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Living DNA ancestry test kit (2021) review

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Updated on: May 27, 2021
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Only founded in 2016, Living DNA is considered a recent entry to the field. However, it’s an off-shoot of DNA Worldwide, a leader in forensic testing, founded in 2004. The company provided DNA testing kits for court before entering the at-home DNA testing kit market. LivingDNA ensured a high level of accuracy demanded by the justice system. Read on to see our Living DNA review to see what we think of it.

Unlike AncestryDNA, Living DNA scans both the Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), to better elucidate your family history. In all, Living DNA investigates 46 specific locations to shed a light on your ancestry results. This is compared to the 16 locations scanned by other popular kits. This allows for the reliable discovery of relatives as far away as a 5th cousin.

Living DNA:

  • Founded in 2016 (one of the newer consumer DNA testing services)
  • Offers information with maternal line and paternal line ancestry results
  • Has some of the best DNA visualizations out there
  • Allows you to see motherline and fatherline
  • Gives you three types of DNA testing: autosomal DNA, mitochondrial DNA, and Y-chromosome
  • Free, lifetime updates to your ancestry results

Quick facts:

Sample CollectionCheek Swab
DNA Testing TypeAutosomal, mtDNA, YDNA (all 3)
Speed6-8 weeks (mine took 25 days)
Privacy ProtectionStrong

How much does LivingDNA cost?

The price varies for LivingDNA, typically the ancestry starter kit runs $79-$99.

The Ancestry & Wellbeing Kit runs $149-$179.

Living DNA Kit Review

Only founded in 2016, Living DNA is considered a recent entry to the field. However, it’s an off-shoot of DNA Worldwide, a leader in forensic testing, founded in 2004. 

Joel

Living DNA ancestry test kit (2021) review 15
Ease of Use
Ancestry Information
Health Information
Speed of Updates
Speed of Results
Privacy Protection

Summary

Living DNA has really grown over the last 2 years to become a solid player in at-home DNA testing. 

4.5

Pros

  • Beautiful visualizations
  • Allows you to get all three tests done (Autosomal DNA, mtDNA, y-chromosome)
  • Strong privacy protection
  • Ability to download raw data 
  • Can look through fatherline + motherline
  • Nothing is hidden behind a paywall 
  • Allows upload of DNA data for free (for now)

Cons

  • Database size isn’t as big as 23andMe or Ancestry
  • The same cost as competition, but doesn’t feel like you’re getting as much for the price
  • No DNA relative matches (small database size)

What is in the box?

  • Cheek swab for taking your DNA sample
  • Return envelope to return your DNA sample via mail

Send in steps

LivingDNA screenshot for review. Send in steps for the DNA test kit.

How to send in LivingDNA test Kit

  1. Activate kit online

  2. Follow online instructions to take your DNA sample

  3. Swab inside of the cheek

  4. Put cheek swab inside the tube

  5. Return DNA sample to LivingDNA for sequencing

  6. Wait for test results

Living DNA gives you video instructions on how to send in your DNA sample in case there are any questions.

Privacy policy of Living DNA

Living DNA’s privacy policy states:

ISO:27001 is an international standard for data management and information security. It ensures that any certified business has taken proactive and on-going measures to maximize the safety of your data. Along with compliance to GDPR, Living DNA is one of the safest organizations to trust with your precious genetic details.

LivingDNA has a robust privacy policy, but of course, taking Living DNA’s tests are not without their dangers. However, learning uncomfortable truths from your DNA results or having your data stolen are risks that are run, but are relatively minor. Read more about all the ups and downs of DNA testing kits here.

The DNA results

Living DNA shines when it comes to the test results. With an easy-to-use interface, you can explore your Family Ancestry, Motherline, and Fatherline. These test results are powered by the three different types of DNA tests that Living DNA employs: autosomal DNA, mitochondrial DNA, and y-chromosome, respectively. Considering that the y-chromosome is what genetically defines a biological male, this form of testing is not available to genetic females.

Screenshot of the motherline, the fatherline, and the family ancestry for the take home dna test kit.

Family Ancestry

Clicking your Family Ancestry displays the complex yet approachable personal information that your genes reveal about your ancestry. It starts by showing you the regional breakdown of your more recent ancestors, within 10 generations, or roughly 300 years. Also, you can toggle the level of confidence you’d like to see in their estimates. The estimates span from a wide-ranging overview to a strict ‘Cautious’ filter.

