So anyways, this afternoon I've been working on the Genetic Genealogy brochure and I thought that in the past there's been a bit of discussion about the pros and cons of genealogical DNA tests for donor conceived adults, but I have not discussed the topic in-depth, until now!
Genealogical DNA tests provide unique insight into an individual's recent ancestors as well as historical origins. These tests do not give medical information. They are meant to find ancestral links to living relatives. There are two main types of genealogical DNA tests: Y-STR tests and mtDNA tests. Y-STR tests trace the paternal lineage, while mtDNA tests trace maternal line
Therefore, Y-STR tests are ideal for MALE donor offspring to gain information about their biological father's heritage, and even find possible surnames. If anything, a male offspring may be able to connect with genetic cousins, even if he is unable to trace his father.
Females, however, are up a creek without a paddle in terms of tracing their paternal side without a male paternal relative - if you have a brother who's from the same donor that's the only way. Sorry gals........
So back to Y-STR tests...
Most testing companies offer several different levels of tests, based on how many STR markers they look at: 12, 25, 37, and 67. The 12-marker test will not offer much information at all, other than possibly what ethnicity you might be. The 25 and/or 37-marker test (depending on the company) is the best bet, because it gives enough information to find a potential surname and match to other relatives in the database, but it leaves room for a larger array of potential. Since we are starting with a blank slate in terms of knowledge of paternity, the 67-marker test may be too confined to actually make a match.
For more information about what STRs are, and how they trace your ancestry, please refer to my post "Whatcha gonna do with all that junk, all that junk in you...DNA?" for a more in-depth explanation.
There are some problems with using this type of test to determine paternity, or even surnames. Because of secret adoptions (or even donor conception!), infidelity, and random mutations in the past, it's possible that the surname that the test tells you is your ancestral surname, may not be the surname of your biological father.
So, genetic genealogy tests are a fantastic resource for male offspring, but must be used with caution. Take the results with a grain of salt. If anything, think of it as a way to learn about your biological father's ancestors and his history - even if it turns out to not direct you towards him.
In conclusion, I will leave you with some of the benefits of genetic genealogy. The decision is yours whether or not you wish to enter into this area in your search.
Some cool things that can be discovered in these tests are:
- Discovering living relatives
- Surname/clan reconstruction
- Identifying ethnic group memberships
- Determining ancestral homelands
- Identifying Cohanim ancestry (Y-chromosomal Aaron) - Jewish priests and ancestors of Biblical Aaron (brother of Moses) [Cohen Modal Haplotype]
- Identifying Native American ancestry
- Identifying tribal groups
Caucasian -European:Eastern European (Slavic speaking of E. Europe)Finno-Ugrian (Uralic speaking of NE Europe)Mediterranean (Romance speaking of SW Europe)Northwest European (Celtic and Germanic speaking of NW Europe)Near Eastern:ArabianNorth African (Sahara Dessert and Atlas Mts)Mesopotamian (Iran, Iraq)Aegean (Anatolia: Sicily, Greece, Turkey, Armenia)Levantine (Semitic: Israel)Asian -Central and South Asian (Indian)East Asian (Chinese, Japanese)Sub-Saharan Africa -South, East, and West AfricaAmerican Indian -Native North American:Arctic, Mexican, Great Plains, Northeastern, Pacific NorthwestNative Central and South American:Amazonian, Andean, Central, Mayan, PatagonianPacific Islanders -Polynesian, Aboriginal
Genetic Genealogy Testing Companies:
Family Tree DNA (http://www.familytreedna.com)
23andMe (http://www.23andme.com) - also does medical testing, in case you're worried!
DNA Heritage (http://www.dnaheritage.com)
DNA Tribes (http://www.dnatribes.com) - does not do Y-STR tests but autosomal tribal tests
GTL DNA (http://www.gtldna.com/ystr.html)
Results from any of these companies can be uploaded onto the Y-Search public database, which allows individuals who got their Y-DNA test done at any company to compare their results and find relatives!
Any test that is AUTOSOMAL both males AND females can do, and can give some insight into heritage for the paternal side.