In addition to my family history, I’m curious to find out what my genetics have to say about my ancestors. A few weeks ago, I ordered Ancestry.com’s new DNA analysis service. There is a dizzying array of different types of DNA tests available from many vendors, but I chose the new AncestryDNA test because I had already been using Ancestry.com for my primary family tree maintenance for the past year.
I also liked the theory behind autosomal DNA testing. Unlike Y-chromosomal testing which analyzes only patrilineal genetics or mitochondrial testing which analyzes only matrilineal genetics, autosomal testing looks at the genetic information inherited by all ancestors. This is the same type of testing featured on the popular television programs Who Do You Think You Are? and Finding Your Roots.
Unfortunately, DNA analysis is not an exact science. The ability for Ancestry.com to be able to provide accurate results insofar as geography, it needs to have a wide enough database to compare users’ DNA results. In theory, Ancestry.com will update users’ test results automatically in the direction of accuracy as the comparison database continues to grow. Ancestry.com might also be able to match you with relatives you didn’t know you’ve had — if you and they have also agreed to connect DNA results to family trees hosted on the website.
To get a more complete picture of my ancestry, I will likely follow these results up with other types of DNA tests from other vendors. With Y-chromosomal and mitochondrial testing, I will be able to determine a selection of my ancestors’ migration patters.
As I mentioned, I ordered Ancestry.com’s new DNA kit a few weeks ago. It arrived fairly quickly, and within a few days of delivery, I followed the instructions for taking and preserving a sample of my DNA. Unlike many other test that require a cheek swab, this test required saliva. I spent a minute or two depositing saliva into a plastic tube. By closing the tube, a preservation chemical was released into the tube, and mixed with the saliva. I placed the tube into a biohazard bag, sealed the self-addressed envelope, and dropped it off at the post office. In a few weeks, I should see the results online.
I’m disappointed that Ancestry.com does not currently allow users to export their genome data. This information could be useful. Other services allow data imports in place of providing additional samples. The idea of a company owning rights to someone’s DNA fingerprint is a little frightening, too. You never really know what a corporate entity would do with this type of personal information. Even if their terms and conditions currently say one thing, there is often a clause allowing the company to change its terms and conditions at any time.
When I receive the results in a few weeks, I will certainly share them, and I’ll write more about my experiences with DNA testing for genealogical research. Keep reading to see Ancestry.com’s entertaining instructional video explaining how to prepare the DNA sample.