By: Mike Earl, CFP®, CPWA®
For years now, I have had a desire to learn my genetic heritage via DNA testing. Advances in the field of genetics have led to an ability to map our DNA for a mere $100 price tag.
So earlier this year, I finally made the plunge and purchased a DNA kit through AncestryDNA. There are three major players in the DNA testing space: FamilyTreeDNA, AncestryDNA, and 23andMe. There are pros and cons to each of these major players, but I don't think you can go wrong with any of these three.
AncestryDNA boasts the largest database of DNA samples on file, with over 2,000,000 people recorded. That fact is what led me to select their service. If you want a really expansive DNA test at a higher price tag, check out FamilyTreeDNA.
Once you buy the kit online, the company sends you a small vial in a package to your home. Once you mail a saliva sample back to them, they begin testing your DNA. It's hard to believe, but a small saliva sample contains your entire unique DNA sequence. There are more than 700,000 genetic markers being tested by AncestryDNA in a small saliva sample.
I have always known that my paternal great-grandfather was adopted. So while my last name is Earl, my paternal ancestry line traces back to the last name Ladd (my great-grandfather took on the last name of the family that adopted him, the Earl family). With my DNA results below, I was able to learn more about my biological lineage. It's fascinating.
Here are some screen shots from my results:
At ancestry.com, you can also build out your family tree online. With their premium membership, you obtain access to billions of "hints" to help build out your family tree. These hints are remarkable in and of themselves. Ancestry has scanned thousands upon thousands of historical documents, including: U.S. Census Records; birth records from all over the world (dating back to the 1500s in England, for instance); death certificates; immigration records; marriage records; and more.
For me, it was a worthwhile use of $100 to get my results. It's been a joy to share and discuss my DNA records with my entire family. It has sparked fun conversations with my grandfather about his grandparents' voyage from Slovenia to the US in the 1800s. I've also learned that my 13% Italian bloodline helps me handle the sun a bit more readily than my Swedish/Norwegian wife.