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Best DNA testing kit 2019: Unravel your ancestry

DNA Testing

The best DNA testing kits will help you dig up the long forgotten roots of your family history, enabling you to trace your family story, uncover your ethnicity and more. 

With a DNA testing kit, it's easier than ever to delve into your genetic ancestry to discover who you are and where you come from – but there are a lot of options, and it can be difficult to know which is the right one for you. In this guide, we'll untangle the mystifying language around genealogy, and help you choose the best DNA testing kit for your specific research goals. 

So what's the best DNA testing kit right now? We think its 23andMe, which offers the broadest mix of services, including family matching, ancestry percentages and optional heath insights. 

If you’re particularly interested in your genealogy, though, try the AncestryDNA kit, which provides more detail around your gene pool and family tree. Alternatively, the National Geographic Geno 2.0 DNA kit has the best historical context, helping link your genes to historical periods going back up to 100,000 years.

1. 23andMe: best overall

23andMe

(Image credit: Future)

23andMe

Best DNA kit for accuracy and geographic reach

Available geographic regions: >1000 | Database size: >5 million | Sample type: Saliva | Genetic relative connections: Yes | Online family trees: Limited

Tests autosomal, mitochondrial and Y-DNA
Ancestry timeline
Optional health test is FDA approved
Fewer genealogy resources than others
Cannot upload raw data
Upgrading is expensive

23andMe is an excellent DNA ancestry test because of its highly specific results and vast geographic reach – it serves more than 1,000 geographic regions worldwide. The service tests autosomal, mitochondrial and Y-DNA to give you a complete picture of your genes.

Four testers took 23andMe DNA kits during testing. We received our results 32 days later, and testers were highly satisfied with the overall experience, from ease of sample collection to the thoroughness of the results. Recently, the company updated its database and increased the number of geographic regions from around 170 to more than 1,000. The updated ancestry reports are also more detailed, especially for non-European regions. 23andMe’s ancestry tests give you information split into several different reports spanning your ancestry composition, maternal and paternal haplogroups, neanderthal ancestry and DNA family. Testers particularly liked the timeline feature, which estimates when your most recent ancestor lived in each of your matched regions. 

While 23andMe does offer DNA relative matching and some tools to compare your genes to your DNA relatives, it doesn’t have robust genealogy tools, as its focus rests more in personal discovery and exploration. To that end, 23andMe has an optional health upgrade that provides reports on DNA traits like hair color and genetic predispositions to certain illnesses and diseases. It is the only DNA test with FDA approval for testing genes linked to conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, late-onset Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. If you’re interested in the health portion of the test, we recommend buying the Health + Ancestry test together, as this option costs less than upgrading later.

Read our review: 23andMe Ancestry

2. MyHeritage: best value

(Image credit: MyHeritage)

MyHeritage

Best DNA testing kit for free uploads to an international database

Available geographic regions: 42 | Database size: 1.75 million | Sample type: Cheek swab | Genetic relative connections: Yes | Online family trees: Yes

Quick turnaround
Can upload raw data for free
Cheaper than other tests
Gaps in geographical coverage
Smaller family-matching database
Fewer tools and features than others

For about $20 less than other DNA ancestry services, MyHeritage DNA gives you an ethnicity estimate and access to DNA matches. It’s true value, however, lies in its free raw DNA uploads.

If you’ve already taken a test with another company, MyHeritage lets you upload your raw data to its database for free. This feature is particularly useful if you’re looking for lost relatives, as you can pay slightly more for one test with Ancestry or 23andMe, which have larger databases, but still access MyHeritage’s database as well, which has 1.75 million users as of October 2018.

With a 16-day turnaround, MyHeritage DNA was one of the first companies to send back our test results, but I found the contents of my ancestry report to be a bit off, especially when compared to my geographic ancestry reports from other companies. I was born in Korea and therefore expected at least a little of my Korean heritage to make it onto my ancestry map, as it did with other services, but MyHeritage didn’t report any Korean heritage. 

