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What Is The Most Accurate Ancestry Dna Test
It’s amazing how a simple saliva sample or cheek swab can tell us so much about our ancestry, family connections and inherited markers of health – all thanks to our DNA.
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“A DNA test kit can go some way to showing us what our health risks are and who we are in the family now,” says Brianna Kirkpatrick, a genetic counselor, ancestry expert at the National Association of Genetic Counselors, and founder of DNA Water. “They can also tell us about grandparents and great-grandparents that we would never have had a chance to learn about otherwise.”
There are many questions that come up when buying a DNA test, so we spoke to six experts about what a quality test means, who can and can’t use it, and how safe your genetic data really is. We’ve also included answers to various frequently asked questions based on the information shared by these experts.
If you need a DNA kit for both preliminary health information and a deeper understanding of your ancestry, the 23andMe Health + Ancestry Service is your best bet.
If you’ve already had an autosomal DNA test like the one above, the FamilyTreeDNA Y-DNA and mtDNA tests give you a deeper insight into your maternal and paternal ancestry, perfect for those looking to explore their ancestry and build genealogical trees.
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You will notice that the DNA kits we recommend are the most popular on the market. That’s because the bigger the database of past customers you can compare your DNA to, the better.
Each company’s database is your bread and butter for finding other family members you might be a match for, determining your exact ethnic breakdown, and getting more data to compare your genetic health data.
If your goal is to build a family tree or meet cousins, you want the site with the most people and therefore the most matches, said Micah Anders, a professional genealogist who specializes in genetic genealogy.
AncestryDNA has the largest database with nearly 20 million estimated people, about 8 million more than the next closest database, 23andMe. You can sign up for Family Connections and be able to message potential matches. Anders noted that people on Ancestry don’t check their posts as often as other sites aimed at more serious genealogists, such as FamilyTree DNA.
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The company offers a subscription service ($25/month and up) that gives you access to a catalog of historical records such as birth, death and marriage certificates that you can use to build your family tree.
Submitting a saliva sample to Ancestry will give you a breakdown of your ethnicity estimates; matches specific countries, regions, and a map of potential migration patterns of your ancestors; and family ties to those who match your DNA.
Ancestry continues to update its ethnicity and family relationship estimates based on new customer data, so you will continue to receive information as its database grows. The company also allows users to upload their raw genetic data, which can be uploaded to other websites for analysis.
One downside to Ancestry is that as of January 2021, it no longer offers specific health information. But given that genetic counselors recommend consulting a specialist before testing your DNA for health information, and most people use these tests for genealogy purposes, AncestryDNA is still our number one choice.
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Plus, at $99 (and often less when on sale), this test shines in its genealogy offering, leaving room in your wallet to explore DNA testing with a qualified professional if you so choose.
At $199, the 23andMe Health + Ancestry Service is the most expensive package on our list. But you’ll get more than 40 carrier status reports (like whether you have gene mutations for inherited diseases) and more than 10 health reports. It helps to understand your genetic risk for diseases such as type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.
While these reports can be interesting and informative, it is important to remember that a positive result does not necessarily mean that you will get the disease, and a negative result does not mean that you will not get the disease.
In addition to health, 23andMe provides ancestry results with scores broken down by ethnicity, an interactive map that shows where your ancestors came from, and haplogroups that look at your family’s deep maternal or paternal ancestry.
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Female testers will only be able to see their maternal haplogroup, but male testers can get information about their paternal haplogroup because this test is performed on the Y chromosome (which only genetic males have).
Finally, 23andMe has a robust platform to create family connections with your DNA matches if you choose. Through the platform, you can send messages and even see a map of where your potential mates are. With over 12 million people in their database, the chances of finding distant (or not so) relatives are high.
MyHeritage’s DNA testing kit was launched in 2016, so its database of around 4.5 million DNA samples is not as large as older brands. However, MyHeritage allows users to upload their raw genetic data from other sites, so even though its sample collection is smaller, its database is quite large, and you can still find family matches on the site.
Moreover, if you consider yourself to be of European descent, MyHeritage DNA may be a better choice than others, as it has more customers in Europe.
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MyHeritage was used as a genealogy tool long before it started offering its own DNA test. Because of this, the site also has an incredible database of genealogical documents such as birth, death and marriage certificates. Access requires a subscription, but you can also integrate your DNA results with a historical database and family tree tool.
At $89 (and often promoted for less), it has most of the same offerings as the better-known names: There’s a built-in platform for connecting to new family DNA matches and detailed ethnicity score breakdowns. Unlike the Ancestry and 23andMe tests, MyHeritage uses a facial swab to collect DNA, which some may find easier than collecting sputum in a test tube.
This test does not provide information about health or personality traits, so it is especially suitable for those who want to focus only on their ancestry.
If you’ve already had an autosomal DNA test like the one above, the FamilyTreeDNA Y-DNA and mtDNA tests give you a deeper insight into your maternal and paternal ancestry, perfect for those looking to trace their ancestors and build family trees .
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Most ancestry DNA testing kits on the market are autosomal DNA tests, meaning each gender can learn both sides of their family tree, said Adrienne Abiadun, a professional genealogist at Legacy Tree Genealogists.
But FamilyTreeDNA offers two separate, more specific tests: mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) testing, which focuses on your maternal line and answers the question “who was my mother’s mother?”; or Y-DNA testing, which can only be used by biological males with a Y chromosome to find information about their direct parentage.
These types of tests are best for those who have already had autosomal DNA testing (like any of the above) and are looking for more in-depth information about their ancestry. They are also suitable for someone who only wants information on their maternal or paternal line – for example, a biological man who never knew his father and wants more information on his paternal line only.
FamilyTreeDNA is a cheek swab test that allows users to upload their raw data from other testing sites to get more matches, so it’s perfect if you want to connect with others.
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“FamilyTreeDNA has a lot more serious genealogists, so sometimes you’ll have a better chance of getting answers from people there,” Micah Anders said.
A paternity test starts at $119, while a maternal ancestry test is $159. For what it’s worth, FamilyTreeDNA does offer an autosomal DNA test, but Anders and Abiodun said they generally advise customers to download their autosomal data from other testing companies and then focus on FamilyTreeDNA’s more specialized offerings, such as if needed.
There are quite a few niche DNA testing kits available, especially for those interested in genealogy. The experts we spoke to strongly recommend choosing one of the major database brands listed above, and once you’ve confirmed where your line is coming from, consider a more niche test.
Cost: We looked at what information you get and the quality of the information you get compared to the cost of the test.
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Depth and detail of the data provided: We looked at how well each test captures information about deep ancestry (your ancestors going back hundreds and thousands of years) and genetic
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