I am not sure how Ancestry get their results. Mine is 49% British and 49% German. This means one of my parents must have been British and the other German. I moved to the UK 15 years ago. But both my parents where German as where my 4 grandparents and my 8 great-grandparents. It seems to me they have rolled the dice and assumed that if you send a sample from the UK you must have British ancestry. No science behind it at all. I could have gone to the oracle at the fun fair.
If you have the Health + Ancestry Service you have access to the full 23andMe experience. If you only have the Ancestry Service, you can easily upgrade to the Health + Ancestry Service for £90 which gives you access to all 125+ reports on ancestry, traits and health. You are eligible to upgrade once you have received your Ancestry reports. To upgrade, log in to your 23andMe account and navigate to the Settings page. You will receive immediate access to your new health reports.
Which is all very well, but do these kits work and deliver the service they promise and what about the wider ethics and implications of home genetic testing? Is it always wise for generally under-informed, under-prepared consumers to meddle in the highly complex, nuanced arena of genetics, risking confusion, complacency or even outright panic and anxiety when confronted with ostensible “bad news” (which may not even be true)?
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AncestryDNA, 23andMe, HomeDNA, Living DNA, and MyHeritage DNA all provide reports of your ethnicity, some showing maps of where your ancestors lived along with information about the particular countries and regions. National Geographic goes further back, pinpointing where in Africa your ancestors came from and tracing migration patterns through to near-present times. It's less about your personal genetic makeup and more about who your ancestors were and how you're connected to the beginning of civilization.
I recommend one of two options. It may cost a little more, but I would highly recommend saving the extra and using DNA Tribes® rather than spending over half the cost for minimal tribal/biogeographical pinpointed information. The primary benefit of STR rather than SNP testing is the availability of rich reference data. DNA Tribes® tests industry standard autosomal STR systems, which allow the identification of a person’s DNA profile not shared with any other person. Because these STR markers have been tested and used in the court systems around the world, they allow DNA Tribes® to perform the most thorough comparison of a person’s own DNA profile to over 1,200 ethnic groups (populations) around the world. At present, SNP testing from these other autosomnal DNA testing kits does not yet match the geographical detail of DNA Tribes® autosomal STR analysis.
This test is not designed to do anything other than provide you with a genetic overview based on your sample. My wife's sample indicated that her heritage was part German and part Scandinavian - no surprises there as we were colonised by both sets of peoples. What has been astonishing are the links which her DNA has established exist and now she is in contact with distant relatives in Australia and Canada (they contacted her via Ancestry messaging system). Their familial connection has been verified through examining their respective family trees. Effectively this test is useful as a tool when combined with the ancestry database of births and death, weddings etc. To maximise the benefits therefore you are likely to have to subscribe to access the database and in My case, with worldwide access, it will cost us (my wife and I can both use it) £99, but there are offers from time to time.
Some concerns about the ultimate efficacy of certain home tests seem to emanate from the industry itself. I did a telomere-measuring test (a mouth swab) by Titanovo, based in north Colorado, which came back saying that my telomeres were too short, putting me at 10 biological years older than I am. However, when I contacted Titanovo, it explained that it had stopped telomere measuring and was now concentrating exclusively on its DNA-utilising “bioinformatics” health, fitness and wellbeing website (analysing client data from other genetic testing sites).
If you want to keep things really simple then we recommend 23andMe as it offers the best all-round DNA testing kit. It offers a mix of everything including family matching, ancestry percentages and optional heath insights. If you’re more interested in your genealogy then the AncestryDNA kit provides more detail along a gene pool and family tree. The National Geographic Geno 2.0 DNA kit is the best kit for connecting your genes to history going back up to 100,000 years.
Most of this trait data tells you things you already know, like your hair and eye color, but it is fun to see them compared to your genetic relatives and the world at large. We also found it fascinating to learn more about how these physical traits are genetically determined. For example, finger length ratio is determined by hormonal exposure in the womb, with higher testosterone exposure resulting in a better chance of having a longer ring finger. 23andMe’s Health report for finger length ratio looks at 15 gene markers to estimate your likelihood of having longer ring fingers or index fingers.
My daughter had her DNA tested recently with Ancestry.com and at first it tied in very well with my research. But then they changed it. Now she has just 6% “Germanic European” (whereas before it was 12% North European). I had mine done. My mother’s family were Northern Italian (Tuscany) for as many generations as I have been able to trace, but mine resulted with 41% France!!! Consequently the rest of my family think it’s all rubbish and I’m thinking it hasn’t helped me at all.
Of course, most DNA used by law enforcement in the U.S. does not come from direct-to-consumer DNA tests. The federal government and many states collect DNA samples from suspects of violent crimes after arrest or due to probable cause. These samples are added to the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, which is a national database for forensic information.
Thank you for such detailed information. I’m considering buying a DNA ancestry kit for my wife for Christmas (and buying one for myself as well). After reading your article (and many of the wonderful comments), I’m leaning towards the one from Ancestry.com. However, would I still get complete results without a subscription? I looked on their website and it doesn’t say.
Another key customer type could be people like myself, hurtling through middle age, perhaps just starting to feel the cold bony hand of mortality clamp down on their shoulder. People, who, in the past, may not have exactly prioritised their health, who are starting to wonder what may be in store for them and who are in the (“Hypochondriacs R Us”) market for some hard-core insight and advice.