How Do I Find My Ancestry?

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Have you ever wondered, “How do I find my ancestry?”

Tracing your roots is important and fun to know. Go back just a few generations and we can lose track of who our family was and where our ancestors came from. Most of what we know about our ancestors is told through stories.

Your parents told you what their parents told them and so on. Although these can be exciting and interesting to hear, there may be no definitive truth behind these tales. 

Maybe you have never been told anything about your family’s history. Thankfully, there are many ways to trace our ancestry far into the past.

We are going to discuss the best methods of delving into your family’s past and hopefully discover some exciting mysteries along the way.

Who knows, maybe that story your grandmother told you about being related to royalty is true after all! The only way to find out for sure is to find your ancestry. One thing we should have in common with our ancestors is our DNA.

But is this reliable enough to trace your ancestors? Let’s find out.

Table of Contents

Can DNA tell your ancestry?

Many people will automatically think of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) when searching their family history. However, some people do have concerns about DNA tracing whether it’s to do with privacy or how long it takes to achieve results from DNA tests.

The good news is that DNA does help you find your ancestry. Many people decide to take an Ancestry DNA test because it is supposed to show you your family’s heritage and ethnicity.

Another reason is that people can then find living relatives who share their DNA. It is true that DNA can achieve both of these results.

If you wish to find out about your ancestor’s ethnicity, doing a DNA ancestry test should give you results of their origins. Nevertheless, these can sometimes be quite basic . This typically stretches back around 250 to 500 years ago.

It is common for someone’s DNA to match their family history. For example, someone from Poland will usually receive results of ancestors originating in western or eastern Europe.

The DNA matches you get for ancestry are usually very reliable. Your results will normally come back with a long list of DNA matches, from the closest relative to the most distant.

Those at the top of the list will share the most DNA with you (parents and siblings) while the further down the list you go, the less DNA you will share with those people.

How many generations does DNA go back?

This can depend on the type of ancestry service you are using. If you use some popular sites such as AncestryDNA or MyHeritage, you will typically go back around 6 to 8 generations.

If you consider each generation is 25 years, you should be able to find out the last 150-200 years of your family history through information from an autosomal DNA test.

These are the most common DNA tests, reporting on your DNA matches as well as your family’s ethnicity. Simply put, it can tell you if you are “50% American” or “30% French”.

If you want to search your ancestry back to ancient times, you’re in luck! You can do this through a YDNA or mtDNA test. However, women do not have YDNA so will need a male relative to get this test.

Genealogically, YDNA, and mtDNA tests aren’t the most beneficial. On the other hand, they are superb for finding exactly where your ancient ancestors originated through paternal and maternal lines.

An mtDNA test will give results for recent and distant relatives. Individual results can differ though. If you match with someone on HVR1, you have about a 50% chance of discovering you share a maternal ancestor.

This can date back over 52 generations or about 1,300 years. If you match with someone on HVR1 and HVR2, you will have a 50% chance of sharing a maternal ancestor over the last 28 generations or 700 years.

If you match on an mtDNA full genomic sequence, only your most recent results will be shown.

You’ll have a 50% chance of sharing a mutual ancestor over the last 125 years or 5 generations. If you decide to try out haplogroup testing, you could be able to look back at over 10,000 years of ancestry!

YDNA tests can also show recent and distant relatives. There are some different tests to take with this: SNP and STR.

SNP tests will help you find out your haplogroup and discover ancient ancestors. We’re talking about prehistoric times here!

STR tests trace the male lineage back to ancient and genealogical times. You can find out the possible countries where your lineage may have originated too.

It is worth noting that these are dependent on others getting added to their databases. If everyone got added to these databases, the possibilities could be endless!

What is genealogy?

You’ve seen us mention the term “genealogy” throughout this article but what does it mean?

Genealogy is the study of family ancestors. This is done through birth certificates, marriage documents, death dates through your parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. In other words, as far back as you can go. 

Family history is more of an in-depth study of your family’s lineage with stories and tales from individuals such as their occupations, military service, where people lived, education, and so on.

Many people who begin with genealogy are only familiar with their parent’s names and dates of birth. Through thorough research, genealogy allows you to discover your ancestry like never before. 

In Summary

There are many ways to find your ancestry these days.

Whether you do it through asking family members various questions on what they know about your family’s past, or by building a family tree through thorough research, you can discover facts about your ancestry that may have never seen the light of day otherwise.

If you want precise results on your ancestry, DNA testing is probably the best method.

Everyone has different results when using this form of testing but depending on how many relatives are in the databases, you may find some surprises along the way.

Made some good progress with finding your ancestry? Get creative and turn your findings into a creative family tree project!

About Chris Craft

Hi! I'm Chris(topher) Craft. I'm a believer, husband of an amazing woman (Wanda), and father of three talented kids (Naomi, Maria, and Elijah). I love writing, making music, learning about God's Hand in History, entrepreneurship, and basketball. Thank you for reading my stuff! ❤️ Connect with me on Twitter @CraftWrites.