Instead, MyHeritage DNA reported I that I’m of Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese, and Mongolian descent. As I was looking for a reason to explain the discrepancy between tests, I discovered that there are large swaths of the map not covered by any of the service’s ancestral regions. The Korean peninsula is one of those areas, as are southern regions in South America, Africa and almost all of Australia and Russia. The oversight seems odd because MyHeritage could have easily included these missed areas inside a larger, generalized region instead of completely omitting them.

Read our review: MyHeritage DNA

3. AncestryDNA: best for genealogy

AncestryDNA

(Image credit: Ancestry)

AncestryDNA

A DNA testing kit that is the best for making family histories

Available geographic regions: >500 | Database size: >15 million | Sample type: Saliva | Genetic relative connections: Yes | Online family trees: Yes

Largest sample database
Recent history and migrations
Robust genealogy resources
Cannot upload raw data
Relatively long turnaround
Weak non-European heritage data

With over 15 million samples in its database, AncestryDNA is one of the largest players in the consumer DNA testing industry. Its DNA ancestry test paired with its extensive genealogical data from family trees and historical records makes Ancestry the perfect destination for a holistic view of your family history.

Getting the most out of your AncestryDNA results requires a bit of work, as the DNA test works best in concert with the site’s other available resources. You can use the DNA service without creating a family tree, though the results are much less interesting. Ancestry uses information gleaned from its user’s DNA and family trees to create compelling stories about your family’s recent history and migrations. Testers with European roots could trace their family’s movements across the Atlantic and see what stops they made on their way across the U.S.

I took the AncestryDNA test in 2016 and was disappointed by my initial report, which put my results into a giant area encompassing at least 15 countries labeled “Asia East.” Since then, Ancestry has updated its algorithm and reference population to make its results more specific, with 500 geographic regions supported.

Our testers received results from Ancestry 35 days after dropping their tubes of spit in the mail. We generally liked the company’s website and found the interface easy-to-use and navigate. While Ancestry does allow you to download your raw DNA data, it does not allow you to upload raw data from tests taken through other companies.

Read our review: Ancestry DNA

4. National Geographic Geno 2.0: best for history buffs

National Geographic Geno 2.0

(Image credit: Future)

National Geographic Geno 2.0

A DNA testing kit that is excellent for discovering your family's past

Available geographic regions: 22 | Database size: >950,000 | Sample type: Saliva | Genetic relative connections: Yes | Online family trees: No

Easy registration
Genius matches
Variety of DNA history information
No family matching
Cannot download raw data

The National Geographic database doesn’t specialize in finding long lost relatives, but the Geno 2.0 test does give you plenty of information linking you and your DNA to the past.

With autosomal, mitochondrial and Y-DNA genotyping, the Geno 2.0 test examines your ancestry in three time periods, including your Regional Ancestry report, which spans 500 to 10,000 years ago. The test also delves into your Deep Ancestry through your maternal and paternal line haplogroups and you Hominin Ancestry, which tells you how much Neanderthal DNA is hanging out in your genetic code. One quirky but interesting feature explores possible relations to famous geniuses throughout history and estimates how many thousands of years ago you shared a common ancestor with Abraham Lincoln or Charles Darwin.

Testers appreciated the amount of information and context given with each report. For example, the regional ancestry report matches your DNA to broad world regions on a map, but it also compares your DNA to two more-specific reference populations. My regions were Northeastern Asia and South China Sea, which fit the Korean and Japanese reference populations. Another tester was matched to 11 geographic regions throughout Europe, North America and West Asia, and they were matched to Argentinian and Puerto Rican reference populations.

The Geno 2.0 test uses a Helix spit-tube test, which is extremely easy to register. It took National Geographic 27 days to notify testers of results. Because Helix uses exome sequencing instead of the more-common genotyping, you cannot download your raw DNA information from this test to upload into other databases. You can, however, purchase more DNA apps from the Helix Marketplace to run your data through partner databases without submitting additional samples.

Read our review: National Geographic Geno 2.0

5. LivingDNA: best for British ancestry

Living DNA

(Image credit: Future)

Living DNA

A great DNA testing kit for families with British ancestry

Available geographic regions: 80 | Database size: >200,00 | Sample type: Cheek swab | Genetic relative connections: Yes | Online family trees: No

View results in multiple formats
Tests autosomal, mitochondrial and Y-DNA
21 regions within British Isles
Several steps in sample collection process
Family matching is still in beta

Living DNA supports 80 geographical ancestry regions, 21 of which are located within Britain and Ireland alone, making it a great DNA test for people wanting to delve deep into their British heritage. Of course, it also covers 60 regions outside of the British Isles, and is expanding its efforts to bring the same level of detail to other world regions.

