There are many companies now offering DNA tests to the public. Some companies, like Ancestry, have been revising their ethnicity estimates in the light of the new data they have acquired by performing so many tests. Thus my own estimate, which originally showed I was about half Irish, has now been reduced down to 36% Irish and Scottish and 64% English, Welsh and northern European. Which is more in line with my actual genealogy than the original breakdown.
The more tests are completed, the more accurate the ethnicity estimates ought to become, and the more links to other people’s known genealogy should become available, in theory. Thus many people have uploaded their results to GedMatch, a website which accepts DNA tests from many different companies, in the hope that the wider sample will throw up more matches with cousins and make the DNA test more useful for genealogy. Of course, there has recently been some publicity about the way in which the authorities are using DNA databases in order to trace criminals – so if you have any criminals in your family you’d probably better avoid GedMatch!
Hopefully you don’t have criminal tendencies as a heritable trait, and therefore will be able to upload your DNA with a clear conscience, because GedMatch is now testing a beta advance in their matching technology, GedMatch Genesis. There is also a matchfinder tool available, which is being used by various groups on Facebook to seek out matches for particular locations. One of the most popular is a Yorkshire DNA matchfinder. I expect these sorts of groups to grow over the next few years. The big advantage of joining a group on Facebook is that you know that the other people in the group are as anxious to contact their matches as you are – I have had a very poor rate of reply on GedMatch and Ancestry, with many people refusing to give any information about their family trees at all.
So far my own matches using the tool have been confusing: my matches have none of the surnames in my family tree, and I have none of theirs. It’s a work in progress!
DNA is used by the American programme Finding your roots, and they recently used it to confirm that they had found the relatives of Andy Samberg, who stars in Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The BerkeleySide online newsletter recently published a very detailed and interesting story about the case, giving a lot of detail about the way in which his grandparents were found, which makes an interesting read.