Pass the DNA, Please

I know that sometimes understanding who inherits what kind of DNA from whom can be confusing, especially with four kinds of DNA to keep track of.

Let’s Make This Easy

In a nutshell:

  • Y DNA is passed from the father to male children only (blue boxes). This is the paternal surname line.
  • Mitochondrial DNA is passed from women to all of their children, but only females pass it on (red circles).

  • Half of each parent’s autosomal DNA (chromosomes 1-22) inherited from ancestral lines, meaning all lines shown above, is passed to each child – but not the same exact half is passed to different children.
  • The X chromosome has a distinct inheritance pattern that is helpful to genealogists, but is often confused with mitochondrial DNA.

You can read about the X chromosome’s unique inheritance path in the article X Matching and Mitochondrial DNA is Not the Same Thing, along with some helpful fan charts.

Let’s look at this a different way.

Mother Passes DNA to Children

Father Passes DNA to Children

Ordering Tests

You can order any of the various DNA tests, including matching to other testers, from the following vendors:

I recommend that you test with or transfer to each of the vendors.

Autosomal Transfers

Have you already taken an autosomal DNA test and want to transfer between vendors? Here’s a handy-dandy chart for you.

Note that while Family Tree DNA does accept the Ancestry V2 chip, as well as the 23andMe V4 chip, because they are incompatible platforms, you’ll only see your closest matches, meaning about 20% of the total matches you would receive if you tested on Family Tree DNA’s own chip. For that reason, I generally recommend testing at Family Tree DNA unless you tested on an earlier chip version at one of those vendors.

For more information about transfers, including when the various chips were in use, please read Autosomal DNA Transfers – Which Companies Accept Which Tests?


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26 thoughts on “Pass the DNA, Please

  1. Hi, Always need a brush up on the Y and X’s. Thank you! Now, my mother had rare blood. It was AB negative. How did that happen? Did her mother have to have it? How is blood type passed on? Thanks

  2. Thanks this explanation was priceless. Namaste.

    On Fri, May 11, 2018 at 3:53 PM, DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy wrote:

    > Roberta Estes posted: “I know that sometimes understanding who inherits > what kind of DNA from whom can be confusing, especially with four kinds of > DNA to keep track of. Let’s Make This Easy In a nutshell: Y DNA is passed > from the father to male children only (blue bo” >

  3. Suppose I find a particular match on my X chromosome with another person. Do X chromosome matches persist for many more generations than matches on chromosomes 1-22?

  4. Wegene accepts ancestry but the haplogroups are wrong ……….showed R0 and was founf to be T1a1e ( mtdna )……..

    You left out DNAland

  5. My two twin brothers came up 40 something native american. My sister and I , and my brothers came up as 1st cousins? Does that mean we all have different fathers?

  6. I have 2 brothers and 1 sister. We all share the same mother. But my eldest brother has a different father. I sent his DNA to FamilyTree for a Y-DNA analysis, so that we could find out more about his biological paternal line. My own father adopted him and gave him his surname. When I sent in the DNA, I put his adopted name, not his biological name. (Adopted name is Irish. Biological surname is Italian.) When the Y-results came in, they were identical to my full brother. This does not make sense to me. Would Family Tree have just gone by the surname that I put on his sample?? They have listed matches to the maternal side of the family, which I understand. But I am really scratching my head on the Y-DNA results that connect him to my paternal side rather than to his biological paternal side. Why might that be????

  7. Thank you for posting this! It’s very informative. I just want to make sure I have this straight: my father passed his mother’s autosomal DNA to me and my sister through the X chromosome he gave us to decide our gender, but that DNA may have come from one or both of my grandmother’s parents? (I’m hoping that I inherited DNA from my grandmother’s mother’s father’s mother… She’s my brick wall and I’m trying to tear it down any way possible).

  8. is there a test that only provides a fathers profile, when no father is available to be tested. if so,, where

    • If your father had no brothers or sons, and he was the last male of his father’s line, then there is no test for your father’s DNA. (This is also my predicament, and my father passed away in 1992). I have male cousins, but their Y chromosome would give results for their father’s line.

  9. A man only receives one X from his mother so not all her X
    This is a helpful post especially as regards the Companies

  10. Roberta,

    I’d like your opinion on the following find. I have very found an autosomal DNA triangulation group (using MyHeritage with resulting levels of 10-15 cM) between three documented descendants (all 5-6 cousins) of my 5x g-gfather, Joseph Howe (English immigrant c1727-d1790 Pulaski County, VA and confidant of George Washington) and a documented descendant (would be my/our 8th cousin from James Howe b1704-d1728 London) of the English Howe family from whom family lore has long claimed a kinship to date. without any documented evidence. Such high levels of cM are quite unexpected in my view.

    Thomas Wilson

      • Roberta,

        Thank you. Yes, fortunately, I’ve obtained the same results on GEDMatch. The TG includes: (1) Julian who descends from Henrietta Howe (b1704) (the twin sister of James Howe (1704-1728) – Joseph’s purported father), (2) a descendent of Joseph’s daughter Elizabeth, and (3) a descendant of Joseph’s daughter Rebecca. A 3rd person, another descendant of Elizabeth Howe, matches (still need to verify triangulation at GEDMatch when/if she uploads from MyHeritage) at a total 0.4% 35 cM match with 15.3 cM overlapping the same TG segment, but on MH, she does not triangulate.

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