DNA Tests FAQ
Once I've decided to be tested, how do I choose a test?
You have a choice of three tests in genetic genealogy:
yDNA for the male (paternal) line,
mtDNA for the female (maternal) line and
Family Finder (autosomal dna) to trace back on both sides for about 5 generations.
For information on getting DNA testing: Get DNA Tested
For information on choosing the right test: Which Test?
For step-by-step guidance through the whole process, read: DNA the Smart Way.
How do I order a test from FTDNA?
You get the best price for a yDNA test at FTDNA by ordering through a project. Click the "order test link on the project's website and you will be taken directly to the order page for your project at FTDNA.
If you're not sure whether there is a WorldFamilies.net project for your surname, search here:
You can also search for the project on the Surname Projects page of WorldFamilies.net
You can go to www.familytreedna.com, do a search for a surname project, and follow the links to order through the project.
How much do the tests cost?
Testing cost varies. Family Tree DNA has very good sales about twice a year, or more. If cost is an issue, you can probably get by with 25 markers if you know the surname you should match. We have noticed that most folks who are serious about their genealogy will end up with at least 37 markers and possibly 67 or 111. If you are trying to match to a different surname without a paper trail – you will need at least 37 markers and will likely benefit from 67. One approach is to start with as many markers as you can comfortably afford and then upgrade later, as the need arises. You also have the possibility of going in steps, upgrading a bit at a time.
Which y-DNA test should I order?
Use as many markers as you can comfortably afford. Generally, we recommend starting with either 25 or 37 markers as a trade-off between cost and information. (If cost is a major issue, you can start with 12 markers and upgrade in steps.) If you know the surname you should match, you can probably get by with 25 markers. If you are trying to match to a different surname without a paper trail – you will need 37 markers. Most researchers who are serious about their genealogy have ended up with at least 37 markers – and many are now increasing to 67 markers.
You can go in steps, upgrading a bit at a time - or buy the markers all at once.
What will I learn from a 12-marker test?
The basic 12-marker test tells you your deep ancestry (called Haplogroup - think 1,000s and 10,000s of years). The haplogroup will give you an idea of the migrations of your ancestral family from earliest times and can confirm Native American, African or Jewish ancestry.
In addition, you can identify families that do not share a recent common ancestor with you and can usually confirm clear paper trails. It will also provide an indication of the families who may share a recent common ancestor with you.
A 12 marker test is insufficient for broad genealogical purposes, for confirming relationship to families where there is no connecting paper trail, or confirming relations with different surnames. These goals require more markers.
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Which mtDNA test should I order?
If you are seeking information on your deep ancestry (1000s and 10,000s of years ago) the mtDNA test is sufficient. (This test is sometimes called HVR1)
If you wish to use your mtDNA result to confirm a maternal ancestry (you and another person share a common maternal ancestor) then you will gain by taking the mtDNA Plus test (This test is sometimes called HVR1 + HVR2)
If you wish to test your entire mtDNA sequence, then you’ll want the mtDNA Full Sequence test. (FTDNA calls this test “Mega”) FTDNA suggests this for anyone who doesn’t wish to be upgrading when they need more info – as this will give you the entire sequence.
How can I find a male family member to test?
If you are not a male directly descended from the family surname you are trying to research, you will have to find a male to represent your line in the DNA project. This male must be directly descended, through males, from your common ancestor. Sometimes you'll have to go back up the family tree and come back down to a living male that shares a x-grandfather with you and carries the surname you want tested.
For example, if you are seeking to trace your maternal grandfather's line:
Did your mother have a brother? Did he have sons?
Did your mother's father (your maternal grandfather) have a brother? Did he have sons? Did they have sons?
Did your mother's great grandfather (your maternal great-grandfather) have a brother? Did he have sons? Did they have sons? ...and so on, until you find a living male who can represent that family line for you.
Should I combine the y-DNA and mtDNA tests?
If you going to ultimately order both yDNA and mtDNA tests for one person, you will save time by ordering them together.
Should we test multiple descendants?
You should get tested if it will aid in defining the DNA profile of your surname ancestors. When your DNA profile is combined with another descendant of a common ancestor, it can define the DNA profile of that earlier ancestor. When combined with your brother’s result, your test will define the common ancestor (your father). When combined with a 5th cousin’s DNA, your result will define the result of your gggg-grandfather. For a man who has already had a close relative tested, there may be little value in his additional testing unless there are specific questions to be answered.
