DNA has been a popular topic of discussion in recent times due to advances in DNA testing technology. This allows for the usage of tests in genealogy research, or genetic genealogy. Below is an overview of what DNA is, how genetic genealogy works, and the possible issues arising from this kind of research.
DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is a self-replicating molecule in the shape of a double helix that contains the genetic code for organisms. It is present in most cells of humans and animals. DNA contains information for development, functioning, growth, and reproduction. It is hereditary, passed down from parent to child over the course of generations.
- Credo Reference, opens a new window- Through the BPL, you can read more about DNA and related topics in Credo Reference, an online reference library that provides access to dozens of reference books including encyclopedias.
- What is DNA?, opens a new window- From the U.S. National Library of Medicine
- Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA), opens a new window- From the National Human Genome Research Institute
- DNA: Definition, Structure & Discovery, opens a new window- From LiveScience.com
Genetic genealogy uses DNA testing and genealogy research to see if people are related. It is more popular now due to improved DNA testing technology and the availability of home testing kits.
Home Testing Kits
The below is being provided for informational purposes only. The BPL cannot recommend or endorse any particular home testing kit.
DNA home testing kits are available to consumers from companies like 23 and Me, Ancestry, Family Tree DNA, Living DNA, and My Heritage. The types of tests and services provided by each company varies, as do the prices for the kits. Home tests usually involve filling a container with saliva and mailing it back to the company for testing. Results will be available on the company’s website, for which the consumer will have registered for an account.
Types of Tests
- Autosomal – Uses autosomal chromosomes from both parents to determine a person’s ethnic background. It can be taken by any gender, and does not determine haplogroups. This is the test most frequently used by genealogy researchers.
- mtDNA – Traces a person’s maternal ancestry by testing mitochondria, which are passed down from mother to child. It can be taken by any gender. It also determines the test taker’s maternal haplogroup, an ancient group of people from which they descend on their mother’s side.
- Y-DNA – Traces a person’s paternal ancestry by testing the Y-chromosome, and can only be taken by those that have a Y-chromosome. It also determines the test taker’s paternal haplogroup, an ancient group of people from which they descend on their father’s side.
Companies Selling Tests
- 23andMe- Autosomal, mtDNA, and Y-DNA
- AncestryDNA- Autosomal
- Family Tree DNA- Autosomal, mtDNA, and Y-DNA
- Living DNA- Autosomal, mtDNA, and Y-DNA
- MyHeritage- Autosomal
Before the next sale, opens a new window- By Judy D. Russell, for her blog The Legal Genealogist
What is genetic ancestry testing?, opens a new window- From the U.S.National Library of Medicine
NGS Committee on Genetic Genealogy, opens a new window- Information from the National Genealogical Society
The Genetic Genealogist, opens a new window- A blog written by Blaine Bettinger, a professional genealogist specializing in DNA evidence
Overcoming Brick Walls in Your Family Tree with a Genealogy DNA Test, opens a new window- From FamilySearch.org
What is genetic ancestry testing?, opens a new window- From the U.S. National Library of Medicine
All About DNA, opens a new window- From the New England Historic Genealogical Society
Forensic Genetic Genealogy
Forensic genealogy uses DNA profiles to identify unknown people, including victims of crime and suspected criminals.
DNA Doe Project, opens a new window- Volunteer organization dedicated to identifying deceased John and Jane Does
Investigative genetic genealogy FAQs, opens a new window- From the International Society of Genetic Genealogy
National DNA Day and the Birth of Investigative Genetic Genealogy, opens a new window- From the National Institute of Standards and Technology
Home testing has led to the revelation of a lot of family secrets, some of them painful. Many have found that one or both of the parents that raised them were not their biological parents. Others found half-siblings or other close relatives that they did not know existed. Some found evidence of relationships in the past that completely changed who and what they thought their family was. These discoveries have led to serious conflict for many families.
Forensic genealogy has led to many breakthroughs in cold cases all over the U.S. While some think this is a good thing, others believe it is a violation of privacy and should either be restricted or not done at all. Some testing companies have changed their policies and only allow law enforcement to access DNA profiles after getting a warrant.
Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, opens a new window- Through the BPL, you can read more news and other articles relating to forensic genealogy in the DNA Technology & Crime topic in Opposing Viewpoints, which presents information covering all sides of current hot button issues. Information about genetic genealogy and DNA testing in general is also available.
Genetic testing and family secrets, opens a new window- From the American Psychological Association
What are the risks and limitations of genetic testing?, opens a new window- From the U.S. National Library of Medicine
Law enforcement cases solved using genetic genealogy, opens a new window- From the International Society of Genetic Genealogy