I am in the process of evaluating companies to test my DNA. I was wondering if anyone could give me some guidance on which company to use. There are a large number of tests and a lot of money can be invested. Any help appreciated.
I can only give you my personal experience. We used Family Tree DNA and have been pleased with the service and results.
There are two types of DNA tests - nuclear DNA (passed along through the Y-Chromosome -ie. males only) and mitochondria DNA which is passed by the mother to both her male and female offspring but only the females will pass it on again to the next generation.
Mitochondrial DNA is useful for following the maternal side and Y-DNA is useful for tracing the paternal line (and presumably the actual surname, if the name didn't get changed along the way).
I chose FTDNA based on the recommendation of the KERR/CARR surname group manager. (Kerr is my maiden name). My brother contributed the DNA and we initially chose the 37 marker test. We were very fortunate to find an exact match to someone with the exact same name, including middle name as my brother (serendipity strikes again). We compared research notes with the individual and obtained more leads. It is quite likely our two families connect in as little as two generations back. It was a great find.
We also matched 12 markers with many different people. 12 markers is interesting but nearly as useful as 37 or 67.
We went fishing for more matches and upgraded to the 67 marker test. We matched again with the same individual mentioned in the 37 marker test and also several other families.
The testing also gave us the haplogroup which shows the migrations of this lineage over the ages.
I'm about to get my mitochondrial DNA tested and will go with FTDNA based on our positive experience with them.
That said I would check to see which of the companies has a project that interests you. I recently attended a talk by a noted forensic genealogist and it was mentioned there are over 8000 DNA studies ongoing. These include surname, geographic, historic, and ethnic studies. The speaker said there are three big DNA companies (DNAheritage, FTDNA and Ancestry) and wasn't recommending one over the other. All were good - just check the project that closely matches your genealogy research goals.
If you do submit DNA for a test, I suggest going with the most number of markers the budget will allow. Also when you get your results, I suggest sharing them on ysearch.org, ybase.org or smgf.org so you can compare with other researchers, no matter where the testing was done.
Without hesitation I'd recommend FTDNA, Family Tree DNA, the early leader in the field and known for its consistent professionalism, and for its ongoing exploration of new methods and cooperative research.
They did my testing some time ago and I receive regular updates on my results as new discoveries develop.
There are others out there well thought of as well; I happened to have picked FTDNA on a fellow researcher's recommendation and am well-pleased that I did.
Incidentally, my haplogroup is Q1a3, or, Q-M346 (NW Europe G1) L53, L54, L55 Positive.
Gary in Berkeley
You might want to check and see if there is a surname project for your last name already in place. Sometimes the various groups that are already established can get a sale price on the test kit. I would suggest you get at least the 37 marker test, and get the 67 if you can afford it. I had my brother Y-DNA tested as well as the mtDNA just so he wouldn't need to do it again later if I wanted to upgrade. I was glad he tested! I found that the information listed at ancestry.com was completely wrong as far as which direction that branch of our family tree went. Luckily, he matched with four other guys that had already tested and we know our MRCA (most recent common ancestor).
In addition to Y-DNA and mtDNA, there is also the new Family Finder test which is able to find potential matches on any of your inheritance lines. I think it is far more practical than mtDNA for typical genealogy purposes.
FF is a new test, there are only a few thousand records in their DB, but already I have been matched with one person who apparently shares at least one ancestor with me from the same small corner of southern Ireland. We don't know exactly the nature of our match, but our DNA is ringing the bell, loud and clear.