Ancestry DNA Tests – Learning the Language of Ancestry DNA Tests
Ancestry DNA tests can be very helpful in finding new ancestors, but a lack of knowledge of how they work, and the terminology used in describing the results of them, could frustrate your genetic ancestral investigation. In this article I’ll describe the different components of ancestry DNA tests, and attempt to explain them in simple terms. Genetic ancestry testing is the genealogical wave of the future, so let’s get up to scratch and learn the language of ancestry DNA tests.
What is the "DNA" in Ancestry DNA Tests?
We hear the term all the time, even use it ourselves, but do we even know what it is? It is of course a quite significant aspect of ancestry DNA tests, it's the part of us that is tested, but what exactly is that part. DNA is a scientific abbreviation of deoxyribonucleic acid, a nucleic acid composed of four organic bases; Cytosine (C), Adenine (A), Thymine (T), and Guanine (G). The four letters of those organic bases make up the alphabet of DNA.
DNA is formed of two microscopic strands that are linked together at specific intervals – it looks like a microscopic step ladder. The organic bases mentioned above form the rungs of that ladder, and are known as base pairs. These base pairs combine in a variety of groupings, and that order is called the DNA sequence. These sequences are spelt out with the letters A, C, G, and T. An example of how DNA samples are written out in ancestry DNA tests is; AACTGGCAA… and so on.
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What is the "Chromosome" Mentioned in Ancestry DNA Tests?
You might have noticed that the most popular types of ancestry DNA tests are sometimes referred to as Y or X chromosome ancestry DNA tests. In the center of each of our cells, our DNA wraps around proteins that it depends on to function, and this forms a chromosome. Each of our cells normally contain 23 pairs of chromosomes, one of the chromosomes in each pair is inherited from the mother, and one from the father. 22 pairs are identical, while the 23rd is known as the sex chromosome as it defines genre. Females have one copy of the X chromosome from each parent, while males receive one X chromosome from the mother and a Y chromosome from the father. These are the chromosomes from which DNA is harvested for Ancestry DNA tests.
What is the Significance of Genes in Ancestry DNA Tests?
You've most likely heard someone say something like "You've got your mother's genes, or "it's in the genes", well - you do, and it is! Gene's are what determine our physical characteristics like eye color, hair texture, or how tall we might be. Genes make their homes on our chromosomes, and they contain instructions that tell our bodies what kind of proteins to make, and what quantities to make of them. As proteins are what are bodies are built on; different types produced in different quantities and distributed to specific areas create our physical characteristics. There is also evidence that mental and emotional traits are inherited through genes, but that is irrelevant to ancestry DNA tests.
What are the "Markers" Referred to in the Results of Ancestry DNA Tests?
DNA segments with distinct characteristics are referred to as "markers", and these are compared with those of other DNA samples to determine the results of Ancestry DNA tests. When your markers match with someone else's, the chances are you have found someone with whom you have an ancestor in common.
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Ancestry DNA tests are still in their infancy and new breakthroughs in research and analysis are taking place on a continual basis. Keep in mind that the results of ancestry DNA tests will only provide you with the probability of being related to someone. It is however, well worth undergoing ancestry DNA tests, as you may find a relative you may not have otherwise.