Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Which DNA Test is Best for Me?

People frequently ask the question: which DNA test should I do? Well the response is simple: The test that is best for you very much depends on the sort of questions that you would like answers to.

Below is a selection of the typical kind of questions that people ask about DNA testing and some brief answers to them. Be sure to explore the links for more information. Hopefully this will help you understand what each type of test can do and that in turn will help you decide which one is best for you.

How many types of DNA test are there?

There are 3 main tests you could do, and you could test one of several members of your family - it depends on what questions you would like answered:
  • Y-DNA traces your father’s father’s father’s line
  • mtDNA (mito or mitochondrial) traces your mother’s mother’s mother’s line
  • and atDNA (autosomal) traces ALL your ancestral lines and gives you your ethnic makeup.
Note that Y-DNA and mtDNA will only give you information about one ancestral line each, whereas atDNA gives you information on all your ancestral lines (but only has a reach of about 300 years, compared to 200,000 years with the other two types of test). You may wish to look at this YouTube video I made explaining the three types of test in more detail and giving examples of their application to genealogy.

Here’s a few examples of questions you might want answers to and the best test to address each one:

How do I find out about my ethnic origins?
  • atDNA will tell you roughly what percentage of your DNA is from Europe, Asia, Africa, etc. It will also give you rough estimates on a sub-regional level (e.g. "Central Europe" or "France/Germany") but is unlikely to identify a particular country. Currently this ethnic admixture test (also known as biogeographical analysis) only gives crude estimates and will continue to be refined over time. Still, it makes for a pretty picture which the kids can print out and take to school.
  • the general opinion among genetic genealogists is that 23andme gives the best genetic ethnicity estimates, followed by Ancestry, and then FamilyTreeDNA.  None of the tests are accurate enough currently to pinpoint ancestral homelands but they might point you in the right direction. Check out this blog post for more info - Making the best of what's not so good by Judy G Russell, The Legal Genealogist, 22 February 2015.
  • both Y-DNA and mtDNA will tell you where that one particular ancestral line originated (eg Western Europe). And because both go back about 200,000 years to Africa, they will also give you the crude migration routes those particular ancestors took. More nice pictures for the kids school projects.

How do I find out more about my surname and where it came from?
  • do the Y-DNA test. And test the oldest generation, so that would be your father, uncle, or grandfather. If you are male, your Y-DNA should be exactly the same as your father's Y-DNA and your grandfathers, etc all the way back on the direct male line.
  • ... unless there has been an NPE along the way. NPE stands for Non-Paternity Event  or Not the Parent Expected. Common causes are secret adoptions, infidelity within marriage, and illegitimacy. These happen in about 1% of cases per generation.
  • Start off with the Y-DNA -37 test from FamilyTreeDNA and be sure to join any relevant surname or haplogroup projects. You can find these by doing a search for your name on the FamilyTreeDNA website and it will give you a selection of relevant projects for you to join.
  • After reviewing the results of your Y-DNA-37 test, ask the Admins of projects you have joined for advice on what additional testing might be warranted. This could mean upgrading to 67 or 111 markers, or it could mean doing SNP marker testing. The Project Admins will advise.
  • If you want to explore your mother's surname, test her brother. He is the one who inherited the Y-DNA that goes with that surname.
  • You can research ANY surname in your family as long as you test the appropriate male cousin who bears that particular surname.

How do I connect with genetic cousins?
  • Y-DNA will connect you with genetic cousins with whom you share the same surname.
  • mtDNA will connect you with cousins on your mother’s mother’s mother’s line but this is the least useful of all 3 tests - because mtDNA mutates so slowly, even an exact match could mean a common ancestor several thousand years ago (rather than several hundred years ago in the case of Y-DNA).
  • atDNA will connect you with about 500-1000 cousins you never knew existed (if you have European ancestry). It gives you the most "bang for your buck". Most of them will be distant cousins, but you may spot a few familiar names in your list of matches. The majority will be unknown cousins who are related to you via unknown ancestors beyond your ancestral Brick Walls, or they will be "false positive matches" (particularly if the amount of DNA they share with you is small). You will have hours of fun (and I mean hours) trying to figure out how they are connected. This test has “Retirement Plan” written all over it. But there are two important questions to address:
    • who to test?
    • and which company to test with?

Who do I test?
  • Anyone. Anyone can do a DNA test. But it’s always a good idea to test the oldest members of the family first, for two reasons:
    • they will not always be around
    • they have more DNA from particular ancestors than you do
  • Your mother for example would be a generation further back than you, and thus she will have twice the number of matches on your maternal side of the family compared to you … because she has twice as much “DNA from the maternal side of the family” - each generation loses 50% of the DNA from that side of the family, because only half of it is passed on from parent to child. So your Dad would only have (roughly) 25% of his DNA from his grandfather, you would have only 12.5%, and your son would have only 6.25%. The percentage inherited from any one specific ancestor roughly halves with each generation.
  • Testing yourself and a parent helps you isolate which side of the family your matches are from. So if you tested yourself and your Dad for example, any matches you both share in common have to be from his side of the family; and any matches that you have but he doesn’t, have to be from your mum’s side. Of course you could also test your mum to answer this same question, if she is still with us. 
  • FamilyTreeDNA store the DNA samples for 25 years free of charge so this serves as a genetic legacy for future generations - could be important as the science of genetic genealogy progresses (and it has only been around for 15 years or so).

