Pushed by increased visibility, decrease costs and enhancing science, DNA testing has entered the mainstream over the previous 20 years. A DNA test can assist you establish shut family members all the best way again to your earliest ancestors, which may kickstart or improve your understanding of your family history. Although a controversial and thorny matter, some checks declare to disclose your “ethnicity,” and a few providers can make clear your genetic predisposition for illnesses and physiological traits starting from eye shade to your tolerance for cilantro. 

Again within the aughts, a do-it-yourself DNA check value about $1,000. Now, trailblazers akin to 23andMe and Ancestry and upstarts together with Living DNA provide a complicated evaluation of your genetic make-up for a fraction of that. And if you happen to’re buying round Black Friday, on National DNA Day or through the vacation season, you might be able to rating a reasonably severe low cost. 

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There are three kinds of DNA checks — every with its personal explicit strengths, limitations and rationales.

  • An autosomal DNA check is the very best funding for many newbies; it will probably establish family members between 5 and 7 generations again, throughout each maternal and paternal traces. 
  • Solely males can successfully use a Y-DNA check, which identifies male family members on the paternal line reaching again 60,00Zero years; if you happen to’re seeking to hint the historical past of your loved ones’s surname, that is the check to make use of. 
  • And mitochondrial DNA testing, also referred to as mtDNA testing, can decide genetic relationships on a maternal line from as much as 150,00Zero years in the past; each women and men can take the sort of check. 

As soon as you have been examined, every firm will current you with an evaluation of your geographical origin; some declare to have the ability to pinpoint a particular nation, city and even “tribe.” Some may even serve up “matches” from their DNA databases, which will provide you with a head begin on connecting with potential family members, and provide some extent of household tree analysis assist. AncestryDNA, for instance, affords a subscription service that features entry to a whole lot of databases containing start, dying and marriage bulletins, census paperwork, newspaper archives and different historic information. 

Some corporations promote checks designed for particular ethnicities or specialised kits that declare to make clear your optimum skincare routine or weight; others provide checks designed to establish the genetic make-up of your cat or canine. The consultants I spoke to have been doubtful of the efficacy and worth of those checks and really helpful avoiding them.

Although there is no blood concerned with trendy DNA testing — you both swab the within of your cheek or fill a small check tube together with your saliva — there are many causes to be leery of the businesses that promote these kits. Your success in DNA check family tree is essentially depending on supplying extremely private details about your self and your family members — out of your genetic information to your mom’s maiden identify, that conventional cornerstone of password safety. 

Concerns over data privacy and security are well-founded, and consultants warn that regulation — especially in the US — lags far behind the know-how. And you must know that some DNA testing corporations may share data with pharmaceutical companies and law enforcement agencies. Backside line: Suppose critically earlier than volunteering details about your well being historical past and familial connections to any DNA testing firm or group. 

Learn extra: In the future, not even your DNA will be sacred

DNA testing, and family tree extra broadly, includes an advanced combination of genetics, chances and guesswork. The varied DNA testing providers use totally different labs, algorithms, gear and standards to research your genetic materials; although you must count on some extent of overlap between analyses from totally different corporations, they could differ considerably. There’s additionally a component of important mass — the bigger the corporate’s database, the bigger the pattern they use to research your outcomes, and the extra correct your check consequence ought to be. 

We tried a number of the prime DNA testing providers, assessing the breadth and depth of their choices, methodologies, fame and worth. Check out our suggestions beneath. And if you happen to’ve taken any of those DNA checks, inform me about your expertise with it within the feedback beneath.

Searching for extra in-depth information on DNA testing providers normally? Jump to our DNA test kit explainer.


Based in 2006, 23andMe is likely one of the pioneers of DNA testing for shoppers. In 2017 it grew to become the first such service to win the FDA’s approval as a danger screener for illnesses. It has turn out to be one of the vital well-known DNA testing corporations — and well-funded, since taking in a $300 million stake from GlaxoSmithKline, which uses the company’s customer data to research and design new drugs. Nonetheless, the corporate recently announced a round of layoffs, citing a slowdown within the DNA testing market possible attributable to growing considerations about privateness.

