DNA Testing for Genealogy

DNA testing for genealogy purposes has become all the rage. I've heard and read a lot of stories about people who got theirs done. They range from people connecting with distant members of their family they never would have met otherwise to adopted children being reunited with their biological mom and dad.

I don't have the resources to provide a thorough review of all the vendors out there who do DNA testing for genealogy, but you can read Science News Ancestry DNA Test Reviews.

I've been wanting to do a DNA test for along time, so I finally decided to do it and see for myself what it's all about. In this article, we'll talk about my experiences with Ancestry DNA, and I'll show you some of the results from my own test. 

I ordered my DNA test through Ancestry DNA. It came in less than a week.

The first thing they have you do is log into your Ancestry account (or have you create one) and activate your kit. They have you enter the code from the sample tube, and then they ask for your consent to use personal data about you to compile and analyze your DNA results. They ask if you are willing to participate in surveys that help improve your results as well as those of other people who get their DNA test through Ancestry.

Next, you put your saliva sample in a tube, stick it into the postage-labeled return box and mail it off -- no needles or cotton swabs necessary! It's supposed to take 6-8 weeks for the results to come back.

They suggest that while you're waiting for your results you start building your family tree. This really helps improve the value of your results, because they can match what your DNA says about you to the research you've done on your family.

See my Ancestry search tutorial for how to do that.

DNA Testing for Genealogy - My Results

My DNA test results came today! I always thought of myself as being half Germanic, half western European. I was a little surprised to learn that I'm only 34% Germanic. Still, overall, this is pretty close to what I expected.

I've known for a long time that my Mom was descended of Latter-Day Saint pioneers, and that my Dad's family was all Pennsylvania Dutch--or "Pennsylvania Deutsch" as I like to call them, so these migration patterns don't surprise me in the least. 

Wired.com: The Future of Crime Fighting is Family Tree Forensics

Here's a geographic look at my general ancestry in Europe:

I have to admit the 8% Swedish and Danish comes as something of a surprise. I don't believe I have any Swedish ancestry documented in my family tree, and the DNA test report itself shows no family connections in that region. Obviously, there's some kind of a genetic commonality there; I'll have to look deeper into that. I know from studying the history of the German language that High German evolved into the Low German of northern Germany, which in turn evolved into something that splintered into Danish and Swedish. So it could well be that there are Swedish or Danish collateral lines who are descendants of my German ancestors. I think it would exciting to find some Swedish "cousins" and have the research effort in my family take a new direction!

First steps first though... we have to finish the research in America and find all the lines that trace back to Germany! Once that's done I'll look into searching out my Swedish and Danish "cousins"!

Here you can see where the bulk of American settlers in my family ended up:

A Snapshot of My DNA-Based Family History

As the area in orange illustrates, the Latter-Day Saint pioneers settled as far north as Canada, as far south as Mexico, and even into California. The area they most densely settled, however, is the former Utah Territory, which became a state in January 1896. It would be interesting to trace those parts of my family who settled in Mexico. This is an area of the family I'm not familiar with, so I really can't comment on the likelihood of finding western European ancestors living in northern Mexico, although I know the Church did have settlements there.

ABC News: How Genetic Genealogy Made 2018 The Year to Crack Cold Cases

I think it's interesting to have family in Canada. My aunt lived in Cardston some years ago; she married a Canadian. Maybe he's descended of pioneers from that area?

Whereas most English settlers went to New York, Massachusetts, or Virginia, and Spanish settlers went to Florida, Texas and New Mexico, my German ancestors settled in Pennsylvania. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was founded by William Penn in 1682. According to my DNA test report, he was a Quaker who fiercely defended religious freedom and made Pennsylvania one of the most tolerant colonies toward different religious views early in American history. This attracted many settlers from both Germany and Ireland -- countries where religious persecution had been a "push" factor that caused many people to leave. For a time, Philadelphia was the largest city in the United States.

I never thought of myself as having family in Ohio, but again, these could be descendants of early Pennsylvania settlers--another avenue of research! I do however know of a handful of western European Pennsylvania Dutch Latter-Day Saint settlers living in southern Indiana! 

The point here is, DNA testing for genealogy is fun and interesting way to learn about your family and their history!