Which company should I test with and how much does it cost?
  • there are 3 companies - FamilyTreeDNA23andme, and Ancestry.com. Each have their pros and cons.
  • Re Y-DNA: if you want to research your surname, then only FamilyTreeDNA offer an infrastructure for surname research. You would have to test with them if you wanted to join the Farrell DNA Project (for example). 23andme will tell you what Y-DNA haplogroup you belong to (useful for knowing your crude migration path out of Africa) but that’s it.
  • Re mtDNA: only FamilyTreeDNA and 23andme offer this test, but not Ancestry. It is of little use for genealogy. 23andme have it as part of their single test (you get Y-DNA, mtDNA, and atDNA all in one test) and FamilyTreeDNA offer it as a separate test. I would start with the mtDNAplus test because it is cheaper ($69) and may give you all the information you need.
  • Re atDNA: whichever company you test with, you should upload your atDNA data to Gedmatch (for free). Anyone can do this and it allows you to compare your data with that of people who have tested with other companies and who have uploaded their data to the Gedmatch website. This allows you to fish in 3 genepools instead of 1 (only partial pools in this instance because not everyone uploads their results to Gedmatch). Also, if you test with Ancestry, you should upload your data to FamilyTreeDNA (for $39) so you are fishing in 2 genepools instead of 1 (complete genepools in this instance).
    • 23andme will give you a medical risk assessment as well as a ton of genetic cousins. However the medical component was suspended in the US by the FDA and only partially restored in 2015. You may get a more comprehensive range of medical data if you order the test via their outlets in Canada, the UK, Ireland, & Australia but you would need to ask them about this as the situation is likely to change. Also, you may have to use a friend with a Canadian address (for example) as a middleman if you are ordering from outside the US (Canada in this example).
    • 23andme give you all 3 DNA tests (Y, mt, and autosomal) for $199 in the US. It is more expensive than the other companies, and the Y-DNA and mtDNA tests give only limited results.
    • Ancestry just give you atDNA (no Y or mtDNA), usually for $99 although it can be $79 in their frequent Sales. There is very limited product support, no tools (such as a chromosome browser), and if you want to explore the results further you will need to upload to Gedmatch/FamilyTreeDNA. Also, no further testing is possible. The big advantage of Ancestry is that you can link your DNA results to your family tree and that will potentially allow you to compare your DNA with everyone else on Ancestry who has also done so. And many but not all have family trees ... so it can make finding the common ancestor a lot easier.
    • FTDNA (FamilyTreeDNA) store your sample for 25 years. Further testing can be done on the sample whenever you want (e.g. Y-DNA or mtDNA, or any future tests). Their atDNA test (called Family Finder) is $99, Y-DNA is $149 (for 37 markers; $129 if you buy it via a surname project) and mtDNA is $69 ($199 for the FMS full sequence).
    • I have tested with all 3 companies. I like FamilyTreeDNA the best and have had most success with them (i.e. my closest matches are on FamilyTreeDNA . My guess is that if you have Irish ancestry you will find most of your close matches on FamilyTreeDNA  If you have US colonial ancestry, you will probably find most of your matches on Ancestry. 
    • The most cost-effective option for atDNA would be to test with Ancestry ($99), then transfer your results for $39 to FamilyTreeDNA, and upload them for free to Gedmatch. The cheapest option outside the US is FTDNA ($99).
    • There are also some other neat websites that offer additional third party functionality that are very useful, DNAgedcom offers some tools and I particularly like Don Worth’s ADSA spreadsheet but historically it has only worked with FamilyTreeDNA results. They are developing it for Ancestry and 23andme.

So which test is best for you? Probably the atDNA test from FamilyTreeDNA or Ancestry if you are interested in general genealogy, or the Y-DNA-37 test from FamilyTreeDNA if you are specifically interested in exploring a particular surname.

Maurice Gleeson
April 2016




119 comments:

  1. Testing with Ancestry DNA and then uploading your data to Family Tree DNA has one serious drawback. It is only your data that is transferred, not your DNA sample. So if you decide later that you would like to do a Y-chromosome test or an mtDNA test on this person, you would have to order an FTDNA kit. That is fine if the person is still available to do the test-- but it could be terribly disappointing if you tested an elderly relative who died before you were ready to do the additional test.

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    1. Good point, Linda. This is a major advantage of FTDNA over the other companies - you have access to the sample for 25 years. This may be particularly important when they bring in Whole Genome Sequencing in the not-too-distant future. The Take Home Message is: get all your elderly relatives tested as soon as you can - future generations will thank you for it.

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  2. If your family tree has a description written/printed under every photo of the family member you can specify lot of information. Found some family tree templates where you can do that in the Creately diagram community.

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  3. Good afternoon,
    I am Hispanic from Peru trying to trace some European heritage. Which one will be more accurate for the maternal lineage?

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    1. If you want some ethnicity estimates, try Ancestry. If you want to connect with European cousins with whom you share common ancestors, again Ancestry might be the best starting point - you can always transfer the data to FTDNA for $39. But how far back is your European ancestry? If it is beyond 1700 you will have little chance of making a connection with cousins in Europe. Also, if you want to isolate your maternal side, test as many cousins as you can, so that you can identify cousins who are connected via specific ancestors.

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  4. My wife has a 98 year old grandmother. What would be the best test(s) to get done to ensure we can get as much information from her before she passes. We have just started the family tree with ancestry.ca. Any help you can provide would be appreciated since we don't know where to start. Thanks

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    1. Hi Chris, ideally you should test with all 3 companies, but here is the order I would do the tests:
      1. do the Family Finder test (autosomal DNA) with FTDNA ($69 currently) - they will preserve her DNA for 25 years.
      2. Do the Ancestry test (again autosomal DNA; $99 in the US)
      3. Do the 23and me test - gives you medical risks as well as ethnic admixture, neanderthal %, and cousin matching.
      4. do mtDNA testing - although your wife could be a surrogate for this test.
      Hope this helps.
      Best, Maurice

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    2. Appreciate the information and response. If we don't need medical information about her because she is almost 100 do we need number 3? or is the other information useful for the rest of my wife's family if they do tests in the future? Thanks again.

