Wednesday, July 5, 2017

So you want to take a DNA test...

I have been asked by so many family and friends about my journey after taking my DNA test.  Several are curious about their own family and don't know where to begin.  I am no where near expert level but I decided to share my experience and my opinion with the companies I've tested with and give a little info to help assist you in your own journey.  This article will most likely be all over the place because that is how my brain works but hopefully you are able to pull some helpful tidbits out here and there.  

WARNING:  I have seen several cases on online forums of where people take this DNA test and they find out that one of their parents isn't really their biological parent, they've been lied to, they have siblings they didn't know about and some of their family members procreated with other family members.  You must prepare yourself that this is a possibility because I cannot tell you how many people get a shock after taking a DNA test...

First I'm going to list the DNA sites that I am on and then give my feedback about each site.


1.  I cannot say enough good things about  They've really made their site user friendly with endless amounts of information that I have thoroughly enjoyed learning from.  I still have not mastered navigating all of the tools they have available but that's only because I've been so focused on building my tree I haven't ventured around much.  If you're going to take a DNA test and you cannot decide which company to go with I would say ancestry hands down based on the fact that you get more info IMO and their database is much larger, meaning more people are testing with them than anywhere else so you will get more info and matches.

With ancestry you get an ethnicity estimate which breaks down your ethnicity into percentages.  Mine looks like this:

There's a genetic community section that shows you what part of the world your ancestors came from.  It shows you on the map where those places are, gives you lots of historical information on those areas and then even shows you who on your DNA match list also have ancestors from those locations.  Mine looks like this:

Then the best part (I think) it gives you a list of relatives that you are related to by DNA who have also tested with ancestry.  To give you an idea of how many people you could be seeing...  each page has about 50 people on it and I have currently 185 pages of cousins.  The number grows weekly as people test.  Your matches can add photos of themselves and information and you can see the trees they build provided they make them public.  If they are private you can ask them for permission to view their tree.  An important note, some trees are wrong, people start copying others research thinking it's correct when it's not and that was my biggest mistake when I first got started.  Do not trust what others have on their trees without confirming and doing a bit of your own research.

When you start building your tree, if you and a cousin have the same set of grandparents on both of your trees ancestry will tell you!  It'll say this match has a shared ancestor hint and show you the direct path on how you're related. I love that feature as well!

*Keep in mind the only matches you will see are those who have also tested with ancestry!  You will have to use those people and your immediate living relatives to do your own research while building a tree.

Another feature is DNA circles, that just tells you watch matches have several other matching relatives with you in their tree. 

2.  I did not like 23andme at all.  First off I found it isn't that compatible with mac computers.  Their site would often show up as a jumbled mess and I had a very hard time registering my kit off the bat.  I still get a million error messages when I try to log in so I don't even go over there much at all.  Most of my matches have chosen to remain anonymous which was disappointing to me.  I guess they did the test just to get the health report and weren't interested in learning about their ancestors.  I tested because I was searching for someone and all of those anonymous matches was useless to me.

Here is my genetic break down from 23andme

I have 1,244 DNA matches on 23andme.  Compare that to ancestry's whopping 9,250...  that's a big difference.  Then like I mentioned the majority of those 1,244 are anonymous and I can see nothing about them.  Those who aren't anonymous on 23andme share their name and some of them list surnames in their family.  There are no trees, no other info to assist you.  Definitely wasn't the test site for me.  However, the big appeal with 23andme is the health report they give you telling you what percentage chance you have of getting some type of disease or cancer, to get this report it's going to cost you around $200 with 23andme.  I paid $100 through ancestry and an additional $5 with to get that same health report...

The only positive I have to say about 23andme is if you are adopted or searching for someone I would 100% test with both ancestry and 23andme because they are two completely different databases and you will receive two separate match lists.  

Raw data:  If you test with companies 1 and 2 listed above you can download your raw DNA data from either company and upload it into the last 3 companies listed.  This means - I would not pay to test with numbers 3 and 4 on the list (5 is a different story, you don't test with them) because you can upload a test from numbers 1 and 2 and be put in their database for free.

3.  FTDNA had some neat tools but I really didn't find any of them that useful.  If you test with numbers 1 or 2 and you upload your raw DNA for free you will only get a list of matches.  If you want to be able to use any of their tools they have to offer you will need to pay $19 to upgrade your account, this is a one time fee and isn't too bad but like I said I felt like I got so much more info from ancestry I sort of ignored all these other sites.

Here is my genetic background according to FTDNA

Currently I have 94 matches on FTDNA.  I had 88 for months.  It was a neat site to play with and a bonus it was free.    

4.  My heritage is awful.  It's new and I've read nothing but complaints about it. I uploaded my raw DNA for free and only did so because I heard that a lot of Europeans were using this company and being that a large percentage of my DNA matches were from Europe I was hoping to locate some that were still there.  I received 3 DNA matches on my heritage.  I definitely wouldn't recommend paying for this service at all.

5.  GEDmatch is amazing.  Not to many people know about it except for those hard core searchers who are adopted or are really looking for someone.  There is so much to learn about GEDmatch and I haven't even begun to understand it all.  There are websites with tutorials and info but I haven't read them all yet.  You can download your raw DNA from any of the companies above and upload into GEDmatch.  With GEDmatch you can compare kit numbers with people and see if you're related and how much DNA you share and on what chromosomes.  Most of the people on there have their names listed and you will get that email address.  I've heard this is a great resource for getting started with GEDmatch:  

That's all I have for now, as I think of stuff to add I will and if you have questions or comments please add them at the bottom of this post or message me privately.  If you are an adoptee or searching for someone I also found these two sites to be very helpful.  One is a website and the other is a Facebook group with loads of info.  Good luck in your search and feel free to let me know how it goes!

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