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Genetic Genealogy

For Genetic Genealogy, which is the application of DNA testing to genealogy research, two areas of DNA have shown to provide information that can be used in conjunction with genealogy research. These two areas are the Y chromosome and mtDNA. These areas of the Y chromosome and mtDNA do not contain information about a persons traits or medical information. For example, the Y DNA area is known as Junk DNA by the scientists, since it does not code for personal information.


An individual's test results have little meaning on their own. You cannot take these numbers, plug them into some formula and find out who your ancestors are. The value of the test results depends on how your results compare to other test results. And even when you match someone else, it will only indicate that you and the person you match share a common ancestor. Depending on the number of markers tested and the number of matches it will indicate with a certain degree of probability how long ago this common ancestor existed. It will not show exactly who this ancestor is. That must be investigated through traditional genealogical research.

The Y-Chromosome is passed from father to son. The vast majority of the time the father passes an exact copy of his Y-Chromosome to his son. This means that the markers of the son are identical to those of his father. However on rare occasion there is a mutation or change in one of the markers. The change is either an insertion or a deletion. An insertion is when an additional repeat is added to a marker. A deletion is when one of the repeats is deleted.

Mutations occur at random. This means it is possible for two distant cousins to match exactly on all markers while two brothers might not match exactly. Because of the random nature of mutations we must use statistics and probability to estimate the Time to the Most Recent Common Ancestor (TMRCA). The actual calculations of TMRCA are mathematically complex and depend on knowing the rate of mutation and the true number of mutations.

What About DNA Testing?
by US312 Wayne Straight

A while ago, I authored a number of e-mails on Yahoo's Ontariogenealogy list in response to queries about DNA. Marie Spearman has since asked me to do a reprise of that exchange. After looking at it, and at subsequent e-mails from much more knowledgeable people, I decided to try to synthesize what I had to say with the new stuff.

> A brief background on genetics

Spread of H. Sapiens Worldwide

US332 Wayne Straight shared a fun link (http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/journey/). Its an animated view of the spread of H. Sapiens across the world. It was developed by Stephen Oppenheimer who wrote “The Origins of the British”, a study of the peopling of the British Isles based on genetics, archaeology, and linguistics.

There is also a a 2-part video on Youtube in which Mr. Oppenheimer talks about his findings in re British genetics. Unfortunately he's a better writer than speaker—a problem shared by yours truly I must admit.
View Part 1
View Part 2

And finally, here’s a very succinct (2.5 minutes) summary of Oppenheimer’s book and lecture. View Oppenheimer British DNA Summary