Dna Tracing

Tracing family history has become a popular pursuit in recent years. While past generations researching their family heritage had to look through public and private records in libraries or at city halls, today the Internet allows people to easily search through millions of records around the world for information about their ancestors.

Along with the Internet and online records, the science of genetics allows for DNA testing, which can verify research findings by telling people whether or not they are, in fact, related to certain individuals.

DNA Tests: Traditional and Home DNA Testing

If you are interested in using DNA testing to reveal whom your ancestors are, you can use either traditional or home DNA testing. With traditional DNA tests, you and the other individual(s) go to a clinic or doctor”s office, have your cheeks swabbed and wait for the results of the DNA test in the mail.

In contrast, home DNA tests allow you to swab your (and the other individual”s) cheek at home and send in the samples to the laboratory, whose address is typically located on the test”s directions. Within a few weeks, the lab will mail you back the results.

In general, DNA test results take about one to two months to return from the lab by mail. While you can order DNA test kits from a variety of genealogy websites, you may also usually pick them up from your local pharmacy.The cost of this process is usually between $100 and $400, depending on type of kit you get and how quickly you want the results to return.

Types of DNA Tests

Different types of DNA tests will reveal different information about the relationships between people, if they are, in fact, related. Two of main types of DNA tests available include:

  • mtDNA tests, which analyze mitochondrial DNA to determine maternal lineage
  • Y Line tests, which analyze single nucleotide polymorphisms to determine paternal lineage.

The type of test that is best for you will depend on whether you are trying to confirm or disprove a maternal or paternal relationship.

What You Can Learn From DNA Results

While some people may believe that taking DNA tests can reveal all of the members of their entire family trees, this is currently not the case. Some of the useful and interesting information today”s DNA tests can provide includes:

  • confirming or denying possible connections between families
  • determining a relationship between two people
  • determining ancestral origin
  • determining whether or not two people share a common ancestor
  • identifying global locations for further research (This information is provided in ethnicity DNA testing.)
  • proving or disproving ancestry between people with the same last name
  • validating research.

What You Cannot Learn From DNA Results

Using DNA to trace your ancestors is only effective if you can compare your DNA to that of others. While DNA tests can tell you a lot about your ethnicity and your genetic relationships to others, they do have some limitations. Your DNA test cannot tell you:

  • how you are related to someone else (While DNA tests can tell you THAT you are related to someone because you share similar DNA, they can”t tell you what type of relationship you have to that person.)
  • if you are related to a specific person, unless they also have a DNA test
  • if you are related to others in a genetic database without their written permission
  • your complete family tree.

Benefits of Finding Your Family Heritage

Discovering clues about your ancestry can give you:

  • a better sense of self
  • a feeling of connectedness to history and the human family
  • a sense of ethnic identity if you are adopted or know little about your origins
  • knowledge about possible medical conditions that may run in your family line or ethnic group(s).

DNA Tracing to Ancestors in History

DNA testing has been used to solve ancestral mysteries of the past. For example, we now know that Thomas Jefferson probably fathered the last child of Sally Hemmings because of Y Line DNA test results. Even though there were no surviving male descendants from Jefferson”s marriage, male descendants of Jefferson”s paternal uncle were able to provide DNA samples.

In another important historical case, an mtDNA sample from Prince Phillip helped identify the bodies of the Russian imperial family, the Romanovs. This was possible because Prince Phillip shares the same maternal line from Queen Victoria.

The Future of DNA Tracing to Ancestors

Genealogy research through DNA testing appears to have a bright future. With the cost of testing becoming less expensive, more people are able to get DNA tests performed and find out more about their family lines and ancestral history. As DNA databases grow, it becomes more likely that others will find their family heritage through genealogy and DNA testing.


Powell, Kimberly (2008). DNA Family Trees. Retrieved March 11, 2008, from the About.com: Genealogy Web site.