Well, since I’ve been pretty close to house bound for the past couple of weeks, I figured it was about time that I tackled another project that I’ve been interested in for a while now: finding out more about my ancestry through DNA testing. We’re talking autosomal DNA testing here – the kind of test that works across genders to help locate relatives.
You see, I have a pretty good idea about my ancestry. My dad’s side of the family is from Italy, and we know that they all lived there at least back to the 1700s. My mom’s side is a little bit more of a mixed bag, having come from both England and Ireland, but again, we know that they were there for quite a while before they came over to the US. But, I’m pretty convinced that not all that much further back than we already know there is a small amount of Asian influence on my dad’s side of the family. It’s a heck of a lot less work to spit into a tube and send it in for testing than it is to attempt to trace back my family tree even further, so that’s what I set out to do! Using a DNA testing service won’t give me any of the nitty gritty details, but it will at least give me an idea of whether or not I am on the right track.
There are four fairly decent options out there for genetic testing that I’m going to share with you as well as explain why I went with 23andMe.
23andMe isn’t the least expensive option out there, but they give you access to a lot of different data for $199. You get information about your carrier status for a number of different diseases and syndromes, ancestry reports, wellness reports, and trait reports. 23andMe used to interpret medical findings for you, but the FDA cracked down on that a few years ago and you now need to use another service, or try to interpret them yourself. A service like Promethease can do it for $5 to $10. 23andMe is generally considered to do the best job estimating your ancestral make-up, at least on the continental level – past the continental level it’s mostly an educated guess regardless of which service is used..
Note that the American Airlines shopping portal is offering 2,600 bonus miles for the purchase of a 23andMe DNA testing kit at the time of writing and other portals are also offering decent payouts. This is an easy way to earn a little bit back if you are planning to make a purchase anyway! I value 2,600 American Airlines miles at about $50.
Family Tree DNA is the most widely used by people who are seriously into genealogy. They make it super easy to contact relatives that have used the service, and starts at the reasonable price of $99. They also offer mitochondrial DNA testing (your mother’s line, $199) as well as YDNA testing (your father’s line, $169), which only men can do because you need a Y chromosome.
Ancestry.com is the only service, as of now, that makes it easy to add your findings to your family tree. Of course, this is even more beneficial if you use Ancestry.com for your genealogical research. Ancestry’s test costs $99.
National Geographic has a little bit different of a focus right now compared to the other three companies listed above. They are a little bit less about providing consumer-level information and more about making a meaningful future impact. At a cost of $199.95, you will be helping move science forward but won’t necessarily find out a lot about yourself or your ancestry right now.
Multiple reasons. I am most interested in seeing my ancestral make-up, and 23andMe seems to be the best option to do that at this time. The cost is higher than most other options, but it will give me the most bang for my buck for what I want to know, plus a few other interesting tidbits of information. I will likely run my data through Promethease to get the report on my medical findings, because… why not? At this point in time, I’m less interested in spending the time and money to actually track down all of my ancestors past the point that I already know – that might be a future project!
What do you think about DNA testing to find out ancestry information?