In This Article
In This Article
When it comes to tracing your lineage and getting a better idea of your ancestors, DNA tests are a great tool to discover them all. Whether you’re just curious about your ancestry or you need closure about certain parts of yourself, DNA testing can be useful.
We make sure every DNA test we recommend is scientifically backed and accurate. DNA testing is no simple matter, especially if you want to find DNA matches or learn more about yourself.
Here are the DNA testing kits we believe are the most comprehensive and well-suited for learning more about your ancestry.
These are the six DNA testing companies we recommend the most:
|$10 to upload data
|$39 (on sale)
|Size of database
|Y-DNA, mtDNA, and autosomal testing
|Y-DNA, mtDNA, and autosomal testing
|Y-DNA, mtDNA, and autosomal testing
23andme offers over 30 trait reports and a great breakdown of your personality traits and ancestry. It tests for over 2,700 regions, which contributes to its very wide DNA database. It’s a great way to start looking into your ancestry, as its user interface is very beginner-friendly.
It also uses a variety of testing methods, including a Y-DNA test, mtDNA test, and autosomal test.
23andme also has a test for health reports, so you can discover more beyond genetic ethnicity.
Where to buy 23andme: You can buy 23andme’s Ancestry service on their website
AncestryDNA has the largest DNA database among all the other DNA testing companies. This makes for potentially more accurate results about your genetic ethnicity, more comprehensive reports, and more potential relatives you can find on their site.
You can see possible DNA matches and how closely related you are—but if you’d like to keep your information private, you also have the option to do so. AncestryDNA Traits reports are also very detailed, making them fun to explore.
You can also access historical records related to your ancestry but at the cost of a membership fee.
Price: $99 to $199, depending on the kit you get
Where to buy AncestryDNA: You can buy AncestryDNA on their website
FamilyTreeDNA has four different tests at different price points depending on the kind of test you want. If you want to explore family history or ancestry, you can get a test for that.
If you only want maternal ancestry or even your paternal lines, there are separate tests for that, too. Their most expensive test is a paternal ancestry test in even greater detail.
This is great for anyone looking for specific information about their ancestry, especially when tracing certain lines only. You can get as specific or general as you want, depending on the test (or tests) you purchase. Whether you do autosomal DNA testing, a Y-DNA test, or an mtDNA test, FamilyTreeDNA is pretty reliable despite its relatively smaller DNA database.
Price: $79-$499 depending on the kind of test you want
Where to buy FamilyTreeDNA: You can buy FamilyTreeDNA on their website
GEDMatch isn’t technically a DNA testing company—in fact, it’s pretty unique in this list of DNA testing services because you don’t test a sample at all.
With GEDMatch, you can upload raw DNA data you already downloaded from websites like 23andme or Ancestry and have GEDMatch do the interpreting for you. It’s great if you want a second opinion or to compare results.
It’s pretty affordable, but technically, it's not a free DNA test since you still have to pay to upload. Still, it beats taking a whole other DNA test to get more information or to see if your original results were completely accurate. It’s only $10 to upload your data and get more data on your family history and genetic makeup.
It’s a more affordable option than other DNA testing companies, and you don’t have to worry about submitting a faulty or contaminated DNA testing kit.
Where to access GEDMatch: You can access GEDMatch through their website.
MyHeritage has a database of about 7.8 million users, with most of them coming from Europe. It’s no wonder they’re likely the ideal test for anyone wanting to check for European ancestry.
Unfortunately, it’s not the number one choice of those from different regions because of the limited number of references. It also only uses autosomal DNA tests. However, it at least allows you to upload any raw DNA data you have from other companies.
It’s also relatively affordable and goes on sale pretty often.
Price: $39 (currently on sale)
Where to buy MyHeritageDNA: You can buy MyHeritageDNA on their website
LivingDNA is a great way for those with African heritage to explore their ancestry. They have over 70 regions’ worth of data and research, making it a comprehensive test for anyone who wants to explore their African roots.
It’s also relatively more affordable than other testing companies while still using various testing methods to get more accurate results.
LivingDNA also dives deep with its subregional category reports and not just general regional information. This is great for anyone who loves details.
Where to buy LivingDNA: You can buy LivingDNA on their website
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DNA testing works by taking a sample (often saliva, blood, or a swab) and then having it analyzed in a lab to observe any genetic markers and genes you have inherited from your ancestors.
In terms of ancestry, it can identify certain markers that may match the markers of others who have used the same DNA test kit and make an educated guess about your origins or ancestry.
