Time. It’s relative and usually there’s not enough of it (time that is, not relatives; I have an abundance of those). My last blog, tarasdismalnitch.wordpress.com, was terminated in 2010 due to my lack of time. Now some four years later and I’ve been given a precious gift and while I can’t guarantee regular postings, I can do my best.
My grandmother, Mildred Bergman, passed away in September, 2010. The months prior to her death we began conversing as two adults, woman to woman, rather than grandmother to granddaughter. In that short time I learned more about life, both hers and my own, than I had in the 37 years I had known her. And it was because of her that I made the choice to have my DNA tested.
The company I tested with was familytreedna.com. They offer a wide range of DNA testing for moderate pricing. Gender plays a role, though, so be forewarned. If, like me, you’re female, you’re only options are mtDNA and Family Finder, both routes I took. If you’re male you’re in luck. Family Tree DNA can test not only your mt, but your Y chromosomes, as well. Wait. What does mt and Y DNA mean?
Mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA, is the chromosome you inherited from your mother. Those chromosomes contain 37 genes of maternal life spanning generations upon generations. For more information click here.
Y DNA is the chromosome you inherited from your father and they, too, are the givers of life spanning generations upon generations. Detailed information can be found here. Call it sunshine-itis, call it laziness, call it whatever you want, but for the sake of word count and attention spans (mine included) I’ll let you conduct your own research.
Family Tree DNA offered me two choices, which I took, as you now know. The first test, mtDNA was quick and painless. A quick cheek swab with Q-Tips cousin gave me results in as little as six to eight weeks. The amount of information you receive is overwhelming. There are nine different branches of information to explore, often each offering another set of branches of information. Don’t expect this to be a short burst of information, though that’s possible if that’s what you’re looking for.
The first stop you’ll probably want to make is Ancestral Origins or Haplogroup Origins. Ancestral Origins provides you with which countries your mother’s (and yours) ancestors originated. Mine came back with New Zealand, Sweden, and a few others. There are different levels of the test and you’re always allowed to upgrade whenever you wish.
Haplogroup Origins informs you of which haplogroup you belong to. For more information about haplogroups click here.
Once you’ve discovered your lineage you can click on over to Matches and Advanced Matching. Here you’ll see who else has taken the test that you are related to. Some people may have chosen to include their family names and you can peruse through to see if any are familiar. Additionally, Family Tree DNA also suggests your relationship with that person. Example would be if you’re a first cousin or a fourth cousin, or sister, brother, father, mother, aunt, uncle…you get the idea. The Advanced Matching is pretty self explanatory. The great thing about this company is that they will notify you when new matches occur. There’s never a monthly subscription like other companies and they keep your DNA on file for when you decide to upgrade (and believe me you will).
The other test I took was Family Finder. The name says it all – it matches your DNA with other members to see if you’re related, and if so, to what degree. The Matches tab will provide you with a – sometimes – lengthy list of family. It’s important to note that though you may share DNA, they may not all be related to you. We all came from Adam and Eve and they could end up being our closest match. I jest, but only moderately. You still have to do conduct your own research to determine how you’re related. This is a bit like finding a needle in a haystack, but at least you have a very large magnet to do it with.
Feeling froggy and have some time to kill? Plug yourself into the Matrix tab and discover which members of family are related to one another. Say you’re trying to figure out which side of the family Ida Smith, someone who also tested with Family Finder and is related to you, resides – mothers or fathers? Now say your uncle on your dad’s side also decided to take the same Family Finder DNA test and is on your list, as well. Click on your uncle’s name and add it to the “Selected Matches” box under Matrix, then click on Ida’s name and add theirs to the box, as well. A graph will appear. Inside that graph are the lists of names you’ve added as well as white/grey boxes. If Ida is a relative on your dad’s side a check mark will appear next to their name and your uncle’s. If not, the boxes will remain white/grey. The Matrix is much like the movie – a bit surreal, enlightening, and it’s a fun way to kill a few hours.
Family Tree DNA is currently going through another growth process and this time they’re improving the Family Finder. It will be interesting to see what advances they introduce.
Grandma was eager to share with me all she knew about our family ancestry, and while I knew quite a bit, there was much that was left to my surprise. With the technological advances we’re making these days I’m certain she’d have been tickled pink with this adventure. My only regret is that she isn’t here to share it, but I guess timing is…relative.