Getting Started

I feel like there's an overwhelming number of DNA tutorials out there that bog you down with confusing science and an overly neutral array of options to choose from. I've tested at all major sites, and I'd like to think that knowledge means I can skip all the pomp and circumstance for you and get right to my clear and concise recommendation of what you should do if you're interested in DNA.

What DNA can do for you

  • Find living relatives to connect with
  • Find living relatives with family trees that you can compare with yours
    • You might break through some brick walls by retracing their research
  • Give you an estimated breakdown of your ethnicity percentages (e.g. 50% Great Britain)
  • Tell you whether you're a carrier for certain rare diseases (23andMe only)
  • Reveal what DNA you inherited from either side of your family*

*Requires extensive advanced research and testing

How to get a DNA test

There are loads of options out there. Only three have enough users and support to be considered relevant for genealogy: AncestryDNA, 23andMe, and FamilyTreeDNA.

I'm not going to waste your time with lengthy explanations about the three. If you really want to hear me ramble about this topic, check out my DNA blog post. What you need to know is that AncestryDNA has far and away the most genealogists actively researching and sharing family trees, and therefore is your best choice to start with.

The place to order the Ancestry DNA test is

There are sales often. If you're on a budget, I recommend you wait for Mother's Day, Father's Day, or Christmas. OR join the DNA Detectives Facebook group. They have coupons.

Ancestry will send you a box (that takes forever to arrive) with a test tube in it. The directions are included and very simple.

Taking the DNA test

Most genealogists will tell you to get as many relatives as you can to take DNA tests. That gets expensive quickly.

If you're not particularly tech savvy, or don't have a specific research goal in mind, take the test yourself. In other words, put your own spit in the tube.

If you have a specific line you're researching, however, I highly recommend you find your oldest living direct relative in that line and test them instead. In other words, have that relative spit in the tube. Be patient. Older folks might have trouble generating the amount of saliva required (it's harder than it sounds).

Once the test is processed, you'll have the option to denote who the DNA should be assigned to in your family tree. If you took the test, assign the DNA to yourself in the tree. If you had a relative take the test, assign it to the relative in your tree whose spit you used in the test.

After you send the test back

It takes FOREVER no matter which company you test with, especially when there's a sale. Expect to wait two months on average before you get your results.

Onto Step 2! >