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It seems like everywhere you look these days, there are companies offering DNA Testing. The largest consumers of these DNA tests are people who want to connect with their heritage and/or living relatives, or who are hoping to gain insights into medical conditions and inherited medical predispositions that might affect their health.
Other reasons why people might want a DNA Test include establishing paternity of a child, identifying inherited traits, and detection of infidelity. But no matter the reason, one thing's for sure: DNA Testing has exploded in popularity as its reliability and usefulness continues to grow.
Sunday, January 23rd
23andMe is one of the only DNA testing services that offers one-stop shopping for both health and ancestry information, giving customers insights into their family background, inherited traits, and possible health predispositions.
All it takes is a simple saliva sample, and 23andMe does the rest. They generate more than 90 reports, depending on whether you choose just the ancestry test or both health and ancestry. Results come via email in as little as 2-4 weeks.
Depending on what you're looking for, 23andME offers 2 types of services:
Health and Ancestry Service
If you are hoping to connect not just with your ancestral background but also with living relatives, 23andMe has a strong database with over 5 million people worldwide. You may find relatives that you never knew about! 23andMe will even tell you how you are likely related (third cousins, fifth cousins, and so on). 23andMe is committed to maintaining your privacy, so your results are only shared and viewable if you give your explicit consent. You can also opt to provide your results for research purposes, but there's no requirement to do so.
The regular price for the Ancestry testing is $99, while the Health & Ancestry kit is $199. We found frequent promotions, especially around holidays like Mother's Day, Christmas, and New Year's. These sales included discounts of up to $20 per kit, buy-two-get-one-free, and buy-two-and-save-20%. Shipping is typically $9.95 per kit.
Whether you're looking for insights into your ancestry, your medical conditions, or a connection with your roots and living relatives, 23andMe is the most comprehensive, affordable service currently available. They earn our top ranking among companies offering DNA Testing.
Ancestry is one of the most well-known names in family history research; you've probably seen commercials featuring people who thought their whole lives that they were Irish only to discover through DNA testing that they're actually of German heritage. If your reason for having your DNA tested is to make connections with your family history, both with living relatives and by exploring your heritage, Ancestry offers the widest membership database in the world.
Their DNA test is simple: fill the collection tube with saliva (no neat little buccal swab here), send it in, and wait for your results. Because of the company's popularity, you may wait a month or longer to get your test analyzed, especially if it's during a popular promotion. For example, the test is regularly priced at $99, but we were able to take advantage of a holiday sale price of $79. It took a little over a week to get our kit in the mail, and after Ancestry received it, we got our results in just over a month.
We were able to personally confirm that the DNA tests conducted by Ancestry are accurate: without entering any identifying information, it matched us with our mother with a confidence level of "Extremely High" (thank goodness for no surprises there!). The other more distantly-related relatives were all matched with appropriate levels of confidence as well; the only less-than-accurate match-up we saw was Ancestry's suggestion that a person was related as a possible child, when the confirmed relationship was "child of her half-brother". But, that's exactly why Ancestry gives confidence levels, and not absolute guarantees of a relationship; you have to apply your own research skills at times, to confirm or refute possible genetic connections.
Fortunately, Ancestry is the number one genealogy website currently available to researchers, and by using their DNA testing service, you can choose to have your results connected to other users. After our test was done, we were able to access our "DNA Story", which gave us a much more detailed "ethnicity estimate" than other DNA testing services we had used previously. It accurately tracked our ancestry through Pennsylvania - again, without our having entered any kind of family tree information or other records beforehand - and gave us a breakdown of our roots specific to Great Britain, Eastern and Western Europe, and other areas of lower likelihood.
Even more interesting were the DNA Matches: we could see a grid of pictures of those who were likely relatives at the level of fourth cousins or closer, along with the ability to reach out to any of those users. It's important to understand that these matches don't tell you through which family line you're related; once again, it requires some effort - and probably collaboration - to figure out if it's through your paternal grandmother, your maternal great-great-grandmother, and so on. We were given a list of 458 Ancestry users who were 4th cousins or closer and got responses from many of them.
Another great perk of using Ancestry: if you create a family tree, Ancestry will make suggested connections not only to relatives but also to the billions - yes, billions - of records already available on the site. You'll have to get a paid membership to access all of the records Ancestry provides, but with an average of 2 million new records added daily, it's definitely worth the investment if you're looking for historical records to document a possible family relationship. These memberships are usually priced at $99 to $189 for 6-month and 12-month subscriptions to US records, and $149 to $299 for US plus international records. But, Ancestry offers regular discounts both on their DNA tests and their subscription plans, especially around holidays like Mother's Day and Christmas, so keep a lookout.
