Why Should You Consider a DNA Test Kit?
It’s human nature to want to better understand ourselves by connecting with our past. Ancestry DNA testing is a great way to discover where you come from.
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.
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.
How Accurate Are Ancestry DNA Tests?
Of course, no ancestry DNA test is 100% accurate. An ethnicity estimate is just that, an estimate, and the accuracy of your results depends on a few factors, including:
- The quality of the DNA sample provided
- The type of test being performed on your DNA
- The number of geographical regions covered
- The size of a company’s reference population
That being said the best Ancestry DNA companies have over 99% accuracy in identifying genetic variants strongly associated with a certain ethnicity or geographical location.
They manage this by comparing thousands of small segments of your DNA to large reference populations, which are used to identify DNA markers that are unique to particular regions. For example, AncestryDNA analyzes your DNA at 700,000 genetic markers, which is compared with the DNA from 43 ethnicities and over 1,000 reference populations.
Of course, no ancestry DNA test is 100% accurate. When assessing millions of locations on your DNA, a small percentage of errors are likely, which could be reflected in your results. This could account for your results showing you’re part of an ethnic group you never suspected, or even why identical twins might receive slightly different results.
Another factor to consider is parts of the world little genetic variation. For example, someone might believe their ancestry is exclusively English. However, England is genetically very similar to Ireland. So how do you know which is accurate? This is where Genetic Groups comes into play.
Offered by the best DNA testing companies – including Ancestry, MyHeritage, and 23andMe– drill down further into your heritage by identifying your sub-regional ancestry i.e. your genetic groups. A particular genetic group can be composed by more than one ethnicity and form when populations live in the same area for centuries, migrate together, and only marry within the group.
Also, remember DNA is not the same as heritage. The more generations you go back, the less likely you are to inherit DNA from your ancestors. This could explain why your Jewish or Nordic ancestry isn’t identified by your ancestry DNA test. That’s just how DNA works.
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
For example, 23andMe is now offering extremely accurate health reports that can determine your genetic risk and carrier status for certain conditions. Plus companies – like 23andMe and 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 23andMe and LivingDNA include mtDNA analysis in their 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
Many DNA testing companies, such as LivingDNA and FamilyTreeDNA, are able to determine the migrations of your ancient ancestors. User-friendly interactive maps and graphics – like those from 23andMe – give a useful visual representation of how your ancestors migrated, spanning thousands of years.
Plus, some ancestry DNA testing companies – like Ancestry, MyHeritage, and FindMyPast – have databases of billions of historical records, such as birth and death records, census reports, and marriage certificates, that can help you further your research into 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. This can be especially fulfilling for individuals who were adopted.
Depending on who you choose you can connect with thousands of potential DNA matches. 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.
What’s more, some companies will even actively help you in this process. AncestryDNA, for example, will notify you whenever they discover a potential genetic relationship
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.
The analysis of these differentiating markers can provide a very accurate indication of who your ancestors were. If your markers are similar to those of a particular group, then you’ve most likely descended from that group. We love the ethnicity estimate from 23andMe as it is incredibly detailed, being able to pinpoint ancestry down to the 0.1%
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.
For example, you’ll get dozens of ancestry and trait reports from 23andMe, but they use interesting graphics and charts, anc accessible language where possible, to make your results easy to follow.
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.
Some ancestry DNA tests, including 23andMe, will tell you your percentage of Neanderthal DNA, as well as what genetic traits are influenced by it.
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. For example, 23andMe tests your genetic predisposition to more than 40 health conditions, including, Parkinson’s disease, breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and more.
How Much Does a DNA Test Cost?
Depending on the vendor and exact test you order, you can expect to pay anywhere from under $50 to over $600. Generally speaking, the more you pay, the more you get, but some tests – like those from MyHeritage and Ancestry– offer better value-for-money than others.
Keep your eyes open for special offers, available coupons, and discounted packages. Also, remember that not every company offers free shipping, and there could be ongoing subscriptions or hidden fees. So always read the fine print.
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.
What Is DNA Genetic Testing?
DNA genetic testing allows us to examine our unique DNA sequence and understand more about ourselves, including where we come from, what medical conditions we might have hiding in the strands of code, and what we can do to be happier and healthier human beings.
How Does DNA Testing Work?
Your DNA is collected either by cheek swab or saliva sample. Once received by the laboratory, technicians examine the sample to look for clues, such as genes determining your Neanderthal percentage, your overall ethnic makeup, and particular genetic conditions or diseases you are at risk for.
Where Can I Get a DNA Testing Kit?
The type of DNA test you want will determine the kind of kit you are looking for. In regards to ancestry, we’ve done a lot of the research and recommend 23andMe, Ancestry, and MyHeritage to give you the best results.
How Much Does a DNA Test Kit Cost?
Most DNA test kits are priced between $49 – $99. While most send a pre-paid envelope to send the test back, some require you to pay for postage. Remember, while the test itself has a fixed price, many ancestry DNA tests charge fees for extra items like family tree builders or relative-finding information.
How Does the DNA Testing Process Work?
DNA tests consist of these three steps:
Step #1: When you receive your DNA test kit in the mail, you will need to collect your DNA, either by cheek swab or saliva sample. The kit will provide all the ‘instruments’ you need.
Step #2: Seal your sample in the sterile packaging provided and mail it back to the lab. Most companies will supply you with a self-addressed stamped envelope.
Step #3: Wait for a notification for when your results are ready. Depending on the ancestry DNA test kit you’ve selected, you can see things like regional/ethnic percentage breakdown, maternal and paternal haplogroups, and your Neanderthal percentage. For additional fees, you can access family records and build your family tree.
Can I Trust the Results from a DNA Test?
DNA tests work by comparing your DNA to the DNA of reference populations with known ancestry. The more people in the reference population, the more accurate the results.