10 DNA Myths Busted
The Genetic Genealogist Blaine T. Bettinger, Ph.D.
10 DNA Testing Myths Busted
(Originally posted October 25, 2007)
1. Genetic genealogy is only for hardcore
Wrong! If you’ve ever wondered about the origins of
your DNA, or about your direct paternal or maternal
ancestral line, then genetic genealogy might be an
interesting way to learn more. Although DNA testing
of a single line, such as through an mtDNA test, will only examine one ancestor out of 1024 potential ancestors at 10
generations ago, this is a 100% improvement over 0 ancestors out of 1024. If you add your father’s Y-DNA, this is a
200% improvement. Now add your mother’s mtDNA, and so on. However, please note the next myth:
2. I’m going to send in my DNA sample and get back my entire family tree.
Sorry. DNA alone cannot tell a person who their great-grandmother was, or what Italian village their great-great
grandfather came from. Genetic genealogy can be an informative and exciting addition to traditional research, and can
sometimes be used to answer specific genealogical mysteries.
3. I would like to try genetic genealogy, but I’m terrified of needles.
Good news! Genetic genealogy firms don’t use blood samples to collect cells for DNA testing. Instead, these companies
send swabs or other means to gently obtain cells from the cheek and saliva.
4. I would like to test my ancestor’s DNA, but they died years ago.
You don’t always need your ancestor’s DNA to get useful information from a genetic genealogy test. If you are male,
you contain the Y-chromosome (Y-DNA) that was given to you by your father, who received it from his father, and so
on. Both males and females have mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which was passed on to them by their mother, who