Most-Asked Questions About Using DNA


1.  Why Get DNA Tested?

  • To determine if two people are related
  • To determine if two people descend from the same ancestor
  • To focus research on
    • A related family
    • A geographical area
    • A specific timeframe.
  • To establish country or region of origin.
  • To confirm surname variations
  • To learn your family's migration.
  • To strengthen weak paper trails.
  • To avoid pursuing false connections.
For more information, read Understand DNA Testing


2.  What DNA tests are used for genetic genealogy?

  • yDNA - Surname projects use the yDNA test that only males can take, as yDNA is passed from father to son, just as the surname is passed down.  Occasionally, there is a mutation, which, over 1000s of years, have accumulated and resulted in distinctive DNA profiles for different families.  These differences are the focus of DNA testing in genealogy.
    For more information, read Understanding Y DNA

     
  • Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is the DNA that both males and females inherit from their mothers, but only females can pass it along.  While not yet as useful for genealogy, mtDNA can give ethnic origins and geographic origins, and can help you trace your mother’s mother’s … line.  Males and females can take this test.
    For more information, read Understanding mtDNA

     
  • The Family Finder test uses your autosomal DNA to help you find family across all your lines, up to 6 generations back.  It can connect you to descendents of all your great-great-grandparents.  Both males and females can take this test.
    For more information, read The Family Finder Test


3. My ancestors are dead.  How do I get their DNA?
DNA tests are taken from living descendents of your ancestors.  Males carry the same yDNA as their fathers, grandfathers, … all the way back.   Females can get their brother, cousin, or other male relative’s yDNA tested to represent their ancestor’s yDNA. Anyone can test for mtDNA or autosomal DNA. 


4. How Do I Get Tested?
Go to our website www.worldfamilies.net. Type your surname in the search box.  It will tell you whether there is already a surname project that you can join.  If there is, click to go to the surname project’s web site and follow the links on the home page to be tested, or you can click directly to Family Tree DNA www.familytreedna.com to order your test.   If there is not a project listed, contact Terry directly to set up a surname project for you. (terry@worldfamilies.net)
Testing is very easy— by cheek swabs that come in a test kit.  You simply follow the instructions, sign the release, send the swab back to the lab in the return envelope, and wait for the results.

For more information, read Choose the Right Test and How to Order Tests.


5. Who should get tested?
Sooner or later, in researching a family tree, we all get to the point where the paper records become scarce to non-existent. Perhaps we have several possibilities or much circumstantial evidence as to who the next ancestor in a line may be, but no way to determine for sure. DNA testing may be just the thing to help to break down some of those “brick walls,” which sooner or later, we all face

  • For males:

    • yDNA test yourself to trace your surname line (male to male to male).
    • yDNA test a male who descends, through males only, from your common male ancestor to research another surname in your family line.
    • mtDNA test yourself to trace your mother’s line (female to female to female).
    • mtDNA test a person who descends, through females only, from your common female ancestor to research another female ancestor in your family.
    • Autosomal DNA test (Family Finder) yourself to  connect you to more recent relatives and up to 6 generations back up the family tree.
  • For females:

    • mtDNA test yourself to trace your mother’s line (female to female to female).
    • mtDNA test a person who descends, through females only, from your common female ancestor to research another female ancestor in your family
    • yDNA test a male who descends, through males only, from your common male ancestor to research a surname in your family line.
    • Autosomal DNA test (Family Finder) yourself to connect you to more recent relatives and up to 6 generations back up the family tree.

For more information, read Choose the Right Test


6. How does it work?

DNA contains the genetic code that exists in each cell of our bodies. Genealogists can compare certain sequences or markers on specific chromosomes between living individuals in hopes of finding common ancestors.

Once your results are available, you'll be able to go into your personal page at FTDNA and see whom you match in your surname project.  You’ll also be able to select a preference that allows you to compare against all others who opt into the FTDNA internal comparison.  Your results will be posted on your surname project’s Results page, along with the other participants. Results are compared by tabulating the number of “matches” you have with other participants.  You'll also be able to upload your yDNA results to Ysearch (FTDNA's public database - open to all) and see whom you match there.  FTDNA will send you automated messages when you have a match.  You will then want to compare paper trails with your match(es) in hopes of finding the connection in your family lines.  By combining all your knowledge, the goal is to extend your knowledge further back up your family tree, breaking down your brick wall. 

For more information, read DNA Tools and Understanding Your Results


7. Can I order a test for someone else?
Yes. Make sure you put in the name of the actual test taker in the first screen of the ordering process.
Enter the address the kit and the results will be mailed to. If this is not the address of the test taker put “c/o" the person receiving the kit, on the first address line. You can enter the address on the second line.
If you want the kit sent to one address and the results sent to another address enter the address you want the kit sent to. Once the test taker has received the kit and returned it to FTDNA you may change the address to the one you want the results sent to.
Be sure your email address is listed on the contact page at FTDNA so that you will receive the results, matches, and all other information about the test.  

For more information, read How to Order Tests.


8. How do I test for Native American, Jewish, or other ancestry? 
The haplogroup will tell you the specific ethnic or ancient migration history of the line being tested.   
In order to test for a specific ancestry, you will need to have just the right connection between the ancestor you believe was of that ancestry and the person being tested.

  • For a female ancestor, you will use the mtDNA test. You will need to locate a person whose mother's mother's ... mother is the targeted ancestor you believe to be of that ancestry. If there is any male in the direct line between the person being tested and this ancestor, you will be testing some other ancestor's mtDNA and will not get what you seek. mtDNA is passed from a mother to her children.
  • For a male ancestor, you will use the yDNA test. You will need to locate a man whose father's father's ... father is the targeted ancestor you believe to be of that ancestry. If there is any female in the direct line between the man being tested and this ancestor, you will be testing some other ancestor's yDNA and will not get what you seek. yDNA is passed from a father to his sons.

For more information, read Haplogroups.


9. What about privacy concerns?
The sample is identified only by a code at the lab.  Most surname projects list the results of all participants together in a table, with only the participant’s kit number and/or his earliest known ancestor.  Each testing company makes a written commitment to you respecting your privacy.  You have to click a release to even get your results compared to other project’s participants in FTDNA’s database.  There is no medical information obtained through the yDNA test.

For more information, read Privacy Policy.


10. I’m adopted.  Can DNA testing help me?
Many individuals who were adopted would like to try to find some information about their biological parents, or even some general information about the family origins. Comparing your DNA test results to others may be your best chance to find relevant information.  FTDNA has the largest Y-DNA and mtDNA databases in the world and offers a special project just for adoptees.  The Family Finder test may help you locate more recent relatives and ancestors up to 6 generations back.

For more information, read What to do if you are adopted.


11. Why are pedigrees important?
The most important thing a DNA Project does is help participants correlate genealogies to DNA test results. When you have a results match with another project member, the first thing you want to do is to compare paper trails – which means that every kit needs an earliest known ancestor and a pedigree. Project websites at World Families provide a “Patriarchs’ Page” to display the pedigrees of all project members.  You do not have to be a project member to post a pedigree on the Pedigree Forum for a family surname. 

For more information, read Pedigrees.


12. How can I get the most from DNA testing? 
Read all the pages of our step-by step guide, DNA the Smart Way.  By reading and using this guide, you will make use of all the resources that are available.

For more information, read DNA the Smart Way.