The Best DNA Test Kits of October 2018

Rediscover what family history means by using a DNA test kit and find out more information about who
you really are than you ever thought possible. See our list of the top DNA testing services in the industry.

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Find out What You’re Made of with a DNA Test Kit
 

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. 

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.

What Are the Different Uses of DNA Tests?

  • 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 for Ancestry

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

1. There Are 3 Types of Tests. Start by Choosing the Type You Need

Autosomal
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.

 

mtDNA
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-Chromosome
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.

2. Show Me the Pricing: How Much Do They Cost?

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 two. Although the tests are more or less the same, there’s a huge fluctuation in price between different companies so do compare prices before you buy. Some companies, like LivingDNA, offer a package of all 3 tests for a discount.

3. How Simple - or Difficult - Is the Kit to 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.

4. How Detailed Are the 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.

5. How Accurate Are the Tests?

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.

6. How Private Are My Results?

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.

7. Any Added Features I Should Know About?

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.

 

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So, Which DNA Kit Should You Choose and Why?

DNA Testing - Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is Genetic Testing?

    What is Genetic Testing?

    No matter who we are or where we come from, every single one of us has a unique genetic code (unless you’re an identical twin). This genetic source code is Deoxyribonucleic Acid, commonly called DNA, and by closely examining your unique DNA, specialists can extrapolate a great deal of unique and useful information.

  • How Does DNA Testing Work?

    How Does DNA Testing Work?

    Though the science behind DNA testing is quite complex, the tests themselves are quite easy and straightforward. A DNA test is performed on a sample provided by the customer, usually by way of a saliva sample or a cheek swab. Once in the lab, the DNA sample is examined by technicians who digitize the DNA sample and look for clues. DNA is made up of 4 building blocks known as nucleotides and most of human DNA is in the form of strands called chromosomes. There is a wealth of clues that the testing lab will look at, including your Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNP). These variations in your DNA can be compared to other people’s DNA samples in order to find genes that can indicate a particular disease or genetic condition. There are all different types of genetic variants in DNA that is inherited from parents and which can signal a physical condition. Ancestral DNA testing looks at a number of different aspects of your DNA. A mitochondrial DNA test looks at your matrilineal heritage and for men, a Y chromosome can trace your patrilineal ancestry. An autosomal DNA test checks both sides. Under close examination, your DNA sample can indicate how much your genome (your complete set of DNA/genetic material) has in common with test populations across the world, providing an assessment of your ethnic makeup.

  • Where Can I Get a DNA Test?

    Where Can I Get a DNA Test?

    Today there are dozens of companies selling home DNA testing kits, buoyed by the popularity of genealogy programs on TV and family research made easier by the internet and social media. Companies like Ancestry, 23andMe, and MyHeritage, sell all-in-one DNA tests that arrive at your home within days of ordering. You perform the test (by rubbing a cotton swab inside your cheek or filling a vial with your saliva), ship it back in the included envelope, and within a matter of weeks you will receive the results of your test online.

  • How Much Does a DNA Test Cost?

    How Much Does a DNA Test Cost?

    If you’re simply looking for a DNA ancestry test, most companies have similar prices that hover around $99 per test. Frequently you can take advantage of discounts and special offers, such as with MyHeritage, where tests cost $99 each but are often on sale for $59. You also need to factor in shipping. With Ancestry for instance, DNA tests cost $99 each, with shipping at $9.95 for the first kit and $4.95 for each additional kit. If you’re also ordering a DNA health test, this will bring the price up considerably. With 23andMe for instance, you can order the ancestry test on sale for as little as $69, while the ancestry and health test can cost as much as $199 without discounts. With Vitagene, if you’re ordering only the health report, it’ll cost you $49, while a health and ancestry report together will cost $99, and if you’d like to add in regular supplements you’ll be charged $149 and then $79 per month for the supplements. With most companies, you have to factor in shipping, but shipping is often included—or at least discounted—if you order multiple tests.

  • Can You Get a DNA Test While Pregnant?

    Can You Get a DNA Test While Pregnant?

