In 2020, you can find out if you have 5% French blood or find your long lost aunt your mom talked about just with the power of your saliva.
In the past, finding your lost relatives and pinpointing your ethnicity was only possible via documents and literary sources. It involved grave hunting, checking cemetery records, marriage certificates; and professional genealogists were kind of Indiana Jones’s of hunting down ancestry.
The 2000s changed all that. With the invention of DNA testing, you don’t need to spend $1,000s on professional genealogists. With the best DNA test at your disposal, you too can become a genealogical Indiana Jones; and it only takes one mouth swab and a speck of your saliva.
According to the MIT Technology Review, more than 26 million people have taken an at-home DNA test. In fact, “As many people purchased consumer DNA tests in 2018 as in all previous years combined” says the study.
The secret is, apparently, out:
Anybody can have an in-depth look at their ancestry for a DNA test kit price of less than $100.
That also makes it a perfect gift because:
- It involves relatives (you can gift it to your mum, dad, aunt, son, daughter, and so on).
- It’s incredibly easy to use – buy the kit, collect your saliva, send it back to the lab.
- DNA test kits are within the perfect gift-giving range of about $50-$100.
We’ll give you tips on how you can choose the best DNA test for yourself but let’s first look at some results people got about their ethnic background, shall we?
Examples Of DNA Test Results
The main reason, honestly, that most of us take a DNA test is because we are incredibly curious about what kind of results we’re going to get. You might have Irish or German descent, right? With these genealogical tests, you can scientifically find out your true heritage is.
DNA test kits take the very essence that makes us, well, us – the DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid – and shows us from where our predecessors came from. You’ll see more about the science below but first, let’s check these two cases to give you an example of what modern DNA test kits can accomplish.
Here is an example of how 23andMe DNA test results look like.
Background about Brandon who took the test: He is a 2nd generation American whose parents moved to the US from France when Nazi Germany invaded in WWII. Turns out he has quite a mix of French, British, Irish, German and Italian blood with a hint of Greek to add the Mediterranian temperament:
Let’s have a look at another one. This one is by AncestryDNA, widely regarded as only of the best DNA test and certainly the most popular one.
Background about Kate who took the test: She’s the 1st generation American. Her family moved from Europe (France? German(ish)? She didn’t know precisely) to Canada in the 19th Century and were living in Quebec. She was most surprised by her Spanish blood (18%):
It’s not hard to imagine everybody doing the DNA tests if they give you such in-depth information about your heritage.
Do you ever wonder what may surprise you about your own heritage?
It’s not really that hard to find out; you just need to get the right DNA test and you’re set.
However, the real catch is that you have dozens of DNA ancestry tests out there from companies like Ancestry.com, 23andme, and FamilyTreeDNA to name just a few.
It would just be kind of sad if you wouldn’t pick the best one, right?
That’s why we nailed down the best DNA test for ancestry and genealogy below. We took into account accuracy, database size, the reputation of the company providing the test and support they offer.
4 Most Popular DNA Tests (For Beginners)
The world of DNA test kits has 4 big test as the 4 pillars. More than 80% of people who buy DNA testing kits, buy one of these 4 tests and test themselves or gift it to their kids, parents, or friends.
The reason is simple: These tests are perfect for everybody who is taking the DNA test for the 1st time.
In short, if you heard that your friend Karen got a DNA test last Christmas, it was almost certainly one of the big 4 tests listed here.
Short science note: The most popular DNA test kits analyze our autosomal chromosomes that constitute more than 95% of our whole genome (22 out of 23 chromosomes). If you’re a science buff, you can read in-depth how autosomal DNA tests work here.
Let’s start with the most popular one you probably already know:
#1 AncestryDNA test by Ancestry.com (15+ Million Used It Already)
Most of the people that you heard took a DNA test took the autosomal test called AncestryDNA test by Ancestry.com. It’s by far the most popular DNA test around.
