During the last few years, DNA testing for genealogical purposes has become extremely popular. Projects such as National Geographic’s Genographic Project and “family search” television programs have prompted millions of genealogy enthusiasts to pay between $100 and $200 for saliva swab tests in hopes of confirming their research and adding to their family tree. These tests can provide valuable information, but it is important to understand what they can and cannot do.
There are three types of DNA tests: yDNA, mtDNA, and autosomalDNA, and dozens of companies you can order these tests from. Each of these three tests measure different aspects of one’s DNA and provide different results: paternal or maternal lineage, ethnic background, migration patterns, etc. No one test serves all needs. Indeed, more often than not, only one of these three tests will suit a specific genealogical goal.
You will be sent a kit which you send back with a saliva sample obtained usually by swabbing your cheek. The company then tests the DNA contained in the sample. From 12 to 112 chromosomal “markers” are examined and the results are mailed back in 6-8 weeks. The more markers examined, the more information obtained, but the more expensive the test. It is important to understand which types of tests are being offered by a company and how many markers are used, so you can choose the one that suits your genealogical needs.
Since the underlying science is complicated, here is a link which explains the basics and purpose of each test, in a simplified, understandable fashion: www.worldfamilies.net/dnatesting
After reading this information, you can make an informed choice and order the appropriate test.
For those who would like to investigate further, here is a page that explains in some depth the science behind DNA testing:
If you are interested in genealogical DNA testing, take a little time and read up on the subject before paying a substantial sum for a DNA test that may not suit your purpose.