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What is DNA?

Genetic Genealogy Terminology

Alastair Greenshields (Principal) gives expert video advice on: What is DNA?; Why do you start with the Y chromosome?; Is the Y chromosome found in both sexes? and more...

What is DNA?

DNA is found within our cells. Everybody has DNA, and it's our genetic code. It's essentially a long string of letters. If you imagine War and Peace, it's a very long book. Our body uses it. It reads particular sentences to produce proteins and enzymes, and to replicate the cells. Essentially it's our genetic code which we use to build our bodies and to reproduce.

Why do you start with the Y chromosome?

Well, in genetic genealogy we use the Y chromosome because we know exactly were it comes from. We know it is only cared by males and pass from father to son, virtually unchanged in every generation so it‘s a very reliable marker for that lineage, so we can actually trace back knowingly that we are going to go back to the direct paternal line.

Is the Y chromosome found in both sexes?

The Y chromosome is only found in males. It's one of the sex chromosomes, so if you have a Y chromosome it turns you into a baby boy. So that's why only males have Y chromosomes.

What is the Maternal line?

The maternal line would be from you, to your mother, to her mother etcetera. This maternal line will go back many, many generations.

What is the Paternal Line?

The paternal line would be from a male to his father, to his father, and his father etc., for many, many, and again many generations back of the line.