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DNATestingGuides

The Best DNA and Ancestry Products Compared

Best DNA Testing Kits for Ancestry

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There are 40+ DNA testing kits for Ancestry in the world right now. Each one looks the same, advertises the same, and appears to offer the exact same features and services to test your ancestry and ethnicity.

Best 5 DNA Kits for Ancestry_r01

So how do you find out what’s the best DNA testing kit for you? 

At DNA Testing Guides, our experts have been reviewing the best DNA tests on the market for years. Our team watched sales of genetic genealogy tests double to over 20 million people in 2017-2018.  We’ve watched dozens of new companies enter to try to make a quick buck in the consumer DNA space. Unfortunately, a lot of these newer kits do not come from reputable companies, and the number of unsatisfied customers has grown as well.

To combat this problem, we’ve consulted the best genetics experts and PhDs around to create an unbiased, informational review of all the DNA tests on the market. Each review contains background information on the DNA test, as well as an in-depth look into the product and its pros/cons. We’ve done the hard work…these are the best DNA tests in 2018.

Brand

Rating

Pros

Cons

Bottom Line

ancestrydna

95%

4.5 stars

Pros

As one of the most affordable DNA kits, it offers solid results at a good price.

Cons

The best DNA test kit for ancestry with millions of registered users and tons of information shared.

Bottom Line

The best DNA test kit for ancestry with millions of registered users and tons of information shared.

23andMe

92%

4 stars

Pros

23andMe offers easy to read information that includes genetic markers and regions and will store those results online forever.

Cons

It can cost quite a bit to undergo complete testing of your sample, including health screenings and genetic marker testing.

Bottom Line

This is one of the only home kits with health screening options that let you test for genetic markers and other data.

MyHeritage DNA

90%

4 stars

Pros

Many users find that they can more easily take a cheek swab than provide a saliva sample such as other kits require.

Cons

There are a number of different add-ons that increase the price of the kit, while the basic test provides limited info.

Bottom Line

This test is a good alternative to other kits because it provides info on more than 40 regions and is easy to use.

familytree dna

85%

3.5 stars

Pros

A simple format makes the site easy to use and ensures that new and existing customers can find all the data that they need.

Cons

Users must back up their data because the site doesn't retain data as long as other sites do.

Bottom Line

A really good choice for beginners and those who want to do genealogical research online when creating their family trees.

LivingDNA

80%

3.5 stars

Pros

The site allows users to compare their own results to a historical database to verify the information provided to them.

Cons

There are no options for finding family members or connecting with other users. Those who do not have British ancestry may not find the test useful.

Bottom Line

This test looks closely for markers relating to locations in the United Kingdom and can deliver strong results.

Comparison Checkpoints

ancestrydna
23andMe
MyHeritage DNA
familytree dna
LivingDNA

Standard
(Autosomal Test)

Y-DNA Test

mtDNA Test

Collection Method

Saliva Sample

Cheek Swab

Cheek Swab

Saliva Sample

Cheek Swab

Stores Results

Yes, Indefinitely

Yes, Indefinitely

Yes, for 25 Years

Yes, for 25 Years

Yes, Indefinitely

Chromosome Browser

Raw Data Upload

Not yet

Database Size

10 mil

1 mil

1.4 mil

850k

None

Health Info

For extra fee

Geographic Regions

350+ From Around the World

150, Includes All Major Regions

42, From All Around the World

24, Most Regions Represented

80, Focuses More on Regions in the United Kingdom

Genealogical Community

Limited

Contact Matches

Anonymous email/ forums

Limited

Email

Email

Result Time

6-8 Weeks

6-8 Weeks

3-4 Weeks

Depends on the Test, 6-8 Weeks is the Maximum

10-12 Weeks

Family Tree Software

Imports From Other Services

Export Results

Our Experts

To create the the ultimate guide for DNA testing, we consulted with some of the
top experts in the field.

