There are 3 main types of DNA testing used for genealogy: autosomal, mitochondrial (mtDNA), paternal yDNA. Each are great ways to find out information about yourself, but the collected data can lead you in multiple directions. Here I will try to briefly explain the differences.

yDNA – Paternal Line

First thing to know about this type of test is that it is only available to males. This test requires examination of the Y chromosome which only exists in males. However, if you are a woman there is still some hope for you. You can do the test on your brother, father, paternal uncles, or grandfather and the results will be the same. yDNA has been passed unchanged through your paternal male ancestors on your family tree for thousands of years, and due to this fact genealogists are able to use this information to determine where in the world your earliest ancestors lived.

For black people who are the descendants of slaves, using the paternal line when looking for their earliest male African ancestor has a lower rate of success than using your maternal line. According to AfricanAncestry.com paternal DNA test results in African ancestry 75% of the time while mitochondrial DNA tests result in African ancestry 92% of the time. Why is this? Sadly, it is because most white slave owners and overseers raped their female slaves. President of AfricanAncestry.com Dr. Gina Paige gives further explanation about this in the video below.

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)– Maternal Line

As mentioned above there is also the mtDNA test. An unchanged portion of your Mitochondrial DNA is inherited from your mother, who in tern inherited from her mother and so on. This portion of DNA has also been passed down for thousands of years, just like yDNA on your paternal side. However, this test is open to both men and woman and is used find your earliest living maternal ancestor.

 

Autosomal DNA

As you can see the two previous tests miss out on everyone in the middle portion of your family tree. This where autosomal DNA testing comes in. This is the newest type of test and it covers everyone in your family tree going back around 5 generations and therefore picks up on all the people that were missed in the other two tests. With these results companies can compare the various portions of your DNA with others in their databases to determine what regions in the world your ancestors originated from and provide you with the percentage of DNA that you have that originates from those regions.

Personally, I’ve only done the autosomal DNA test, but hope to do both and mitochondrial and yDna test at some time in the future. As you have seen not all of the 3 types of DNA testing used for genealogy may apply to you, however I hope that this brief post helps if you are considering taking a test.

It’s 2008 and I graduated from university. My degree is in Computer Science but, after being hyped up on genealogy series, I really wanted to know the names and stories of people in my family tree. I started my family tree on familysearch.org. It’s a free service that is offered by the Church of Latter Day Saints, also know as the Mormon Church. The church collects historical records from all over the world. They do this because they believe that they can pray for the soul of a dead person and that person will gain salvation (http://www.pbs.org/mormons/etc/genealogy.html). I am a Christian, but I do not prescribe to those beliefs. However, the fact that they have this info and offer it for free to anyone wanting to find out about their genealogy is fantastic. I searched for the names of my Grandmother and Grandfather. I found nothing. Back to the drawing board…

How I finally found information

I spoke with my mother to see if she knew the maiden name of her mother. She did, but I still could not find what I was looking for an familysearch.org. I concluded that Jamaica is a third world country and that those records probably don’t exist… feeling dejected I resigned myself to believing that I would never find the information that I needed. Then one day the phone rang. My grandmother’s youngest sister called to speak with my mom. I was able to garner some great information from my grand aunt about her mother. Her name was Miriam McFarlane, and her story was very interesting to say the least, and I’ll be writing a post about her in the near future. Once I got this info I ran to familysearch.org and I met my great grandmother, and some of my grandmother’s siblings for the first time. I also, found my Grandmother and Great Grandmother’s birth certificates and the birth certificates of their siblings. Incredible! I was now hooked.

My great grandmother’s birth certificate via familysearch.org

I found out that my Grandmother’s parents were not married at the time when my Grandma was born. Due to this, she was listed with her mother’s last name. Once I realized this, I used the same method to find my maternal grandfather’s birth certificate and the names of his parents.

My great grandfather’s birth certificate via familysearch.org

I now had a method for searching for people in my family tree:

  1. If the person is not found with the name that you think that they should have, try using the maiden name of the mother as the child’s last name.
  2. If a birth certificate is found look at all of the names in the document. Many times, the witnesses are a member of the mother’s family. In my Grandmother’s case, the witness was listed as Evel Rankine, which in actuality was her father.
  3. Try to also find Church of England christening records. By the time the child is christened point 1 is usually corrected. Also, during those days families were quite large, and more than one child was christened on a specific day. Check the lines above and below your ancestor in the record book, you may find additional family members.
  4. Do an ancestry DNA test and connect with long lost cousins to garner more information. I did mine with MyHeritage.com, but I would recommend doing it with 23andMe or AncestryDNA. Both of those services have larger databases of people which equates to more matches.
  5. Check out the Legacies of British Slave-ownership website. Here you can find out information about slave owners from across the Caribbean.