What is DNA?

DNA or DeoxyriboNucleic Acid is the molecule sometimes known as the blueprint of life. It contains the genetic code that exists in each cell of our bodies and is found throughout nature in living things.  All the lab needs is some of your body’s cells to analyze your DNA.  It is easy to get these by scraping the inside of your cheek with a special swab.

There are three types of DNA testing done in genetic genealogy.

  • Y-DNA

    • For purposes of surname genealogy studies, DNA refers to the 23rd chromosome pair. Females have two x chromosomes, while males have one x and one y chromosome. The y chromosome is passed from father to son and is usually identical from father to son.   Only males carry yDNA.  Females do not have yDNA and cannot pass it on.
    • So far, most of the focus for genealogy is on the use of yDNA in surname projects.  Females have to find a male relative to test to represent their surname in a project.
  • mtDNA

    • Females carry a specific DNA material that is useful in genealogy called the mitochondria, or mtDNA.  This is the material that surrounds the chromosomes. 
    • The mtDNA is passed from a mother to her children, essentially unchanged.  Both males and females inherit mtDNA from their mother, but only females can pass it on.
  • atDNA [Autosomal DNA also called Family Finder]

    • Both males and females carry autosomal DNA, which is inherited from both your parents.  Autosomal DNA is found on a non-sex chromosome.  Humans have 22 pairs of autosomal chromosomes and a pair of sex chromosomes (X and Y).