Myth About DNA Test

Myth: A DNA test can pinpoint precisely where
your ancestors lived or which tribe they belonged to.
If your ancestors and their offspring had stayed in one geographic
region and never allowed outsiders to enter, it would be relatively
easy to distinguish their DNA (and yours) from the DNA of
people living in other regions. Over time, all of the inhabitants of
your region would come to share specific genetic mutations (usually
harmless changes in DNA), which would identify them as a
distinct population, the same way a surname identifies members
of a family.
But our ancestors didn’t stay in one place. For thousands of
years, humans have moved about, leaving their genetic imprints
wherever they procreate and making it increasingly difficult for
geneticists to distinguish one region’s population from another’s.
Scientists can make inferences about your ancestry based on
trends among populations, but they can’t say for sure that your
ancestors lived in a specific country, much less a specific town.
Testing companies analyze a person’s genetic makeup by comparing
his or her DNA to a reference database of DNA samples
from modern individuals living in various regions—such as residents
of present-day African countries. But it’s important to keep
in mind that today’s inhabitants of a given region are genetically
different from the people who lived there before migration
occurred. Just because your DNA matches the DNA of someone
who currently lives there, that doesn’t necessarily mean your
ancestors came from that place. Likewise, your DNA might
match that of a modern-day African tribe, but your ancestors may
not have identified with that particular group.
Biogeographical tests such as DNA Testing Systems’ DNA Fingerprint
tests will estimate where in the world your ancestors originated. Yet scientists haven’t agreed upon definitions for even
broad genetic ethnicities, so if you test with more than one company, you may get different results.
By combining genetic genealogy and traditional genealogical
research methods, however, you can make headway in pinpointing
your family’s origins. As more people get tested and contribute
both their DNA test results and their family trees to online
databases (see myth 5 for more on these), scientists will be able to
identify additional patterns and draw better conclusions.

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