In this guide we’ll take a look at the best DNA tests for ancestry.
We’ve compared database size, geographic regions, site community and cost
to give you our top recommendations.
What Is The Best DNA Test For Ancestry 2019?
DNA Test Reviews
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Ancestry DNA Review
AncestryDNA boasts an enormous database of 10+ million individual users and what we’d consider to be the best ancestry DNA test on the market. It compares your results with other users to look for “matches,” people who are possibly related to you. They may share a common ancestor with you or be long-lost cousins.
AncestryDNA is great for finding and connecting with living relatives. Once you’ve taken the AncestryDNA test, you’ll receive lists of potential matches, and it’s completely up to you how much information you share with your newfound cousins.
You can choose to maintain privacy so that your matches only see your username and possible relationship—no personal info. If, on the other hand, you want to make new connections, that’s just fine too. You’re able to maintain a public profile and family tree.
AncestryDNA also runs a few opt-in programs such as DNA Circles (groups of people with an ancestor in common) and Genetic Communities (groups with similar ancestry and ethnicity).
If you join a Genetic Community, for example, you’ll be assigned to a group with origins similar to yours, based on a specific geographic location, such as Yorkshire.
This feature allows you to learn more about your ancestors: What was life like for them? What general migration patterns did they follow?
Overall, AncestyDNA’s huge database is a major advantage if you’re hoping to fill in the gaps in your family tree or identify living relatives.
How does the test work? You’ll receive a DNA kit and full instructions in the mail, including a prepaid envelope. You’ll place a saliva sample in this envelope, send it off, and wait six to eight weeks for results.
The company offers autosomal DNA testing. This is a popular kind of DNA test, and for many people it’s the most useful. Autosomal DNA tests can be taken by both men and women. They are excellent at determining geographic origins and ethnicity going back around six or seven generations and possibly up to ten.
An autosomal DNA test can help you determine relationships with living relatives and get a better idea of your family history during the past several generations. Plus, this kind of test tends to be a bit more budget-friendly than the alternatives (Y-DNA and mtDNA tests).
The company takes measures to preserve your privacy by storing your data securely and allowing you to delete your DNA test results.
AncestryDNA is connected to its parent company Ancestry.com. You can use the company’s DNA testing services on their own, but if you’re serious about family history, you can also make an account with Ancestry.
Ancestry is a subscription-based service that provides access to billions of records. You have the option to purchase access to United States records only, U.S. and international records, or full Ancestry access plus membership to Newspapers.com (Basic) and Fold3.com.
If you decide to go with AncestryDNA for your DNA test, I recommend looking into Ancestry’s broader services. This is a convenient way to link your DNA results with your family tree and all sorts of documentary records, organizing all of your family history research in one place.
Finally, a note on what AncestryDNA does not offer: This DNA test does not cover health-related information. The company also does not offer Y-DNA or mtDNA tests, only autosomal DNA tests.
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MyHertigage DNA Review
MyHeritage DNA is a newer site that provides services and functions similar to AncestryDNA, specifically, autosomal DNA testing. Again, this type of testing works very well for the past ten or so generations of family history and for finding living family members.
Though MyHeritage has a smaller database than Ancestry, the company covers a large number of ethnic regions and allows you to form your family tree without additional costs.
The only slight downside here is their smaller database, comprising 2+ million people as of this year. If your main priority is discovering living relatives and genetic matches, then Ancestry’s larger database has the edge.
But MyHeritageDNA is growing every day, and it provides high-quality service, so it’s definitely worth serious consideration!
One perk is its user-friendliness: The DNA test kit requires only cheek swabs (instead of saliva samples). Your package will come with instructions, but all in all, this kit is quick and easy to use. Once you’ve mailed in your kit, you can expect results within four to six weeks.
The site allows you to connect with potential matches, sorted by their degree of relation to you (close vs. extended vs. distant). Finding family is one of the major motivations for people interested in DNA testing, and MyHeritage performs quite well in this category.
It’s very easy to set your privacy preferences and determine exactly how much information you do or don’t share with anyone. The company encrypts your data and aims to give you control over how, when, and where you share any information on your DNA.
