Monday, 13 December 2010

Thinking about a DNA test for genealogy?

At Saturday`s BIFHSGO meeting I was asked a question that deserves a FAQ, which DNA test to take. I usually respond with the Socratic: why do you want to take it? Often the response is that it's to satiate a personal interest rather than resolving a specific question. For these folks I'm now recommending an autosomal DNA test, either through Family Tree DNA or 23andMe. They are each superior in different ways.

If you want to do a test soon now would be an excellent time to purchase as both companies have seasonal specials.

If you're in no hurry prices are continuing a long-term decline. A company which has recently gone public, Complete Genomics, is now offering a complete human genome analysis for $10,000, with substantial discounts for bulk orders. There's an interesting article on the company and its services here.

Although Complete Genomics focus is as a service bureau for medical research I doubt we'll be waiting another 10 years for the price to drop below $1,000 including a value added service for genealogy.

As such tests become more affordable and common the Orthodox Church of Genealogy, which already acknowledges that "there is only one way to prove kinships beyond reasonable doubt — DNA testing,"  and then goes on to add that "as a genealogical standard, that is hardly practical," is going to have to revise it's thinking.

In 1998 the rationale was that "exhuming the bodies of all known John Smiths until an ancestral match is made is impractical, to say the least." When those words were written, the last time the BCG had anything to say on DNA according to their web site, those words might have been true. They predate the first commercial DNA testing service for genealogy establish in 2000. Since then many people have made breakthroughs in family history through DNA. It must be a rare person who has not heard or read of a case.  Success stories are common, look here and here.


brenda said...

I'm still trying to find, on the BCG website you cite, the reference you quote in your last paragraph. (??)

JDR said...

Brenda: I'll put on my pedagogue cloak and suggest you go to the BCG site, click on the Search box and search for DNA. You should get five hits.