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.
Newman says that there’s a basic lack of “literacy” and understanding about genetic testing, among the public and even other health professionals. People are given false reassurances or made to panic (just because you have certain genetic variants, it doesn’t mean that you will develop a particular condition). Newman also makes the point that, in his field, counselling happens before and after testing and, while people with cancer or heart issues nearly always opt to have the test (as they can then take action to varying degrees), often people with conditions such as Huntington’s disease in their family decide not to go ahead because a diagnosis would change nothing for them. In any event, Newman says that, with genetic testing, while there are different levels, intensive counselling is always “absolutely key”.

FTDNA has, by far, the most advanced tools built-in for easily analyzing cousin matches and it does have a family tree feature that has been recently improved, but most people have not taken advantage of this feature and the family trees found on FTDNA are, when present, generally underdeveloped.  However, because FTDNA also provides a host of advanced featured that can provide invaluable data to dedicated researchers their cousin matching system still stands apart from the crowd, drawing in those who are interested in more deeply analyzing their results.
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.
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.
If you’re more interested in learning about the relatives you already know you have, 23andMe has a few unique tools that let you compare your DNA with your children, parents and grandparents. If multiple people in your family tree want to get tested, fill out a GrandTree, which shows you which segments of DNA you inherit from each of your tested parents or grandparents. While nowhere near as comprehensive as AncestryDNA’s family tree and genealogy tools, 23andMe’s more nuclear approach to family genetics is a great option that lets you explore your genetic relationship with more immediate relations.

Once your genetic information is out there, it’s difficult to undo. Also, once you know something about yourself, it’s impossible to forget. Revelations such as having different parents than you expected or finding unknown half-siblings are difficult to process at any age, but it’s particularly troubling for kids. However, you can always simply opt out of family matching features.
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.

These tests can reveal the migratory paths of your paternal and maternal ancestors after they left Africa 200,000 years ago. By studying the migratory route they took, this can help you identify the ethnic groups they may have been part of. That said, as your paternal line is your father’s father’s father etc., and as your maternal line is your mother’s mother’s mother etc.; your paternal and maternal ancestors represent a smaller and smaller proportion of your ancestry the further back you go (just one sixteenth of your total ancestry five generations ago). Therefore, tracing your migratory paths back thousands of years may provide insights, but they’re a poor means of exploring your ethnic mix.


DNA is a record of instructions telling the cell what its job is going to be. A good analogy for DNA as a whole is a set of blueprints for the cell, or computer code telling a PC what to do. It is written in a special alphabet that is only four letters long! Unlike a book or computer screen, DNA isn't flat and boring - it is a beautiful curved ladder. We call this shape a double helix. The letters of the DNA alphabet (called bases) make up the rungs, special sugars and other atoms make up the handrail.
23andMe started out by testing for genetic markers of diseases and medical conditions before rolling that back in response to the governmental concerns. It has since started slowly adding more health-related features with approval from the FDA. In April, 23andMe got approval to offer risk analysis for ten genetically linked diseases. The company now offers two options: Health + Ancestry ($199) and Ancestry ($99). The Health + Ancestry plan includes testing for genetic health risks and carrier status, as well as reports on your genetic weight, hair loss, and other traits.
DNA profiling can also be useful for those who suspect there may be inheritance disputes over their estate once they have passed away. It provides a record that can be referred to long after someone’s death, even when all physical traces of DNA have gone. Therefore, if there is an unexpected claim for inheritance from an alleged relative, your DNA profile can be compared to that of the claimant to prove or disprove a biological relationship and the inheritance rights.

Some services include shipping costs in the cost of the kit; AncestryDNA's $99 fee includes two-way shipping. National Geographic's Genographic Project ships the kits for free, but you have to purchase postage when you send your kit to their lab. 23andMe tacks on a two-way shipping fee of $9.95 for the first kit and $5 for each additional one. HomeDNA includes a prepaid envelope to return your sample and offers three shipping options: $7 for two-day shipping, $14 for overnight, and free shipping that takes 7 to 12 business days. Finally, MyHeritage charges $12 for shipping; if you order two kits, you pay $6, and if you order three or more, you get free shipping.
The DNA holds or stores the information using code in various forms, configurations, instructing cells what to do. Yes the DNA sends out instructions, ( or "tells" other celss what to do etc.. like a computer program can tell a robot what to do or carry out multiple functions. My question still remaining is... information came from an intelligent mind... not the physical data that it holds like DNA holds the information, it can copy the information.. but DNA did not code itself...it received the instructions.. no matter how long ago from a mind or an intelligent designer. Does ANYONE on this site agree? I have not seen anyone else question this.
In McCartney’s view, enough testing is already done in this country (sometimes too much) and there are issues of regulation and “informed consent”. “People are given very dramatic reasons to have these tests – it could help save your life, it could help improve the quality of your life – but where is the actual controlled evidence that these tests have ever done that? There’s no evidence that says doing these tests makes people become healthier.”
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.
Companies differ in terms of which reference populations they use. Some companies will create their own reference populations, while others will use populations identified in published studies. For example, 23andMe produce their own reference populations by sampling their customers (as long as the grandparents of those customers were all born in the same country). They then combine this data with public population data, produced by projects such as the Human Genome Diversity Project.
Findmypast & Living DNA are excited about the opportunities this partnership creates for everyone from serious genealogists to those just starting to explore their family history. As we focus on the best of British and Irish family history, we are committed to continue making improvements to the Findmypast DNA test to make it possible to not only discover where your ancestors came from, but learn their amazing stories too.
As with traditional genealogical research, DNA testing can provide surprises so be prepared for the unexpected. You might uncover family secrets by matching with a cousin or a half-sibling that you didn’t know existed. Conversely a relation who is expected to share DNA with you might turn out not to be a genetic relative at all. In rare cases, people discover that their parents are not their biological parents. For a good overview of the ethical implications of DNA testing see the Genetic Genealogy Standards.
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.

