I’ve done a DNA test – now what?
So, you’ve done a DNA ancestry test and received your results from the lab. What happens next? Our eight steps show you how to continue your DNA journey.
1 Decide what you want from your DNA test
Most people who take an ancestry DNA test do so to explore their ethnicity and/or to enrich their family tree research. Either way, you have quite a few options for exploring your results. Decide whether you’d like to focus on ethnicity or ancestry or a combination of the two and then explore the steps below.
2 Don’t accept your ethnicity results at face value
Remember, although DNA testing has been around for a while, the process of building up DNA databases based on ethnicity is still growing and changing. This means that whilst the ethnicity that your test provider gives you an indication of where your ancestors came from – but this may change and be refined over time.
As more and more people take a DNA test, the testing companies are able to build up a more accurate picture of different countries and regions. You may, over time, receive updates to your ethnicity as new patterns emerge. Your DNA doesn’t change but the science behind it does.
3 Make the most of your test provider’s help guides
Use the guides provided by your DNA testing service to help you find out about your results and how you can connect with other people who share your DNA. When you received your results from the test provider you’ll usually get access to tools and/or online guides to help you analyse your results.
The FAQ section of the website in question will usually point you in the direction of how to delve deeper. Do also consider using GedMatch and DNA Painter for more tools once you’ve exhausted the possibilities on your own provider’s site.
4 Contact DNA cousins
However many DNA matches you’re given, you can make the most of your precious research time by concentrating on those matches most likely to yield results. To begin with, filter matches so that you can see those who your provider estimates are third cousin or closer. Read tips for contacting matches here and then consider other filters such as surnames in common, ancestors in common and amount of shared DNA.
5 Test other relations
Remember, you inherit only 50% of the DNA of each of your parents and if you have siblings, they’ll have inherited different DNA to you. If possible, arrange for your siblings and parents to take a DNA test too and compare their results to yours. Remember, the generation above you has inherited more of your ancestors’ DNA and so again, you’re widening the net when it comes to potential DNA cousins and ethnicity information.
Of course, DNA tests can be expensive, so check whether your provider offers a discount if you’ve already bought a test and keep an eye out for special offers during holiday periods or at events such as Black Friday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day etc.
6 Upload your family tree
Upload a family tree to one of the main websites if you haven’t already done so and flesh out your online tree so that it includes as many ancestors as possible. This will maximize your chances of being contacted by a potential match. You can always either exclude living people from your tree, or set living relatives to private view so that you don’t compromise anyone’s privacy.
7 Upload your raw data elsewhere
When you receive your DNA results you’ll get a link to your ‘raw data’ and you can easily upload this to other websites. Why do this? Well, by uploading your raw data to reputable sites such as FT DNA and Gedmatch, which you can read about here you can receive new data matches for free, opening you to a whole new data pool of potential DNA cousins.
8 Join a DNA project
There are some really interesting DNA projects out there, based on topics including ethnicity, geography, surname and lineage. One noteworthy example if MyHeritage’s Founder Populations project, which has taken the DNA results of 5,000 participants who have consistent heritage or ethnicity for a particular region. The results have allowed MyHeritage to establish profiles for each of these regions, to make the tests even more accurate for all who take a test. Family Tree DNA also has a number of well-established projects, including various Y-DNA surname and geographical projects.
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