      Chris

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    3. You might want to know her medical info if you ever want to know which side of your wife's family (maternal vs paternal) any health traits / risks come from. It also allows you to fish in a third pond (ie data pool). But other than that, no particular advantage.

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    4. Perfect thanks again. With all these tests am I able to send them to one location to pool all the data? eventually? Like everything to ancestry to help fill in some blanks . Sorry for all the questions.

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    5. No problem. :-)
      Check out Gedmatch.com ... you can upload all your results here so you can compare with other people who have done likewise.

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    6. Should I just do the combo of the family finder and mtdna full sequence right from the start and get it over with just in case? The tests are easy to take? Should my wife and I eventually do the same sequence of tests? Last questions maybe haha

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    7. Either way is fine. All together or one by one. once the sample is in the FTDNA lab you can use it again and again (until the DNA runs out).

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    8. What does that mean? That as long as they have a sample of your DNA you can have more testing done without swabbing a new sample?

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  5. Hi,
    can you help me decide which test would be best? I feel like I am swimming in info. I am a female and my father is adopted. I am most interested in my ethnic background and heritage, but feel I should probably look into medical testing as well. Should I just do 23 and me? It doesnt seem to have great reviews.

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    1. Do 23andme if you are primarily interested in medical risk assessment. Ancestry is currently best for ethnic background and heritage.

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    2. Hi - I am 44 years old and my parents are immigrants to the US. My father is from Italy and my mother is eastern European. We do not have colonial or British blood to our knowledge. We hear all kinds of stories about the silk route and the genes it brought with it. I'd love to do a g-test to find out ancestry and ethnicity and piece our past together. Which do you suggest: Ancestry or FTDNA? My dad is 85 and my mom is 78. Should they both get tested too?

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  6. This article is really helpful but this is all so confusing!!! My first question is that I wonder why you didn't include the testing by National Geographic? I would love to see how they measure up in your analysis.

    I am turning 60 in September and this is my birthday present to myself. My family is all over the map with one of my mother's ancesters coming over so far back that my great-great aunt couldn't even figure out who came over and when as well as my paternal grandfather saying his mother was Choctaw! I also have found some evidence that I have ancesters from Denmark and the UK (probably Scotland).

    I was about to sign up with Ancestry.com but now that I've read this article I think I'll go with your suggestion of FTDNA to start with. If you have any other suggestions or comments about the National Geographic test I would really appreciate them! Thanks for a great article!

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    1. Thanks Sue. Nat Geno is no good for genealogy and of limited use for human migration and ethnic admixture. The promise has failed to deliver unfortunately. The cheapest way to test for "all your ancestors" would be to do the Ancestry test and transfer the results to FTDNA for $39 ... http://dnaandfamilytreeresearch.blogspot.ie/2016/04/how-to-download-your-ancestry-dna-data.html

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  7. My father passed away and his only sibling still alive is my aunt. His father, my grandfather, came from Greece but changed his name and never said anything else about his life or family there. How do I find out the most from his life with only my aunt left to test?

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    1. Definitely test your aunt. You could also test yourself (as your Dad will have different DNA to his sister, your aunt, and he will have passed this on to you). You could start with AncestryDNA or FTDNA and see what results you get. Also, if you tested a relative of your father's mother (a first cousin preferably, or one of their children), then anyone that you or your aunt match in common with that cousin has to be related to you (in all probability) on your father's mother's side of the family ... and thus they can be eliminated from consideration when researching your father's father's side of the family.

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  8. I'm confused in the article. Early in the article is says scientists generally think 32andme is best. At the end the article you suggest it is the worst of the three? I could do from Canada (I live in US but all family in Canada). could you share more about what the medical risk assessment is about?

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    1. You might be better buying it (and posting it back) via Canada as they may have more health reports than the US version of the test ... Check out the 23andme website in the US (https://www.23andme.com/dna-health-ancestry/) ... and in Canada (https://www.23andme.com/en-ca/health/)

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  9. I was thinking of doing for Christmas gifts to family - 3 kids, 1 parent, 4 grandkids. If cost not an issue, is tat a waste since so much family overlap? Will siblings have the same exact results? Any reason to do through two different companies to see if results are the same ... should there be no reason for them to differ? Thanks

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    1. There will be an overlap but siblings only share 50% of their DNA in common so there will be differences too. For genealogy, I would test the oldest generation with all 3 companies as a first preference. But if it is mainly ethnic makeup you are interested in, then do AncestryDNA. You could also do different tests for different family members e.g. grandad could do autosomal, another could do Y, another could do mitochondrial.

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    2. If my two siblings and I were to each take a test, why wouldn't it come back the same? We share the same parents, and therefore the same heritage.

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    3. You and your siblings will all have slightly different results because even though you all have the same parents, you only got half of your father's DNA from him and only half of your mother's DNA from her ... but it was not the same half in all cases. In other words, you share 50% of your DNA with each of your siblings, but you might have got DNA marker 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 from your parents whilst your brother got markers 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10, etc

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  10. Which service would you recommend? I am adopted and would like get as much medical risk information as possible. While I have some information as to my mother and her identity, I have nothing on my father and would be very interested in finding out some information on him. I don't want to invade anyone's privacy--am mainly interested in medical risks I should know about.

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    1. Do the 23andme test. Check out the 23andme website in the US (https://www.23andme.com/dna-health-ancestry/) ... and in Canada (https://www.23andme.com/en-ca/health/)

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  11. Hi Maurice.
    I'm South Asian trying to trace Arabian heritage. My surname is from the region. There is also a possibility of some Central Asian ancestry. I would like to know where do I start? Which tests should I take? Thank You.

