You might want to stay away from DNA tests if you or any of your close relatives have committed a crime. Although ancestry DNA testing companies don’t typically share database information with law enforcement, consumer DNA tests may result in future identification. For example, FamilyTreeDNA, which has a database of close to a million samples, has agreed to give the FBI limited access to the company's DNA database. This access consists mainly of consumer-level insights, like matches with other members of the FamilyTreeDNA community who have enabled family matching; by law, however, more in-depth investigation requires a subpoena.
The 23rd pair of chromosomes is comprised of sex chromosomes – X and Y chromosomes that determine whether you’re male (XY) or female (XX). Traits like red-green color blindness, male pattern baldness and hemophilia are specifically linked to X or Y chromosomes and are called sex-linked characteristics. All of those examples, and most other sex-linked traits, are X-linked and more common in males, who only have one X chromosome. Many DNA tests isolate Y DNA in males to show consumers their paternal haplogroup. Since the Y chromosome is directly inherited from father to son, it is possible to trace direct paternal lineage for many generations.

While men can trace both their maternal haplogroup (from mitochondrial DNA) and their paternal haplogroup (through the Y chromosome passed down from their father), women can only trace their maternal haplogroup (through the mitochondrial DNA passed down from their mother). This is because the paternal haplogroup is traced through the Y chromosome, which women do not inherit.
Your review of the various testing companies is misleading and incomplete. The only test that can give information about recent relatives ( 5 generations back only) is the autosomal test. The others only give our ‘deep’ roots out of Africa migration thousands of years ago. But for the autosomal test to provide us names with whom we can contact, we have to give permission to have our email and name listed (and of course so do others). The tests that say we are such-and-such % of this or that ethnicity isn’t very accurate because, keep in mind, the wars and the spoils of wars that humans have been engaged in forever, mean we all have a mixture of genetic material from around the world. I can tell that the author(s) of this review did not really understand what these tests are about.

Thank you for such detailed information. I’m considering buying a DNA ancestry kit for my wife for Christmas (and buying one for myself as well). After reading your article (and many of the wonderful comments), I’m leaning towards the one from Ancestry.com. However, would I still get complete results without a subscription? I looked on their website and it doesn’t say.
Hi, I’m just a bio major, but my genetics professor was just talking about this. These tests are not complete genome sequencing. They only look for SNPs (genetic markers) parts of the genome that tend to have a lot of variation. They determine your ansestry by comparing your markers to those of others in their database, but because their database is always expanding, the numbers change. Its still a good approximation and gets more accurate as more people take it, but if you want to be certain you have to have complete genome sequencing. There is a company called Nebula that does it. Hope that helps.
We bring you over 12 years experience in the industry coupled with best prices and fast results. We guarantee all samples are tested by an ISO 17025 accredited laboratory. Your results will be ready in just 3-5 working days. As we appreciate that quick results mean less stress and anxiety, we also offer an express service with results in 3 working days from receipt of samples at the laboratory. We can organize your DNA test even when test participants live in different locations within the UK or in different countries. We will ensure a quick, seamless and timely process, working closely with our international offices to provide you with the your test results.
Although FamilyTreeDNA is the only DNA testing company openly working with law enforcement, other DNA companies don’t necessarily keep your DNA information private. Many direct-to-consumer DNA testing companies sell your data to third parties. For example, 23andMe shares customer data with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, which uses the information to develop medical treatments. In this case, you can opt out of having your DNA information used for research, and the data is shared only in aggregate.
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. Instead of pulling reference samples directly from the existing database, however, many companies seek out high quality data with special research projects. 23andMe, for example, offers its Global Genetics project, which sends free kits to people with all four grandparents born in certain countries that are underrepresented in the database.

The trick for collecting a saliva sample is to give yourself plenty of time to create enough spit to fill your tube to the fill line (not including any bubbles). You should not eat or drink anything for at least an hour before collecting your sample, so it’s best to plan to collect your sample before eating. Our testers collected samples before lunch and found that thinking about the upcoming meal made saliva production easier, particularly as we collected multiple samples. Planning ahead and making sure you stay hydrated before you collect a saliva sample helps as well.


