Archived---About DNA Testing


Genetic Genealogy takes genealogy to a new level!

Get help uncovering your roots!


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 whom the next ancestor in a line may be, but no way to determine which is which.

DNA testing may be just the thing to help to break down some of those “brick walls.”   

The DNA test is simple--just a cheek swab in a kit sent to you by mail, which is then returned to the testing company by mail.  Click here to see a test kit.

The lab tests a specific part of the DNA strand and reports the results to you.  Your haplogroup results will tell you your deep ancestral heritage and migration, and your marker numbers will be compared with others to see if you "match" others.  The success for most of us comes when we match another person's results, compare paper trails, and find the connection that extends our family tree one or more generations, answers a family mystery, or gives us insight into the direction our research should take.

As interest in DNA testing for genealogy has exploded in the last few years, many people want to get involved, but don't know the best way to go about it.

Here's some help!

If you want to get involved in Genetic Genealogy, here are some basic things you should know:
You have a choice of two basic DNA tests in the genetic genealogy field:


A male can represent himself and his surname family in the Surname DNA Project by taking a yDNA test, while a female will need to arrange for a male relative to represent her and her family.

  • Y-DNA is passed down from father to son, so a male will have the same yDNA as his father, who got it from his father…all the way back.
  • Only males can take the yDNA test, as a female does not carry yDNA, but she can post a pedigree and arrange to have a male family member represent her family line.  She will need to find a male who is descended, through males, from a common male ancestor.  Some researchers have been successful in finding a male to test for their line by going back up the family tree and down again to find a living male who shares a x-grandfather and carries the surname to be tested.
  • A female who wants to test for the surname of her father can use this method to find a male to yDNA test:
    • Did your father have brothers?  Did they have sons?  Did their sons have sons?
    • Did your grandfather have brothers?  Did they have sons?  Did their sons have sons?
    • Did your great-grandfather ... Did your gg-grandfather ... etc
    • Any one of the men you find with the above questions can represent your family with a yDNA (surname) test.
  • A male who is interested in a family line which comes down to him through a female ancestor will also need to find a male to test who is descended, through males, from a common male ancestor in the surname line of interest.   He would use the same method to find the male to yDNA test to represent his family line.
    • Did your female ancestor have a brother?  Did he have sons?  Did they have sons?
    • If not, did your female ancestor’s father have a brother?  Did he have sons?  Did they have sons?  ….
    • If not, did your female ancestor’s grandfather have a brother?  Did he have sons?  Did they have sons?  Did they have sons?…


Both males and females can take the mtDNA test.

  • 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.
  • A mother passes her mtDNA to her children, but only females can pass it on.  By testing, you learn your haplogroup – which tells you which "branch of woman" you descend from on your maternal side.
  • mtDNA tests the deep maternal ancestry (think 1000s of years), your deep ethnic and geographical ancestry
  • Although mtDNA test results are not useful in surname projects, as female surnames tend to change with each generation, you are welcome to order through the project and become a member so that you will be notified of any developments in the Surname Project.  Some projects are posting the mtDNA results of members on the MTDNA pPage of the project website.
  • Once your mtDNA results are ready, you will want to also join your haplogroup project, to work with others who share a haplogroup with you. The mitochondria result is compared to see if they share a common female ancestor.  As the data base is growing, some people are finding family connections through a combination of the mtDNA test results and their maternal pedigrees.

(More information about mtDNA)

Here are the simple rules of DNA testing:

1. A man you are testing with yDNA must be directly descended from the (male) ancestor you are interested in researching - with no females between them (yDNA cannot pass through a female ancestor)

2. A person testing with mtDNA must be directly descended from the (female) ancestor you are interested in researching - with no males between the test taker and ancestor being researched (mtDNA cannot pass through a male ancestor)

3. A female can find a male relative to be yDNA-tested to represent her family line.  This can be a father or brother, but sometimes you will have to go back up the family tree and back down to find the right male.  This male must be descended, through males only, from a common male ancestor.

4. A male who is tracing a line that comes to him through a female ancestor will use the same method of going back up the family tree and down again for find a male who descends, through males only, from a common male ancestor
Tips for getting started in genealogy

DNA the Smart Way
We have created a simple guide to getting the most out of your DNA testing for genealogy:

Our experience administering successful surname projects has given us insight into the necessary steps to take in order to break down those "brick walls" and increase your knowledge of your family history.  

We have distilled this knowledge into a step-by-step guide that will give you the best chance of getting the most from your DNA testing.  By following these steps, reading the information we provide, and working with your surname project, you may just find the answers to your family mystery!

You will find a link to DNA the Smart Way in the left sidebar of each information page, so you can refer to it often.

And Remember: 

The object is to see who you "match", using both your test results and your family pedigrees.

To gain the most information from your test, join a surname project.  You will be working with researchers who share a common interest in the family tree, and ordering through the project will automatically make you a member of the project.

A "paper trail" is still necessary
to get the most out of your DNA testing. For tips on how to find and record your own family history, click here

Pedigrees are important! The most useful comparisons are between men who have closely matching yDNA patterns and who have also established paper trails (genealogies). So be sure you post your pedigree on your project's pedigree forum.

Testing is simple. You are sent a test kit through the mail, which contains cheek swabs which you rub on the inside of your cheek and return.

Success! Many people have already had success using DNA for genealogy. Click here to see some of our success stories.
What do we do? Why do we do it? Why do we work with Family Tree DNA
For more information about, click here.