Thursday, May 17, 2012

AncestryDNA autosomal testing: Is it Legit?

Just got off the phone with Ken Chahine, Ph. D, Senior VP DNA,, who graciously answered questions lingering in my mind about matching AncestryDNA (autosomal) results to a proposed cousin's Ancestry Member Tree.

Significant is that Y-DNA tests only the father and mtDNA tests the mother's side, but autosomal DNA tests everything to give a clearer picture of one's genetic ancestry.

This form of DNA testing narrows, for instance, Europe down to smaller groups than previously possible with other types of DNA testing providing increasingly detailed ethnicity results.

Breadcrumbs (single-nucleotide polymorphisms) are left as the genetic code is transferred from parent to child with slight variations. It is those slight variations that are of particular interest in determining potential matches with other AncestryDNA participants.

Ken explained that once Ol' Myrt's DNA is tested, I'll log in to in the usual manner, click on "DNA" on the menu bar, and work through my report. I'll be able to review possible matches with potential cousins. Thankfully, the DNA scientists at (7 with a Ph. D. in genetics or computational biology) have created a results report that indicates a degree of confidence, say 99%, that I am related to another genealogy researcher in the AncestryDNA database. It will then remain for the two of us to determine the common ancestor.

As the database grows, the chances of a potential cousin match grow as well. Naturally, will periodically advise participants of new potential matches. It's easy for the computers to "see" these matches, and is smart for Ancestry to share this with participants, inviting additional interaction with AncestryDNA results pages.

As AncestryDNA test results point me to a likely cousin match, we may find a common location  in our compiled Ancestry Member Trees to search together, as reported in Kimberly Powell's Autosomal DNA Testing - Can it Really Predict Our Ancestors? She notes "a very intriguing match to a family tree on that includes none of my own ancestral surnames, but does include two families who were neighbors and close associates of several of my North Carolina ancestors in Edgecombe, Martin and Bertie counties." This may help her identify the maiden name of an elusive progenitor.

Finding an actual common ancestor depends on the reliability of each AncestryDNA test participant's genealogical research expertise and surviving records indicating or inferring familial relationships.

On the genetic code side, one cannot hide from the truth. With a large member base and high profile in the genealogy space, is likely to take the lead in genealogy genetic testing quite simply because their results will reflect a larger database of participants. The "legitimacy" of the trees component is still up for grabs, as has always been the case with published trees in book or online format. At least, with DNA test results to guide us, we can narrow the search to folks climbing the same genetic family tree. Autosomal matches are much closer (more recent) when compared to matches found by other forms of DNA testing.

See Blaine Bettinger's’s AncestryDNA Product published back in early April. 

Visit the website to view a video about the possibilities.

Disclosure: I'll be receiving a free AncestryDNA test from shortly. I'll have more to share with my DearREADERS after receiving my results.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.

Twitter: @DearMYRTLE
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