DNA Dilemma: Metro man surprised when online DNA test kit excludes known family heritage

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OKLAHOMA CITY - You've probably seen the advertisements on TV and websites promising to help you find out things about your family you never knew.

You buy an online kit and send in a sample of your DNA.

But, one metro family was stunned when the results they got back just didn't makes sense.

Terry Gray said his great-grandmother was 100 percent Cherokee.

"Visiting my great-grandmother when she lived on the reservation when I was a small child, I knew that they were Native American," Gray said.

After doing his research about online DNA kits, Gray urged his oldest son, Skylar, to do the test.

Gray was convinced the results would show his family's Cherokee lineage, even though he admits his son does not look Native American.

"He looks more like his mother. He is light complected, blond headed and blue eyed and, obviously, I am not," Gray said.

But, after sending in their test kit, they were stunned to learn the results.

Skyler's DNA test showed no Native American heritage.

In fact, it was 100 percent European.

So, how could that happen when the Gray family knows its family background?

Turns out, uncovering the genetic truth takes more than just a swab of the mouth.

"You really have to have an understanding of what the test are that you are purchasing," said Dr. Brandt Cassidy of Oklahoma City based DNA Solutions.

There are several different sites that offer DNA testing kits.

Some companies are 23 and Me, Family Tree DNA and Ancestry.com to name a few.

Prices for the kits range anywhere from $99 to $199.

Y chromosome tests are for men and only reveal lineage on the father's side.

Mitochondrial chromosome tests are for women.

These tests for the female line show only maternal heritage, your mother's mother and so forth.

Men can also test specifically for their mother's side, but women cannot test their father's line.

Cassidy said it is an important distinction.

"If you're doing a Y chromosome analysis, you are only going to be looking at your direct male lineage," said Cassidy, who goes on to say the tests are highly accurate but can vary widely in how their analyze your DNA.

This may explain why the Gray family received unexpected results.

Cassidy believes only the Y chromosome test was performed, and Gray's Cherokee relatives are on his father's mother's side of the family.

"If you have a great, great grandmother that's buried in your pedigree somewhere, then her DNA is not going to show up in a Y chromosome test" Cassidy said.

Gray said he understands there are nuances to the testing.

He had done extensive research on his own.

"The advertisements say you're going to find out who you are," Gray said.

The Grays already knew a great deal about their family history, but he still feels the companies that provide the testing need to be clearer about what you are actually getting with the online kits.

"It's nice to know where you are truly coming from, the true makeup of yourself, before you go out and get a pair of lederhosen or a kilt."

Cassidy has some advice before you order your test kit.

Gather as much information about your family as possible.

"You would hope that you could find records, even if it's just through the spoken word, that his is the way the lineage evolved, so you have that road map," Cassidy said.

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