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How is a DNA Test Able To Determine Ethnic Background?

America is the ultimate melting pot – a land of immigrants from all corners of the world. If you’ve ever wondered about your family tree’s true origins and where you fit in, it might be time to consider taking a DNA test.

This type of testing can give you a vast array of answers to questions you may have about parentage, illnesses, and even ethnicity. For instance, after DNA testing, you could find out that you’re more, or less, Italian than you thought. But how does such a test determine ethnic background?

The Basics: Three Types of Tests

When you begin your genealogy journey, you have several testing options. The first route is through mitochondrial DNA testing, also known as mtDNA. This type of test traces ancestry through the female ancestral lines of your family. Mitochondria are passed from a mother to her children. Since all people have mitochondria, both men and women can take this type of test. What is particularly interesting about this test is that it can shed light on women in your family tree that you may not have heard of, due to the loss of surnames through marriage.

Alternatively, a Y chromosome test tracks lineage through the male side of your family. Since women do not have Y chromosomes, this sort of testing can only be done on men. It is additionally helpful in determining if other people who have the same last name are related.

If you’re unsure which type of test is right for you, contact your local ARCpoint Labs location. Our friendly technicians are happy to point you in the right direction.

Interpreting Your Results

You probably opened your test results feeling a mix of excitement and trepidation. Then you were surprised to see that your ethnic breakdown was an estimated split into percentages. Aren’t DNA tests supposed to be definitive?

When you have your DNA tested with ARCpoint Labs, we use an actual ancestry test that uses thousands of DNA markers to compare your DNA across cultures. Depending on the markers you have and how often they appear in different populations, we are then able to calculate the probability of each ethnic possibility.

Sometimes this may seem strange, such as if you have an Irish surname and know all of your immediate family to have emigrated from Ireland, yet you receive a 5% estimate of Southeast Asian. Again, this means your DNA has markers that have a high probability of being from that region. It could have been a distant ancestor who passed down these genes. It’s a fascinating, humbling discovery to find how interconnected the human race actually is.

It is also important to note that the more people that opt for DNA testing, the more our database grows. The more robust our database becomes, the more accurate our test results will be, simply due to the fact that we have a larger sample size to compare DNA markers.

The Many Benefits of a DNA Test

You’ve got your results, now what? How does having your ethnic breakdown benefit you? Understanding your ethnicity can lead to rewarding opportunities, such as reconnecting with long lost family members or traveling abroad. Now that you know you have some Southeast Asian in you, why not travel to India to connect with your ancestral land?

Beyond personal use and curiosity, genetic testing can help put to rest a variety of legal issues. These tests can help settle topics such as the right to inheritance, social security, and other benefits, as well as issues of paternity and the confirmation of biological family members. DNA is a wonderfully useful tool that establishes a scientific context for interpersonal relationships.

If you’re interested in a DNA test, contact your local ARCpoint Labs location. We specialize in DNA testing and can help you find out more about your ancestry. Whether you’re interested in discovering more of your family tree or you need DNA confirmation to settle a legal dispute, ARCpoint Labs has locations across the country to help you find the answers you seek.