One of the coolest genetic tools in the genealogist's toolbox (especially for those of us of the female persuasion without Y-DNA) is the relatively new autosomal DNA test. This month Ancestry.com entered the market, joining 23andme.com and FamilyTreeDNA, with their own autosomal DNA test known as AncestryDNA. In the interest of full disclosure, I was one of the ones lucky enough to receive my results during the beta period as Ancestry.com offered me a free test for review, but I was more excited about the quicker results than the free test. I would have happily paid for the test, and already have my name on the waiting list to order a few more for some relatives in the hopes of possibly solving a few genealogical mysteries. Other autosomal tests which I have had done include 23andme.com's Relative Finder ($299, with no subscription required) and FamilyTreeDNA's Family Finder ($289, no subscription required).
Ancestry.com's new AncestryDNA test is currently being offered for an introductory rate of $99, but is available only for Ancestry.com subscribers. This is a great rate, so if you are interested in pursuing autosomal DNA testing I would highly recommend taking advantage of it. Their genetic database isn't yet nearly the size of FamilyTree DNA, but they have a huge potential list of participants in their own current customer database of 1.87 million subscribers -- and I think will be especially good at attracting those with a more casual interest in genetic testing who might not otherwise seek out such a service. They also link results directly to Ancestry Member Trees (when available), which can really help to narrow the focus for potential ancestral matches.
On the downside, Ancestry.com is currently not offering access to an individual's raw genetic data which means that you can't add your AncestryDNA data to another database/service such as FamilyTreeDNA. Another current downside of this test is that they don't identify which portions of their genome two individuals share in common, which can make it harder to identify the common ancestor. Judy Russell also points out the potential problems posed by integrating DNA results with undocumented user-supplied family trees on her Legal Genealogist blog.
Now I love DNA testing as a potential genealogical tool and now have autosomal results for myself and/or my husband from all three of the major companies offering this test -- AncestryDNA, FamilyTreeDNA and 23andme.com. Interestingly, I have different matches through all three services, which just goes to show that many people can't afford or don't consider testing through multiple services, so if you really want to reach as many potential matches as possible you really need to spread your DNA around, so to speak.
- My husband's POWELL line through FamilyTreeDNA (and yes, this is his direct paternal line for which he also has the Y-DNA test) matched through autosomal DNA to a fourth cousin, once removed through a female line that Y-DNA testing wouldn't have uncovered.
- My CRISP line is matched to an identified 3rd cousin through 23andme.com.
- My KOTH line matches a known 3rd cousin through AncestryDNA.
Another interesting item of note is that the best (confirmed through standard genealogical research) matches from all three companies are to lines in which there is double descent from a common ancestor (I or my husband descend through married second cousins in all three cases). I suspect the extra DNA that came from this double descent is what helped it survive the DNA recombination through so many generations, especially in the case of the fourth cousin match that goes back to a common ancestor born prior to 1800 in Bristol, England.
I also have a very intriguing match to a family tree on Ancestry.com that includes none of my own ancestral surnames, but does include two families who were neighbors and close associates of several of my North Carolina ancestors in Edgecombe, Martin and Bertie counties. I can't help but think this may be a clue to one of my yet undiscovered ancestral maiden names... Thinking right now about who else I can have tested to learn more!
Learn more about autosomal DNA: