Saturday, June 18, 2011

DNA and Genealogy

Well my genealogical education did not stop with Samford. Today I attended a lecture by J. Mark Lowe on Understanding the Basics of DNA Testing for Genealogical Research at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. This is a subject I find fascinating. I've read Trace Your Roots with DNA by Megan Smolenyak, and have been following Amy Coffin's blog at on her DNA testing experience.

Mark discussed Y-DNA and mtDNA. If you are interested in finding out information on the male line of the family then you test the Y-DNA, for the female line then you test the mtDNA. Now having said that, men can test their Y-DNA and women can't since we don't have a "Y" chromosome. The "Y" being the gene that has been passed down from father to son through the generations. This is only the men, so by doing this test you will not find out anything about your great grandmother on your father's side. The "mt" part is inherited from your mother. By testing this part you can find out about the mothers in your line on your mother's side. Women can only test their mtDNA, but men can test both. Mark also mentioned a test for Autosomal DNA. This can give you some information on both parents and is a new test being offered by Family Tree DNA.

Family Tree DNA is the company that has the largest database in the U.S. and outside of the U.S. it is Roots for Reel. Mark suggested to start with a 12 marker test and then upgrade to a 67 or 111 marker test, as that may be more cost effective. The higher the marker test you get the more specific the results will be.

When the lecture was over my hands were itching to get a hold of microfilm and do some research. However, after being away all week I wanted to spend time with my boys and husband. So it was off to Chuck E. Cheese's for me with DNA on my mind.


  1. Mark Lowe has got his facts wrong in the talk he gave you. Family Tree DNA has by far and away the largest database outside of the US. They do all the testing for the Genographic Project. Over half a million people from around the world have now purchased kits to participate in this project. Many of the Genographic Project testees transfer their results to the FTDNA database. FTDNA host a range of geographical projects covering most of the major countries in the world. I note that Roots for Real is based in Cambridge, but I don't know anyone in the UK who has used the company. In excess of 95% of the UK-based surname projects run by members of the Guild of One-Name Studies are with Family Tree DNA.

  2. Thank you for the additional information Debbie. I will ask Mark about this the next time I see him. Of course, there also the possibility I could have misunderstood what he was saying too. :-)

  3. Debbie is correct. FamilyTreeDNA - a US based company has the largest database - period. I mentioned Roots for Real as the company that one of the earlier PBS series used and located in UK. I shared several other DNA testing companies and will definitely make myself more clear. I recommend FamilyTreeDNA depending on your testing requirements.