Top 10 All-Time Favorite DNA Articles

Top 10

I’ve been writing about DNA is every shape and form for approaching 8 years now, offering more than 1200 free (key word seachable) articles.

First, thank you for being loyal subscribers or finding my articles and using them to boost your genealogy research with the power of DNA.

You may not know this, but many of my articles stem from questions that blog readers ask, plus my own genealogical research stumbling-blocks, of course.

DNAeXplain articles have accumulated literally millions and millions of page views, generating more than 38,000 approved comments. Yes, I read and approve (or not) every single comment. No, I do not have “staff” to assist. Staff consists of some very helpful felines who would approve any comment with the word catnip😊

More than twice that number of comments were relegated to spam. That’s exactly why I approve each one personally.

Old Faithful

Looking at your favorites, I’ve discovered that some of these articles have incredible staying power, meaning that people access them again and again. Given their popularity and usefulness, please feel free to share by linking or forwarding to your friends and genealogy groups.

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Your Favorites

You didn’t realize it, but every time you click, you’re voting.

So, which articles are reader favorites? Remember that older articles have had more time to accumulate views.

I’ve noted the all-time ranking along with the 2019 ranking.

Starting with number 10, you chose:

  • Number 10 all-time, did not place in top 10 in 2019: Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum – Published in 2016 – How ethnicity testing works – and why sometimes it doesn’t work like people expect it will.

Ethnicity results from DNA testing. Fascinating. Intriguing. Frustrating. Exciting. Fun. Challenging. Mysterious. Enlightening. And sometimes wrong. These descriptions all fit. Welcome to your personal conundrum! The riddle of you! If you’d like to understand why your ethnicity results might not have … Continue reading →

  • Number 9 all time and number 4 in 2019: How Much Indian Do I Have in Me? – Published in 2015 – This article explains how to convert that family story into an expected percentage.

I can’t believe how often I receive this question. Here’s today’s version from Patrick. “My mother had 1/8 Indian and my grandmother on my father’s side was 3/4, and my grandfather on my father’s side had 2/3. How much would … Continue reading →

  • Number 8 all-time, did not place in top 10 in 2019: 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy – Published in 2012 – Short, basic and THE article I refer people to most often to understand DNA for genealogy.

Let’s talk about the different “kinds” of DNA and how they can be used for genetic genealogy. It used to be simple. When this “industry” first started, in the year 2000, you could test two kinds of DNA and it was … Continue reading →

Yep, there’s a gene for these traits, and more. The same gene, named EDAR (short for Ectodysplasin receptor EDARV370A), it turns out, also confers more sweat glands and distinctive teeth and is found in the majority of East Asian people. This is one … Continue reading →

  • Number 6 all-time, did not place in top 10 in 2019: What is a Haplogroup? – Published in 2013 – One of the first questions people ask about Y and mitochondrial DNA is about haplogroups.

Sometimes we’ve been doing genetic genealogy for so long we forget what it’s like to be new. I’m reminded, sometimes humorously, by some of the questions I receive. When I do DNA Reports for clients, each person receives a form to … Continue reading

  • Number 5 all-time and number 10 in 2019: X Marks the Spot – Published in 2012 – This article explains how to use the X chromosome for genealogy and its unique inheritance path.

When using autosomal DNA, the X chromosome is a powerful tool with special inheritance properties. Many people think that mitochondrial DNA is the same as the X chromosome. It’s not. Mitochondrial DNA is inherited maternally, only. This means that mothers … Continue reading →

  • Number 4 all-time, did not place in top 10 in 2019: Ethnicity Results – True or Not? – Published in 2013 – Are your ethnicity results accurate? How can you know, and why might your percentages reflect something different than you expect?

I can’t even begin to tell you how many questions I receive that go something like this: “I received my ethnicity results from XYZ. I’m confused. The results don’t seem to align with my research and I don’t know what … Continue reading →

  • Number 3 all-time and number 1 in 2019: Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages – Published in 2017 – With the huge number of ethnicity testers, it’s no surprise that the most popular article discussed how those percentages are calculated.

There has been a lot of discussion about ethnicity percentages within the genetic genealogy community recently, probably because of the number of people who have recently purchased DNA tests to discover “who they are.” Testers want to know specifically if ethnicity percentages are right … Continue reading →

  • Number 2 all-time, did not place in top 10 in 2019: Which DNA Test is Best? – Published in 2017 – A comprehensive review of the tests and major vendors in the genetic genealogy testing space. The answer is that your testing goals determine which test is best. This article aligns goals with tests.

