DNA Testing – Three Different Tests & Three Different Reasons for Testing.

dnaDNA testing brings a new tool to genealogy with the ability to match your genetic material or genome to your cousins. DNA testing is a broad term with three types of testing available to genealogists. Each test provides different information.

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) was the first test available to genealogists. The mitochondrion is the power plant for each cell in your body and has its own DNA, separate from your cellular DNA. mtDNA is inherited from your mother. Men and women each have mtDNA, but men do not pass it on to their children.

mtDNA does not mutate very often and is used to find maternal origins as it is traced from a daughter to her mother, to her mother, to her mother back to ancient times. The basic use of mtDNA is to exclude someone from your direct maternal lineage. Both men and women can be tested for mtDNA, but only women pass it on to their children.

When I first had mtDNA testing performed, I spent hours emailing over 50 identical matches from all over the world. I was not able to match any common ancestors in my family tree. I could just confirm my Haplogroup U5a European/North African/India/Central Asia maternal ancestor had many descendants in Europe, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

Each of us (with exceptions) has forty-six chromosomes, which pair up. Females have two X chromosomes and men have one X and one Y chromosome. The Y chromosome is passed down through the male lineage.  The Y chromosome can be traced from a son, to his father, to his father, to his father, back many generations, but with mutations. Specific families can be identified as a result of the mutations. Only men can be tested for Y-DNA, since women have no Y chromosome. It was very exciting when the matches on my father’s Y-DNA test confirmed our Musgrove/Musgrave paper trail going back ten generations. This test is very useful when you can follow a direct male line.

The most recent DNA test available to genealogists is autosomal DNA testing, where portions of 22 pairs of chromosomes (all except X and Y) are tested. Within five to six generations, this test can find cousins who have had the same testing performed. Both men and women can take part in this testing.

I had my autosomal DNA testing performed through Ancestry.com and have matched five cousins with confirmed family ties and with about one hundred other people with no identified common ancestor. One recent match looks like it may clarify that the mother of my 3rd great grandmother was the second wife of John “Go Back” Eoff, rather than the first wife as indicated by some genealogists. That same day, a match showed up on another family line – one where I had entered my “best guess” ancestor on my Ancestry.com family tree. (Bad girl.) That Pennington line is an interesting Puritan family, where I do have documentation back several generations. Based on my new-found cousin’s research, I can collaborate with her when I do start working on documentation of that complete line.

The three major websites (Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, and Ancestry.com) are password protected and state their genomic data is secure. Other genealogical research sites allow people to download their own genome to allow open study for matching with other genomes. GEDmatch is one of the largest sites for open study. Recent DNA genealogy workshops I’ve taken have indicated GEDmatch is a safe site to load results for matching  DNA to a broader community. That site has seen a lot of activity with Ancestry.com making DNA testing through their company available for download into other programs. GEDmatch has closed for new downloads through until August, while they process the current matches. I plan on downloading my own DNA results into GEDmatch after it reopens.

Since some gene sequences are tied to diseases and other personal characteristics, one could see a situation where, perhaps, health care providers or employers might consider mining such data for nefarious reasons. At this point, it looks like when genomic data is maintained within the testing site, privacy is maintained. Legislation is underway to prevent discrimination based on any genetic results.

I have downloaded my Ancestry.com results into FTDNA, the site where my parents and sister were tested. With our results on one site, I’ll be able to go to specific chromosomes and see which genes were inherited from which parents. I’ll also be able to see specific gene matches for cousins, helping pinpoint our common ancestor. This could help find a common ancestor for future DNA matches but with no common paper trail.

The cost of DNA testing for genealogy purposes has dropped dramatically with 23andMe offering the autosomal test for $99. However, at this point, I prefer testing on Family Tree. I’ll just see which relatives will agree to testing and wait for another sale on Family Tree.