For all of these reasons, Ancestry is the hands-down winner for DNA testing if you're looking to explore your family history and connect with people you never knew were your relatives. They earn a five-star rating, only missing the first-place ranking because they do not offer any kind of health assessment/analysis in their test. We highly recommend them for genealogical purposes.
MyHeritage has been a key partner in the increasingly-popular world of genealogy research, not just in the US but worldwide. With 96 million users from around the planet - and even a website that's available in 40+ languages - this site makes it possible to connect with relatives from just about everywhere.
Their DNA testing is a more recent complement to their family history focus. Because of this, their DNA database is smaller than Ancestry: just over a million compared with more than six million results, though both are growing daily. Also, MyHeritage only has 42 ethnic regions comprising its results, while Ancestry separates results into 150 - which means that you'll get a less-specific set of results to pinpoint your heritage.
But, MyHeritage comes out strong in terms of simplicity and pricing: for $59, your sample is processed with a simple cheek swab, rather than having to fill a vial with saliva. Why does that matter? Imagine trying to get that kind of sample from an infant or an elderly person! A cheek swab is much less effort.
MyHeritage is also a better service when looking at how long it takes to get test results; where Ancestry can take a month or longer, MyHeritage usually returns results within 3-4 weeks at most. This company also has one of the industry's best track records when it comes to protecting your data and privacy.
Overall, MyHeritage's DNA testing isn't as comprehensive when compared with several other services, but as their database expands to match their site membership, they may emerge as a bigger competitor among those looking to get genetic information to connect with their family history.
Living DNA is based in the UK and offers DNA testing for the purpose of exploring your family history. Testing is done by a simple cheek swab, and your results take from 10-12 weeks to be delivered.
How does Living DNA measure up against other companies that offer genealogy-focused DNA testing? It depends on what you're looking for. If you want answers to health questions, like inherited diseases or traits, you won't find it here. You also won't find a database with other users, in order to connect you with relatives who have also submitted samples for testing; according to the company, that service is "coming soon". Those could be two drawbacks.
On the other hand, if you suspect (or know) that you have ancestry from the British Isles - like we do - this test could give you a much richer window into your heritage. Living DNA breaks their results down into approximately 80 regions - more than some competitor sites, fewer than at least one other - but with respect to the British Isles, they break it down into 21 separate, smaller areas. You can get probability estimates as specific as Devon, Northumbria, Northern Ireland/Southwest Scotland, and more, which is far more detailed in that part of the world than any other service.
Living DNA's testing is more expensive than most, with a regular price of $159. However, this test incorporates three separate tests in one, giving you more for your money than most of the competition: instead of just getting your basic family ancestry (autosomal), you also get an analysis along your mother's line (mtDNA) and your father's (y-DNA). With other services, you'll pay a la carte for each of those three types of testing if they're even available; many genealogy-based DNA tests only study the basic family line and don't offer mtDNA or y-DNA analysis.
At the time of our review, Living DNA was offering their test at a discounted price of $99. Shipping costs $9.95 for standard delivery (5-7 business days) and $39.95 for premium delivery (2-3 business days).
Living DNA is still expanding what they offer, and we look forward to seeing how they compare when they add the ability to connect with other users. For the time being, their service is probably best for people with a strong family history connection in the UK who want to focus in closely on their roots in that part of the world.
As the partner company for the National Geographic's genographic research project, FamilyTreeDNA enjoys a reputation as a well-respected company for DNA testing, for purposes of studying family history. The tests they offer go much more in-depth than most services that help users look into their genetic ancestry.
FamilyTreeDNA has tests in three primary categories:
Of all the tests offered by FamilyTreeDNA, the Family Finder is the most popular. It gives you a percentage breakdown of your ancestral background and allows you to connect to their database of other users. The price of this test has gone down significantly over the past few years; at the time of our review, it had dropped from the original price of $99 to an everyday price of $59.
If you prefer to analyze your genetic makeup more closely, specifically delving into information that can only be accessed through your mother or through your father, you'll want to take a look at the mtDNA and yDNA tests. FamilyTreeDNA offers various packages that combine these types of inquiry; the higher the price of the test, the more genetic markers the test will cover. These too allow for connecting with their databases and finding relatives, as well as joining group projects and working with experts in a particular lineage.