23andMe segments its evaluation into three most important classes — well being, ancestry and traits. The basic ancestry and traits test, which is now on sale for $79, contains an evaluation of your genetic make-up together with your areas of origin, maternal and paternal lineage and Neanderthal ancestry. As soon as you choose in, the corporate’s match database — which has greater than 10 million profiles — will establish and provide to attach you with individuals who share a DNA match with you.

The corporate’s DNA health test, which is on sale for $129, provides details about your genetic predisposition for late-onset Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and different illnesses. The service additionally contains evaluation of your provider standing as a possible genetic provider for problems like Cystic Fibrosis and Sickle Cell Anemia in addition to indicators for lactose intolerance and different “wellness” points. The VIP Well being and Ancestry package deal, presently on sale for $429, offers precedence lab processing, premium buyer assist and a customized walkthrough of your outcomes. 

I discovered 23andMe’s web site and cell app very straightforward to navigate and brimming with fascinating, understandable details about each my ancestry and well being in addition to the science of genetics and family tree. The principle dashboard affords intuitive hyperlinks to exploring your ancestry, studying in regards to the genetic dangers for well being situations, constructing out a household tree and connecting with family members. Amongst the entire DNA checks I attempted, 23andMe delivered the very best introduction to my latest and historic family tree together with evaluation of my genetic well being. The one actual disadvantage is that it doesn’t provide built-in entry to historic paperwork.

23andMe does present easy accessibility to a full vary of privateness preferences and consent choices, nevertheless. (That famous, 23andMe’s phrases of service and privateness assertion is among the many most intensive, exceeding 20,00Zero phrases.) You possibly can ask the corporate to retailer your saliva pattern indefinitely for future testing or have them discard it. Having signed off once I first signed up, I subsequently modified my thoughts about giving the corporate permission to share my information with researchers outdoors of 23andMe, and was capable of retract my consent with the clicking of a button.

Learn extra: Ancestry vs. 23andMe: Which DNA testing kit is best for tracing your family history?

Ian Knighton/CNET

Based in Utah within the 1990s, Ancestry.com — the dad or mum firm of AncestryDNA — began out as a publishing and family tree firm. Since then, it has had a considerably tumultuous company existence, having been purchased, offered, publicly traded after which bought by personal fairness teams.

The corporate’s fundamental DNA package service, presently on sale for $59, offers you with an “ethnicity estimate” derived from its proprietary sequencing strategies. It is noteworthy that the corporate’s genetic testing, which is outsourced to Quest Diagnostics, is distinct from most different corporations that use paternal Y chromosome and/or maternal mitochondrial DNA methodologies, and fewer is understood in regards to the explicit standards it makes use of. 

That famous, AncestryDNA says its database incorporates greater than 18 million profiles, making it the biggest of the entire testing providers. The corporate additionally maintains a robust instrument for looking by a whole lot of historic doc databases — however any substantive analysis will shortly convey you to a paywall. Ancestry’s databases are additional bolstered by its partnership with FamilySearch.org, a genealogical information web site run by the Mormon church.

An entry-level membership, which offers entry to greater than 6 billion information within the US, prices $99 for six months or $25 per 30 days, after a free two week trial. The “World Explorer” membership, for $40 per 30 days, broadens your entry to the corporate’s 27 billion worldwide information, and the “All Entry” tier, beginning at $50 per 30 days, contains limitless entry to Ancestry’s historic and modern database of greater than 15,00Zero newspapers and navy information from around the globe. 

AncestryDNA affords a customized well being report with “actionable insights,” entry to genetic counseling assets, a web-based instrument that can assist you map your loved ones’s well being over generations and, beginning in August 2020, a next-generation sequencing service for screening your genetic danger for coronary heart illness, some cancers and blood problems. Nonetheless, the outcomes aren’t diagnostic — although the check consequence have to be accredited by one of many firm’s physicians — and the service doesn’t have FDA approval. For now, 23andMe maintains the benefit relating to introductory DNA testing for well being dangers and genetic screening. However AncestryDNA’s service is especially well-suited for leveraging an introductory DNA evaluation into deep historic analysis to construct out a household tree.

