Thursday, 15 June 2017

Is DNA testing right for me?

Many companies are offering DNA testing for genealogy, and a DNA test is not cheap, over $100 and more a pop! Even when it is on sale it is a lot of money to spend for a trend.

I have never been a follower.  I weigh the pros and cons to decide what is right for me.

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You do not need a DNA test to know who you are.  You are the sum of your upbringing and your life experiences. I know and am confident in who I am.

I also know where my heritage lies. Some of our family recipes and traditions were passed down because of our heritage. I know where I come from.

On my paternal side I have my Dad's father's line back to Ireland in the 1600s and his mother's line back to Scotland in the 1500s.

On my maternal side I have my Mom's father's line back to Aberdeenshire in 1800 and her mother's line back to Devonshire in the 1700s.

Taking a DNA test may help you to find a cousin or two (if they also tested with the same company) and hopefully they can then help you with your research.
Via my tree on Ancestry, through genealogy forums, and a couple of times via genealogy groups on Facebook, I have virtually met dozens of cousins (I'm a poet) in all my lines and we share information, records and stories. I find that with all the media attention genealogy is getting these past few years, more Gen X and Y people are looking into their family history, giving us a better chance at meeting family.

From what I have read on both sides of the DNA coin, I see no upside to my taking the DNA test.  I don't think that the information DNA testing can tell me is specific enough to be worth $100. For me it is more of a fun thing, like going to a good fortune teller. I would rather put the money towards my travel fund to go to Scotland and do more research in Aberdeen. Or subscribe to British Newspaper Archive to find more stories on my ancestors.

Many people are not as lucky as I am with their research and may not know where their deep roots are buried. All I am saying is don't take the DNA test just because everyone else is doing it. But DO take it if you have weighed all the scientific information and decide for yourself it is right for you.

I am open to any reasons you can give me of why I should test my DNA and how it will help me know more about my ancestry. I don't know everything!

What is your experience with DNA testing?

Relevant Links

How does DNA testing work, BBC Science


  1. I'm with you, at this stage I see no reason to spend that money. I certainly have not identified my ancestors back as far as you have done and even though I've done a lot of reading about DNA and the various tests and companies, I've yet to be convinced of its usefulness for me.

    1. I had a lot of help from 4th and 5th cousins that live in the areas, or went there to research to get back that far. I only mention it to show I don't need DNA testing to tell me there is no Indian Princess in my past LOL.

  2. In one respect I would agree with you, my DNA results have done little to advance my own research. My cost was $89 on sale at Ancestry with free uploads to Family Tree DNA and Gedmatch. The biggest upside has been the ability to share my 2nd great grandparents and further back with relatives who have hit brick walls. For example, I was able to recognize that one person's Wholean was my Houlihan, giving them two more generations and a location in County Kerry

    1. Wow! When researching Houlihan, who would think "Oh let's try Wholean"? Nice!
      Since Irish genealogy is tough to do I MAY have been tempted if I didn't already have a family Pedigree that was published c1916.
      Are you related to any of the families in the Hoolahan pedigrees?

  3. Hi there,

    Thank you for starting a conversation about this. I have to say that the $100 I spent on my test was by far the best investment I have ever made.

    Without this test, and the good fortune of others having tested, I NEVER would have known my Dad. Today in fact is the one year anniversary of me opening my results to discover the Parent/child match.

    Ours was a case of thinking that my Dad was someone else. The DNA test revealed after 43 years that my "DAD" had not walked away like we thought. You can find our story here.

    I would also would like to say, that many of us have been enlightened by the "facts" of where we came from which only your DNA can prove. There seems to be much disappointment that the stories that we are accustomed to hearing are just that, a story.

    It is awesome that you can trace your history so far back. Sadly many of us can't for many reasons. Every person that does test adds to the chance that someone who knows nothing about their past, may get to learn something.

    It does not change who we are, it provides us with an opportunity to know ourselves better than ever.

    Thanks for the post, and the conversation.

    1. Taking the DNA test was obviously right for you! (as it was for the guy on Relative Race who didn't know who his father was). It was also great for many people who were adopted and have found their parents through DNA.

      You hit the DNA jackpot! What a wonderful story, and lucky your step-mother decided to test, and your father as well. I am so happy for you!!

