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

Again within the aughts, a do-it-yourself DNA take a look at price about $1,000. Now, trailblazers resembling 23andMe and Ancestry and upstarts together with Living DNA provide a classy evaluation of your genetic make-up for a fraction of that. And for those who’re purchasing round Black Friday, on National DNA Day or through the vacation season, you could possibly rating a fairly severe low cost. 

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

  • An autosomal DNA take a look at is the perfect funding for many inexperienced persons; it may possibly establish family between 5 and 7 generations again, throughout each maternal and paternal traces. 
  • Solely males can successfully use a Y-DNA take a look at, which identifies male family on the paternal line reaching again 60,00Zero years; for those who’re seeking to hint the historical past of your loved ones’s surname, that is the take a look at 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 one of these take a look at. 

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 can even serve up “matches” from their DNA databases, which provides you with a head begin on connecting with attainable family, and provide a point of household tree analysis assist. AncestryDNA, for instance, provides a subscription service that features entry to a whole bunch of databases containing start, dying and marriage bulletins, census paperwork, newspaper archives and different historic information. 

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

Although there isn’t any blood concerned with fashionable DNA testing — you both swab the within of your cheek or fill a small take a look at tube along with your saliva — there are many causes to be leery of the businesses that promote these kits. Your success in DNA take a look at family tree is essentially depending on supplying extremely private details about your self and your family — 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 specialists warn that regulation — especially in the US — lags far behind the know-how. And it’s best to know that some DNA testing corporations may share data with pharmaceutical companies and law enforcement agencies. Backside line: Assume 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 investigate your genetic materials; although it’s best to count on a point of overlap between analyses from totally different corporations, they might differ considerably. There’s additionally a component of crucial mass — the bigger the corporate’s database, the bigger the pattern they use to investigate your outcomes, and the extra correct your take a look at end result ought to be. 

We tried among the prime DNA testing providers, assessing the breadth and depth of their choices, methodologies, repute and worth. Check out our suggestions under. And for those who’ve taken any of those DNA exams, inform me about your expertise with it within the feedback under.

In search of extra in-depth information on DNA testing providers typically? Jump to our DNA test kit explainer.


Based in 2006, 23andMe is without doubt one of the pioneers of DNA testing for customers. In 2017 it turned the first such service to win the FDA’s approval as a danger screener for ailments. It has develop into one of the crucial 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 seemingly brought on by rising issues about privateness.

23andMe segments its evaluation into three predominant classes — well being, ancestry and traits. The basic ancestry and traits test, which is now on sale for $79, consists of an evaluation of your genetic make-up together with your areas of origin, maternal and paternal lineage and Neanderthal ancestry. As soon as you decide 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 ailments. The service additionally consists of evaluation of your service standing as a possible genetic service for issues like Cystic Fibrosis and Sickle Cell Anemia in addition to indicators for lactose intolerance and different “wellness” points. The VIP Well being and Ancestry bundle, at the moment 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 primary dashboard provides intuitive hyperlinks to exploring your ancestry, studying concerning the genetic dangers for well being situations, constructing out a household tree and connecting with family. Amongst the entire DNA exams I attempted, 23andMe delivered the perfect 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 in depth, exceeding 20,00Zero phrases.) You’ll be able to 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 exterior of 23andMe, and was capable of retract my consent with the press 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 father or mother 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 primary DNA package service, at the moment on sale for $59, offers you with an “ethnicity estimate” derived from its proprietary sequencing methods. 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 concerning the explicit standards it makes use of. 

That famous, AncestryDNA says its database accommodates greater than 18 million profiles, making it the most important of the entire testing providers. The corporate additionally maintains a strong device for looking by way of a whole bunch 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 thirty days, after a free two week trial. The “World Explorer” membership, for $40 per thirty days, broadens your entry to the corporate’s 27 billion worldwide information, and the “All Entry” tier, beginning at $50 per thirty days, consists of limitless entry to Ancestry’s historic and up to date database of greater than 15,00Zero newspapers and navy information from around the globe. 

AncestryDNA provides a customized well being report with “actionable insights,” entry to genetic counseling assets, a web-based device that will help 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 issues. Nonetheless, the outcomes will not be diagnostic — although the take a look at end result should be authorized 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 permits you to obtain your full DNA outcomes profile and add the uncooked information into different instruments, and it offers moderately good management over your privateness preferences, although the choices will not be as granular as others. 

