Research In Ancestry DNA Basics

DNA

What you can learn from your DNA

You might already be familiar with how DNA testing can help solve crimes, confirm the paternity of children, and even determine the identity of ancient mummies. Now DNA can also help you with your genealogical research. It's a simple and painless process to gather your DNA sample and within a few weeks have results that you can compare with the ever-expanding DNA Ancestry database to find potential genetic cousins. Learn more about the science behind DNA, chromosomes, and genetics.

Finding genetic cousins

By comparing your DNA Ancestry test results with others, you can determine to what extent you are related. For example, the more closely your result set matches another's, the narrower the range of generations between the two of you and your common ancestor.

As the DNA Ancestry database grows, we will automatically compare your result against each new entry. If a close match is found, you will receive an e-mail with a link to a page that describes howyour two test results match. You can now begin communicating with your genetic cousin using Ancestry.com's Connection Service as the first step towards comparing the genealogies of your two families.

Discover ancient ancestry

In addition to finding genetic cousins, your DNA test can also reveal your ancient origins. Beginning over 170,000 years ago, our ancient human ancestors migrated out of Africa and began their slow and steady spread across the continents. Over time as these ancestors spread throughout the world and adapted to their new surroundings and environments, their DNA diversified and they became genetically distinct from one another. Today, these differences can be traced through DNA and provide insights on how your ancient ancestors migrated and diversified into distinct populations.
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DNA and Genealogy

All humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, including a pair of sex chromosomes, known as "X" and "Y". Males have both an X- and a Y-chromosome (with the Y-chromosome inherited from the father) while females have two X-chromosomes (one X-chromosome inherited from each parent.) Genetic Genealogy is interested in heritage markers or the area of the chromosome which reveals family relatedness.

Father-to-Son

Because the Y-chromosome is passed essentially unchanged from father-to-son, it provides genetic genealogists with a powerful tool for tracing a paternal lineage. Specific portions of the Y-chromosome are analyzed and compared against other participants' Y results to determine the relatedness between the two participants.

Mother-to-Child

Since both parents contribute X-chromosomes to their daughters, a different source of DNA must be used to trace the maternal line. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is inherited by both male and female children exclusively from their mothers and provides insight into one's maternal lineage. (Learn more about mitochondrial DNA.)
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What DNA Ancestry Testing Cannot Do

The type of testing performed by DNA Ancestry is limited to areas of DNA that have the greatest application to genealogy which reveal insight into family relatedness. The portion of DNA tested is within the non-coding regions and do not provide distinguishing information about an individual such as hair color.

While DNA testing in general has a promising future as a tool for predicting one's chances for developing disease such as diabetes, Alzheimer's, and cancer; DNA Ancestry does not perform medical diagnostic testing on any of its DNA samples.

A common application of DNA testing is in determining the paternity of a child for custody or inheritance. Results of a DNA Ancestry test can definitively disprove a genetic relation. A large number of mismatches between two test results reflects that the two participants are not directly related. A 100% match, on the other hand, cannot be used as legal proof of paternity, but can serve as a strong indication.
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Privacy

DNA Ancestry protects your privacy by allowing you to make your DNA results anonymous. Doing so hides your Ancestry.com username, but allows your DNA results to still be matched with others in the DNA Ancestry database. So even if you have chosen to keep your username hidden, you can still discover genetic cousins and, if the match is close enough, contact them safely and anonymously.

Your privacy is also protected by using Ancestry.com's Connection Service to contact other DNA participants. The Connection Service allows you to send an e-mail to a potential genetic relative without revealing your own e-mail address. Instead, the message is sent through Ancestry.com and the system transfers the message to your e-mail address without revealing your actual address. Replies can also be made through the Connection Service until you feel you wish to make direct e-mail contact with the other party.
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