    A DNA ancestry test can be carried out during pregnancy without any issue. If you’re looking to establish paternity while pregnant, this can also be done with a number of companies. A prenatal DNA test can be done with a simple blood sample from the mother. The lab then extracts a DNA profile of the baby from the fetal cells in the mother's blood stream. This can be compared with a DNA test from the father in order to establish paternity. This is a far less invasive test than the ones carried out in the past, which often posed a risk of harming the fetus.

  • What Do Ancestry DNA Results Look Like?

    What Do Ancestry DNA Results Look Like?

    Getting your DNA test results can be an exciting and often surprising experience. Part of the fun is due to the way in which testing companies present the results. This isn’t typically a dense, nuts and bolts breakdown of figures and names like your bank statement or mortgage contract. Testing companies have put a lot of consideration into how they present the results, which are posted online and came across your computer screen with interactive graphics and maps that you can dive into headfirst. On MyHeritage for instance, your results are shown in a revealing experience that jumps across the globe, showing each ethnic area one by one, with a percentage of your makeup. Whenever it bounces to a different part of the world, the platform plays music that corresponds to the region of origin, and shows you each of the different population groups in your DNA, with fun animation. With LivingDNA, you’ll receive a breakdown of your ethnicity listed by percentage and shown across a map of the world, and on 23andMe you get a very similar breakdown, shown with varying shades of ethnicities circling around the globe like a pinwheel. LivingDNA can also give you a “family ancestry visualization,” which creates a recent family ancestry average based on your DNA mix over the past 10 generations. Living DNA can also give you a “migration map” which will show you the trail that your family (maternal line and paternal line) took beginning with the origin of man in east Africa.

  • How Trustworthy Is Ancestry Testing?

    How Trustworthy Is Ancestry Testing?

    One of the main questions regarding DNA ancestry testing is just how accurate it is. While the science behind the tests is highly sophisticated and uses state-of-the-art technology and methods, at the end of the day, the tests are an estimate. There is no exact breakdown of your ancestry that will be irrefutable, and you may see the results vary if you take tests with multiple companies. The way the tests work is by taking your DNA and comparing it to people from regions across the world and seeing how much of it resembles the DNA of people from specific areas and to what extent. The accuracy is largely linked to how many people the company has in their database, and also how many people from a specific region of the world took the test. As LivingDNA puts it, the tests answer the question, "Which populations in the world is my [autosomal] DNA most similar to?" You may also find some sort of confusion due to the ever-changing breakdown of nation-states throughout history. For instance, many people who identify as Syrian and whose families are from Syria, could be ethnically Greek, Armenian, and so on. This is part and parcel of being a global village where for centuries people have migrated with their families to parts unknown. Another thing to keep in mind—your genes are not your culture. If you grew up in a Mexican immigrant family with a deep, powerful connection to the culture of your parents, the fact that a DNA test could show you are 20% German or Norwegian doesn’t mean that you or your world has changed.

  • What Can You Learn From a DNA Test?

    What Can You Learn From a DNA Test?

    A DNA test can give you information about signs that indicate that you could develop some sort of genetic health condition down the road. Companies like 23andMe, which do DNA health testing, caution that these tests should not take the place of the consultation of a physician nor do they constitute a medical diagnosis. Nonetheless, they can provide some information that you can follow up. DNA tests— both prenatal and after birth—can unequivocally prove paternity, and can be of great assistance to parents trying to sort out issues of custody, immigration, and divorce. When it comes to ancestral breakdowns, DNA tests can take our jumbled, unclear DNA and create an easy-to-follow mosaic of our family background and where we came from. These tests can zoom out and look at our DNA and how it compares to people around the world, giving us some insight on where our families came from.

  • What About My Privacy?

    What About My Privacy?

