It is very important that you take the time to read the privacy policy, terms and conditions and consent forms associated with any DNA test you take or any site you choose to upload your data to. While FTDNA has a proven track record of protecting the privacy of its users, there have been serious concerns over how AncestryDNA and 23andMe have used data in the past, as well as how they may use or sell your data in the future. Please read this article from Roberta Estes for more information on this issue. MyHeritage states that their consent form (that would allow sharing or selling of your results in aggregated data) is optional.  You can read more about that on The Legal Genealogist, who compliments MyHeritage DNA on their policy and openness.
AncestryDNA has the largest database to compare your results to when making matches, with 23andMe coming in second and FTDNA in fourth. MyHeritage DNA, although newer than the others, is catching up fast and numbers now surpass FTDNA. Current numbers can be seen in the chart above and are estimates based on available data. Each of these databases is growing, some of them quite rapidly.
There may be a couple of reasons why your son's ancestry results did not show Italian heritage. Firstly, your own result was "72% Italy/Greece", and so it is not certain how much of this percentage was Greek or Italian. The fact that your son's DNA results estimated him to be "30.5% Greek" could suggest that your "Italy/Greece" percentage was actually indicative of majority Greek heritage, and not Italian. Your son would then have inherited roughly half your Greek DNA.

AncestryDNA is a cutting edge DNA testing service that utilises some of the latest autosomal testing technology to revolutionise the way you discover your family history. This service combines advanced DNA science with the world’s largest online family history resource to predict your genetic ethnicity and help you find new family connections. It maps ethnicity going back multiple generations and provides insight into such possibilities as: what region of Europe are my ancestors from, or am I likely to have East Asian heritage? AncestryDNA can also help identify relationships with unknown relatives through a dynamic list of DNA matches.


Our Ancestry Service helps you understand who you are, where your DNA comes from and your family story. We analyse, compile and distill your DNA information into reports on your Ancestry Composition, Ancestry Detail Reports, Maternal & Paternal Haplogroups, Neanderthal Ancestry, Your DNA Family and provide a DNA Relatives tool to enable you to connect with relatives who share similar DNA.
DNA test companies that use genotyping technology, including 23andMe and Ancestry, allow you to download your raw DNA file. A raw DNA file is usually a text file that contains all the information about your genetic code gleaned from the company’s examination of your DNA. This is comprised of several hundred thousand markers known as SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms). Most raw files are organized into five columns: the SNP coded into an rsID number, the chromosome the SNP is located on, the location of the SNP on the chromosome and the two alleles for each SNP.

The introduction of home DNA testing means that anyone who wants to can now order their own DNA profiling kit online, and one common reason is for DNA identification. This is often important for those who work in high risk jobs, in case there is an accident that means their body would need to be identified. For example, the US army requires all active service personnel to submit a DNA sample upon enrolment, primarily for the purpose of identification if they are killed in service. Not everyone who works in a high-risk profession is given this option by their employer, but individuals with dangerous jobs are free to buy their own DNA profile from a private testing company.

McCartney says that anxious people often contact her, saying they wished they hadn’t done the tests. “These companies often say that it’s worth it for the helpful advice. But I can give you really good advice right now without seeing a single test result: be active, have lots of social networks, do work you enjoy, try not to smoke or drink too much, don’t be overweight or underweight, eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Nobody needs to get tests done to get that kind of basic lifestyle advice.”
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.
Most companies will use algorithms to compare the genetic variants uniquely associated to a reference population with those identified in the person being tested. This can help them exclude unlikely population groups from your ethnic mix, and ensure that the ethnic groups you’re shown to be composed of are more accurately reported. Although most companies will share the reference populations they use with their customers, they rarely provide information on the algorithms they’ve developed.
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.
Looking at your raw DNA file might not give you any useful information unless you’re looking for a specific marker. You can also upload the file into a third-party DNA databases for information or results beyond what’s available from your testing company. This process is not without risks, as your DNA testing company only ensures the security of your personal information in its own environment. Once you download the file, you’re responsible for the file’s security. However, uploading your raw DNA to a third party database isn’t inherently unsafe — just be cautious.

The technique of DNA profiling was developed by Alec Jefferys in the mid-1980s and is based on the analysis of markers in DNA known as microsatellites or Short Tandem Repeats (STRs). These markers are found at specific points (also called loci) in everyone’s DNA and they’re motifs of two-six bases (the units that make up our genes) that are repeated numerous times. The exact number of times these markers are repeated differs between individuals, but members of a family will share the same or a similar number of repeated markers, depending on how closely related they are.
In Newman’s view, the genie is out of the bottle with home genetic-testing kits. He says that while the kits could potentially provide data in the future, right now, they lack “clinical utility” – they look at genetic variants that, individually, have a very low chance of predicting specific health risks, as there are too many variables: “It’s like the Opportunity Knocks clap-o-meter, with some people further along the scale, and therefore more likely to get the condition and then people at the other end of the scale, who are unlikely to get it.”

AncestryDNA has the largest database to compare your results to when making matches, with 23andMe coming in second and FTDNA in fourth. MyHeritage DNA, although newer than the others, is catching up fast and numbers now surpass FTDNA. Current numbers can be seen in the chart above and are estimates based on available data. Each of these databases is growing, some of them quite rapidly.

