Why Should You Consider a DNA Test Kit?
It’s human nature to want to better understand ourselves by connecting with our past. A report from a DNA test will give you a clearer picture of who you are, by pinpointing your ethnic and geographical origins, sometimes right down to the county level.
In the past decade, technology has advanced so much that there are numerous affordable and accurate ancestry DNA tests available. Our favorite ancestry DNA test is MyHeritage, as it offers great value-for-money with an ethnicity estimate, information on your recent ancestry, insights into the migration of your ancestors, and DNA matches.
How Are DNA Tests Continuing to Advance?
DNA science is continually evolving, new research is always being conducted, and methodologies and technologies are constantly improving. Accordingly, companies are steadily getting better at estimating, among other things:
- The percentages of your ethnicity
- Where your relatives lived
- Your common ancestors in geographical groups
Plus companies – like FamilyTreeDNA – are getting increasingly better at pinpointing the migrations of your ancestors over generations.
Importantly, the reference populations of ancestry DNA testing companies are growing and changing all the time. That means that a test taken three years ago would probably give different results today, as more individuals have added their personal information. Thankfully, our top ancestry DNA testing companies will update your ethnicity estimate as things evolve.
Three Types of Ancestry DNA Tests
The three most common ancestry DNA tests are autosomal, mtDNA, and Y-DNA.
The most common ancestry DNA test analyzes autosomes, which are the chromosomes that you inherit from both of your parents. This makes it ideal for discovering your heritage and ancestors going back as far as ten generations ago. This type of DNA analysis is usually very accurate and our top autosomal tests are from Ancestry, MyHeritage, and Vitagene.
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is the kind that’s passed down exclusively from your mother. Analyzing mtDNA will reveal the migration patterns and ancestry of your maternal line. FamilyTreeDNA has an individual mtDNA test or LivingDNA includes mtDNA analysis in its standard ancestry test.
Y-DNA is inherited from father to son from the Y-chromosome, meaning it’s not a suitable ancestry test for women. Through Y-DNA testing you’ll discover the migration pattern of your paternal line, all the way back to Africa tens of thousand years ago. FamilyTreeDNA has a number of Y-DNA testing option and Nebula Genomics is also a good choice
What Kind of Information Does an Ancestry DNA Test Provide?
A detailed look at your family history
MyHeritage, for example, allows you to search through over 13 billion historical records, as well as millions of family trees. With access to such information, you can gradually construct a growing, shareable family tree that stretches centuries into the past.
Information on relatives you never knew you had
The majority of ancestry DNA tests provide you with a list of DNA matches i.e. individuals who have taken the test, who share a percentage of DNA with you. For example, Ancestry has a DNA database of over 18 million users, making it incredibly likely that you’ll get a large number of DNA matches. You’ll not only learn how much DNA you share but also an estimate of the familial relationship. This can be especially fulfilling for individuals who were adopted.
A clearer picture of your ethnic origins
Ancestry DNA test results give you a vivid insight into your genetic heritage – from recent to ancient ancestry. It does this by comparing short sections of your DNA to those of a reference population of known ancestry. By taking a close look at the genetic markers that are stongly linked to a particular ethnicity, ancestry DNA tests can give you percentage breakdown of you ethnicity estimate.
How Do You Read Ancestry DNA Test Results?
You should find your ancestry DNA results easy to understand. Companies try to make everything as user-friendly as possible. Going through so much data can be overwhelming, but companies take steps to make it manageable.
When going through your ancestry results, here are some basic points to keep in mind:
- Ethnicity percentages are just estimates
- DNA matches show an estimated relationship
- Health and wellness results should not be taken as a medical diagnosis of any condition
Why Do DNA Tests Show Regions and Not Countries?
Countries and “regions” are not the same thing. Countries are man-made constructs with no real, scientific relation to your genetics. Biogeographical regions, on the other hand, correlate with the locations of your genetic ancestors over generations. MyHeritage, for example, looks at 42 different ethnic regions and over 2,100 genetic groups.
Your DNA contains certain genetic markers, which are the result of particular ethnic groups breeding within the same region over time. Groups that have mingled in the same region have genetic similarities. These regions typically overlap and happen naturally, unlike countries.
What Is a Reference Database?
A reference database is a collection of every person who’s taken a company’s DNA test and made their information available.AncestryDNA, for example, has the largest database with over 18 million users.
Depending on what your privacy settings are, your test results can be used to connect you to people in that database with whom you share a genetic link. This applies to everyone in a company’s reference database.
What Is an Admixture?
An admixture is what you’ve inherited in your DNA from the combination of your ancestors. It refers to the breeding between ethnic groups in a particular region of the world. It’s a scientific term used for classifying your ethnicity percentages.
What Does it Mean to be Part Neanderthal?
Neanderthals were prehistoric humans who interbred with modern humans before they died out around 40,000 years ago. However, a part of them still remains in our DNA. Research suggests that 1-2% of the DNA of those with European, Asian, or Native American ancestry is from Neanderthals.
What Other Types of DNA Test Kits Are Available?
Beyond ancestry, the two most common types of DNA tests include diet and fitness, and health and wellness.
Diet and Fitness
Diet and Fitness DNA tests provide useful insights into the ideal nutrition and exercise regimens based on your genes. For example, Orig3n focuses on examining the genes related to:
- Fitness potential
- Skin and hair
- And more…
Health and Wellness
Health and wellness DNA tests can tell you your genetic risk and carrier status for certain conditions, as well as your predisposition to physical and behavioral traits.
There are also at-home dna tests – like LetsGetChecked – that offer discreet sexual health tests.
How Do I Know Which DNA Test Is Right for Me?
Finding the right DNA test kit really depends on your specific needs. If you interested in learning more about your family history, MyHeritage and AncestryDNA, also provide access to billions of historical records (with a subscription) to help build your family tree.
If affordability is your priority, you may want to consider Vitagene. Its ancestry report is more basic than some of the other providers on this list, but it’s a cheap option.
Furthermore, some companies specialize in different majority background reference databases. FamilyTreeDNA, for example, has a map of ancestors for European descendants. Living DNAcan tell you the exact county, e.g. Cornwall or Devon, that a British ancestor lived in generations ago. And HomeDNA offers DNA tests specifically for those of African or Asian heritage.
Overall, before you purchase a test from any provider, remember that your needs are as individualized as your DNA. So the goal is to find a vendor that meets those needs.