DNA tests can tell you a lot about yourself.
While many DNA kits will tell you information about your ancestry, going back generations to find where your ancestors were located, there are also some that have interesting extras.
What can a DNA test tell you about yourself?
Depending on the type of DNA test you choose, you can learn about your predisposition to certain genetic diseases, family ancestry, and more!
But what is the best DNA testing kit?
It’s not always easy to know which one will give you everything you want and you don’t want to be disappointed. That’s why you should check out these reviews of the best DNA testing kit and four alternatives.
Now that we’ve looked at some general specs of popular products, let’s dive into the best DNA testing kit, followed by four alternatives so you can find the DNA kit that suits your needs.
Best Overall: Ancestry
If you’re interested in exploring your background and finding out more about your family, you might be tempted to purchase an Ancestry DNA kit.
This is probably also because it’s so popular, with the company boasting approximately 16 million user profiles, as CNET reports. Here’s everything you need to know about it and why it’s the best rated DNA testing kit.
- Huge database of users
- Easy and convenient
- Maps and family tree provided
- One of the concerns you might have is how easy it is to use the DNA testing kit. The good news about Ancestry’s kit is that it’s super-easy to use. You’ll first need to set up an account on Ancestry and order a kit. You’ll receive your kit within a week!
- You’ll then receive the results of your DNA test within six to eight weeks.
- Ancestry has the largest database of DNA samples when compared to its competitors.
- There are many great resources you’ll be able to enjoy once you receive your DNA test results. In your Ancestry account you’ll be able to view maps providing info about where your ancestors were located, and find out more information about how the company discovers your ancestry.
- There’s also the cool feature of being able to see how your results compare to those of the rest of the population.
- You have the chance to build your own family tree. You can also make use of documents such as military records, birth certificates, and marriage licenses to start the exciting journey of learning about previous generations in your family. To get started with your family tree is easy: once you’ve activated the code, you can link your kit to your Ancestor family tree, provided you have already created one.
- If you’re hoping for a more comprehensive DNA test, bear in mind that Ancestry only provides you with information about your ancestry. You won’t receive other information, such as related to your health.
- One small complaint when using the kit is that you’ll have to put saliva into the tube that comes with the kit. But, you can’t just go ahead and do it. You have to avoid eating, smoking, and drinking for half an hour before you provide the saliva sample. This rule isn’t one you have to follow with some other DNA test kits.
- There is a bit of bias as 75 percent of Ancestry’s ethnic regions represent European regions, that means that it’s difficult to get estimates of ethnicity from other regions in the world, as CNET reports.
- Your sample will remain anonymous, which is great if you’re worried about privacy. This is ensured by how you’ll receive a code that you’ll need to use on the website to activate your DNA kit. This is pretty standard with popular DNA testing kits, but Ancestry also offers other ways to maintain your privacy. For example, you can choose to delete your data and prevent your data from appearing in family finder results.
So, you might be wondering how much an AncestryDNA kit will cost. It includes the collection kit as well as shipping. It’s also worth keeping an eye on their website because there are usually sales which you can take advantage of.
Runner Up: My Heritage
Another popular DNA testing company, My Heritage is worth checking out. Here’s a rundown of its features.
- Innovative tools to boost customer experience
- Exciting family tree software
- DNA test involves cheek swab
- You don’t have to provide a saliva sample in the DNA kit. A simple and quick cheek swab is all you need to send back to the company for testing.
- MyHeritage gives you DNA testing and free family tree software.
- When you receive your test results, you’ll enjoy how clicking on the notification email opens with music and a spinning globe image. You’ll then be able to see a map that reveals information about your ethnicity. These touches make it fun to get your results.
- If you want to create a family tree, you’ll get more tools to use. These include record matching, which is when the site finds records associated with people on your family tree. You can also get family members to contribute to building your family tree, such as by uploading photos and searching for information such as birth certificates.
- On the topic of tools, MyHeritage is always finding new ways to have an edge over its competitors. It recently released a Photo Enhancer tool so that old, blurry family pics can be given a new lease on life.
- By changing your privacy settings, you’ll be able to receive emails notifying you of other users on the site who have DNA matches with you.
