August 10, 2023
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Popular Methods of Research in Genetic Genealogy

Genetic genealogy is a field of study that combines genetics and genealogy to explore familial relationships and uncover ancestral connections.
Tomohiro Takano

What is Genetic Genealogy?

Unraveling the mysteries of our ancestral past has always captivated humans, especially when it comes to understanding ourselves on a deeper level. And while traditional genealogy has long been the primary means of tracing family history, a new field called genetic genealogy has emerged, revolutionizing our understanding of lineage and heritage. But, what is genetic genealogy? Combining genetics and genealogy, this innovative approach enables people to explore their family tree in ways that were once unimaginable. Pursuing this fascinating field is definitely worth the effort if you’ve been interested in learning more about your family’s past and how it all applies to your present. 

What is Genetic Genealogy?

Genetic genealogy is a field of study that combines genetics and genealogy to explore familial relationships and uncover ancestral connections. It involves the use of DNA testing and analysis to trace family lineages, either confirm or challenge genealogical records, and discover genetic connections with other people. By examining unique genetic markers that are present in a person’s DNA, genetic genealogy provides insights into their ethnic origins, migration patterns, and connections with relatives across generations.

What is genetic genealogy?

Genetic genealogy relies on the understanding that certain segments of DNA are inherited from our ancestors and can be passed down through generations. By comparing the DNA profiles of different people, geneticists and genealogists can identify shared DNA segments and determine the degree of relatedness between them. This analysis can help reconstruct family trees, connect people with unknown relatives, and shed light on migration patterns and population movements. The practice has gained popularity in recent years due to advancements in DNA testing technology and the increased availability of commercial genetic testing services. Companies like AncestryDNA, 23andMe, and MyHeritageDNA offer genetic testing kits that enable people to submit a DNA sample (usually through saliva) and receive detailed reports on their ethnic composition, potential relatives, and ancestral origins.

Genetic genealogy has numerous applications and benefits. It is particularly valuable for adoptees and people with unknown parentage, as it can help them identify biological relatives and uncover their ancestral roots. Genetic genealogy also offers insights into ethnicity, migration patterns, and historical connections, which helps people forge a deeper appreciation for cultural heritage and promotes a greater understanding of human history. This scientific process has revolutionized the field of genealogy, offering exciting opportunities to discover one's ancestral past, connect with relatives, and gain a more comprehensive understanding of personal identity and heritage.

Applications of Genetic Genealogy

Now that you know the answer to the question, “What is genetic genealogy?”, let’s explore some ways it might actually be applied in real life. Genetic genealogy is used in various ways to explore familial relationships, trace ancestry, and help people gain insights into genetic connections. 

Here are some of the key applications and uses of genetic genealogy:

  • Tracing Lineage

Genetic genealogy offers a powerful tool for investigating family histories beyond the scope of traditional paper-based genealogy. It enables people to uncover connections with distant relatives, discover lost branches of their family tree, and confirm or challenge existing genealogical records.

  • Ethnicity Estimation

Through genetic testing, people can gain insights into their ancestral origins, including ethnicities and geographical regions associated with their DNA. Companies specializing in genetic genealogy can provide estimates of a person's ethnic composition, shedding light on their diverse heritage.

  • Adoption and Unknown Parentage

Genetic genealogy has proved to be a game-changer for adoptees and those with unknown parentage. By comparing their DNA with others in large genetic databases, adoptees can locate biological relatives and potentially uncover their birth families.

  • Solving Cold Cases

Genetic genealogy has also found utility in forensic investigations. Law enforcement agencies are able to use DNA samples from crime scenes, which aids in their search of public genetic databases to identify potential suspects or close relatives, and can ultimately help figure out previously unsolvable cold cases.

Popular Methods of Research in Genetic Genealogy

Popular research methods for genetic genealogy involve gathering and analyzing various types of records and sources to uncover information about one's ancestors. Here are some of the most commonly used research methods in genealogy:

  • Vital Records

Vital records include birth certificates, marriage licenses, and death certificates. These documents provide crucial information about people – like their names, dates and places of birth, marriage details, and dates and places of death. Vital records are often obtained from government agencies, archives, or online databases.

