DNA - An Introduction by Darvin Martin, Scientist & Genealogist

Summary of the Q&A in the Video

What are the main tests you can take to learn information about your background?

There are three types that can be tested, Martin says. There’s Y-DNA, a test for men, and corresponds to a surname. There’s mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) that both women and men can test for, but is passed through the mother’s line. And there’s autosomal DNA, which looks at ethnic markers and tells you where your ancestors lived.  It’s a combination of all of our DNA.

Note: My (Wayne Haston’s) DNA is in Darvin’s pool of Mennonite DNA study in FamilyTree DNA. 
You (men) can add your FamilyTree Y-DNA too, if you want to.  

What are the main things people are looking for?

People are looking for their ethnic background. If they’re willing to share aspects of their DNA, they can find matches to relatives who have matching segments of DNA. They can discover family matches even if their last names are different. Some tests trace ancestors back to ancient times.

What guarantee does anyone have that their DNA sample won’t be kept by the government?

Privacy is a big issue, Martin says.  He separates companies like Ancestry.com, 23andMe and Family Tree DNA, from what he calls third-party sites.  For the three companies, “If there’s a breach of privacy, it becomes a liability for those companies,” he says. “They have a lot of protections in place to have your DNA remain anonymous. It’s always a matter of, if you want to gather information, you’re going to have to give out information. There’s always a balance between what are you going to give out to receive back.

“Where the problem comes in is when you download your raw DNA data … and you send it to a third party site,” he says. “Often, there are no protections. This is what the police have used so far.”

Which of these tests does Martin prefer?

Martin’s favorite is Family Tree DNA because it was created to look at DNA as it relates to family history. The site 23andMe focuses more on the medical side and inherited characteristics, like hair color. For Ancestry.com, the DNA tests are secondary to the site’s genealogy resources.

How long do these tests last?

For years, especially if you keep them in a climate-controlled area. Don’t store them in your car or an attic.

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