As it happens, most of the data on 23andMe seems harmless and fun. There are the “Neanderthal variants” (I have fewer of them than 58% of 23andMe customers, thank you very much), the bizarre earwax/earlobes-type data and, apparently, I have the muscle composition generally found in “elite athletes” (fancy). On the downside, my lineage isn’t as exotic as I’d hoped: 99.1% north-western Europe, of which 71% is British/Irish, with just 0.01% “Ashkenazi Jewish” to offset the genetic monotony. At £149, the 23andMe kit isn’t cheap and I’m quite tempted to demand a recount.
I’ve been working on my family tree for decades. When I took the AncestryDNA autosomal test, the ethnic results matched my expectations, with mild variations. I knew my mother was of completely Irish heritage, but I came up 58% Irish, so apparently some of Dad’s British ancestors were Irish, not English, for instance. The section that matched me to other DNA test-takers was also accurate. I recognized a couple of my second cousins listed there. Other people had taken the test but hadn’t created a family tree, so there was no point in contacting them to figure out which ancestors we had in common. Be sure you’ve done some research on your own family–these kits do NOT tell you where you grandparents came from, or their occupations, or their names. They tell you how much of your DNA is common with certain nations or areas. I know I have some Germanic ancestors, so when my kit said “14% West Europe” and that turned out to include Germany, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, and Lichtenstein, it made sense.
When I found out about AncestryDNA, I thought this could be the perfect tool to pinpoint where my family emigrated over the past few hundred years (AncestryDNA can actually go back 1000 years) and give me a focus where to take my search next. When I got the email that my results were ready I felt like a kid on Christmas day. They revealed that I was only 40% British, 25% German and 35% Greek. I’ve now focused my search on these three countries and already discovered ancestors I never knew existed.
Looking at your raw DNA file might not give you any useful information unless you’re looking for a specific marker. You can also upload the file into a third-party DNA databases for information or results beyond what’s available from your testing company. This process is not without risks, as your DNA testing company only ensures the security of your personal information in its own environment. Once you download the file, you’re responsible for the file’s security. However, uploading your raw DNA to a third party database isn’t inherently unsafe — just be cautious.
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. After collecting spit and cheek cells, we mailed all of the tests at the same time and waited for results, noting all communications from the company in the meantime and how long it took each service to notify us that results were ready to view. We collected data based on testers’ impressions of their results, each service’s features and extras, how easy it was to use and navigate the service’s website, along with several other factors. We added this testing data to rigorous research and information gleaned from conversations with representatives from Ancestry, 23andMe, MyHeritageDNA, LivingDNA, Humancode (now owned by Helix) and 24genetics. 

With over 10 million samples in its database, AncestryDNA is one of the largest players in the consumer DNA testing industry. Its DNA ancestry test paired with its extensive genealogical data from family trees and historical records makes Ancestry the perfect destination for a holistic view of your family history. Getting the most out of your AncestryDNA results requires a bit of work, as the DNA test works best in concert with the site’s other available resources. You can use the DNA service without creating a family tree, though the results are much less interesting. Ancestry uses information gleaned from its user’s DNA and family trees to create compelling stories about your family’s recent history and migrations. Testers with European roots could trace their family’s movements across the Atlantic and see what stops they made on their way across the U.S. 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. Our testers received results from Ancestry 35 days after dropping their tubes of spit in the mail. We generally liked the company’s website and found the interface easy-to-use and navigate. While Ancestry does allow you to download your raw DNA data, it does not allow you to upload raw data from tests taken through other companies.


Hello…so I am interested in purchasing a few test for myself, my sister and my brother for Christmas. Primary interest is just seeing what our true roots are. Growing up we have been told we are Native American (Nipmuc tribe) and african american with some roots in Jamaica but I would love to see how accurate that all is. Not really looking to get “connected” to any long lost relatives but it would be great to know where in the world we “originate” from when looking into our ancestry. Which test would be the best for these results? Thank you… Read more »
In Newman’s view, the genie is out of the bottle with home genetic-testing kits. He says that while the kits could potentially provide data in the future, right now, they lack “clinical utility” – they look at genetic variants that, individually, have a very low chance of predicting specific health risks, as there are too many variables: “It’s like the Opportunity Knocks clap-o-meter, with some people further along the scale, and therefore more likely to get the condition and then people at the other end of the scale, who are unlikely to get it.”
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