There are two distinct types of DNA databases that you can use to trace your ancestry: The DNA Reunion Database, and The Indigenous Database.
1) The DNA Reunion Database - This database allows you to compare your ancestral DNA markers to other participants from around the world to search for long lost relatives and make connections to people who share your ancestry.
2) The Indigenous DNA Database - This forensic quality database allows you to compare your ancestral DNA markers to indigenous DNA from over 148 populations from around the world to find out which ethnic groups and geographic regions match yours at the highest frequency.
Let’s discuss the difference between the DNA Reunion database and the Indigenous DNA database. The DNA Reunion database allows you to compare your DNA to other actual participants in the system and allows you to find matches to people from around the world. The DNA Reunion database is really useful for people looking to expand their family tree and to find other people who share a common ancestry. However, the DNA Reunion database is not a great way to find out about your ethnicity because the people in the database usually are not “indigenous” populations. Indigenous people are peoples who are native to a certain part of the world and whose ancestors have lived in the same region many generations. When a participant joins the database, he/she is often from Canada or the US and not from their native country. Even though participants are asked to indicate their native country of origin if known, the information provided by the participant might not be reliable.
For this reason, forensic laboratories rely soley on indigenous DNA when determining an individual’s ethnic origin. Indigenous DNA is collected by research laboratories from around the world who focus on testing the world’s last remaining indigenous populations by sampling the DNA from native populations. With advances in transportation, increasing global migrations and increased rates of immigration and emmigration, indigenous populations are rapidly disappearing in the 21st century. Within the next few decades, it is likely that the last remaining indigenous populations will be gone forever.
Because of this, research groups from around the world have been rushing to collect DNA samples from indigenous populations from around the world to document the DNA types which are characteristic of populations from different regions of the world. Today, the DNA from tens of thousands of indigenous people have been sampled. The Indigenous DNA database contains the DNA of tens of thousands of indigenous people from over 148 ethnic groups from around the world. This forensic quality database allows people to compare their DNA to indigenous populations to find the closest matches and gain insight into the region of the world that most closely matches their genetic type.
This is a brief introduction to ancestral DNA databases. In Part II, we will go into detail about how the Indigenous DNA database works and how to interpret the results. Click here to view Part II.