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Discover Family Ancestry with DNA

Updated on August 31, 2019
Pamela99 profile image

I enjoy writing about personal experiences with my family. I am interested in traveling, any culture, ancestry relationships and animals.

DNA lines

Photo Courtesy of Big Genealogy You can see the father's line coming down to his sons and his heritage.
Photo Courtesy of Big Genealogy You can see the father's line coming down to his sons and his heritage.

DNA Testing- Female Explanation

Genealogy answers are not always easy to find, and many people are turning to DNA testing. There are some things you need to know before proceeding down that road. The tests results for males and females are totally different.

For the female, mtDNA tests - Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is contained in the cytoplasm of the cell, rather than the nucleus. This type of DNA is passed by a mother to both male and female offspring without any mixing, so your mtDNA is the same as your mother's mtDNA, which is the same as her mother's mtDNA. If two people have an exact match in their mtDNA, then there is a very good chance they share a common maternal ancestor, but it is hard to determine if this is a recent ancestor or one who lived hundreds of years ago.

DNA Strands (STR's)

Photo Courtesy of
Photo Courtesy of

Understanding the Male Y Chromosome

The Y Line Test are more recently, the Y chromosome in the nuclear DNA is being used to establish family lines. The Y chromosomal DNA test (usually referred to as Y DNA or Y-Line DNA) is only available for males, since the Y chromosome is only passed down the male line from father to son.

Tiny chemical markers on the Y chromosome create a distinctive pattern, known as a haplotype, which distinguishes one male lineage from another. Shared markers can indicate relatedness between two men, though not the exact degree of the relationship. Y chromosome testing is most often used by individuals with the same last name to learn if they share a common ancestor. This narrows the DNA testing down to just one of our 46 chromosomes, the male Y chromosome.

One Example of Test Results

My copy
My copy

Further Explanation for Y Chromosome

All of our chromosomes, including the Y chromosome, consist of a few genes (about 2-3% of our DNA) with vast amounts of filler DNA (about 97-98% of our DNA) in between the genes. This filler DNA is also known as junk DNA and has no known function. So, along with the genes on the Y chromosome, which a boy inherits from his father, and it also uses the filler DNA being passed down virtually unchanged from generation to generation.

Within these filler regions are certain known locations (loci)) where a short segment of DNA will repeat itself a number of times. This is known as a Short Tandem Repeat (STR) and its location is called a Marker. This is what makes testing of the Y chromosome (Y-DNA testing) useful in researching the direct paternal line and tracing surname lineages and why it is the type of DNA testing is being used.

Since Y-chromosome DNA is found only within the all-male patrilineal line, and mtDNA only provides matches to the all-female matrilineal line. The DNA testing is only applicable to lines going back through two of our eight great-grandparents, or the father's paternal grandfather and our mother's maternal grandmother.

7 Common Genealogy Mistakes

DNA Uses by Genealogist

DNA tests can be used by genealogists to:

  • Link specific individuals - e.g. test to see whether you and a person you think may be a cousin descend from a common ancestor
  • Prove or disprove the ancestry of people sharing the same last name - e.g. test to see if males carrying the CRISP surname are related to each other
  • Map the genetic origins of large population groups - e.g. test to see whether you have European or African American ancestry

DNA test

Most DNA tests are done with a DNA testing kit at home with a quick cheek swab which is then mailed to a laboratory, and it will take a month or two for results. These test cost anywhere from $100-$400. The more expensive tests are much more detailed than the cheaper test which gives you a better chance at locating relatives. The test for the female is cheaper but you really don’t get very much detail on your maternal line.

Y Testing - Personal Story

In our case, my mother’s maiden name was Sprague and through genealogy we actually met cousins that we did not know existed even though they were my mother’s second cousins. There is a large Sprague database, and the only male Sprague still living that we are aware of sent his sample to the Sprague database. We received a result that was extremely close to our line and several that we would be related to a few generations ago. The good news is they keep coming in as more people get tested.

