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The Best DNA and Ancestry Products Compared

Best DNA Test for African Americans

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Read through the reviews of the best DNA test kits for African Americans and why you should use one of these tests.

When it comes to putting together a family tree, many people turn to their loved ones. You can ask your grandparents about their parents and ancestors and decide how to put your tree together. Not everyone is lucky enough to have their ancestors close by though. Your ancestry gives you a good idea of how your family came to the United States and where they lived in the past. Many people do not realize that some tests aren’t as strong as others though, especially if you are African American. Some tests will just give you general information that says your sample shows you came from one region in Africa and little more. That is why we created this article that goes over the best DNA tests for African Americans.

DNA Test For African Americans

Not only do we tell you what you need to do to submit a sample and how you can use the additional information available on the web, but we’ll also take a detailed look at the best kits. You can order the kits online, submit your sample and get results in as little as six to eight weeks. As an African American, you can use one of those kits to trace your heritage through the years.

Some of the regions where people may find their genetic origins, including:

  • Ivory Coast
  • Sudan
  • Chad
  • The Democratic Republic of Congo
  • South Africa
  • Namibia
Regions in Africa

Brand

Rating

Pros

Cons

Bottom Line

ancestrydna

95%

4.5 stars

Pros

  • Offers solid results at a good price
  • Most affordable DNA kits

Cons

  • Requires a subscription to continue to use the online family tree

Bottom Line

  • The best DNA test kit for ancestry
  • Millions of users and tons of info shared
23andMe

92%

4 stars

Pros

  • Easy to read information
  • Stores genetic markers and regions results online forever

Cons

  • Can cost quite a bit to undergo complete testing of your sample

Bottom Line

  • One of the only home kits with health screening that test genetic markers & other data
MyHeritage DNA

90%

4 stars

Pros

  • Easy to use which take a cheek swab than provide a saliva sample

Cons

  • Add-ons increase the price of the kit
  • Basic test provides limited info.

Bottom Line

  • Provides info on more than 40 regions
  • Easy to use
familytree dna

85%

3.5 stars

Pros

  • Simple format makes the site easy to use
  • Customers can find all data they need

Cons

  • Doesn't retain data as long as other sites do so users must back-up

Bottom Line

  • Good choice for beginners and those who do genealogical research online
LivingDNA

80%

3.5 stars

Pros

  • Users can compare their own results to a historical database to verify information

Cons

  • No options to find family members or others
  • Results works best with British ancestry

Bottom Line

  • Can deliver strong results on markers relating to locations in the United Kingdom

The History of African Migration

Historians believe that men and women began leaving Africa as early as the 16th century. During this period alone, more than 12 million Africans left the continent and moved away. The 17th century saw different migration patterns as people moved away from the western coast and to the north and south, including Senegal and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Reaching those areas required long trips that millions of people did not survive. When they reached their new homes, they formed different cultural groups.

One reason for the migration patterns was slavery. Slave ships traveled down the coast from Europe and other areas. They forced men, women and children to board the ships and took them to other regions where they sold them into slavery. Many of the African Americans living in the United States today have roots in Central America, South America and the Caribbean because their ancestors were slaves. As little as 3% of the slaves taken from Africa up through the 18th century went to North America. Another small percentage of Africans traveled to China and other parts of Asia. With the right DNA test for African Americans, you can get an idea of where your family lived after they left Africa.

How Far Back Can African American DNA Tests Go?

The History of African Migration

Most DNA test kits for African Americans can go back up to six generations. Some kits let you trace your roots back hundreds of years.

How To Best Approach a DNA Test As An African American

Doing a DNA test as an African American is very easy. As long as you have saliva in your mouth and access to the internet, you can use one of these kits. We highly recommend looking over our reviews of these kits and checking out the pros and cons before you decide which one to order. You can register and set up your account when you order too. The site will ask for your name and home address as well as your payment details. You can leave your full name visible or use a nickname, which is how others who use the site will view you.

Next comes the sample collection. Many kits provide you with a small tube and a lid that screws or locks onto the top. You will need to fill the sample cup with saliva until it reaches the marked line and then attach the lid. If you choose a kit that asks for a cell sample, you can use the included swab to wipe the inside of your cheek and seal it in the included vial. DNA kits for African Americans include a postage-paid envelope in which you’ll place your sample and send it back. As soon as the company processes your sample, it will send you an email and let you log in to view your results.

