Yes, a DNA test made for genealogy can certainly have an impact on your health today and possibly in the future. It can also have an influence on your children, grandchildren, or other relatives’ health if you use the information to your advantage. Are you aware of the diseases for which you are at the highest risk?
Few people know the ins and outs of their complete family history. Even fewer have uncovered their medical family history, including predispositions to disease, deficiency markers, and mental health issues.
A DNA test can tell you a lot about yourself, more than you have likely realized.
What Your DNA Shows About the Past, Present, and Future
By design, humans share a predominant portion of the same DNA sequence. After all this 99.9 percent is what separates humans from other species. About 1/10th of a percent does differentiate groups of humans from one another though, and this is where a DNA test can offer insight into your past.
Your DNA is a snapshot of your physical makeup, like an instruction manual for how to build and maintain your body. The DNA is your body contains proteins, which contain genes inside that build it.
- Enzymes or lack of them, such as certain digestive proteins that determine whether you are intolerant to foods.
- Toxins and how your body can react to them
- Structural proteins like your keratin and collagen
- Protective proteins that correlate to your immune system
- Contraction proteins that directly affect your muscles
- Storage proteins that determine how you store your minerals and vitamins
- Hormones that can conclude insulin sensitivity, estrogen, cortisol, and other hormonal factors
These results are unique to each person, whether or not they share a heritage. You could visit a doctor or allergist and have them perform similar tests, but they would only reveal if you have a current deficiency, disease, or lack enzymes.
They cannot see your genetic coding in depth like a DNA genealogy test can to determine if you are genetically susceptible or at a high risk. As researchers and scientists continue to study DNA, they unravel more and more of what defines us as individuals today rather than classifying us as humans. They uncovered our pasts as well in doing so, and they have been able to map certain markers to distinct ages and geographical regions science and history knew little about.
Recently, they discovered that you could distinguish face shape and features from DNA. This is still preliminary, but with enough data on the markers, which comes from volunteers taking at home DNA test kits, they might be able to unravel old, unsolved crimes or give accurate facial features to old mummies. Scientists have already used DNA to solve ancient and past mysteries, such as the mystery of whether Anastasia Romanov, beloved daughter of Czar Nicholas II had survived. Sadly, DNA concluded she did not. Genealogy kits and databases can assist scientists to evolve their scientific theory into fact. Less than a hundred years ago, they hypothesized about DNA and the human genome. Imagine where they will be 100 years from now or sooner and the wondrous discoveries they will make based solely on the collections of human DNA.
What are the Benefits of a DNA Test for Genealogy?
- Tailored health and wellness information based on your unique genetic makeup
- Helping adopted people learn about their family and more
- Settle family debates
- Uncovering truth
- Finding other family members
While some non-believers will call genealogy junk science, DNA testing offers people more than a bland array of foreign countries from which they can claim descent.
- Testing deepens and settles curiosities about family origins.
- It can pull up health concerns or genetic markers that you might be unaware exist. Some tests even carry FDA approval for genetic health markers, such as celiac, Alzheimer’s, and more.
- DNA can unravel family mysteries, resolve family debates, and help adopted people connect with their heritage.
DNA can reveal how you should be eating, exercising, and vitamins your body might be deficient or at a greater risk to be deficient in. Tests can delve deeper and show gluten sensitivities, lactose intolerance, triglyceride levels, carbohydrate metabolism, and much more. Imagine discovering new family connections to your past and to other living relatives. For many people, those two benefits are reasoning enough for them to try a DNA genealogy test. Finally, you can always take one just for fun. There is nothing wrong with that.
Types of DNA Genealogy Tests
- Mitochondrial (mtDNA)
- Autosomal DNA
Only men can have a Y-chromosome test performed since women do not have the Y-chromosome to test. This will allow men to see their paternal line, but if they wish to see their maternal line, they will need a second mtDNA test. Women can have a mtDNA test done. Autosomal DNA comprises up to 98% of your DNA and contains the history of your ancestors. This allows many tests using this method to find connections, albeit sometimes they can be loose or vague. However, they still give you a place to begin that is scientifically sound.
How Does a DNA Genealogy Test Work?
Most DNA tests available on the market are quick, effortless, and painless. The type of test generally doesn’t change the method. You simply swab the inside of your cheek to collect your cells and mail back your sample. The company then processes and analyzes your sample in a laboratory. Turnaround times vary between companies and what testing type you chose. However, four to six weeks is common.
Where Does a Company’s Data Come From?