AncestryDNA lets you obtain your full DNA outcomes profile and add the uncooked information into different instruments, and it offers fairly good management over your privateness preferences, although the choices aren’t as granular as others. 

Learn extra: What AncestryDNA taught me about DNA, privacy and the complex world of genetic testing


Based in 2000, FamilyTreeDNA affords a complete suite of stories and interactive instruments to research your DNA and construct a household tree. With a reputable declare to “the world’s most complete DNA matching database,” FamilyTreeDNA affords all three kinds of checks — autosomal DNA, Y-DNA and mtDNA. And it is the only firm to personal and function its personal testing facility: The Gene-by-Gene genetic lab, positioned in Houston.

The corporate’s entry-level “household ancestry” package deal normally prices $79 — however it now on sale for $59. The check outcomes present details about your ethnic and geographic origins, identifies potential family members and affords entry to the corporate’s huge DNA database. I paid $275 for a broad DNA check that included evaluation of my mtDNA and Y-DNA — checks which are presently on sale for $99 and $139, respectively, whenever you purchase them individually — in addition to the “Household Finder,” the corporate’s autosomal check.  

Although the person interface is a little more difficult than what you will discover on different websites, FamilyTreeDNA offers essentially the most full suite of introductory instruments of any supplier I examined. For every sort of check, you might be introduced with matches — I acquired greater than 22,00Zero for my autosomal DNA check — a chromosome browser, migration maps, haplogroups and connections to ancestral reference populations, details about mutations and a hyperlink that lets you obtain your uncooked information. Suffice to say, there are quite a few threads to drag on to find out about your self, your loved ones and your well being. 

FamilyTree additionally affords quite a few higher-end checks, for these thinking about digging deeper, together with a variety of Y-DNA checks that may hint the trail of your male ancestors and the historical past of your surname. The corporate additionally lets you add uncooked DNA information recordsdata from different providers and switch your autosomal data to its database to increase your universe of matches and relationships. 

From a knowledge safety and privateness perspective, there are a number of issues I discover interesting about FamilyTreeDNA. The corporate does its personal DNA testing in home, processing and storing your pattern in its lab. Posted prominently on the entrance web page of its web site is a promise that the corporate won’t ever promote your DNA to 3rd events. Like most different corporations, nevertheless, FamilyTreeDNA might use your combination genetic data for inner analysis and should adjust to requests from regulation enforcement — except you choose out. 

Different DNA testing choices

The three providers above are our prime decisions for the very best DNA check. However they weren’t the one ones we examined. What follows are some further choices, none of which eclipsed the 23andMe, Ancestry or FamilyTreeDNA in any important style. 




Primarily based in Israel, MyHeritage was based in 2003, and like quite a few different providers profiled right here, began out as a family tree software program platform. Over time, it acquired quite a few historic databases and finally added DNA testing in 2016. (MyHeritage outsources its DNA evaluation to FamilyTreeDNA.) In 2018, MyHeritage skilled a security breach, exposing the e-mail addresses and hashed passwords of greater than 92 million customers.

MyHeritage affords a free tier of service that features some fundamental household tree-building and entry to excerpts of historic paperwork. It will not get you too far. 

The essential DNA testing and evaluation service, which is now on sale for $49, contains the same old fare — a report of your genetic make-up throughout the corporate’s 42 supported ethnicities, the identification of family members and connections to them the place potential. All issues thought of, I most popular FamilyTreeDNA’s presentation of my DNA data. However MyHeritage highlighted a primary cousin residing within the US, with whom I shared about 15% of my DNA, and supplied to indicate me her household tree — if I paid a $209 annual subscription price. 

Sure, that is costly — a free 14-day trial is out there — however the firm maintains a formidable on-line database of historic paperwork that features 3.5 billion profiles along with details about over 100 million subscribers and their collective 46 million household bushes. This monumental database is powered by Geni.com, a family tree social media web site that is additionally MyHeritage’s dad or mum firm. According to the New York Times, Geni.com has assembled “the world’s largest, scientifically vetted household tree.” 

