Saturday, November 28, 2015

Want to Take Advantage of DNA Sales this Weekend? Trying to Figure Out Which DNA Test to Buy?

One of my cousins (not a first cousin) and I recently got our DNA tested. She got hers done through Ancestry, and I got mine through FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA). Then, she transferred her results to FTDNA, so we could use their tools to compare and collaborate on finding more cousins.We've been thrilled by the results.

First off, I was really excited to see that our results confirmed our relationship. She gave me a funny look (metaphorically speaking, since this was via email) and asked, "Did you have any doubts?" Well, as a genealogist, I've learned not to take relationships for granted. By which I mean, while I was pretty sure that our parents and other ancestors were who we believed they were, I've read too many accounts of genetic results that turned up evidence to the contrary of the paperwork. So, now I have incontrovertible evidence that, for at least this section of my family tree, I've got the right people in the right relationships, no hanky panky involved.

Secondly, we've started finding our mutual cousins. So far, FTDNA has provided us with a list of 24. That's right. We have twenty-four mutual cousins that neither of us had even an inkling of before we started! Plus, some of those cousins have additional relationships to each other. Which is probably pretty normal, when you think about it, but it's still very cool to see all of this on the screen. So, screenshot time!

What I really love about this is seeing those two pairs of matches in the middle. Excellent!

But, all that's not really the point of this post.

Yesterday, as we were discussing which of the many new relatives turned up by our DNA results who are related to both of us, she said the following: "I'm going to ask Uncle John if he will do a DNA test.  Do you have a feel for which test would be best?"

My immediate response, which never made it into my actual response, was, "Not a clue. Except it should include yDNA."

But, after that, I started thinking. And researching. Because I really can't help myself when someone asks a questions like that. And, once I'd sent it, I realized there was some useful and timely information that might help other people thinking about DNA testing.

Here's the response she actually received (with a few minor details changed to protect personal information about living family members, as well as a bit of touching up to fill in details I skipped):
I've been drooling over the sales going on at FTDNA (there is also a bonus for current members, mine was only an extra $5 off; I don't know if they are offering bonuses to transfers), wishing my dad would agree to a test. Who knows, maybe he will. The last time we spoke about it, he wasn't interested, but maybe all the connections you and I have been discussing will be enough to convince him that it will provide valuable information.
As to which test you might choose, there are a range of possible tests that might be appropriate. It all depends on your goals and your budget.
Ancestry's test price is very low, but I think they are only offering autosomal tests these days. They have what may be the best offer on sale right now, at just $69. 
23andMe includes health related information; at least one of their health tests has even received approval from the FDA. So, that's something no one else that offers genealogy genetic testing is offering. But, the base cost is higher, they don't seem to be offering a sale, and I don't know how effectively they connect cousins.
FTDNA has a wide range of tests, not just the autosomal, but also yDNA and mtDNA, and even those they offer in varying degrees, depending on how in-depth you want the test and how deep your pockets are.

If you can, I think one of the yDNA tests paired with an autosomal test might be the way to go for Uncle John. <-- ACTUAL ADVICE*
FTDNA offers three levels of yDNA tests: y37, which checks 37 markers on the Y chromosome; y67, which checks 67; and y111, which checks 111. The y37 allows one to confirm "close relationships." If I'm reading them right, iGenea (yet another company selling DNA tests, but one I know nothing about) suggests a 37-marker test provides information that goes back 3 to 7 generations. FTDNA makes a claim of up to 340,000 years, which I think applies to the y111 test.
On the other hand, I just found a Discover magazine article (from May 2014) that references a new test from Prosapia Genetics that only costs $135, but goes back 1000 years to pinpoint a (only one?!) location for one's "ancestral home." ($100 gets you the basic test; $35 gets you the location detail.) Since the number of ancestors at the 1000 year mark would be huge, this feels a bit gimmicky to me, but also fun.

If my dad agreed to a test, I would definitely ask that he get a yDNA test, so I could confirm our patrilineal line; there are a few questions I have about which John Lloyd back in the 1700s is the right John Lloyd. But, what I'd be wishing for, and what I know I've only got a snowball's chance in Hell of getting, would be a truly comprehensive test: autosomal, y111 (the most in-depth yDNA test), and a full-sequence mtDNA test. Even FTDNA's "Comprehensive Genome" test doesn't quite meet my gold standard because it only offers the y67. Oh, and for good measure, I'd like to throw in the Prosapia test.
* Given how much I say in this message, I figured it would be good to point out where I actually answer your question. :D

Well, I hope you'll find this information interesting. The holiday sales will be over in very short order, so that part of the information will be out of date very quickly. But, the part about figuring out which tests are most useful for an elderly male relative should be useful at any time.

By the way, neither I nor any of my family members (at least none I'm in contact with at the moment) are employed by any genetic testing firm, nor do I receive any funds for mentioning any of these companies. We paid for our testing, and my opinions are entirely my own.