The dawn of the 21st century has brought the amazing gift of DNA testing to genealogy. Now we can validate (or disprove) the paper trails that are so often flawed by the lack of records, the illegibility of records and sometimes the wishful thinking of former genealogists. Now, combined with the internet and the almost universal use of computers, we can reach out to distant cousins long lost in our family histories. We can reunite our families, uncover the lives our ancestors led, share their dreams and sorrows. A cheek swab or saliva sample can reveal where we came from and who our ancestors were. But it takes work to tie DNA evidence to a family history. The need for diligent research has never been greater.
This page contains an overview of (1) the kinds of DNA tests you can choose and (2) the Worden DNA Project.
Types of Tests
There are four types of DNA testing for genealogy, and the first decision you have to make is which one is right for you?Y-DNA tests the direct paternal line back for hundreds, even thousands, of years. Only males can take this test because only males have a Y chromosome. This genealogical test is available only from Family Tree DNA.
MtDNA tests the direct maternal line back for hundreds, even thousands, of years. It is available for males and females. Note, however, that males do not pass this DNA to their children. Only females carry their mtDNA forward. This genealogical test is available only from Family Tree DNA.
At-DNA (autosomal) tests cover one's entire pedigree. In each generation, the autosomal DNA that one inherits from all his or her ancestors is reduced or even lost entirely. A baby inherits 1/2 its At-DNA from each parent and approximately 1/4 from each grandparent, 1/8 from each great grandparent, 1/16 from each great great grandparent, etc. After you go back 6-8 generations, there is usually little or no DNA left from any one ancestor.
SNP testing is specifically for learning one's deep roots, before genealogical time.
So, what do you want to learn from a DNA test?
If you want to learn about your father's surname, you will order a Y-DNA test -- if you are a male. If you are a female and want to learn about your father's surname, you must find a male surrogate to test -- brother, father, uncle, male cousin in your father's line.
If you want to know more about your mother's heritage, you will order an mtDNA test -- whether you are a male or female. It is especially difficult to research female lines because the surname changes in every generation. The mtDNA remains but many people will share the same DNA. Unless you do advanced mtDNA tests, you are unlikely to find someone who is related closely enough to be able to find a common ancestor, or at least a cousin on both your maternal lines.
If you want to find distant cousins who share common ancestors with you on all different lines in your family tree, you will take an atDNA test. The atDNA tests offered by Ancestry, 23andMe and Family Tree DNA are virtually identical, but the differences are problematic. Ancestry's current test results can be transferred to FTDNA and to GedMatch (and must be if you want to thoroughly analyze matches and expand the database against which you are matched). 23andMe's current offering is not transferable so, unless you tested under Release 3, you are limited to comparing against their database. Neither Ancestry nor 23andMe allows transferring into their databases. These autosomal tests offer a secondary benefit, an estimate of your ethnic makeup.
The fourth option is not geared to genealogy because paper trails did not exist long ago. If you are interested in your deep roots (long before surnames were adopted), or perhaps would like to participate in leading-edge research in population sciences, then tests such as the Big Y (from Family Tree DNA), Geno2.0 (National Geographic), and others may be useful. As more of this testing is done, it is expected that genealogy will benefit in that SNPs will eventually play a role in distinguishing family lines in more recent generations.
Worden DNA Project
All Worden family descendants are welcome to join the Worden DNA Project . Much more information is available at that site. Doris Wheeler is the project administrator, and Pat Warden is co-administrator. You are invited to join this project and place your order for any of the tests described above.
While there are many books, blogs and mailing lists devoted to discussions of DNA testing, the primary sources of information are the company websites and ISOGG, the International Society of Genetic Genealogy which provides unbiased and extensive information in many forms. The links are below: