Most direct-to-consumer DNA test companies warn that the tests may reveal things you wish you didn’t know about your family. For example, you could find out that one of the people who raised you isn’t your biological parent or that there’s an entire branch of your family you didn’t know about. There isn’t a way to prepare for a shock like that, but you can opt out of a company’s family-matching services if you’d rather not know.

Similarly, mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA, is used by direct-to-consumer DNA tests to trace your direct maternal lineage and determine maternal haplogroups. While most DNA lives in your cells' nuclei, mtDNA lives in the mitochondria. Mitochondria are the cells' powerhouses – their 37 genes are necessary for cellular energy production and respiration. Previous research suggested that mtDNA is inherited directly from your mother, but a recent study found that biparental mtDNA may be more common. This discovery may affect maternal haplogroup testing in DNA tests in the future, but for now, it’s safe to assume your results are correct.
As stated at the start of this guide, each one of the main tests will provide you with easy-to-use reports and cousin matching that you can use in your genealogy research. You will need to carefully review the information provided in this guide to make a decision about which test is best for your particular needs. You may also choose to test with (or upload your results to) multiple companies.

It’s worth bearing in mind that when you’re presented with the population groups that have contributed to your DNA, some of the groups revealed may be very general (e.g. Western European) and the report may not tell you when or for how long each group was located in the region that it’s named after. The specificity of the population groups depends on the reference populations used by the company you test with (discussed later). Therefore, if a detailed ethnic breakdown is important to you, look for example reports from the company you’re considering, or get in touch with them to ask for a list of the reference populations that they use.


Ethnicity can be defined in many ways and by a wide range of factors. Culture, language, nationality and religion are just a few of the influences that can contribute to your sense of ethnic identity. DNA testing offers another way to help you define your ethnicity, by looking at your genetic ancestry. Even families that have lived in the same place for several generations may have a diverse genetic heritage, and if you were to trace your ancestry back several hundred thousand years, the current thinking is that you’d discover you share the same ancestral origins as all humans, in Sub-Saharan Africa.
If you’ve already taken a test with another company, MyHeritage lets you upload your raw data to its database for free. This feature is particularly useful if you’re looking for lost relatives, as you can pay slightly more for one test with Ancestry or 23andMe, which have larger databases, but still access MyHeritage’s database as well, which has 1.75 million users as of October 2018.
A. As stated above, the NHS in the UK does not offer genetic testing for establishing biological relationships. Here at DNA Clinics, we pride ourselves on the clinical and ethical approach we provide for our DNA testing service. DNA Clinics may consider offering free DNA testing to individuals or families who consent to having their 'story' and experience of the DNA testing process published or reported in the media. This will only be considered for appropriate situations. Please call 0800 988 7107 for further information.
DNA tests offer a wealth of insights into your connections to family, history and geographical locations. They both entertain and encourage you to dig into what you know about yourself. The tests make great gifts to bring you closer to your family and involve you and your family in the development of a cutting-edge science at the same time. Beyond that, the information is extremely useful for adoptees, people looking for lost relatives, genealogists and for medical science. 
In fairness to 23andME, it leaves it up to the customer to unlock the more serious results – or not. When I unlock mine, I discover that, while I’m not genetically predisposed to such things as the BRAC1 or BRAC2 variant, Parkinson’s or MS, I have one of the variants for late-onset (mid-80s) Alzheimer’s. However, I don’t have any other markers for Alzheimer’s or family history or conditions associated with it or anything else listed in the rather lengthy disclaimer, which also stresses that it’s not a diagnostic result and to seek further advice from your GP if you are concerned.
If you’d like to take extra measures to provide a means of identifying your DNA in your absence, you can also choose to store your biological DNA sample – this is known as DNA banking. It can provide reassurance to know that a DNA profile can be produced from your securely stored DNA sample, and depending on your circumstances, you can either pay to have your sample stored with the company you purchased it from, or order a home banking kit which will provide the materials you need to securely store your sample at home. If this is of interest, you can check out the companies that offer DNA banking.
More controversially, some of these kits profess to tell you your biological (as opposed to actual age) by measuring the length of your telomeres (in basic terms, the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect chromosomes, like plastic tips at the end of shoelaces). Other tests, such as 23andMe, predict higher risks of developing serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, including the test for BRCA1/BRCA2 (breast and ovarian cancer) that Angelina Jolie famously underwent, going on to have a preventative double mastectomy and surgery to remove her ovaries.

A. DNA Clinics do not offer free DNA testing. The service in the UK for establishing genetic biological relationships is predominantly carried out by the private sector. The NHS does not offer DNA testing for paternity or other relationships. Companies offering free DNA testing are falsely advertising the service. DNA Clinics provide the DNA test kit free of charge, with payment for the test due on return of your samples.
Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a genetic condition associated with very high levels of cholesterol in the blood, specifically low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad" cholesterol. High cholesterol due to FH increases the risk for early cardiovascular disease, which can lead to a heart attack. This test includes 24 genetic variants linked to FH.

