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Is Genetic Genealogy Testing Worth the Money?

by Bruce J. Martin

Genetic genealogy testing uses markers on a person's DNA to determine relationships and occasionally ethnic origins.

MtDNA Tests

Two types of genetic testing are available. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), passed by mother to child without mixing, traces the maternal genealogical line and shows a shared maternal ancestor.

Y-Line Tests

Another test, called the Y-line, uses the male Y chromosome to determine relationship between two males, usually of the same surname.

Benefits

Genetic testing can demonstrate a relationship but not cannot identify its degree. Testing also demonstrates probable ethnic heritage, meaning that these tests can show that your ancestors came from a particular geographic area of the world.

Misconceptions

Genetic genealogical testing cannot tell you who your great-great-grandfather was or if you are a descendant of Charlemagne. Therefore, those people doing historical genealogy find the tests of limited use and instead rely on the use of documents.

Procedure and Costs

Increasingly popular and common home genetic tests are available at reasonable cost, from $100 to $400. A kit is mailed to you and a mouth swab is taken, sealed in a container and returned to the lab. Within a few weeks, a report of your mDNA or Y-line test is returned to you.

About the Author

Based in Houston, Bruce J. Martin specializes in pedagogy, male health and education research. He has published articles in men's health magazines and "The Chronicle of Higher Education." A former middle school teacher of the year, Martin has degrees in English, psychology and education, and is completing his Ph.D. in rhetoric and composition studies at the University of Houston.

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