Pushed by greater visibility, decrease costs and enhancing science, DNA testing has entered the mainstream over the previous 20 years. A DNA test will 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 matter, some assessments declare to disclose your “ethnicity,” and a few providers can make clear your genetic predisposition for illnesses and physiological traits starting from eye colour to your tolerance for cilantro. 

Again within the aughts, a do-it-yourself DNA check value about $1,000. Now, trailblazers reminiscent of 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 purchasing round Black Friday, on National DNA Day or in the course of the vacation season, you might be able to rating a reasonably severe low cost. 

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

  • An autosomal DNA check is the perfect funding for many inexperienced persons; it may establish family between 5 and 7 generations again, throughout each maternal and paternal strains. 
  • Solely males can successfully use a Y-DNA check, which identifies male family on the paternal line reaching again 60,00Zero years; if you happen to’re trying 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 such a check. 

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

Some corporations promote assessments designed for particular ethnicities or specialised kits that declare to make clear your optimum skincare routine or weight; others provide assessments 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 assessments and advisable avoiding them.

Although there is not any blood concerned with trendy DNA testing — you both swab the within of your cheek or fill a small check tube along 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 — out of your genetic knowledge to your mom’s maiden title, 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 expertise. And it is 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, entails an advanced combination of genetics, chances and guesswork. The assorted DNA testing providers use totally different labs, algorithms, gear and standards to research your genetic materials; although it is best to anticipate a point of overlap between analyses from totally different corporations, they might differ considerably. There’s additionally a component of vital mass — the bigger the corporate’s database, the bigger the pattern they use to research your outcomes, and the extra correct your check end result ought to be. 

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

On the lookout for extra in-depth data on DNA testing providers generally? Jump to our DNA test kit explainer.


Based in 2006, 23andMe is among the pioneers of DNA testing for customers. 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 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 doubtless 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 illnesses. 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 package deal, at present 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 cellular app very simple 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 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. Amongst the entire DNA assessments I attempted, 23andMe delivered the perfect introduction to my current and historic family tree together with evaluation of my genetic well being. The one actual downside is that it doesn’t provide built-in entry to historic paperwork.

23andMe does present quick access to a full vary of privateness preferences and consent choices, nonetheless. (That famous, 23andMe’s phrases of service and privateness assertion is among the many most intensive, 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 after I first signed up, I subsequently modified my thoughts about giving the corporate permission to share my knowledge with researchers exterior 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 primary DNA equipment service, at present 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 thought in regards to the explicit standards it makes use of. 

That famous, AncestryDNA says its database comprises greater than 18 million profiles, making it the biggest of the entire testing providers. The corporate additionally maintains a strong device for looking via a whole bunch of historic doc databases — however any substantive analysis will shortly deliver you to a paywall. Ancestry’s databases are additional bolstered by its partnership with FamilySearch.org, a genealogical data website run by the Mormon church.

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

AncestryDNA affords 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 usually are not diagnostic — although the check end result have to 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 lets you obtain your full DNA outcomes profile and add the uncooked knowledge into different instruments, and it offers fairly good management over your privateness preferences, although the choices usually are not 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 forms of assessments — 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 — but it surely now on sale for $59. The check outcomes present details about your ethnic and geographic origins, identifies potential family and affords entry to the corporate’s large DNA database. I paid $275 for a broad DNA check that included evaluation of my mtDNA and Y-DNA — assessments which might be at present on sale for $99 and $139, respectively, while you purchase them individually — in addition to the “Household Finder,” the corporate’s autosomal check.  

Although the consumer interface is a little more difficult than what you may discover on different websites, FamilyTreeDNA offers essentially the most full suite of introductory instruments of any supplier I examined. For every kind of check, you’re introduced with matches — I obtained 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 knowledge. Suffice to say, there are quite a few threads to tug on to study your self, your loved ones and your well being. 

FamilyTree additionally affords a variety of higher-end assessments, for these fascinated with digging deeper, together with a spread of Y-DNA assessments that may hint the trail of your male ancestors and the historical past of your surname. The corporate additionally lets you add uncooked DNA knowledge 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, nonetheless, FamilyTreeDNA could use your combination genetic data for inner analysis and will adjust to requests from legislation enforcement — until you decide out. 

Different DNA testing choices

The three providers above are our prime decisions for the perfect DNA check. 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 trend. 




Primarily based in Israel, MyHeritage was based in 2003, and like a variety of different providers profiled right here, began out as a family tree software program platform. Over time, it acquired a variety of 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 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 doable. All issues thought-about, I most well-liked 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 payment. 