In testing, we found that many tests have much more specific and detailed results for European ancestry than anywhere else. This is due more to the diversity of the database than size. For example, AncestryDNA has the largest database with over 10 million samples yet results for Asian ancestry are markedly less specific than results from several companies with much smaller databases, including 23andMe and Living DNA.

Most ancestry DNA kits cost about $100. AncestryDNA, 23andMe’s Ancestry test and National Geographic’s Geno 2.0 test all fall nicely into that price point. If you’re looking for a bargain, we recommend waiting to buy until your preferred test is on sale, as they’re often available well below their usual price. To get the most for your money, buy an Ancestry or 23andMe kit on sale then upload your raw data to MyHeritage DNA’s database, which is free. 
If you’d like to take extra measures to provide a means of identifying your DNA in your absence, you can also choose to store your biological DNA sample – this is known as DNA banking. It can provide reassurance to know that a DNA profile can be produced from your securely stored DNA sample, and depending on your circumstances, you can either pay to have your sample stored with the company you purchased it from, or order a home banking kit which will provide the materials you need to securely store your sample at home. If this is of interest, you can check out the companies that offer DNA banking.
I took the AncestryDNA test in 2016 and was disappointed by my initial report, which put my results into a giant area encompassing at least 15 countries labeled “Asia East.” Since then, Ancestry has updated its algorithm and reference population to make its results more specific, but it still only supports 17 regions in Asia and West Asia compared to 296 regions in Europe.

If you're creeped out by how much information Facebook, Google and Amazon have on you based on your online browsing habits, just remember that these DNA testing services are getting what is effectively your medical history. Make sure of their policies before turning over that valuable data. Also, even if you don't share your DNA with a service, your familial DNA data may be available if a relative shared their genetic material. The privacy issues can get very complex.
On all platforms except for National Geographic, you can initiate a search for relatives, though some services let you upload your National Geographic results for further analysis. The software continually searches for DNA matches as more people share their results. This feature may be useful if you're building a family tree or looking for relatives you've never met; otherwise, it may more of a nuisance. You can opt in or out at any time, and the DNA service doesn't share your contact information. Relatives can message you through the software, though. If you already use genealogy software, you may be able to download your results and upload them into your preferred program. Otherwise, AncestryDNA and others featured here have family tree software that you can easily link.

The only patients having their genome sequenced are those with certain cancers or rare diseases. In some cases, family members may also be asked to participate. To take part, a patient must first be referred by a consultant, before being taken through an extensive consent process to ensure they know what participation in the project means. As well as the genome sequence, Genomics England asks for access to a patient’s lifetime medical records so that links can be made between their genetics and their individual disease. The NHS has made it very clear that, for many participants, taking part in this project won’t help them treat their disease. But it is hoped that the information they provide will go on to help treat others in the future.


There are a ton of health and wellness DNA tests. We found several specifically oriented to dieting and weight loss, including embodyDNA, Vitagene, DNAFit and the several options available through the Helix marketplace. While there definitely are some links between DNA and factors that contribute to weight, we advise taking these diet plans with a grain of salt, as DNA science is still a relatively young field. 
A genetic counselor, a healthcare professional with special training in genetic conditions, will be able to answer your questions and help you make an informed choice. We recommend that you speak with a genetic counselor before testing, and also after testing to help you understand your results and what actions you should take. This is especially important for health conditions that are preventable or treatable.
Each of the kits work similarly: You answer a few questions about yourself, order the kit, collect your sample, register the kit (this is very important), send it back, and wait for the results. That said, they differ in the collection process and, to a smaller extent, the cost of shipping. When we tested 23andMe back in mid-2015, the company was unable to accept DNA samples collected in or sent from New York State, because of local laws (we had to cross the border to New Jersey). The company was also prohibited from shipping DNA kits to Maryland.

GEDmatch is a service where anyone with raw DNA data can upload it, see a list of cousin matches and use a powerful selection of advanced tools to analyze their data. The service is free and powered by donations (extra tools are provided to those that donate). From parental phasing and triangulation, to a variety of admixture calculators and a robust database of people from all testing companies, GEDmatch is the best place to go to explore your genetic data in detail. The system accepts raw data from any one of the main testing companies and has a proven track record of properly managing user information.
Although, I have absolutely no British or Irish ancestry, I found my results extremely satisfying. I particularly appreciate that living DNA gives you a lot of ways to view your data. You can see your ancestry results as color-coded dots filling up a person’s silhouette, on a map, as a pie chart or on a timeline. All the graphics present the same set of data, but each has its own appeal. Within each graphic, you can also choose to view global or regional matches and cautious, standard or complete estimates, which each have a different level of detail and certainty.
Some of our reports are about serious diseases that may not have an effective treatment or cure. Some people may be upset by learning about personal risks, and risks for family members who share DNA. 23andMe will not share your personal information with an insurance company without your explicit consent. Learn more about third party information sharing here.
What we would expect to find then in this example is that the two descendants of John show a very close match, and the two descendants of James also show a very close match (because we know from conventional paper based research that they are related). If all four match very closely, then that’s further evidence to add to our theory that John and James were really brothers. Not conclusive proof- but pretty solid evidence.
×