General Health Monday November 28, 2011

Why would you take a genetic genealogy test?

Genetic genealogy testing involves the use of an individual’s DNA to establish which part of the world their ancestors are from. All humans have within them DNA that carry mutations that are able to indicate similarities or differences between people.

During DNA ancestry testing, scientists look at specific markers on DNA, which is then compared to an incredibly large DNA database. Matches made between an individual’s DNA with data within the database enable scientists to give an approximation of where your ancestors were most likely to have originated from.

Sometimes the results can be surprising and unexpected, because of brief migratory bursts in certain areas that teetered down with time. In this way people with what are largely believed to be Scandinavian roots may have connections with ancestors in Asia, for example.

Interest and preserving the past

Although some of us don’t really put any value in ancestral origins, to others it can be of great interest and can even provide valuable genealogical information. In the past it was more likely that our ancestors would stay in the same area of generation upon generation, however in recent history migration has become much more common and easier, which can make it increasingly difficult to keep track of where we came from originally. So, from a purely genealogical perspective, these tests can help professional or amateur genealogists keep better records of their family history in order to preserve past legacies for future generations. If you are interested in starting your family tree, has an easy step by step method to get you started.

Reconnecting with the past

During grimmer times in history, when many people were forcibly taken from the areas their ancestors inhabited, for example to be sold into slavery, it is possible for ancestral heritage to have become lost with time. This has led to many people wanting to re-establish the link between their own lives and the lives their ancestors lead. The information provided by genetic genealogy test can help provide insight and allow them to connect with their past.

Getting to the bottom of things

Within some families mini-folklore or stories exist which may have no logical or documentary proof of basis. Ancestral genetic tests can help provide the information to help the amateur genealogist set off in the right direction in order to establish the origins of these family stories and to better relay their cultural significance.

Novel history

Genealogical ancestral information could be a really unique gift, especially for someone who is interested in their family heritage and identity. Some ancestral tests provide results on a high resolution map, while others simply provide an ancestral profile with detailed information of the most likely places your ancestors could have come from.

Types of DNA ancestry testing

Geneticists can establish your DNA ancestry in two ways. Either with the help of a Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) test or a Y-line. mtDNA tests aims to establish links between people or groups of people through a common maternal ancestor. Mitochondrial DNA lies within the cytoplasm of a cell, and it’s passed from a mother to her children, but if two people have the same mtDNA it could mean that they had the same mother a few generations back, as mtDNA changes extremely slowly. According to the geneticist Bryan Sykes, who initially developed the commercial tests, almost all people of European decent are related to the same seven women (“seven daughters of Eve”), who existed more than 40 000 years ago.

Y-Line DNA tests is used to determine common male ancestors and since it looks to find similarities between subjects Y chromosome markers and that of their ancestors the test can only be performed on male DNA.

These methods can be used to establish ancestral origins, by looking to compare a person’s DNA information with specific population groups, but it they can also help establish whether people share a common ancestor or whether people with a similar surname is related.

Although DNA testing is extremely advanced, it’s still a developing part of science that is able to tell us more about our bodies and influences that formed who and what we are. Genetic genealogy testing is a form of DNA testing and isn’t an exact science, but is rather an approximation of areas within the world where your ancestors may have come from based on your DNA. It shouldn’t be considered medical or legal proof of ancestry, but rather to provide insight into the various groups of people that played a part in shaping who you are today, When you do get an ancestry DNA test, it’s better not to rely on it to answer any significant identity or ethnic questions you have and therefore experts recommend that you speak to a genetic counsellor if you feel distressed or unhappy with the results. If you would like more information on how to interpret these tests, you can visit the Human Genetics Commission’s official website, for their guidelines.

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