Researching your family history has become quite the popular hobby over the last several years. There are television shows that follow celebrities as they discover their ancestry. Several genealogical websites promise to help you trace back your family tree for centuries. Once you get started it is all too easy to get hooked. Getting a peek into your family history can help confirm family lore and bring to light familial surprises long forgotten. But, if you don’t know enough information to get started it can be an exercise in frustration. Even when you do know a lot, you can find yourself staring at conflicting documents, trying to guess which “Jane or John” is the one you are related to. Not knowing much at all about my paternal grandfather, beyond his name, essentially halted my online family tree hunt, much to my and my father’s dismay. If you are lost, confused, or just want to try a different approach a Family Tree DNA test can give you so many answers.

Choosing the Right Test

Family Tree DNA has a wide variety of tests you can choose from that range in price, testing processes, and information about you and your ancestry that can be determined. The first step in the process is determining which test most fits your needs and budget. Tests range in price from the great value of the Family Finder Test, which is only $79 to the all inclusive Comprehensive Genome Test at $546, which traces both the maternal and paternal lines giving you the most comprehensive and highest resolution mtDNA results.

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Deciding which test is the best choice for you may seem like a tough decision, however, once you factor in your budget and what information you are most interested in finding, or are having the most trouble pinning down in your family history the choice will likely become obvious. The Family Finder test gives you results from your autosomal DNA. This DNA comes from both sides of your family tree. This test can help you find living relatives along all your ancestral lines from the last 5 generations. It also gives you a percentage based breakdown of your ethnic origins, with a map to show you regions your ancestors were from.

Family Tree DNA offers several Y-chromosome tests. These tests can be done by male members of a family only as they trace the Y chromosome present in males only. These tests trace your paternal line and can match you with paternal descendants who have matches going back as far as 25 generation! Unlike FamilyFinder test the Y-DNA tests provide you with a map of migration routes your ancestors took over thousands of years. The price varies for these tests depending on how many markers are tested and compared.  If your interest is in tracing your mother’s heritage you can opt for on of the mtDNA tests available. This test focuses on your maternal line and also comes with a map of migration routes for your DNA. Of course the most comprehensive option includes all 3 types of tests: Comprehensive Genome. With this test you are able to get results for your paternal and maternal lines, as well as the Family Finder test. You also get access to all 3 databases of potential genetic family matches, meaning you may find a cousin or two you never knew you had! Once you decide on the right test for you, all you need to do is order the appropriate kit from the Family Tree DNA website.

The Testing Process

Once you order your kit you can expect to wait 3 to 5 business days for your testing kits to arrive. With the tests will be complete directions on how to proceed. After taking your cheek scrapings you will send your samples back in the packaging included. Each test type takes a slightly different amount of time for testing to be completed and your results to be posted. Most of the tests takes 6 to 8 weeks to complete once received. The Family Finder test can take as little as 4 weeks and the Big Y test can take up to 10 weeks.  Once your results are available there is no waiting for them to be mailed to you as they are posted online for you to read through and print as needed.

One of the best things about Family Finer DNA is that if you wish to add more tests after you have received your results you rarely need to send in additional samples. So, you can easily start out with a lower cost, less comprehensive test and add more testing down the road if you want to explore your ancestry further. For me this meant that I could start doing testing and if I felt like I needed more information to solve the mystery of my Dad’s heritage I could order them.

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The maps that come with your testing results are fascinating.  Depending on the types of tests you get you are provided with maps and charts to help you visualize the history of your family and the paths your ancestors took throughout the world. With both the maternal tests of mtDNA and the paternal tests of Y-DNA you are provided with a map showing the routes contributors to you DNA traveled throughout history. You can see not only where you ancestors were over the last several thousands of years but when they migrated.

I opted to have my results shared with others doing testing and in turn I was able to see the results of those who had allowed theirs to be shared as well. This provides you with familial matches and tells you how close of a genetic match other people are. These matches aren’t just interesting they can be a great connection to learning more about your family history. Imagine knowing your family immigrated from Italy and finding Italian matches to your DNA. Being able to make these connections and contact these people can help you learn more than any genetic test may!

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The Family Tree DNA tests and the results and connections they provide are fun, fascinating, and educational. History can be interesting, but through DNA testing you find yourself and your family more tightly connected to history. DNA testing is a great place to start or continue your research into the pieces of history that make you who you are. The only drawback? Once you start digging into your ancestry you may find it hard to stop!