Although, I have absolutely no British or Irish ancestry, I found my results extremely satisfying. I particularly appreciate that living DNA gives you a lot of ways to view your data. You can see your ancestry results as color-coded dots filling up a person’s silhouette, on a map, as a pie chart or on a timeline. All the graphics present the same set of data, but each has its own appeal. Within each graphic, you can also choose to view global or regional matches and cautious, standard or complete estimates, which each have a different level of detail and certainty.

Like many of the best DNA test kits, Living DNA examines autosomal and mitochondrial DNA, as well as Y-DNA for males. The service’s Family Networks feature, currently in beta, allows customers to find DNA relatives within its database. I received test results 27 days after dropping my sample in the mail. One fun Living DNA feature is that you can order your DNA analysis in coffee table book form.

Read our review: Living DNA

Why trust us about DNA testing kits? 

Doing an DNA test without any research can be extremely disappointing - as there are many geographical regions not represented in some DNA kits. This can cause a disconnect or very inaccurate reporting. Beyond ancestry tests, there are companies that recommend wines or exercise regimens based on your DNA. With all the available options, it’s easy to default to a recognizable name, which isn’t necessarily bad. But certain tests do specific things better. Our goal is to match your expectations with the test that fits best. 

How we found the best DNA testing kits

To find the best DNA testing kits we assembled a group of testers willing to spit into a tube on camera. We chose four individuals of varying backgrounds. Two had previously taken one or more DNA ancestry tests, and two had not. Two had fairly well-documented family histories to compare against, one was adopted, and one had information about one side of the family, but not the other. All of us took DNA tests from AncestryDNA, 23andMe, National Geographic and Family Tree DNA. One tester also took each of the five additional tests we reviewed. 

After collecting spit and cheek cells, we mailed all of the tests at the same time and waited for results, noting all communications from the company in the meantime and how long it took each service to notify us that results were ready to view. We collected data based on testers’ impressions of their results, each service’s features and extras, how easy it was to use and navigate the service’s website, along with several other factors. We added this testing data to rigorous research and information gleaned from conversations with representatives from Ancestry, 23andMe, MyHeritageDNA, LivingDNA, Humancode (now owned by Helix) and 24genetics. 

How much do DNA testing kits cost? 

Most ancestry DNA kits cost about $100. AncestryDNA, 23andMe’s Ancestry test and National Geographic’s Geno 2.0 test all fall nicely into that price point. If you’re looking for a bargain, we recommend waiting to buy until your preferred test is on sale, as they’re often available well below their usual price. To get the most for your money, buy an Ancestry or 23andMe kit on sale then upload your raw data to MyHeritage DNA’s database, which is free. 

How accurate are DNA ancestry tests? 

Our testers took multiple DNA ancestry tests, and the services returned slightly different results for each person. This doesn’t necessarily mean that any one company is more accurate than another. Every DNA testing service uses its own algorithm and data set – different reference populations drawn from different databases. 

Nacho Esteban of 24Genetics told us, “Ancestry is not an exact science. The top five companies in the world would show very similar results when talking about continents; the similarity is smaller when talking about countries. In regional ancestry, some border regions are difficult to identify and sometimes there may be discrepancies. So we cannot take the information as something 100% sure. But at the end, it gives a great picture of where our ancestors were from.”

In our tests, we did find consistency across our results on the continental level. For example, my ancestry is exclusively East Asian, but 23andMe breaks it down into 80 percent Korean, 10.5 percent Japanese and 0.8 percent Chinese, with the remaining 8.7 percent in broader categories. However, Ancestry reports my DNA as 98 percent Korean and Northern Chinese, with only 2 percent Japanese. National Geographic places 85 percent of my ancestry from Northeastern Asia and 14 percent from the South China Sea region, with my DNA most closely matching the Korean and Japanese reference populations.

