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DN Genealogical Research

DNA testing for genealogy purposes (sometimes referred to as genetic genealogy) is becoming increasingly popular. It can help you break through stubborn genealogical brick walls, scientifically prove blood lines, and connect you with relatives you may otherwise never have known about. However, despite the advancements that have been made in DNA testing, some limitations do still apply.

Y-DNA Testing

Y-DNA testing can only be done on males. This type of DNA is based on the Y chromosome, which is passed from father to son. It is best suited for single surname research. This type of testing can prove lineage from many years ago, since Y-DNA patterns do not change much over time.

While females cannot participate in Y-DNA testing, they can benefit from these studies if they have a male relative, such as a father, brother, or grandfather, who is willing to submit their own DNA.

It is important to know that the male who is participating in this study must be of unbroken male descent from the ancestor in question. If you are studying a link for your great-grandfather, John Smith, his son, son’s son, son’s son’s son, etc. can take the DNA test. However, his daughter’s son, son’s daughter’s son, etc. cannot. There cannot be a broken male line for this type of testing to work.

mtDNA Testing

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is passed by a mother to both male and female children, with almost no changes. Two people with an exact mtDNA match have a very good chance of sharing a common maternal ancestor. However, due to the slowness in which mtDNA changes, it is very hard to determine if this common ancestor is recent, or one if she lived hundreds of years ago.

A fun piece of mtDNA trivia: every person in the world can trace his or her mtDNA to a woman, referred to as Eve, who lived in East Africa, an estimated 170,000 years ago.


The cost for a DNA test that will be used for genealogy purposes can vary greatly depending on where you purchase the kit. For example, as of the writing of this article, an mtDNA test can be purchased from Genelex for $345, and a Y-DNA test can be purchased for $295 from the same company. FamilyTreeDNA offers both tests at a lower rate: $159 for an mtDNA test and $169 for a Y-DNA test. Many companies will also provide a discount for purchasing both kits together.