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


Based in 2000, FamilyTreeDNA provides a complete suite of reviews and interactive instruments to investigate your DNA and construct a household tree. With a reputable declare to “the world’s most complete DNA matching database,” FamilyTreeDNA provides all three kinds of exams — 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, situated in Houston.

The corporate’s entry-level “household ancestry” bundle normally prices $79 — but it surely now on sale for $59. The take a look at outcomes present details about your ethnic and geographic origins, identifies potential family and provides entry to the corporate’s huge DNA database. I paid $275 for a broad DNA take a look at that included evaluation of my mtDNA and Y-DNA — exams which might be at the moment on sale for $99 and $139, respectively, if you purchase them individually — in addition to the “Household Finder,” the corporate’s autosomal take a look at.  

Although the consumer interface is a little more difficult than what you may discover on different websites, FamilyTreeDNA offers probably the most full suite of introductory instruments of any supplier I examined. For every kind of take a look at, you might be offered with matches — I received greater than 22,00Zero for my autosomal DNA take a look at — a chromosome browser, migration maps, haplogroups and connections to ancestral reference populations, details about mutations and a hyperlink that permits you to 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 provides various higher-end exams, for these focused on digging deeper, together with a variety of Y-DNA exams that may hint the trail of your male ancestors and the historical past of your surname. The corporate additionally permits you to add uncooked DNA information recordsdata from different providers and switch your autosomal data to its database to broaden 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 could use your mixture genetic data for inner analysis and will adjust to requests from regulation enforcement — except you decide out. 

Different DNA testing choices

The three providers above are our prime selections for the perfect DNA take a look at. However they weren’t the one ones we examined. What follows are some extra 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 various different providers profiled right here, began out as a family tree software program platform. Over time, it acquired various 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 provides a free tier of service that features some primary household tree-building and entry to excerpts of historic paperwork. It will not get you too far. 

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

Sure, that is costly — a free 14-day trial is on the market — however the firm maintains a powerful 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 timber. This huge database is powered by Geni.com, a family tree social media web site that is additionally MyHeritage’s father or mother 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 just 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 health care provider. Although the corporate says it might suggest a “genetic counseling” session administered by PWNHealth, my well being outcomes have been merely delivered together with my ancestry evaluation.

On the plus aspect, I like MyHeritage’s easy entry to a variety of understandable privateness preferences. Nonetheless, general, I discovered MyHeritage’s consumer interface far much less intuitive and tougher 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 combination amongst them to be a bit clumsy. 

Residing DNA


Residing DNA

Residing DNA describes itself as a “shopper family tree DNA service that doesn’t promote or share prospects’ DNA or information with third events,” which supplies you a way of its priorities — or, at the least, its sense of consumers’ issues. LivingDNA’s headquarters within the UK might also be a think about its distinctive mission assertion, because it’s topic to the more stringent data and privacy regulations of the GDPR

LivingDNA divides its choices another way than others. The $69 autosomal DNA package offers an outline of your ancestry in 80 geographical areas and details about maternal and paternal haplogroups and entry to the corporate’s genetic matching device. The $79 “wellbeing bundle” consists of reviews about your physiological compatibility with nutritional vitamins, meals and train. And the $99 bundle offers you all of it.

Latest ancestry outcomes are offered with a breakdown of share 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 take a look at report that options information on 72 areas in Africa and, in keeping with the corporate, “5 instances the element of every other take a look at in the marketplace.” The report is on the market totally free to current prospects. 

That famous, the corporate has a very restricted household match database; an organization consultant declined to present me a particular quantity however mentioned that it contained lower than 1 million profiles. My spouse, who took the take a look at, returned precisely zero matches. So, for those who’re seeking to establish and make connections with family, there are higher selections available in the market. That famous, LivingDNA has a really stable repute for each the standard of its DNA evaluation and privateness phrases amongst skilled genealogists. 