Sure, that is costly — a free 14-day trial is obtainable — 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 website 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 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 physician. Although the corporate says it might advocate 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 simple entry to a spread of understandable privateness preferences. Nonetheless, total, I discovered MyHeritage’s consumer 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. 

Residing DNA


Residing DNA

Residing DNA describes itself as a “client family tree DNA service that doesn’t promote or share clients’ DNA or knowledge with third events,” which supplies you a way of its priorities — or, not less than, its sense of consumers’ issues. LivingDNA’s headquarters within the UK might also 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 equipment 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 package deal” consists of stories about your physiological compatibility with nutritional vitamins, meals and train. And the $99 package deal offers you all of it.

Latest ancestry outcomes are introduced 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 check report that options knowledge on 72 areas in Africa and, in response to the corporate, “5 instances the element of some other check in the marketplace.” The report is obtainable totally free to present clients. 

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

For consultants 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 entire 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 assessments can run into the hundreds of {dollars}, in some instances — it requires a complicated understanding of each genetics and a spread of technical instruments required to discover and interpret your outcomes. 

The least costly entire genome assessments 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 scientific 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’ll be able to glean your private danger elements for illnesses, drug sensitivities and your standing as a service; that’s, what you would possibly cross 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 a few 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 may as well upload an existing DNA sequence from Ancestry or 23andMe’s DNA database and get Nebula’s stories at a diminished worth.  

DNA assessments we might keep away from


HomeDNA sells testing kits underneath a variety of manufacturers, together with DNA Origins, and has a retail presence at Walmart, CVS, Ceremony Help and Walgreens. The corporate’s assessments 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 spread of ancestry testing providers beginning at $69. That is the worth 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 trendy 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 equipment contained no warning about not consuming or ingesting for any time frame previous to taking the check — not like each different equipment I used. And of the 4 swabs the corporate despatched, one broke. The check equipment 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 bunch of Asia-specific reference populations. Along with a $164 paternity equipment, 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 assist you to add a uncooked knowledge 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 screen your canine or cat for genetic illnesses and traits. 

However this firm would not have a sterling popularity within the genetic family tree world. Once we not too long ago spoke with Debbie Kennett, a genetic genealogist from College School London, she referenced the corporate’s notoriety for delivering “weird outcomes” and expressed doubt in regards to the efficacy of its specialised assessments 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 significantly effectively 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 expertise. HomeDNA doesn’t provide entry to any matching databases — so there is not any apparent subsequent step or any actionable knowledge that comes along with your outcomes. Given this, I would advocate 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 clients’ ancestry again to a selected nation and establish their “ethnic group origin.” However a variety of 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 commonplace DNA evaluation, African Ancestry’s report would not present the share of DNA that is more likely to have originated throughout a spread of areas. As a substitute, African Ancestry claims to hint your DNA to a selected area of Africa. 

In keeping with consultants, nonetheless, African Ancestry’s DNA assessments 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 ample 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 is no such thing as a DNA check 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 slender issues right down to a single “tribe” of origin is overblown, as any African tribe would ostensibly comprise 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. Nevertheless, based mostly 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 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 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 vital identifier for African lineages; and the MatriClan Check analyzes three areas of the mitochondrial DNA: HVS1, HVS2 and HVS3. However although these assessments provide lower-resolution outcomes than others, African Ancestry’s providers are significantly dearer. The corporate’s Y-DNA check and mtDNA assessments value $299 every — or you possibly can 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 occasion — together with legislation 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 check outcomes are delivered.

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

DNA testing: What you want to know

Should you’re utilizing a house DNA testing service, you are doubtless searching for certainly one of three issues:

Ancestry and household historical past: The primary huge draw of a full DNA check is that you will 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 suppose 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 — other people with matching DNA who’ve used the service and likewise given their permission to connect with doable relations.  

Well being and illness data: DNA testing may also point out which situations for which you might have a preponderance. It is a controversial function, to make certain. Understanding that you’ve got 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 couple of potential well being situation that will by no means develop, even if you happen to’re “genetically inclined” to it. The potential for 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 assessments work

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

The rationale {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 entire cells that makes up your key attributes, from the colour of your eyes to the form of your ears to how inclined you’re to ldl cholesterol.

The important thing phrases you want to know when evaluating DNA testing providers are:

SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism): Genotyping is finished 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 via each maternal and paternal bloodlines.

Y-DNA: The Y-DNA check can solely be administered to males, and traces DNA again via 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 via your mom, grandmother, nice grandmother and so forth. 

Learn extra

David Gewirtz contributed to this story. The present model is a significant replace of previous revisions, and consists of 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 supposed 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 might have a couple of medical situation or well being aims.


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