- You’ll receive your results within three to four weeks, which is quite a bit sooner than rival DNA testing companies, such as Ancestry.
- Unlike with Ancestry, you don’t receive as much information when it comes to finding out how your ancestors lived. The company also doesn’t provide you with a lot of information to help you understand the results, which is unfortunate.
- One of the biggest reasons for the lack of extra information is that, when compared to Ancestry, MyHeritage had around 1.75 million users in 2018 while Ancestry had 10 million. The more users that are on a DNA testing site, the larger reference populations the site will have on which they can base their reports.
- Your privacy is maintained. For example, the DNA kit you receive is tracked via a number instead of your name. This means that when you receive it you have to register it by adding the number to your account. Another way in which the company protects your privacy is by being committed to never selling personal data, such as customer names or email addresses.
If you’re mainly interested in making use of the fantastic free family tree software, then this kit’s a great option, although it does fall a bit short when it comes to how much information you get from your DNA results.
Alternative 1: 23AndMe
23AndMe has become one of the most popular DNA testing companies around. You’ll find it mentioned positively in reviews and there are good reasons why it’s used by approximately nine million people. Let’s explore this kit in greater detail.
- Ancestral and personal genetic data provided
- Tracks eight generations into the past
- Excellent customer service
- One of the biggest benefits of using this DNA kit is that it provides you with ancestral as well as personal genetic information. For example, it will provide you with any genetic health risks you have.
- There are also other interesting things you’ll be able to learn about yourself, such as if you’re prone to losing your hair in the future. This is a nice way to make you feel that you’re getting worth what you paid for the kit.
- On the topic of ancestral information, 23AndMe gives you lots of detailed information about your ancestry. This includes your paternal and maternal ancestry as well as how much Neanderthal DNA you have!
- The process of using the DNA kit is simple. In fact, it’s pretty much exactly the same as that of Ancestry. For example, you can’t eat, drink, or smoke for half an hour before providing a saliva sample.
- A very unique and cool feature offered by 23AndMe is the “Your Ancestry Timeline” feature. This provides estimates on your relatives’ ethnicities and can go back up to eight generations into the past.
- You’re likely to receive your DNA results within two to three weeks, making 23AndMe one of the fastest and best DNA genetic testing kit products.
- You can view maternal and paternal contributions to your ancestry information, but the catch is that a parent has to connect with you on the site in order for this to be available.
- You can’t combine your results with a family tree, which is disappointing. To make use of a family tree feature, you’ll have to try a different DNA kit.
- There’s a “wellness” section that provides information on certain traits you might have, such as when it comes to matching musical pitch and what your eye color is. But these can be quite off the mark, so take them with a pinch of salt!
- The site and kit are very easy to use.
- Customer support is top-notch, so you’ll always have help if you need it along the way.
- You can choose to keep your DNA information private, and you’ll only allow private companies to have access to this information if you say “yes” to the agreement.
- The website’s interface is modern and interesting, with fun visualizations when you receive your results.
Having this choice is good because it gives you exactly what you want and can help you stay within your budget.
Alternative 2: HomeDNA
HomeDNA has a variety of information on offer for you if you’re interested. These include your paternity and ancestry, and you can even gain information about your pets’ genetic makeup! For purposes of this review, let’s look at the features of the company’s GPS Origins Ancestry Test.
- Makes use of 41 gene pools to track ancestry
- No third-party labs
- Easy and convenient cheek swab test
- This aptly-named test zones in on the very location where your ancestors were located, such as their village or town.
- One of the best things about this DNA kit is that it’s one of the easiest to use. While other kits, such as some we’ve featured in this guide, require you to provide a sample of your saliva, this one gives you four cotton swabs in the kit so that you can take cheek swabs. You then put them in the provided envelopes. Best of all, you don’t have to follow rules such as not eating or drinking for a while before taking the test, so it’s very convenient.
- Instead of focusing on countries where your ancestors originated, this DNA test provides gene pool regions, such as Southern France. The company makes use of 41 gene pools and over 1,000 reference populations.
- You can make use of an interactive map that shows you where your ancestors were located and where they moved. By clicking on specific points on the map, you can learn more about their journeys.