If you’re reading this article, congratulations. You’re a savvy shopper and you’re doing some research before purchasing a DNA test. You’ve come to the right place. The most common question I receive is asking which test is best to purchase. There is … Continue reading →

Every day, I receive e-mails very similar to this one. “My family has always said that we were part Native American.  I want to prove this so that I can receive help with money for college.” The reasons vary, and … Continue reading →

2019 Only

Five articles ranked in the top 10 in 2019 that aren’t in the top all-time 10 articles. Two were just published in 2019.

  • Number 8 for 2019: Migration Pedigree Chart – Published in 2016 – This fun article illustrates how to create a pedigree charting focused on the locations of your ancestors.

Paul Hawthorne started a bit of a phenomenon, whether he meant to or not, earlier this week on Facebook, when he created a migration map of his own ancestors using Excel to reflect his pedigree chart. You can view … Continue reading →

Just as they promised, and right on schedule, Family Tree DNA today announced X chromosome matching. They have fully integrated X matching into their autosomal Family Finder product matching. This will be rolling live today. Happy New Year from Family … Continue reading →

  • Number 6 for 2019: Full or Half Siblings – Published in April 2019 – Want to know how to determine the difference between full and half siblings? This is it.

Many people are receiving unexpected sibling matches. Every day on social media, “surprises” are being reported so often that they are no longer surprising – unless of course you’re the people directly involved and then it’s very personal, life-altering and you’re … Continue reading →

Ancestry’s new tool, ThruLines has some good features and a lot of potential, but right now, there are a crop of ‘gators in the swimmin’ hole – just waiting for the unwary. Here’s help to safely navigate the waters and … Continue reading →

One of the most common questions I receive, especially in light of the interest in ethnicity testing, is how much of an ancestor’s DNA someone “should” share. The chart above shows how much of a particular generation of ancestors’ DNA … Continue reading →

In Summary

Taking a look at a summary chart is interesting. From my perspective, I never expected the “Thick Hair, Small Boobs” article to be so popular.

“Which DNA Test is Best?” ranked #2 all time, but not in the 2019 top 10. I wonder if that is a function of the market softening a bit, or of fewer people researching before purchasing.

I was surprised that 5 of the top 10 all-time were not in the top 10 of 2019.

Conversely, I’m equally as surprised that 3 of the older 2019 articles not in the all-time top 10.

I’m very glad these older articles continue to be useful, and I do update them periodically, especially if I notice they are accessed often.

Article All-time Top 10 2019 Top 10
Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum 10 0
How Much Indian Do I Have in Me? 9 4
4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy 8 0
Thick Hair, Small Boobs, Shovel Shaped Teeth, and More 7 9
What is a Haplogroup? 6 0
X Marks the Spot 5 10
Ethnicity Results – True or Not? 4 0
Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages 3 1
Which DNA Test is Best? 2 0
Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA 1 2
Migration Pedigree Chart 0 8
X Chromosome Matching at Family Tree DNA 0 7
Full or Half Siblings Published in 2019 6
Ancestry’s ThruLines Dissected: How to Use and Not get Bit by the ‘Gators Published in 2019 5
Ancestral DNA Percentages – How Much of Them is in You? 0 3

What Would You Like to See in 2020?

Given that your questions are often my inspiration, what articles would you like to see in 2020?

Are there topics you’d like to see covered? (Sorry, I don’t know the name of your great-great-grandfather’s goat.)

Burning questions you’d like to have answered? (No, I don’t know why there is air.)

Something you’ve been wishing for? (Except maybe for the 1890 census.)

Leave a comment and let me know. (Seriously😊)

I’m looking forward to a wonderful 2020 and hope you’ll come along!



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41 thoughts on “Top 10 All-Time Favorite DNA Articles

  1. Roberta, your posts are relevant and well written. Thanks so much for your work in showing us how proper research on genealogy and genetic DNA is done. I’m hoping to go to RootsTech and I hope to meet you if I do. Thanks and keep up the good work!

  2. Thank you, Roberta. I enjoy your blog postings very much. You are incredibly generous to share so much. I hope that you will continue to urge your readers to test their older generation relatives before their ancestral DNA disappears. So many are now advising just to test on Ancestry and transfer data to FTDNA and MyHeritage. Please continue to remind people to get “key” relatives DNA tested at FTDNA so that they have the potential to do Y and mtDNA tests in the future. I would like to see more on the use of mtDNA and X DNA. Thanks, again.

    Linda Reid

  3. Roberta,
    In the past year Ancestry, MyHeritage and most recently 23andMe had introduced tree based tools to help connect DNA matches. All use very different approaches. I would be interested in your views on the pros and cons of these approaches and how these can best be used to advance research.

  4. Hello Roberta
    I just wanted to say thank you for all of the work you have put into your posts and honestly I don’t know how you find the time to do it all. Your passion shines through and I am a long time subscriber to your articles. The first part of my day is spent reading them. As hard as I try though I find DNA challenging, lol. As long as you are able you have an avid follower in me.
    With heartfelt praise and thanks.