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    1. I have a family tree that dates back to the 8th century. My aim is to prove that it is correct and that my ancestors were really from Arabia.

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  12. Hello Dr.Gleeson- any suggestions on the best way to track ny Native American heritage?

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  13. Sorry, *my* Native heritage..

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    1. Probably Ancestry has the best database currently in this regard. But you should also consider Y and mitochondrial DNA testing if you have suitable donors among your immediate family and cousins. Check out Roberta Estes blog about this and a variety of Native American topics ... https://dna-explained.com/?s=native+american&submit=Search

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    2. I just did my Native American heritage DNA test through a company called Accu-Metrics. They test only for the % of Native American blood you have. I learned that testing has to be done a certain way to find out, so this is why I chose this company. I was VERY pleased with how fast the results arrived. (3 weeks). The cost was $125.00 U.S.D. I think other DNA companies can let you know you have Native American blood, but not from what tribe. Accu-Metrics showed me I have Cherokee ancestry, instead of Creek like we were told.

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    3. Accu-Metrics is a well known scam, you should have used AncetryDNA, 23andMe or Family Tree DNA.

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  14. Hi,
    I'm a bit confused as to why I would jump around between companies. Many reviews list FTDNA as "the best". Their autosomal test is $79, less than Ancestry. But here's the thing: FTDNA has various packages. The "full course" one is a whopping $546. It lists as "Comprehensive Genome
    Family Finder, plus a male specific Y-chromosome test and a Full Mitochondrial Sequence " So if I wanted to know my maternal and paternal heritage, plus look into my surname (I reach dead ends on this because we're Jewish, and many records were destroyed), would this be my best option?
    My dad passed, so the oldest male is my brother (61) followed by me (58). Mom is almost 91, so I guess she would take the mtDNA. But there are so many options for both both Y and mt tests - 37 markers, 67, 111, mtDNA plus, mtDNA full sequence.
    As an independent source (and thank you for that!), what is the most comprehensive choice and what's overkill?
    Thanks so much for your help.

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    1. Start low and go slow. If it was me, I would start with the most cost-effective option: do the AncestryDNA test and transfer the results to FTDNA for $39 (when they have got this up and running again - currently it is down). That may all you need to connect with a cousin that knows everything about your family tree! Secondly, I would do the Y-DNA-37 test with FTDNA. Order it via a project so you qualify for the lower price of $149. That would be your starting position. Once the initial results are in, review the situation and see if you need to upgrade or order additional tests.

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    2. Thanks for the reply - it's extremely helpful and welcome advice. Ancestry has some new autosomnal test ($159) called gps origins, that they claim is much more accurate than the others. Any thoughts on that?

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    3. It's not Ancestry, it is some company called GPS Origins and it should be avoided. It has come in for a lot of criticism - see here ... http://cruwys.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/the-new-gps-origins-test-from-dna.html

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    4. THANK YOU! You're really a great resource, I appreciate your time and effort.

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  15. Hello Dr. Gleeson, my father was born illegitimately in 1909. His birth certificate shows his mother's name but not his father's. I have received my Raw Data from Ancestry DNA testing. What do you suggest I do to enable me to identify my biological grandfather. I live in Australia.

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    1. First, upload your raw AncestryDNA data to Gedmatch for free and to FTDNA for $39 (when they have the transfer facility up and running again). Review the results and then decide your next move.

      You may then wish to test with 23andme if you have no close matches.

      You may also wish to eliminate "non-contender matches" from your research. To do this, test a relative on your mother's side of the family (e.g. your first cousin) - anyone who matches you and this cousin will be related to you (in all probability) on your mother's side of the family and thus can be excluded from your research.
      Similarly, if you can test a relative on your father's mother's side of the family (if you have identified any) then anyone who matches you and this cousin will be related to you (in all probability) on your father's mother's side of the family and thus can be excluded from your research.

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  16. i was adopted and I am trying to figure out the best testing to find blood relatives

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    1. 1) Test with all 3 of the major testing companies, starting with Ancestry.
      2) Check out www.dnaadoption.com and read up on the advice they offer
      3) Join the DNAadoption Facebook group and join the conversation
      4) collaborate with others and ask for advice and support

      Good luck with your search.

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  17. My daughter is nearly 20 and I raised her as a single mama.
    We both want our DNA results and I would like to order hers for her birthday in November.
    Neither she or I are in contact with ANYONE else in either of our families.
    My father said his great grandmother was full blooded Cherokee on his mother's side (which is VERY important to me to find out as much as possible about).
    My father was a child born of an affair so he took on his mother's husband's last name rather than his real father's last name.
    My mother's father's last name was Smith, her mother's was Peters.
    My daughter has all of that from me and all I have been told about her father's blood is that it is part "Black Irish."
    I have no idea what that means.
    Sooooo... PLEASE tell me EXACTLY what to do for the most affordably but conclusively.
    We both want to know all of it but I am not sure that it is necessary for us both to do all of it.
    I really want to make the best choice and don't have money to waste.
    Thank you so much.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Why not start by doing the Ancestry DNA test yourself and see what results you get. It should be the best test for Native American ancestry. Also, check out these links ..
      - https://dna.ancestry.com/ethnicity/native-america
      - https://dna-explained.com/2012/12/18/proving-native-american-ancestry-using-dna/

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  18. Dear Dr. Gleeson,

    Thank you for your article, it helped me to understand the difference between the 3 types of DNA Testing. However as many others before me I have a question about which service to use.

    I would like know my origins, the percentage of countries my ancestors are from but also to find and connect with distant relatives if possible.