  4. I think one's DNA results might be like opening that box of chocolates, you never really are sure what you might get. It has been very interesting reading the pros and cons of doing the testing and it's certainly requires one to have a good reason to spend the money.

    1. I agree Louise. You surely have to be prepared for what ever the answers are.

  5. And DNA testing may show you that you had an NPE (non paternity event) in your line, and you are not even a biological member of the family you think you are!!! You have no clue what DNA testing can do for you. It can help you tie trees (and other researchers) together that you never thought belonged together. In my own family we were able to tie three branches of our tree together that prior to DNA testing had no known connection. I call that success WAY bigger than "finding a cousin or two." And I consider myself a DNA DUMMY (even after 15 years of struggling to understand it.) DNA testing has been one of the BEST ideas I've ever had. And if I really understood it, there's no telling what other connections are hiding in my results.

    When our three family lines could be merged (through our matching DNA results), I was also able to name the great grandfather of one of our three DNA subjects. Try telling HIM that "finding a cousin or two" is no big deal!! I've been his "new favorite cousin" for several years now.

    1. I am glad that DNA testing has worked for you. Wonderful that you could grow your family tree by so much!

    2. I forgot to mention that the reason I got into DNA testing was to find a brother that was kidnapped from my parents when he was just a few days old. As an aside, I do believe I found him, unfortunately two months after he died.

      I have also been contacted by several adoptees who match my DNA. And just last week a "first cousin, three times removed" showed up as a match. All I had on her family was her dad's name. Now I will be able to fill out that entire branch - all TEN kids and their families. In 45+ years of research I can safely say that this contact was not going to happen without DNA testing. You are missing a LOT by not giving it a whirl. Almost every company is offering discounts for Father's Day. I think you'll be singing a different tune after you've given this a try. And I don't really have much of a clue what I'm doing! If you understood it? WOW!!

      I am also a Parish Liaison for Ireland Reaching Out, an Irish gov't sponsored program where the parishes in Ireland are supposed to go through their old rcds and see if they can find living relatives of those parishioners that emigrated 100+ years ago. What instead is happening is that we get queries from people looking for specific families from the areas their descendants think their ancestors came from. There are several DNA studies in Ireland now. Their goal? To be able to tell people which HOUSE their ancestors came from in a townland! Can you imagine Irish genealogy going from one of the toughest to "just take a DNA test and we'll tell you which house they lived in!!" Holy Cow!!! Irish research is very tough due to the lack of rcds. DNA can tie families together that have no paper trail because the rcds no longer exist. I found a Kelly DNA match near Riverstown, Co Sligo. This match was a Kelly also and he was able to tell me about other Kelly families lived in the area for the last 100 years. My Kelly 3rd gr-grandfather was married to a Grey. My Kelly match in Co Sligo told me that the Grey surname was almost as common as the Kelly surname in only a couple areas in Co Sligo. This is info I might never have learned had I not matched someone in the same townland that my Kelly family came from.

      I had a friend who asked me to see if I could find her Irish Wall family. She had NO CLUE where they came from in Ireland. I asked if my friend and her sister would DNA test. Within six months my friend had a PHOTO of her 3rd gr-grandparent's farm in Co Mayo!! One of my friends DNA matches had been to the farm. My friend has found family photos that she never knew existed!!

      The possibilities of DNA testing are endless. You just don't know what big world awaits you when you dip your toe in that water!

  6. I think that the "ethnicity" aspect is a bit of a parlour game, but my first test was yDNA as I have an NPE in my direct paternal line (no answer to date).
    Later, I have been using atDNA to identify 2nd/3rd/4th cousins seeking to build out collateral (blood) lines, but also to use their ancestry lines to strengthen our common ancestral lines - I have no close 1st cousins to help out, so these discoveries have been both interesting and useful.

    1. Great that through DNA testing you were able to find cousins to corroborate with. If two heads are better than one, think what 5, 6 or more heads can do together! Often they have photos and documents you never would have seen otherwise.

  7. I waited for the sales and did a test for the craic (fun). I love learning new things and DNA was a steep learning curve. I have not had any breakthroughs as yet - I already knew I was 100% Irish - but you never know what new discoveries the future will bring. :-)

    1. Maybe when the price comes (way) down I will try it.
      I love your blog by the way. Even though we don't have same ancestors or county, I learn something every time.

    2. Thank you, Dianne, what a lovely compliment!


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