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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Which DNA Test to Order?

One of the first decisions that someone new to genetic genealogy must make is which DNA test to order.

If you are primarily interested in your maternal line, then I have no problem recommending the basic mtDNA test from Family Tree DNA. It will provide a determination of your ancestral haplogroup, and a complete sequencing of the HVR1 region for a cost of $129. Even if you are lucky enough to find an exact HVR1 match, it will take a fair amount of serendipity to connect the matching family to your own. An HVR2 or full sequence upgrade is always available, and might be the first choice for those of unlimited means, but these tests are (in my opinion) best for the truly hardcore amateur geneticists.

If yo are primarily interested in your paternal line, the choice is a little tougher. However, I feel confident in strongly encouraging EVERYONE to order the 37-marker test right at the start. This test has the highest average mutation rate per marker and, and $189 per test, the lowest cost per expected mutation.

What I mean by this is that the combination of markers included in the 37-marker test is quite likely to produce at least one (and maybe two) differences between a pair of men who share a common ancestor from the early 1800s and to do so at the lowest possible cost. Since most Italian civil records are quite complete back to around 1810, conventional genealogical research should often be able to illuminate any relationship more recent than that. Since the purpose of DNA testing is to confirm a suspected relationship, you want a test with enough resolution to do so within about six or eight generations. The 37-marker test is the cheapest test that can do that.

And, if the 37 marker test reveals a close relationship, there are a couple of a la carte markers (DYS413, DYS445, DYS452, etc) than can be added to the basic panel for additional clarity for less than the cost of the 67-marker upgrade. Plus, the 37-marker test is quite robust when it comes to predicting haplogroups which is a valuable side-benefit.

Anyone wishing to join the Italy DNA Project can do so by following this link and ordering the Y-DNA37 test.


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