First, you should understand that a large portion of the data comes from databases containing other people’s samples who have elected to openly share their results with others. The more people donate their data to the pool the easier it is to find consistencies and markers, but it is entirely optional to participate in the databases. However, you should consider it since your information can greatly improve the chances for others to discover similarities and matches, including your relatives.
How Accurate Are DNA Genealogy Tests?
All tests are fairly accurate. User error can skew your test results, so follow the directions included in your kit. Rarely, in-lab errors can occur, but the margin is small and no different from any other medical test. You should also note that the results tend to be general and based on probability. The more companies collect and compare DNA, the more you can learn about your heritage and the world learns about people from past ages.
However, this can also mean your genetic population (haplogroup) can change while your DNA does not. This occurs as scientists and researchers uncover new or lesser-known genetic markers that reclassify existing groups. A hasty example would be that you learn your DNA contains markers from Italy, but after further research, scientists realize that marker indicates a different race, such as the Normans, which were Vikings who settled in that same region as well as in Normandy, France. At the same time, this does not mean that found family connections cease or change. If you have discovered a lost third cousin and your haplogroup changes, they are still your third cousin.
What to Consider Before Selecting a DNA Genealogy Test?
- Your needs
- Full access to raw DNA file
- Sample size
Your needs and wants from a test matter greatly when choosing a company. Keep in mind that the companies and their tests are not equal and they vary greatly between companies. Some companies offer levels of genetic and DNA tests, so you will need to read each one carefully to ensure it meets or exceeds your needs.
For example, if you have an uncommon surname and you want more than generalized areas, you will need to order a test that defines more genetic markers. Consider only companies that allow access to your raw DNA file.
This enables you to take your information elsewhere without having to repeat the DNA test since many third-party companies and organizations will only need the raw file to perform additional services. Look for laboratory information to ensure they use up to date equipment and technology to process your results.
If a company does not list this information, you should contact them directly. Most reputable companies will share this information with you upon request if it is not already available on their website. You should also inquire about how the company handles scientific discoveries and changes. Do they alert you?
Will they update your information for you?
While these questions might not make or break your decision, you should be aware and prepared should changes occur or new science alters your original classifications. The sample size is another concern you should consider. If the company does not have a large in-house or outside database access, your results might not be accurate. Be sure to inquire before purchasing.
Most companies will not share or sell your information to third parties without your permission. However, you should thoroughly check for a guarantee and check reviews from customers to make sure they protect your data.
Receiving Your DNA Genealogy Results
After your sample processes, you will receive your results. If applicable, your chosen company will also provide you with an option to share your results in their database. You might wish to share them with family members on your private website or forum. Of course, you can also choose to upload your results to a third party genealogy website or use the results with a third party company that can provide you with a deeper insight on your health and wellness.
If you are looking for a peek at your genetic health markers, you should remember that having a marker does not mean you have or will have the disease. Too many other factors matter, such as age, lifestyle, and environment. Plus, some conditions can and do skip generations. While you can certainly bring your results to your doctor and discuss possible lifestyle changes, a DNA genealogy test is not a medical diagnosis or something to fear.
DNA Genealogy Projects: What Else to do With Your Results
- Join an existing group
- Share privately with family
- Start your own genealogy website or group
- Use a third party service to dive deeper into your health and wellness
The National Geographic created the Genographic Project, which is a massive migration mapping that utilizes DNA to track patterns. It does cost additional money to join, but joining and donating can give you a lavish picture on how your family migrated while building their database. USGenWeb Project is a genealogy website, but this one is volunteer-based and free to join. While they provide some resources, you will be performing the majority of your own research.
WorldGenWeb Project is another website, but as the name suggests, it is global and has a broader reach. Many websites and genealogy forums have set groups based on surname and haplogroup. You could consider joining one of those as well and sharing your results to discover if you can find other matches. Starting your own group or website might require a lot of work, but chances are you will quickly find others who share your DNA and passion for discovering roots. A DNA test for genealogy can offer you more than where you came from. Every year science makes new connections and discoveries about DNA and its correlation to the past, present, future, and human health. This information, combined with a DNA test, can narrow down your genetics immensely.
Add in the information you have already discovered and you will have created a scientifically and historically sound family tree. Furthermore, you can gain helpful insights into your health today and prepare your body for possible issues in the future. You might even discover lesser-known issues, like mental illness, which was not always documented accurately in the past due to shoddy medical practices and now defunct diagnosis. You can learn far more from a DNA test than you can by searching countless confusing and half-accurate public records. Yes, you will still need to do some research, but as DNA tests and databases grow, we might see a genealogy future that relies less on those old records and more on medical science.