In 2019, MyHeritage launched a health screening test much like the one supplied by 23andMe. As a part of this effort, the corporate partnered with PWNHealth, a community of US physicians who oversee the method. I used to be required to finish a private and household well being historical past questionnaire — it was 16 questions — which was then ostensibly reviewed by a physician. Although the corporate says it could suggest a “genetic counseling” session administered by PWNHealth, my well being outcomes have been merely delivered together with my ancestry evaluation.

On the plus facet, I like MyHeritage’s simple entry to a variety of understandable privateness preferences. Nonetheless, total, I discovered MyHeritage’s person interface far much less intuitive and harder to navigate than others. Although the corporate’s providing is broad — it is one of many few to supply a complete analysis database of historic paperwork, DNA evaluation and well being screening — I discovered the mixing amongst them to be a bit clumsy. 

Dwelling DNA


Dwelling DNA

Dwelling DNA describes itself as a “client family tree DNA service that doesn’t promote or share prospects’ DNA or information with third events,” which provides you a way of its priorities — or, at the very least, its sense of consumers’ considerations. LivingDNA’s headquarters within the UK may be a consider its distinctive mission assertion, because it’s topic to the more stringent data and privacy regulations of the GDPR

LivingDNA divides its choices otherwise than others. The $69 autosomal DNA package offers an summary of your ancestry in 80 geographical areas and details about maternal and paternal haplogroups and entry to the corporate’s genetic matching instrument. The $79 “wellbeing package deal” contains stories about your physiological compatibility with nutritional vitamins, meals and train. And the $99 package deal provides you all of it.

Latest ancestry outcomes are introduced with a breakdown of proportion by nation in addition to the share attributable to extra detailed areas, in addition to the origin and migration path of haplogroups. In February 2020, LivingDNA launched an African Ancestry DNA check report that options information on 72 areas in Africa and, in response to the corporate, “5 instances the element of another check in the marketplace.” The report is out there without spending a dime to present prospects. 

That famous, the corporate has a very restricted household match database; an organization consultant declined to present me a particular quantity however stated that it contained lower than 1 million profiles. My spouse, who took the check, returned precisely zero matches. So, if you happen to’re seeking to establish and make connections with family members, there are higher decisions out there. That famous, LivingDNA has a really strong fame for each the standard of its DNA evaluation and privateness phrases amongst skilled genealogists. 

For consultants solely: Complete genome sequencing

There are a selection of corporations — together with Full Genomes, Veritas Genetics, Nebula Genomics and Dante Labs — that may sequence all your DNA, in any other case often known as your genome. This stage of study is suitable for superior customers solely. Not solely is it costly — these checks can run into the 1000’s of {dollars}, in some instances — it requires a complicated understanding of each genetics and a variety of technical instruments required to discover and interpret your outcomes. 

The least costly entire genome checks value about $300. For instance, Full Genome’s 30X check — which scans each focused location of your genome 30 instances on common — is taken into account the usual for a medical evaluation. It prices $1,800.

For most individuals, the primary rationale for sequencing the entire genome is to dive deep into your genetic well being outlook. You possibly can glean your private danger components for illnesses, drug sensitivities and your standing as a provider; that’s, what you would possibly go on to your youngsters. However there are additionally loads of functions for superior genealogical initiatives. 

All of those efforts can be undertaken — to a much less intense diploma — with a number of the extra reasonably priced choices outlined above. However entire genome sequencing offers a considerably extra complete, correct and excessive decision evaluation. 

If you wish to dip your toe into this realm. you would possibly wish to begin with Nebula Genomics. You can even upload an existing DNA sequence from Ancestry or 23andMe’s DNA database and get Nebula’s stories at a decreased worth.  

DNA checks we might keep away from


HomeDNA sells testing kits beneath quite a few manufacturers, together with DNA Origins, and has a retail presence at Walmart, CVS, Ceremony Assist and Walgreens. The corporate’s checks declare to mix genetic analysis and “ancestral monitoring” strategies that may establish the city or village the place your ancestors originated with a excessive diploma of accuracy. Many consultants dispute these claims.