    I've seen that 23andMe also provides information about diseases and traits which is very interesting but, in your opinion, what would be the best test for my needs? I am italian but should have russian and mongolian origins on my mother's side and would like to find more about that.

    Also, looking online I found a service called MyHeritage that also provides DNA Testing (https://www.myheritage.com/dna-tests), would you happen to know if it's a good one?

    Thank you,

    Ally

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    1. I would start with Ancestry as they offer the best ethnic makeup assessment currently and have the largest database for connecting with cousins. You can transfer the raw data free to Gedmatch, and at a later stage for $39 to FTDNA. At a later stage, if you are interested in medical risks, you can test with 23andme but it is more expensive than the other tests.

      Also, you can upload your DNA data for free to MyHeritage. The tests they sell are from FTDNA.

      Best, Maurice

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  19. I'm adopted and I just want to have an idea of my ethnic heritage. I know and have a good relationship with my biological mother and her side of the family, but I do not have any contact with my biological father (nor do I want to). My bio mom has had a DNA test and I can get her results from her. Would it be worth it for me to take a DNA test to find out more about my heritage? If so, which service should I use and which test should I get, mtDNA or atDNA?
    Thank you!

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    1. Currently the Ancestry DNA test is the best for ethnic makeup. If your mum tested with Ancestry, then you should too. If she tested with FTDNA, you could do the autosomal DNA test (Family Finder), or test with Ancestry and transfer the results across to FTDNA (although this utility is currently not available but hopefully FTDNA will fix it soon).

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    2. Thank you so much! Your initial post was very informative and explained a lot of things I didn't even know that I didn't know. I appreciate you taking the time to answer each person individually. You have been the most helpful resource I have found to date. Thanks again and take care!

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  20. Hi!

    Both my grandparents were adopted on my fathers side and my grandmother on my mom's side was adopted as well. There is so much grey area ethnicity wise. I was wondering which test you would suggest. If I should test myself or if I should test my grandparents?

    Thank you!

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    1. Definitely test your grandparents if they are still alive! But beware that they may find some siblings or other birth family so only do it if they want to reconnect with birth family ... it can be traumatic so make sure they are going into it with their eyes open. Even if you just tested yourself you might find their siblings, so you have to be sure that they are happy for you to test before you do it.

      And the best test to do for ethnic makeup is autosomal DNA, preferably with Ancestry.

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  21. Hi Maurice my family is from louisiana. My dad and all grandparents are deceast. My brother and I want to know the best route to take and which test Ancestry or Family tree. Our mother is willing to take the test also. She is 73 we are 51 and my brotheris age 45. We are black with mixed heritage possibly cuba, indian,and white. A mixed breed. We want to know what percentage we are what our african bloodline could be? Our mother is very fair and always mistaken for being spanish.our dad was brown and I always get Dominican thinking I am one of them. So what is your best advise for my mom, brother, and me and least costly start to our search. We have the same dad (deceast)no living grandparents. Thank you! Tjlivingexcellent@gmail.com
    On Facebook I am (TinaTJ Jackson) John maxwell Team

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    1. Hi Tina, Ancestry's DNA test is the best for African ethnic makeup. It has 6 distinct regions in West Africa whereas the other companies (FTDNA & 23andme) have just one for the whole region. You could get your mother to test with Ancestry and then either you or your brother (or both of you if you want). That would be a good start.

      Later, you could explore your direct male line (your father's father's father, etc) by getting your brother to do the Y-DNA-12 test at FamilyTreeDNA. Even though this is a small number of markers, it would tell you whether your direct male line went back to an African man or a European man. You could then decide whether or not you wanted to upgrade your results to the Y-DNA-37 test, which is the standard for surname research.

      You could also explore your direct female line (mother's mother's mother etc) to see if it goes back to an African woman or a European woman. Either you or your mum could do this test with FTDNA.

      And remember, whenever a relative says "what do you want for Christmas?" you always answer "DNA!"

      :-)

      Delete
  22. How useful are these tests for people who already know a lot about their ancestry? My father (92) and I (59) are specifically interested in his great-grandfather and great-grandmother, both born in Riga in 1817 and 1822 respectively. She was Jewish and one can find names of her parents on databases, and of course we know who her siblings were and so on, and he was a German speaking Protestant, Huguenot, from a family who left Belgium originally in the 16th or 17th century at the latest, went to Alsace and then ended up in Prussia by the 18th century. Would these tests reveal any more about them than we already know?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The autosomal DNA test only has a reach of about 200-250 years so will be of limited utility. However, you could triangulate on the ancestral couple of interest by getting several of their descendants (as distant cousins as possible) to take the autosomal DNA test - any matches they share in common with each other have to be related via the ancestral couple of interest ... barring a second ancestral connection ... which is quite likely in a Jewish community ...so these tests will be of limited use.

      If you could find a direct male line descendant of your great-grandfather you could get him to do the Y-DNA-37 test ... this might be helpful in terms of tracing his origins and finding distant cousins related to him on his direct male line going back many hundreds (and thousands) of years.

