The search for our roots is as old as mankind. With the advent of the internet, the world of genealogy has been opened up to thousands of people, but even with the online access to thousands of records, most people will eventually hit brick walls in their research. In genealogy, a brick wall is a point in your research where you are unable to go forward due to a lack of records and other information. The recent availability of genetic genealogy has enabled many people to break through their brick walls.
Genetic genealogy is an outgrowth of the dropping prices of DNA technology. To participate, a person provides a DNA sample, usually a cheek swab, to a genetic genealogy company along with a copy of their family tree. The company analyzes the DNA, compares it to other samples in the database, and if a match is found, notifies the participants.
The advantage to this procedure is the ability to connect with others who share a common ancestor. This enables genealogists to share research and fill in gaps in their family tree. It also allows family historians to verify their own research. Genetic genealogy also makes it possible to track genetic disorders and diseases. Most genetic genealogy testing is done by analyzing the Y chromosome,which is passed from father to son in the same way as a surname. Mitochondrial testing,which analyzes DNA passed from the maternal line is much less common.
There are several options for people interested in adding a genetic component to their family tree.
Family Tree DNA features the largest DNA database on the internet. They have partnered with the National Geographic Society,IBM and the Waitt Family Foundation for the Genographic Project. The Genographic Project is a research effort to track how humans populated the earth. Prices range from $149 for a 12 marker test to $349 for a 67 marker test.
DNA Heritage promises results in just three and a half weeks. They also offer a high resolution 43 marker test for $199,which is lower than many other companies, but the have a smaller database so the potential for matches is smaller.
Relative Genetics was the first genetic company to receive ISO certification and offers an 18 marker test for $95,making it the most inexpensive of the professional genetic genealogy companies.
If money is a barrier to DNA analysis, the Sorenson Molecular Genetic Foundation, offers a free DNA analysis to interested participants. The only requirement for this service is a four generation family tree. Sorenson does not send participants a report, but results are entered into a searchable database. The database is used to trace common ancestors and show the inter-relatedness of the human race. Because Sorenson does testing in large batches, it can take several months before results are available. Sorenson offers participants a discount on professional services through Relative Genetics.
All companies take steps to ensure the security and privacy of your genetic sample. In addition to filling in blanks on your own family tree, you may be the missing link someone else is looking for.