Dr. Arthur Millius

Dr. Arthur Millius

Ph.D and Genetics Expert

Dr. Arthur Millius graduated in
2005 from Rice University with a B.A. in biochemistry and a B.S. in biophysics. He got his Ph.D. in cell biology in San Francisco in 2011 at UCSF. Dr. Millius’ current research is very focused on DNA. He has direct experience working with consumer DNA testing products, and has a unique perspective on how they’ll develop in the next few years. OOOOOOOOOO

Dr. Isabelle Nadeau

Dr. Isabelle Nadeau

Ph.D and Genealogy Expert

Dr. Isabelle Nadeau is a Ph.D scientist, genealogy enthusiast and DNA testing expert. She is also the owner of her own performance nutrition coaching business, which gives her a phenomenal understanding of how our genes affect our diet, and vice versa. Dr. Nadeau also has a great understanding of family history research products and how they tie into the DNA testing market.

AncestryDNA

AncestryDNA

AncestryDNA is our choice for the best dna testing kit for ancestry. The highlighting feature of AncestryDNA is that the service allows you to connect your DNA to your family tree and that of others using its exclusive online services. It has the largest database and allows you to build your family tree and connect to others.

AncestryDNA is one of the most popular testing kits on the market. It is reasonably priced at $99 and one can often find specials running, especially around the holiday season. We felt that it did not give you as much information as some of the other companies, but it allows you the awesome capability to link to your family tree. In order to do this, you have to purchase a separate subscription to Ancestry.com, which is not included in the DNA testing kit.

The only problem with this model is that we felt the information that you received from the DNA testing kit was just a teaser and got really interesting when you purchase the Ancestry.com membership. However, we understand that the subscription service for Ancestry is such a good business model and the membership is only $19.99 per month. Theoretically, once you get the information that you want, you can cancel your ancestry information, although they encourage you to keep paying for your membership because new information is continually being added to their database.

So is the price of the DNA kit and the upsell cost to Ancestry.com worth the price? We definitely think so. After trying out the service, the family of one of our writers at DNATestingGuides has done extensive genetic research on Ancestry.com and found an incredible paper trail on their father’s side of the family. They found several prominent historical figures in their family, some of whom had political ties to George Washington. It was only through Ancestry that we found the migration patterns on their Dad’s side of their family. This lead to the discovery of the extensive political career of the our writer’s ancestors. Not only were they able to pinpoint ancestors fairly accurately on a European map. They also were spot-on in terms of the region where they settled in the United States. It was impressive.

Since the extensive family tree on Ancestry.com that was already mapped out, this made it convenient for testing out all of the bells and whistles of the AncestryDNA test. Using a combination of the DNA information provided, and the family tree that was already uploaded, we were able to accurately see when and where individual ancestors immigrated to the United States and where they went after that. It’s a terrific and heartwarming anecdote to show the value of AncestryDNA over some of the other testing services out there.

One interesting feature of this website was that it matches you to relatives, but you can only see how you are related if they also choose to make a family tree. The DNA Circles feature shows connections between individuals and family groups who share similar DNA to yours. This allows you to find other branches of your family who you do not necessarily share DNA with, but who also stemmed from common ancestors. This goes beyond what traditional DNA matching can do and is only possible because of the extensive database connected to the Ancestry website.

For instance, you might discover another branch of your family tree that stems from a different brother or sister of a common ancestor. These other descendants may have inherited different parts of the common ancestor’s DNA from your branch of the family tree. They are still related, but this goes back to what we discussed about how sometimes only a bit of a person DNA gets passed on, but not all of it. This reflects the random nature of biology and genetics. It is possible to have a common ancestor, but not share, DNA. For the avid genealogy junkie, this was a feature that we just could not resist.

Perhaps one of the worst parts about the way AncestryDNA combines its genetic data and the ability to find out specific information about your family tree is that it was addicting. It is very easy to get sucked in to spending a considerable amount of time finding out the story of you. This DNA testing website had to be ranked number one because of its proven accuracy using known family tree information, the way it is presented, and the vast amount of information you can glean from its extensive database. For the price, we think that this one is the best value and the one that you will have the most fun with in the future.

PROS

  • Ability to build a family tree and connect with others
  • Reasonably priced
  • Draws information from an extensive database of over 10 million DNA results for comparison
  • Provides message boards where members can connect anonymously
  • Stores your information for an unlimited time
  • Respects member privacy
  • Ability to import your results to other sites to obtain more information about your DNA
  • Affordably priced for the benefits and access to information that you receive

CONS

  • Have to buy separate Ancestry.com subscription to build a family tree
  • Requires a subscription to continue to use the online family tree
  • Members can opt of sharing results, which may limit matches
  • Does not allow data uploads from outside sites
  • Does not offer separate paternal and material tests
  • The information from the site may be difficult to understand for those that are not seasoned genealogists.

MyHeritageDNA

MyHeritageDNA

This site has a large database and allows you to connect to other users who may be in your family tree. You can access results for more than 40 regions around the world.

MyHeritageDNA was our second pick for several reasons. First off, they have one of the largest database of all of the top five that we finally chose. They test 690,000 genetic markers and cover 42 geographic regions. They do have family tree integration, but it is not as extensive as what is offered by ancestry.com. They are getting there, but Ancestry has been around a little bit longer and has been able to build up their database more.

MyHeritageDNA runs at about half the price of AncestryDNA, but they also do not have as extensive database. If you are looking for a service that is less expensive but are not ready to take the leap into a full priced version of Ancestry.com and its tests, this might be a good place to start. It will give you a good amount of information, but you are not able to track as specific of information and trace it to your family tree as with our number one pick.

This testing service was started in Israel in 2003 when these types of testing services were first becoming popular, it was probably the number one ranked DNA testing service. It has the second largest database and around 80 million users around the globe. One of the things that makes it different from the information found on AncestryDNA is that the database for ancestry focuses on North America and is particularly good for people with European ancestry who migrated to North America. The users of MyHeritageDNA are scattered more widely around the world. Therefore, their focus is not on a specific type of heritage or area of the world. They have nearly 35 million family trees on their website and counting. They also offer over 6 billion historical records that can help you match the DNA findings to specific events, times, and places.

Like the other DNA testing sites, MyHeritage allows you to see which parts of the globe your ancestors came from. As you browse where your ancestors are from, the site delivers background music that is relevant to those regions and countries. This was a nice touch for a while, but it can get annoying after a time and there is no way to turn it off. Some users may enjoy this immersive experience more than others. For us, we found it easier to turn the volume down and play your own music.

You can then navigate to an area that gives you the percentages of where your DNA is from. However, as we discussed in the information leading up to this final review, these results should be taken with a grain of salt due to differences in DNA testing, which genes are tested, and genetic drift among haplogroups.

This site also has a section of your report that allows you to see your DNA matches. The number matches that you have can range up to the thousands, or less than 100 depending on the information that the database has about your relatives. We found that certain ethnic groups have more information available in this database than others. However, it is not as singularly focused on European ancestors who migrated to North America as the AncestryDNA site. Depending on your specific family history, you may find more information on Ancestry.com, but this is not always the case.

The information on MyHeritage will help you find who your third or fourth cousins are and to what confidence level the match can be certain. It also includes the percentage of DNA that the two of you share and the number of shared DNA segments. It also gives you information about people that are smart matches and appear in both of your family trees. This can help you find common ancestors. It also links to shared ancestral surnames, shared DNA matches, pedigree charts, shared ethnicities, and a chromosome browser.

One thing that we did not like, but which was similar to Ancestry’s plan, is that they show you a quick preview of this information, and then encourage you to subscribe to MyHeritage to gain access to the full amount of information available. They presented teaser with hopes up selling you to their full version. You have to pay extra to gain a higher level of information. This was a little annoying, but many DNA testing sites are beginning to adopt this strategy, so if you want detailed information, you will have to be willing to pay for it.

One thing that we did like about MyHeritage that made it stand out is that it has a strict privacy policy. They do offer the option to download your broad DNA data, which is a service that is not offered by many other DNA testing sites. You can also choose to delete your DNA dated thereto. This is something that we did not find on any other website that we’ve looked at. They give you more control over your data and which part of it you decide to make available. They do all of this using a secure download link that they sent to you in your email. This is important because you may not know that if you forget to log out of a website, it is possible for hackers to go in and download the data that you input onto these pages. We felt that this DNA testing site went the extra mile to keep your data safe.