For specialists solely: Complete genome sequencing

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

The least costly entire genome exams price about $300. For instance, Full Genome’s 30X take a look at — 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 principle rationale for sequencing the entire genome is to dive deep into your genetic well being outlook. You’ll be able to glean your private danger elements for ailments, drug sensitivities and your standing as a service; that’s, what you would possibly move on to your youngsters. However there are additionally loads of purposes for superior genealogical initiatives. 

All of those efforts may also be undertaken — to a much less intense diploma — with among the extra inexpensive 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 need to begin with Nebula Genomics. You can even upload an existing DNA sequence from Ancestry or 23andMe’s DNA database and get Nebula’s reviews at a decreased worth.  

DNA exams we would keep away from


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

The corporate provides 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 Take a look at,” which makes use of DNA markers to develop an estimate of your origins in Europe, Indigenous America, East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa — and reveals you the fashionable inhabitants teams that share your DNA. The $124 “Superior Ancestry Take a look at” expands the evaluation to 80,00Zero autosomal genetic markets, 1,00Zero reference populations and 41 gene swimming pools. 

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

For $199, HomeDNA claims that the Asian Version of its GPS Origins Ancestry Take a look at can analyze 17 Asia-specific gene swimming pools and a whole bunch 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 will help 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 selected city or metropolis. There are additionally kits that will help you establish you display your canine or cat for genetic ailments and traits. 

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

And the HomeDNA reviews do not stack up significantly nicely towards these returned by different corporations. Outcomes are summarized on a single webpage, although you additionally get a PDF that certifies that you’ve got “undergone DNA testing” and reveals the continents and international locations 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 isn’t any apparent subsequent step or any actionable information that comes along with your outcomes. Given this, I would suggest selecting a distinct DNA testing service.  

African Ancestry

Claiming to have probably 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 various skilled genealogists have cited points with this firm’s advertising and marketing claims and science. 

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

In response to specialists, nevertheless, African Ancestry’s DNA exams come up brief. As defined in a blog post by African American genetic genealogist Shannon Christmas, the corporate’s methodology merely would not analyze a ample variety of DNA markers to ship on its advertising and marketing guarantees. 

Moreover, he writes, “Ethnicity is a fancy idea, an idea not as rooted in genetics as it’s in sociopolitical and cultural constructs. There isn’t a DNA take a look at that may assign anybody to an African ethnic group or what some confer 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 slim issues all the way down to a single “tribe” of origin is overblown, as any African tribe would ostensibly include a number of haplogroups. 

In an e-mail to CNET, African Ancestry responded: “African Ancestry makes it clear that ethnic teams are social and cultural groupings, not genetic ones. Nevertheless, based mostly on in depth genetic analysis of African lineages carried out by African Ancestry’s co-founder and Scientific Director (who holds a Ph.D. in Biology and focuses on 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 take a look at takers. Given the huge variety of lineages in our African Lineage Database, we’re capable of present the ethnic teams of the folks with that shared lineage.”

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

On the plus aspect, African Ancestry says that it doesn’t keep a database of buyer data and that it’ll not share or promote your DNA sequence or markers with any third celebration — together with regulation enforcement companies. 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 take a look at outcomes are delivered.

That mentioned, even for those who 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 to know

In case you’re utilizing a house DNA testing service, you are seemingly searching for considered one of three issues:

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

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

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

How DNA exams work

Afraid of needles and drawing blood? Excellent news: That is not a problem with these exams. All it is advisable to do is spit right into a vial or rub a swab in your mouth — all of the genetic information wanted for these exams 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 your whole cells that makes up your key attributes, from the colour of your eyes to the form of your ears to how inclined you might be to ldl cholesterol.

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

SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism): Genotyping is finished by measuring genetic variation. One of many extra frequent 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 take a look at that is efficient for women and men, and which traces lineage again by way of each maternal and paternal bloodlines.

Y-DNA: The Y-DNA take a look at can solely be administered to males, and traces DNA again by way of the patrilineal ancestry — principally from father to grandfather to nice grandfather and so forth.

mtDNA: The mtDNA is matrilineal and allows you to hint your ancestry again by way of 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 consists of hands-on impressions of a lot of the providers listed.

The knowledge contained on this article is for academic and informational functions solely and isn’t meant as well being or medical recommendation. At all times seek the advice of a doctor or different certified well being supplier concerning any questions you’ll have a few medical situation or well being targets.


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