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.
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.
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.
DNA profiling isn’t exclusive to human DNA. Animals also have genetic markers in their DNA which can be used to build up a profile for DNA identification or determining parentage. The most common animals that this is used for are dogs. Similarly to human DNA profiling, dog DNA profiling uses 10-20 markers in order to build up a profile that can be used to identify your dog if it is ever lost or there is some kind of ownership dispute. Companies that offer this service will often include the profile in the form of a certificate, with details about your dog along with its DNA profile. It should also be said that these companies tend to store your dog’s profile in their database, so you that you can check back with them if you ever need to.
As my dad and I have begun to explore our genealogy over the past seven years or so, we’ve found that our family is largely from Spain, which is no big surprise. Colombians have a wide range of ethnicities, which explains why many Colombians, including my mother, have white or fair skin with blue eyes. My dad also suspects we have German ancestry somewhere back there.
Molly K. McLaughlin is a New York-based writer and editor with more than a decade of experience covering technology. She has tested and reviewed all sorts of software, mobile apps, and gadgets. Before launching her freelance business, she was an editor at PC Magazine, covering consumer electronics, followed by a stint at ConsumerSearch.com, a revie... See Full Bio

First of all, what is DNA? The letters stand for Deoxyribonucleic acid, a molecule encoding the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms. Its structure was first described by Nobel Prize winners Crick and Watson in 1953. The information in DNA is stored as a code made up of four chemical bases: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T). The DNA bases pair up with each other, A with T and C with G, to form units called base pairs. Each base is also attached to a sugar molecule and a phosphate molecule. Together, a base, sugar, and phosphate are called a nucleotide. Nucleotides are arranged in two long strands that form a spiral called a double helix. The structure of the double helix is somewhat like a ladder, with the base pairs forming the ladder’s rungs and the sugar and phosphate molecules forming the vertical sidepieces of the ladder.