One of the few drawbacks we identified with FamilyTreeDNA is the relatively small database. They don't publish the actual number of records they maintain, but in digging around we were able to determine that it's likely less than a million. Compared with other services currently available - that can have as many as six times that amount - these DNA tests may give you much more detailed information, but fewer people with whom it may connect you.
For that reason, FamilyTreeDNA remains in the middle of the pack with respect to DNA testing. They offer a depth of testing for ancestry purposes that can't be matched by most services, but it will cost you. And, with fewer available connections once those tests are completed, FamilyTreeDNA can't compete with some of the bigger names on the market.
Based in Louisiana, American Screening Corporation has been in business for over 15 years and enjoys a solid reputation as an accredited, "A+"-rated business with the Better Business Bureau. This company focuses on selling drug and medical testing and supplies directly to the consumer.
With respect to DNA, the only types of testing you'll find here are Parentage, Infidelity, and Siblingship. Most tests are completed within 5-7 business days and returned via plain envelope that has no company name or logo on the outside, to help maintain customers' privacy.
The website is outdated and not very easy to figure out. At first glance, it seems that their DNA tests are all very inexpensive, with some selling for just $1. But, when you look at the product image and description, you see that there's also a $125 lab fee. v
We tried using the live chat to get answers to our questions, especially about how much the testing costs in total and where we'd be expected to pay those additional lab fees. We were connected to a representative right away, who asked to call us on the phone. When we said that we didn't have our phone handy, she asked which product we were looking at. Although we provided that information right away, the representative never returned to the chat.
There also was a lot of missing information in American Screening Corporation's product descriptions. We got excited when we saw something that looked like it would test a dog's DNA - we could finally find out if our rescue dog indeed was part Boston Terrier! - but there was no further information when we clicked on the product.
We like that ASC has a well-established history in direct-to-consumer lab testing, including DNA tests. But, our experience with trying to place an order was confusing at best. There wasn't enough information available to be sure that we were getting the test we needed, or to know exactly how much we'd have to pay for lab processing fees. For these reasons, ASC drops a star compared with our last rating; we hope to see improvements in their online business, especially when it comes to live chat representatives and product descriptions.
HomeDNA offers a simple ancestry-focused DNA test. Purchase your kit, swab your cheek, send in your kit, and get your results in 3-4 weeks. It doesn't get much easier than that. And, with a regular price of just $69 - or even $59, with the promotion running when we purchased our kit - it's one of the most affordable DNA tests on the market. But, is it worth it?
We found our results using HomeDNA to be much less specific, and at the same time, harder to interpret. Our genetic heritage was only ranked according to four different "ancient population groups": European, East Asian, Indigenous American, and Sub-Saharan African. With a test subject whose known ancestry is almost completely European, it was no surprise to find that the test came back as 95% from that continent. Other companies' DNA tests, however, gave a much more specific breakdown: 62% British Isles, 25% Scandinavian, etc. HomeDNA almost left us with more questions than answers.
Much of what is provided on the report left us scratching our heads, asking "What does this even mean? Why do I need to know this?" Check out the sample report and see for yourself: it's the big, red button next to the Product Overview section of the homepage.
Also, HomeDNA has absolutely no connection to any kind of database, so your tests literally stop with you. Some may prefer that kind of privacy, rather than worry about their information being linked (even inadvertently) to living relatives, but most people who want an ancestral DNA test do want some way to find people they're related to.
When it comes to DNA testing, HomeDNA just doesn't have much to offer other than a vague summary of broad regions that your ancestors likely came from. We recommend you choose one of the higher-ranked DNA testing companies in our review.
It's important to point out that, as a consumer industry, these DNA tests and the results that come from them are still an emerging science. This is especially true when it comes to testing for ancestry, where one's results are best considered a probability estimate and not an absolute conclusion. For example, you could have a DNA test done today that shows your heritage as 60% British Isles and 40% Eastern Europe, but re-running the same test in five years could show a slightly different balance as more people are tested and the estimates become more accurate.
Similarly, testing done to determine DNA traits and predispositions for medical conditions should be taken as one piece of the puzzle, not a foregone conclusion. Most experts recommend discussing these results with your doctor or a geneticist before making any drastic changes or coming to any written-in-stone conclusions regarding your future health.
On the other hand, DNA testing has been highly accurate when determining parentage. False positives are rare: if your test shows that Person X is the father of a particular child, those results are very likely to stand up in court.
There are many different companies offering DNA testing today, so it's important to know which ones offer the service you need before you purchase a home test kit. As you consider which company to use, you should keep in mind the following criteria:
TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best DNA Testing companies available today. We hope these reviews help you find the DNA information you're looking for!
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