This was exciting news as we had been stuck on a Sprague born in 1794, unable to locate his father. We now knew for sure that we were related to one particular line that arrived in America in the early 1600s. If you don’t have that type of database situation, there are many sites that handle these test results with being one of the larger ones, but there is also Family Tree and numerous other sites.

Testing Advancements

Now as to the test for the female, we decided we would send my mother’s DNA to We got about a 4 or 5-page report. It essentially stated that about 30,000 years ago we had family in Asia and about 10,000 years ago we have family in Europe, but she descended from the Colonist. Family Search is another site that offers tests for females that worked very well for one of my friends.

Since the time we did these tests there have been advancements, and you may get some more reliable results now. The male DNA is still preferable for exact results.

5 Truths About DNA Tests


I think the DNA studies are fascinating, and they have helped many a genealogist that was at a dead-end. It would be nice if they could perfect the female test someday, but the male tests are definitely worthwhile if you are looking for answers.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Submit a Comment
  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    cherrycrime, Thanks for sharing this information. I appreciate your comments.

  • cherrycrime26 profile image

    January Moon 

    9 years ago from NY, Now Living in Atlanta Ga

    Very informative info, I here now a days if you a boy, they can take the sperm, and separate all the x chromozone and separate the y chromozone to ensure you will get a boy or vice versa girl, I know its a little off subject but I found it interesting :)

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Sun-Girl, I am glad you enjoyed the hub and thank you for your comments.

  • Sun-Girl profile image


    9 years ago from Nigeria

    Great info you have here Pamela, well shared.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    9 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Ancillotti, Yes, we do have the history of our ancestors printed in our lives. There is still much we don't know about DNA but the technology is rapidly growing. Thanks for your comment.

  • Ancillotti profile image


    9 years ago from Brasil, Vitoria - ES

    Excellent Hub!

    Motivated me to look for landmarks that exist in the DNA. It is amazing how we keep so much information which is unknown.

    We have the history of our ancestors printed in our lives.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Nancy, I love doing the search but it isn't always easy. Ancestry is getting more information every day. I have traveled and gone to courthouse and libraries for information at times but I have been doing this for a long time. I wish you luck if you begin anew. Thanks for your comment.

  • nancy_30 profile image


    10 years ago from Georgia

    This was a very interesting hub. I would love to do this. It's been awhile since I've done any genealogy research. I was trying to research my father's side of the family and came to a roadblock with his grandfather. I know he came from South Carolina and was born about 1790.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Support Med, I am thinking of writing a book and have started one buy haven't had time lately to complete the job. Thanks so much for your comments.

  • Support Med. profile image

    Support Med. 

    10 years ago from Michigan

    I'll have to find that post about katiem2's roots! Very thorough article and will keep as a reference. You are so knowledgeable!! Have you ever considered writing a book? Voted/rated.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Money Glitch, Thanks so much for your comment.

  • Money Glitch profile image

    Money Glitch 

    10 years ago from Texas

    Thanks for breaking this info down where I could understand it. I've always wanted to do this in order to discover some of the history of my ancestry. I will have to add this to my 'to do' list. Thumbs up! :)

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Wendy, Maybe its time for you to take a look at your roots! Thanks for your comments.

  • Wendy Krick profile image

    Wendy Henderson 

    10 years ago from Cape Coral

    Wow this is really interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Audry, And DNA is ever expanding with numerous medical problems through the Human Genome project and probably many others around the world. Thank you for your comment.

    LeanMan, Many families are doing just that. Breast cancer, ovarian cancer and colon cancer have specific DNA tests. I am sure there are some other diseases that have tests as well and just looking at the family tree can reveal a lot of information. Thanks for your comment.

    Katiem, I had forgotten that but yes, and it is so exciting to know your roots. Thanks so much for your comments.

