It's DNA Day again and if you have not taken a DNA test, or if you want to stock up for an upcoming trip or family reunion, now is the time! According to the National Human Genome Institute
National DNA Day commemorates the successful completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 and the discovery of DNA's double helix in 1953. The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) began celebrating DNA Day annually on April 25th after the 108th Congress passed concurrent resolutions designating it as DNA Day.
As genealogists, we celebrate DNA Day all year long. It's been a game changer in our research. No, your DNA is not going to solve all your genealogical brick walls. It is just another tool in our toolbox. What it may do is connect you to your cousins (and we all know that the cousins got the good stuff). Perhaps it provides a connection to a Family Bible, as I discovered in Belfast when I met a cousin for lunch a number of years ago. In my current research, it provided me with more evidence of a brother of my 2x great grandmother. It didn't "prove" the connection...I had this person in my database but when I discovered she had taken a DNA test with 23and me and matched me at the appropriate amount of DNA for a 2nd cousin 2x removed it was an additional piece of evidence.
Each of the DNA testing companies provide different tools and have different strengths. Ancestry is the largest database and because it doesn't accept transfers it is the likely place to do your initial test. Last week they announced another tool for us to use called SideView™. In my case (and my husband's as well) our parents died before 2000, so we didn't have the option to test them. SideView looks at your ethnicity estimates and using shared matches lets you know what ethnicity you received from each parent. It does NOT tell you your parents' ethnicities as it's only looking at you and what you received from each parent. Hopefully you understand that through recombination, you only get 50% of each parents' DNA, so this does not represent your parents' full DNA profile. Also, it does NOT tell you which parent is which...it just identifies them as P1 and P2. The rest is up to you. (I strongly suggest you read Judy Russell's latest post on Assumptions.) Below is my SideView result.
It was very easy for me to identify which parent was which. Parent 1 is my paternal line and Parent 2 is my maternal (and don't make the assumption that the paternal is always on the left and maternal on the right...again see Judy's post). My paternal grandfather was from Ukraine, whereas my mother's line was primarily from the UK. What did surprise me was the amount of Scotland that my mother showed, as most of my records back into the 1600s shows the family from Derbyshire. My mtDNA matches are primarily in Scandinavia, but that would go back from the maternal line traced back to the late 1700s in Ireland.
But here is another example...my husband's.
His ethnicity is 98% Irish (down from 100%). Where he got that bit of Wales, I have no idea! I know that ethnicity estimates can be controversial, but remember, this is a lookback of 500+ years, and for those of us doing Irish research, well before genealogical records.
FamilyTreeDNA is the only company to offer Y-DNA and mtDNA as well as autosomal (FamilyFinder). If you have tested at Ancestry, you can move your results to FamilyTreeDNA (FamilyFinder since Ancestry is only autosomal). Wherever possible I recommend you move your DNA to as many of the genealogical DNA sites as possible. You don't know where your cousin tested and this allows you to play in as big a pond as possible. One of the tools available at FamilyTreeDNA is the ability to join a Project. I'm a member of the North of Ireland Project, and I can view only my matches to others in that project.
The project may be a surname or a geographic project. The surname projects can be very helpful if you have a Y-DNA test to compare. One of my objectives for the past few months has been to find a living male descendant of James Johnston of Rossinver parish in Leitrim to test. Having descended from the daughter of James, I need a male descendant with a Johnston surname. That's proving difficult so far as I have now identified one brother who also had sons, but the males either died young or had no children. I have a line that was still in Ireland in the 1930s which is my last hope. I'll be researching that line on my trip next month. FamilyTreeDNA also has a Chromosome browser which is not available at Ancestry.
You can also move your results to MyHeritage and for a small fee take advantage of their tools. One of the benefits of MyHeritage is their International membership. I've found DNA connections at MyHeritage that were not on other platforms, especially those in the UK and Europe. They also have a chromosome browser and an auto-cluster tool which organizes your matches with others who likely have the same common ancestor. You can look at the individuals in each cluster including their trees if available, to determine a common ancestor.
23andme is the first place that I tested in 2009, but I was interested in the health aspects rather than genealogy. It took me about five years to figure out the genealogy part.😀 It still is the place to test if you're interested in health. A couple of the other companies have dipped their toes into health, but have withdrawn from the market. One of the features I like at 23andme is their Family Tree. Their tree is built strickly on your matches and attempts to place them on a tree. It doesn't do it for all of your matches, and you can add people yourself, but it sometimes tells you at least what line one of your matches might be on. Again, just another hint. You cannot move your autosomal results into 23andme, so you need to test directly with them.
Finally, LivingDNA is based in the UK and has a large number of testers from that area. At the present time it has the fewest number of tools. It has an excellent breakdown of ethnicity for England, but only one group for Northern Ireland and Southwest Scotland. There is no tree for users and you must connect directly with your matches Some features are still listed as "Coming Soon."
For information on special pricing for DNA Day, check out my Promotions Page.
I'll be leaving in early May with a group of researchers for Dublin and Belfast. There are still spots left for the October trip. For more information you can watch my blog during the time I'm in Ireland.