4. Geno 2.0: At $199 National Geographic’s Genographic Project is the most expensive of all of the choices and is also not deigned specifically for genealogists. They do not offer a database of known relations and the data they provide is more general in nature. However, joining the project does provide a geographic ancestry breakdown as well as a report on how much Neanderthal you may have (fun!). It is an exciting scientific endeavor and definitely worth exploring and joining if you have the resources to do so. Find it here.
A genetic counselor, a healthcare professional with special training in genetic conditions, will be able to answer your questions and help you make an informed choice. We recommend that you speak with a genetic counselor before testing, and also after testing to help you understand your results and what actions you should take. This is especially important for health conditions that are preventable or treatable.
If you’d like to take extra measures to provide a means of identifying your DNA in your absence, you can also choose to store your biological DNA sample – this is known as DNA banking. It can provide reassurance to know that a DNA profile can be produced from your securely stored DNA sample, and depending on your circumstances, you can either pay to have your sample stored with the company you purchased it from, or order a home banking kit which will provide the materials you need to securely store your sample at home. If this is of interest, you can check out the companies that offer DNA banking.
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.
Costs vary depending on the company you buy from. For example, the three most popular DNA ethnicity tests are undertaken by 23andMe, Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) and Ancestry.com. They all analyse autosomal DNA to report on your ethnic mix: 23andMe’s costs £149, FTDNA’s (named the ‘Family Finder’ test) costs £60 and Ancestry.com’s (named ‘AncestryDNA’) costs £79. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that 23andMe’s test also includes a Y DNA analysis and a mitochondrial DNA analysis, so if you’re interested in your paternal and maternal lineage (discussed below), this may be the more cost-effective choice!
I used 23&me, (who has around 80 geographical regions) and while I was disappointed with the nationality results, it was only because I thought they were a bit vague – but in all honesty, I didn’t really know what to expect, so there’s that. Now understanding a little more about the limitations of results from any company, have no problem with what I received.
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.
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.
Doing an DNA test without any research can be extremely disappointing - as there are many geographical regions not represented in some DNA kits. This can cause a disconnect or very inaccurate reporting. Beyond ancestry tests, there are companies that recommend wines or exercise regimens based on your DNA. With all the available options, it’s easy to default to a recognizable name, which isn’t necessarily bad. But certain tests do specific things better. Our goal is to match your expectations with the test that fits best.
FTDNA has the most advanced tools for easily analyzing cousin matches as of now, although it is possible that MyHeritage DNA may catch up. They seem very eager to please customers at this point. FTDNA does fall short when it comes to the ability to sync with developed family trees however. This is certainly not intentional on their part, they have developed some great tools for this purpose, but FTDNA (unlike Ancestry and MyHeritage) does not provide record searches or an online family tree program for the purpose of genealogical research. For this reason they are inherently limited in this regard.
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.
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.
Each of the kits work similarly: You answer a few questions about yourself, order the kit, collect your sample, register the kit (this is very important), send it back, and wait for the results. That said, they differ in the collection process and, to a smaller extent, the cost of shipping. When we tested 23andMe back in mid-2015, the company was unable to accept DNA samples collected in or sent from New York State, because of local laws (we had to cross the border to New Jersey). The company was also prohibited from shipping DNA kits to Maryland.
AncestryDNA is appealing to many because the results can be matched (to some degree) with many well-established family trees, but major privacy concerns (about how your data is used and sold) have been present in the past. For many, this is a deal breaker. They also offer the fewest advanced tools for analyzing data, although their database is very large.
Autosomal DNA Tests: These type of tests have become extremely popular over the last couple of years as prices have dropped and the amount and accuracy of the results has increased. Autosomal testing looks at information across the genome to provide clues to our personal ancestral history on a much broader scale than either mtDNA or Y-DNA testing can. While this type of genetic testing is an ever evolving science, you can expect to get a general breakdown of your ancestors’ geographical origins (your admixture) as well as connections with people who share your ancestry. This can be a unique and exciting way to tear down those brick walls and uncover branches of your family tree you never knew you had. For some, the results can be surprising and enlightening–for others, there can be a simple verification of already known information and even some disappointment in discovering nothing new.