You can also opt in or out of allowing your data to be used for scientific research.
Like Ancestry, MyHeritage offers additional services on top of DNA testing. You can build a family tree and also search through billions of historical documents, from birth and death records to passenger lists and military documents. So, MyHeritage is another solid one-stop-shop for consolidating and organizing all of your genealogical research in one convenient place.
Finally, MyHeritage has fantastic customer service. English-language support is available 24/7 to help you out with any questions.
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FamilyTree DNA Review
FamilyTree DNA is unique because it enables you to order different kinds of DNA tests (autosomal, Y-DNA, and mtDNA) individually. Most companies offer only autosomal tests, or bundle autosomal and other types into one big package. As discussed, Ancestry and MyHeritage perform autosomal testing only. FamilyTree, in contrast, lets you order mtDNA and/or Y-DNA tests in addition to autosomal.
However, the separate charges for each test do add up to a hefty sum if you want all three kinds of DNA tests done.
I’ll explain mtDNA and Y-DNA in greater depth below. These tests are ideal for people interested in long-term ancestry, tracing their origins back for millennia.
Y-DNA testing traces the paternal DNA line through the generations and illuminates the migration patterns of your male ancestors. Note that it is necessary to have a Y-chromosome to take this kind of test.
MtDNA testing follows the maternal DNA line and migration patterns of your female ancestors. Both men and women can take this kind of test, which examines mitochondrial DNA.
You can opt for Y-DNA or mtDNA tests with varying levels of detail. And FamilyTree offers the standard autosomal tests as well.
Once you receive your test, you’ll gather cheek swabs, mail them off in a prepaid package, and wait four to eight weeks for results.
How about privacy? Similar to other companies on this list, FamilyTree generally does not share personal information with third parties without consent and lets you make decisions with regard to how much you share with other users.
FamilyTree is one of the oldest, most respected and best DNA testing companies in business. It takes your privacy very seriously and has pledged never to sell your information to third parties. It’s a superb option, especially if you’re interested in Y-DNA or mtDNA testing.
The many different options available can be a little daunting, however. Maybe you’ve decided you want a Y-DNA test, but should you opt for the Y-37 test (examining 37 markers), the Y-67 test (examining 67 markers), or an even more detailed one?
For most beginner genealogists, I recommend starting out with the standard autosomal test. If your interests lie in your deeper ancestral origins, an mt-DNA or Y-DNA test may be a good idea, but prepare to do your research beforehand.
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23andMe DNA Review
Next up, we have 23andMe, a company founded in 2006. What makes them different? For one thing, 23andMe is the only current DNA company to offer health testing as a primary service. Many regard 23andMe as the best DNA test for health on the market.
Quite a few people get their DNA checked to see if they are at risk for certain hereditary diseases, so if that’s you, 23andMe is your best option.
The report will include your health predispositions, detect whether you are a carrier for certain conditions, and cover 30+ physical traits such as cheek dimples, aversion to cilantro, mosquito bite frequency, and more. However, health information comes at an additional fee.
To take the 23andMe test, you’ll spit into a tube to provide a saliva sample, then mail it to the company and wait three to five weeks for results.
One potential perk is that 23andMe bundles all three types of DNA tests (autosomal, mtDNA, and Y-DNA), so you receive information on your recent family history (up to around ten generations back) as well as on your family’s more ancient origins.
Again, note that Y-DNA tests can only be taken by people with Y-chromosomes. Many women ask their fathers or brothers to take the test so that they can trace their paternal lines.
23andMe has tested around 5 million people, making it one of the more popular options out there today (though still not as big as Ancestry). A large pool of people generally means more accurate ethnicity estimates and the potential to find genetic matches.
However, 23andMe isn’t really set up as a comprehensive hub for family history research. For example, you can’t search for historical records directly on the 23andMe site. If you want to conduct historical research, then you’ll need to look into using a site like Ancestry in addition to taking your DNA test.
As for privacy, 23andMe will not supply your individual data to any third parties without your consent. The company also stores customer data securely and lets you make decisions about how much information to share.