One thing that we really liked about MyHeritage is that the extra premium features were affordably priced at $6.88 per month. For this small amount they give you up to 2500 slots for your family tree, a family tree builder, smart matching, and access to the collections of other members on the site. It also gives you access to over 6 billion records including birth, marriage, death, senses, burial, military, yearbooks, immigration, and scans of many original documents. Even though you have to pay extra for these services, we felt that this was a very good deal and affordable to a majority of the people. By comparison, Ancestry.com gives you access to 20 billion records and over 100 million family trees, but it is also $19.99 a month. When choosing between the two services, it all comes down to how much you want to spend and how serious you are about having access to a bigger amount of information. We felt that MyHeritage was a good value for the price.

PROS

  • Large database
  • Reasonably priced
  • Free mobile app
  • Free to contact matches
  • Allows upload of data from other sites
  • Provides information for 42 regions
  • One of the best sites for users that are not located in North America and looking for their European ancestors

CONS

  • Does not do YDNA or mitochondrial DNA in basic test, you must pay extra
  • Slower delivery than other services
  • No Native American community records
  • Provides no health information
  • Has a relatively small database, with only a little over a million test results
  • The information that you receive is limited and unless you buy a premium subscription with add-on features

23andmeDNA

23andMe

This was one of few testing kits that allowed us to run a limited amount of health information. It tests for a larger number of chromosome markers than any of the other tests and provides more detailed information.

We were quite excited to try DNA test from 23andMe because this is one of the most popular DNA testing kitss on the Internet. We felt that for the price this website offered was fair ($99) and it appears to be discounted during holidays as well. With some companies, all we received was an interactive map of the ethnic heritage. This company does that too, but it also provides detailed information for an interactive diagram of your chromosomes. It actually shows you which parts carry a certain ethnic ancestry.

In addition, if your mother and father also take the test, you can see how much and which parts of the chromosomes you inherited from them. For instance, you might find that your mother contributed 0.2% of your DNA and that it comes from a certain area of the world and is located on a specific chromosome. This chromosome matching feature was a lot of fun, but the question is whether it is accurate.

Our writers who have tried this test all also have agood idea of at least some of their family tree with substantial documents to prove it. For the most part, the information sent by this website matched what was known about the family tree through other information. One thing that we noticed is that everyone seemed to have at least a little bit of Neanderthal heritage. This website gives you a scoreboard of where you stack up in terms of Neanderthal genetic variants. The company does not test for all the and earth all variance, but it does include some interesting ones, such as those that are linked to straight hair, black hair, height, and certain food allergies.

Like the other companies on this list, it also provided information from Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA to trace the migration patterns of your ancestors from Africa to present. Unfortunately, they do not currently have a way to build your family tree and explore your relationships to other people with matching chromosomes further. It only gives general information.

Frankly, this was the company that we had the most fun with because it provided some interesting information in a format that was easy to understand. In terms of accuracy, they seem to hit the known family histories fairly close to the mark. There were only a few surprises and in these cases the person said that they were at least a possibility. We felt that this kit was a very good value for the price.

PROS

  • Fairly expensive, but very detailed
  • Shows more detailed information about your genetics
  • Provides fun information
  • Uses Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA to trace migration patterns from Africa to present day
  • Graphics and information is presented in a way that is easy to understand
  • Includes a chromosome browser
  • One of few sites to offer health information
  • Stores your information indefinitely, so you have access to it in the future

CONS

  • Does not allow you to build family trees
  • Limited database with only about results from approximately one million available, even when premium package is availed
  • Limited ability to contact matches that are found
  • Does not allow the upload of data from tests conducted on other sites
  • Difficult to find matches due to small database
  • Access to health data requires extra fee

FamilyTreeDNA

FamilyTreeDNA

This company will help you connect with family members all around the world. It has a large database of registered users.

