Many DNA databases, including Ancestry, 23andMe and MyHeritage DNA, have family search features, which match your DNA with that of potential relatives. These features help users searching for family, including adoptees and children conceived through sperm donations. Almost every DNA testing service we interviewed for this article had a story ready about how its service facilitated a heartwarming family reunion. Like these from Ancestry, this one from MyHeritage and this one from 23andMe. Because many DNA services also have resources like family tree builders, the tests work in tandem with genealogical research.
As discussed earlier, in order to determine the ethnicities present in your genetic make-up, genetic ancestry companies can analyse your autosomal DNA to seek out the genetic variants uniquely associated to certain population groups. These groups are known as ‘reference populations’, and they’ve been constructed by sampling the DNA of modern populations around the world, as well as from human remains at various archaeological sites. By identifying these genetic variants in your genetic code, companies can report on the groups that have contributed to your DNA.

Self-collection DNA test kits are a convenient and more affordable option. However, the support and advice you receive when making an appointment to have your DNA sample taken is invaluable and we will always recommend this option to you. To locate your nearest DNA testing clinic, pharmacy or mobile sample collection service please use the location search tool.
Kits are despatched within 5-7 days of purchase date. The delivery time for your kit will vary depending on the postal service you have selected. Once you receive your kit, follow the simple instructions to activate it and send us your DNA sample. If you’re a new or returning Findmypast customer, you’ll receive a complimentary 14-day Findmypast subscription when you activate your kit.
The DNA tests we reviewed either require a saliva or cheek cell sample. Saliva-collecting kits include a tube that’s marked with a fill line and sample number. The tube often has a liquid-filled cap with a stabilizer that acts as a preservative to protect your DNA from degradation during transport. Cheek swab sample kits include one or two swabs for scraping the insides of your cheeks for 30 seconds to a minute to collect cheek cells and some sort of container to place the used swabs into after collection. This prevents contamination. Our testers found upsides to both types of kits but generally preferred saliva collection kits, even though they took longer.
Some DNA analysis uses the Low Copy Number(LCN) method. This is a modification of the more commonly used SGM Plus method of analysis. The advantage of LCN analysis over standard SGM Plus is its extreme sensitivity; however this is also a disadvantage. The effects of cross contamination are more prevalent in LCN analysis, and due to various effects observed when amplifying very small amounts of DNA any LCN profile should be interpreted with caution.
This report tells you interesting information, such as that your DNA relatives are 32 percent more likely to own a cat or 11 percent less likely to have lived near a farm when they were young. DNA Passport by Humancode offers information about more than 20 physical traits, from appearance to grip strength. Ancestry DNA recently added its AncestryDNA Traits upgrade for $10, and it lets customers who have already taken one of its tests unlock information about 18 genetically influenced traits, including bitter taste perception, freckles and cilantro aversion.

Although reference populations are the primary method by which companies calculate your ethnic mix, they don’t represent actual living populations. Instead, they’re a theoretical group who share a unique set of genetic variants, believed to belong to a distinct ethnic group in the past. This is why an ethnicity DNA test will show you that you’re a mix of different ethnicities, instead of placing you in a single ethnic group.


MyHeritage DNA is the newest kid on the block and, while their database is still growing, it is comprised of people who have tested from all of the other three testing companies (this is thanks to their free DNA upload offer). In addition to this, they have shown a clear commitment to concerns and requests by their users by promising to provide advanced tools in the future and by creating an open and optional consent policy for use of DNA data. They also offer the ability to tie in with a large database of family trees and records. We think this test has a lot of promise if they continue to respond in this positive way to users.
When we speak, co-founder Hamish Grierson describes Thriva as “a lifestyle brand with medical-grade testing at the back end”, an opportunity for “people to see themselves as consumers rather than patients”. Grierson gives examples of people who have benefited from Thriva testing, sometimes picking up early on serious issues. As for alarming people, Grierson says that Thriva has on-site facilities to discuss results and is intended to be “complementary to the NHS” rather than replacing it: “If there are questions we can’t answer, we’re very clear that people should pick it up with their GP.”
— Once you have chosen a test and received your autosomal results there is still a great deal more fun to be had. Independent tools and websites created by scientists and enthusiasts allow you to take the raw data provided from FTDNA, 23andMe and Ancestry DNA and explore them in astounding detail–giving you a wide variety of new admixtures, phasing options, chromosome browsers, SNP tools and connections with family across the world. Gedmatch is our favorite because they have so many wonderful and meticulously updated tools from a variety of sources. Easily upload your raw data and run your results for free (if you love the tools, don’t forget to donate and uncover even more options.)
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