      Delete
  23. At 67 years old I am the matriarch of the family. Besides all grandparents and both parents being deceased, four of my seven brothers are deceased. I would like to know about our ethnicity, the path they took to get here and trace my father's name. What tests would you recommend and can I do it? If a brother would have to do one of the tests, what would he have to contribute......hair, saliva?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Linda, all the tests use either saliva or a cheek swab.
      To research your father's surname, get your brother to do the Y-DNA-37 test from FTDNA and make sure he joins the relevant surname project on FTDNA (if there is one for his surname).
      To research your families ethnicity, you or any of your siblings can do the autosomal DNA test (i.e. Family Finder test at FTDNA, the Ancestry test, or the 23andme test). You will all have slightly different results because even though you all have the same parents, you only got half of your father's DNA from him and only half of your mother's DNA from her ... but it was not the same half in all cases. In other words, you share 50% of your DNA with each of your siblings, but you might have got DNA marker 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 from your parents whilst your brother got markers 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10, etc

      Delete
  24. Hello I would like to buy DNA kits for my family as a gift. My father passed away from ALS and my mother is 82 I have 4 children from 2 different fathers. I have an older brother The father of the last 2 kids died at an early age of heart disease. I would like to know heritage and possible medical due to the strange medical history we have. My parents were born in Canada but lived in the USA As far as I know some family came from England and Ireland . Thank you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess I should ask which kits should I buy.?
      Thank you

      Delete
  25. Both mine and my husbands parents are deceased, he has only a sister remaining. I have no full blood siblings but have several living step brothers and sisters. We would both like to be tested for family tree info, medical and ethnic information for both sides of our family. Would my best results be from testing myself or would a brother be a better option for information on my Father's side? Same question for him, for information about his mothers side, should his sister test for that, or him?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. corrections, they are half brother and sisters not step.

      Delete
  26. Thank you for providing this helpful information. I was wondering if you could recommend a testing option for my scenario. First off, I am a male adoptee. I was able to get my mother's and grandmother's names along with their birth dates, marriages, etc.

    However on my father's side I have virtually no information; I was only able to get a name and possible year of birth. I'm thinking the yDNA-37 test would be good a good place to start, but suggestions would be appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Y37 for starters, using FTDNA.
      Also, test with Ancestry and transfer the raw data to FTDNA for $19.
      Test your closest maternal relative so you can eliminate matches on your mother's side of the family.

      Delete
  27. Hi! My problem with deciding which type of test to do, is I know my mother's family is from Hungary and my father and his family reside and are from Ecuador, but I don't know much else about either side, so what really would be the best option for me? Also my last name is my (half) brother and (half) sister's father's last name. So would this make things complicated with finding "relatives"?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Try Ancestry and transfer the data to Gedmatch (free) and FTDNA ($19).

      Delete
  28. I think I might know your answer already but I figure I will ask.

    My grandfather on my fathers side was adopted. I just recently found out what my biological surname would be at the age of 34. And my mother was the product of a rape.

    So much of my ancestry/lineage is unknown. I can really only go back 2 generations before me to get any real information.

    I'm not really concerned with medical stuff. So should I just do the ancestry test?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Ancestry first and then transfer the data to Gedmatch (free) and FTDNA ($19).
      Test known cousins also so you can deduce what matches are on which side of the family.

      Delete
  29. Hello! This post has been very informative, I'm glad I found it!
    I'm interested in just the basic ethnic information that atDNA testing provides, not looking to connect with relatives or anything like that.
    My question is, how well do these tests work on people from the West Indies, as both of my parents are from Jamaica.

    I'm not a Blogger member, so if possible can you please respond to my e-mail (bellad6940@gmail.com) Thank you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ancestry is the best test for ethnic makeup estimates for people with African Ancestry. Also transfer the results to Gedmatch (free) for additional tools for predicting ethnic admixture estimates.

      Delete
  30. Most of my relatives died in the Holocaust and most of the ones that survived emigrated to Israel. I have no male relatives whose father is related to mine, as my father was the only male, so I might get what I got from National Geographic, which was basically nothing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Best to test with Ancestry and transfer to Gedmatch and FTDNA - the latter has a large Jewish component to its database and has close ties with Israel.

      Delete
  31. Hi Maurice - great article and great advice! My father is 85 and my mother passed away in 2013. I have reasonably good information for both my father's surname (4 generations back to mid 1800s) and my mother's surname (6 generations back to mid 1700s). I am interested in ethnic heritage and filling in blanks in the family tree. I am not interested in medical information. I was considering asking my father to do the atDNA with FTDNA and I do the atDNA test with Ancestry. This way the initial cost is lower and if I want to run additional tests with my father later, I can order these through FTDNA. Do you concur with this strategy? Thanks again for a great article! David in New Mexico.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good idea to get your Dad's DNA stored in the lab for future testing if need be. And FTDNA are the only company to do Y-DNA and mtDNA testing. Your suggestions is a good start ... but I would test your Dad with Ancestry too ... at a later stage if you like. And be sure to transfer your Ancestry results to Gedmatch and FTDNA.

      Delete
  32. Hi Maurice, I'm trying to figure out the best test to get for me. I'm of Chinese ancestry, born in New Zealand. My mother is alive and lives there. I live in the US now but was born in New Zealand. What do you think the best test would be for me to get if interested in geneology? What test should I ask my mother to take?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My current favourite is Ancestry with a free transfer to Gedmatch and to FTDNA for $19.

      Delete
  33. Hello sir. My (late) father's father is unknown. What are the chances of getting possible surname(s) via the Y-DNA test Family Tree DNA? UK ancestry.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I reckon there is a 10-20% chance based on 2014 UK figures but I have heard others say 30-40% chance of the Y-DNA revealing likely candidates for your direct male line surname. Do the Y-DNA-37 test first.

      Delete
  34. Hello,

    I am Mexican American. My mother and her parents are/were Tarahumara (raramuri) indians from Chihuahua Mexico. My father is from Mexico. I am light skinned with green eyes, I am curious where this may have come from. I am on a budget, what do you recommend?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ancestry - the (currently) best all round test for ethnic makeup estimates.