Of particular concern are the sole surviving male representatives of a family line. Once they are gone, their family cannot be directly represented. These men are particularly important to their family study and should be strongly considered for testing. Many families already have stories of DNA testing a family member who has since died, or of not getting a test on a family member before they passed on.
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Can I place an order 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 our office you may change the address to the one you want the results sent to.
Enter the phone number you wish to use as the contact number for this kit.
Enter the email address(es) you want to be notified of the order and the results. You may enter more than one email address.
Once you have filled out the information on this page click “Continue” and fill out the billing information. Your order will not be processed until you hit the “Confirm” button.
How do I test for Jewish ancestry?
In order to test for Jewish ancestry, you will need to have just the right connection between the ancestor you believe was Jewish and the person being tested. As the Jewish tradition is handed down through the mother, you would first consider the mtDNA test, which tests your mother's mother's ... mother's maternal ancestry.
For a male Jewish ancestor, you will use the yDNA test. If there is any female in the direct line between the man being tested and this Jewish 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.
Here is a link to FTDNA's page on Jewish ancestry: http://www.familytreedna.com/landing/jewish-ancestry.aspx
Here is what FTDNA has to say: "Jewish ancestry is not an exact result. By way of comparison we can see whether or not the direct line being tested is likely to be Jewish in origin. We have the largest Jewish ancestry database of this kind. This comparison is included on the recent ancestral origins page. There are 4 scenarios for individuals who think there may be Jewish origins: mainly matches who have listed Jewish origins (indicates probably of Jewish origins), some matches who have listed Jewish ancestry and some who have not (tougher to call, Bennett can help answer some of these questions), has matches, but not of Jewish origin (probably not Jewish in origin), or no matches at all. The last case, means you're not matching anyone of Jewish origins when compared against the database, but you are also not matching anyone of non-Jewish origins. This is a "wait and see" situation in most cases. There is a Cohen Modal Haplotype that we automatically compare everyone against. It is a 12 marker set of results. If you match this haplotype we put a CMH badge on your personal page which is linked to information on what that means."
We suggest that you work through the Jewish Heritage Project. But, don't click on the link to order yDNA for $169. Instead, click on "Projects" at the top of the page and then scroll down to "Dual Geographic Projects", then click on "J" then "Jewish Heritage Proj"
How do I test for Native American ancestry?
In order to test for Native American ancestry, you will need to have just the right connection between the ancestor you believe was Native American and the person being tested.
For a female Native American ancestor, you will use the mtDNA test. You will need to locate a person whose mother's mother's ... mother is the targeted Native American. 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. Men carry their mother's mtDNA, but cannot pass it on.
For a male Native American ancestor, you will use the yDNA test. You will need to locate a man whose father's father's ... father is the targeted Native American. 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. Women do not carry yDNA at all.
Here is a link to Family Tree's page on Native American Ancestry:
I'm female, Should I take the mtDNA test or find someone to take a y-DNA test?
If you want to trace back your mother's mother's mother's line, you would use the mtDNA test, which either male or female could take, since you share the same mtDNA. You should be aware, however, that mtDNA is not useful in tracing surnames, as it traces through women, whose surnames change each generation. It is helpful, however, for your deep ancestry, which may give you your geographic and ethnic origins. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) looks at the DNA that either a man or woman inherits from the mother's side. This represents the mother’s mother’s…mother’s line. mtDNA tests the deep maternal ancestry (think 1000s of years) A mother passes her mtDNA to her children, but only females can pass it on. As mtDNA mutates very slowly, it becomes a link to your distant past - giving you the mtDNA of your mother's mother's ... mother's line. By testing, you learn your haplogroup – which tells you which "branch of woman" you descend from on your maternal side. In addition to learning your Haplogroup, you'll be told of the mutations that are present. These allow you to locate those with whom you share a maternal heritage. Often, this is too far in the past to be able to link paper trails, but a number of folks have started mtDNA projects to increase the learning.
Another option open to you to trace any of these family surnames is to find a male family member to test, using the yDNA test. Surname DNA (yDNA) looks at the DNA that a man inherits from his father's (paternal) side. This represents his father’s father’s … father’s line. The y-chromosome (yDNA) results are compared with two or more men to see if they share a common male ancestor. You may have to go up your family tree and come back down to find a living male that shares a common grandfather or great-grandfather or great great grandfather with you and carries the surname you want tested.