In sum, 23andMe is a great option if you’re curious about where you come from, and it’s pretty much the only option if you want to learn more about health risks and information specific to you.
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Living DNA provides extremely detailed three-in-one DNA testing. Living DNA has about 80 regions for the whole world, so their detail is great, especially for people from the British Isles.
Those of you with British ancestors should take an especially close look at LivingDNA, which is distinctive in that it subdivides the British Isles into 21 separate ethnic regions such as South Yorkshire, Cornwall, East Anglia, and Cumbria.
In contrast, many companies only have between 20 and 40 ethnic regions to span the entire globe, so 21 regions for a space that small is truly exceptional.
LivingDNA also features sub-regions in other countries and is working on delineating more.
Like 23andMe, LivingDNA bundles the three kinds of DNA tests into one package. You’ll receive comprehensive results covering autosomal DNA, Y-DNA, and mtDNA. This means that you’ll learn about your family’s more recent geographic and ethnic origins, as well as the deeper geographic origins and migrations of your distant ancestors.
The test requires a simple cheek swab and is very easy to use. You can expect results in approximately six to eight weeks.
One drawback is that LivingDNA is still working on a system that links you to genetic matches and potential family members. The company announced in March 2019 that they are unveiling a new DNA matching system called Family Networks to help genetic matches find each other. This system is a work-in-progress and doesn’t yet have the vast user database of a company like AncestryDNA.
Companies like AncestryDNA and MyHeritage have already offered and finetuned this feature over time, accumulating larger databases of matches numbering in the millions. It remains to be seen how LivingDNA develops, but it will take time to develop a similarly large database.
So, if you’re hoping to take a DNA test and quickly find tons of distant cousins, LivingDNA probably isn’t for you. But it still provides a valuable service, particularly for people with ancestry in the British Isles, for whom the level of detail is unmatched.
LivingDNA encrypts your personal data and requires your consent to share information with any third parties. As far as privacy goes, LivingDNA performs well and takes your right to privacy seriously.
If you’re looking for the best DNA ancestry test, you’re in the right place!
Maybe you take an interest in family history and want something to complement or confirm all the historical records you’ve read.
Maybe you’re trying to track down relatives: second and third cousins, a missing biological parent, or a suspected half-sibling.
Maybe you’re concerned about your genetic health risks and you only have shaky knowledge of your family’s medical history.
Or maybe you’re just curious! Where do your ancestors come from? Are Grandpa Joe’s stories about your family lore true or completely made up?
Whatever your reasons, it’s important to do some research before choosing a test.
Several kinds of DNA testing kits are available. They test for different things, and which test you select depends on your particular interests.
Read on to learn the basics of taking a DNA test. This guide covers:
Types of DNA: Autosomal, mtDNA, and Y-DNA all have something to teach us—we have a basic primer on these three kinds of DNA.
Getting started with genealogy: Why you should consider supplementing your DNA test with some good old-fashioned research into the origins of your family.
Choosing the right DNA test: Autosomal, mtDNA, or Y-DNA: which test best suits your needs? What information can you expect to learn?
Getting a test done: Practical information on how the tests work, how much they tend to cost, and how you should you pick a company.
Types of DNA
First up, what exactly is DNA? Well, DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid. Don’t worry, you really don’t need to concern yourself with the science there (unless you want to).
It’s simply important to remember that not all DNA tests are created equal. Different types of tests are useful for different things.
There are three types of DNA used for testing your ancestry. These are Autosomal DNA, mtDNA, and Y-DNA. Each of these types of DNA involve different types of testing and the results tell you very different things.
So let’s go over what makes these types of DNA different from each other and review the types of testing available to you.
Autosomal DNA, to make the whole concept simple, is the DNA that you inherit from your entire family tree.
There is no gender-based distinction here: imagine autosomal DNA as a pool you draw on equally from your whole family tree. You get half your autosomal DNA from each parent, and therefore you get a quarter from each grandparent.
What this means is that your autosomal DNA becomes harder and harder to trace as you travel back in time though older generations.
