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  • Writer's pictureColleen Murray

My DNA Journey

Updated: May 31, 2021

Image Courtesy FamilyTreeDNA

Several years ago, my husband gave me a DNA test as a birthday gift. I did the cheek swab, filled out some information on where I thought my ancestors came from, and in return was sent a predicted haplogroup and a map showing my ancestral migration, featuring a large arrow sweeping from Europe over to North America. It was a disappointment to say the least. Worse, a year or two later the company ceased to exist. Luckily the main companies doing DNA testing have come a long way since then.

Although I haven’t tested my own DNA since, I haven’t given up on DNA. I’ve focused my funds on testing my parents instead. As my parents age, I’ve struggled more to find them gifts that they’ll both use and enjoy. Luckily, they are both interested in my obsession with genealogy and in what their DNA tests might tell them.

I tested my father at FTDNA (FamilyTreeDNA) a few years ago. DNA is complicated, and although I knew I didn’t have the time while I was in school to really immerse myself in his results, I wanted to have those tests done while my Dad was here, knowing that I could come back to the results later.

My father is one of the only males in my family carrying our surname, so getting a Y-DNA test was a top priority. Initially, I only ordered the 67 marker test, but recently I upgraded to the 111. This means that his results will be more refined. I also had the mtDNA (mitochondrial) and Family Finder (autosomal) tests done at the same time. The mtDNA test follows my father’s mother’s line, which is one that I’m very interested in, and have done a lot of traditional genealogical research on. Because the mitochondrial DNA doesn’t change much over time however, matches on it can be from a much more distant past than is useful to my genealogical goals. Unfortunately, he did not get any close matches there, but in time, as more people test, that could change. Despite not having time to really delve into his Y-DNA and autosomal results, I made several contacts on FamilyTreeDNA who did have the time. Some of that contact led to breaking down a brick wall with a branch of our family with a very common surname.

For Mother’s Day, I ordered an Family Finder (autosomal) test for my mother at FTDNA and am still awaiting the results, and as a gift, I received an AncestryDNA (autosomal) test. Once my results are in, I can transfer them to FTDNA for a small price, and then can compare my results to that of my parents. By having my results with two companies, I increase the pool of potential people I can match to. I will also upload my results to GedMatch, a third party site that anyone can upload their results to, to use specialized tools and to compare matches with people who have tested at different companies.

One of my third cousins recently emailed me to say that she had received her DNA results on Ancestry and was excitedly making connections. As more people test, the more connections we can all make with our DNA tests, and therefore the more valuable these tests are in all our research. I encourage you all to test your oldest living relatives now, even if you don’t currently have the time or ability to understand their results. The data will be waiting for you when you have the time, or perhaps one of your matches will help you do the work.

Happy Hunting everyone!

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