Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thinking about trying genetic genealogy?

In general don't do news and announcements on this blog, but for those who have been considering trying out genetic genealogy, I wanted to point out that FamilyTree DNA is running a day and a half sale on many of their tests today through tomorrow. If you're been on the borderline about taking one of their tests, this might be a good time to try one out. The sale is in honor of National DNA Day and the simultaneous achievement of FamilyTree DNA reaching 10,000 followers on their Facebook page. The sale is not on their website, but if you go to order on their website, use the coupon code DNADAY2011 to get the discounts. Full details in their announcement below.

Some examples of the deals are:

The Y-DNA37 test is $129 instead of the normal $169.
Family Finder is $199 instead of $289.
Family Finder + Y-DNA12 is $258 instead of $398.
Their super-bundle of Y-DNA67, Full mtDNA and FamilyFinder is $657 instead of $837.

So if you're new to genetic genealogy, what do you order?

Let me give a very brief explanation of the different kinds of tests. In the future hopefully I'll write a more detailed explanation (but not in time for this deal).

Y-DNA is the DNA passed down from father to son. It does not change very often so if you are male, your Y-DNA should be exactly the same as any brothers you have, exactly the same as your father and grandfather, etc. Since surnames generally follow this same pattern, Y-DNA tests that match others with the same surname are usually a good indication that there is a connection to you. Over generations, the Y-DNA does get mutations, and those mutations are what allow one to compare DNA with others and try to find matches. FamilyTree DNA offer Y-DNA12, Y-DNA25, Y-DNA37 and Y-DNA67 tests, and recently introduced a Y-DNA111 test. The different numbers correspond to the number of markers each test checks. The more markers checked, the more accurate the test, which in general means that when you find matches with more markers, the person is a closer relation to you. Don't even bother with Y-DNA less than 37 markers if you plan on using it for genealogy research. The reason this is the case is that Y-DNA12, for example, could match people that that only share an ancestor over a thousand years ago. That's not very useful. Personally I suggest the Y-DNA67 test for genealogy, although that test is not part of this deal. Instead, you can order the Y-DNA37 test and upgrade it later. One thing to point out here, only men can take the Y-DNA tests. Women do not inherit any Y-DNA.

myDNA is passed down from mother to child. Both boys and girls inherit mtDNA from their mother, but only girls will then pass it on to her children. As such, mtDNA test are similar to Y-DNA, but track the maternal line (mother to mother to mother...) instead of the paternal line. Since surnames don't generally follow the mother, this is a much harder line to track. Also, mtDNA does not mutate as often as Y-DNA, which means the connections you find are much more likely to be further back in time. One thing mtDNA can do is help you confirm a theory of relation. For example, if you find someone in your research that you think is descendent from the sister of your great-great-grandmother, and you're both descendant from the female lines, then you can take this test and if there's a match it will be strong evidence that you were right. In general, mtDNA is not considered a very useful test for genealogy though. Both men and women can take mtDNA tests.

Family Finder is what they call an Autosomal DNA test. Basically, all humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, 22 autosomal chromosome pairs and the pair of sex chromosomes (two X-chromosomes for a girl and an X and a Y chromosome for a boy). That, by the way, is why women cannot take the Y-DNA test, since they inherited X-chromosomes from each parent and no Y-chromosome. The 22 autosomol chromosome pairs each get combined with part from your mother and part from your father. You thus have about half of your DNA from your mother and half from your father. If you have siblings they also have about half from each parent, but not the same half (unless you're twins). In each generation you continue to mix autosomal DNA, so you would have about a quarter of the autosomol DNA of each of your grandparents. What Family Finder does is look for chunks of DNA that match with other people in their databases, and if you have a certain percentage of DNA which is the same, Family Finder makes a prediction based on how much autosomal DNA you share to determine how close a relative you could be. This is a relatively new test and is far from perfect, but it does open up the possibility of finding relatives not in your direct paternal or maternal line. It is useful for finding people only within the last 5 generations or so, since beyond that there is not enough shared DNA. Both men and women can take the Family Finder test.

So what should you order if you're interested in trying it out?

For men, I would suggest the Y-DNA37 test. They don't offer the Y-DNA67 test in this deal, but they do offer the 37-to-67 upgrade for $79. I'm not sure if you can order the upgrade at the same time as the 37 test, so you might need to do an upgrade later (without the discount). If you want to use this as a serious tool for genealogy, you will want at some point to upgrade to the Y-DNA67 test. I don't think there's a enough information out there yet to determine if the Y-DNA111 test is worth it yet, so I'd probably hold off on that unless you already did a Y-DNA67 test and have many close matches that you want to refine.

Note that if you're a woman and you want to test your paternal line, you can have another male relative (your father, you brother, your father's brother, your father's brother's son, etc.) take a Y-DNA test instead.

For both men and women, I recommend the Family Finder test. It's still a work-in-progress but it allows you to find people closely related to you from all of your lines, not just one line up through your mother or father.

I don't think the mtDNA is very relevant for genealogy, unless you want to use it to confirm a specific theory that you and another person are descended from the same woman.

That's all. See the full deal in the announcement from FamilyTree DNA below:

DNA Day is April 15th! Starting at 12:00 PM on April 14th, join the celebration!

New customers:
Y-DNA12…… $59
Y-DNA37…… $129
mtDNA……… $59
Family Finder… $199
Family Finder + Y-DNA12… $258
Family Finder + mtDNA…… $258
Family Finder + mtFullSequence + Y-DNA67 … $657

Y-DNA12 add-on … $59
Y-DNA12 to 37…… $69
Y-DNA37 to 67…… $79
Y-DNA12 to 67…… $148
mtDNA add-on …… $59
mtFull Sequence upgrade … $199
Family Finder add-on … $199

To take advantage of these promotional prices use the coupon code: DNADAY2011

The coupon code will expire on Friday at midnight (CT).

Please note, the Y-DNA67 to 111 upgrade will remain at the introductory rate of $101 (no coupon necessary) until the end of this promotion. The price will be $129 going forward.

Payment must be received at the time of the order. Valid only on products listed. No substitutions. This promotion was announced in advance, therefore no adjustments will be made on previous purchases. Offer valid from 12:00 PM CT on Thursday, April 14, until 11:59 PM CT on April 15, 2011.

This promotion is not valid in combination with any other promotions. Family Tree DNA reserves the right to cancel any order due to unauthorized or ineligible use of discounts and to modify or cancel these promotional discounts due to system error or unforeseen problems. Subject to change without notice.