The DNA tests we reviewed either require a saliva or cheek cell sample. Saliva-collecting kits include a tube that’s marked with a fill line and sample number. The tube often has a liquid-filled cap with a stabilizer that acts as a preservative to protect your DNA from degradation during transport. Cheek swab sample kits include one or two swabs for scraping the insides of your cheeks for 30 seconds to a minute to collect cheek cells and some sort of container to place the used swabs into after collection. This prevents contamination. Our testers found upsides to both types of kits but generally preferred saliva collection kits, even though they took longer.

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.
For these reasons, mapping segments of your autosomal DNA to whole continents can be determined with a high level of certainty, but when you try to attribute these segments to specific tribes, regions or even countries, the certainty decreases. This is why some genetic ancestry companies will attribute a proportion of your DNA to areas such as ‘Eastern Europe’ or ‘Southern Asia’, instead of to specific countries.

The 23andMe sample collection kit is extremely easy to navigate. However, it can take a while to work up enough spit for the saliva sample tube, especially since you can’t eat or drink before or during sample collection. Even so, most of our testers preferred the saliva samples over the faster but more painful cheek swabs that many other companies use. Registering the kit on 23andMe’s website was also simple. Each kit comes with a sample return box, which you can just drop in the mail after sealing your sample. After that, you wait for your results.


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. 
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.
When a sample of biological material contains DNA from more than one person, this can result in a “mixed DNA profile”. In such profiles, there may be a reduced amount of useful information regarding whether or not a specific person could have contributed to this sample. This could be because the contributors may share one or more DNA alleles, resulting in the masking of the DNA of one person by that of the other.
Rachel, it’s been a year since you posted your query. Perhaps you have your answers? In case not, here are a few suggestions. Since you are an adoptee, perhaps with no knowledge of your biological family, you probably are most interested in details there, while your ethnic makeup is a very minor concern and where most DNA services give similar results anyways. Maybe your goal is to locate your birth parents? If that’s all true, then buy an AncestryDNA kit, as they have 10 million DNA profiles in their database, which is more than all competitors combined. The more profiles to DNA match against the more matches you’ll get to your biological relatives. Next download your raw Ancestry DNA data, and then upload it for free into MyHeritage (2.5 million DNA profiles), FamilyTreeDNA (1 million DNA profiles), GEDmatch (1 million DNA profiles), LivingDNA (unknown database size), and DNA.land (0.15 million DNA profiles). That’s almost 5 million more DNA profiles to match against. Combined with AncestryDNA that’s about 15 million profiles. If lucky you may match to a 2nd cousin or closer relative which with luck could lead to your birth parents, definitely will match to a few if not many 3rd cousins and 1000s of 4th or more distant cousins. If you change your mind and decide purchasing a second DNA kit is worth the expense, then buy a 23andMe DNA kit, which adds 5 million more DNA profiles to match against. Hope these suggestions were useful. Good luck.
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.
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.
Similarly, if a person has contributed a clear and distinct minority of the DNA detected, that part of the profile may be referred to as the “Minor Contribution”. However, if DNA from one or more people is present in a mixed DNA result in roughly equal quantities, any statistic relating to the likelihood that any one particular person may have contributed to the DNA profile is necessarily reduced in value due to the inherent uncertainties regarding which DNA components may have come from either contributor.
Lets suppose, as we have in the Sinnott/Sennett one name study, we have a whole lot of families who all believe their common ancestor came from Co Wexford, but the paper trail for conventional genealogy research has dwindled away, or we suspect that John and James who emigrated to the US about the same time were brothers but there is no documentation to prove it – genealogical DNA studies can now be used to show whether its possible that two families (that are at the moment quite separate on paper) are actually related and have a common ancestor. And no, we don’t have to go digging up g-g-g-g-grandfather John to get his DNA – remember, he passed it on to his son, and his son’s son, and so on to the present day. So we find a living male descendant and they get their Y-DNA analysed. That gives us a pretty good indication of the genetic signature for the whole family tree (well, the male side, anyway). If we want to check it, we find a distant cousin of the first person who tested and get their DNA analysed. If its a very close match, then bingo – we know the Y-DNA genetic signature (and whats known as a haplogroup) for our whole family group.
1. Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder: One of the first to offer these types of tests, FTDNA is generally considered the leader in autosomal DNA testing for ancestry and provides some of the best tools available for genealogists. Their population finder section is currently a bit less specific than the other companies, but FTDNA Family Finder users are eagerly awaiting a much improved update to be released sometime in the next month. Find out about Family Finder here.
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