      Delete
  35. Hello Dr. Gleeson! I am so happy I found your site/blog! I have been researching my family history for about 10 years and am now ready to have my DNA testing done. My brother has also consented to having his done. My paternal line is French Canadian and my maternal line is I believe United Kingdom. I am just wondering what tests to have done to get the best bank for our bucks for both my brother and I. I am a member of Ancestry but am not sure if I should do it there or with another company? I really appreciate your input. Thank you so much!

    ReplyDelete
  36. Hi,
    I have been considering getting a DNA test done but really don't know which one to do. My heritage on my mother's side is Scottish and on my Father's it is Chinese. I have done a lot of my family history on the Scottish side but am wondering what test would reveal anything further on the Chinese side? My Great grandfather came to Australia in 1883 but I don't know anything about his family before that. Would the atDNA be the best test to do? Thanks in advance for your advice!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I meant to say, how far back on the Chinese side would this test be likely to determine? I know it can't tell me 'details' about my family as I may have implied in my previous post!

      Delete
  37. Looking for advice- my wife's mother ran away from home when she was a teenager in an attempt to become pregnant. She succeeded, however there were multiple potential fathers, and none are known to us. My wife would really like to know her ethnicity on her father's side. Which test(s) would you recommend, and whom should take each test? Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  38. Thanks for the great article. I've been considering the mtDNA test. For years my mother said she had some Native American ancestors, but did not know who, where, etc. I have traced her father's parents and grandparents back to the Quebec area, but there is no mention of any French or American Indian ancestors in names, church or history records. Would the mtDNA test help us confirming her Indian heritage on her father's side? Or would it only give info re her mother's side which is English, Irish and Welsh? Thanks. Kathy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kathy.
      My name is Shelly and I just received the results of the DNA test I took for Native American ancestry. I would HIGHLY recommend the company called ACCU-METRICS. They test only for Native American bloodlines, as the DNA test is more specialized. This is due to the fact that Native Americans are actually a group of ethnic groups that migrated from other countries. Just a 'regular' DNA test will show that have or don't have Native blood, but the ACCU-METRICS DNA testing can actually show what tribe you belong to. Imagine my surprise, when all my life I was told I was part Creek. Then the DNA test came back and it turns out I'm part Cherokee. ACCU-METRICS stated it would take 6 - 8 weeks for my results. I got the results in 3 weeks! FYI: This company charges $125.00. I was very pleased with this company. And NO! I do not work for them, etc. I had never heard of this company before, but to find out what tribe I belong to, I took a risk and chose them. shellytwosouls@gmail.com

      Delete
    2. Sorry, but Accu-Metrics is a scam. Stick to the 3 major companies.

      Delete
  39. Growing up I had no family except my parents and my father's mother who are all deceased....I do have my siblings whom we all have the same parents...what would be the best test for me....oh I forgot to mention I do have Nieces and nephews an d my mother had a son before she met my father

    ReplyDelete
  40. I, also, am confused. I am looking to GIFT a DNA test to my boyfriend who knows he has some Souix Indian in his heritage. I also want more specific countries like saying GERMAN instead of European ........... which company offers the most SPECIFIC RESULTS ??? More like Check or Norwegian not just general regions.

    anyone have a suggestion ????

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And is the test something that can be added on to after the fact ??

      Delete
  41. I have an extensive tree on Ancestry. I have traced ancestors back on both my maternal and paternal sides back to before 1700's. I have even found ancestral information and sites in the UK - cemetery and church, i.e. Two questions: 1) If I foremost want to find out more about my ancestry, which test should I use? 2) If I choose Ancestry, do I need to make my private tree a public tree?

    ReplyDelete
  42. My father was adopted (closed) and I doubt I can obtain his original birth certificate. He is dead. I know who his mother was, though. My brother and I want to do DNA testing. Without knowing our father's birth-father's identity, any special considerations as to what we should test. Money not an issue...

    ReplyDelete
  43. Hi my husband was adopted and we would like to know his fathers side for any medical issues. No need for mom, we know her

    ReplyDelete
  44. Hi Maurice! I am an Asian and I'm always curious with my mother's side as she is a native in East Malaysia. However she does not know where exactly does her ancestors come from originally because there were a lot of ethnic groups and information of where her ethnic group (Murut) comes from, not a clue. I'm not really curious of my father's ancestry.
    I would just like to know more of my dna ancestry (just for fun) and also my mother's dna ancestry as well. Just to know if her ancestors did come from other places around the world and if it is possible to get more details of the Asian side?
    I hope you could assist because I'm so confused with 23andMe, FTDNA and Ancestry DNA.
    Thanks!!

    ReplyDelete
  45. I am a 46 year old female with a mother who was adopted. Interestingly she had 2 siblings in her adopted family that anecdotal evidence suggests they are all 3 of them full siblings(the same bio father and mother). Which test(s) would you suggest for a woman who is desperate to discover who her mother may be ....and me, her daughter who worries about genetic factors ?

    I don't want to get my mothers hopes up if results are not conclusive or not likely. Most importantly -if I get tested, will that will be enough? Unfortunately her brothers(also adopted ) will not to share the information they have. Short of a DNA sample from my uncle, who and what tests would you suggest? Your advice would be most welcome in this long search

    ReplyDelete
  46. Thank you so much for this! I am a female and want to do some testing. My father is alive so I can use him for y-DNA. Would it be redundant for us to BOTH take the ancestry.com test or for us to both take any of the others? I'm trying to figure out using his y-dna and my m-dna (which would also include my mother's side obviously) how to get the most info without spending money on double tests that won't tell me anything (because of my XX)

    ReplyDelete
  47. My cousins father is very secretive, no one knows exactly what his nationality is, what his real last name is or who his brothers are (it's known that he has 6). My cousin wants to take a test but she doesn't know which one. If you can give any help it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!-Mike

    ReplyDelete
  48. It seems like so much info. I am more interested in ethnicity and country origins of my family (DNA). I did the Ancestry.com test a couple years ago and am wondering if one of these other test/company is good to use as verifying source or possibly provide a more accurate result.

