DNA Tools that can trace your roots are becoming more advanced—and less expensive
In recent decades, DNA tests were mainly used to prove paternity. But since 2000, a handful of companies have commercialized tests that connect a wider array of relatives, sometimes going back centuries to find common ancestors.
As recently as 2007, such tests cost as much as $1,000. Today, they generally run between $100 and $300 and offer users more information. In May, Ancestry.com Inc., ACOM +0.09% a publisher of genealogical records and a site where people can track their family trees, started selling a DNA test that identifies relatives up to and including fifth cousins.
The tests are easy to take: Swab the inside of your cheek or spit into a tube and mail the results to a lab. Two to six weeks later, you can log into an online account for the results. You will generally see your ancestors' regional ties; the migration paths of your ancient ancestors; and people in the company's database (usually identified by a user name) who share some of your DNA. At that point, you typically have the option of contacting those individuals who have agreed to share their results.
Three main types of DNA tests are on the market. Until recently, most focused on DNA in the Y chromosome that's handed down virtually unchanged from father to son. (Because only males have a Y chromosome, women must ask male relatives to take this test for them.) ...