Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Getting the Most Out of DNA Results

(NOTE: This post is all about genetic genealogy.  So, if you aren't at all interested in that sort of thing you might just want to skip this all together.)

I'm continually surprised to find people who have taken an autosomal DNA test and not investigated all the additional things you can do with the results.  The fact is that there are A LOT of options you can look into with your autosomal DNA test results, regardless of whether you tested through 23andMe or FamilyTree DNA.  Honestly, all the side projects and calculators were a big reason why I wanted to do autosomal DNA testing for myself and my parents and why I want to continue testing other relatives.

Most of these "goodies" are more advanced admixture tests than 23andMe and FamilyTree DNA usually perform.  Since I got the test results, I've submitted my father and mother's raw data to Dr. McDonald's BGA project.  It was free and I am so glad I did it.  Not only did Dr. McDonald send me graphs and maps, but he broke down my parents likely ancestral origins by percentages.  The most surprising result was the fact that he detected Jewish ancestry on my father's side (which I think is likely Sephardi, see here).  He also detected possible Native American ancestry on my mother's side - something that has long been rumored but never proven.  I also downloaded and ran my parents' results through Dienekes' DIY Dodecad calculator (again, free).

Below is a graph showing my father's various admixture results from the basic Ancestry Painting (also called Population Finder through FamilyTree DNA's Family Finder test) by 23andMe, to the additional tests I did through the DIY Dodecad and Dr. McDonald's BGA:

The 21.5% Mideast result includes the Jewish ancestry.  I should also point out that the DIY Dodecad results make the most sense when run through the Dodecad Oracle.  After putting the values above through the Oracle, I pretty much got that my father was half Italian, half Northern European - which is what the paper trail supports.

I've also uploaded my raw data to and while I haven't had any luck with my "matches" there, the eye color predictor proved eerily accurate.

But perhaps the biggest tool I've been using since getting my results is actually the one tool you don't even need any results to use: DNA-Forums.  I use it to educate myself on everything from the projects and calculators available out there, to specific SNPs to just general questions about the science.  And, speaking of SNPs, a great resource to learn about specific ones is SNPedia.  The ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy) is also a lot more than just the wiki mentioned earlier.  It is a wonderful resource and has helped me tremendously in educating myself on genetics.

Honestly, there is a ton more out there on genetic genealogy than I have mentioned here.  What is mentioned here are just the tools that I personally have found helpful in allowing me to get the most out of my DNA results - so by all means, go out and explore.

I will say that it can be challenging to wrap your head around a lot of this stuff.  I've been interested in genetics since I was first introduced to it in 7th grade but that doesn't mean I've found all this easy.  Actually, I struggled to understand most of it (and still do).  But, I've been able to figure a lot of it out, so if you have any questions about pretty much anything in this post, let me know and I'd be happy to help if I'm able.

Disclosure: I am in no way affiliated with any of the people, products or companies mentioned in this post nor did I receive remuneration of any kind for this post.  I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the tests mentioned in this post or the reputability of the people and organizations performing the tests.  I cannot be held liable for any results or experiences others receive with any of the people, products or companies mentioned in this post.  I am purely a hobbyist in this subject, therefor my words and opinions on this topic should be taken as such.

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