What’s in Your Genes?
Your DNA test results can be surprising, even if you don’t discover an ancestor was adopted or switched at birth. Full siblings may get different sets of chromosomes from their parents—whether it’s simply a different eye color or a different set of ethnicity results. That’s why taking a strategic approach to testing can yield bigger breakthroughs.
Family historians can take several types of DNA tests, depending on what information they’re looking for. Ideally, we’d have infinite amounts of resources to test all our family members, but that’s not usually the case. Before you go out and buy a test (or several), take some time to define what answers you’re seeking. Then choose the test subject and test that will help find those answers.
- mtDNA: This test analyzes the small circular piece of DNA found in the mitochondria, and will tell you about your direct maternal line (your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother … ). This test is best for proving a common female ancestor and exploring deep ancestral ethnic origins.
- Y-DNA: This test analyzes the Y chromosome, a chromosome that is found only in males. This test will tell males about their direct paternal line (your father’s father’s father … ). Because Y-DNA is handed down intact from father to sons, it doesn’t change much over time, so testing this is great for proving common male ancestry from the same line.
- Autosomal DNA: This test analyzes the 22 pair of non-sex chromosomes, including the copy of each chromosome you inherited from your mother and the copy you inherited from your father. As a result, these tests can tell you about both sides of your family.