  • katiem2 profile image

    Katie McMurray 

    10 years ago from Ohio

    As you may remember I was directly affected by Genealogy and Discover Family Ancestory with DNA which was a complete shock to me. I'm so thankful as with out the amazing technology available to us today I may have never known of my exciting roots. Great article, advice and resources. Peace :)

  • LeanMan profile image


    10 years ago from At the Gemba

    Great hub, we have just found a major inherited disease through our family, pretty obvious as it has killed various members of the family but at least we now know why and what we should all avoid doing to trigger the problem!

  • akirchner profile image

    Audrey Kirchner 

    10 years ago from Washington

    We did DNA tests a few years ago because of our son's birth defects - it is fascinating what you can discover with a mouth swab!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    JY3502, You leave me speechless. Thanks for stopping by.

    Jane, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and thanks for your comment.

    Hello, I am glad you enjoyed the hub also. Thanks for your comments.

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 

    10 years ago from London, UK

    It is interesting and fascinating to trace the ancester. Thank you for your informative hub aobut the DNA. I never knew you could do that.

  • Jane@CM profile image


    10 years ago

    Interesting hub Pam. Great information on Geneology and DNA.

  • JY3502 profile image

    John Young 

    10 years ago from Florence, South Carolina


    I was looking up my family tree last year and all I found was a gorilla.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    jacobkuttyta, Thank you for your comments.

  • jacobkuttyta profile image


    10 years ago from Delhi, India

    Very interesting and informative.

    Thanks for taking time out to write and share it with us.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Mentalist acer, Thanks for your comment.

    K9keystrokes, Your comments are very generous and I appreciate them so much. Science is fascinating.

  • K9keystrokes profile image

    India Arnold 

    10 years ago from Northern, California

    This has to be one the most interesting hubs. I really enjoyed reading about Genealogy and Discovering Family Ancestry with DNA. Science amazes me more every day. You have done a perfect hub here. Thanks for a super read!


  • Mentalist acer profile image

    Mentalist acer 

    10 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

    Intersting Hub and worth looking into Pamela;)

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    bayoulady, Tracing back to the 1300's is great. Thank you so much for your comment.

    Rev Lady, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. Thank you so much for the comments.

    Eovery, Thanks for your comment.

  • eovery profile image


    10 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa


    Keep on hubbing!

  • RevLady profile image


    10 years ago from Lantana, Florida

    A very, very interesting hub with a wealth of information. I got plenty of clarity and learned much.

    Thanks for Pam taking the time to offer us this most worthy read.


    Forever His,

  • bayoulady profile image


    10 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

    How interesting! I can't afford that , but I know some will find this very helpful. We (on my mother's Welch side) can only trace our family back to the 1300s, but it is amazing stuff to read.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Lady Guivevere, I will take a look at it. It sounds great.

  • Lady Guinevere profile image

    Debra Allen 

    10 years ago from West By God

    Pamela99. I have all my research on my LEWIS genealogy right here on Hubpages. It's The Other Celts and a Welsh Family Tree

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Lady Guinevere, I hope that some will decide to test as it would probably be helpful. Good luck with your research. Thanks so much for your comments.

    What's New, I am glad that you now can get tested. Thanks so much for your comment.

  • What's News profile image

    What's News 

    10 years ago

    You really did some research here. I want to send my DNA off to have it analyzed. I had no idea that did that sort of thing.

    Great Hub.

    I Voted Up.

  • Lady Guinevere profile image

    Debra Allen 

    10 years ago from West By God

    This is very informative. I had a lonk to the DNA testing site for the LEWIS genealogy and it came up as a broken link, but I will add the hub to my LEWIS genealogy page on here. This makes more sense anyway. The test is like $100.00 though and lots of people don't want to spend that amount just to see if they are related. That was what I got from my family members.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    10 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Tom, I have read that to but really the test just doesn't show anything specific so I think they will keep working with DNA until they understand it better. Thanks for your comment.

  • Tom Whitworth profile image

    Tom Whitworth 

    10 years ago from Moundsville, WV


    Well researched useful information. I read in the mid-1990's that all humans decended from a common mother as found by mtDNA testing. They called her Eve.


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