Genealogy Trees Genetic Research

For many people, researching family history is an enjoyable hobby. Learning about their past allows individuals to discover, appreciate and understand their heritage. Today, the new field of genetics genealogy can help you answer questions about your past, trace your history and even find relatives you never even knew existed. Genetic genealogy also has the potential to disprove long trusted oral history and raise new questions you might otherwise never be able to answer.

DNA testing for genealogical research purposes began in the 1990s and has been used by the public since the year 2000. It is used for a variety of ancestry tracking purposes, including determining if you have a Cohanim gene or Native American ancestors. A DNA test for ancestry can help you to better understand your ethnic makeup.

Using Genealogy by Genetics for Tracing Family History

Genetic genealogy determines the genetic relationship between individuals using genealogical DNA testing. Y-DNA tests trace a single lineage through a father. Mitochondrial DNA testing (mtDNA testing) can trace a single lineage through a mother. Testing can reveal answers to health questions, and provide aspects of genetic history, such as the mutation rate in genetic genealogy.

DNA Genealogy Testing for Ancestral Links

Through a DNA testing Web site, you can order a DNA test to help trace your past using genetics genealogy technology. If you are a woman, you can trace your maternal history through mitochondrial DNA. If you want to trace your paternal history, you must also provide a DNA sample of your father, your brother, or a male cousin on your father?s side of the family.

Males may search either paternal or maternal lineage. Tests run between $150 and $200. The results of your test can help reveal your relatives, as well as where your ancestors came from.

By identifying links with both living and deceased relatives, large chunks of your family history can be revealed in your genetic makeup. One drawback of genetic genealogical testing is that tests may suggest relatives without providing conclusive proof.

It may seem unlikely that any harm could result from digging into your past, but individuals and researchers should be prepared for all kinds of reactions from this information. Though it is rare, some people may discover that their family tree is very different than they always believed.

Benefits of DNA Testing in Genetic Genealogy

There are many benefits and positive reasons to use genealogical DNA testing. Through DNA testing, an individual may be able to:

  • determine their ancestral homeland
  • discover living relatives
  • prove or disprove relatives
  • validate family history research.

The field of genetic genealogy is rapidly growing. As the cost of testing declines, more and more individuals are being tested. Improving technology and expanded research both contribute to the growing field of genetic genealogy.

Surprising Revelations in Genetic Genealogy

In 1998, generations of descendants of Thomas Woodson (thought to be Thomas Jefferson?s eldest son with Sally Hemmings, one of his slaves) learned through DNA testing that they really were not related to the third president, as oral history had led them to believe.

This led to further investigation by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society. There is still controversy and dispute as to whether Thomas Jefferson fathered children with the slave Sally Hemmings or not.

Ethical Issues in Genetic Genealogy

Like other fields of medicine, various ethical issues surround the study and understanding of genealogy using DNA testing. For example, questions of who has access to personal genetic information are often raised but not always answered. Other ethical issues and questions include:

  • How accurate and reliable is genetic testing?
  • How does genetic information affect perceptions of a person?
  • Is it scientifically sound to assume that genetic makeup makes people behave certain ways?
  • Who owns genetic information?

Researches and clinicians wishing to remain ethical should:

  • keep information confidential
  • not disclose private information to others
  • respect the privacy of individuals.


Answers Corporation. (2008). Genetic information: Ethics, privacy, and security issues. Retrieved September 10, 2008, from the Answers Web site:

Finkelstein, S. (2008). Rebuilding the family tree. Retrieved September 10, 2008, from the CBS Web site:

Human Genome Project Information. (n.d.) Ethical, legal, and social issues. Retrieved September 11, 2008, from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science Web site:

The Generations Network. (n.d.) Genetic genealogy overview. Retrieved September 10, 2008, from the Web site: