All of us have DNA. Even if we do not know the names of our ancestors, we have DNA.
Our family has decided to gather and analyze its DNA materials (matrilineal and patrilineal lines) and see what these DNA lines have to say. We have elected to do this through the genographic project, a partnership between the University of Arizona Research Labs Family Tree DNA association, National Geographic Society and IBM rather than to switch to the program offered by Ancestry.com. Our reasoning is fairly simple; my father-in-law’s DNA is with NatGeo. Also, the Genographic program is older and more established; and, this seems like the lowest risk approach.
Information on Family Tree DNA may be found on their site. To quote FTDNA:
Family Tree DNA is the world leader in Genetic Genealogy. Since its inception in April of 2000, we have been constantly developing the science that enables genealogists around the world to advance their family’s research. Family Tree DNA works in association with a scientific advisory board and the University of Arizona Research Labs. The Arizona Research labs are led by Dr. Michael Hammer, one of the world’s leading authorities in the field of Genetics.[...]
Family Tree DNA provides the tests for this partnership between the National Geographic Society, IBM and the Waitt Family Foundation.
To quote National Geographic:
With a simple and painless cheek swab you can sample your own DNA and submit it to the lab. We run ONE test per participation kit. We will test either your mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down each generation from mother to child and reveals your direct maternal ancestry; or your Y chromosome (males only), which is passed down from father to son and reveals your direct paternal ancestry. You choose which test you would like administered.
What to Expect
Your results will reveal your deep ancestry along a single line of direct descent (paternal or maternal) and show the migration paths they followed thousands of years ago. Your results will also place you on a particular branch of the human family tree. Some anthropological stories are more detailed than others, depending upon the lineage you belong to. For example, if you are of African descent, your results will show the initial movements of your ancestors on the African continent, but will not reflect most of the migrations that have occurred within the past 10,000 years. Your individual results may confirm your expectations of what you believe your deep ancestry to be, or you may be surprised to learn a new story about your genetic background.
You will not receive a percentage breakdown of your genetic background by ethnicity, race, or geographic origin. Nor will you receive confirmation of an association with a particular tribe or ethnic group.
Furthermore, this is not a genealogy study. You will not learn about your great-grandparents or other recent relatives, and your DNA trail will not necessarily lead to your present-day location. Rather, your results will reveal the anthropological story of your direct maternal or paternal ancestors—where they lived and how they migrated around the world many thousands of years ago.