The DNA testers database size and reference populations

When asked about how database size affects ancestry results, David Nicholson, co-founder of Living DNA, told us, “The tests absolutely rely on the reference database. If you have Polish ancestry but there are no people in the database who are Polish, then what the test will do is show what the next closest group is next to Polish, like German or Eastern European ancestry.” 

Each ancestry DNA service has its own sample database and reference panel made of the DNA samples collected from their users and information collected from sources like the 1000 Genomes Project. The database consists of all this information collectively. A reference panel is made of certain curated samples with known family history and roots in a specific place. The services use insights gleaned from the reference panel to give you geographical ancestry results. In theory, a larger database leads to more information available to create a good reference panel, which then leads to better results for customers.  

In testing, we found that many tests have much more specific and detailed results for European ancestry than anywhere else. This is due more to the diversity of the database than size. For example, AncestryDNA® has the largest database with over 10 million samples yet results for Asian ancestry are markedly less specific than results from several companies with much smaller databases, including 23andMe and Living DNA.

Instead of pulling reference samples directly from the existing database, however, many companies seek out high quality data with special research projects. 23andMe, for example, offers its Global Genetics project, which sends free kits to people with all four grandparents born in certain countries that are underrepresented in the database.

Should I buy a DNA testing kit? 

Direct-to-consumer DNA tests are still relatively new. The first ancestral DNA test launched in 2001 by FamilyTreeDNA, but companies didn’t start genotyping autosomal DNA until 2007. Still, tests and results have come a long way since then, with much lower prices and streamlined sample collection, registration and results. If you’re still on the fence about whether or not to buy a DNA ancestry test for yourself or as a gift, here are a few things to consider. 

Why you should test your DNA?

DNA tests offer a wealth of insights into your connections to family, history and geographical locations. They both entertain and encourage you to dig into what you know about yourself. The tests make great gifts to bring you closer to your family and involve you and your family in the development of a cutting-edge science at the same time. Beyond that, the information is extremely useful for adoptees, people looking for lost relatives, genealogists and for medical science. 

Many DNA databases, including Ancestry, 23andMe and MyHeritage DNA, have family search features, which match your DNA with that of potential relatives. These features help users searching for family, including adoptees and children conceived through sperm donations. Almost every DNA testing service we interviewed for this article had a story ready about how its service facilitated a heartwarming family reunion. Like these from Ancestry, this one from MyHeritage and this one from 23andMe. Because many DNA services also have resources like family tree builders, the tests work in tandem with genealogical research.

For better ancestry and medical insights, you should encourage family members, especially parents and grandparents, to take a DNA test as well. If your family is from a specific geographical location for generations, your samples could potentially improve the service's reference panel, in turn improving results for everyone. If you’re female and take a test from 23andMe or LivingDNA, you can view paternal haplogroup information, and you get more information when one of your male family members takes a test as well.

Why you shouldn’t test your DNA 

Most direct-to-consumer DNA test companies warn that the tests may reveal things you wish you didn’t know about your family. For example, you could find out that one of the people who raised you isn’t your biological parent or that there’s an entire branch of your family you didn’t know about. There isn’t a way to prepare for a shock like that, but you can opt out of a company’s family-matching services if you’d rather not know.

You might want to stay away from DNA tests if you or any of your close relatives have committed a crime. Although ancestry DNA testing companies don’t typically share database information with law enforcement, consumer DNA tests may result in future identification. For example, FamilyTreeDNA, which has a database of close to a million samples, has agreed to give the FBI limited access to the company's DNA database. This access consists mainly of consumer-level insights, like matches with other members of the FamilyTreeDNA community who have enabled family matching; by law, however, more in-depth investigation requires a subpoena.

Many people who submit their DNA to a direct-to-consumer company also upload their raw information to public databases like GEDmatch, which law enforcement can access. People upload their raw DNA data after taking another test, like those from 23andMe or Ancestry, to several open online DNA databases. Most companies do not release database information to law enforcement. However, a recent study found that, using publicly available data, it's possible to identify up to 60 percent of Americans with European heritage via third-cousin-or-closer DNA.