Is There Anything You Shouldn't Do When Collecting a Sample?

How to Do an African American DNA Test

Yes! The lab may not get results from your sample because you did not provide enough or because your sample mixed with another substance. Some of the things you should avoid doing for at least 30 minutes before collecting a sample include:

  • Eating
  • Drinking
  • Smoking
  • Brushing your teeth
  • Using mouthwash

Cost

You can use free programs that let you create a family tree without paying a dime. Some sites let you create groups for your family where they can share stories for free too. You cannot use a DNA test without paying though. While the kits and shipping are free, you need to pay a processing fee that covers the expense of running your sample through the system and comparing it to other samples in the database. African Ancestry is the most expensive test that we found. It retails for $300 but is one of the only kits on the market designed specifically for African Americans. If you want results that show the exact regions where your family came from, this is the test for you.

Most of the other tests retail for right around $100, including those from Ancestry.com, 23andMe and MyHeritage DNA. Both Ancestry and 23andMe charge $99 for the basic kit. MyHeritage DNA offers kits that start at $79. Ancestry.com is the main name in the home DNA testing game because it has more than ten million users in its database and new users added almost daily. With 23andMe, you can pay extra for health and wellness testing along with your DNA testing.

How Long Does it Take to Get Results?

What To Look For In A DNA Test If You're African American

Not all DNA test kits are the same, which is why you should consider each one carefully. Though Ancestry.com has the largest database, it doesn’t specialize in helping those with African American ancestry. You may find information that proves your family came from certain regions in Africa, but you won’t find the exact tribes they belonged to in the past. As an African American person trying to trace your roots, there are some things you should consider when choosing a DNA test.

Autosomal DNA Test

One thing you may want to look for is a kit that does autosomal testing. DNA home testing kits in the past only tested your genes for one gender. This helped you find information about your mother’s family or your father’s family but required that you go through two different tests to track your whole family. With autosomal testing, the lab will test your sample based on the available chromosomes. It gives you a better look at your heritage and can link you to distant relatives who took the same test and registered on the site.

Ethnic and Racial Testing

Even if your grandparents swear that your family came from one specific region of Africa, your family might have branches that you never heard of before. This can occur if you had ancestors who were sold into slavery. Slave ships transported captured men, women and children and carried them all around the world. A good test can reveal if you share genes with people who lived in regions of Europe and North America. With ethnic and racial testing, you can also find out if your family previously lived in the Caribbean or other areas.

Database Size and Family Tree

Another thing to consider is the database size, especially if you want to build your family tree. This refers to the number of registered users that the site has. Ancestry.com easily wins in this category because it has more users than other sites combined. A larger database means that the test can compare your genes and chromosomes to more users and find more connections. You can use the connections that you find to discover family members living all around the world. Sites that include a family tree option let you add names and dates based on what you find on your relatives’ family trees.

Database Sizes of the Best DNA Tests for African Americans

  • Ancestry.com: 10 million+
  • 23andMe: 1 million
  • MyHeritage DNA: 1 million+
  • FamilyTree DNA: 850,000
  • African Ancestry: 500,000+
What to Look for in an African American DNA Test

Here's Why You Should Take A DNA Test If You're African American

Some people are lucky and had family members who kept detailed records. They can visit churches and cemeteries to view their ancestors’ gravesites and to find out when they were born and when they died. If you have a large percentage of African American blood in your makeup, you might not be as lucky. Many of the African Americans living in the United States are related to the slaves who were forcibly brought here from Africa. They didn’t have the tools or records needed to keep track of their roots and to share information for future generations.

Another issue you might encounter is that your family members changed hands multiple times and had several owners who assigned them new names. No matter how far back you go in the historical records, you may still not find the information that you need. This is especially true if you had an ancestor who had children with a white man. Most states made marriage between a black woman and a white man illegal. Then some issues can arise from slave owners who had children with their slaves. Even former President Thomas Jefferson fathered kids with one of his slaves. The only way you can see where you came from and how deep your African roots are is with one of these tests.

What Determines Your Percentage of African American Ancestry?

