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DNA Testing - The Ideal Genealogy Christmas Gift?

Say it quietly, but tomorrow is 1st December and Christmas is soon to be upon us. So it's perhaps no surprise that the genealogy testing companies are ramping up their marketing in the hope of selling lots of DNA testing kits. Perhaps the best known name, Ancestry, is currently offering 25% off its DNA testing, bringing the cost down to £59 plus postage. MyHeritage are offering an even cheaper deal, with kits selling at £33 plus shipping. Family Tree DNA, based in the US, are selling their "Family Finder" DNA kit for $49, although you'll have to pay for transatlantic shipping.

If you're thinking of buying a DNA test for yourself or a loved one this festive season, here are some key things to think about.

DNA Tests Can't Do the Genealogy For You

One of the big misconceptions with commercial DNA testing is that the results can tell you how you're related to all your matches. They can't. The test is analysing your long DNA string of letters, and looking for matches in other test-takers' strings of letters. The more DNA which matches, the closer the relative. Sites like Ancestry can only suggest how you might be related. You will still have to go through the process of building family trees and working out how everyone fits together. This can be complex - so get in touch if you're struggling.

Ancestry is the Best For UK Test-Takers

This is because Ancestry has the biggest database, and you're more likely to match with people on Ancestry than on other sites. Also, Ancestry allows you to download your raw DNA data and then upload it to sites like MyHeritage to look for matches there. Ancestry does not allow you to upload DNA files from other sites.

Take Ethnicity Estimates With a HUGE Pinch of Salt

Ethnicity estimates are a bit of fun - nothing more. If you are unsure about whether your father was from India or South America, yes they can give you some clues. But for most people, the breakdown of ethnicity isn't too accurate. Don't get hung up on that 2% Scandinavian.

Expect the Unexpected

Not everyone who does a DNA test will discover some skeletons in the closet. Even if you do discover unexpected matches, then this could be a couple of generations back, or on a branch of your tree rather than your direct ancestral line. Proceed with caution, take living people's feelings into account and don't leap to conclusions.

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