Autosomal DNA Testing for Beginners


Science has become more advanced and exciting over the past few years, and DNA genealogy is no exception. Many new techniques of DNA testing have been introduced that are not only very affordable, but also offer accurate results in a short amount of time. One such technique is Autosomal DNA Testing that helps us find our genealogical matches and determine our ethnic ancestry.

This article contains basic information about Autosomal DNA Testing and its technique.


What is Autosomal DNA Testing?

The word ‘autosomal’ in Autosomal DNA Testing has been derived from ‘autosomes’. Human beings contain 23 pairs of chromosomes in each cell. 22 of these pairs are identical and are known as ‘autosomes’, while a males 23rd pair contains an Y chromosome and while a females X.  Each person normally has one pair of sex chromosomes in each cell. Females have two X chromosomes, while males have one X and one Y chromosome. Most females are 46XX and most males are 46XY. The X chromosome spans about 155 million DNA building blocks (base pairs) and represents approximately 5 percent of the total DNA in cells.

The 23rd pair of chromosomes, containing an X and a Y chromosome, determines the gender of an individual. On the other hand, the 22 pairs of autosomes contain genetic material which is transferred from parents, grandparents, and even ancient ancestors. Autosomal DNA Testing uses this complex genetic record to extract valuable information about an individual’s ancestors and ethnic background.



How Autosomal DNA Testing Works?

Autosomal DNA Testing is offered by five companies – OneFam, Living DNA, Family Tree DNA, AncestryDNA, and 23andMe. 23andMe also provides information on health and other traits of an individual in addition to genealogical DNA testing but at a much higher cost.

The test kit can be ordered online with OneFam, with results received by the customer in 6-8 weeks.  Once ordered, a kit is dispatched to the customer to begin the process. The customer is then required to provide a sample of their DNA for testing within our accredited lab. The DNA returned and tested using Autosomal DNA Testing techniques. OneFam, as with other testing companies compares the autosomal DNA extracted from the sample to that of everyone else in their database. Each autosomal testing company has different database sizes. This results in a DNA analysis which depicts your gene pool percentages as well as your migration paths.

In some cases, during the matching process, the database is searched for people who have a significant amount of similar segments of autosomal DNA. If any two individuals share a considerable amount of autosomal DNA, it is concluded that they share a similar recent ancestor.

It is important to understand here that unlike Y-DNA and mtDNA, autosomal DNA undergoes recombination or mixing when it is transferred from parents to the child. Therefore, the amount of autosomal DNA shared with a relative decreases with each generation. Hence, Autosomal DNA Testing cannot be used to trace distant ancestors.

To help our readers understand this phenomenon, we are listing the average amount of autosomal DNA shared between relatives.

  • Parents and siblings – 50 percent
  • Grandparents, half-siblings, uncles and aunts, double first-cousins – 25 percent
  • First cousins – 12.5 percent

Which Companies Provide Autosomal DNA Testing?

As already mentioned, five companies provide autosomal DNA testing services. Companies charge between $99-$199 for the test depending on various factors including database size, return postage, speed etc.  Each company below provides you with a complete Autosomal DNA test.

OneFam – 
OneFam is a newcomer to the genealogy market offering free tools to create and share your family story/history. In 2017 OneFam teamed up with one of the largest DNA companies worldwide to offer its customers Ancestry DNA testing. OneFam offers an international DNA database as well as free use of its family tree software to all users. Ancestry DNA Testing is carried out under the strictness professional standards with labs accredited by world leading authorises such as CLIA, CAL and ANLAB. More details can be found here.

Living DNA – While a new company, its support comes from DNA worldwide. DNA worldwide as set up in 2004 to bring true purpose and integrity to the world of DNA testing. This company offers an excellent DNA test, more details can be found here.

Family Tree DNA
 – Family Tree DNA was the first company to offer family genealogy DNA testing in 2000. The company maintains an international database. The testing kits for Autosomal DNA Testing can be ordered online. Shipment usually takes 3 weeks in each direction and shipment charges vary for different locations. More details can be found here.

23andMe – This company is working since 2003. The company started as a health reporting company but later expanded into genealogy. Like Family Tree DNA, the kits can be ordered online from 23andMe’s official website. This company also offers health DNA checks.

AncestryDNA – Working since 2012, AncestryDNA maintains a US-based database. Autosomal DNA Testing kits can be ordered online from here. Ancestry in recent times has moved into the UK and Ireland.


Additional Resources

To learn more about some of the companies above, the International Society of Genetic Genealogy has compared some of the companies above using various criteria. Visit their posting Another great resource for anyone wishing to learn more about DNA testing is WikiTree’s DNA Resource Page.

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