For DNA Testing:


Discover yourself at 23andMe

For autosomal DNA testing, I usually recommend starting with 23andMe ($99). You receive a very good ancestral breakdown and your haplogroups in addition to the cousin matching feature.

Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA's autosomal DNA test Family Finder ($99) is also a good option. For Y-STR and mtDNA testing, FTDNA is the only company that I can currently recommend. I generally recommend testing, at least, 37 markers for Y-DNA and the full sequence for mtDNA*. If finances are an issue, then start with one of the lower resolution tests, like the 12 marker Y-DNA test or HVR1 mtDNA* test, and upgrade at a later time.
*Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) testing is usually not genealogically informative, so I recommend that women, instead, start with autosomal DNA testing and men test either their Y-DNA or autosomal DNA (or both).  


AncestryDNA's strength lies in its vast collection of family trees that are attached to your matches' DNA results. Their excellent system automates searching for common ancestors by comparing your family tree with your matches' family trees and identifying the ancestors who may be responsible for the DNA match. Although I feel that the fact that they do not provide the underlying matching segment data is a serious drawback to their product, I definitely recommend "fishing in all three ponds" for meaningful matches. AncestryDNA raw data can also be uploaded into the Family Tree DNA's Family Finder ($69).

For Genealogy Research: 




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  1. Today I attempted to do the autosomal test with 23andMe. They are currently not offering that test to Maryland residents, due to restrictions in the state requirements for clinical testing. Perhaps I should just go ahead and use Family Tree DNA?
    I am somewhat baffled by the many software choices for organizing and publishing/sharing digital data. Suggestions for articles/books to read? And organizing paper data? I am going to join ISGS, as per your suggestion. Thanks, scyounts scyounts@gmail.com

  2. what would anyone recommend for native american ancestry? My sister had AncestryDNA done in January 2014 with the new test they provide for females, and it came back with no Native American, all European. We are most CERTAINLY at least 8% native American. We were shocked that didn't show up in the test.

    1. I find 23andMe to absolutely be the best for picking up small amounts of Native American. Although at 8% - all of the companies should be picking it up. 23andMe will also provide your haplogroups, which could confirm Native American ancestry on one of your direct lines (mtDNA = mother's mother's mother's line and/or Y-DNA = father's father's father's line). Possibly, your recent ancestor who was traditionally full Native American may have already had some European or African admixture from earlier intermarriage with non-Natives who assimilated into their tribe.

    2. Membership in a Native American tribe is usually determined either by blood quantum or by some specifically defined type of ancestry. (For example, the Cherokee Nation doesn't use blood quantum, but goes by whether you have an ancestor on the Dawes Rolls. There may be other criteria as well for the CN that I'm not aware of.) They do not do a genetic test on you to see how Native you are. So if you have someone in your background that's legally Native because they met the minimum blood quantum, or they're one of the nations that goes by the Dawes Rolls, they could be almost completely white from a genetic standpoint and therefore you wouldn't inherit much in the way of genes.

      I just got my info back today from Ancestry and it tells me I'm 2% Native by estimate. Having already investigated the putative tribe my mother's line supposedly comes from, those people are already mostly European by genes, and then my mother's line married into Cajun French people mainly. So... I hate to use the phrase "watered down," but that's what I am.

  3. I've been looking online and haven't been able to find an answer... does FamilyTree DNA's Y-STR also use saliva? Thanks!

    And, I' watched a recording of your seminar at Jamboree & really enjoyed it! I'm now digging in deeper to DNA & how it can help me in my genealogy research.

    1. Hi Dana,
      No, Family Tree DNA uses a cheek swab. It is very simple and painless. (I prefer it to the saliva kits.)
      I'm glad you enjoyed my presentation. Thank you for letting me know!
      Best of luck with your research!

  4. I'm curious which site you'd recommend for testing Jewish ancestry? Thanks!

    1. What are you trying to determine? W Which ancestral lines are you interested in?

  5. Hi, I wrote a post that didn't post for some reason, it bounced me back to Google login..... I apologize in advance if it posts a duplicate later on! Technology, gotta love it!

    Anyway, I have a couple questions I'm hoping you can help me with...... I just received my Ancestry DNA results. Do you have any recommendations for reading I can do to understand them better? The regions are broken down pretty broadly (i.e. W. Europe may cover France, Belgium, Germany and several other countries). Secondly, if I want to get results from 23andMe or Family Tree DNA, do you recommend uploading the raw data or is it better to re-take their tests? I have a lot of early European (Virginia territories North Carolina) and Native American intermarriages. Several lines of my family have been in the South since early/mid 1600 and on into the 1700s. Oh, one more question, I am asking several members of my family to consider taking the DNA test to get a broader picture. Would you recommend they do 23and Me? Do the men need to do the Y-DNA test or should they all do the autosomal? Thanks, Thea

  6. I am unsure of whether to test myself or my father (or brother). I know my mother's ancestry as she was Amish and I have books on her genealogy. I doubt a DNA test would tell me much of anything that I don't know in regards to her side of the family. My father's side is more of what I am interested in. Would it be smarter to test myself, my father, or my brother? Thanks!

    1. I would recommend testing your father in that case.