Genealogists have for centuries relied on oral and written records when it comes to tracing their family trees. But around the year 2000, there comes the age of genealogical DNA testing. It offers genealogists as well as family historians the opportunity to implement well-established and standard scientific methods to provide enough proof of ancestry and relationships.
However, as good as these methods seem, there was a barrier in their use – every user couldn’t access it unless they reach their health care provider in the health centers. This happened until DNA testing kit came to take away every barrier related to this. Now, it is more convenient than ever before.
These days, more than ever before, personal DNA testing is more popular than what it has always been because it can now easily be done even in the comfort of your home and at considerably affordable costs. It is even now the subject of many Tv shows, including the likes of PBS’s Finding Your Roots and TLC’s Who Do You Think Are, where famous people find out new things about their heritage.
In August 2017, AncestryDNA (the arm of Ancestry that focuses on genetics) surpassed up to 5 million people in its DNA database. This was after they had reached 4 million in just 3 months earlier. In the same year by April, 23andMe database also reached 2 million. What these huge databases are simply saying is that there are more chances of finding previously unknown or long-lost relatives or be matched with distant cousins.
I have, however, taken a careful look at several DNA testing kits on the market today, evaluating their simplicity, relative-matching features, and the overall DNA-testing experience of the kits. At the end, I was able to come up with the 5 BEST DNA testing kits including 23andMe and AncestryDNA. Some testing kits like MyHeritage DNA, HomeDNA, and National Geographic also made the list. I have also included a buying guide to this review to help you better decide which DNA kit will be best for you when you finally decided to make an investment. Below are the 5 best DNA testing kit on the market for 2018.
Best DNA Testing Kits Comparison
These are the DNA testing kits that top the market in 2018 based on the reviews of their features and what users are saying about them.
|Products||Chromosome Browser||Database size||Health info||Collection method||Stores result||Price|
|23andMe||Yes||1 million||For extra fee||Saliva||Indefinitely|
|National Geographic||No||230,000||None||Saliva||25 years|
|MyHeritage||Yes||1.4 million||None||Cheek Swab||25 years|
|HomeDNA||No||None||None||Mouth swab||25 years|
Best for cousin matching
>> AncestryDNA Genetic Testing Kit
- Tests: Autosomal
- Autosomal SNPs tested: 650,000
- Match Database: 6 million
It will definitely not be much of a surprise to see AncestryDNA kit come first on the of the best 5 DNA testing kit for 2018. The kit is offered by the popular and giant genealogy site; Ancestry.com. this is a well-respected, well-established and mighty online community. Ancestry has got a big name in DNA services of which its present affiliation with Mormon Church, who are greatly fascinated with genealogical record keeping contributes a huge quarter. With AncestryDNA, it has become a lot easier for people to connect their DNA results with millions of others. You can directly link them to your online family tree and then further make a dig into almost 20 billion records online to continue your search.
With the AncestryDNA kit, you have an access to a free family tree tool where you can link your results into a tree management service. Your saliva is the only thing required for you to use this kit is saliva from your spit which makes the whole process easy and fast.
However, if you are the DNA geek type, you may not find the Ancestry service so perfect for you. This is because the kit does not provide a chromosome browser which limits your ability to really do some DNA segment comparisons. But Ancestry completely allows you to download your full DNA profile without any extra charge, so it becomes easy for you to import that data into another tool.
One amazing feature about this test kit that is truly intriguing is that Ancestry has your results stored forever. They have a strong genealogical community as well as a wide variety of excellent family matching features.
Whenever you decide to trace down your relatives, all from the comfort of your home, AncestryDNA testing kit is up to do the job. It breaks down the world into 26 ethnicities and regions and you will have your result showing the particular percentage of your DNA associated with each of the regions. That is a perfect starting point in narrowing down where to begin your research.
The kit comes with an ethnicity map feature that reveals where each set of ancestors had likely lived. It is color-coded to match your ethnicity results and at the same time, it is very interactive; you can easily zoom in to find additional details. It is also very affordable compared to other DNA testing kits on the market despite rating far higher than many of them.