- You won’t be able to search for genetic matches on the database as you would with other DNA kits.
- You don’t get any family tree software or tools, either.
- Although it’s great to be able to see where your ancestors lived and to track them, HomeDNA doesn’t offer extra resources or tools to give you information about your distant relatives or when it comes to helping you to understand the results from the DNA test.
- You’ll get your DNA results within six weeks.
- When it comes to privacy, HomeDNA never sends your DNA samples to third-party labs, thus maintaining the integrity of the process.
You can choose from a variety of tests. While HomeDNA isn’t said to be as comprehensive and informative as some other DNA testing kits on the market, it can be an interesting way to uncover your ancestry and find out more about specific information related to your ancestral origins.
Alternative 3: LivingDNA
If you’re looking for a more affordable way to track your ancestry, LivingDNA is a good choice. It also has many other benefits.
- Clear privacy rules
- 100 experts that work for the company
- Reference panel of 12,000 people
- The LivingDNA company consists of over 100 genetic experts, scientists, and academic researchers. It also consults with genomics experts and testing services so that you get the best tools and resources.
- You’ll need to take cheek swabs when using the kit, which is easy and simple to do. To make the process even easier, the company offers you a video tutorial you can watch to see exactly how you should do the cheek swab.
- The company is clear on their privacy rules. After you get your DNA results, you can choose to either let your DNA be used for research or not. While other companies can be a bit vague when it comes to privacy, Living DNA explains the process of sharing your data so you can make the best choice. You can also delete your information and withdraw your consent whenever you want.
- Your DNA results are separated into three main parts: your mother line (known as mitochondrial DNA testing) father line, and family ancestry. When it comes to your ancestry, you’ll receive a percentage split of your ancestry which is organized by region as well as sub-region.
- Living DNA takes its data findings from a reference panel that has 12,000 people from 80 regions. That’s quite good, especially if you consider that Ancestry has a reference panel of approximately 16,000 people.
- One of the biggest drawbacks with using LivingDNA is that you have to wait between 10 and 12 weeks to get your results, which is quite a few weeks more than what you’ll get with other DNA testing kits on the market.
- If you’re hoping to get medical information along with ancestry data, you’ll have to use a different company because this one only gives you the latter.
- Although you’re likely to get accurate results on your DNA test, this does depend on the region you come from. The company is located in the U.K. and many of the people who take the test are based in the U.K. and Europe. These regions are more represented than others, which can be problematic.
- You can view your ancestry in a video visualization. What’s nice about it is that you can pause the video at certain points to learn about all the different eras being displayed.
Living DNA is an affordable kit to purchase so if you’re looking for a test that’s within your budget and you don’t mind the drawbacks, such as when it comes to some regions not being as represented as others and waiting longer for your results, then it’s a good choice to help you trace your ancestry.
DNA Testing Kit FAQ
Have a good idea of the DNA testing kit you’d love to use to find out more about you and your family?
Great! Now that we’ve looked at some of the best DNA kits on the market, let’s explore some common questions surrounding DNA kits, like how effective they really are and if they’re worth your money.
How does DNA testing work?
DNA, otherwise known as deoxyribonucleic acid, is hereditary material in humans. Almost every single cell in your body will share the same DNA. It basically makes you who you are. Parts of DNA transform amino acids into proteins, and these proteins have a variety of functions.
They’re the building blocks of who we are as they create cells, which create tissues, and then become organs. Based on this, there’s no doubt about the fact that DNA is packed with interesting information you can find out about yourself!
DNA testing works by analysing sample DNA from your body. When you receive a DNA kit, such as one of those mentioned in this article, you’ll be provided with a set of instructions to follow.
To get a sample of your DNA, you’ll probably be asked to put saliva into a tube or get a cheek swab from inside your mouth. This is known as autosomal DNA testing.
But, how does the DNA testing actually work, and is autosomal DNA testing accurate?
First things first, the DNA sample you’ve sent in (such as saliva) will have to be filtered so that proteins and debris can be removed from it. Companies, such as 23AndMe, receive the DNA sample and digitize it so that it looks like a very long string of As, Cs, Gs, and Ts.
