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How can DNA help your research

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What testing can provide for you
 
Males can test their Y-DNA to:
  • trace the paternal line
  • determine possible original surnames
  • connect with genetic cousins
  • learn about your suggested geographic origins
  • find your deep ancestral ethnic origins   
Both males and females can test their mtDNA to:
  • trace the maternal line
  • connect with genetic cousins
  • learn about your suggested geographic origins
  • find your deep ancestral ethnic origins

Both males and females can test their autosomal DNA to make connections through their 16 great great-grandparents.

Which test is right for me?

There are two types of test for following the male (Paternal) line. They use different types of markers and have different purposes. If you have read in the press or heard on the radio about 'deep ancestry' tests then markers called SNPs are used. They are not used to compare individuals for genealogical purposes, but are important for identifying the origins of genetic families who may share a common origin, but posses different surnames. This test is done after Y-DNA has been tested and for genealogical purposes.

Surname research / Y-DNA: This is a male specific test. We recommend the 37 marker Y-DNA test as a minimum for paternal research. Generally 37 STR markers are sufficient to determine if two individuals are connected in a genealogical timeframe. By upgrading to 67 markers the time to the most recent common ancestor (TMRCA) between individuals can be further narrowed. Upgrading at a later date from 37 to 67 markers is an option if cost is an issue. Confirmation of deep paternal ancestry to establish which genetic population you may belong may require a further test if you do not have any close matches on 37 or 67 markers who have already tested for these defining markers (called SNPs).

Maternal line:
Both men and women can take this test. The basic mtDNA test following the direct female line will tell you a haplogroup (genetic family). The mtDNAplus test will give some closer matches, but for a genealogical time frame the mtDNA Full sequence is most helpful. mtDNA mutates less often than Y-DNA thus the time in years between matches which are found are larger and harder to define. The mtDNAPlus or mtDNA Full Sequence test can reveal you deep maternal ancestral origin.

Close ancestry on other lineages: Both men and women can take this test. A third type of test has recently come on the market. The Family Finder test looks at DNA back to your 16 great great-grandparents. It works best if you have undertaken research using traditional documentary research. Family Finder uses autosomal DNA which is inherited from both parents, who inherited it from their parents. It will provide a breakdown of your ethnic population percentages and can connect you with relatives descended from any of your ancestral lines within approximately the last 5 generations.

If you are interested in using DNA for close genealogy relationships (within the past 5 generations) that cross gender lines or if you are curious about your ethnic percentages, Family Finder is the right choice. It helps to have done some documentary research on each line to identify surnames. Family Finder is a useful avenue of research for adoptees as we inherit 50% of our autosomal DNA from each parent.

Deep ancestral origins: There are two types of test for researching the male (paternal) line.  They use different types of markers and have different purposes.  If you have read in the press or heard on the radio about 'deep ancestry' testing, then markers called SNPs are used. Certain of these SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms) are used to define branching on the male paternal tree. 

Many of these markers are geographically specific and thus when combined with known documentary, historical and migration data can infer possible population and geographical origin.

Some of these markers have been given labels such as indigenous Pictish or British, Norse, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Dalriadic, Frisian or Niall from Ireland, but extreme care needs to be taken in using these terms.  There are in fact dozens of distinct genetic families emerging and we feel it best to report the geographical predominance of a marker than give it a label until peer reviewed academic publication has been provided about specific markers.  For instance indigenous Scottish Y-DNA might carry the marker L1335 previously known as STR47-Scots.  You can read more about this marker on the Scottish DNA Project blog.

SNP markers are not used to compare and match individuals within a genealogical time frame, but used to confirm the deeper geographical origin of a surname and identify the common genetic ancestry of various lineages which carry different surnames. 

Testing for the deep ancestral origin of a paternal lineage is done after the standard 37 or 67 marker test used for genealogical purposes.  These advanced tests are an important area of research for understanding the origin, growth and migration of both paternal and maternal lineages.

For women deep ancestral origins can be confirmed with the mtDNAplus test (above). The mtDNAFull Sequence test will in due course further help define the maternal genetic family origin in more recent times.