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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree December 2017 > Mapping my DNA journey

Mapping my DNA journey

DNA testing for family historians is now widely available but the results are not always that easy to interpret. Emma Jolly takes us on her genetic adventure, explaining on route the pros and cons of her discoveries


Taking a test & understanding results

There has never been a better time to take a DNA test for family history purposes. In 2006, when I became a professional genealogist, I knew of only a handful of people who had tested their DNA. Of these, almost all had taken the Y-DNA test to identify ancestors on their paternal line and most had a science background, which could help them interpret results. Back then tests were expensive and not user-friendly. Now prices have fallen, the market is wide, and there are countless websites and social media pages dedicated to explaining the exciting, ever-changing world of genetic genealogy.

Taking the plunge: FTDNA

My DNA adventure began in 2012 when I visited the thronging Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) – stand at Who Do You Think You Are? Live to ask whether DNA testing could help with a possible illegitimacy in my personal family history. I chatted briefly with one of the representatives, and then discussed the tests at greater length with genetic genealogist and author (and now honorary research associate at University College London), Debbie Kennett.

After umming and ahhing for a couple of months, I finally decided to take the only test which could possibly be of use for my purposes: the autosomal. At home, I swabbed my cheek, tightened the lid on the test tube, and posted everything off to FTDNA’s test lab in Houston, Texas. My results arrived online (with email notification) on 31 August 2012. The results page showed a list of matches with name, match date, relationship range, shared centimorgans, longest block, and ancestral surnames (where added).

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About Family Tree

Come on, it's time to roll up your sleeves, leave the pleasant pastures of the 19th century, the birth, marriage and death records, and the census - and trace your family lines further back in into the past. This is your chance to explore new records, stretch your research and revel in the lives and times of your Georgian, Stuart and even Tudor ancestors.