Family tree DNA uses autosomal testing and does not examine the sex-linked X and Y chromosomes. You can get this information, but it will cost you extra. We felt that the basic analysis was fairly priced at $79. However, what you got for the basic price may not give you the answers that you are looking for, and they do upsell you to get the add on information that is found on the X and Y chromosomes.

One thing that we liked about this service was that it allowed you to build a family tree by incorporating your personal DNA tests and matches from the site’s database. By doing this, our writers found nearly 2,000 potential relatives. They were making jokes about how it’s going to be impossible to do holiday shopping from now on.

One of the features that we liked about the results presented by this test is that they include a chromosome viewer. This lets you see the exact gene that you have in common with a certain relative. It allows you to view up to five relatives at a time. They also have a tool that allows you to trace your DNA from a shared ancestor.

One of the members of our team found that when their DNA was compared to ancient Europeans, they may have been related to Ortzi the Iceman, who lived over 5000 years ago and whose body was found in the Italian Alps in 1991. Using the DNA data, it was also possible to see how this person DNA was influenced by invaders from the steps that are now known as Mongolia. Until this test, this person never knew they had Mongolian ancestry.

What is fun about this company and the DNA information that they can provide is that they have DNA sequences from some famous people and from archaeological finds. Information such as this can certainly give you some interesting topics for conversation. The reason why we ranked this company lower in our top five is because the information was difficult to use and understand.

PROS

  • Basic analysis reasonably priced
  • Includes information in family trees
  • Stores results for at least 25 years
  • Provides results for YDNA, mitochondrial DNA, and autosomal DNA separately
  • Allows you to connect with your matches
  • Allows uploads of data from other companies
  • This site is easy to navigate. It presents the information in a way that is easy to understand, even for those who are new to tracing their genealogy.

CONS

  • Costs extra to get Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA analysis
  • Does not explain results completely
  • Does not have as many users and as large of database as some of the other sites
  • Does not provide health related marker results
  • Does not store information for long as other companies, which means you need another backup source if you want to access the information later, or send it to a third-party.

LivingDNA

LivingDNA

This test allowed the ability to pinpoint the region from which your ancestors came more precisely, especially for those in the British Isles.

LivingDNA made the list, even though it is one of the more expensive testing kits, at $129. The company claims that they can pinpoint exactly where a person’s roots come from in the British Isles. The company first presents you with your ethnicity on a world map and then lets you zoom in to a more exact location at the continent level.

In the case of one of our team members that took this test, they had Scottish relatives that we know came from the Loch Fyne area in Scotland and migrated to America in the mid-1700s. Their family has a fairly convincing paper trail to support this. This area is located on the west coast of Scotland. Surprisingly, this DNA test was pretty convincing because it pinpointed their ancestry to the West Coast Scotland in about the area where we know their ancestors came from. Several others have reported that this company came close to pinpointing the location of their ancestors in the British Isles.

Living DNA uses the ability to pinpoint ancestors in the British Isles as one of their main justifications for their high price. Overall, I was impressed by their ability to pinpoint my Scottish ancestors.

The company claims that by using mitochondrial and why DNA it can trace both your mother’s and father’s lines back to early human origins in Africa. They can show the bite migration patterns and where your line probably branched from the original motherline as far back as 19,000 to 26,000 years ago.

We were impressed with the database and its ability to provide price size matching in the British Isles. However, we feel that it may not be worth the price tag for those whose line does not contain a strong ancestry in the British Isles are Ireland. In addition, they do not allow the ability to link relatives to a family tree. They say that they are working to add these features and to improve their ethnicity pinpointing abilities in Germany and elsewhere.

We included LivingDNA on the list because of the potential for it to become a very precise service in the future. At present, it is little bit pricey and is only good if you have ancestors from the British Isles, which most Caucasians in America half. When they had the ability to link relatives to the family tree and improve their databases to provide more precise results on a global basis, they may become one of the top contenders.