Your paternal and maternal lines
Your paternal and maternal lines
How long your family lived in Africa
How long your family lived in Africa
How long they spent in other regions
How long they spent in other regions
Whether past ancestors were white or from other ethnic groups
Whether past ancestors were white or from other ethnic groups

African Ancestry DNA Test for African Americans

Though it’s the most expensive, our choice for the best DNA kit for African Americans is the African Ancestry test. This is the only test designed specifically for people from Africa. You have the option of testing either your mother’s side or your father’s side and purchasing a second test to get results from both parts of your family tree. While some think that the cost is too high, the results make it worth that price tag. No other test can breakdown your family into specific regions and areas of Africa, including the Ivory Coast and the central region.

Some people worry about DNA testing kits selling their private information, which can disqualify them from certain jobs or let pharmaceutical companies view their genetic data. African Ancestry makes it clear in its terms and conditions that it will never sell or share your data. You can now choose a bundle package that comes with paternal and maternal DNA testing as well as four tee-shirts that show your country of origin and certificates of ancestry. The package also gives you access to a closed African American Facebook ancestry page and a guide on researching your family tree.

Pros and Cons of the African Ancestry DNA Test

PROS

  • Offers two types of testing
  • Includes country of origin information
  • Designed specifically for African Americans
  • Can give you access to an exclusive/closed group

CONS

  • Does not include genetic matches
  • Very expensive

MyHeritage DNA Kit for African Americans

MyHeritage DNA doesn’t have the reputation that Ancestry.com and 23andMe do. The odds are good that you’ve never seen an ad for this company on television or your computer. That is a good thing though because it shows that the company is more concerned about its users than on advertising. MyHeritage is a good choice for those who worry about others selling or sharing their genetic information. The company’s terms and conditions state that it will not share any genetic information without your permission. You have the option of sharing that info with another site if you want to compare your results though.

Not only is MyHeritage DNA one of the more affordable choices for African Americans, but it’s also one of the top choices because of the ethnic breakdown that it provides. When you get your results back, you’ll find that the test lists the exact percentage of each ethnicity that you are. It works on both men and women and can find information from up to six generations in the past. As it looks at more than 40 ethnic regions, MyHeritage DNA is a good choice for African Americans because it can trace your roots from countries and regions around the world.

Pros and Cons of the MyHeritage DNA Kit

PROS

  • Includes more than 40 geographic and ethnic regions
  • One of the more affordable home kits
  • Keeps your results for a minimum of 25 years
  • Uses a simple cheek swab

CONS

  • Has a smaller database than other tests do
  • Can take up to eight weeks to get your results

Ancestry.com DNA Kit for African Americans

People of all ages, colors and backgrounds can use the Ancestry.com DNA test kit to find out more about their family’s past. When you set up an account and order your kit, Ancestry.com gives you the option of keeping your results confidential or sharing them online. If you opt to share your data, the site will provide you with a list of people who matched your results that you can then contact. This makes it easy to send messages to newly found relatives through the site. You can also use the site’s message board to post questions about your family. The downside is that all those features require an Ancestry.com subscription, which you can buy by the month or year.

Ancestry.com is a good choice for African Americans because of all the regions it shows. If you’re even a small percentage of European or Asian, your results will show that. You might find that you are 2.7% British or 1.9% Eastern European on top of your African American ancestry. Before you decide to buy this test, you’ll want to read through the terms and conditions. Not only does Ancestry.com reserve the right to share your data with research facilities and institutions, but it can also share that data with law enforcement.

Pros and Cons of the Ancestry.com DNA Test

PROS

  • More than 10 million registered users in the database
  • Includes dozens of geographic regions
  • Can connect you with related users
  • Offers family tree and genealogy tools

CONS

  • Requires an expensive subscription to use all features
  • Divides Africa into just a few regions

23andMe DNA Kit for African Americans

Have you ever wondered why the cilantro in your salsa tastes like soap or if you have a predisposition for hair loss? 23AndMe is the only DNA test that includes health and wellness information for users. Though the basic test costs around $100, the cost of that extra testing can add $50 or more to your total cost. Some find that the extra testing is worthwhile because they want to know how their genes relate to the way they act and think or because they want to see what traits they have that come from their genes.

