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Genetics and Genealogy – Genetic Testing Company Reviews and Our Story
Conflicting Family Lore
The changes in the spelling of last names created a hurdle in researching our family's male lineage back past the early 1700s. When records show multiple people in an area with similarly spelled last names, were they actually related or not? We didn't know and thus couldn't go any farther.
There were other questions about family ancestry. Family lore on Native American ancestry was fuzzy; we knew one ancestor was part-Cherokee or all Cherokee if not Lumbee.
Another ancestor was rumored to be Tejas or part of another tribe from south Texas, but it wasn’t certain compared to a relative actually on the Dawes roll.
We used two major DNA testing services in an effort to find out what my paternal grandfather’s DNA could reveal of our shared ancestry. Here are the results.
We did a Y-chromosome test through FamilyTreeDNA with 67 markers on my paternal grandfather. The cost was $242; this price is what we paid after the discount for using a family name research project. My thanks to the Britton / Britain DNA project for arranging the discounts for everyone in that family research project.
Advantages of FamilyTreeDNA Genetic Testing
Did you know that you can get a discount on genetic testing if it is part of a last name research project? It’s essentially a volume discount.
They updated us as the results as they came in, as the Y-chromosome was sequenced.
Using a family name research project not only gave us a discount on the purchase price of the DNA test but also hooked us into others researching the same last name.
Depending on the contact preferences of the other members of the project and the FamilyTreeDNA database overall, you not only see the names and locations of those with similar and increasingly dissimilar Y-chromosomes but can contact them as well.
Family Tree DNA offers genetic testing up to 111 markers on the Y-chromosome. If you don’t want to pay for the more expensive test using more markers, you can run the 37 marker test that is half the price, while still gaining access to their genealogy information.
They store your DNA results for free. If a more detailed genetic test comes out in the future, you can ask them to run the test on the sample they already have instead of sending in a new one. You will, of course, have to pay the lab fee. However, if you have a family member who is aging, getting an initial test now answers questions, while you could have more detailed genetic testing done in the future.
Family Tree DNA doesn’t require a subscription fee like the genetic testing services tied to Ancestry.com.
FamilyTreeDNA had much better help desk staff to answer questions than DNA Consultants.
Disadvantages of FamilyTreeDNA Genetic Testing
I received roughly one email a week as my father’s Y-chromosome was decoded. This is in contrast to waiting until the whole sequence was decoded and then announcing the results were available.
Occasional solicitations for X-chromosome testing were sent as well, though I had not requested these services and said I didn't want to do them.
DNA Consultants Genetic Testing Review
DNA Consultants is one of the few vendors I found that is willing to perform estimate someone's racial breakdown. Since my grandfather is part Native American, we wanted to know the answer to the question, "How much?"
The ethnic breakdown study cost $331.95 at the time.
Family Tree DNA and My Own Testing
Due to a lack of information on my maternal side, I had genetic testing done personally in 2017. What I learned from that testing included:
My grandfather's clear Native American ancestry was diluted in my results to "maybe 2% Asian".
It confirmed the Scandinavian ancestry of a war bride brought home without any other information for the family.
The health reports Family Tree DNA testing does under the Vitagene label is a total waste of money. The only potentially useful advice is based on generic assumptions based on your ancestry. For example, "You're less likely to be lactose intolerant" and "You're less likely to be gluten intolerant." None of this is a genetic test for these traits, and they inflate 3 pages of generic medical advice with quarter page pictures, scientific facts of no value to most readers (explanations of what gluten is, history of folate). They then use that information to try to sell you "customized" vitamin regimens. Save your money and skip the Vitagene test and get personally tested by your doctor for any issue that concerns you.
Advantages of DNA Consultants
The cheek swaps and sample mailer are easy to use. They even have an online Youtube video to explain the process if you have any questions.
DNA Consultants is one of a few firms offering genetic tests to determine your ethnic makeup. For example, what percentage of your DNA is Native American? How much is European? Do you have any African ancestry?
They are able to distinguish ancestry traced to lesser known racial groups like Romany; when we were told my grandfather had Romany, it seemed like a fluke or an outright error. Then further research by someone in the genealogy project confirmed yes, there is Irish Traveler if not Romany in the family line.
Disadvantages of DNA Consultants
Their genetic testing for racial breakdown is severely limited. It reads Native American as very similar to Asian. The genetic test results for most likely ancestry were correct in the proportion of German and English blood, but the 1/8 Native American ancestry came back as saying we were a match for Native Americans, Japanese, East Asian and Romany. I suspect this is due to their database having very few Native American control samples for comparison in the racial / ancestral testing.
The ethnic breakdown study cost $331.95. This is over-priced given how little information the results actually contained.
Their multi-page packet to explain the DNA test results is mostly legal disclaimers, “The Story of the Human Race, appreciation for your business and a frame-able certificate of your desired ancestry. For example, you can proudly proclaim via DNA Consultants certificate that genetic tests prove you are Jewish, part Native American or sub-Saharan African.
I received multiple solicitations for the combo DNA test for Y-chromosome testing and matrilineal DNA testing. The emails still haven’t stopped.
Genetics Revealed Genealogy
The Y chromosome data of FamilyTreeDNA can be used in conjunction to a free public Y-chromosome DNA database. In our case, the Britain / Britton family tree project helped find a distant relative who traces his ancestry to a brother of a confirmed ancestor in our line. The brothers had changed the spelling of their last names.
The DNA match confirmed that these two different lines did have the same Y-chromosome, confirming the shared ancestor. Now our family tree goes back 3 more generations to 1705. And the genealogists in my family now have several new sources of information.
Genetic testing revealed not only the family relationship but identified where a family name spelling change occurred. Two brothers with the same father and same Y-chromosome, but one, my direct male ancestor, chose to change the spelling of his name.
Note: If you can join one of these genetic genealogy studies, you can get discounts and coupons in exchange for sharing your family history and genetic test results.