In fact, more than 15 million people have ordered the kit, collected their own saliva with a mouth swab in the kit, shipped it back to Ancestry.com, and voila! got their ethnicity background, represented by one of those colorful maps.
With more than 15 million people testing themselves, Ancestry has the most complete picture of our shared genealogy. The larger the database of people who take the test, the more accurate the test will be. Because Ancestry has the biggest database, it also has the highest accuracy.
What is more, with the growing database (or people who took the test), they continually update you with more and more accurate heritage estimation. That’s quite phenomenal.
The test itself can locate 500 regions (like Ireland, France, Germany + 497 more) where your predecessors came from.
The results can be quite surprising. For example, if you think you’re 100% purebred Italian, you may find out that in reality, you have 5% French blood, 10% Balkanise blood or even that your genealogical predecessors lived in Russia.
Finding Lost Relatives
On another note: AncestryDNA is also the go-to test if you want to find your lost relatives. Their software will try to match you with anyone the 15+ million people who already took the test.
If your long lost sister, for example, already took the AncestryDNA test, the test kit will figure it out and you’ll have a chance to connect with any relative.
For finding relatives, you really need the biggest database. AncestryDNA test is the best DNA test for finding relatives precisely because it has a humongous database already (other genealogy tests don’t even come close).
How Much Does AncestryDNA Cost And Where To Buy It?
Despite genetic testing technology being a highly advanced method for genealogical research, the amount of people taking DNA tests has rapidly decreased the total cost of the test.
The AncestryDNA test kit doesn’t cost several hundred dollars. The standard price is only $99. With such a low price point, the AncestryDNA is widely available to pretty much everybody.
If you’re curious about what the AncestryDNA test will show for you, you can buy it for yourself or as a gift to a family member at the official Ancestry.com platform.
Update: AncestryHealth Kit
Recently, Ancestry.com has released its revolutionary DNA health kit named ‘AncestryHealth’. This is a more advanced DNA kit which analyses your genome and estimates how likely you are to be suffering from Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and so on in the future.
This is obviously not a substitute for a doctor’s visit. However, it may be very useful to be prepared for different health outcomes we might face. We can even change our diet and exercise plan accordingly if we know that we may suffer from eating too much red meat, for example.
The AncestryHealth kit is an advanced DNA kit. It costs $149.
#2 23andMe DNA Test (Best For Health + Most Colorful Maps)
If you don’t live under the rock, you must have heard of 23andMe DNA tests. They are really known for their beautifully colored ethnicity background maps and friendly customer support.
The original 23andMe DNA test offers a colorful insight into your heritage based on advanced genetic analysis. While other companies only employ basic autosomal testing, the 23andMe goes two steps further and offers the Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA analysis as well.
By now you might have realized that Ancestry.com and 23andMe offer pretty much the same DNA tests, right? And you know that Ancestry.com has that unbeatable 15+ million person database. Why shouldn’t your choice always be Ancestry.com instead of 23andMe which has a database of about 1 million?
Well, there are a couple of reasons:
23andMe vs AncestryDNA Ethnicity Test (Which One Is Better?)
AncestryDNA is no doubt the most popular and best-selling DNA test in the world. However, when AncestryDNA is compared with the 23andMe DNA test, you can see why 23andMe is getting more and more popular.
The first reason we already know. AncestryDNA only tests autosomal DNA, while 23andMe does additional analysis by testing the Y chromosome (Y DNA testing) and mitochondrial DNA. That extra effort results in better overall accuracy of the test.
Secondly, a big reason why people opt for the 23andMe test instead of AncestryDNA is a larger number of ethnic regions.
AncestryDNA can pinpoint your heritage to 500 regional locations – they are sizes of countries – like France, Germany, Japan and so on.
23andMe, on the other hand, has 1500+ regional locations. That means they are able to pinpoint the location from where your ancestors came from much more accurately.
