The popularity of ancestry DNA testing has skyrocketed in recent years, with millions of people curious about their genetic heritage and ancestry.
However, many wonder how far back these tests can trace their family history.
While the answer isn't straightforward, it's possible to gain insight into your ancestry dating back several generations using DNA testing.
This article will explore how ancestry DNA tests work, what they can and cannot tell you, and what you can expect to learn about your family history.
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Ancestry DNA Testing: An Overview
Did you know your genes make up only 3% of your DNA but contain a world of information about you and your relatives and ancestors?
Due to the inheritance pattern, you and your sibling may inherit different genes from your parents, giving you and them a slightly different ancestry result.
With over 26 million people adding their DNA to the four leading commercial ancestry databases, it is natural to have many questions about these tests.
How Do Genetic Ancestry Tests Work?
Genetic ancestry tests or genetic genealogy tests are a way for people to know more about their ancestors, sometimes going beyond what relatives have told them.
Examining an individual’s DNA variations can provide clues to who their ancestors may have been.
It also helps determine relationships between families.
The genetic patterns and variations are shared between people of particular backgrounds.
The closer two individuals are related, the more genetic patterns and variations they share.
Types of Ancestry DNA Tests
There are three main types of DNA tests:
- Autosomal DNA Tests (SNP Testing): These tests evaluate many individual variations (called single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs) across an individual’s genome.
- Y-DNA tests (traces the direct line from fathers): These tests explore ancestry in the direct male line.
- mtDNA tests (traces the direct line from mothers): Identifies genetic variations in the mitochondrial DNA.
How Far Back Do Ancestry DNA Tests Go?
How far back your ancestry DNA tests go depends upon the type of DNA being tested, the type of DNA test used, and the test's sensitivity.
Most people can learn about their maternal and paternal ancestry as far back as six to ten generations.
Which AncestryDNA Test Goes Back The Farthest?
Mitochondrial or mtDNA is a type of DNA testing that takes you back the farthest.
One of the primary reasons that mtDNA dates back further than the Y-DNA is because the former mutates (undergoes changes) slower than the latter.
Additionally, since we have mtDNA in almost all our cells, it is more reliable to study these DNA samples than ancient ones.
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How Far Back Does The mtDNA Test Trace?
mtDNA testing can help you learn about your maternal ancestry up to 1,00,000 years.
Certain mtDNA types can help you trace direct-line maternal ancestry as far as 52 generations or 1300 years.
Even though mtDNA testing takes us back into your family history, we can only learn about 1% of our ancestors using this method.
How Far Back Does The Autosomal DNA Test Trace?
Companies like AncestryDNA, 23andMe, Living DNA, and Family Tree DNA offer autosomal DNA testing.
This type of DNA test provides information about a wide range of ancestors going back up to 5 to 6 generations.
Autosomal DNA tests help trace recent ancestry.
Explore Your AncestryDNA Raw Data
Here’s how you can get the most out of your DNA raw data in 3 simple steps:
- Download your raw data file from Ancestry DNA, 23andMe, or any other ancestry company. If you don't have one, you can get a 23andMe kit from here.
- Buy any of our 10 health and wellness reports (or the Xcode Life Premium Pack for a 70% discount)
- Upload your raw data and get your results in 24 hours!
- Genes comprise just 3% of your DNA, but they contain a world of information about you, your family, and your ancestors.
- Genetic ancestry tests help people know more about their ancestors, sometimes going beyond what relatives have told them.
- There are three types of genetic ancestry tests: autosomal, Y-DNA, and mtDNA.
- Depending upon the type of DNA being tested, ancestry tests like the mtDNA test can go as far up to 52 generations.