I think everyone in the genealogy community has wondered about ancestry DNA tests. Should you get one? Do they help? How accurate is DNA testing for genealogy? Can the DNA test tell us exactly where we came from? Can it help us trace back accurately through generations to every single line of descent?
There are many reasons to want to know more. Some people have grown up their whole lives uncertain of their ethnicity, their origins uknown. They are searching for their identity. Others are merely curious and want to get to the root of the problem with a test. The test seems an easier route, especially if you’ve already spent countless hours digging through research.
Before you dive into a DNA test, there are few things to consider:
Do genealogy tests work?
The short answer to that question is… sort of. Genealogy tests have an error rate of about 5%. This seems pretty small, but it can make a big difference the farther in your family tree that you’re trying to trace. A genealogy test would be able to accurately tell you your grandmother’s ethnicity, or even your great-grandmother, but going farther back than that, the results start to get murky.
Another issue with DNA testing is that it might confuse you in terms of your origin. A DNA test could say you have Native American ancestry, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a Native American ancestor. This could mean that you have an ancestor from another part of the world that shares some key genetic similarities to Native Americans.
Is the test helpful? Is the test worth it then?
Some people are going to get information that they generally already know. They might find the information 100% useless. There are certainly more complex issues with DNA testing. Here are a few links critical reviews of DNA testing. They are worth a read even if you want to take the test.
My Ancestry DNA Review: A Cautionary Tale
Can Your DNA Tell You Your Ancestry?
Others might get one simple clue and that information could be invaluable. There are positives stories where the DNA tests have really helped people that were adopted or had adoptions in their line of ancestors.
It’s ultimately up to you if you use a DNA test to trace ancestry. If you use the test in conjunction with your own genealogy research it might be able to provide some interesting avenues for you to search.
Some people get the test just because the results are fascinating. The test can be a good conversation starter with friends and family. As long as you have realistic expectations, then you might still find the test to be worth the price.
Here are some other links about DNA testing that provide useful information.
The Rise and Rise of Family History DNA Tests
Autosomal DNA 2015 – Which Test is the Best?
My DNA Results from 4 Companies
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