  • Census Records

Census records are also valuable sources of information for genealogists. They provide a snapshot of a person or family at specific points in time, offering details like names, ages, relationships, occupations, and addresses. Census records are usually conducted every ten years and can be accessed through government archives or online databases.

  • Church Records

Church records, including baptismal, marriage, and burial records, are often excellent resources for tracing family history, especially before civil registration became common. Churches have maintained records of baptisms, marriages, and deaths for centuries, providing valuable genealogical information.

  • Immigration and Naturalization Records

Immigration and naturalization records help trace ancestors who migrated to a new country. Passenger lists, ship manifests, and immigration records provide details about when and where people arrived, their age, nationality, and sometimes the names of accompanying family members. On the other hand, naturalization records document the process of becoming a citizen. Both records can help people dig deeper into their family’s past, provided they have these available. 

  • Military Records

Military records can provide valuable insights into an ancestor's military service. These records may include enlistment papers, service records, pension records, and other related documents. They can provide information about a person’s military unit, dates of service, ranks, and sometimes details of their involvement in conflicts.

  • Cemetery Records and Gravestones

Cemetery records and gravestones offer valuable information about ancestors' names, birth and death dates, and sometimes relationships. Visiting cemeteries and documenting tombstones can provide insights into family connections and help verify information obtained from other sources.

  • Newspapers and Obituaries

Local newspapers and obituaries can provide valuable details about ancestors' lives, including birth and death notices, marriage announcements, and other significant events. Newspapers can also provide context about the communities and times in which ancestors lived.

  • Oral History and Family Interviews

Conducting interviews with older family members can yield valuable information and personal stories that may not be documented elsewhere. Oral history can provide insights into family traditions, relationships, and anecdotes that can enhance the understanding of ancestral lives.

  • Online Genealogy Databases and Websites

Online genealogy databases like,, and offer access to a wide range of genealogical records and resources. These platforms provide searchable databases of vital records, census data, immigration records, and more, making research more accessible, centralized, and efficient.

As we mentioned earlier, genetic genealogy uses DNA testing to explore familial connections, trace ancestry, and discover genetic matches. DNA testing can complement traditional genealogy research by confirming or challenging existing family trees and connecting people with unknown relatives. Through combining these research methods and sources, genealogists can piece together the puzzle of their family history, uncovering fascinating stories and connections across generations. However, it's important to keep in mind that research methods may vary depending on the location, time period, and availability of records specific to the person’s ancestry.

Why Pursue Genetic Genealogy?

There are quite a few reasons why someone might pursue genetic genealogy, but here are the main ones we’ve come across:

  • Discovering Hidden Connections

Genetic genealogy provides a unique opportunity to uncover long-lost relatives and establish connections with people who share DNA segments with you. These newfound connections can enhance your understanding of your family history and expand your social network.

  • Confirming or Challenging Genealogical Research

Traditional genealogical research often relies on written records that can be prone to errors or omissions. Genetic genealogy acts as a powerful tool to validate or challenge existing genealogical findings, offering a more comprehensive and objective perspective on your ancestry.

  • Preserving Cultural Heritage

Exploring your genetic genealogy can provide a deeper appreciation for your cultural heritage. Learning about your ancestors' traditions, customs, and historical context, can help you foster a stronger connection to your roots and preserve your family's unique legacy for future generations.

  • Medical Insights

Genetic genealogy can offer valuable medical insights by identifying potential inherited health conditions. Certain genetic tests can provide information on predispositions to specific diseases, helping people make informed decisions about their health and wellness. Genetic genealogy has revolutionized the field of genealogy, allowing people to explore their family history in ways that were once impossible and unimaginable. 

Through DNA testing and analysis, genetic genealogy uncovers ancestral connections, verifies traditional genealogical research, and provides insights into ethnicity, lineage, and health. Embracing genetic genealogy can be a transformative experience, empowering people to embrace their heritage, forge new connections with members of their community, and gain a deeper understanding of their place in the course of human history.

Tomohiro Takano
Tomohiro Takano
Co-Founder and CEO