    Like anything in this digital age, it makes sense to take extra precautions regarding your privacy when considering a DNA test, and that was the case well before news broke earlier this year that a data breach at MyHeritage had affected more than 92 million users. Users have expressed concern about breaches at DNA testing companies, which could in theory see DNA information ransomed back to users. DNA companies are well aware of these concerns and have enacted security protocols to fight against threats to user data. Most DNA testing companies today keep customer personal information—credit card details, name, email, etc.—separate from genetic information, so that in the event of a breach they cannot be identified. Most companies will allow you to decide for yourself which aspects of the site you want to opt in or out of. For instance, with relative finders, most companies that provide them allow users to decide for themselves whether or not they want the site to notify other users when they are a genetic match, or to keep their identities secret to potential long lost relatives. These sites also promise to not lease, rent, or sell any of your information without your consent.

  • What is Genetic Testing?

    What is Genetic Testing?

    No matter who we are or where we come from, every single one of us has a unique genetic code (unless you’re an identical twin). This genetic source code is Deoxyribonucleic Acid, commonly called DNA, and by closely examining your unique DNA, specialists can extrapolate a great deal of unique and useful information.

  • How Does DNA Testing Work?

    How Does DNA Testing Work?

    Though the science behind DNA testing is quite complex, the tests themselves are quite easy and straightforward. A DNA test is performed on a sample provided by the customer, usually by way of a saliva sample or a cheek swab. Once in the lab, the DNA sample is examined by technicians who digitize the DNA sample and look for clues. DNA is made up of 4 building blocks known as nucleotides and most of human DNA is in the form of strands called chromosomes. There is a wealth of clues that the testing lab will look at, including your Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNP). These variations in your DNA can be compared to other people’s DNA samples in order to find genes that can indicate a particular disease or genetic condition. There are all different types of genetic variants in DNA that is inherited from parents and which can signal a physical condition. Ancestral DNA testing looks at a number of different aspects of your DNA. A mitochondrial DNA test looks at your matrilineal heritage and for men, a Y chromosome can trace your patrilineal ancestry. An autosomal DNA test checks both sides. Under close examination, your DNA sample can indicate how much your genome (your complete set of DNA/genetic material) has in common with test populations across the world, providing an assessment of your ethnic makeup.

  • Where Can I Get a DNA Test?

    Where Can I Get a DNA Test?

    Today there are dozens of companies selling home DNA testing kits, buoyed by the popularity of genealogy programs on TV and family research made easier by the internet and social media. Companies like Ancestry, 23andMe, and MyHeritage, sell all-in-one DNA tests that arrive at your home within days of ordering. You perform the test (by rubbing a cotton swab inside your cheek or filling a vial with your saliva), ship it back in the included envelope, and within a matter of weeks you will receive the results of your test online.

  • How Much Does a DNA Test Cost?

    How Much Does a DNA Test Cost?

    If you’re simply looking for a DNA ancestry test, most companies have similar prices that hover around $99 per test. Frequently you can take advantage of discounts and special offers, such as with MyHeritage, where tests cost $99 each but are often on sale for $59. You also need to factor in shipping. With Ancestry for instance, DNA tests cost $99 each, with shipping at $9.95 for the first kit and $4.95 for each additional kit. If you’re also ordering a DNA health test, this will bring the price up considerably. With 23andMe for instance, you can order the ancestry test on sale for as little as $69, while the ancestry and health test can cost as much as $199 without discounts. With Vitagene, if you’re ordering only the health report, it’ll cost you $49, while a health and ancestry report together will cost $99, and if you’d like to add in regular supplements you’ll be charged $149 and then $79 per month for the supplements. With most companies, you have to factor in shipping, but shipping is often included—or at least discounted—if you order multiple tests.

  • Can You Get a DNA Test While Pregnant?

    Can You Get a DNA Test While Pregnant?

    A DNA ancestry test can be carried out during pregnancy without any issue. If you’re looking to establish paternity while pregnant, this can also be done with a number of companies. A prenatal DNA test can be done with a simple blood sample from the mother. The lab then extracts a DNA profile of the baby from the fetal cells in the mother's blood stream. This can be compared with a DNA test from the father in order to establish paternity. This is a far less invasive test than the ones carried out in the past, which often posed a risk of harming the fetus.

  • What Do Ancestry DNA Results Look Like?

    What Do Ancestry DNA Results Look Like?