Although FamilyTreeDNA is the only DNA testing company openly working with law enforcement, other DNA companies don’t necessarily keep your DNA information private. Many direct-to-consumer DNA testing companies sell your data to third parties. For example, 23andMe shares customer data with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, which uses the information to develop medical treatments. In this case, you can opt out of having your DNA information used for research, and the data is shared only in aggregate.

DNA traits

In addition to showing geographic ancestry percentages, some direct-to-consumer DNA tests also include insights about physical traits like hair and eye color. With 23andMe, this trait information is mostly available in the upgraded Ancestry + Health kit, but some interesting tidbits can be found in the Your DNA Family report, which is available if you opt to participate in the DNA Relatives service. 

This report tells you interesting information, such as that your DNA relatives are 32 percent more likely to own a cat or 11 percent less likely to have lived near a farm when they were young. DNA Passport by Humancode offers information about more than 20 physical traits, from appearance to grip strength. Ancestry DNA recently added its AncestryDNA Traits upgrade for $10, and it lets customers who have already taken one of its tests unlock information about 18 genetically influenced traits, including bitter taste perception, freckles and cilantro aversion.

Most of this trait data tells you things you already know, like your hair and eye color, but it is fun to see them compared to your genetic relatives and the world at large. We also found it fascinating to learn more about how these physical traits are genetically determined. For example, finger length ratio is determined by hormonal exposure in the womb, with higher testosterone exposure resulting in a better chance of having a longer ring finger. 23andMe’s Health report for finger length ratio looks at 15 gene markers to estimate your likelihood of having longer ring fingers or index fingers.

Types of DNA 

Of the 23 pairs of chromosomes in the human genome, 22 are autosomes. Most direct-to-consumer DNA tests look primarily at your autosomal DNA to determine your geographic ancestry percentages. This DNA is a mix of inherited DNA segments – half from each parent. Because everyone inherits at least one X chromosome from their mother, DNA tests often include the X chromosome in autosomal testing, though the X chromosome is not an autosome.

The 23rd pair of chromosomes is comprised of sex chromosomes – X and Y chromosomes that determine whether you’re male (XY) or female (XX). Traits like red-green color blindness, male pattern baldness and hemophilia are specifically linked to X or Y chromosomes and are called sex-linked characteristics. All of those examples, and most other sex-linked traits, are X-linked and more common in males, who only have one X chromosome. Many DNA tests isolate Y DNA in males to show consumers their paternal haplogroup. Since the Y chromosome is directly inherited from father to son, it is possible to trace direct paternal lineage for many generations.

Similarly, mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA, is used by direct-to-consumer DNA tests to trace your direct maternal lineage and determine maternal haplogroups. While most DNA lives in your cells' nuclei, mtDNA lives in the mitochondria. Mitochondria are the cells' powerhouses – their 37 genes are necessary for cellular energy production and respiration. Previous research suggested that mtDNA is inherited directly from your mother, but a recent study found that biparental mtDNA may be more common. This discovery may affect maternal haplogroup testing in DNA tests in the future, but for now, it’s safe to assume your results are correct.

Genotyping vs. Sequencing 

Most of the services we tested use genotyping to read your DNA. Genotyping looks for specific markers in your genetic code. For something like ancestry testing, genotyping is effective because it identifies known variants in your DNA. Scientifically speaking, genotyping’s weakness is that it can only recognize previously identified markers. This is one reason DNA tests’ accuracy relies so heavily on the DNA database size; there must be enough information available and identified genetic variants in the database to recognize new customers’ markers.

A few of the DNA tests we tested, including the National Geographic Geno 2.0, use genetic sequencing instead of genotyping. Sequencing is newer in the mainstream direct-to-consumer DNA testing market, as it used to cost more and take much longer to sequence a person’s DNA. Sequencing identifies the exact makeup of a certain piece of DNA – be it a short segment or the whole genome. The Helix tests sequence the Exome, which are the parts of the genome responsible for protein production, plus several other regions of interest. 

DNA sequencing gives more information overall and has more uses in medical testing than genotyping. In the future, more DNA kits may move from genotyping to DNA sequencing as the technology gets cheaper and faster, but for now both are effective ways to look into your geographic ancestry.

