“Genetics explains why you look like your father, and if you don’t, why you should.”– Anonymous

ISOGG logoYou might have heard about genetic projects, such as mapping the human genome or tracing the origins of Kennewick Man, Cheddar Man, Ice Man or Ice Maiden. In addition to these famous projects, genealogists are beginning to use genetic testing to solve some of the mysteries not answered by paper records. One type of analysis uses the y chromosome (yDNA), which passes only through the male line. Another type of analysis uses mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which passes only through the female line. Geneticists can’t yet resolve other lines (for example, a mother’s father’s line or father’s mother’s line), but those lines can often be traced using genetic tests on a relative for whom the line is strictly paternal or strictly maternal.

Paternal DNA (yDNA)

All modern humans descend in the male line from a particular man, nicknamed “Genetic Adam,” who lived about 60,000 years ago. All living men have inherited his y chromosome (yDNA), along with the mutations that have accumulated in our individual family lines.

Maternal DNA (mtDNA)

All modern humans descend in the female line from a particular woman, nicknamed “Mitochondrial Eve,” who lived about 150,000 years ago. Each of us has inherited her mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), along with the mutations that have accumulated in our individual family lines.

Media Reports

DNA Projects

  • Genographic Project. Join National Geographic’s Genographic Project, a landmark study.
  • Hauri DNA Project. If you are a male with the surname Hauri, Haury, Howery, Howrey, Howry or any of the many variations, join our family DNA project.

More Information

  • Ancient DNA. Information about ancient DNA.
  • Bradshaw Foundation. Nicely packaged information about human origins.
  • DNA Portal. Chris Pomeroy explains how DNA testing can be used to supplement genealogical research, with information about other families who are doing or have done yDNA tests.
  • Family Tree DNA. Genetic testing for both maternal and paternal lines.
  • Famous DNA. Information about famous DNA tests.
  • Genealogical DNA Test at A nice introduction to genetic genealogy.
  • Genealogy-DNA mailing list. This mailing list is hosted by You can subscribe or search the archives.
  • Honoring Our Ancestors. Megan Smolenyak has written extensively on genetic genealogy. This website showcases her work.

Recommended Books

DNA Databases