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Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Ancestry narrows number of DNA tests used for research

Family historians often fret about which company is the best to use for DNA projects. Ancestry.com just made the choice a little easier.

The company announced recently that it would no longer conduct Y-DNA or mtDNA tests. Instead the company will focus on its autosomal tests.

Y-DNA is the test for tracing direct male lines. Only men can take the test. Such a test checks for the individual through his father, grandfather, great-grandfather, etc. Females who want to explore their male ancestor lines must get a cousin, brother or uncle to take the test.

The mtDNA test is designed to test a female line. Males and females can take it, but it still tests only the female line. For example, a man can test his mother to her mother to her mother’s grandmother, etc. But the ability to trace the line will stop if a woman has only male children. She can pass her DNA to her male children, but a male cannot pass it down the line.

We inherit autosomal DNA from both parents, including random contributions from parents and various grandparents. The shortcoming of this testing is that nothing tells a person which branch of the family the match is on.

Autosomal tests look at genetic markers from the 22 chromosome pairs that contain randomly mixed DNA from both parents. Because autosomal DNA is inherited by both men and women from both parents and all four grandparents, it can be used to test for relationships in all family lines and can help verify biological relationships through the grandparent generation.

In announcing its decision, Ancestry said “our decision to retire Y-DNA and mtDNA is a deliberate attempt to focus our resources on providing powerful family history research tools that use autosomal testing.”

Ancestry is not the only company doing autosomal testing. FamilyTree DNA and 23andme (with the largest test base) also offer the autosomal test.

One interesting element of autosomal testing is the use of DNA population studies to highlight a person’s geographic ancestry or what proportion of your total ancestry originated in different parts of the world. FamilyTree DNA calls this a “Population Finder” while 23andMe calls it an “Ancestry Composition.”

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A trio of genealogy-centered television programs will air beginning this month.

TLC will premiere a new season of the popular genealogy research program “Who Do You Think You Are” on July 23. The first program will feature actress Cynthia Nixon. Other episodes will focus on a Hollywood lineup including Valerie Bertinelli, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Lauren Graham, Kelsey Grammer, and Rachel and Kaylean McAdams.

Produced by actress Lisa Kudrow, the program first aired on NBC in 2010 and ran for 27 episodes over three seasons. After NBC canceled the series, TLC picked it up for 2013. The 2014 season will contain 10 episodes, two more than the 2013 season.

In September, PBS will present a second season of “Finding Your Roots,” hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. It will feature such guests as Anderson Cooper, Ben Affleck, Billy Jean King, Anthony Bourdain and Jessica Alba.

It has been widely reported that PBS also is preparing for a second season of “Genealogy Roadshow,” but nothing definitive has come from the network or program developers.

Sharon Tate Moody is a board-certified genealogist. Send your genealogical methodology questions and event announcements to her at [email protected] She regrets she is unable to assist with personal research and cannot respond to requests for locating or researching individuals. Past Heritage Hunting columns are available online at tbo.com, search words “Sharon Tate Moody.”

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