Genetic Genealogy: Tools You can Use

Genetic Genealogy: Tools You can Use

by Heleigh Bostwick, December 2009

Genealogy is big business these days with companies from National Geographic to Family Tree DNA offering services that range from tracing your lineage to finding lost relatives and other members of your "gene pool."

While some count tracing the family tree as one of their hobbies, others treat this as serious business. Medical history is one reason to consider genealogic testing. For instance, if a particular disease or medical condition runs in your family, you might want to find other members with the same disease to compare notes, or in the case of serious or life-threatening illness, to find a compatible organ donor.

And although genealogy and estate planning may seem like strange bedfellows, if you take a closer look you'll see there is a connection. By doing something as simple as swabbing the inside of your cheek and sending it off to a special lab, it's now possible to locate estranged family members that you have lost track of over the years, or even find the long-lost executor of a family estate.

In fact, some companies specialize in this kind of service, using genealogical records including DNA to find people with aliases, multiple name changes, or no known addresses, as well as to locate estranged family members.

Family Tree DNA is a service that approaches genealogy from a DNA perspective and is geared toward finding global members of your more recent family line, as well as your particular matriarchal (mtDNA) or patriarchal (Y-DNA) lineage, which trace your mother's and father's respective lines. offers a number of tests that allow you to find common ancestors with people around the world that have identical results. DNA testing is not a stand-alone genealogy service, but works in tandem with genealogic records to help complete the picture of your family's story. The company offers two projects, the Surname Project and the Geographic Projects, which enable people with the same surnames (or variations) or place of origin to connect and discuss their genealogy. The Geographic Project is further divided into Y-DNA for male lineage and mtDNA for female lineage.

National Geographic has launched "The Genographic Project." According to their website:

The Genographic Project is seeking to chart new knowledge about the migratory history of the human species by using sophisticated laboratory and computer analysis of DNA contributed by hundreds of thousands of people from around the world. In this unprecedented and of real-time research effort, the Genographic Project is closing the gaps of what science knows today about humankind's ancient migration stories.

National Geographic also encourages readers to send their family "migration stories" and photos for possible inclusion in a special feature called "The Family Tree."

Learn more about your ancestors and long-lost relatives today. Whether you use it to plan your estate or your next party, there are countless resources that can help.

For more information visit:

Family Tree DNA
National Geographic's The Genographic Project

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