If you test three siblings in each family with autosomal DNA, this would capture almost all the full genome of their parents. The earliest generation you have should be tested so, as my mother put it very well “you don’t dilute the DNA.” So over time, as I have funds available, I’d love to test two more of her siblings and two more of my dad’s siblings, along with some specific people for Y-DNA and mt-DNA.

I have a B.S. degree in medical technology and worked in a hospital laboratory. After receiving my master’s degree, I managed commercial laboratories for many years. That science background is helpful to me in studying the rapidly changing field of genealogical DNA testing.

Copyright 2013 by Andrea Musgrove Perisho.

About Andrea Musgrove Perisho

Genealogy research on my own ancestors is a new focus. Posts will include information about those ancestors including the social and economic issues, along with techniques for research.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to DNA Testing – Three Different Tests & Three Different Reasons for Testing.

  1. Debbie Davis says:

    Andrea, very interesting research, some I don’t understand, but I’m glad you do, and are willing to share your findings! I now realize the importance of doing the DNA testing, especially for the generation that we need to test ASAP. I hope to talk to you soon.

  2. Andrea, I have done autosmal testing through ancestry.com and wonder if we are related.

    • Andrea Musgrove Perisho says:

      Cynthia – I’m really into DNA testing, as much as my budget allows! I’ve been tested at ancestry.com, FTDNA and 23andMe. In my Musgrove line, my father, two of his sisters and one of my sisters have all tested through FTDNA. We’re focusing our testing there, because of the FTDNA chromosome browser and other interesting matching tools. I’ll send you an email directly, so we can make sure we can find each other in ancestry and see where we match. I’d also love to see your family tree. My family tree goes back to Oswin Musgrave and my dad’s y-DNA was a match to descendants of Oswin and other early Musgrave New England Quakers. It’s great when a paper trail and DNA match up. Warm regards, Andrea

    • Andrea Musgrove Perisho says:


      Thanks for reaching out with me through my blog. I don’t see a record of where I got back with you. My family tree is on ancestry at http://trees.ancestry.com/tree/62408347/family . Contact me there and we’ll see if we are DNA matches with each other there.

      Warm regards,

      Andrea Musgrove Perisho

  3. Dear Andrea,
    What a wonderful blog. Now I know how important it is to have DNA testing to match up with your ancestry search. Unfortunately my parents are deceased but curious about my paternal family side. My father has a sister and two brothers still living and I have three brothers. One of my brothers recently had a liver transplant, he seems to think that he wouldn’t be able to have a DNA test to be accurate. I have a hundred questions but you can’t eat an elephant in a day.
    Thank you for the wonderful information. Sincerely, Carolin Langston Jones

    • Andrea Musgrove Perisho says:


      Thanks for your nice comments.

      To research your paternal line using DNA, it would be ideal to test your father’s sister and two brothers with an autosomal (cousins test), something like Family Finder on FTDNA. By testing all three of them, you would have about 90% of their parents genome. To find the paternal haplogroup and point toward the geographic origins for the paternal line, have one of the brothers tested for y-DNA at the 67 marker level, at a minimum. For the maternal haplogroup and to point toward the geographic origins for the maternal line, any of your father’s siblings could be tested for mt-DNA, since that is passed from a mother to her children. The test that I have used is the MTDNA Full Sequence, but I would put this test last in priority list. It has interesting information, but I’ve not found it useful for finding cousins. The first priority would be autosomal testing on your father’s sister and two brothers. FTDNA stores the samples and you can add more testing on later, since they freeze and store the sample. Ancestry does do DNA testing and their trees are the best, but ancestry doesn’t have the tools to actually map your chromosomes.

      Later testing on your brothers could give you more information on your maternal side. Your brother who has had the liver transplant, may show some of his liver donor cells in DNA testing. It would be worth while asking his doctor or checking with the testing site before ordering a test for him.

      If you are interested in learning more about DNA testing, all the testing sites have great information and there are blog sites which will give you more information, but like other genealogy it just takes time and a budget.

      Good luck and if you find out more information about how we are related, let me know, as will I.

      Warm regards,

      Andrea Musgrove Perisho

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.