23andMe is also a good test for those with African American roots. It does autosomal, mtDNA and Y-DNA testing on the sample that you provide. The company breaks the world down into 31 regions or areas and will show the percentage of your genes that come from each region. One downside is that it tends to lump major regions of Africa together, which can make it difficult to see where your ancestors lived. Another issue with 23andMe is that it reserves the right to sell and share your confidential data. GlaxoSmithKline is a major pharmaceutical company that uses that data before testing new products.

Pros and Cons of the 23andMe DNA Kit

PROS

  • Offers lots of genealogical and family tree data
  • Can add health and wellness testing
  • Stores your results indefinitely
  • Has more than one million users

CONS

  • Shares your confidential data
  • Some features cost extra

FamilyTree DNA Test for African Americans

Another choice for those looking for a DNA test for African Americans is FamilyTree DNA. This test can prove whether two people share similar genes and are related, the geographic origins of your family and how deep your roots are in those regions. You can choose the Y-DNA test or the mtDNA test. While the Y-DNA test is a universal test designed for men, the mtDNA test is the universal option for women. The company recommends that you choose a test based on your biological gender and/or have a family member take the opposite test. When you add the Family Finder feature to your test, you can go back up to six generations to find other users who share your genetic makeup.

FamilyTree DNA is one of the best tests for African Americans who are new to the world of genealogical research. It makes the process of finding other family members easy and includes options for designing and building a virtual family tree. You can change and add information as it becomes available and share a copy with loved ones. The biggest downside to FamilyTree DNA is that it can delete your data if you don’t use the site often, which means that you’ll want to keep a separate backup copy of that information.

Pros and Cons of the FamilyTree DNA Test

PROS

  • Includes information from 24 genetic regions
  • Keeps your results stored for up to 25 years
  • Offers help for beginners
  • Has maternal and paternal testing options

CONS

  • Has a small number of users in its database
  • Can take up to eight weeks to process your sample

Getting More from Your African American DNA Test with GEDMatch

If you want to get more from your African American DNA test, consider uploading your results to GEDMatch. This free tool lets you match with other users and find information not available anywhere else online. African Ancestry, Ancestry.com and all the other sites process your results and show you the information in an easy to read graph or chart. The sites that offer to match you with other users will only connect you with registered users on that site. GEDMatch is different because it lets you upload your raw data and compare it to the data submitted by people who used other sites. To guide get  started with GEDMatch, you can follow our article ​How to Use GEDMatch.

Let’s say that you took a test that showed you were 92.6% African American but only divided your ancestry into two parts of Africa. Once you share your data with GEDMatch, you can see people who match your chromosomes and see what regions they had connections to on other sites. Another benefit of using GEDMatch is that you can identify specific chromosomes and click on each one to see other users who have the same chromosomes. After you connect with those users, you can share the data that you each got from various testing companies. GEDMatch can also help you find relatives who still live in Africa.

How to Get Your Raw Data

  • Log into your account with the DNA testing service
  • Click on the button or link to view your DNA summary
  • Enter the settings menu via a button on the page
  • Look for a download button, which you can press to immediately download your data in a new file
Getting More from Your African American DNA Test with GEDMatch

Is African Ancestry Your Top Choice for an African American DNA Test?

Proving that your African American can help you qualify for scholarships for college and get loans and grants for minority business owners. It’s not always as easy as saying that you’re African American to take advantage of those opportunities though. You may need to provide family records or a genealogy tree that shows how long your family lived in the country and where they came from and lived before. That is why getting an African American DNA test done is so important.

While African Ancestry is our top choice for the best African American DNA test, there are some things you need to know about the test. Based out of Washington, DC, the company was founded in 2003 by a man who wanted to help African Americans better understand their culture and to trace their heritage. It requires a sample taken via a cheek swab that the lab will test for mitochondria DNA, which is the DNA that comes from your father’s line. As this DNA does not change much from one generation to the next, it helps you get an accurate picture of whether you have African American genes in your blood and your country of origin.

As this does not provide you with genetic matches, it’s not the best choice for those who want to build a family tree or look for living relatives. Ancestry.com and 23andMe are better tests for doing genealogical research as are MyHeritage DNA and FamilyTree DNA. To get a good look at your African American ancestry, all five DNA tests for African Americans can help.

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