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.
This is the ‘Out of Africa’ theory, and it’s reflected in our DNA which shows that we’re all descended from ‘Y chromosomal Adam’ (our earliest common male ancestor) and ‘mitochondrial eve’ (our earliest common female ancestor). Our DNA can also show us the migratory paths that our ancestors took after leaving Africa in the intervening millennia, to get to where they settled in the thousand year period before the era of mass migration circa 1850.

A DNA profile can also be adapted to produce artwork. Several companies will use the profiling technique discussed above, but they’ll combine florescent colours with your genetic markers to produce bands that look a bit like a barcode. These bands can be mounted on canvas, wood, metal or other materials to create a piece of art that can be displayed in your home. They can also be digitised and customised with different colours or background themes to make a range of ‘DNA portraits’. One company, Dot One, even makes scarves and rugs inspired by these patterns!
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 Geno 2.0 test uses a Helix spit-tube test, which is extremely easy to register. It took National Geographic 27 days to notify testers of results. Because Helix uses exome sequencing instead of the more-common genotyping, you cannot download your raw DNA information from this test to upload into other databases. You can, however, purchase more DNA apps from the Helix Marketplace to run your data through partner databases without submitting additional samples.
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.
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.
Whether it’s an autosomal test, a Y-DNA test or an mtDNA test, virtually all providers use the same science. Some providers offer an ‘off the peg’ solution such as Ancestral Origins™ or AncestrybyDNA™, so if you’re interested in these you should shop around for the lowest price. Most providers offer a test that interprets and presents the results in a unique way, so if one of these catches your eye, look for examples of how the results are presented on their website before you buy.

For our evaluations, we assembled a group of testers willing to spit into a tube on camera. We chose four individuals of varying backgrounds. Two had previously taken one or more DNA ancestry tests, and two had not. Two had fairly well-documented family histories to compare against, one was adopted, and one had information about one side of the family, but not the other. All of us took DNA tests from AncestryDNA, 23andMe, National Geographic and Family Tree DNA. One tester also took each of the five additional tests we reviewed. 


Living DNA offers the best biogeographical ancestry analysis on the market for people with British ancestry and they are the only company to offer regional breakdowns. With the inclusion of Y-DNA and mtDNA haplogroup information, this is a good all-round test for someone who wants an overview of their genetic ancestry. The test cannot currently be used for genealogical matching, though an autosomal matching service is promised for the future. As a late entrant to the market, Living DNA will start with a smaller database though the test is more likely to appeal to people in the UK, especially those who feel safer keeping their DNA data in Europe.
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!

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.
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. 
HomeDNA has the simplest DNA extraction process; just swab each cheek twice with a cotton swab, and place the swabs in the included envelope. The National Geographic Genographic Project sent a scraper that you use on each cheek for 45 seconds, and then place in a vial with stabilizing liquid. MyHeritage DNA has a similar process. 23andMe and AncestryDNA require that you spit into a tube up to the fill line (harder than it sounds), and ship it back with stabilization liquid. Most of the services said not to eat, drink, or smoke for 30 minutes to an hour prior to testing to get the best possible sample.
Since genome sequencing is still a relatively young science, we don't recommend submitting your child’s DNA to direct-to-consumer companies. We do encourage consulting with your doctor about genetic testing for your child. Due to some concerns with the DNA testing industry, the choice to have one’s genes sequenced by a private company should be made with informed consent. Those concerns are magnified when applied to children, who cannot make their own decisions regarding the unlikely potential risks or privacy concerns.
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.
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.
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.
TTR-related hereditary amyloidosis typically develops in adulthood, but age of onset can vary widely. People with the V122I variant typically develop symptoms after the age of 60. People with the V30M variant can develop symptoms as early as their 20s or as late as their 90s, depending on ethnicity and family history. People with the T60A variant typically develop symptoms between 45 and 80 years of age.
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.
My grandfather was adopted, my father’s father. I have found FamilyTreeDna (FTDNA) was the best when it came to test results. Ancestry was great for research. I tested with both. They say fish in all of the pools and I have. I highly recommend testing with both Ancestry and FTDNA. I found my great grandfather who was born in 1884. 23andme was no help at all. MyHeritage works with FamilyTreeDna (FTDNA). HOPE THIS HELPS. Gary

Of course, most DNA used by law enforcement in the U.S. does not come from direct-to-consumer DNA tests. The federal government and many states collect DNA samples from suspects of violent crimes after arrest or due to probable cause. These samples are added to the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, which is a national database for forensic information.
Although the project states that most participants won’t receive any useful information, patients will be told if something is found in their genome that is relevant to the treatment, explanation or diagnosis of their condition. They can also choose to learn if they have a genetic risk factor for another disease, such as the BRCA1 gene mutation that can cause breast cancer. Genomics England will only look for risk factors that are linked to a disease that can be treated or prevented. Untreatable conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, are not looked for.

