A handy guide for navigating the nitty-gritty of DNA tests. Find out all you need to know about the available DNA tests and which is the best for you.
Had a recent conversation with your friends or family about the roots of your family tree? Trying to find out the hereditary diseases that you might be more susceptible to? Or simply just curious about your ancestry? DNA testing has been the go-to in helping to identify one’s family heritage and the itty-bitty of ancestry.
What exactly is DNA testing? DNA testing is when DNA information is gathered and used to form inferences about one’s ancestral roots, back to the beginning of humankind. Through the examination of DNA variations, a diverse collection of information can be derived providing indications of the origin of the individual’s ancestors and the possible relations between different families. There are three DNA tests that are available: Y-DNA, mtDNA and autosomal DNA.
Let’s dive deeper into what these three DNA tests are about!
Focusing on the Y chromosome, exclusively passed down from a father to his son mostly unchanged, this contains elements of the father’s lineage. Through the variations in the Y chromosome, the direct male line can be explored. While only males are able to do the Y-DNA test as they carry a Y chromosome, females are more than welcome to ask any male family member such as her father, brother, grandfather and even your uncle to do the Y-DNA test to find out about her patrilineal (male line) ancestry.
The mtDNA test, short for mitochondrial DNA test, is used to trace the mother’s lineage. Using specific DNA strands through the mitochondria that are passed down from mother to her children, the mtDNA test collects information about the female ancestry – your mother, your grandmother, your great grandmother, and so forth. Since both male and female carry mitochondria, the mtDNA test is open to both genders.
However, given that mitochondria is passed down only by women, the test results do not include patrilineal ancestry.
Autosomal DNA Test
Commonly known as the family finder, the autosomal DNA test is the most popular form of genetic testing.
Each of us have 22 pairs of autosomal chromosomes in every cell of your body (except your sex chromosome), where we inherit a full set from each of our parents. Simply put, with a total of 44 strands, each parent gives us 1 strand from each pair of autosomal chromosomes. The autosomal DNA test will then analyse and measure these 22 pairs of autosomes which contain close to 20000 genes in them, almost all the genes that you have. After close analysis of your autosomes, the DNA test presents a variety of results including cousin and distant relative matching, common genetic traits and hereditary diseases, and even your ethnicity mix.
So...which DNA test is the best? Let’s compare!
Ultimately, the DNA test that is most suitable for you depends on the scope of testing that you’re looking for. Based on research, the popularity of DNA tests are as follows:
1) autosomal DNA test,
2) Y-DNA test and
3) mtDNA test
Autosomal DNA testing covers a wider range of your ancestry, and provides a high testing accuracy. Additionally, it is not restricted to any gender and can cover both the male and female line of the ancestry. While Y-DNA and mtDNA tests’ scope of testing is limited to only the patrilineal and maternal line of the ancestry respectively, mtDNA loses out as it provides the least value compared to the other tests. This is due to mtDNA having the slowest changing mutations, on top of the surname issue where the surname changes each generation.
So, if you’re focusing on either the male or female-line of your ancestry, then the Y-DNA and mtDNA test would be ideal for you. However, if you’re looking for a more holistic DNA test or are interested in your ethnicity mix, the autosomal DNA test would be your go-to!
Interested in taking a DNA test? Here are some of the notable companies in the genealogical DNA testing market:
With the right information and knowledge on DNA testing, you’re on your way to making the most informed choices on which DNA test suits you the best.
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