DNA Ancestry Tests – Understanding Mitochondrial DNA Ancestry Tests
Mitochondrial DNA ancestry tests aids in the identification of genetic data regarding the direct female lineage within a family. This particular genetic ancestry test compares DNA that is only inherited from the female parent, although it is passed to all offspring, male and female. This particular type of DNA changes very little as it is passed from generation to generation, and is very effective in determining female ancestry over a long period of time. Let's take a closer look at the potential genealogical value of Mitochondrial DNA ancestry tests.
Basics of Mitochondrial DNA Ancestry Tests
The scientific term for what many consider to be the “energy generator” of any cell within our body is called the mitochondrion. Within the nucleus of each cell is what is known as a genome, which is basically the imprinted set of instructions for how the cell will operate – its programming in other words. Understanding these basic terms will help us to better grasp the tenets of Mitochondrial DNA ancestry tests. You can view the nucleus as the cell’s library and the genome as the collection of books within the library. The mitochondrion however, sits outside the nucleus, and has its own genome known as mtDNA. This mtDNA can only be inherited from your mother, and that is the subject of Mitochondrial DNA ancestry tests.
Mitochondrial DNA ancestry tests are conducted similarly to the male or Y chromosome tests in that; sequences of DNA from different individuals are compared with each other to detect similarities. Some testing facilities sequence the entire DNA rather than sequences of it though, and these types of DNA ancestry tests can be quite expensive, yet in turn can yield more accurate results. A swab is taken from the individual’s inner cheek (inside the mouth) as in other tests, and sent to a genetic ancestry testing laboratory for analysis.
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Understanding the Results of Mitochondrial DNA Ancestry Tests
As mitochondrial DNA changes very little form generation to generation, these types of DNA ancestry tests can be used for slightly different genealogical purposes than Y chromosome tests. Y chromosomes have a slightly faster rate of mutation, yet are good for determining relationships between family members at closer intervals. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) however, is much better for establishing connections over longer periods of time. These DNA ancestry tests can determine the probability of two people being matched past 52 generations to within 50%, and continuing research may further enhance their accuracy. Of course, the more we come forward in time, the better the possibility of determining our female lineage through Mitochondrial DNA ancestry tests, but the present accuracy rate of 50% over approximately 1300 years is pretty impressive.
Websites That Offer Mitochondrial DNA Ancestry Tests
The following websites offer Mitochondrial and other DNA ancestry tests, and quite often various DNA ancestry tests can be performed on a single sample of DNA.
EthnoAncestry.com – Operating from Ireland and Scotland and run by ground-breaking genetic researchers and scientists.
DNA Ancestry.com – Run by Ancestry.com offer both Maternal and Paternal DNA ancestry tests.
FamilyTreeDNA.com– Offer DNA ancestry tests for a discount to anyone who participates in one of their projects (Surname and Geographical Studies).
AfricanAncestry.com – Contains African lineage database of DNA ancestry tests results from over 30 countries and 200 ethnic groups, and offers Y-Chromosome and Mitochondrial DNA ancestry tests.
Matching the Results of DNA Ancestry Tests
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Once you've received the results of any DNA ancestry tests you may have taken, you can upload them to one of the large public databases that exist online. These huge databases can help you to determine what large groups you may belong to and also find individuals that may be related to you. Remember though, DNA ancestry tests are not absolute, but can determine if someone might be related to you; the better the match the higher the probability. You can also have your results analyzed by most of the companies that offer DNA ancestry tests, albeit at an extra cost.