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Limited Time Offer
Discover, explore and preserve your family history.
  • Limited-Time Sale: Save 38% now
  • Best for searching relatives
  • Test type: cheek swab
  • Results in 3-4 weeks
4.5/5 stars
Rating
9.9
Our Rating

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Join 10 million people finding the story in their DNA.
  • Special deal: Get over 30% off now
  • Test type: saliva sample
  • Results in 6-8 weeks
4.5/5 stars
Rating
9.7
Our Rating
A detailed 3-in-1 family, motherline & fatherline test.
  • Test type: cheek swab
  • Results in 4-6 weeks
4.5/5 stars
Rating
9.5
Our Rating
Comprehensive packages for different DNA testing.
  • Test type: cheek swab
  • Results in 3 weeks
4/5 stars
Rating
9.4
Our Rating
New ancestral tracking technique pinpoints your origins.
  • Test type: cheek swab
  • Results in 4-6 weeks
3.5/5 stars
Rating
9.1
Our Rating
Get insights into your health.
  • Test type: cheek swab
  • Results in 2-4 weeks
4/5 stars
Rating
9.0
Our Rating
Speak to a physician or nurse about your results 24/7.
  • Best for at-home health tests
  • Results in as little as 1 week
4/5 stars
Rating
8.8
Our Rating
Pioneers in the field of DNA testing for ancestry
  • Test type: cheek swab
  • Results available online
3.5/5 stars
Rating
8.7
Our Rating
Build your family tree and connect with lost relatives.
  • Test type: saliva sample
  • Results in 6-8 weeks
4.5/5 stars
Rating
8.4
Our Rating

 

Find Out What You're Made of with a DNA Test Kit

 

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What is a DNA Test?

DNA testing examines the genetic code that’s carried in every person’s DNA. The code can be found in the cells of any human material, from a drop of saliva to a smear of blood or a strand of hair.

 

How Does DNA Testing Work?

DNA testing works by taking a sample of cells from the person who’s undergoing the test. Scientists isolate the DNA code that is at the heart of every single cell and carries the information which determines all of your physical characteristics, from your hair color and height to your chances of developing certain conditions.

 

DNA Testing Process

The process of filling out the DNA test can essentially be separated into 3 steps: collection, packaging, and results.

  1. Collection - If you use a home DNA testing kit, you’ll find all the instructions included. Usually, you’ll be sent a sterile tube to collect your saliva sample. It can be awkward to get enough spit for the test purposes. Some companies send a cheek swab that you rub against the inside of your cheek to get a sample of cells from there, instead.
  2. Packaging - Once you've collected your DNA sample, you'll seal it into the sterile package and use the included mailing package to send it back to the company. It usually takes a few weeks to get the results, but the timeframe varies; it can be anything from 4 to 12 weeks.
  3. Results - When your results are ready, you’ll typically get an email inviting you to view the results online. Ancestry DNA companies have a dashboard that lets you explore your results. MyHeritage makes a short video for each user that displays an overview of their background, with music that matches each person's geographic origins. On most sites you can then view a dashboard with a percentage breakdown of where you come from. 

So, Which DNA Kit Should You Choose and Why?

It's All in a DNA Testing Kit

By now you’ve probably heard a friend, co-worker, or loved one tell you about the surprising, weird, even funny experience they had taking a home DNA test. Far from being relegated to people with access to sophisticated laboratories, testing your DNA has now become something that anybody can do at home on their own for an affordable price

With DNA testing you can trace the zig-zags and journeys of your ancestors, and maybe even find some surprises. These insights can provide you with a newfound perception of yourself and your concept of humanity or they can just confirm what you already knew about your history or just give you a laugh

As the industry gets bigger, the features offered by DNA companies become more expansive and appealing. In addition to learning about your family’s ancestral roots and migration history, you can also get an assessment of your health and your likelihood of acquiring a genetic disease. You can get personalized recommendations about vitamins that you might need to take, an assessment whether or not you should avoid lactose or if you’re at risk of Alzheimer's, and even a breakdown by percentage of how much Neanderthal DNA you have.

How Do I Use the Kit?

If you use a home DNA testing kit, you’ll find all the instructions included. Usually, you’ll be sent a sterile tube to collect your saliva sample. It can be awkward to get enough spit for the test purposes. Some companies send a cheek swab that you rub against the inside of your cheek to get a sample of cells from there, instead.

Once you've collected your DNA sample, you'll seal it into the sterile package and use the included mailing package to send it back to the company. It usually takes a few weeks to get the results, but the time frame varies; it can be anything from 4 to 12 weeks.

When your results are ready, you’ll typically get an email inviting you to view the results online. Ancestry DNA companies have a dashboard that lets you explore your results.

Who Needs DNA Testing Kits?

Potentially, everyone could need DNA testing at some point. It can be used to check for genetic disorders or inherited health conditions, paternity testing, or ancestry testing to learn more about your origins and search for family members. DNA testing has been used by historians and archaeologists to learn more about skeletons found at historic sites. For example, when the body of King Richard II was dug up in a modern parking lot, his identity was finally confirmed after DNA tests with some of his modern-day descendants.

Types of DNA Tests?

