Thank you for this webpage! It is very insightful. I wish I had found it earlier. I did the DNA test through 23andMe, a doctor’s office already had me DNA checked for health (Medical DNA Labs in Tampa, Florida). I am wanting to know more about my genealogy and the report I received from 23andMe shows most concentration from the British Isles so now I will probably do ancestry and maybe Living DNA. You did a fine job in explaining everything, again thanks!
You’re unique. We can help unravel your past through your DNA. DDC offers a range of exciting ancestry  testing services. Whether you’re looking to discover the origins of the maternal or paternal side of your family or you wish to determine your genetic profile and learn how much ancestral DNA you have from European, African, indigenous American or Asian peoples, we have the right test for you.
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 most important part of this process is registering your kit before shipping it. All five services require this, and if you don't do it, you won't be able to access your results. This requirement is to protect your privacy—your name won't appear on the kit or the results—and to easily track your kit as it goes through the process. Of course, when you sign up for an account with these services, your identity will be associated with it, but the sample and any reports stored on the service's end will just have a unique barcode.
DNA test companies that use genotyping technology, including 23andMe and Ancestry, allow you to download your raw DNA file. A raw DNA file is usually a text file that contains all the information about your genetic code gleaned from the company’s examination of your DNA. This is comprised of several hundred thousand markers known as SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms). Most raw files are organized into five columns: the SNP coded into an rsID number, the chromosome the SNP is located on, the location of the SNP on the chromosome and the two alleles for each SNP.
A few of the DNA tests we tested, including the National Geographic Geno 2.0, use genetic sequencing instead of genotyping. Sequencing is newer in the mainstream direct-to-consumer DNA testing market, as it used to cost more and take much longer to sequence a person’s DNA. Sequencing identifies the exact makeup of a certain piece of DNA – be it a short segment or the whole genome. The Helix tests sequence the Exome, which are the parts of the genome responsible for protein production, plus several other regions of interest. DNA sequencing gives more information overall and has more uses in medical testing than genotyping. In the future, more DNA kits may move from genotyping to DNA sequencing as the technology gets cheaper and faster, but for now both are effective ways to look into your geographic ancestry.
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.
Our testers took multiple DNA ancestry tests, and the services returned slightly different results for each person. This doesn’t necessarily mean that any one company is more accurate than another. Every DNA testing service uses its own algorithm and data set – different reference populations drawn from different databases. Nacho Esteban of 24Genetics told us, “Ancestry is not an exact science. The top five companies in the world would show very similar results when talking about continents; the similarity is smaller when talking about countries. In regional ancestry, some border regions are difficult to identify and sometimes there may be discrepancies. So we cannot take the information as something 100% sure. But at the end, it gives a great picture of where our ancestors were from.”
I decided to take the plunge and purchased an AncestryDNA test before Christmas when it was on special offer with free delivery at only £40. When you consider that what you receive in the Kit is a plastic tube with a bit of blue liquid and en envelope to send it back to them, I am glad I did not pay more as these tests are still in the 'baby' fazes of DNA testing and subsequent discussions with people who are experts in the field have discovered that Ancestry is at the bottom of the rung. Of course the test is done in a Lab and people have to be paid, but the standard fee of £80 + shipping is way overpriced.
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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.

A collaboration between scientists, researchers and genetic experts from across the globe, Living DNA has offered ancestry tests since 2016 while parent company, DNA Worldwide Group, has been operating since 2004. Our focus has always been on providing the world’s best collection of British and Irish historical records and while we’ve investigated the DNA market for some time, we hadn’t identified a partner that could truly bridge the gap between genetic genealogy and traditional family history research. Living DNA’s focus on British and Irish DNA makes them our perfect partner.


Our testers took multiple DNA ancestry tests, and the services returned slightly different results for each person. This doesn’t necessarily mean that any one company is more accurate than another. Every DNA testing service uses its own algorithm and data set – different reference populations drawn from different databases. Nacho Esteban of 24Genetics told us, “Ancestry is not an exact science. The top five companies in the world would show very similar results when talking about continents; the similarity is smaller when talking about countries. In regional ancestry, some border regions are difficult to identify and sometimes there may be discrepancies. So we cannot take the information as something 100% sure. But at the end, it gives a great picture of where our ancestors were from.”
Miscellaneous, fun DNA tests: On the not-so-serious side of at-home DNA testing, there is a company that offers wine recommendations based on your genes. Vinome is part of the Helix marketplace. It creates a personalized taste profile for you based on your genes and offers a curated list of wines you can buy through the service. If you buy and rate the wines, Vinome hones in on your preferences and matches you to new products.
I sadly have to agree as after the results appeared in my Ancestry account I was very disappointed to see that they failed to disclose any sign of my Italian heritage at all and even clicking through the Engilsh ethnic breakdown showed absolutely NO connection to any place whatsoever so apparently I am an alien who was dropped here from outer space so I could not recommend this as a service that produces a valid ethnic breakdown at all. Their results graph and click through breakdown are extremely limited, especially after comparing them with other services so from the ethnicity perspective, think they are bordering on false advertising!!
AncestryDNA, 23andMe, HomeDNA, Living DNA, and MyHeritage DNA all provide reports of your ethnicity, some showing maps of where your ancestors lived along with information about the particular countries and regions. National Geographic goes further back, pinpointing where in Africa your ancestors came from and tracing migration patterns through to near-present times. It's less about your personal genetic makeup and more about who your ancestors were and how you're connected to the beginning of civilization.
Hi Mark, Thank you for your article – very helpful. I am adopted from Asian country and live in Australia. I don’t know who my biological parents are and don’t know if I have any siblings. I have been researching through all these websites trying to decide which dna test to take – confused by it all. Your article has helped me to decide on FTDNA (family history and mtDNA) – hoping that it would give me ancestry makeup inherited from my bio parents and ancestry details on my mothers side (as I am female, limited to this test). In… Read more »
It may cost a little more, but I would highly recommend saving the extra and using DNA Tribes® rather than spending over half the cost for minimal tribal/biogeographical pinpointed information. The primary benefit of STR rather than SNP testing is the availability of rich reference data. DNA Tribes® tests industry standard autosomal STR systems, which allow the identification of a person’s DNA profile not shared with any other person. Because these STR markers have been tested and used in the court systems around the world, they allow DNA Tribes® to perform the most thorough comparison of a person’s own DNA profile to over 1,200 ethnic groups (populations) around the world. At present, SNP testing from these other autosomnal DNA testing kits does not yet match the geographical detail of DNA Tribes® autosomal STR analysis.
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.

To prepare to take a cheek swab sample, you also have to refrain from eating for about an hour before. Swab kits generally contain more components, including one or two swabs and containers to protect the used swabs from contamination. We found it easiest to organize all the pieces first, to prevent any fumbling with a sample collection swab in hand. Some cheek cell kits put a stabilizing liquid in the sample containers, which required extra caution to prevent spilling.
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.

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.

McCartney says that anxious people often contact her, saying they wished they hadn’t done the tests. “These companies often say that it’s worth it for the helpful advice. But I can give you really good advice right now without seeing a single test result: be active, have lots of social networks, do work you enjoy, try not to smoke or drink too much, don’t be overweight or underweight, eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Nobody needs to get tests done to get that kind of basic lifestyle advice.”
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