These are labels that are given to what’s known as the four nucleobases of DNA, which are – put simply – the letters with which genes are written. To really understand what the letters mean, algorithms are used to interpret the string of letters.
By having a large collection of DNA samples to compare this DNA sample with, it helps the anthropologists to figure out which ones are connected and related. That’s why DNA testing companies that have many users are beneficial to their customers.
When it comes to maternal and paternal ancestry, DNA testing researchers track these in different ways. The maternal ancestry is tracked by studying the mitochondrial DNA because this is what mothers pass onto their offspring.
As for paternal ancestry, the Y chromosomes in the DNA are studied because this is what fathers will give to their offspring, as Live Science reports.
Interestingly, the most informative data comes from the 22 non-sex chromosomes and comparing them against other DNA samples that are in the company’s library. How this works is that the algorithm will take a genome and study little pieces of it, comparing them to the other samples.
After comparing it to the others, it will release an estimate for where that DNA originates from. An example is as follows: if your DNA sample is compared with samples that hail from Italy or South Africa, the test results then will give you a percentage of where you’re likely to have come from.
For example, you might be told that you’re 50 percent Italian. This means that the pieces of your DNA that were studied will be just like the samples that are in the “Italian” category.
What will the test reveal about you?
There are many different DNA tests that can reveal different aspects about yourself. Most DNA-testing companies will help you figure out information about your ancestry via a DNA test, while others will find out paternity.
Then, there are also new types of DNA tests that involve lifestyle and health. For example, some DNA tests can tell you if you’ve got a hereditary illness. The National Institutes of Health has found that genetic tests can identify 2,000 hereditary conditions!
DNA carrier tests, on the other hand, are useful if you’re planning on becoming a parent because they can tell you if your DNA has a genetic disorder mutation that could result in your child also having it.
When it comes to ancestry, there are many things that the DNA test can reveal about you and your family. For example, you’ll be able to find out where your ancestors came from, and sometimes even what regions they lived in and migrated to.
This can give you a good idea of what percentage you have of different ethnicities, such as if you have British or Moroccan roots, for example.
Studying DNA ancestry makes use of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Quick biology lesson: as Vox explains, most of our DNA matches other people’s so a DNA test will try to find parts of the genome where the DNA varies slightly.
These areas of difference are SNPs. They are significant in ancestry DNA tests because they’re passed down through generations. By checking how many SNPs you have in common with other people, researchers can discover shared ancestries.
How accurate is the ancestry data?
It’s important to realize that there are always going to be limitations when it comes to getting concrete answers from DNA testing kits you can use at home. It’s important to bear in mind that the company plays a big role in how exact your results will be.
If they have a good library of matches, then that helps to give you accurate DNA test results. But it also depends on what regions they represent.
As we’ve seen in these DNA testing reviews, some companies don’t represent a broad range of regions, which means if you come from those you won’t get as much information from the test as you’d like.
For example, if you hail from a small village in France, the DNA testing company would need to have a quantity of people who come from that same village to improve how you’re matched against them.
If this is lacking, you’ll probably only receive the information that you’re from France, so you won’t get really fine-tuned results.
Your results that you’ve received from one DNA testing company might also change as time goes on. That’s why some DNA test companies will say that you’ll receive updates in future. This is as a result of more users using the service, which gives the company more quantities of data.
In addition, if the test tells you that you’re 20 percent Swedish, this can’t really be taken as a definite. If you’ve ever spoken to people who’ve taken a DNA ancestry test and said, “I’m 30 percent Swedish” or “I’m 20 percent Belgian,” you might not have realized that it’s incorrect to say that. Why?
As Popular Science reports, the DNA test is saying it’s 20-percent confident that your ancestry is 20 percent Belgian, or that it’s 30 percent confident that your ancestry originates from Sweden. That’s quite a different thing altogether and important to bear in mind when considering taking a DNA ancestry test.
Can DNA tests reveal paternity?
If you’re hoping to find your father by using a DNA test, there are some important things to know.
You might be able to trace your father via other relatives that come up on the DNA site.
For instance, you might find that you have first cousins who are on the ancestry database, and who could therefore help you inch closer to finding your missing parent. But that’s not a guarantee, as many people only find distant relatives. This could, however, still be useful to a degree.
It will help you to have your mother take a DNA test. If you’re looking for your father, you need to figure out what DNA matches are paternal.
If your mother has taken the same ancestry test, then this will enable you to eliminate certain matches so that you only see relatives who are on your father’s side. It will also help you to start building a family tree. Choose a DNA testing kit like Ancestry that offers family tree software.
You’ll still need to have a paternity test even after you get results from the DNA test. Imagine the best-case scenario: you manage to track down your biological father with the use of a DNA ancestry test.
That’s exciting, but it isn’t enough to prove that your father is your father. You’ll need to take a paternity test to get legal proof.
A crucial difference between a DNA test and a paternity test is that in a paternity test DNA samples from the child and alleged father will both be tested. The DNA samples can consist of blood or cells that are taken from inside the mouth.
It’s also highly accurate, with results being 99.9 percent accurate when they reveal that a man is the father of the child. He’s also excluded from being a father with 100 percent accuracy, as Cleveland Clinic reports.
Another way in which paternity testing can differ from DNA testing is that the results are provided in a quick and easy manner – you’re likely to get the test results within a few days, but this does depend on the laboratory that you use.
With some labs, you’re likely to have to wait for several weeks, just like you would have to wait for your ancestry results.
It’s interesting to note that ancestry DNA tests can also reveal the opposite: when a biological parent is not your parent. In this case, it can be quite a shocking discovery and DNA testing companies are trying to warn their customers of such potential surprises.
For instance, company 23AndMe does warn customers in its Terms of Service that the information they’re going to receive could alter their life as well as worldview, as CNBC reports. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to proceed at your own risk!
Should you get your DNA tested?
Maybe you’re intrigued by the idea of DNA testing and want to try it out just for fun. Or perhaps you’re worried about your future health and want to find out if you’re predisposed to certain illnesses. Should you get your DNA tested?
There are good reasons why you should get your DNA tested. These include the fact that a genetic test could save your life and help you feel more in control of your future health.
It can also be beneficial if you’re dealing with a problem such as when it comes to paternity of your child and you want answers or you want to find out more about your broader family.
Other pros involved with getting your DNA tested include the following:
- A DNA health test can motivate you to make positive changes to your lifestyle, such as if you find out that you’re susceptible to certain diseases in the future. This could include making the decision to eat healthier or start an exercise program to ward off illness.
- An ancestry test could bring you into contact with people you didn’t even know you were related to, such as distant family members. This is a wonderful way of bringing you closer to family that you might not even have known existed!
- In addition to the above, a DNA ancestry test can help you to build on your family tree, which is a fantastic way to learn more about your family and ethnic origins.
However, it’s always important to approach DNA testing with the understanding that there are risks and limitations associated with it. For starters, DNA testing isn’t a psychic in a tube – you’re not always going to get all the correct health predictions.
In addition, if you’re doing your own DNA test at home with a kit, it’s important to be sure that you can trust the company that has provided it. Are they reputable?
Does the information they provide come backed by scientific evidence?
It’s also a good idea to pay attention to how the company markets its DNA tests. If they make overstated claims, that’s a red flag you shouldn’t bother with them because you’re not going to get a reliable outcome.
By reading reviews such as this one, you’ll be able to weigh the pros and cons of popular DNA test kits to find the most accurate, reliable one that seems like it will work for you.
DNA testing is a fascinating and interesting concept. It’s great that these days you can take a DNA test in the privacy of your own home. They’re easy to do and can give you results within a few weeks.
You also have many different tests to choose from, depending on what sort of information you would like to discover about yourself, such as health or ancestry data.
In this article, we’ve looked at some of the best DNA testing kits that are focused on providing you with information about your family’s ancestry, looking at their pros, cons, and special features.
When you decide to take a DNA test to discover more about your ancestry, and possibly even your health, it’s always a good idea to bear in mind the pros and cons of testing so that you get the full picture, as can be seen in the information we outlined about DNA testing in our FAQ section.
The most important thing to remember when using a DNA test kit is to have fun with it!