    ReplyDelete
  49. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  50. I have an older brother that was given up for adoption at birth, we both have the same mom and dad. What would be the best test for me to do, to possibly find my brother.

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
  52. Hi, my boyfriend's father died before he was born and he has very little info on that side of the family as far as ancestry, relatives and medical. Could you please let me know what you would recommend for him? Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  53. Hi I did the ancestry.com one and I'd only gave me %'s of like 22% indigenous American. I want more info. Which one is best. I want my moms and dad's info.

    ReplyDelete
  54. Hi, I am very interested in finding out more about my ancestry. My parents do not seem to know too much about their own family line. I have always been told I am Russian, English and Irish. I know my paternal grandfathers family was Jewish and came here from Russia...again...what I was told. I was able to trace the family name back a little as it was shortened from the original family name. My fathers side I know zilch about. Other than a town called Hineville GA was supposedly named after his mothers father. What tests would be a good one for me to try to find out some information about our family lines? My father and all of his brothers have past away. There is no one left except some cousins from an uncle and me, my older brother and my younger sister. On my mothers side we still have my mom and grand mother. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Melissa C

    ReplyDelete
  55. Hello, and thank you for all this information. I know a lot about my paternal family history. We are descended from Puritans and there has been a considerable amount of genealogical info collected and published in a book, which I have, written in the late 1800s by a family member. Also, our family surname is said to be of Saxon origin, which fits. My Dad compiled very detailed family records gleaned from birth and death records, as well. Both of my parents are dead.
    A few years ago, I took the Nat Geo Genographic test, which, since I am a female, gave me my mother's ethnic pathways starting in Africa thousands of years ago, through Asia and Europe and into Wales. My mother's family is Welsh.

    I have lost track of my brother--but he is unlikely to want to participate in this even if I find him. Both of my Mom's brothers are dead. One had no children, one left 4 sons, 3 who are still living and in England, although they came from Scotland. There are tons of relatives in Wales.

    What I am most interested in is the health data available. We have lots of early deaths and elderly deaths on both sides of the family.

    I have two children, two sons, but one died 5 years ago at age 49, and left 2 children: a boy and a girl. Their mother is having testing done on her and the two children, to determine what health risks they have. My other son, unmarried, has no children. I am also interested in the dna health testing, and hope to also convince younger son to get it done. It would be very helpful to have this data.

    Recommendations you can make would be most helpful. Thank you very much.

    ReplyDelete
  56. I don't have any living parents or siblings nor aunts or uncles, My cousins live in other states, but we really don't know each other.
    How can I find out my mother's side and where her ancestors came from.

    ReplyDelete
  57. Just wanted to thank you for responding to all of these people. My questions were answered by reading those. You have the patience of a saint!

    ReplyDelete
  58. I'm trying to figure out which is best. I don't know much about my family history besides close relatives so I haven't been able to put together a tree and I want to know where our family comes from. I want to know our history

    ReplyDelete
  59. My mother informed me that my biological father is not the man who raised me. She had a stroke before she was able to give me any information on him. My mother lives with me and we have quite a bit of genealogical info on her family, but I would like to know what part of my makeup came from my father. Possibly connect with paternal family members. Also have many health issues that I would like to nail down. Which test would be best for me?

    ReplyDelete
  60. Hello I'd love some advice. My great grandfather on my dads side was left on a door step in Italy and brought to an orphanage where he was adopted. No one is really sure if he was full Italian. My dad has passed and I can't get one of my brothers to give up DNA to find out. I just want to know what nationality I am. Could you please help me on what tests I should have done? I would be most grateful. Thank you Renee

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I should add that because our last name had been changed, I'd like to find information, if possible, on that too. Thank you again.

      Delete
  61. Hi Maurice..

    I am planning to order your kit to surprise my girlfriend for our anniversary. I have a few questions for you before I do, hopefully to select the best test/company :

    1. Which package shall reveal information about her bloodline and family ancestry with the most details?

    2. Is it possible to schedule a meeting with an expert to take us through the details revealed by the test? information about families and migration patters etc?

    3. She says she has native American blood too, which database/company have information in that case?

    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  62. Hello Mr Gleeson,
    Both my parents are born in Mexico and I didn't grow up with my dad. I have heard that his maternal grandmother was French/Spaniard and maternal grandfather was Spaniard. My dad didn't grow up with his dad so there is no trace of that family. My mom didn't grow up with her dad in either but we know he was Mexican. We also know that my mom's dad's family might have came from Israel. Some of my cousins look middle eastern including my oldest daughter. I am very interested in finding out if all these rumors are true. I am blonde with green eyes and our oldest daughter look nothing like me but doesn't resemble my husband to much. Which test do recommend and who should get tested? Unfortunately I have no grandparents alive and don't know where to find my dad. I want to test my four daughters but should I have my mom and her only brother tested?

    ReplyDelete
  63. I am Hispanic (both parents are Mexican) and I recently tested with My Heritage DNA. I was not happy with the results because I felt that some of it was too broad and general. I got around 69% Central American and no Native American ancestry showed up. About 28% was European and I felt the information given for that was decent. I would like to know which company could give me more information about my Central American ancestry, which I'm upset about because I think it's very general. Ancestry DNA or 23andMe?

    ReplyDelete
  64. I am not Caucasian. Ancestral origin is from South India, as far as our family knows. Don't see any mix, but who knows. As such, which one would be most suitable for me? Appreciate a reply. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete