DNA Ancestry Tests – Understanding Autosomal DNA Ancestry Tests

These DNA ancestry tests have become very popular in recent years, and with good reason. They are a bit different than DNA ancestry tests that determine maternal or parental lineage, and can reveal other things such as potential health problems, or predict the ethnicity of a child. Though they can be used for determining paternity, Autosomal testing is mainly used for determining bio-geographical similarities. Let's learn a bit more about Autosomal DNA ancestry tests.

Basics of Autosomal DNA Ancestry Tests

There are 22 pairs of non-sex chromosomes found in each cell nucleus, and these are called autosomes. They are labelled as non-sex chromosomes as they are found in both males and females, and rather than being responsible for any sex-specific duties, they formulate general characteristics of an individual such as height and eye colour. For each pair of these autosomes that we have, one is given by our father, the other by our mother. One someone says, 2you have your father’s eyes”, or “you look just like your mother”, it is because of the autosomes that you inherited from them.

Autosomal DNA ancestry tests have been traditionally used to determine paternity, but they are also used in forensics investigations and ethnicity research. Nowadays however, these DNA ancestry tests are used to test for relationships between people who have more than one recent common ancestor. Rather than testing for maternal or paternal links, these DNA ancestry tests look for links to other relatives such as cousins, uncles or aunts. As the Autosomal DNA is passed from parent to child, it is recombined, and over time will contain an increase in changes. Similarities or dissimilarities in these chances are used to determine if two people are related.

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Ethnicity and Autosomal DNA Ancestry Tests

Genetic ancestry testing has revealed that certain ethnicities have particular DNA markers in common. After identifying enough similar markers, it became possible for scientists to use DNA ancestry tests to assess what percentage of a specific ethnicity an individual might retain. Upon learning this, genealogists thought that certain types of these DNA ancestry tests could be used to determine the ethnicities of their ancestors. This became especially helpful in identifying Native American, Asian, African, and Jewish ancestors.

The only possible drawback of Autosomal DNA ancestry searches is that the DNA recombines differently in each person. Remember, we inherit one chromosome from our father, and one from our mother, but they re-combine within us in different percentages. Your Autosomal DNA may recombine as 25% of your father’s and 75% of your mother’s or vice versa. This means that your brother or sister could measure as a different ethnicity than you because their DNA combined differently – maybe 50% of each parent. As an imperfect science, the percentages of Autosomal DNA ancestry tests returned may be incorrect, or change because of different or new interpretations.

If you decide to take one of these Autosomal DNA ancestry tests, you will receive your own personal copy of the DNA sequences that were examined, and the company’s interpretation of the results.

The results for these DNA ancestry tests are given as a percentage for a particular ethnicity, i.e. African – 98%. Some companies now offer in depth testing for European ethnicities, and their DNA ancestry tests can determine if you are Basque, from Continental Europe, Iberian etc.

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As with any other DNA ancestry tests, there is room for error in Autosomal testing, but they also offer real value to genealogists. Keep in mind though that there are limitations to DNA ancestry tests, they can only put you in the ballpark. You have to hit that family history home run and find your ancestors by using good old fashioned research techniques and hard work!

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