Monday, April 28, 2014

Autosomal DNA Testing with FamilyTreeDNA

Friday was DNA Day, and in honor of that, as well as my mother asking about the results of her swabbing the inside of her cheek for me last fall, I thought I would try to explain the results of testing my DNA with FamilyTreeDNA.
In February, I did share an update of my matrilineal line, noting that my mitochondrial haplogroup was U5b2a1a1. The FamilyTreeDNA website notes that regions where most others share this mtDNA haplogroup include England, Scotland, and Norway. (I'm not surprised.)

The test I did with FamilyTreeDNA also included an autosomal test. The autosomal DNA test works across genders to locate cousins from all parts of your family tree, unlike mtDNA which is passed down from my mother's mother's mother, etc. or Y-DNA, which is passed down from father to son. I don't have Y-DNA to test, so I asked my brother to test. I will blog about that separately.

My initial foray into DNA testing was with AncestryDNA (see my ethnicity results here) but FamilyTreeDNA is a bit different. They do have a beta version of ethnicity results, but as of now, they don't seem as comprehensive as at AncestryDNA.

I also had my mother test with FamilyTreeDNA. Since I received my mtDNA from her, I did not test her for that, but I had her autosomal DNA tested, which is FamilyTreeDNA's Family Finder product.

Of course, one of the features of FamilyTreeDNA is the ability to contact potential cousins. The reason I wanted to have my mother tested is so if I'm trying to figure out how I am related to someone else who has had their autosomal DNA tested, I can see if that potential cousin is related to my mother; if not, then the cousin is related to me through my dad (who died in 1993 so I can't test his DNA).

I have not had much luck confirming cousin relationships; the few who I have been in contact with are either very distant cousins, related through colonial-era ancestors or we can't determine how we are related. Admittedly, I have not spent much time on this, and I hope to spend more time contacting matches in the next few months.

The science behind the DNA testing is somewhat complicated and, although I basically understand it, I find it challenging to describe, so for those who are interested, I suggest reading about using DNA for genealogy at one of the following sites:

Your Genetic Genealogist (at
The Genetic Genealogist (at
The Legal Genealogist's posts about DNA (at
DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy (at
Kitty Cooper's Blog (at

Or search the extensive Geneabloggers blogroll for "DNA" (at or search blog postings for DNA or similar terms (at This is a fun way to find what other bloggers have shared in their search for cousins using DNA.


  1. Emily D. Aulicino's book Genetic Genealogy: The Basics is also a great resource for people beginning DNA research.

    1. Thank you for sharing this information. And thanks for reading and commenting.