  5. “4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy” is my favorite to share with others who ask me questions. It is so much easier to explain DNA to others by using links to your DNA Explained posts. “X Marks the Spot” was also a popular share this year. Thank you for these time saving and informative posts.

    My personal post favorites are your genealogical research articles linked with DNA results. Since my families I research are so similar, I get a great deal of enjoyment and ideas from these posts. Sometimes your research is used as a source if one of your ancestors shows up in my tree in any way. I post a link to your article in order to share your really interesting posts and research with interested other researchers. I like the genealogy linked with DNA articles because that is what I am attempting to do, although I am not as good at it or as thorough as you.

    Keep up the good work.

  6. Thank you for everything as the above people have already mentioned. I would like to know ways to work around endogamy. Thank you. Jane

  7. I really appreciate your articles on new features and tools for the various testing companies. Please keep them coming.

  8. As always, great to get notification on a new post from you Roberta. All the best to you and your family for 2020. Glad you couldn’t make it to Australia this Christmas season as you wouldn’t have see our beautiful country at it’s best. Hope you can make it later in 2020/21!

    • I really didn’t feel like I could say anything while I was traveling, but I was able to spend 2 weeks in Australia and New Zealand and it was absolutely AMAZING. Having said that, my heart just bled for the people and animals trapped in the fires, and those brave firefighters.

  9. Roberta,
    I have many of your articles archived so that I can read them at my leisure. My burning question: My mt dna only goes to 4 spaces (H1g1); I’ve seen other mt dna go out further. My brother’s Y dna goes out 7 spaces (for privacy, I am not listing it). Could you give a blog post on why some mt dna is short and others are long? I hope that you understand this.
    I plan on having you do your magic on making my dna understandable via a report later this year.
    Thanks! Valyrie

      • I have tested with 4 companies: Ancestry, FTdna, My Heritage, and 23&me. My brother only tested at FTdna.

          • Roberta,
            Yes, my brother’s and my mt do match. That was not the question. I’m wondering why mt #’s (mine is H1g1) and other women’s are not the same length. So my mt is 4 places long and some women go out at least 7 places. I feel that might be something you could write about.
            I can understand that men when they take the 1st test only go out 4, and that as they get the more specific tests they can go up a lot (my brother is now at 9 places). Why can’t women’s?

  10. I’m not commenting a lot these days, but I like to read about new tools and new methods available. I also like the 52 ancestors series, which showcase specific challenges and solutions for a given case, which can solve troubles we have in our own genealogy.

    The series on Y DNA will be very handy, the information was spread into various articles written many years apart, so I had to copy and paste the relevant bits and bridge these with explication in between. It will be handier to explain with the a few tidy articles though to work together from the get go.

    There’s the second part to the article about Elizabeth Warren’s heritage which I have been waiting to read, but I understand you had quite a bit of challenge dealing with the trolls. But maybe, once Warren is definitely either out of the race or elected president, you could try it again, possibly without mentioning her by name.

    One last thing, you mentioned a few time you had ancestors from Turkey with no further info. I would like to know more, this sound intriguing, although I guess your are not there yet with your 52 ancestors stories.

    Also, you said you had Native American DNA from your father side of the family, even though it didn’t come from the ancestor your family thought was Native. Could you triangulate the segment to another ancestor? Or is it too fragmented to do anything with it? Wasn’t there some African American DNA from you father side too?

    I would like to read an overview of your tree, how far you are at each branch, what are the regional challenge you are stuck with, like “these branches are now all back to colonial era, the main difficulty is [fill the blank] because back then [fill the blank]”, “these branches goes back to Germany, beside the language, the main difficulties are [fill the blank] because back then [fill the blank]”. Your tree covers a lot of populations movement which appear in many of your compatriots tree, explaining where are the challenge, how to overcome them, which brick walls you faced and how you overcome them would be an interesting reading.

    That’s a lot of suggestions, feel free to disregard all. I’m looking forwards for another year in your company.

    • These are wonderful ideas. Thank you. I enjoy your comments and always smile when I see your name. Thank you for taking the time and being such a loyal reader.

    • The followup article to the Elizabeth Warren article is here:

      I intentionally separated it from anything political. It’s about ethnicity, not about Elizabeth herself, or her genealogy.

      I have been able to track the segment from my father’s side that is Native to several people who also have mixed-race heritage along the NC/Virginia border that are associated with the Nottoway and/or Tuscarora. I don’t have any proof yet though. They don’t have proof either. Those families are quite mixed race. The Tuscarora has supposedly left for New York, but we know that some didn’t leave, and other mixed race families remained as well. This is also in one of my lines where I have a huge brick wall.

      The tree idea is really good.

