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… for three lucky readers

In case you hadn’t noticed, The Legal Genealogist is a DNA junkie. More money has gone out of this household in the last few years for DNA tests than for some entire categories of normal household budgets.

But that’s because I can afford it.

And not everybody can.

So many times, after I’ve written a post about how some brickwall was breached with DNA results, or some sale price was being offered, or some advance had been made, someone will quietly say, “I wish I could test, but I can’t afford it.”

presentAnd that always stops me in my tracks.

It makes me think how very lucky I am, that I have never had to choose between a keen genealogical tool I really want like a DNA test … and putting food on the table, or paying the electric or heating bill.

It happened again earlier this week, after last Sunday’s post about what DNA tests might be available at what budget levels,1 when more than one person quietly said, “I wish I could test, but I can’t afford it.”

I happened to be on Facebook when I read those words and, as I did, I noticed a name lit up on the right hand side showing a friend of mine was online.

And she happens to work for Family Tree DNA.

I put an idea to her, she took it up the line, and I am just thrilled to be able to say that, thanks to the generosity of Family Tree DNA, three lucky readers are going to have a happier holiday season.

Thanks to the generosity of Family Tree DNA, I’m going to be able to give away three DNA test kits — one YDNA 37-marker kit, and two Family Finder autosomal kits.

First, the rules:

• The test has to be for you, though you can use the kit to test a member of your family.

• You (or the person you’re testing) can’t have taken any other Family Tree DNA test, and strong preference will be given to those who haven’t had any chance to test anywhere.

• You have to convince me — privately, by email, and not ever to be shared with another soul (except if I need help from Family Tree DNA with a tie-breaker) — that this really is something that would break the December bank in your household if you went and bought it for yourself.

• If I need a tie-breaker, I’m going to give preference to the best brief explanation of why you want the test — again, totally private — so tell me what you hope to prove using DNA.

• All entries have to be emailed (if you’re reading this via email, don’t just hit reply — make sure you use my [email protected] address for this) and they have to received by 11:59:59 p.m. (midnight) Pacific time on Sunday, December 20th.

Now, a bit of information on the tests:

The YDNA 37-marker test looks at the kind of DNA found in the male gender-determinative Y chromosome that only men have.2 It gets passed from a man only to his sons and from his sons only to his grandsons and from his grandsons only to his great grandsons and so on, with few changes down the generations.3 So this can only be used by a man (ladies, think about your father, brother, uncles, cousins) and can help connect your male line to another, to confirm (or question) a surname and the like.

I used it, for example, to test an uncle when I began to fear that a scoundrel 2nd great grandfather might have changed his name to stay one step ahead of the law and I didn’t want to spend time chasing a surname that wasn’t really ours.4

The Family Finder autosomal test looks at the kind of DNA we all inherit from both of our parents5 in a mix that changes, in a random pattern, in every generation in a process called recombination.6 Both males and females can take this test, and it’s really useful for finding cousins who share some portion of DNA with us with whom we can then share research efforts.7

I’ve used it just that way — to find and connect with cousins I didn’t even know I had, and to share information and research with them.

And… the best part:

This whole idea of trying to reach folks in our community who may not otherwise be able to test has caught the fancy of the folks at Family Tree DNA. And they’re going to watch this giveaway with great interest. If it gets the kind of interest that I think it could get, we have a good chance of getting Family Tree DNA to expand this — perhaps substantially — in the coming years.

So… you really want to test your DNA, but you really can’t afford it?

Tell me in a private, not-to-be-shared email.

Because three lucky readers are going to get a test, for free, this holiday season, thanks to the generosity of Family Tree DNA.


  1. Judy G. Russell, “All you want for Christmas…,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 13 Dec 2015 ( : accessed 16 Dec 2015).
  2. ISOGG Wiki (, “Y chromosome,” rev. 27 Nov 2015.
  3. Ibid., “Y chromosome DNA tests,” rev. 13 Aug 2015.
  4. Changing his name is the one crime he didn’t. Thank heavens for that!
  5. ISOGG Wiki (, “Autosomal DNA,” rev. 6 Nov 2015.
  6. Ibid., “Recombination,” rev. 25 Aug 2015.
  7. See Judy G. Russell, “Autosomal DNA testing,” National Genealogical Society Magazine, October-December 2011, 38-43.
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