(Updated! Also, all links shown were accessed/verified in Aug 2018. None of these are affiliate links; I do not benefit from your visits to any sites listed here.)
Testing companies for DNA for the purpose of genealogy
- AncestryDNA: https://www.ancestry.com/dna/. Note: enhanced tools like DNA circles require a subscription. For testers who don’t want a full subscription (with access to records like census and probate), but want to take advantage of leaf hints and seeing matches’ trees and other tools, Ancestry has offered a reduced Insights subscription that provides those benefits by calling 1-800-262-3787. I have not checked recently to see if it’s still available; and I do highly recommend the regular subscription options to serious researchers.
- FamilyTreeDNA: http://www.familytreedna.com. Their autosomal test is called Family Finder. They also offer mitochondrial DNA for the direct maternal line (in my opinion, of limited value for most genealogists) and Y-DNA testing for the direct paternal line. (A discount is available for the Y-37 test by using this link.)
- 23andMe: http://www.23andMe.com
- MyHeritageDNA: https://www.myheritage.com/dna
- LivingDNA: https://www.livingdna.com
To see comparisons of the major companies, check out the ISOGG Wiki entry:
Copying your DNA daw data to other sites
We can transfer our raw data from the company where we sent our DNA sample to many of the other testing companies, often for free. Why do this? We’ll have different matches. For example, I may have tested at AncestryDNA, but a valuable 2nd or 3rd cousin may have tested at, say, FamilyTreeDNA. The more ‘pools I fish in’ (the more companies have my raw data), the more relatives I’ll match! We never know at which company the most crucial cousin to solve our brick wall will test.
Consider, too, putting a copy of your DNA data in free third-party sites like GEDmatch.com, which has helpful tools and also lets you look for matches with people who tested at a different company, provided they also copied their data to GEDmatch.
However, it is important to read Terms of Service for any site considered. Some companies, for example, allow law enforcement agencies to use their databases. You may be comfortable with this, or you may wish to copy your data but opt out of law enforcement matching, or you may choose not to be included in that company’s data.
Two key resources have been provided by Leah Larkin at her blog at TheDNAGeek:
- Leah Larkin, “What’s New in Autosomal DNA Transfers,” TheDNAGeek blog post, 12 Sep 2017 (http://thednageek.com/whats-new-in-autosomal-dna-transfers/), which Leah keeps updated, to keep track of what company’s data can be transferred where.
- Leah Larkin, “How to Transfer your AncestryDNA Test to other databases,” TheDNAGeek blog post, 9 June 2018 (http://thednageek.com/how-to-transfer-your-ancestrydna-test-to-other-databases/). Excellent how-to, esp. worth sharing when you are trying to entice your matches to copy their data elsewhere.
DNA Painter.com : The Shared cM Tool is free for everyone. Input the size of your autosomal DNA match and the tool will show you the most likely relationships. Even more fun is painting your chromosome matches; you need to create a free profile for that, and have access to DNA results that provide chromosome data (which AncestryDNA does not. But Ancestry results can be copied to other sites that do.) The website has tons of Help to get you started.
My first stop is the ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy) wiki: https://isogg.org/wiki. Pages have explanations and links to articles and blog posts with more information. Here are just some of the topics I visit (shown in italics), along with a sampling of some of the links within worth checking out.
- Admixture analyses (i.e. ‘ethnicity’) – for example, see articles by Judy Russell
- Adoption – e.g. see DNA Detectives Facebook group, DNA Adoption
- Autosomal DNA statistics – e.g. see Distribution of Genealogical Relationships for given amounts of shared DNA by Bettinger (also contains link to submit new data); “Genetic Genealogy and the Single Segment” by Steve Mount; “Q&A: Everyone has two family trees- a genealogical tree and a genetic tree” by Blaine Bettinger
- Endogamy – e.g. see articles by Paul Woodbury
- Pedigree collapse – e.g. see article by Bob Jenkins
- Triangulation – e.g. see “Triangulating Autosomal DNA” by Debbie Wayne Parker in NGS Magazine
- X-chromosome testing – e.g. see article by Blaine Bettinger
- Y chromosome DNA tests
Genetic Genealogy is such a fast evolving field, that (surprisingly to me) Facebook has become a key resource to stay on top of news and to ask questions. For general topics, the Facebook group Genetic Genealogy Tips and Techniques is very positive and active. For more specific interests, search Facebook for groups that focus on what you need. Here’s a small sampling: Visual Phasing Working Group, DNA Painter User Group, GEDmatch Lazarus Tool, Genetic Genealogy Ireland, etc.
Webinars and in-person presentations and institutes are a good idea for many of us. One of the newest options is the subscription-based DNA-Central.com.
If you’re someone who likes having a book to study or refer to, try
- Bettinger, Blaine T., The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy, 2016. [Update: 2nd edition published Aug 2019!]
- Bettinger, Blaine T. and Parker, Debbie Wayne, Genetic Genealogy in Practice, 2016 [This one is a workbook, good for those who like to practice and test your understanding.]
- Debbie Parker Wayne, ed., Advanced Genetic Genealogy: Techniques and Case Studies (Cushing, Tex.: Wayne Research, 2019).
- Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards, 2nd edition (Nashville, TN: Ancestry, 2019). […. invaluable guidelines for genealogy in general, with several standards specific to including DNA as evidence in our kinship conclusions.]
Standards and Ethics
As genealogists who use DNA in our work, we have standards and a code of ethics to adhere to. Note: these are OUR standards, for genealogists, not the standards for the testing companies. See: http://www.geneticgenealogystandards.com/.
Special Interest Groups
If you’re in Central Indiana, check out our Central Indiana DNA Interest Group! If not, the ISOGGWiki has a page on Special Interest Groups. Or start your own!
Hope this helps!
Ann Raymont © August 2018