Best DNA Ancestry Kits of 2018

A DNA ancestry kit helps you learn about your heritage and even how your genes influence some of your traits. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best DNA ancestry kits, so you can discover more about your family tree.

Choosing a DNA Ancestry Kit

People have always been curious about where their ancestors came from, but now, thanks to science, you can know for sure with a DNA ancestry kit. You provide a sample of your DNA, the company runs it through a lab, and you receive a report that tells you where your forebears came from. Depending on the report you choose, you may also receive insights about how your genes influence some of your traits and any genetic health risks you may have.

If you love learning about your heritage, a DNA ancestry kit is definitely worth the investment. But with dozens of kits on the market, how do you know which one to choose? Some people think that all kits are the same—they're evaluating the same data, after all—but this is not true. The right DNA ancestry kit for you depends on what insights you're hoping to glean. Here's a brief overview of how to find your perfect match.

It's recommended that you brush your teeth or use mouthwash before providing your DNA sample.

Types of DNA Tests

Autosomal DNA: When people think of a DNA ancestry test, they tend to think of autosomal DNA. This type of test tracks your ancestry on the male and female sides, and it provides a thorough overview of where your ancestors came from. Both men and women can take these types of tests.

Mitochondrial DNA: There are also special tests designed to follow your mother's or father's line. Mitochondrial DNA tests tell you about your mother's family. Everyone has mitochondria, but unlike autosomal DNA, mitochondrial DNA comes only from your mother, so this test can provide you with a clearer picture of your maternal ancestry than an autosomal DNA test can.

Y-chromosomal DNA: These DNA tests do the same thing for paternal DNA. The Y chromosome is passed directly from father to son without any mixing with maternal DNA. However, because only men have a Y chromosome, it's impossible for women to take this type of test. But if you're determined to learn more about your father's family, you could ask a male relative to take the test on your behalf.

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Your Results May Not Completely Match Up with Results of Relatives

You only receive 50 percent of your DNA from each of your parents, so it's possible that other relatives will have results that differ slightly from yours.

Which DNA Test Is Right for You?

Here are the important factors to consider when choosing a DNA ancestry kit.

DNA database
Each DNA testing company has its own database of results that it uses to determine the origins of your family. The larger the database, the more useful the information it provides. Ideally, the company's database should contain at least two million samples in order to supply accurate results. You can learn more about the company's database by visiting its website or reaching out to the company directly.

Ethnicity regions
If your ancestry is your primary concern, you should choose a DNA ancestry kit that has a large number of ethnicity regions. You probably wouldn't find it very helpful if the report you received just said "European." You want results that give you the most precise answers possible. It's a smart idea to view a sample report if you can or look for a list of the regions the ancestry kit tests for to be sure that it has what you need.

Relative matching
DNA ancestry kits might also show you other people in their database you're related to and how closely you're related. For those who have been adopted, this is one of the biggest appeals of taking the DNA test. This is usually an optional feature, so you aren't required to participate if you don't want to.

Health information
Some DNA ancestry kits shed light on possible health conditions you may be susceptible to based on your genes. These tests might tell you whether you're more likely to have a genetic disease or whether you're a carrier of a certain disease. It may also provide information on certain traits, such as whether you're prone to weighing more than average. This knowledge could encourage you to take action today to protect your health for tomorrow.

Required sample
The majority of DNA ancestry kits require you to submit a cheek swab, which you enclose in a protective tube and ship to the testing lab, but some tests ask for a saliva sample. The tube will indicate how much saliva is needed for accurate results. It's not uncommon for the elderly and those who suffer from dry mouth to struggle with producing enough saliva needed for these tests. If you're concerned about this, it's best to go with a test that requires a cheek swab.

Waiting period
Once you submit your DNA sample, it usually takes several weeks before you receive the results. Some companies with quick turnaround times might be able to share your results within four weeks, but six to eight weeks is standard.

Privacy policy
The popularity of DNA ancestry tests has sparked concerns about privacy. What will the companies do with your samples? Some fear that this information will be sold to third parties and used for unknown purposes. If you're worried about this, it's wise to read the ancestry company's privacy policy before you purchase a kit. The policy should clearly outline how your DNA sample will and won't be used. If you have any questions, you might want to reach out to the company for clarification.

Don't take anything by mouth or smoke for at least 30 minutes prior to giving your DNA sample to get the most accurate results.

DNA Ancestry Kit Prices

The level of detail in the report determines the cost of a DNA ancestry kit. If you just want a general idea of where your ancestors are from, you can find a decent kit for between $70 and $100. Kits that include health testing are more expensive, ranging from $100 to $200.

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DNA Kits May Not Provide the Exact Results You're Seeking

Those with Native American ancestry might be disappointed to know that current DNA ancestry kits cannot specify a tribal affiliation.

FAQ

Q. How far back will my ancestry results go?
A. Autosomal DNA tests usually tell you about your ancestors within the last thousand years, but mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosomal DNA tests can go back as far as 50,000 years.

Q. How do I view my results once I've submitted my sample?
A. Your kit should contain instructions on how to view your report. When the test is complete, you will receive an email from the company. You can then log into an online account to view your full results.

Q. What if my results say I have a genetic disease?
A. These tests are not designed to tell you if you have a disease or not, though they can tell you if you are more likely to develop a certain disease based on your genes. If you're concerned about any results you receive, it's a good idea to follow up with a genetic counselor or your doctor for more information.

Some companies offer you the chance to download your raw data, which you can keep for yourself or upload to another company's database for more accurate results.
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