Frow do I order an upgrade or a SNP test?
You can order an upgrade by:
1. Going to your FTDNA Personal page (You'll need your kit number and password.)
2. Looking toward the top right and locating “Order Tests” (and click on it)
3. Click on "Standard Orders".
4. At the bottom of the page, click on the down arrow to see the range of upgrade choices
5. Select the one you want, confirm your personal info and select method of payment
6. Click “Continue” and complete your order
The Deep SNP test can be ordered by:
1. Going to your FTDNA Personal page
2. Opening "Haplogroup"
3. Click on "Order your Y-DNA SNP test for Deep Sub-clades"
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Which upgrade should I order?
A part of the answer is “what can you afford”? You can upgrade in small increments or do it at one time. Who you match and what you know about them also affects the number of markers needed.
o If you have a paper trail connecting you and another person and you match 24/25 or 25/25 - you can be relatively confident that you share that paper trail common ancestor. This is true whether the man you match has your surname or not - as long as you can connect paper trails. However, if your match is 23/35, you are in a gray zone and should consider upgrading to 37.
o If you have a match to a person of a different surname, you'll need to compare at 37 markers - using the 25 marker matches only as an indication of who is of potential interest.
o If you match at least 34/37, you can be reasonably confident that you share a common ancestor. With a lesser match, you'll then want to compare at 67 markers. That doesn't happen too often, but it can happen - particularly when comparing across surnames.
o If you are in a project and are in a group that matches and shares a common ancestor (we call this a “Lineage”), you’ll want to upgrade to the same number of markers as the other men in the group, as you’ll be looking to see if you can find closer kin within your Lineage.
o 67 markers are nice to have, and you can go straight there (saves a few dollars and some time over getting there in steps) and you’ll be ready to do any comparison that comes along. But it’s ok to reach 67 in steps
What is a SNP test?
The SNP test identifies which Haplogroup, or major branch of the tree, a male belongs to. The value of it is to identify your branch of the yDNA tree and then to use this information to consult the scientific literature to determine the geographic locations and migrations of your branch. The Deep SNP test can be ordered by:
1. Going to your FTDNA Personal page
2. Opening "Haplogroup"
3. Click on "Order your Y-DNA SNP test for Deep Sub-clades"
I'm female. Can I be tested?
Yes. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) looks at the DNA that both women and men inherit from their mother's side. A mother passes her mtDNA to her children, but only females can pass it on. This represents the mother’s mother’s…mother’s maternal line. Your mtDNA result can be compared with another person’s mtDNA to see if you share a common female ancestor. Anyone can take this test.
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) tests the deep maternal ancestry (think 1000s of years) As mtDNA mutates very slowly, it becomes a link to your distant past - giving you the mtDNA of your mother's mother's ... mother's line. By testing, you learn your haplogroup – which tells you which "branch of woman" you descend from on your maternal side. In addition to learning your Haplogroup, you'll be told of the mutations that are present. These allow you the possibility of locating those with whom you share a maternal heritage. Often, this is too far in the past to be able to link paper trails, but a number of folks have started mtDNA projects to increase the learning. We have a lot of hope for the potential. Learn more about mtDNA.:
Additionally, you can sponsor a male from your surname family of interest. This allows you to participate in your ancestral surname DNA project. Surname DNA (yDNA) looks at the DNA that a man inherits from his father's (paternal) side. This represents his father’s father’s … father’s line. The y-chromosome (yDNA) results are compared with two or more men to see if they share a common male ancestor. You will need to find a male who shares a common male ancestor with your female ancestor to be y-DNA tested. This male must be directly descended, through males, from your common ancestor. Sometimes you'll have to go back up the family tree and come back down to a living male that shares a x-grandfather with you and carries the surname you want tested.
For example: Did your great grandmother have brothers? Did they have sons? Did their sons have sons?
Did your great-grandmother father have brothers? Did they have sons? Did their sons have sons?
Any one of the men you find with the above questions can represent your family with a yDNA (surname) test.
Here's a link to an inheritance chart at Family Tree DNA that may help explain more clearly: http://www.familytreedna.com/tc.html
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