Three of the companies, MyHeritage, Ancestry and FTDNA, use the Illumina OmniExpress chip and 23andMe uses the new Infinium® Global Screening Array chip from Illumina. The fact that all of the chips come from the same company may be confusing, leading some to believe that all tests are created equal. This is not the case. The chip used to process DNA samples is only one part of the process. Each company develops their own analysis of the results, references different population samples and provides different reports. In addition, each one of these DNA test providers offers different tools for you to analyze the data you receive, creating variations in results, accessibility and usefulness.


I once heard someone explain DNA as being like a cake recipe book in a library. You can take the book out of the library and even unravel it by taking out the pages. You follow the cake recipes inside the book but when ever you make the cake it never turns out quite the same way twice. When you've finished you have to return the recipe book to the library because that is where its stored. Made sense to me at the time
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.
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.
I was given a picture of myself I believe I was about two or three years old, I have always thought I was born in the USA, BUT TO THE BOTTOM OF THE PICTURE SAYS HAVANA STUDIOS, ALSO I WAS BORN IN A HOSPITAL 1958 HOWEVER THE HOSPITAL WAS DAMAGED IN A HURRICANE AND DID NOT OPEN UP AGAIN UNTIL 1959 BOTH PARENTS ARE DECEASED AND GRANDPARENTS ARE DECEASED WHICH WILL BE THE BEST TEST. OH NO KNOW SISTERS OR BROTHERS.
There are a number of reasons why the vast majority of living humans are a blend of ethnicities. Firstly, from around 1850 onwards, people started to migrate around the world and mix in large numbers. Secondly, as national borders have changed over time, the only clear cut ethnic groups are those that are highly isolated. For example, as individuals have migrated in large numbers between France and Britain in the last few thousand years; those in Northern France exhibit a similar ethnic mix to those in Southern England.
One of the most popular reasons for doing a DNA test is to determine ethnicity.  Many people start out on their DNA journey trying to learn about their ethnicity and end up discovering new family members, or learning something really cool about their family history.  Is there such a thing as a DNA test for ethnicity, and if so, which one is the best?
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.
Both men and women can take mitochondrial DNA tests (because we all possess mitochondria in our cells), but it’s worth noting that women are unable to take Y DNA tests as they do not possess a Y chromosome. If you’re female and you’d like to learn more about your paternal lineage, you can ask a close male relative to take a Y DNA test on your behalf – read our article about Y DNA testing for more information.

The SGM Plus system of DNA analysis targets ten loci, each of which contains two alleles. These are the “short tandem repeats” that vary between individuals. In addition, a further locus is targeted that acts as in indicator of the sex of the donor. A “full” DNA profile is one in which all of these loci have produced a reliable and reportable result. Occasionally, the processes used to target some of these loci fail, resulting in an incomplete or “partial” DNA profile. The most common reasons for such failure are either that a very small amount of DNA was present in the sample, the DNA may have become degraded, or that substances may have been present in the sample that may have inhibited the analysis process. Depending on the degree of success of the DNA analysis, the match probability calculated from a partial DNA profile may be reduced below the 1 in 1 billion that would be obtained from a full profile.

I have had my DNA done at ancestry.com & 23&me, ancestry.com & 23 are basically the same until it gets to the trace regions… ancestry says I am 1% Euro Jew which made since with my haplogroup K1a3a, but 23andme gave me .08% African, changed date when it occurred 2x went from East to West, then settled on “Sub African”, none of which I believe occurred due to my own research but if in fact I am either Euro Jew,(I think it is non-mixed Israelite/Hebrew, but whatever), and or if their is this .08 African, I’d like to know why ancestry did pick up on it, how sure they are at 23&me,(they can’t tell Irish from Brits or German from French but can go on & on about some supposed .08% makes no sense), BUT now that it has been said, I want to put it to rest… If either occurred can I confirm using the raw DNA I have from both? Shouldn’t both be able to say I am or am not Jew or African? I don’t care either way, but want to know what site would be able to answer this the best…. again I have raw data/dna from both ancestry.com & 23 & me. HELP 🙂 Thank you in advance.


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.


We evaluated each kit by ordering one, just like any customer would, and tracking how long it took to arrive at the lab and to get processed. Then we compared the breadth and depth of the results to see what rose to the top. The whole process was a lot of fun, in part because of the anticipation of getting the results. Most of the kits warn that testing your DNA can lead to surprising—even life-changing—results. For example, there's the story of a woman who thought she was Irish, but her DNA test revealed she was also European Jewish, Middle Eastern and Eastern European. After diligent research, she discovered that her father, who had died years earlier, had been switched at birth with another child.
The spit is for one of the home genetic-testing kits I’m sampling. A growing number of these kits (brands such as 23andMe, DNAFit, Thriva, MyHeritage DNA, and Orig3n) promise to unlock the mystery of your genomes, variously explaining everything from ancestry, residual Neanderthal variants, “bioinformatics” for fitness, weight loss and skincare, to more random genetic predispositions, denoting, say, the dimensions of your earlobes or the consistency of your earwax.
The Y chromosome is a special chromosome, passed on from fathers to their sons, while mothers pass on mtDNA to both their sons and daughters. But mtDNA dies with men and so it survives only in the female line. This means that a man’s lineage can be followed along both paternal and maternal lines, while in a woman only her maternal or mtDNA line can be followed.
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