  11. I would like to have BigY700 explained, because honestly I am disappointed at the results my cousin got. His was an upgrade from a 37STR test. The whole set of STR came out quick, but he did not have any matches and testing more as it appears doesn’t increase the chances of having more matches. So waiting for the big Y for another two months : the results are z193 just two mutations more than the U152 that we already knew from 23andMe.
    As suggested, he joined the U-152 project to be told that he needs to test for BY3642 to know more because that SNP is « not included in the BigY700 ». That means having to pay an extra 39$, and if he is positive, a few more SNPs once more.

    I feel I was misled into thinking that although pricier, BigY would have it all covered. In retrospect if one is to go a SNP at a time, Yseq would have been a better choice.

    • Did he do the 500 or the 700? Who told you it’s not included? Did it just not read in his test? It is, after all, named BY3642 so the location itself IS clearly covered or it would not have that name.

      • The 700. It is the advice of the FT-DNA U-152 administrator for Z193, Michael Talley, who has been himself very generous with his time and guidance.

        • Given that the SNP you’re referencing is covered by the test, either your family member was negative for the SNP, or is was in a region that did not read well in your particular case. I don’t know which, obviously. The only way you would need a separate test if if you were unlucky enough for it to not read. Was the SNP positve or negative when you had it tested?

          • Thank you – The BigY700 results stopped at Z193 – so I understand that everything below if not reported is negative (Z192 for example). There are a few others in the same situation. So I will try to find other male testers. Also, with a total lack of STR matches at even 12, it seems we are unique! It looks as if France may be relaxing its law. That should help to get more.
            There are few situations nowadays where I wish I were a man, but this is one of them!

  12. I’ve narrowed down the number of blogs I read, but I always read yours. Just what I need, over and over again!

    I hesitate to ask my ‘question’ because you may have already answered it and I’ve already forgotten; but I’m thinking right now that I’ve really messed up. Like, a buying mistake.

    My father and I have both had our DNA at MyHeritage for a while. I have now purchased kits for my three brothers, thinking this would help me find as many matches as possible that relate to my mother’s line, since she has been deceased for over 30 years.

    I just had a conversation with a MyHeritage employee, who told me that there is no way I can filter out the matches my brothers and I share with our father. And (since there is no label “Father’s Match” designation like at Ancestry) I will have to open literally every single match for all four of us, in order to scroll down to shared matches (a lengthy process with my particular internet connection) to even make a note that the person shares a match with our father.

    Is there a way of dealing with this??

    Thank you in advance for any help you can give to me.

    • Yes, download all of your matches into a common spreadsheet. I colorize mine. Then, sort by match name. You will quickly be able to see any with your father’s “color” and the ones that no one matches with your father are the ones from your mother. Here’s how to do this from MyHeritage:

      To export the list of DNA matches for your DNA kit or a kit you manage, please do the following:

      1. Go to the DNA Matches page

      2. Select the person for whom you want to view the DNA matches

      3. Click on “Advanced options” on the right-hand side

      4. Select “Export entire DNA Matches list”:

      • Oh, wow!
        You’ve made that seem so simple – I feel like I should have figured it out myself, but I sure didn’t – so thank you, thank you, thank you for taking the time to reply (so simply and yet so thoroughly) to my questions!! I’m feeling much more optimistic right now, and I’m off to follow the directions!
        : )

  13. Thank you for all the enlightenment that you have given me and all the many people to whom I have forwarded links to many of your posts. Whenever i have contact with a person just becoming acquainted with DNA and genealogy, yours is the site to which I refer them first. For an overview, the post Which DNA Test is the Best is the best there is.

    You write: “One of the tools I utilize regularly is segment search to see who else matches me on a specific segment, attached to an ancestor I’m researching.” I have just subscribed to Tier 1 utilities at Gedmatch, and I too am extraordinarily pleased with this search. How about an article about it with some ideas on how to best capture the data? I tried just copying and pasting into a Word document, and the table resulting was a disaster..

    I suppose an Excel spreadsheet would work much better, but, alas, my inability to work with Excel is well known to all my former work colleagues and my current contacts. Simple instructions that even I could understand on how to export form Gedcom to such a spreadsheet would be very, very much appreciated.

    I would also like to know if MyHeritage has any plans for a similar search. I don’t think they have one now, and I am sure that FTDNA does not either. My work on my Rhinehart brick wall is much advanced by the Gedmatch search, and would be even further advanced could I query the databases at MY and FTDNA.

    Thanks for considering this proposed post.

      • Thank you very much for taking the time to think about it. I hope that you will also be able to find the time (though how you do is beyond me) to do the post.

        • I wrote an article about how to use Excel some time back. Excel is one of those things that works well if nothing hiccups and you know what you’re doing. Guaranteed, nothing until after RootsTech. 😁

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