When the subject of DNA comes up, I like to give people the simplest answers so that their eyes don’t glaze over: The three types (Y-DNA, mtDNA, and atDNA) what each can do and what each CANNOT do. It’s important to have at least a basic understanding of your reasons to test so that you don’t waste your money or test with the wrong company.
Here are the “holiday sale” prices from the 3 companies that I generally recommend. Each name is hyperlinked to their website:
FamilyTreeDNA currently has an autosomal DNA (atDNA) test on sale for $89. That’s the DNA that comes to you from both parents. You have ABOUT 50% from Mom and ABOUT 50% from Dad. Having said that, each of your parents received ABOUT the same percentage from each of their parents. Thus, you have ABOUT 25% from each of your 4 grandparents, ABOUT 12.5% from each of your 8 great grandparents and so on until the percentage of the atDNA from a distant ancestor is too minimal to detect. These test are normally called “Cousin Finders” or “Family Finders.” Don’t expect to learn the ancient origins of your ancestors, it can’t be done with this test.
23andME has had its ups and downs but has come back strong after a few unfortunate “misunderstandings” with the FDA. They now advertise that they are the only testing company that meets FDA standards for being clinically and scientifically valid. Truly a great opportunity to use the “cousin finder” aspect
with atDNA, maternal and paternal ancestors with mtDNA and Y-DNA respectively, and, believe it or not, determine your possible ancient connection to Neanderthal, the proto-typical “caveman!” The “caveman” term is really quite misleading as we learn more about that branch of our collective tree. Currently, a single test is $199 if you order by December 13, 2015. Then if you order more tests for a family member by January 4, 2016, you’ll get a 10% discount on each. This company will give you some very interesting health information. It’s best to check this page of the website to learn more.
Ancestry.com, the most promoted genealogical service, now has a division called AncestryDNA and their test is usually $99, it’s also on sale for $69 for Black Friday. That’s a GREAT deal! Although they heavily promote their services, they are certainly not the “only game in town.” When they first began offering tests, Y-DNA, mtDNA and atDNA were all a part of their menu. Right from the start, they stumbled. Most of the ancestry reports they delivered showed nearly everyone with 98% Scandinavian DNA. Well, no. That was a little off. They then refined their testing algorithms, purchased other valid DNA databases and limited their services to atDNA. It makes sense since atDNA is the “cousin finder” and they have a phenomenally large collection of family trees which can theoretically be matched up with the atDNA results. First caveat is that of the millions of trees at Ancestry.com a relatively low percentage have been thoroughly researched; the data often lacks proper genealogical research meaning public records (sources) and other citations. Much of their data is from people harvesting undocumented data from other trees containing undocumented data. Their latest testing process is up to par and their matching strategies are reasonably accurate. But proceed with care!
Happy Thanksgiving and good luck in your DNA adventures!