At best, an autosomal DNA test can reach back about four or five generations. After that point, tracing your lineage becomes really tough with this method.
Okay, so why bother with an autosomal DNA test? Well, this type of test is very good at telling you how closely you’re related to someone you suspect to be a cousin.
This works especially well if you are not able to actually trace your line to your grandparents, which is quite common in families that entered the United States relatively recently.
An autosomal DNA test is also pretty good at estimating your ethnicity, at least back a few hundred years.
However, be aware that countries’ geographic borders change over time. For example, if your family was from northeast Italy, it’s impossible to tell if they were on the Austrian or Italian side of the border, especially since European borders changed radically with both world wars.
As a general rule, any company that offers DNA testing likely offers an autosomal DNA test, as this is the most common type.
For most people, an autosomal DNA test is more than enough to identify relationships with cousins and determine ethnicity. However, this type of test falls flat when it comes to long-term history.
Next up, we have mtDNA, or mitochondrial DNA, which is perhaps the most fascinating form of DNA.
Each one of your cells contains DNA in different areas, and mtDNA is stored in mitochondria.
As you may remember from high school biology class, the mitochondria act as power plants for your cells. But I said mtDNA was an especially fascinating type of DNA. Why is that?
The general scientific consensus now is that mitochondria used to be their own cells, but integrated into larger cells for protection, hence they have their own independent DNA.
Also, mtDNA is strictly maternal, meaning that it is only passed on through the female line.
And here is where mtDNA gets really unique.
Unlike autosomal DNA, mtDNA isn’t like a pool that dilutes with each generation. Scientists have used mtDNA to trace our species into the prehistoric past, and even beyond our species with research into early hominids. This kind of DNA doesn’t change fast at all, since it doesn’t get mixed up with every generation.
So why is this useful?
You can use your mtDNA to trace your maternal ancestral line through history, sometimes very deep into history.
MtDNA can place you in your haplogroup, which is essentially a group of people with one common ancestor.
You can sometimes use this haplogroup to identify even distant ancestors, provided that your link to them is maternal.
Because of how stable mtDNA is through time, your mtDNA will match your siblings…and also your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandma.
If you think that you may be interested in mtDNA testing, I’d highly recommend the book Seven Daughters of Eve, by Bryan Sykes.
I read this book all the way back in high school, and it details the history of our species through interesting case studies from around the world. Sykes posits theories regarding how humans first came to specific areas, most notably entering the fray on how humans arrived in Polynesia and Peru.
What makes this book truly special is the fact that it explains mtDNA in very digestible terms and even goes to show the reader how it can be useful.
The simple fact that mtDNA goes back to before civilization itself is telling, all the more so by how we can now reconstruct ancient maternal lines.
The book title comes from Sykes’ assertion that at some point, there is a mitochondrial ‘Eve,’ or an original source from which all maternal lines spring.
While the details of these arguments remain debated, the book is a fascinating and accessible read for anyone with an interest in DNA ancestry, especially with mtDNA.
Companies that test your mtDNA are less common than companies that test autosomal DNA, but I’ll be going over testing options a bit later once we’ve reviewed all DNA types.
Finally, there is Y-DNA, which is fairly similar to mtDNA, but carried through the paternal line. As the name would suggest, Y-DNA testing deals with the Y chromosome.
A little background is helpful here: What determines biological sex is whether an individual has two X chromosomes, and becomes a female, or one X and one Y chromosome, and becomes a male. Because females do not have a Y chromosome, only a male can have their lineage traced in this manner.
Again, very much like mtDNA, Y-DNA evolves very slowly because unlike autosomal DNA, Y-DNA is not mixed and matched with each generation.
This makes Y-DNA very stable through time, though in terms of extreme longevity, mtDNA has an edge, as it is stored outside the nucleus of the cell.
There are two types of Y-DNA testing that you can look into. First, there is Short Tandem Repeat (STR) testing, which looks for repeating patterns within your Y chromosome.
STR testing is great for finding out if you are indeed related to someone, though of course this only works through the male line. STR testing does not reveal your haplotype. It is only useful for determining specific relationships to another person.