When it comes to health, DNA testing can help you determine genetic disorders by identifying mutated genes, genetic variants, a mutated or cloned genetic trait, or inherited genes that may put you at risk.
Your DNA can tell you more about your family lineage and even complete or add to your family story.
Many people use DNA testing to find out more about themselves and to feel more rooted in their culture, so to be able to figure out where they may have come from and how their ancestors moved can help them complete a story in their minds and feel more at ease.
A lot of people use it for peace of mind, while others use it when they want to know more about their biological families (especially if they were adopted). Ancestry can also tell you more about your health and heritable conditions you may have to watch out for.
You can also find family and establish how closely related you are to others.
DNA tests can offer you a lot of information about your heritage. Aside from health reports and genetic health risks, these tests can trace your lineage, tell you more about where your ancestors came from, and even see how they migrated.
Depending on the kind of testing method used, you can take a more detailed look at your paternal line, maternal line, or family history in general.
Some testing services show you where your ancestors may have originated and where they migrated (if they did). Other tests can break down your ethnicity, which may be helpful if you’re mixed race or don’t know where your relatives came from.
Some tests can even recommend “heritage trips” to bring you back to your roots.
Yes, but again, take this information with a grain of salt.
While DNA tests can match your genetic markers with the markers of those from a certain area, nothing is ever fully conclusive. With that disclaimer in mind, DNA tests can tell you where your ancestors may have come from, given that their database has enough references to back up their claim.
The more testers with similar genetic markers, the more accurate the result.
Yes, again, with some potential discrepancies, but a DNA test can offer you a breakdown of your ethnicity.
Some DNA tests offer percentages of ethnicities. For example, some DNA tests may tell me I’m 50% of European descent on my dad’s side, while others will go into even more detail by naming specific regions in Europe.
Others may not be as detailed and have just a general area that you may be from.
It’s important that you take DNA tests properly and follow the instructions carefully so you get a better and more accurate breakdown of your ethnicity estimate. Choose a DNA test that has a lot of users in your region as well so that you have a better chance of more detailed and precise results.
When choosing a DNA testing kit, consider the following:
It’s best to stick to more well-known companies as those with less information about themselves online can seem shady. You may be giving them access to very sensitive information about you and, knowing very little about them, putting yourself at risk.
Ultimately, it’s about what you want to know more about and which test can offer that to you.
While many DNA tests explicitly say on their websites that they are highly confident in the accuracy of their results (especially since they have larger databases), take note that no one DNA test has 100% accuracy.
If you’re really worried about any potential inherited congenital risks or want to be even more sure about your ancestry and ethnicity estimates, you can opt to take another test at home, do one at a lab, or consult a geneticist or genetic counselor to be sure.
Still, they can be pretty accurate across the board as long as you collect your sample properly.
Aside from the details that modern science can unfold from your genetics and the way your DNA is structured, there are several other factors that come into play:
Discrepancies can always happen, and they can arise at any stage of the DNA testing process—which is why the accuracy of DNA tests is still a point of conversation for many.
When it comes to databases, it’s important to have a large one with a large variety of regions represented to be able to more accurately compare data.
So even though more than 26 million people have done DNA tests, it depends on where they’re from, what their background is, and where their ancestors came from too.1
So even if you have several million testers, but they all come from one region, anyone from a different region may have a difficult time getting more accurate and meaningful results. Not only should your database be big, it should be diverse in terms of international records.
Because the nature of the test is that it’s taken at home, some users may often accomplish the test incorrectly, leading to inaccuracy.
For example, a saliva sample that doesn’t meet the required minimum amount of saliva will show discrepancies and inaccuracies.
Food particles in a cheek or buccal swab may also interfere with DNA analyses. If you tamper with your sample and accidentally add anything to it, your results may also suffer.
Do your best to collect your sample in a clean, orderly manner.
If saliva is required, make sure your mouth is clean, and you add enough to the tube or whatever apparatus they use to store it. If it’s a buccal swab, clean your mouth again and keep it free from food particles. If you need a blood sample, make sure not to contaminate the blood with anything else like moisturizer, alcohol, etc.
When sending back your sample, make sure you follow all the send-back instructions. Keep your sample clean and safe, and make sure it doesn’t break or open. Seal it properly to keep any foreign contaminants from coming in contact with it.
Follow the instructions in your DNA test kit, and you will get better results.
