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African American DNA Research Forum

Re-phrasing what's already been said

If nothing else about DNA testing, the one thing that is perfectly clear to me is that interpreting the results of the tests is confusing to lots of people. Understandably so. I've been to several of the DNA lab web sites, and have been reading the posts here and elsewhere, and what is clear is that many of the folks doing the explaining seem to be assuming that everyone understands scientific procedure, and that simply is not the case. Many people who do not actively pursue science in one form or another, do not necessarily understand why or how certain procedures are followed, or even why they are necessary to come to an accurate deducement.

Certainly, I am no expert on this matter. But, I thought that, maybe, another person saying the same things in a different way, may be of assistance to some.

A need for specificity in the explanation of the results of the tests has been discussed here. I too, seek specifics, so let me address that. DNA testing is actually still in it's relative infancy. What information can be extracted and explained with accuracy is still quite limited. Possibly, someday, science will be able to trace each and every ancestor of a tested person with a high degree of accuracy. But that is NOT the case right now. Only the male Y-chromosome and the female mitochondrial chromosomes are giving us specific information for genealogical purposes. Each parent contributes 23 chromosomes to their offspring, for a total of 46. Each chromosome is composed of many genes, the genes being the carriers of the information that makes each offspring an individual.

Because today's science can only trace the male Y-DNA and female mitochodrial-DNA directly (for genealogical purposes), we can only get specifics on two (2) direct lines of ancestry, our father's direct male line, and our mother's direct female family line (father to son, and mother to child). So, to get around this short-coming, some people decide to get other "strategic" members of their extended family tested. This way, they can get more information about their family than just what their personal test is able to give them. For instance, if I were to test my father's sister (or her female descendent, himself, or his brother, because the mother's mitochondrial DNA is passed to all of her children), her DNA would reveal information that he could not pass-on to me, because males do not pass along mitochondrial DNA. Meaning, my father did not pass along any of his mother's mitochondrial DNA to me, even though he did pass along a multitude of other DNA information, in addition to his Y-DNA. Now, I'll wait to see how many folks who understood this initially, are now thoroughly confused. If someone told you that understanding this was easy....they lied to you! :)


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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