Next, there is Single Nucleotide Polomorphism (STP) testing. This actually works a lot like autosomal DNA testing, but it only examines your Y-DNA, which means many fewer nucleotides are involved. STP testing does find your haplotype.
When talking about Y-DNA testing, it’s useful to mention what is possibly its most famous use…
Specifically, there is a common historical claim that Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, had a child (possibly multiple children) with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings.
Y-DNA testing has confirmed that there are currently living people who descended from slaves held in the US and who also have the Jefferson Y chromosome.
However, it is impossible to prove with 100% certainty that Thomas Jefferson himself was the father, as that Y chromosome could have come from any of the males in his familial line.
That is, of course, also a limit on mtDNA testing, as the test cannot be used to confirm an individual ancestor, but rather a lineage in general.
Getting started with Genealogy
And that’s it, we’ve reviewed the three types of DNA used for genealogical testing.
Before I dive into the weeds on these tests and their merits, I need to say one really important thing: don’t expect to learn everything about who you are or where you came from through a DNA test.
These tests have their purposes, but they’re also limited. At best, DNA tests will confirm (or deny) familial links through time.
But is that really why you’re doing this? For many people who grow interested in genealogy, there’s a bigger picture, an attempt to reassemble the fractured pieces of your family tree into a narrative.
Legendary author Terry Pratchett once noted that our species should not be called Homo sapiens (“wise man”), but rather Pans narrans, which translates from Latin as ‘storytelling chimpanzee.”
Wait, what exactly does that have to do with genealogy?
People spend their lives weaving webs of narratives around their universes, linking things together, forming stories along the way. These stories are one of the key aspects of our species itself.
So before you dive into DNA testing, do all the research you can into family records, or even public archives, to discover the details about the people you are looking into here.
If all you learn is that you share a blood relation with someone, what does that actually tell you? Well, unless you’re hoping to get rich off some lost inheritance (good luck), just confirming blood ties says somewhere between little and nothing.
If you conduct DNA testing without breathing life into some form of family narrative, then you’re unlikely to accomplish something satisfying. So if you’re deeply interested in your family history, make sure to do some historical legwork in addition to undertaking DNA testing.
Conducting thorough genealogical research is simply too large of a topic to cover in full here. There are countless resources out there to help you track down long-lost ancestors and bring their stories to life, including my Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Genealogy.
If your interest in DNA testing comes from curiosity about your family history, I strongly recommend developing some skills as a historian in addition to undertaking a DNA test.
How to choosing the right DNA test for you
Now that you’ve got some background on DNA and genealogy, let’s turn to the DNA tests themselves.
I’ll go over the various merits of the available DNA tests so that you can decide which one is right for you.
Tip – Check out my article comparing Ancestry vs 23andMe.
Now, the first question you need to answer is: Should I take an autosomal DNA, mtDNA, or Y-DNA test? Or all three?
Autosomal DNA testing
For most people, autosomal DNA testing is the way to go. It’s easy to have done since plenty of companies offer autosomal DNA testing.
Both men and women can take the test since it involves the 22 pairs of chromosomes that do not make up biological sex (unlike, say, Y-DNA tests, which require a Y chromosome).
Also, autosomal DNA is very good at showing ethnicity and geographic points of origin for a person, up to about five generations back, after which the details can get a bit fuzzy.
So why is autosomal DNA testing the default choice?
Because when linked with others forms of family research, autosomal DNA tests can link your family tree together and determine relationships with other living people.
Finding living relatives is often one of the main motivators behind any form of DNA testing, and finding living relatives is where autosomal DNA tests excel. It’s also a budget-friendly way to learn about the last century or so of your family’s history.
What about an mtDNA test? When would you want to have that done?
Well, for a start, mtDNA is not normally useful for finding a living relative. Instead, mtDNA is great for diving into the deep past of your maternal line through history.
Finding your female haplotype can help identify your broad family group. In terms of day-to-day usefulness, however, it’s not quite as useful.
You should opt for an mtDNA test if you’re most interested in the distant past and in pinpointing the geographical origins of your maternal line. MtDNA testing can be pretty expensive, but we’ll be reviewing specific testing options and costs below.
