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Why take a DNA test for ancestry?

3 reasons every family historian should take a DNA test

Findmypast blog writers
The Findmypast team
2 January 2020

Genetic genealogy expert, Blaine Bettinger, explains the benefits of DNA testing for genealogy.

Family historians love puzzles. Whether it's a crossword puzzle, jigsaw puzzle, or figuring out why an ancestor seemingly dropped off the face of the earth only to return a few years later with a child in tow and a fancy nom de plume, every genealogist loves the challenge of solving the mysteries. Genealogical research is the greatest puzzle of all, a never-ending series of lost or obscured ancestors whose mysteries are solvable if we just identify and correlate enough of the clues hidden in the many documents we have at our fingertips.

We are all chess masters, single-handedly recreating lost relationships and reuniting families separated by centuries, all from the comfort of the library, home, or even a mobile phone. But what if some of your genealogical puzzle pieces have been missing all along?

Modern science + traditional research = smart family history

DNA is a legacy passed down from our ancestors, a record that contains clues and evidence about their lives and relationships. Taking a DNA test unlocks that legacy and provides powerful evidence to support or refute our existing research. For those with well-documented family trees, DNA can help confirm that the documentary research was correct even though the ancestors and documents involved may have attempted to lead us astray, which is why FindmypastDNA is an obvious choice.

Discover relatives, collaborate with relatives, discover more relatives

In addition to confirming completed research (if genealogical research can ever be considered 'complete'), the results of DNA testing can provide completely new information about ongoing mysteries. When DNA tests connect us with our genealogical relatives, we are able to collaborate on our research in entirely new ways. Our new DNA cousin Guillermo, for example, may have photographs of our great-great-grandmother Jane that we didn't know existed. Or, to use another example, our newly discovered third cousin Benjamin may be able to point us to documents about our brick wall ancestor John we hadn't yet identified.

Order a DNA kit

These puzzle pieces were always out there, but they were hidden until discovered by the results of a DNA test. With Findmypast DNA you'll gain full access to Family Networks, a smart DNA-matching feature that allows you to do just that. Whether or not you contact these genetic relatives is entirely up to you, but believe me when I say the potential for research collaboration makes this one of the most exciting and useful aspects of taking the Findmypast DNA test.

All research needs evidence

One of the most common misconceptions is that DNA testing isn't necessary if there are no recent mysteries to solve. If your tree is complete for the last few generations, why should you consider DNA testing? There are at least two reasons why adding DNA evidence to your research is helpful.

First, solving a mystery requires as much evidence as possible. Even when an answer seems clear, new evidence can either help further clarify the answer or cast the answer into doubt. Every good detective looks for all possible evidence rather than only gathering what they consider enough evidence and calling it a day.

Second, even the best documentary research can be wrong. Our ancestor's times were no simpler than our own and they were no less complex. Sometimes the relationships they reported on paper were not the same relationships they lived. We are the benefactors of the complex lives that our ancestors lived, and DNA testing can help unravel some of the complexity.

DNA cannot automatically solve all of your genealogical mysteries. Where would the fun be in that? But DNA evidence will give you new clues and can help you further ensure that your research is as correct and complete as possible.

About the Author

Author of the long-running blog, The Genetic Genealogist, Blaine Bettinger (PhD) delivers presentations and webinars to educate others about the use of DNA to explore their ancestry. Blaine also wroteThe Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy. Join his Facebook group, Genetic Genealogy Tips & Techniques, to discuss your results with a community of helpful experts and enthusiasts.