Maternal, Paternal or Autosomal?

Often times, when a person wants to take an ethnic DNA test, he or she will have difficulty deciding if they should take the maternal test, the paternal test, or the autosomal test. For those who are unfamiliar with the different kinds of testing, maternal testing involves only one lineage in a person’s family tree: mother -> grandmother -> great grandmother, etc. The paternal test also only examines one lineage in a person’s family tree: father -> grandfather -> great grandfather etc. It is often said that although the…

maternal and paternal tests only reveal one lineage of a person’s family tree, they are more accurate than autosomal tests, which reveal an individual’s entire background. With all of this jargon, what should a person do if they care about accuracy, but also want a full picture of their ancestral history? While this may come as obvious to some, it is advised that people who participate in autosomal testing should test people in their families who are contributors to their ancestral background, higher up the family tree. If a person wants to know their ancestral background, rather than taking the test themselves, it may be a better idea to get both of their parents, or all four of their grandparents to take the test. Parents, grandparents, and great grandparents are going to be less mixed than their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Therefore, there is a higher likelihood that the results will be accurate. A person who is very mixed may have some results that in actual fact, are not part of their ancestral background. For example, a person may have ancestry from countries A,B,C, and D. That mixture may appear to look similar to a person from country E, so it may look like the person taking the test is from country E, when in actual fact, this isn’t the case.