Screenshot of reviewers family ancestry map of living DNA test.
My results in 2019
Living DNA ancestry test kit (2021) review 16
My results in 2021

Living DNA also has a migration map that illustrates how your ancient ancestors moved through the world to where you are today. This is a particularly exciting way to see how and where your family history evolved throughout the ages and for specific points in time.

Through History

Screenshot of livingDNA timeline with slider. This slider allows you to see your DNA through history.

How accurate is this? Anything based on past human behavior is not exactly a precise science; at worst, it isn’t much more than speculation. But, for most of our history, humans have moved slowly. They frequently lived their entire lives within a few kilometers from where they were born. This has helped to pinpoint specific regions as generational homelands through historical and genetic records.

However, occasionally, a quick migration will happen. These vast shifts can leave gaps in the historical record that may result in lower scores of confidence for your genetic ancestry. They may also work in your favor, like in the example of North American colonization by Europeans. These huge transfers of genetic material can create ‘founder effects’ that limit specific DNA markers to certain locations.

Above all, no genetic testing can give you a 100% guarantee of where your ancestors lived. Even though it could, you're still looking for large regions the majority of the time; think countries rather than counties. Luckily, Living DNA also includes a sub-regional breakdown in addition to their larger regional breakdown.

While your DNA results are based primarily on comparisons to millions of other tests, including those with well-established family trees, they're still quotes. Thankfully, Living DNA’s tests allow those who haven’t purchased their DNA testing kits to upload their raw data. As a result, this expands their network and increases their accuracy while providing details to Uploaders that competitors can’t offer.

The more folks that take genealogical DNA tests, the more accurate they become. Living DNA exemplifies this by providing their insight on DNA raw data. On top of it all, they provide a lifetime of updates as their DNA databases grow.

Motherline

Each cell in your body contains at least two types of DNA: autosomal DNA and mitochondrial DNA. Consequently, the ‘autosome’ is a mix of DNA that you received from your paternal line and maternal line. 

The mitochondria are the energy generators of the cell, brought along with a mother’s egg at the time of conception. These peculiar cellular components have their own set of DNA, always transferred from mother to child. 

This mitochondrial DNA comprises genetic material that was passed through the female line, for as long as humans were humans. As a result, mutations in this stowaway genome assist in defining the aspects of your Motherline.

Screenshot of motherline secton of livingDNA website.

Through this information, you can identify your maternal Haplogroups and Subclades. The ability to see your mother’s migration map is one of the more exciting things I’ve seen in all of the DNA testing kits I’ve taken.

Screenshot of livingDNA's migration map for motherline. This allows you to see the movement of your ancestors.
My results in 2019
Living DNA ancestry test kit (2021) review 17
My results in 2021

Fatherline

For males, an additional feature exists, called the Fatherline. This, like the Motherline, tracks the migration patterns a particular type of DNA. The y-chromosome is passed from the paternal line to a son, with mutations in this genome identifying historical components of your father’s lineage.

This will show you if your fatherline came from Europe, Africa, etc.

The fatherline part of Living DNA's test. This allows you to see your fatherline's DNA.

Browsing the Phylogenetic Tree shows you your family tree DNA through either your maternal line or paternal line, depending on the section.

LivingDNA allows you to see your Phylogenetic Tree, to give you a 10000 ft view of your DNA types.

Family Networks

The family networks portion of LivingDNA's test kit. This allows you to connect with family members who have also taken the test or uploaded their DNA.

Living DNA can do what other DNA testing companies do as well (23andMe and Ancestry): connecting you to other relatives that have uploaded their DNA results to the service. Unfortunately, Living DNA didn’t find any matches for me, whereas every other testing service did. This may be due to the infant nature of the DNA testing company compared to the behemoths in the industry.

The primary advantage of Living DNA is the ability of non-customers to upload their raw data. Their databases may seem limited when compared to 23andMe or AncestryDNA. However, they have the greatest capacity to grow, with a lifetime of free updates.

This system fuels the ‘One Family, One World’ project, an initiative undertaken by Living DNA. They aim to connect the most people, through contributions of customers and uploaders, alike.

Raw Data

Section of LivingDNA's website that allows you to download your raw DNA data.

It’s a feature offered by many other DNA testing companies as well. But, Living DNA provides the option to download your raw DNA data, for analysis by various other testing services. Considering their focus on ancestry rather than health, the raw DNA data will feel insignificant compared to the profile provided by 23andMe. Nonetheless, raw data is always worth downloading.