Every company on this list promises test results in 6-8 weeks after they receive a sample, except for MyHeritage DNA which claims 3-4 weeks. This can vary however and is influenced by demand and other factors. It is generally a good rule of thumb to anticipate that it will take 2-3 months for results once you order a test. This accounts for the time it takes for you (or your recipient) to receive the test, provide a sample, mail it back and for processing of your results.
FTDNA offers Y-DNA (y chromosome, fatherline, men only) and mtDNA (mitochondrial, motherline, everyone) tests. These are separate offerings from the Family Finder test and can be very detailed, depending on the test and option you choose. 23andMe offers mtDNA and Y-DNA as part of their main Ancestry offering, but the results are more limited. Read more about these types of tests here.
Most of the services we tested use genotyping to read your DNA. Genotyping looks for specific markers in your genetic code. For something like ancestry testing, genotyping is effective because it identifies known variants in your DNA. Scientifically speaking, genotyping’s weakness is that it can only recognize previously identified markers. This is one reason DNA tests’ accuracy relies so heavily on the DNA database size; there must be enough information available and identified genetic variants in the database to recognize new customers’ markers.
For better ancestry and medical insights, you should encourage family members, especially parents and grandparents, to take a DNA test as well. If your family is from a specific geographical location for generations, your samples could potentially improve the service's reference panel, in turn improving results for everyone. If you’re female and take a test from 23andMe or LivingDNA, you can view paternal haplogroup information, and you get more information when one of your male family members takes a test as well.
DNA fingerprinting is commonly used to compare DNA samples taken from the crime scene with those taken from suspects, to either prove or disprove their innocence. In the UK, 10 markers are analysed to produce DNA profiles from the samples taken in criminal investigations. These are then compared to (and stored in) the National DNA Database (NDNAD) to identify if there’s a match. This database currently contains DNA profiles for 10% of the UK population, along with the individuals’ names and ethnicities. Anyone who’s been arrested for a recordable offence has their information recorded on the database, unless they are found innocent or not charged – in these cases, the individuals’ biological samples and corresponding information is destroyed within six months of sample collection.
The components of the STR profile are represented as data consisting of a series of peaks. For each location (locus) along the DNA molecule there will usually be two peaks, one from each parent, representing STR components (alleles) with differing numbers of repeats. If an allele with the same number of repeats is inherited from both parents, only one peak will be present.
test didn’t even show that I had Polish genes in me which Sandusky is Polish. Also my father had native American blood in him and that didn’t show up . I wasn’t happy with the out come of the D.N.A. test. I think all of the test are like that If yours is not the same. I took mine though ancestry.com. I am on a fixed income and I can’t afford paying a lot more of money.That is why I signed for you site.
Hi Mark, Thank you for such an informative and clearly stated article. I am American Jewish and have done several of the tests. I’m now submitting a question for a close friend. He is Burmese and would very much like to test. His biggest interest is ancestral origins. Would he be best off doing a Ydna test or could he find sufficient information in an autosomal test? I assume the Y test would be with Familytree. If so, should he also do an autosomal test with Familytree, or with Ancestry or MyHeritage? Thank you so much!
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.
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.

Almost immediately after the technique of DNA profiling was developed, it was put to legal use. The case of Colin Pitchfork, the first criminal convicted using DNA fingerprinting, is well publicised, but the very first use of this technique was actually in an immigration case. Alec Jeffreys (the person who developed the technique) helped a Ghanaian boy to avoid deportation by comparing his DNA to that of his alleged British mother’s, to prove that he was her biological son. Since that case, DNA profiling has been used in thousands of cases of immigration, by either keeping families together or reuniting them by proving biological relationships.
DNA fingerprinting is commonly used to compare DNA samples taken from the crime scene with those taken from suspects, to either prove or disprove their innocence. In the UK, 10 markers are analysed to produce DNA profiles from the samples taken in criminal investigations. These are then compared to (and stored in) the National DNA Database (NDNAD) to identify if there’s a match. This database currently contains DNA profiles for 10% of the UK population, along with the individuals’ names and ethnicities. Anyone who’s been arrested for a recordable offence has their information recorded on the database, unless they are found innocent or not charged – in these cases, the individuals’ biological samples and corresponding information is destroyed within six months of sample collection.
Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) is currently priced at $79, MyHeritage DNA has had their price set at $79 since they launched their test in November 2016 (although the full cost was technically $99 for some time). AncestryDNA’s cost is $99 and 23andMe who, in the past, charged $199 for genealogy and health information, now offers a genealogy only test for $99.
My favorite DNA test for finding ethnicity is Ancestry DNA.  My second favorite is 23 and Me.  The way Ancestry presents their DNA results is easy to understand, and their test is general less expensive than 23 and Me.  I have also found Ancestry DNA’s ethnicity estimates very closely represent what I have been able to research the old-fashioned way, both in my family and that of my husband and other family members.
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.

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.
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.
DNA is a record of instructions telling the cell what its job is going to be. A good analogy for DNA as a whole is a set of blueprints for the cell, or computer code telling a PC what to do. It is written in a special alphabet that is only four letters long! Unlike a book or computer screen, DNA isn't flat and boring - it is a beautiful curved ladder. We call this shape a double helix. The letters of the DNA alphabet (called bases) make up the rungs, special sugars and other atoms make up the handrail.
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