The corporate affords a variety of ancestry testing providers beginning at $69. That is the value level for the maternal and paternal lineage kits and the “Starter Ancestry Check,” which makes use of DNA markers to develop an estimate of your origins in Europe, Indigenous America, East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa — and exhibits you the fashionable inhabitants teams that share your DNA. The $124 “Superior Ancestry Check” expands the evaluation to 80,00Zero autosomal genetic markets, 1,00Zero reference populations and 41 gene swimming pools. 

I will notice that the HomeDNA check package contained no warning about not consuming or ingesting for any time frame previous to taking the check — in contrast to each different package I used. And of the 4 swabs the corporate despatched, one broke. The check package simply did not appear as rigorously hygienic because the others.

For $199, HomeDNA claims that the Asian Version of its GPS Origins Ancestry Check can analyze 17 Asia-specific gene swimming pools and a whole lot of Asia-specific reference populations. Along with a $164 paternity package, the corporate additionally sells quite a lot of particular kits to find out your sensitivities to explicit animals and meals, one that can assist you obtain a wholesome weight, and one other that guarantees to “unlock your pores and skin’s full potential.” 

For $39, the corporate will let you add a uncooked information file from one other DNA testing service and pinpoint your origin to a specific city or metropolis. There are additionally kits that can assist you establish you display screen your canine or cat for genetic illnesses and traits. 

However this firm would not have a sterling fame within the genetic family tree world. Once we just lately spoke with Debbie Kennett, a genetic genealogist from College Faculty London, she referenced the corporate’s notoriety for delivering “weird outcomes” and expressed doubt in regards to the efficacy of its specialised checks for explicit ethnic teams. HomeDNA didn’t reply to CNET’s inquiry about its testing course of or outcomes.

And the HomeDNA stories do not stack up notably nicely towards these returned by different corporations. Outcomes are summarized on a single webpage, although you additionally get a PDF that certifies that you have “undergone DNA testing” and exhibits the continents and nations the place your DNA originates. The corporate additionally throws in a boilerplate 20-page explainer about DNA science and know-how. HomeDNA doesn’t provide entry to any matching databases — so there is no apparent subsequent step or any actionable information that comes together with your outcomes. Given this, I might suggest selecting a unique DNA testing service.  

African Ancestry

Claiming to have essentially the most complete database of African lineages, African Ancestry guarantees to hint its prospects’ ancestry again to a particular nation and establish their “ethnic group origin.” However quite a few skilled genealogists have cited points with this firm’s advertising claims and science. 

In contrast to most different corporations, African Ancestry would not provide an autosomal DNA check. As a substitute, it affords an mtDNA check or a Y-DNA check (for males solely). In distinction to your customary DNA evaluation, African Ancestry’s report would not present the share of DNA that is prone to have originated throughout a variety of areas. As a substitute, African Ancestry claims to hint your DNA to a particular area of Africa. 

In line with consultants, nevertheless, African Ancestry’s DNA checks come up quick. As defined in a blog post by African American genetic genealogist Shannon Christmas, the corporate’s methodology merely would not analyze a adequate variety of DNA markers to ship on its advertising guarantees. 

Moreover, he writes, “Ethnicity is a posh idea, an idea not as rooted in genetics as it’s in sociopolitical and cultural constructs. There isn’t a DNA check that may assign anybody to an African ethnic group or what some check with as an ‘African tribe.'” African Ancestry is not the one firm that claims to have the ability to decide your ethnicity or “ethnic group of origin.” However its declare to slender issues right down to a single “tribe” of origin is overblown, as any African tribe would ostensibly include a number of haplogroups. 

In an electronic mail to CNET, African Ancestry responded: “African Ancestry makes it clear that ethnic teams are social and cultural groupings, not genetic ones. Nonetheless, primarily based on intensive genetic analysis of African lineages carried out by African Ancestry’s co-founder and Scientific Director (who holds a Ph.D. in Biology and makes a speciality of human genetics), we discover that opposite to laymen’s beliefs, there are ethnic teams that share genetic lineages. Our outcomes pinpoint genetic lineages that share the identical genetics as our check takers. Given the huge variety of lineages in our African Lineage Database, we’re capable of present the ethnic teams of the individuals with that shared lineage.”