Upload DNA File

Living DNA ancestry test kit (2021) review 18

Living DNA also allows you to upload DNA results from another testing service (23andme, AncestryDNA, or any major DNA testing company). This includes you in the ‘One Family, One World’ project, which aims to create connections between as many individuals as possible. Because of this, there is also an option to allow your DNA data to be used for research purposes. Your DNA contributes to the pool of knowledge surrounding genetic variation.

An upload also grants you access to the family matching service provided to Living DNA customers. This can assist in building Family Networks and potentially finding connections that a competitor might have missed.


We took every DNA test so you don't have to. Read our 2021 review of the best DNA tests.


Wellbeing

I tested the Wellbeing function to see if the info was applicable and interesting.

Living DNA ancestry test kit (2021) review 19

After purchasing the Wellbeing function, you are either able to look at all of your traits, which can be overwhelming, or look at the different focuses. These focuses are:

  • Stamina
  • Weight Management
  • Energy
  • Healthy Eating
  • Longevity
  • Digestion
  • Strength
  • Flexibility

Digging into one of these, Stamina, gives you this:

Living DNA ancestry test kit (2021) review 20

Clicking on one of these shows you:

Living DNA ancestry test kit (2021) review 21

Reading most of the suggestions seems to give me fairly standard health advice. I would say 10-25% of the reports were interesting, the rest are standard health advice, such as:

Living DNA ancestry test kit (2021) review 22

Not really novel information, but still very interesting.

Overall, I think the Wellbeing module is worth it.

Extras

If you just buy the Ancestry Kit, you are able to upgrade to the Wellbeing kit for around $40:

Living DNA ancestry test kit (2021) review 23

You can also order a personalized Ancestry Book:

Living DNA ancestry test kit (2021) review 24

Living DNA has also recently started selling personlized vitamins (this goes hand in hand with their Wellbeing module).

Living DNA ancestry test kit (2021) review 25

Here's what LivingDNA suggests for me:

Living DNA ancestry test kit (2021) review 26

This goes for around $55/month, which is pretty expensive for Vitamins. I don't know the science suggests it's worth buying this right now, but this is an interesting place to keep an eye on.

Overall

Living DNA is newer to the DNA testing service scene; it does not feel as elegant as 23andMe despite costing the same. Nonetheless, it is a well put together genetic testing kit and offers great support. Providing that you are looking to discover the sub-regional breakdown of nations where your newer ancestors lived.

The Living DNA testing kit doesn't supply you with any medical info based on your DNA results. The only DNA testing company that does provide both genealogical and medical tests is 23andMe.

Living DNA Vs 23andMe

23andMe used to differentiate itself from LivingDNA using health tests. Now, with LivingDNA adding Wellbeing:

Living DNA ancestry test kit (2021) review 27

there isn't as much difference between the 2. 23andMe still is a much more mature service, so you would expect their health results to be slightly better (but there aren't really any studies comparing the 2).

Living DNA runs $149 for a Health + Ancestry, whereas 23andMe runs $199. Both will give the layperson perfectly usable information, so it comes down to what you want to pay.

LivingDNA vs MyHeritage

LivingDNA is a much more polished product. I would say that LivingDNA competes well with AncestryDNA and 23andMe, whereas MyHeritage competes with services like GPS Origins, Family Tree, and others.

Living DNA Kit Review

Only founded in 2016, Living DNA is considered a recent entry to the field. However, it’s an off-shoot of DNA Worldwide, a leader in forensic testing, founded in 2004. 

Joel

Living DNA ancestry test kit (2021) review 15
Ease of Use
Ancestry Information
Health Information
Speed of Updates
Speed of Results
Privacy Protection

Summary

Living DNA has really grown over the last 2 years to become a solid player in at-home DNA testing. 

4.5

Pros

  • Beautiful visualizations
  • Allows you to get all three tests done (Autosomal DNA, mtDNA, y-chromosome)
  • Strong privacy protection
  • Ability to download raw data 
  • Can look through fatherline + motherline
  • Nothing is hidden behind a paywall 
  • Allows upload of DNA data for free (for now)

Cons

  • Database size isn’t as big as 23andMe or Ancestry
  • The same cost as competition, but doesn’t feel like you’re getting as much for the price
  • No DNA relative matches (small database size)

 


Cheap DNA Kits (all under $60). Read our 2021 Guide.

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