PROS

  • Good at pinpointing ancestors in the British Isles
  • Uses Y DNA, mitochondrial DNA, and autosomal DNA
  • Accurate results in our test
  • Provide specific information that matched with historical records

CONS

  • Most expensive
  • Not strong in other areas other than the British Isles
  • Does not provide a way to contact matches and share information
  • Not as good for people looking for information beyond the British Isles
  • The most expensive for what they have to offer

EXPERT QUOTE

” If you’ve ever opened a book in a foreign language, you can appreciate how daunting it is to interpret what’s written. A DNA test is like having a foreign language dictionary that gives you clues to the meaning of different words.”

Dr. Arthur Millius

DR. ARTHUR MILLIUS

Ph.D and Genetics Expert

What Could You Discover?

The craze over consumer DNA testing is currently being driven by ads on TV, advertisements online, YouTube videos, and many interesting stories about people who found quite a few surprises that they did not expect. Genealogy and discovering one’s ancestry has been popular for quite some time, but the ability to have your DNA tested and find out more precise information is just too intriguing to resist. So what are some of the things that you could find out by having your DNA tested?

Many times, people find out that they have dissent genetic markers for ethnicities they never suspected. Sometimes the results of the test do not necessarily match family histories that had been taken as factual. The test compares your DNA to other people who have taken the test. If there is a known family tree connected to DNA that matches, you might find that you have shared ancestors. In some cases, people have found out that they were related to famous people in history.

What Could You Discover

DNA testing ties in with family history more than most of us think.

The AncestryDNA test matches for ancestors from over 350 regions around the world. In some cases, people have been able to discover entire missing family branches of people they never knew they were related to. Sometimes, when they met the similarities were uncanny.

In cases of adoption, DNA tests may be the only link that a person has to where they came from and what ethnic groups they are connected to. These tests have also help some people find their parents. This can be important for more reasons than just curiosity or to mend family relationships. Sometimes it is important to know family history and its connection to health. However, there is a caveat for using genealogical DNA testing for this reason, which will be discussed later in this article.

Sometimes people have discovered that they were related to people in their life, such as people they worked with, and they never knew this before. This has happened with neighbors too, sometimes with some very surprising results. For instance, people with more African-American features have found out that they were cousins with people who have distinctly Caucasian features. This is one way that DNA testing has served to bring the world closer together. The more we find out, the more we find out that we have in common. You never know what your DNA test results will reveal about you.

What Can A DNA Test Reveal About You

  • Lost family members
  • Family secrets
  • Your unique story
What Could You Discover

What is DNA?

Before we get into what DNA testing can do and how it works, let us first delve into understanding what DNA is. DNA is short for deoxyribonucleic acid. It is found in every living cell in every creature on earth. This is a chemical chain that serves as the instruction manual that tells our cells how to grow and what function they should perform. It also contains information on how to perform that function.

There are only four chemical bases that make up the DNA chain. These are adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine. DNA consists of groups of combinations of only these four chemical bases. These groups of chemical bases are called genes and are arranged in a double helix shape that looks like a twisted ladder.

What is DNA?

Human DNA consists of about 3 billion different bases and over 99% of them are the same on everyone on earth. The order in which these chemical bases appear is what codes the information, much in the same way that letters appear in a certain way form words that can be understood and read. The DNA is like a bunch of words that tell the cell what to do and what to be. Sometimes they contain special genes that will tell another sequence to turn on or off.

One of the most important characteristics of DNA is that it has the ability to make a copy of itself. Each half of the strand of the double helix can serve as a pattern that is able to make an exact copy of itself. This works because only certain pairs of bases can be combined together. Each set of bases contains one sugar molecule and one phosphate molecule. Adenine always pairs with thiamine and guanine always pairs with cytosine.

To visualize how DNA copies itself a little bit better, when you consider that there are only two possible combinations of the four chemical bases, it is easy to see how DNA knows how to rebuild itself and copy itself. For instance, if the strand is unzipped and a thiamine base is present, then only and adenine base can attach to it. Similarly, if a cytosine base is present, the only thing that can form and attach to it on the other side is a guanine base. The entire helix is bordered and held together by an outer backbone that consists of sugars and phosphates.