Frequently asked questions

DNA Testing for Genealogy

DNA Testing for Genealogy

It’s been pointed out to me by one of our Contributors, Martin McDowell, that the Close’s are a tardy lot when it comes to using DNA technology for their genealogy research. Martin is an Administrator for the FamilyTreeDNA site and is a keen advocate of using Y-DNA to trace and validate (male) family members. So, I’ve agreed to put something onto the site to give people a bit more information on the subject. Here’s a snippet of what he has to say:

Noone can access your DNA sample and it will not be exchanged with any other company. Ancestry and 23&Me will share/sell your anonymous DNA if you opt into research but Family Tree DNA are the only DNA company providing YDNA testing and they have never sold or shared anyone’s DNA and never will.

Over 20m people have now tested DNA and it seems that Close is far down the pecking order; lots of other surnames are now connecting things up well back hundreds of years. For example I have just got 3 verified McDougall links that connect to me on my McDowell line. If these prove right genealogically (and they seem to be solid genealogical links) then not only does it all connect us to the one family but it provides me with a verified genealogy line back to Somerled in the 1100s.

DNA has the ability to easily connect up all the seperate trees you have on the site by proving that a few of them all have one common male at the top of multiple trees. There is no other way to find this out than to test.

YDNA goes back many hundred of years and can expose unique bits of DNA that only Close males may have. Noone else in the world would share them and if people don’t test they will never be recorded and never make it onto the world tree.

YDNA can help connect males testing today if they are direct male descendants of the Close families in question. Getting a male to test from each major family would allow you to see if they are related to each other and if so then you can work out how the trees connect to each other through further testing. Because YDNA goes so far back, connections can be found over at least 600 years and in reality much further. So the testing would identify other families of Closes with totally different origins as undoubtedly not all of them will share a single male originator, although they all bear the same name. You could thus divide them into groups with different origins but within each group would be multiple families which at the moment you can’t connect.

As an aside, there is a CLOSE group on FamilyTreeDNA which is always happy to welcome new members.

Now, just for the sake of transparency, I did consider DNA testing some years ago via Ancestry, but after reviewing their Terms and Condictions I decided not to, for exactly the privacy reasons that Martin highlights above. I’ve looked at the Family Tree DNA Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy in depth, and they do appear to offer assurances on ownership, usage and privacy that the others don’t. This is not an endorsement, merely an opinion.

I’m no expert in this, but it seems that Y-DNA is inherited down via the male members (i.e. fathers) of a family, whereas mtDNA (Mitochondrial DNA) is inherited down via the female members (i.e. mothers). This is shown in the chart above. The Family Tree DNA site seems to offer both, in addition to loads of tools and groups designed to match up family members world-wide. Costs vary for each type and plan.

So, if anyone is interested in using their DNA to further their genealogical research then this may be the way to go. Martin has volunteered to provide advice and support to anyone who wants to use the Family Tree DNA site. You can contact him at his society email address: Martin McDowell at He’ll be able to give advice on the process, differences between the various plans, and costs involved.