What is an Autosomal DNA test?

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There are several different types of genealogical DNA tests available to consumers.  They range from maternal origin tests to Y-chromosome tests.  By far the most popular and inexpensive test is the autosomal DNA test.  It can be completed for under $100, and the results are easy to understand and use for lots of purposes.

How Does an Autosomal DNA Test Work?

There are two ways to collect your DNA for an autosomal test:  saliva or a cheek swab.  There are small amounts of DNA contained in our saliva, and genetic testing companies are able to extract this DNA for analysis.  No blood sample required, phew!

We get a totally random combination of DNA from each of our parents – 50% from each, to be specific.  An autosomal DNA test examines more than 700,000 genetic markers – from both sides of your family – to find overlap with other people who have taken the test or have their DNA in the database.  Using this information, the testing companies are able to provide you with DNA matches, information on your ethnic origins, and more.
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Why Do People Take Autosomal DNA Tests?

I am really passionate about these tests, so if I sound excited and pumped up about them, it’s because I am.  I think everyone should take one, they are amazing.

People can use these tests to:

  • Find their biological parents, if they are adopted or have an unknown parent
  • Locate relatives, ranging from siblings to 8th cousins
  • Find out where their ancestors came from through their ethnicity estimates
  • Build their family tree
  • Break through brick walls on their family tree
  • Uncover family secrets
  • Solve family myths or mysteries

There are even more reasons to take the test, and more things that you can do with the results.  This list should get you curious, however.  I know that I was!

Can Women Take the Autosomal DNA Test?

I’d like to take this moment to dispel a very common myth about genealogical DNA tests.  Many people believe that DNA tests can’t tell you anything about your maternal line of your family tree.  This is absolutely untrue!  An autosomal DNA test is the best way to learn about the maternal AND paternal line.

There are some “older” DNA tests that only worked for men, since women don’t have a Y chromosome, and other tests that can trace extremely ancient ancestry through your maternal line, for example.  These tests are interesting and can be useful for those who take a more academic interest in their ancestral origins.

For the rest of us, the autosomal DNA test is a perfect way to find new family members, research and verify our family trees, and investigate our ancestor’s geographic origins.

Are you planning on taking a DNA test or are you still unsure?  I’d like to hear from you in the comments.

Thanks for stopping by!