The Records within our Genes

The Records within our Genes

Your DNA could hold the answers to your ancestry...

Nick Thorne, Writer at TheGenealogist

Nick Thorne

Writer at TheGenealogist

Your DNA could hold the answers to your ancestry and now has never been a better time to find out, as prices have fallen to be within reach of most family historians.

TheGenealogist has teamed up with leading experts in the field who have pioneered the use of DNA testing for genealogical research. This means your DNA will be added to the world’s largest genealogical DNA database to help you find even more matches.

But what is DNA testing, and why can it help you?

DNA testing is great for breaking down brick walls, finding unknown relatives or discovering your genetic ethnicity. This is a fairly new experience for family historians, and it can sound rather daunting this article explains how easy (and painless!) DNA testing is, and what it can do to help you.

As the maternal line is difficult to trace using traditional methods such as census and parish records, a DNA test could prove invaluable to your research

What are chromosomes?

Each person has 23 pairs of chromosomes which contain genetic material. 22 pairs are autosomal chromosomes and one pair are sex chromosomes (this pair will either be XX for females or XY for males).

Autosomal chromosomes are a genetic record of your ancestry before you are born, the contents of your chromosomes are jumbled and then recombined to create your DNA. These chromosomes are a random selection from your parents, who have a selection from their parents, who have a selection from their parents, and so on. This means that all of your ancestors have contributed to your DNA, and it is the markers in the autosomal chromosomes that allow you trace the branches of your family tree.

Y-chromosomes contain genetic material from the paternal line. As these are passed from father to son, you can trace a direct paternal line.

Mitochondrial DNA contains genetic material that is passed from a mother to their children, allowing you to trace a direct maternal line.

What are HVR1 and HVR2 tests?

HVR stands for ‘Hypervariable region’, which are regions in your DNA. Testing regions 1 and 2 can help determine your haplogroup, which will show you basic maternal ancestry reaching back approx. 2000 years.

As the maternal line is difficult to trace using traditional methods such as census and parish records, a DNA test could prove invaluable to your research once you have confirmed your haplogroup, you will be able to see where your ancestors have migrated.


Chromosome: a structure found in the nucleus of a cell that contains genetic material.

Sex Chromosome: The X or Y chromosome. Males will have one X and one Y chromosome, and females will have two X chromosomes.

Autosomal DNA: DNA from a non-sex chromosome.

Mitochondrial DNA: genetic material passed down from a mother to their sons and daughters. This is passed down the maternal line – daughters pass this down to their children, while sons do not.

Y-DNA: genetic material passed down from a father to their sons. This is passed down the paternal line – sons pass this down to their sons, and so on. (Females do not have a Y chromosome, and therefore cannot pass Y-DNA onto their children).

HRV: Short for ‘hypervariable region’, each HVR is a region in your DNA that can help determine your haplogroup.

Haplogroup: A genetic population group of people who share a common ancestor through the paternal or maternal line.

How can I test my DNA?

There are three types of test that you can take: a Y-chromosome test (for males only), a Mitochondrial DNA test (for males and females), or an Autosomal DNA test (for males and females). Each test requires you to send a sample of your DNA using a painless cheek swab kit, which is provided.

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Y-Chromosome tests

Y-chromosome DNA (Y-DNA) tests are for men only, and test the direct paternal line: his father, his father’s father, and so on.

If you are female, you can simply ask your brother, father, paternal uncle (your father’s brother) or a paternal nephew (your father’s brother’s son) to do the test for you.

Mitochondrial DNA tests

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) tests are for both men and women, and test the direct maternal line: their mother, their mother’s mother, and so on.

Autosomal DNA tests

Autosomal DNA (auDNA) tests all ancestry for both men and women, and allows you to search for relatives across all lines (both paternal and maternal), including aunts, half-siblings, cousins, etc.

It can also tell you which area of the world your ancestors came from.

What tests are available?

There’s a package to suit every budget, with prices starting from £64.95. You can choose between a basic, standard or advanced package, whether you wish to trace your paternal line, maternal line, or both.

As our database is constantly growing, you may have matches over time and you will receive e-mail notifications about any new matches.

Click here to find out more and to see the packages available

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