There are three primary forms of commercial DNA tests: paternity tests, ancestry DNA tests and animal tests. All three follow similar analytical procedures but have very different purposes. If you’re looking to test your DNA, you obviously know your reason for doing so, which means it’s just a matter of finding which kit best suits your purpose. For this buying guide we chose to focus exclusively on human DNA testing products, some of which specialize in paternity and others in ancestral DNA.
A DNA test is an analysis of DNA strands to identify matching markers among ancestral strands and will give you an idea of where you come from. Certified laboratory technicians analyze your DNA sample and identify certain markers within your DNA strands. The technicians use these markers to compare your DNA to other strands and identify whether or not you’re related to another person or ethnic group. To learn more about DNA testing read our articles here. Here are some recommendations which take into account the different reasons people will be seeking DNA analysis:
Best Ancestral DNA Test
An ancestry DNA test gives you insight into your bloodline, ethnicity, family tree and ethnic group origins. Ancestry.com is the best ancestral DNA testing for genealogy. Ancestry.com implements the latest technology to create unique algorithms for genetic testing. The company has access to one of the most extensive worldwide genealogical databases. The results for this test take significantly longer than the average paternity test, six to eight weeks, but that is because paternity test labs are managing much less information than Ancestry’s DNA test labs. In contrast, when looking at your ethnicity this lab compares your DNA with thousands of samples.
Ancestry essentially provides a social network for family history. You can access a growing list of DNA member matches and find relatives you didn’t know existed by finding common matches in your family history. If you’re interested in not only knowing your family history but connecting with others, the AncestryDNA kit from Ancestry.com is a great option.
Ancestry.com has almost become synonymous with family history. The AncestryDNA product kit was created by Ancestry.com to help you find out personalized details regarding your ethnicity and familial origins. Experts conduct a DNA test on your small saliva swab to unveil your heritage and allow you to connect with family through their extensive network.
Best Paternity Test on a Budget
Paternity Depot is an affordable, fast and reliable paternity testing service. Like several of the other DNA testing kits in our buying guide, it specializes in providing conclusive results of a child’s direct bloodline. Since lab work is involved in any DNA testing, no service is exactly cheap, but Paternity Depot provides results at a minimum cost with a promise of no hidden fees. In fact, this service is so dedicated to keeping costs down, there is a low price guarantee and it will beat any competitor’s price.
In contrast to ancestry DNA testing, which is seldom something you need quickly, Paternity Depot and other paternity DNA services recognize there are times when you need to know quickly, for legal or personal reasons. This service promises results within five to seven business days of receiving your sample. Like many such services, this lab takes pride in being discreet. You can order online or by calling a toll-free number. If you have questions, it’s nice to have a person you can talk to phone. You receive a kit in the mail and provide a cheek swab for each person who is being tested. Then you send it in and wait for the results.
Paternity Depot was founded with a single mission in mind: providing an affordable paternity test to the greater part of North America. As such, the Paternity Depot Paternity Test is available throughout the continent. In addition to paternity tests, Paternity Depot offers you a variety of relationship test options and has provided over 300,000 successful DNA tests to date. Although it wasn’t designed to help you discover your genetic history in the way an ancestry DNA test can, it does provide conclusive results as to a child’s direct bloodline.
Best Quick Results and Convenience
Identigene is one of the top-selling paternity DNA kits on the market. This is due largely, no doubt, to convenience. You can purchase the kit online from a variety of sources, such as Amazon, or simply purchase a kit at your local drug store. Once you have the kit, you simply take a cheek swab sample, mail it to the Identigene lab and pay an additional fee for processing. This test not only promises 100 percent accuracy but has the quickest turnaround time of any service in this buying guide. It promises results within two business days of receiving your sample.
Identigene provides one of the top-selling paternity DNA kits in the nation, and you can buy the kit either online or in your local drugstore or grocery. The Identigene DNA Paternity Test is a simple process that uses a cheek swab to collect your DNA, which you then can mail to the laboratory for an additional processing fee.
Best Ancient Ancestry Results
National Geographic’s Geno 2.0 offers the most comprehensive and far-reaching ancestral DNA results. Ancestry.com may have the edge on networking with people with common roots, but this service prides itself on providing the richest ancestry information out there. You can dig hundreds or even thousands of years into the past and follow the paths of ancient ancestors. It goes back so far you can find out if you have Neanderthal ancestry with this service. The purchase of this package also has the benefit of supporting the nonprofit work of the National Geographic Society.
The National Geographic Ancestry DNA Testing Kit Geno 2.0 is based upon real-time data processing utilizing cutting-edge tools. The Geno 2.0 kit uses a custom-built genotyping chip to test approximately 150,000 DNA markers, aligning you with your ancestral chain. Using this DNA-test information, you can trace your roots back through hundreds or thousands of years, following the footprints of your ancestors across countries and continents.
We chose only to focus upon services that provide human DNA tests. Most of these are collected through buccal (cheek) swabs, which is the quickest and easiest form of DNA collection. People who are testing DNA are often doing so for personal or legal reasons and discretion is an important consideration. You can usually collect the samples yourself from the privacy of your own home and maintain privacy throughout the process. Taking into account the various types of DNA testing, here are some things to consider:
Ancestry DNA tests are typically slower to process than paternity tests. Part of this is due to the time sensitivity of paternity tests, and part of this is due to the size of the database an ancestry test is using. When you’re looking into your ethnicity, the lab specialists are comparing your DNA with thousands of other samples to identify your deep-seeded roots. In paternity tests, they’re only looking at a couple of samples.
Paternity tests are stressful enough, and they’re often tied up in legal disputes. Because of this, time is usually of the essence. You can typically get your results in a week or less, but some companies offer expedited options. Before buying, look at how quickly you can expect to get your results.
Legal and Forensic Testing
Legal considerations are more relevant to paternity tests, because such tests can be used in court proceedings. In order for a test to be admissible in court, certain procedures must be followed. Some companies accommodate for this, while others explicitly state that their tests cannot be submitted.
A few DNA testing labs offer forensic testing. Forensic tests are slightly more expensive and more complicated than other DNA tests, but samples can be gathered from a variety of sources. Dried blood stains, underwear stains, saliva stains can all be tested, but the results can’t be guaranteed. To increase accuracy, two test samples can be tested and compared to determine if they are from the same person. Usually, each test sample will have to be paid for separately, however.
There are many standards and levels of accreditation for genetic testing labs. Genetic testing is an intensive and complex process, so it’s important that your lab is up to date, safe and secure. It's a good sign when a company has accreditation from organizations like the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST), the College of American Pathologists (CAP) and Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA).
DNA Tests for Pets
Though we focused exclusively on human DNA testing for our buying guide, there are a number of services that perform DNA testing for pets. Regarding testing for dogs, which is one of the most commonly tested animals, the same test is used for mixed and designer breeds or purebreds. If you know the ancestry of your pet, it is easier to customize a wellness plan for your pet’s needs. As with human testing, you can also test for inherited diseases and identify genes that cause allergic reactions to different types of medication.
Technology has made DNA collection and submission quick and easy, which is good news for anyone needing a paternity test or simply wanting to delve into ancestry research on the most personal level. The same technology has led to more competitors in the genetic testing space, which means more options but also more variations in the quality of testing. If you are looking for a paternity test, you will seek results from a very different DNA test lab than if your interest is genealogy DNA testing, but either way you will want to make an informed decision about which company best fits your needs.