Interest in genealogy – the study of family lineages – isn’t quite as high as it was around the turn of the millennium when websites like Ancestry made the hobby more accessible to armchair researchers.
At-Home DNA Testing Kits: Just a Fancy Novelty?
However, plenty of people retain an almost primal need to find out where they came from. After all, beyond both sets of grandparents, things start to get a little hazy, especially as records start to age and disappear.
Game of Thrones
Recently, fiction has helped start a fire under genealogical research once again, as long-running series like Game of Thrones struggle to tell the entire history of just about everybody who ever lived in the saga’s world, Westeros. A history of the Targaryen clan created by ExpressVPN takes them back around 300 in-story years, around 1/17th of the family’s total age.
What’s interesting about the latter infographic is how unusual the Targaryen line is. It includes plenty of consanguineous marriages to keep the bloodline pure – somewhat ironically, given the problems this can cause.
A bingo card for House of the Dragon created by the same website highlights this oddity by adding a box for family members kissing, as well as more ordinary things, like eight different ways to die.
Of course, the family trees of real people tend to be significantly less interesting, with secret adoptions and marriages among the stranger things that people have discovered during their research.
One of the newer parts of genealogy – DNA testing – has produced a fair few surprises of its own, though. The question is, are they worth the effort or are they just a novelty, the fake beard of genuine research?
An article on the Popular Mechanics website notes that at-home DNA testing kits come with all sorts of promises, from helping the user hunt down health risks to uncovering their family’s behavioral traits.
They can also trace family lines back to their point of origin, which is the aspect that’s the most relevant to genealogists. How does this work? They simply identify the <1% of DNA that’s unique to each person and compare it to other samples.
Unfortunately, DNA databases tend to be fragmentary, which means that the accuracy of each test is not absolute. Companies like 23andMe and Ancestry actually promise something closer to good, reliable guesses rather than concrete proof from their DNA tests.
However, for the vast majority of people, who tend to veer towards the casual side of genealogy, this isn’t much of a problem.
The WebMD website reinforces the previous point by stating that the quality of DNA tests is entirely dependent on how much data a company’s lab actually has available.
On the plus side, where information is plentiful, ancestry tests can follow a person’s origins back ten generations or up to about 300 years.
As names, dates of birth, and locations aren’t held in human DNA, though, paper records aren’t going out of fashion any time soon.
Overall, DNA testing is a reasonably accurate way to begin (or continue) your hunt for the various parts of your family tree.