DNA testing for children 

Since genome sequencing is still a relatively young science, we don't recommend submitting your child’s DNA to direct-to-consumer companies. We do encourage consulting with your doctor about genetic testing for your child. Due to some concerns with the DNA testing industry, the choice to have one’s genes sequenced by a private company should be made with informed consent. Those concerns are magnified when applied to children, who cannot make their own decisions regarding the unlikely potential risks or privacy concerns.

Once your genetic information is out there, it’s difficult to undo. Also, once you know something about yourself, it’s impossible to forget. Revelations such as having different parents than you expected or finding unknown half-siblings are difficult to process at any age, but it’s particularly troubling for kids. However, you can always simply opt out of family matching features.

Similarly, on the health side, finding out your child has a gene connected to cancer or another disease can induce unnecessary anxiety, especially since a genetic predisposition to a certain disease does not always guarantee a diagnosis.

Other types of DNA tests 

Though we exclusively reviewed ancestry tests, they are by no means the only at-home DNA kits available. In fact, the direct-to-consumer market is flush with odd and interesting products that give you gene-based insights into everything from wine preferences to potential romantic partners.  

Pet DNA tests 

Companies like Embark, Wisdom Panel and many others offer genetic health risk screenings, trait analyses and breed percentage information for dogs. These canine ancestry tests allow you to confidently state that your mutt is part Irish wolf hound and give you key information about your pet’s heritage for insights into potential health issues. For example, if you find out one of your rescue dog’s parents was likely a purebred boxer, you could speak with your vet about breed-specific needs. Basepaws DNA CatKit promises information about your cat’s breed and traits with just a hair sample, though it offers swab kits for hairless cats. The kit also tells you how closely related your kitty is to wild cats like lions, tigers and ocelots.

Health and wellness tests 

There are a ton of health and wellness DNA tests. We found several specifically oriented to dieting and weight loss, including embodyDNA, Vitagene, DNAFit and the several options available through the Helix marketplace. While there definitely are some links between DNA and factors that contribute to weight, we advise taking these diet plans with a grain of salt, as DNA science is still a relatively young field. 

We similarly advise caution for the multitude of non-diet health and wellness DNA tests, which offer insights into your sleep, food sensitivities, and vitamin and mineral levels. And double that for medical information found in consumer DNA kit test results. While medical insights learned from taking an at-home DNA test may be interesting, it’s best not to take them too seriously. If you have a concern about a genetic predisposition to a disease, it’s best to talk to your doctor instead of relying on a direct-to-consumer kit. 

Paternity tests 

At-home paternity tests have been around much longer than other direct-to-consumer DNA tests. Most of them require you to collect cheek swab samples from a prospective father and child, which you then send off to a lab to determine paternity. For non-legal use, these tests can cost as little as $15, but tests that provide verified results that are admissible in court cost a few hundred dollars. 

Miscellaneous, fun DNA tests 

On the not-so-serious side of at-home DNA testing, there is a company that offers wine recommendations based on your genes. Vinome is part of the Helix marketplace. It creates a personalized taste profile for you based on your genes and offers a curated list of wines you can buy through the service. If you buy and rate the wines, Vinome hones in on your preferences and matches you to new products.

If you’re single and looking for something more than chance to guide your love life, you could also try a DNA-based dating service like DNA Romance. This service works using information about chemical attraction and relationships to make you a genetically ideal match.

Finally, if you happen to meet a special someone on DNA Romance and want to see what your future child together might look like, there’s BabyGlimpse by HumanCode. Like a very advanced Punnett square, BabyGlimpse compares your and your partner’s DNA to create a profile that examines which traits your offspring might inherit, including things like ancestral DNA, eye color and lactose intolerance.

Raw DNA files and third party DNA databases 

DNA test companies that use genotyping technology, including 23andMe and Ancestry, allow you to download your raw DNA file. A raw DNA file is usually a text file that contains all the information about your genetic code gleaned from the company’s examination of your DNA. This is comprised of several hundred thousand markers known as SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms). Most raw files are organized into five columns: the SNP coded into an rsID number, the chromosome the SNP is located on, the location of the SNP on the chromosome and the two alleles for each SNP.