And finally, we come to Y-DNA testing. Much like mtDNA testing, Y-DNA tests trace the family line far back through time, though this time through the male line.
Y-DNA tests are most useful for determining if you are related to some long-lost ancestor, though as mentioned in the Thomas Jefferson case, it can be almost impossible to pinpoint one exact individual.
Also, if you live in a society that follows a patronymic naming system, you can use Y-DNA testing to essentially follow your last name through time and try to determine relationships.
However, like mtDNA testing, Y-DNA testing is not particularly useful for finding living relatives. Also, since females do not have a Y chromosome, only a male can take one of these tests.
If you lack a Y chromosome and are interested in a Y-DNA test, you can simply ask your father or brother to do take the test, and trace your ancestry that way. Your son, on the other hand, cannot take the test for you, since he gets his Y chromosome from his father, not from your father.
Which DNA test to choose?
In terms of finding your ethnicity or point of origin, autosomal DNA is a clear winner, especially after considering how cost-effective it is.
Y-DNA and mtDNA testing can only ever trace a sliver of your family history back, and therefore are poor choices for finding more general information on your ancestors.
Even with autosomal DNA testing, you need to be aware that companies do often make mistakes, so take any test results with a grain of salt. If you’re from the United States, you should bear in mind that your family may well be a jumble of ethnicities from around the world.
Also, note that some companies offer only autosomal testing, while some offer all three types in one package (quite expensive). FamilyTree DNA offers all three types individually so you can choose any test you please.
Some complications in DNA Testing
One of the most beautiful things about the United States is the fact that people from any background can be Americans. However, that can make genetic testing more difficult than normal!
Also be aware that national boundaries change, and countries form and dissolve.
A Croat born in 1903 was not born in Croatia, but rather in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A person born in Alsace in 1875 was born in the new nation of Germany, but if they survived into 1919, they became French.
Ethnicities do not neatly follow national lines, despite the efforts of various dictators and tyrants throughout history, so as you explore your ancestry, remember that simple ethnicity says little about politics or national allegiance.
And what if you’re interested in possible Native American heritage?
Well, that gets pretty complicated, as testing can only reveal a general area of your ancestors, and DNA testing alone is not suitable proof to officially be a tribal member.
Also, since the US and Canadian governments forcibly relocated (or massacred) many native tribes over the centuries, the geography of your specific ancestors may not reflect where their tribe started out. So be careful when using DNA tests to investigate Native American ancestors.
Remember how I mentioned studying family documents? DNA will say nothing about your ancestors’ thoughts and feeling and motives, but documents can speak volumes about those vital human traits.
Diaries, birth, marriage and death certificates, census, church, court and military records: All of these are vital parts of a person’s life, and you need to look into these too if you want to learn much about an ancestor.
How long does a DNA test take?
So after all of this, you’ve decided to get your DNA tested, and you’ve chosen which test(s) you want. Here’s how the process works.
You’ll order your test and then you’ll either have to provide a spit sample or cheek swab.
Next, send it in to the company you have chosen (more on the various companies below). Within about two to four months, the company will send you results, typically by email.
These results will normally include your specific DNA information, an estimate as to your ethnicity, and, depending on the test itself, may make suggestions for contacting relatives.
How much do DNA tests cost?
An autosomal DNA test will run you between $70 and $100 right now. As noted above, this is by far the most common and useful test for the average person. Companies include Ancestry DNA, Living DNA, 23 and Me, and many, many more.
An mtDNA test on the other hand can be quite expensive, going for around $200 at FamilyTree DNA, which is at the moment the only company that offers separate mtDNA and Y-DNA tests to customers (i.e. you can purchase an mtDNA test individually, not in a 3-for-1 bundle with the other two tests).
FamilyTree’s Y-DNA tests vary between $170 to a whopping $650. I would definitely recommend sticking with an autosomal DNA test for budgetary reasons unless you have a compelling reason to opt for mtDNA or Y-DNA instead.
Why is there such variation in price among FamilyTree’s Y-DNA tests? The company offers three tests, each with a different level of detail.