McCartney says that anxious people often contact her, saying they wished they hadn’t done the tests. “These companies often say that it’s worth it for the helpful advice. But I can give you really good advice right now without seeing a single test result: be active, have lots of social networks, do work you enjoy, try not to smoke or drink too much, don’t be overweight or underweight, eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Nobody needs to get tests done to get that kind of basic lifestyle advice.”
Think of all the words you can spell. I bet there are loads. But each word is made using the same selection of letters. Yes, sometimes we leave letters out, sometimes we repeat letters, but we always have the same selection of letters. Depending on how we arrange the letters of the alphabet we can make new words. The same is true in the four letter alphabet of DNA.
Whole genome sequencing is the most accurate representation of your DNA that you can buy, as it provides you with the details of every single base in your DNA (more than 5 billion). This is unsurprisingly much more expensive than DNA profiling, and isn’t necessary if you are looking for a profile for identification purposes. However, if you’d like to know more about DNA sequencing, we’ve listed the companies that can sell you your sequence.
Rather than simply looking at your DNA in isolation, the Findmypast DNA test analyses unique combinations of linked DNA. This proprietary method delivers a level of detail impossible with other ancestry DNA tests. It also uses the latest technology, which is constantly updated in response to the latest industry innovations and peer-reviewed research. As the technology evolves so too does the detail of your test results, which will receive free ongoing upgrades.

Still, it is fun see a visual and numerical representation of where your ancestors came from (generally speaking) and, although there are those who swear by one company or the other, all of these testing companies do a fairly decent job of giving you a report you can enjoy and use in your research. FTNDA recently updated to the much anticipated MyOrigins 2.0 and MyHeritage DNA just updated to their improved 42 population Ethnicity Estimate and offers a nicely detailed report.

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).
The first kit I try is Thriva’s baseline test (£49), which, like all its products, checks your blood. The box arrives promptly enough (containing spring-loaded needles, a little collection tube, antiseptic wipes, plasters, etc), but there’s a problem. The idea is to prick your finger and massage blood into the tube, but I just end up making my fingers sore and what I get out barely smears the top of the phial. Maybe it’s just me, but it turns into a right faff. In the end, I take advantage of Thriva’s service to send someone out to take a sample of blood from my arm.
Therefore, when the markers in two samples are analysed, the number of times that they’re repeated can be compared and the statistical likelihood that they came from the same person or from two closely related individuals can be calculated. This is why DNA profiling can be used to establish biological relationships, as well as to connect DNA evidence with a criminal suspect.
When STR profiling is carried out, the whole of the person’s DNA is not examined. Rather, specific regions (loci) of the DNA which are known to vary greatly between individuals are examined. These loci are areas of the DNA which contain varying numbers of repeating sequences known as short tandem repeats (STRs). It is the number of these repeating units which can differ between individuals. If there are differences between profiles obtained from different samples, the two samples cannot have come from the same person. If, however, the profiles match, then it follows that the samples could have originated from the same person or from any other person who happened to have the same STR profile.Â
Guidelines recommend that women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 variant should be screened for breast cancer earlier and more often. Risk-reducing surgery or medication may also be offered. Men with a variant should be screened for breast cancer. Screening guidelines for prostate cancer vary. This test is not a substitute for visits to a healthcare professional for recommended screenings. Results should be confirmed in a clinical setting before taking any medical action. It is important to talk with a healthcare professional before taking any medical action.

Whole genome sequencing is the most accurate representation of your DNA that you can buy, as it provides you with the details of every single base in your DNA (more than 5 billion). This is unsurprisingly much more expensive than DNA profiling, and isn’t necessary if you are looking for a profile for identification purposes. However, if you’d like to know more about DNA sequencing, we’ve listed the companies that can sell you your sequence.
Because it is a genetic condition, FH is present at birth, meaning most people with this condition have high LDL cholesterol levels from a young age. Since many people with FH show no physical symptoms, this condition is typically diagnosed with a blood test for cholesterol. However, some people with FH may not be diagnosed until after experiencing symptoms related to early heart disease, including chest pain or heart attack.

In addition to its ancestry test, 23andMe also offers a cool health upgrade. The upgrade costs $125 if you add it after getting your ancestry results, so we recommend splurging and buying the $199 Health + Ancestry kit from the start and it often goes on sale. It was approved as the first direct-to-consumer genetic screening service by the FDA in 2015 for certain conditions including Parkinson’s disease and late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Many of the service’s 87 health reports are much more lighthearted, however, including information about your probability of disliking cilantro, getting bit by mosquitos or having a longer index finger than ring finger.


Family Tree DNA (the longest running testing company) offers a well-established database of “cousins” and advanced tools for exploring your results. MyHeritage offers the ability to sync your results with your family tree research in a very unique way. Both are a good choice, but since every person’s needs are unique we suggest you read the full guide before deciding.

In addition to its ancestry test, 23andMe also offers a cool health upgrade. The upgrade costs $125 if you add it after getting your ancestry results, so we recommend splurging and buying the $199 Health + Ancestry kit from the start and it often goes on sale. It was approved as the first direct-to-consumer genetic screening service by the FDA in 2015 for certain conditions including Parkinson’s disease and late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Many of the service’s 87 health reports are much more lighthearted, however, including information about your probability of disliking cilantro, getting bit by mosquitos or having a longer index finger than ring finger.


And that’s where it starts getting interesting, because then we can start comparing that genetic signature to the results from other men who share the same surname but don’t appear on our family tree. If the matches are close, then we can start thinking “is there a common ancestor for these families another generation or two back? Are the families linked in some way?”. Depending on what we already know about either family group, it can help target the paper research to get those families linked, or take us back another generation or two.
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