The corporate’s PatriClan Check analyzes eight Y-chromosome STRs and the YAP, which it says is a important identifier for African lineages; and the MatriClan Check analyzes three areas of the mitochondrial DNA: HVS1, HVS2 and HVS3. However although these checks provide lower-resolution outcomes than others, African Ancestry’s providers are significantly costlier. The corporate’s Y-DNA check and mtDNA checks value $299 every — or you’ll be able to take them each, and get an eight-pack of “certificates of ancestry” and a four-pack of t-shirts, for $729. 

On the plus facet, African Ancestry says that it doesn’t preserve a database of buyer data and that it’s going to not share or promote your DNA sequence or markers with any third social gathering — together with regulation enforcement businesses. The corporate’s phrases and situations run to simply over 2,200 phrases, making them significantly extra concise than the disclosure statements of most different corporations we included on this roundup. And African Ancestry guarantees to destroy your DNA pattern after your check outcomes are delivered.

That stated, even if you happen to settle for the corporate’s tackle tribal and ethnic genetic markers, African Ancestry stays too costly to suggest at its present worth.

DNA testing: What it is advisable know

In the event you’re utilizing a house DNA testing service, you are possible on the lookout for one in every of three issues:

Ancestry and household historical past: The primary large draw of a full DNA check is that you’re going to get an in depth breakdown on ancestry and ethnicity, and the migration patterns of your widespread ancestors. Spoiler alert: Your ethnic background could also be radically totally different than you assume it’s. You may additionally discover out what a haplogroup is.

Relative identification: Along with your permission, some DNA providers will allow you to join with family members you by no means knew you had — folks with matching DNA who’ve used the service and likewise given their permission to connect with potential relations.  

Well being and illness information: DNA testing may also point out which situations for which you will have a preponderance. It is a controversial characteristic, to make sure. Realizing that you’ve a genetic predisposition to a sure type of most cancers might make you extra vigilant for testing, however it could additionally result in elevated stress — worrying a few potential well being situation which will by no means develop, even if you happen to’re “genetically prone” to it. The potential for false positives and false negatives abound — any such data ought to be mentioned together with your physician earlier than you act upon it.

How DNA checks work

Afraid of needles and drawing blood? Excellent news: That is not a difficulty with these checks. All it is advisable do is spit right into a vial or rub a swab in your mouth — all of the genetic information wanted for these checks is current in your saliva — and ship the DNA pattern to the corporate for evaluation. 

The explanation {that a} saliva pattern works in addition to blood (or hair follicles or pores and skin samples) is that your DNA — which is brief for deoxyribonucleic acid — is current in all of them. It is the essential genetic code current in all your cells that makes up your key attributes, from the colour of your eyes to the form of your ears to how prone you might be to ldl cholesterol.

The important thing phrases it is advisable know when evaluating DNA testing providers are:

SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism): Genotyping is completed by measuring genetic variation. One of many extra widespread is SNP genotyping, which measures the variations of a single nucleotide polymorphism. The extra of those an organization measures, the extra granular the evaluation.

Autosomal DNA testing: An autosomal check that is efficient for women and men, and which traces lineage again by each maternal and paternal bloodlines.

Y-DNA: The Y-DNA check can solely be administered to males, and traces DNA again by the patrilineal ancestry — mainly from father to grandfather to nice grandfather and so forth.

mtDNA: The mtDNA is matrilineal and allows you to hint your ancestry again by your mom, grandmother, nice grandmother and so forth. 

Learn extra

David Gewirtz contributed to this story. The present model is a serious replace of previous revisions, and contains hands-on impressions of a lot of the providers listed.

The data contained on this article is for instructional and informational functions solely and isn’t meant as well being or medical recommendation. All the time seek the advice of a doctor or different certified well being supplier relating to any questions you will have a few medical situation or well being goals.


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