However, you should also know that one thing the AncestryDNA test won’t reveal to you anything that has to do with genetic health markers. But if that is what you want, you should be able to get such feature in 23andMe. That is the next kit on this list.
What I liked about AncestryDNA test kit
- Has more than 6 million sets of DNA results for easy comparison
- It has a very strong genealogical community
- Can easily link your DNA results to your online family tree
- You can easily connect with people that have the same match through email and messages
- It stores your results forever
What I don’t like about it
- Does not offer separate mtDNA or Y-DNA tests
- It requires an ongoing subscription before you can functionally use their online family tree
- You can’t upload raw data from other sites
Best for genetic health screening
>> 23andMe DNA Test Kit
- Tests: Autosomal, mtDNA, Y-DNA, Health
- Autosomal SNPs tested: 650,000
- Match database: 1 million
23andMe DNA testing Kit is probably one of the most talked-about kits. With the kit, you can get a detailed breakdown of your ancestry from more than 150 populations worldwide. 23andMe makes it quite easy for you to trace parts of your ancestry to a specific group of people from more than a thousand years ago. It offers an easy at-home DNA testing all by taking a small saliva sample.
Even though 23andMe provides some genealogical services, it is not as much as what most companies do. However, 23andMe is the only genealogical testing company that also provides DNA health testing.
The genealogical testing service of 23andMe, when combined with its health screening for more than 75 traits, predispositions, and conditions, 23andMe’s testing provides a very powerful tool that everyone should consider.
23andMe has earned a big name for the depth of its medical tests, and also for the large size of its match database. However, when purchasing the 23andMe test kit for basic DNA test which goes for some bucks, you will have to pay double to include get medical results as well. But the added expense, I will say, it’s worth the money because it will let you have access to some additional information including genetic health risk information, trait reports, wellness reports, and carrier status reports which is great for determining if a particular DNA profile could be a genetic carrier of a disability or disease.
The kit makes use of your saliva to get your DNA information and after analyzing it, stores it forever on the 23andMe’s servers. Just like the AncestryDNA kit, 23andMe also provides a chromosome browser for easy comparison in as much as matches approve your access.
Another amazing thing about 23andMe DNA testing kit is that it does not only provide patrilineal and matrilineal line testing but can also geolocate your DNA ancestry into up to 31 regions.
For several reasons, the 23andMe DNA test kit has remained my favorites because it makes it easy to know virtually everything about yourself. It will particularly be of great help to you if you are the type that wants to know if you carry any disease or if any health risk is found in your DNA. It can be much easier to be aware of the right steps to take earlier in life to avoid some health issues when you know early enough.
23andMe also helps reveal your ideal muscle composition and weight based on your genes. You will also be able to confirm some underlying traits like unibrows, hair loss, sleep habits and lactose intolerance.
What I liked about the 23andMe DNA test kit
- It is the only site that offers health and wellness reports
- Includes a chromosome browser for easy comparison of results
- 23andMe has a very large database consisting of more than one million results
What I don’t like about it
- When compared to other sites, it has a very limited genealogical community
- You can’t contact matches easily
- Does not allow you to upload raw data from other sites
- It takes the extra cost for health and wellness test
Best for finding societal connections
>> National Geographic DNA Test Kit
- Tests: Autosomal, mtDNA, Y-DNA
- Autosomal SNPs tested: 700,000
- Match database: 230,000
The National Geographic DNA test kit being the 3rd on this list is another layer exposing how awesome and amazing science could be. A few years back, the famous National Geographic officially got in on the DNA kits and their kit has been amazing in helping people view a complete breakdown of their regional ancestry by percentage, even as far back as 500,000 years. With this kit, you can actually learn a whole lot about your ancestors, including how they migrated, where they lived, and many more.
If you are the type that is more interested in the societal aspect of your genetic makeup rather than discovering family connections, you will surely find National Geographic Genographic project really fascinating. Find out if you have any link to famous people in history. You want to know if you are related to people like Queen Victoria, George Washington or Nikola Tesla, you should get this test kit.