    Getting your DNA test results can be an exciting and often surprising experience. Part of the fun is due to the way in which testing companies present the results. This isn’t typically a dense, nuts and bolts breakdown of figures and names like your bank statement or mortgage contract. Testing companies have put a lot of consideration into how they present the results, which are posted online and came across your computer screen with interactive graphics and maps that you can dive into headfirst. On MyHeritage for instance, your results are shown in a revealing experience that jumps across the globe, showing each ethnic area one by one, with a percentage of your makeup. Whenever it bounces to a different part of the world, the platform plays music that corresponds to the region of origin, and shows you each of the different population groups in your DNA, with fun animation. With LivingDNA, you’ll receive a breakdown of your ethnicity listed by percentage and shown across a map of the world, and on 23andMe you get a very similar breakdown, shown with varying shades of ethnicities circling around the globe like a pinwheel. LivingDNA can also give you a “family ancestry visualization,” which creates a recent family ancestry average based on your DNA mix over the past 10 generations. Living DNA can also give you a “migration map” which will show you the trail that your family (maternal line and paternal line) took beginning with the origin of man in east Africa.

  • How Trustworthy Is Ancestry Testing?

    How Trustworthy Is Ancestry Testing?

    One of the main questions regarding DNA ancestry testing is just how accurate it is. While the science behind the tests is highly sophisticated and uses state-of-the-art technology and methods, at the end of the day, the tests are an estimate. There is no exact breakdown of your ancestry that will be irrefutable, and you may see the results vary if you take tests with multiple companies. The way the tests work is by taking your DNA and comparing it to people from regions across the world and seeing how much of it resembles the DNA of people from specific areas and to what extent. The accuracy is largely linked to how many people the company has in their database, and also how many people from a specific region of the world took the test. As LivingDNA puts it, the tests answer the question, "Which populations in the world is my [autosomal] DNA most similar to?" You may also find some sort of confusion due to the ever-changing breakdown of nation-states throughout history. For instance, many people who identify as Syrian and whose families are from Syria, could be ethnically Greek, Armenian, and so on. This is part and parcel of being a global village where for centuries people have migrated with their families to parts unknown. Another thing to keep in mind—your genes are not your culture. If you grew up in a Mexican immigrant family with a deep, powerful connection to the culture of your parents, the fact that a DNA test could show you are 20% German or Norwegian doesn’t mean that you or your world has changed.

  • What Can You Learn From a DNA Test?

    What Can You Learn From a DNA Test?

    A DNA test can give you information about signs that indicate that you could develop some sort of genetic health condition down the road. Companies like 23andMe, which do DNA health testing, caution that these tests should not take the place of the consultation of a physician nor do they constitute a medical diagnosis. Nonetheless, they can provide some information that you can follow up. DNA tests— both prenatal and after birth—can unequivocally prove paternity, and can be of great assistance to parents trying to sort out issues of custody, immigration, and divorce. When it comes to ancestral breakdowns, DNA tests can take our jumbled, unclear DNA and create an easy-to-follow mosaic of our family background and where we came from. These tests can zoom out and look at our DNA and how it compares to people around the world, giving us some insight on where our families came from.

  • What About My Privacy?

    What About My Privacy?

    Like anything in this digital age, it makes sense to take extra precautions regarding your privacy when considering a DNA test, and that was the case well before news broke earlier this year that a data breach at MyHeritage had affected more than 92 million users. Users have expressed concern about breaches at DNA testing companies, which could in theory see DNA information ransomed back to users. DNA companies are well aware of these concerns and have enacted security protocols to fight against threats to user data. Most DNA testing companies today keep customer personal information—credit card details, name, email, etc.—separate from genetic information, so that in the event of a breach they cannot be identified. Most companies will allow you to decide for yourself which aspects of the site you want to opt in or out of. For instance, with relative finders, most companies that provide them allow users to decide for themselves whether or not they want the site to notify other users when they are a genetic match, or to keep their identities secret to potential long lost relatives. These sites also promise to not lease, rent, or sell any of your information without your consent.