Depending on the algorithms, software, and technologies that each company uses, you may get different results. There was a case where identical twins who grew up together took different DNA tests and still got different results from each other across the board.2
This most likely has to do with how companies define regions and how many shortcuts they might take if they don’t have enough references to compare the samples to. It’s also possible that the samples may not have been collected correctly.
Of course, these can all change as technology evolves, so be mindful of which companies are doing their best to adapt to new ways of doing things.
Yes, they can.
While some people may be skeptical about DNA tests and the results they offer, given that they don’t always seem the same across the board, many geneticists and even the heads of these genetic testing companies are keen to remind people that these results are not be-all and end-all.
“We try to convey the notion that this is a living document. It does change over time,” says Robin Smith, head of the Ancestry division at 23andme, in an interview.3
With more testing, larger databases, and better points of reference, DNA testing can become more accurate. Once more regions are represented and technology and algorithms evolve, DNA testing can better break down your ancestry. So you shouldn’t take any results you have right now as completely conclusive—they can evolve.
Remember that while DNA is scientifically rooted, borders, countries, and regions are all constructed by human beings culturally. Human beings are the ones who made delineations on a map saying that this country is this and that country is that—these are not found in science, just culture.
So there is no explicitly French or Italian DNA specifically, only certain markers in DNA that belong to people who originated in those regions that may match ones in your own DNA sample hundreds of years later.
When a DNA test kit says you’re 5% European, it’s not because there is a European DNA marker that exists in the scientific world, but just that you have markers in your DNA that match those who do originate from Europe. Migration patterns cannot be scientifically stored; they just match with those who have similar patterns.
Over time, DNA testing will make it easier to figure out where you’re from and even find relatives or family members to make or complete family trees or bring you closure.
The bottom line: many at-home DNA tests can still give you good results as long as you do them properly, ensure that there’s a good representation of your region so you get good references, and take all results with a grain of salt.
It’s still a fun way to get to know yourself and your ancestors, provided everything goes according to plan.
A DNA test can do way more than just tell you more about where your ancestors came from or what your origins might look like.
It can also tell you about any genetic predispositions you may have, any health concerns you may want to look out for, and other gene mutations you may not have known about.
DNA tests are also used in the health world to diagnose potential risks of congenital disorders or diseases you can inherit from your family members.
Understanding DNA results when it comes to your health is a good way to prepare for any discomfort or difficulty down the road and is a good blueprint for preparing to make life as easy as possible despite any sickness.
Some DNA tests can also give you fun reports, such as whether or not you’re prone to alcohol flush, whether you’re more or less likely to consume caffeine, or the kinds of exercises that may be best for you.
A DNA service can absolutely show you potential family members, so long as they also have taken the test or completed the DNA testing kit. If several of your relatives have also taken the test, you can even see your family lineage.
You can also see if you have any half-siblings, distant cousins, or even relatives from either side of the family you’ve never met before. Depending on your privacy options, you can even connect with them.
After getting your DNA test results, it’s best to assume that you need a second opinion before doing anything rash. Some people, especially with DNA test results about their health, tend to panic immediately after finding out some information about their genetic makeup.
It’s best to do another test or even upload your test results to a different service to be sure. If not, you can take your results to a geneticist or genetic counselor to get their opinion. This is also to avoid any inaccuracies or to be more sure about your results.
Once you get a more nuanced idea of your results and better detail, you can start making decisions from there, whether it’s contacting long-lost relatives, trying to find your roots, or even just understanding more about you and your family.
It can be exciting to share your results, but always remember not to take everything at face value. Taking an extra step to be sure can only help.
It depends on the company.
You want to pick the most private DNA test for you to keep your data safe, so make sure you read the fine print and any caveats any company has for their data protection. Always check privacy policies and remember that these privacy policies may change.
To be safe in case of any data breaches or hackers, you may want to look into deleting your DNA data from services after downloading your raw data and results. This can keep you and your information safe.
Remember to also look into the history of a company before trying out their tests. Some have been embroiled in privacy issues in the past and have let down their customer base for their shady tactics. Make sure you choose a trustworthy company to analyze your data.
We take product recommendations very seriously at KnowYourDNA, so we only want to endorse trusted products that we know work. Here are our criteria for evaluating products:
KnowYourDNA is committed to making healthcare more accessible to the public, which is why we feature products that meet industry standards.
We only choose at-home test kits that undergo reliable testing methods. We also picked test companies with science-backed reports aimed at improving your health.
Our in-house medical experts help ensure the accuracy of the information we give to our readers by reviewing them before publication.
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