Mayflower Plymouth Village North Bridge at Concord

Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor

Plymouth Village

North Bridge at Concord

DNA For Family History Research

The Cousin Relationship Chart shows the degree of relationship and the expected centiMorgan count at that level. Because of recombination the expected value can be higher or lower than the chart shows. So range is also given for each degree of relationship.
DNA Relationship

Why do we do DNA TESTING?

  1. Allows us to confirm or eliminate family relationships.
  2. Once we determine a family line we can focus our research on that line.
  3. Helps us avoid researching a family line that we are not from. Strengthens a weak paper trail to our direct ancestor.
  4. Helps us establish where our ancient ancestor came from.
  5. Helps determine level of relationship.

When don’t we test?

  1. If you have ever had a bone marrow transplant your blood DNA will change to the same as the donor. A whole blood transfusion will show the donors DNA for a short time. In this situation you will need a sibling or parent to test to determine the ancestral DNA.

What DNA testing do we do?


If we have a good paper trail through genealogy research we can still do DNA testing to find ancestral roots, or determine relationship between individuals.
  1. To determine relationship use the autosomal test from Ancestry.com or the Family Finder from familytreedna.com. This test will generally give good results out to fourth cousin. Ancestry.com does compare your family tree with others that have matches in their family tree.
  2. The Yc’s DNA is a male line only test. Use this test to determine or confirm a family line. I would recommend you test at a minimum the 37 marker and best the 67 marker test. You can do additional testing to determine geographic region where your ancestor came from. The additional testing can be done with snp (single nucleotide polymorphism) testing. R1b haplogroup is the most common in Europe. Haplotypes in the R1b group can determine ancient ancestry by the type number. Three of the more known ones are from the P312 extensions. They are R-L21, probably a Viking invader at either Shetland or Orkney Island off the coast of Scotland. The next would be R-U106, this would be from the Saxon invasions from Germany. The next one is R-U152 (mine) with an L2 snp marker, This man was probably a Roman soldier that came to England in 43 BC. The U152 mutation originate several thousand years ago probably in the Italian Alps or around Tuscany.
  3. mtDNA or Mitochondrial is a mother to daughter DNA. The mothers mitochondrial will also be in her son. The son does not receive any of the fathers mitochondrial; as a result additional testing will have to be done on the father’s sister or female descendants to determine the mitochondrial line for his grandmothers DNA.

What DNA test should we take?

The test you take is all dependent upon the objectives you are trying to achieve. My first DNA test was in 2001 to prove or disprove the relationship for the three Cory brothers that escaped in the night from London. At that time family project testing was very new and very expensive. I was contacted because I had good documentation to my immigrant ancestor William Cory of Portsmouth, RI. He was born in Bristol, England in 1634. Speculation was that John Cory of Long Island, NY was his father. A third Cory man, Thomas, of Chelmsford, MA, relationship was unknown. Testing was set up with Relative Genetics (no longer exists, bought out by Ancestry) and a Cory Family DNA project was set up. Seven men were tested, six had good documentation, with the seventh thinking he was a William descendant. The result of testing shows no relationship between any of the three early Cory men. The haplogroups assigned was R1a to John Cory, ancestor was probably a Saxon. I1 haplogroup was assigned to Thomas Cory, his ancestor was probably of Scandinavian ancestry and came in with the Vikings. William Cory was assigned R1b haplogroup, snp testing has shown his ancestor was from Italy and mutations show he probably lived in Scotland, the mutations are on specific markers that identify The Little Scottish Cluster. All the men confirmed their ancestor except the seventh man; Arthur Cory is descended from Thomas of Chelmsford. Arthur has still not been able to create a paper trail to his ancestor.
Recently I tested my mtDNA to determine my mother’s mitochondrial haplogroup. All of her known ancestry is German, so I fully expected her haplogroup to be H or Helena. I have only been able to go back five generations with known maiden names, so I wanted to test to see if I could get a match to an older ancestor than what I had with my genealogy research. I Contacted familytreedna, because they already had my DNA, and ordered the complete mtDNA test. Some eight weeks later I received the results and found that mom is from the T haplogroup or Tara. To be specific her haplotype is T2c1e. Unfortunately familytree’s DNA database only has four matches, so the haplotype is rare and I am unable to determine an ancestor beyond my 3rd great grandmother.
The mtDNA is passed from mother to child, generation after generation. My wife Nancy had her brother submit a DNA sample some time ago to determine the Nickerson haplogroup and type. Her brother tested R1b with the haplotype being R-L21 which probably came in to Scotland with the Vikings. She ordered the full mtDNA from her brothers submitted DNA. The mitochondrial results came back as T or Tara with the haplotype as T2b6b. Unlike my line she has a high number of matches in Europe and with North American Indians as well. But like mine she has not found a match to go beyond the five generation brick wall.
The Autosomal from Ancestry.com or the Family Finder from familytreedna.com test will test ethnicity and relationship between individuals. I have done both tests to determine ethnicity. I have a paper trail to a Cherokee ancestor on my grandmother Corey. I also have a paper trail to an African American through my great-grandmother Corey. As a result of the paper trail I wanted to know if it would show up in the testing. Since this is mitochondrial and is in generations before mine I didn’t know what kind of results I would get. The Autosomal test showed I was 100% European, the Family Finder showed I was 90% European with 10% from the Iberian Peninsula. So this was a bust, what do I do now? My next step is to get one of my two surviving aunts, sisters of my father to do the Autosomal or Family Finder test. My aunts are direct line from the mitochondrial North American Indian Ancestor. If she was North American Indian, it will show up in the testing, if she is not then I will have her mtDNA and maybe get a clue on her ethnicity.
We have discussed the three tests and what they can and can’t do for you. The only test being done by ancestry now is the Autosomal. They no longer do the Y or mtDNA test. Familytreedna does all three tests. If you decide to use familytreeDNA for the testing, start with the 67 marker Y test, then you can progress to the others as time or money dictates. Most definitely join a surname project, and once you are tested and receive results, you can join specific groups for your particular haplogroup or type.
FTDNA and a non-testing company Gedmatch will allow you to upload your raw data file. FTDNA does charge a small fee to unlock the tools in its Family Finder. This small fee is well worth paying to be able to do X match and use the Chromosome Browser to compare your DNA against others. Gedmatch does not charge a fee except for some very advanced tools. Gedmatch has a wide variety of tools to help you analyze your DNA. One of the tools I found interesting was the one that generated this chart comparing my DNA against ancient skeletons found around the world. My closest match is to a skeleton 7,000 years old that was found at Stuttgart, Germany. The skeleton was of a female and her mitochondrial was T2c2, the same as my mothers. The other match was to the Clovis skeleton that is 12,000 years old found in Montana. My DNA has a 2% match to North American Indians, so I was not surprised by this match, it just verified my paper trail.