For example, AncestryDNA will tell you that your ancestors came from France. 23andMe DNA test will tell you that they come from France as well, but they will further specify where in France they lived.
Are you descended from people who lived in Paris? The people who lived in Normandy? Or did your ancestors lived closer to the Mediterranian coast in cities like Marseilles (which would explain your olive complexion a bit)?
23andMe can answer those question, AncestryDNA can’t.
Finally, there is also a difference in price. Being the biggest player in the DNA test kits, Ancestry.com commands a bit higher $99 price tag.
On the other hand, you can snatch the 23andMe kit for only $79.
Furthermore, there is one place where the 23andMe test is unbeatable:
23andMe Health Test
23andMe was the first company that dared to use their genetic analysis software to predict diseases you are more or less likely to suffer in the future. The 23andMe Cancer test is, in fact, the first one ever to get an FDA approval for a cancer-related DNA kit.
What is more, the FDA has further approved their 23andMe Health kit to be used in “association with medication metabolism”. You can read the full FDA press release here.
23andMe Health test is an advanced DNA test that costs $199.
#3 FamilyTreeDNA Family Finder (myOrigins And ancientOrigins Tests)
FamilyTreeDNA offers advanced DNA tests such as Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA tests. However, their main test is the FamilyTreeDNA Family Finder.
Just from the name, you can conclude that it can be used to find or confirm family members. However, that is just an extra feature.
The main drive behind taking the FamilyTreeDNA test is finding out your family’s origins. They offer myOrigins analysis which is pretty much the same thing that Ancestry.com and 23andMe offer; you get a colorful map that tells how what percentage of your ancestors came from different places. Nothing new here, really.
Where the FamilyTreeDNA really has an edge is their ancientOrigins enhancement. Using this, they compare your DNA with ancient DNA that was found on archeological sites. That is some Indiana Jones level of research.
The ancientOrigins report tells you if your ancestors were hunter-gatherers, farmers or even metal invaders is early Bronze-Age. That is a unique report that only FamilyTreeDNA is able to provide.
Obviously, people who really want to know if they are more warrior-type or farmer-type can use the DNA test to tell them just that.
It is only one of the cheapest available DNA tests, coming at $79 per DNA test kit.
#4 MyHeritageDNA Test (Best For International Genealogy Researchers)
This is not a widely known test in the US but the international community – especially Europeans – should know MyHeritage DNA test kit well enough.
MyHeritage has a large poll of international customers. This is great if you don’t live in the US but would still like to follow the route of your ancestors throughout the centuries.
The international DNA database the MyHeritage is known for can create ethnicity background maps based on the DNA of other Europeans. Namely Germans, English, French, Italian and so on.
MyHeritage is so widely spread across the globe that they have country-specific websites. For example, they have websites in German, French, Italian and so. That makes it easier for people whose first language is not English to inform themselves and use their local platform for all their genealogical needs.
You can check if they have a website in your country by clicking the link here. MyHeritageDNA test that you can buy cost less than 100€ in pretty much any country that belongs to the European Union.
Other Genealogy Tests
We have covered the best 4 DNA tests above. Those are standard tests that most of the people, especially the 1st time test takers use.
However, there is another poll of smaller DNA test kit providers that provide either:
- More specific DNA tests. Examples: Finding out your Native American or even Neanderthal origin.
- More in-depth tests. More powerful tests with extensive testing of your genome; most appropriate for scientists, and they do cost quite a bit more.
A very neat example a test that estimates how much Neanderthal DNA you have in your genome. Most of us have 1% to 4% of Neanderthal DNA. Are you closers to 1% or are you a true 4% Neanderthal? The Neanderthal test can answer that question.
We are Mad About Genealogy and it’s our wish for everybody to be able to have a clear look into their family’s origins.
If you have any questions about which specific test would be best for you, please explain your situation in the comments below and we’ll try our best to advise you on the right choice.