Thursday, February 18, 2016

Is DNA Testing Right For Me?



I am regularly asked about DNA testing.  Friends are curious as to which test on the market is the best, and will genetic testing help with doing genealogy.  When it comes to the various DNA companies on the market, I am no expert.  I know why I chose to do DNA and the two companies I selected were for a specific purpose.

First and foremost I wanted to see if I could find any relatives on my paternal side.  I knew nothing about my biological father, and I felt that Ancestry DNA may open the door for me in this search.  You can read about my journey in Ancestry's Blog, from an interview I did with them in 2014.  

The second company I chose was 23andMe.  Having no medical history on my paternal side, I was curious to see what information could be gleaned from their comprehensive DNA test.  Since my testing with 23andMe there have been changes in their policies as they worked to be FDA compliant.  I am grateful I tested before those changes were made.  Did I find any glaring medical information that I was ever so grateful to have?  Not really.  But there were some things that helped me better understand my medical history. 

Back to the question of whether or not a person should do a DNA test for genealogical purposes.  My response is this:  No matter which company you choose to test with, you should first consider the following:
  • What is my reason for taking the DNA test?
  • Am I willing to accept that I may not receive any close relative matches?
  • Am I willing to accept a result that reveals one (or both) of my parents is not genetically related to me?
  •  Am I willing to accept the possibility that my “new found family” may not want to have contact?
While I tested with Ancestry to find my biological family, and have since helped other adoptees do the same, not everyone testing is using DNA to find long lost birth family.  

Perhaps you are testing to find your ancestral regions such as Poland, Scotland or perhaps Africa.  By testing, you may be able to fill in some gaps in your family history.  You may be hoping to connect with relatives you didn’t know you had; however, sometimes close relative matches don’t happen.  It is quite possible that the closest connection you make is with a 4th to distant cousin.  Don’t be discouraged!  Reach out to those cousins and compare information.  But remember, they are also on a journey to learn about family.  Do not be impatient if they don’t have at their fingertips the answers you are seeking.

The remaining two questions listed above should be seriously considered when doing any DNA test.  We don’t know what the results are going to reveal and we need to be mentally and emotionally prepared.  We are imperfect people living in an imperfect world.  Should you find that you do not genetically match your family members, you should take time to process this new information.

Since the DNA testing, my connection to my paternal family has been for the most part positive.  I have developed some close relationships and have been made to feel a part of their family.  For those members less accepting, I understand.  It's nothing personal.  Just DNA.

Do I recommend DNA testing for genealogical purposes?  Only you can answer that question.  If you decide to test, I wish you the utmost luck.  It can be a wonderful experience that will open your eyes to what makes you, you.

You can learn more about DNA testing with the companies mentioned in this blog post by visiting 23andMe.com  and DNA.Ancestry.com.