“You and I share the same DNA. Is there anything more lonely than that?”Charlie Kaufman
As much as I’d like to, I haven’t gotten as much real genealogical utility as I’d have liked to from the tests that I’ve taken. This is primarily because, for the amount of data available, there just haven’t been enough test-takers to add information that I didn’t already know or suspect. If more cousins took the test, either an autosomal test or a haplogroup test, the sum would be greater than the individual parts.
The “Where are you from” aspect is kind of neat to share, but really doesn’t add to my genealogical journey, as it just confirms what my research has already shown. I can see where it gets a lot of people interested, but so few of them bother to provide even a simple family tree, which can go so far to making their results genealogically useful.
The Health aspects of the 23andMe test, which I haven’t mentioned elsewhere in this essay, can be a double-edged sword. I’ve purposefully disabled some reports, as I don’t trust the health insurance industry to use that information in my best interests. Before I open Pandora’s Box, I’d like some clarity on how knowing that information might be used against me in the future. The legal system, particularly in the US, does not currently favor individual over corporate interests. Anything I might have passed down to my children has already been passed. They’ll decide when they’re old enough whether they want to do any health screening.
For the Traits, I already know that my hair is (well, used to be…) brown and that I’m supposed to prefer salty foods over sweets (actually, my preference is to constantly alternate between the two…), and that I’m likely to have a detached earlobe. It’s kind of neat, seeing a connection between my traits and my genetics, but ultimately doesn’t do me much good.
Since I started this four-part essay a few days ago, I’ve learned a bit and also found areas where I need to learn a lot more. I’ve been putting myself through a firehouse of information. As soon as I get one browser tab closed, there are four new ones I want to read through. I’m actually on a bit of a “new information” high, and have been staying up long past my normal bedtime trying to organize my thoughts.
I also volunteered to help Kathy Keatting Hull with the Keating DNA Project on FamilyTreeDNA. I’ve been wanting to join, and had already uploaded my autosomal results, but was stuck on what test would be the most useful for what I wanted to do. I’m still a bit stuck on the price, but I’m going to raid the couch cushions for the Big Y-700 test. It tests some 15 million SNPs and 800 STRs. It should give enough resolution to track my haplogroup down from R-CTS241 to something fairly close to being unique to me. Given enough time and other members testing, we should be able to find our hypothetical Halis Keating haplogroup and many variations below.
If you haven’t already taken a DNA test, I strongly encourage you to do so if you have the means. At minimum, taking an autosomal test through Ancestry, 23AndMe, or FamilyTreeDNA should provide you with a heck of a lot of cousins to place in your family tree. (Especially if you include enough of a tree that you and your “new” cousin can easily find a common ancestor.) The autosomal tests are almost always downloadable and can be imported to other services.
If you’ve already taken the autosomal tests, consider taking one (or having a male family member take one) of the larger Y tests on FamilyTreeDNA and join a surname group. (There are also geographic groups as well.) This will allow for the possibility of finding paternal connections over more generations than an autosomal test can provide:
- Y-DNA12: 3 generations
- Y-DNA25: 5 generations
- Y-DNA37: 7 generations
- Y-DNA67: 25 generations
- Y-DNA111: 40 generations
Summary? Use Ancestry for their quick autosomal test for recent genealogy and their large genealogical source database. Use 23andMe for health reports and/or their quick autosomal reports. Use FamilyTreeDNA for a deep dive down your paternal or maternal lines via Y-DNA or mtDNA. There are other services, but those seem to be the biggest at the moment. The holiday season is a great time to buy one, either for yourself or for a gift, as there are plenty of sales going on. There are also often sales around father’s day and mother’s day.
The more people who take a test, the more dense and useful the information is. This is true crowdsourcing of our genetic heritage.
When you get your results, be sure to let me know. We’ll see if we’re related, and how closely!