Living DNA ancestry test kit (2019) review

Living DNA claims to have the first truly international DNA test, attributing your genetic ancestry to over 80 distinct global regions. Unlike other modern tests that may only provide an indication of where you’re from, Living DNA is specific enough to differentiate from 21 different regions of the British Isles.

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 testing to court before entering the at-home market. LivingDNA ensured a high level of accuracy demanded by the justice system. Read on to see our Living DNA kit review to see what we think of it.

Unlike AncestryDNA, Living DNA scans both the Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA, to better elucidate your genetic history. In all, Living DNA investigates 46 specific locations to shed a light on your ancestry. 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 entrants to consumer DNA testing)
  • Offers information on maternal and paternal ancient ancestor lines
  • Has some of the best DNA visualizations out there
  • Allows you to see motherline and fatherline
  • Gives you three types of DNA testing
  • Free, lifetime updates to your ancestry results

Quick facts:

 

Sample Collection:Swab
DNA testing type:Autosomal, mtDNA, YDNA (all three types)
Speed:6-8 weeks (mine took 25 days)
Privacy Protection:Strong (jump to section)

 

How much does LivingDNA cost?

 

$ 99 Ancestry Kit
  • Ancestral Journy through 8000 years
  • Maternal & Paternal Ancestry
  • Find Relatives
$ 0 Monthly Costs
  • Download DNA
  • Secure and confidental data storage
  • Quick Results

What is in the box?

  • Kit to swab your cheek
  • Return envelope to mail to back to them

Send in steps

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

  1. Activate kit online
  2. Follow online instructions to take your sample
    1. Swab inside of the cheek
    2. Put cheek swab inside the tube
  3. Return sample to LivingDNA
  4. Wait for 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 DNA tests are not without their dangers. However, learning uncomfortable truths from your DNA 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 here.

The results

Living DNA shines when it comes to the results. With an easy-to-use interface, you can explore your Family Ancestry, Motherline, and Fatherline. These results are powered by the three different types of DNA tests that Living DNA employs: autosomal, mitochondrial, and y-chromosome, respectively. Considering that the y-chromosomal 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 information that your genes reveal about your ancestry. It starts by showing you the home regions 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.

Living DNA also has a timeline 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 DNA history evolved throughout the ages and for specific points in history.

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 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 test 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.

While your 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 allows for those who haven’t purchased their kit 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 raw DNA data. On top of it all, they provide a lifetime of updates as their databases grow.

Motherline

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

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 tests I’ve taken. 

Screenshot of livingDNA's migration map for motherline. This allows you to see the movement of your ancestors.

Fatherline

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

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

The primary advantage of Living DNA is the ability to non-customers to upload their raw DNA data. Their databases may seem limited when compared to 23andMe or Ancestry. 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 competitors as well. But, Living DNA provides the option to download your raw DNA data, for analysis by various other 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

Section of livingDNA that allows you to upload your (or family members) DNA.

 

Living DNA also allows you to upload DNA results from another service (23andme, Ancestry, or any major 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.

Overall

PROS

  • Beautiful visualizations
  • Allows you to get all three tests done (Autosomal, mtDNA, YDNA)
  • Strong privacy protection
  • Ability to download raw DNA data
  • Ability to look through father + motherline

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 ability to look at health info + traits
  • No DNA relative matches (small database size)

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

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

 

 

Sources