A DNA sample can reveal many different facets of a person depending on how it’s tested and what the analysts are looking for. These can range from ancestral roots to biological parents and  health predispositions. Here’s a look at some of the more popular tests than can be run on your DNA:

 

  • Paternity tests are used to confirm who is the father of a baby, child, or adult.
  • Genealogy tests are used by genealogists to determine ancestral ethnicity and relationships.
  • Gene therapy DNA testing is most commonly used for parents before they try to conceive or for fetuses to check for inheritable genetic conditions or if an embryo is carrying any birth defects.
  • Forensic DNA tests are used by police at crime scenes in order to identify victims or find criminals after certain crimes.

 


How to Choose a DNA Testing Kit

Here are the key considerations to look for when you choose a DNA testing company or kit.

Like countless other purchases in life, when it comes to ordering a home DNA kit, it’s crucial you determine what’s most important for you. Here are the key considerations to look for when you choose a DNA testing company or a DNA testing kit.

1) What the test reveals

If you’re most interested in family genealogical research, your best bet would be to go with a company like MyHeritage or AncestryDNA. With both of these companies you can also access a massive database of billions of historical records, as well as trace your roots through the family tree builder. In addition, the companies have millions and millions of users in their databases and can match you with relatives, so if you’re looking to find long lost family members, companies like these are your best bet.

If you’re looking to learn more about your personal health and also perhaps get tips for nutrition and exercise, then companies like Vitagene, 23andMe and Orig3n may be better options. Other than 23andMe—which combines ancestry mapping with health assessments—the kits aren’t marketed toward users who are interested in deep, extensive genealogical research, rather, they are interested in learning about their health through DNA testing.

Finally, you should also consider how important it is to you that the company does more than just autosomal testing and if it travels across enough geographic regions for mapping your ancestry, or if you want a company like GPSorigins, which looks at more than 900 geographic regions.

2) Type of test

If you want a DNA test in order to learn more about your family and your origins, you have a few options. An autosomal DNA test checks only 22 out of the 23 pairs of chromosomes and can be used to compare DNA from both males and females, so it's best for finding a range of living relatives. It gets less reliable the further back you go because of autosomal DNA changes every generation, so it's only good for identifying up to third or sometimes fourth cousins, and can only give reliable information back to your great-great-grandparents.

A mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) test checks the tiny mitochondrial strands inside every cell. Both males and females inherit these mitochondria from their maternal line. It can be extended much further back in time because it doesn't change quickly. It gives very precise details about your ancestors and distant cousins – even your 48th cousin! – but only if they lie on your maternal line. It’s good for proving you come from a particular region, ethnicity, or family group but not for finding relatives.

Y-DNA testing examines only the genetic information in the Y-chromosome, which is only found in males. It also does not change quickly, so like mtDNA, Y-DNA testing is good for proving relationship to a common ancestor or checking relationship with another individual, but it only works along the male or paternal line. This also means that only men can do a Y-DNA test, although women could ask a close male relative to take the Y-DNA test and then share the results.

3) Pricing

The price of the DNA test varies between different companies as well as depending on the type of test you take. mtDNA tests are the most expensive type of DNA testing, while autosomal DNA tests are the lowest cost and Y-DNA tests come in somewhere between the 2. Although the tests are more or less the same, there’s a huge fluctuation in price between different companies, so compare prices before you buy. Some companies, like LivingDNA, offer a package of all 3 tests for a discount.

4) Ease of Use

Most DNA testing kits are pretty straightforward, but some elderly or weak individuals can find spit tests awkward to use. In those cases, companies that offer a cheek swab for taking samples instead of needing a saliva sample could be easier.

5) Reports

Not every company offers the same range of reports. Very few genealogical DNA testing companies will include health and wellness reports. Most companies provide ancestral reports, which break down your family heritage, ethnicity, and which region of the world you hail from, although some are more detailed than others. Some also provide a chromosomal browser which lets you compare your genetic profile with that of others from around the world. You can also find cousin matching reports, which let you know if you have any matches with other people registered with the same service.

6) Test Accuracy

The type of test you choose affects the accuracy since autosomal DNA tests are less accurate the further back you go but mtDNA and Y-DNA tests remain reliable for dozens of generations. The biggest DNA testing companies such as Ancestry.com, MyHeritage, and LivingDNA are all pretty equally accurate in their test results. However, all companies warn that you shouldn’t use home DNA tests for detailed and critical genetic information like the risk of genetic disorders or of developing cancer.

7) Privacy

With the rise of hackers and cyber thieves, privacy is a big concern for DNA testing. Check that the company you choose uses industry-standard safeguards and firewalls to protect your details. You should also check that the company you choose has a strong privacy policy and won’t sell your details to medical research facilities or commercial partners without your agreement. It’s important to ask what exactly the company does with your details.

8) Special Features

As well as these considerations, there are a few extra features that are offered by some DNA testing companies. Some companies store your data indefinitely which means you can discover new family history information 50 years down the line. Others only store it for a certain number of years.

Another feature is the size of the database. The bigger the database of users, the better your chances of finding a match.

Some companies also permit you to upload raw genealogical data to their database so you can see if you have any matches without taking a test again.

Mapping the Story of You

Now that you’ve read more about what the DNA testing industry can provide you, it’s time to get comfortable and find the test that really speaks to you. Genealogy is a fascinating hobby, and it's also a very personal one. You may be more interested in health information than detailed ethnic history, you may want to go deep on genealogical records and track down family relatives across a vast family tree, or you may just want to learn solely about your ethnic makeup. This is a journey that you call the shots on.

You also may find that you can use the DNA information and tools as a sort of jumping off spot for building a full-on family tree. Luckily, a number of companies can set you up with an extensive, intuitive digital family tree which you can update in a flash and even use to meet other relatives online.