The least expensive version tests for 37 different markers on the Y chromosome, the second version tests for 67, the third version tests for 111, and the most detailed and expensive test available tests for even more: 500 short tandem repeats (STRs) and 100K single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) on the Y chromosome.
Basically, the more detailed and refined the test, the more expensive it will be. There really is no need to go for the priciest option though unless you’re a billionaire or an incredibly enthusiastic genealogist.
How to choose a DNA testing company
First decide on the kind of test you want to have done. Then compare prices. Prices change all the time, companies run sales, and so on.
Don’t hesitate to comparison shop and look out for deals. And then get into the weeds on various features. Questions to consider:
- How large is the company’s user database? The bigger the better, since a large database offers better prospects for comparison and matching with other users.
- How many ethnic or geographic regions does the company cover? Again, the more regions, the better and more detailed the test will be.
- How long does the company store your results? Forever? For a few decades?
- Does the company offer a chromosome browser? This feature makes it easier to compare multiple sets of DNA results to identify overlap.
- Does the website have a thriving community of likeminded people? If you run into questions during your genealogical research, you may benefit from others’ experiences and knowledge.
- Are you able to contact other users with matching DNA results?
- Does the company offer health-related DNA testing?
Some of these factors may be essential for you, while others may be non-issues. Once you’ve figured out what you want from your DNA test, you can decide which of these factors to focus on when picking a company.
A note on DNA Test privacy
DNA tests have been in the news lately due to privacy concerns. Many people are wary of handing over their genetic information to companies and relinquishing control over where that information then goes.
After all, your DNA contains a wealth of information about you: your health, ethnic background, family connections, and more. If privacy is a concern for you, read over the fine print before choosing a company. Here are some questions to ask:
- What are the company’s policies? What rights to my genetic information do I grant the company by clicking “I Accept”? With whom do they share information?
- How long will the company store my data? Some companies store testing results indefinitely while others have a time limit of around 25 years.
- If I make a profile on a genealogical website, how private is that? Will other users be able to contact me? Am I able to keep my profile and contact information private?
- What measures does the company take to safeguard my genetic data? Am I willing to accept the risk that a company’s database may be hacked?
Ultimately, if you decide to do DNA testing, you should feel comfortable with the company you choose and how it intends to store, share, and use your data. Take your time to read privacy statements thoroughly and determine if they align with your personal comfort level.
After all, many people undertake DNA testing because they hope to find and contact formerly unknown relatives.
One person might be excited about the prospect of reaching out to a newly discovered cousin, while another person might feel uncomfortable with contacting or being contacted by strangers.
If you’re planning to give a DNA test as a gift, it’s a good idea to figure out the recipient’s feelings on privacy beforehand.
That said, companies have made increased efforts over the last few years to strengthen their privacy policies and ensure that your information is stored safely and securely. Here is a list of privacy statements for the leading genetic testing companies mentioned above:
If you’re at all nervous about sending a cheek swab off in the mail, definitely compare the policies up above. You’ll be able to make a more informed decision and enjoy learning about your ancestry without any worries in the background.
Should you take a DNA test? Which is the best DNA test for you?That entirely depends on your goals and priorities!
If you want to learn more about your family history, I recommend starting with historical research, and only when you have a basic narrative should you continue to DNA testing.
If you’re interested in fairly recent family history (going back about five generations), if you hope to identify living relatives, or if you’d like information on your ethnicity, then give autosomal DNA testing a try. It is likely to yield satisfying results and is typically less expensive.
As for companies, you have plenty of choices for autosomal DNA testing. Take a look at the companies recommended above to see which fits your priorities.
For instance, if you want a genetic health screening, you’ll probably want 23 and Me, while if you want information on your British ancestry, Living DNA is the best choice.
But in our opinion, the best DNA ancestry test overall is from Ancestry.
Keep in mind that many public libraries and universities have subscriptions to genealogy services, so give them a call and see if you can’t get your results tested for a far lower cost.
Good luck, and have fun while discovering your family history and seeing what secrets your DNA may hold.