Looking at your raw DNA file might not give you any useful information unless you’re looking for a specific marker. You can also upload the file into a third-party DNA databases for information or results beyond what’s available from your testing company. This process is not without risks, as your DNA testing company only ensures the security of your personal information in its own environment. Once you download the file, you’re responsible for the file’s security. However, uploading your raw DNA to a third party database isn’t inherently unsafe — just be cautious.

There are many places you can upload your raw DNA, and several of them are free. Popular third-party DNA analysis tools include GEDmatch and Promethese. GEDmatch is a free, open database and genealogy site that gives additional DNA relative matching and trait results. This tool has information from users of multiple different testing companies. Promethease compares your raw DNA information against scientific reports that link certain markers to health conditions, though you should take these results with a grain of salt as genetic links do not equal a diagnosis.

Tips for taking your DNA test 

The DNA tests we reviewed either require a saliva or cheek cell sample. Saliva-collecting kits include a tube that’s marked with a fill line and sample number. The tube often has a liquid-filled cap with a stabilizer that acts as a preservative to protect your DNA from degradation during transport. Cheek swab sample kits include one or two swabs for scraping the insides of your cheeks for 30 seconds to a minute to collect cheek cells and some sort of container to place the used swabs into after collection. This prevents contamination. Our testers found upsides to both types of kits but generally preferred saliva collection kits, even though they took longer.

The trick for collecting a saliva sample is to give yourself plenty of time to create enough spit to fill your tube to the fill line (not including any bubbles). You should not eat or drink anything for at least an hour before collecting your sample, so it’s best to plan to collect your sample before eating. Our testers collected samples before lunch and found that thinking about the upcoming meal made saliva production easier, particularly as we collected multiple samples. Planning ahead and making sure you stay hydrated before you collect a saliva sample helps as well.

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

Law enforcement and DNA 

There are mixed reactions to the use of ancestry DNA databases in criminal cases. On one hand, the rise of readily-available DNA information for millions of people has led to the arrests of several suspects related to long-cold cases, including the arrest of the Golden State Killer. On the other hand, law enforcement accessing private databases of genetic information from consumers raises several questions regarding privacy and ethical issues.

Of course, most DNA used by law enforcement in the U.S. does not come from direct-to-consumer DNA tests. The federal government and many states collect DNA samples from suspects of violent crimes after arrest or due to probable cause. These samples are added to the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, which is a national database for forensic information.

Following a recent case in Phoenix, in which a patient who had been in a coma for nine years gave birth, Arizona lawmaker David Livingston sponsored a senate bill that would require certain occupations to submit DNA samples along with fingerprints for use by law enforcement. Though Senate Bill 1475 has been updated since its initial draft, it could set a precedent that normalizes collection of DNA samples from everyone, not just those suspected or charged with a violent crime. 

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ProductPriceOverall RatingCostAncestry ResultsEase of UseOnline Database FeaturesUpgrade OptionAvailable Geographic RegionsDatabase SizeTester Confidence in ResultsTester Satisfaction ScoreOverall Experience ScoreSample TypeSample Collection and Registration ScoreResult Access and Interpretation ScoreTurnaround Time (Days)AppGenetic Relative ConnectionsOnline Family TreesUpload RAW DataDownload RAW Data
23andMe Ancestry ServiceView Deal4.5/58.51099>1,000>5 MillionAA+A+SalivaA+A+32Limited-
AncestryDNAView Deal4/56.39.38.38.3> 350> 10 MillionAB+B+SalivaA+B+35-
National Geographic Geno 2.0 DNA AncestryView Deal4/58.59.510022> 950,000AA+ASalivaA+A+27----
MyHeritage DNAView Deal4/57.361010-421.75 MillionBCBCheek SwabAA+16
LivingDNAView Deal4/56.38.87.88.3-80> 200,000A+A+A+Cheek SwabAA27-In Beta-
FamilyTree DNA Family FinderView Deal4/59.56.86.56.824> 990,000B+B2.33SalivaA+B18-Limited
DNA PassportView Deal3.5/5105.39.5215Not DisclosedB+CBCheek SwabBA16----
24 Genetics Ancestry DNAView Deal2/56.33.34.31.8>500Not DisclosedBDCCheek SwabDD62----