Advances in DNA testing have made it possible to accurately carry out DNA ancestry tests to track our ancestral origins. In the past, mapping ancestry relied on searches in archives, birth certificates, death certificates and the likes. Whilst this is still used, internet searches have made things all the easier as such investigation can span a global scale. But ultimately, genetic testing is the most reliable means of determining whether individuals are truly genetically related.
Ancestry Testing for the Romanovs – the last of the Russian Imperial Family
The story of the last Romanovs is a chilling account of the massacre of a whole family and the end of Russian Imperialism. A bit of genealogy is mandatory at this point. Empress Alexandra was Queen Victoria’s granddaughter. She was consort princess to Tsar Nicholas II and the last tsaritsa Russia would see. During the First World War there was a build-up of resentment because the Romanovs had German consorts and a lot of this resentment was channeled in the form of hatred towards Empress Alexandra.
Tsar Nicholas and his family were all shot in July 1918; Nicholas, his wife Alexandra, his four daughters and their son. It was not until 1991 that nine skeletons were found and suspected to be those of the Romanov family. The remains could only be identified correctly using DNA testing techniques which confirmed that the remains in fact where somewhere connected to the Imperial family.
Mitochondrial DNA Testing for the Female Remains
MtDNA testing (mitochondrial DNA testing) was used to identify that the putative tsarina in the grave was the mother of the three other female skeletons found there buried. The DNA forensic testing was complex, before prior to the MtDNA test, all skeletons found in the grave had to undergo the amelogenin gene test to help understand which remains belonged to males and which to females.
MtDNA or mitochondrial DNA is passed only down the female line down the maternal line, from mother to daughter. To further corroborate and confirm findings, scientists involved in the case had to find a living descendent to the Russian imperial family, or better a direct descendent of Empress Alexandra. For this, the investigators turned to the British Royal family. Queen Victoria was Empress Alexandra’s maternal grandmother. Queen Victoria’s DNA type was traced down the family line until her present descendants, namely Prince Philip. By collecting DNA samples from living descendants, genetic profiles could be drawn up and compared to the DNA profiles of the remains found in the grave. STR testing was then used to determine if the remains in the grave were all somehow related to each other. This type of test is very important in forensic DNA testing to locate repeated sequences of DNA which can then be located on the profiles of other relatives.
Ancestry Testing- what is it?
An ancestry test might not require the same depth of research as it did to confirm the remains of the Romanovs. DNA testing companies offer an ancestry test with a wider scope taking populations and native areas into consideration. In-depth research to map whole family trees back generations would prove immensely costly and take months if not years of research. Many DNA testing companies now offer ancestry testing which can be done at home using a simple mouth swab. The scope of this test is far more general. The test will tell you a lot about your ancestral origins, linking you to different anthropological regions and populations and plotting them onto a high resolution map to show your unique geogenetic links. The test will work at locating regional affiliations with the anthropological regions in its database.
DNA testing companies will have access to a DNA database in which are stored the genetic information of thousands of people. The DNA profile of the person who wishes to have their DNA tested for ancestry is compared to those in the database to track their ancestral origins.
What the Test does not do
The results can be fascinating to say the least. You can be ethnically and anthropologically linked to your ancestors and will likely be surprised at who they where and where they came from. However, whilst DNA ancestry testing can establish that you are related to an ethnics group or population, it cannot tell you what exactly the relationship is. Moreover, this type of testing will not establish direct relationships unless the other person undergoes a DNA test. And finally, it will not provide you with your family tree since the exact relationships between individual cannot be determined through this type of test. However, considering the ease and cost friendliness of ancestry testing as opposed to extremely expensive in-depth genealogical research, DNA ancestry testing is indeed an interesting and informative test for anyone wishing to locate ancestral origins.