genome Project (PGP) may interest you. The project, directed by George Church, began with the full sequencing of ten participant’s genomes and is now scaling up to sequence 100, 000 volunteers. Less focused on immediate results, it seems to be directed at some long term issues such as privacy, transparency and education. The time may be a limiting factor, but the project should be valuable as costs continue to fall for full sequencing.

  13. I used Family Tree DNA to see if I was really in the paternal Cohane lineage, that elite group of Jews who were hereditary priests, with the office passed from father to son. They did a good job on the Y chromosome analysis, though it revealed that I was actually a bogus Cohane, a run-of-the mill Ashkenazi Jew. I would recommend them; they’ve got some good geneticists associated with the outfit. You can also get put into a database through which others with similar DNA profiles can contact you: I still get emails from Ireland, asking if I’m an Irish Coyne!

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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.

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