Even though the same Gene-by-Gene firm running Family Tree DNA is also the one running Genographic Project labs, test results are aimed at providing you enough help to trace your ancestors. This does not only stop at digging down to your father’s or mother’s line but also based on chromosomal markers in order to provide you enough insight into ancestors who may not have also been on your direct parental lines.
If such questions as “How far back can I trace my DNA? and “where exactly did I come from” is of more interest to you rather knowing who your great, great, great grandfather was, then, this might just be the perfect option for you. Plus, this test kit is affiliated with National Geographic, so you should be sure it’s going to be a fascinating journey.
With the National Geographic DNA test kit only costing a few dollars, it is among the affordable kits out there on the market. It only requires your saliva and your result will be sent to you in a custom video showing your ancestry journey and you can also easily share it on social media. It also comes with a highly fun-loaded app and website that allows you to interact with your personal data.
What I liked about the National Geographic DNA test kit
- It offers all three tests at a very affordable price
- When compared with other kits, it is quite accurate
- It features a social connection of more than 1 million subscribers on their site
- It is NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
What I don’t like about it
- It has a little bit limited Y-DNA test
- Its autosomal DNA-only test is expensive
- Connection with other matches is difficult
- It is not possible to upload raw data from other sites
Best Autosomal test kit on a budget
>> My Heritage DNA Test Kit
- Tests: Autosomal
- Autosomal SNPs tested: 700,000
- Match database: 1.4 million
MyHeritage is a famous genealogy site that has over 90 million users. It has not only been a leader when it comes to how long it has been around but it’s also one of the best genealogical research sites out there. Their DNA testing service is developed in the focus to help support their other research services. This DNA testing allows you to connect with relatives you did not even know you had. You can also build an online community and also share research.
Autosomal DNA testing has proved to be the most popular and it is the only type of testing offered by MyHeritage DNA. it has proved to be the most useful when it comes to genealogical testing because it allows you to connect with relatives who are fairly close and also studying the same set of ancestors.
This simply means that you can connect with other researchers and compare your results; this, of course, is a huge benefit rather than trying to do the research all on your own.
However, I think you should also know that half of your autosomal DNA comes from your mother while the other half is from your father. In the same manner, they too get their half of their autosomal DNA from each of their parents, and so on. This, in turn, makes it pretty much harder to accurately detect relatives as you journey back and back, especially more than six generations.
However, that is still a lot for you to connect with living 3rd, 4th, and sometimes, the 5th cousins. If you will also like to do your mtDNA and YDNA testing, you may as well have to check some other companies for that.
One intriguing thing about MyHeritage is the speed at which the result comes. Compared to the 6-8 weeks some other companies will offer, with MyHeritage, you should get your results back in only 3-4 weeks. The website is also available in 40 languages which makes it one of the most used sites around the world. That is a perfect platform for connecting with distant family members within and outside the United States.
What I liked about the MyHeritage DNA testing kit
- Has a very large database of customers worldwide for easy matching
- It covers up to 42 ethnic groups
- It is possible to contact matches for free
- You can link your DNA results to your online family tree
- Easy upload of raw data from other sites
What I don’t like about it
- It has a relatively small database compared to other sites
Best for finding genetic traits in man and pets
>> HomeDNA Ancestry testing kit
- Tests: Autosomal, Y-DNA
- Autosomal SNPs tested: 850,000
- Match database: None
HomeDNA Ancestry Test kit brings us to the last kit on this list of top 5 best DNA testing kits for 2018. I will agree with some people that considered this DNA testing kit as the Walmart of DNA testing. I just hope our judgment is not based only on the fact that the company’s tests are majorly sold at Walmarts.
Even though the air is yet to be completely cleared about the stand of the hurry about the effectiveness of specialty tests, HomeDNA offers separate test kits to help you determine some special traits from the information provided by your DNA, including food and pet sensitivity, paternity, diet and exercise strategies stemming from your genetic makeup, even to skin care.
If you are also the type that is curious about your ancestry, you can rely on HomeDNA to do the job for you with its wide variety of products designed to help make finding your historical background super easy.
Using this kit, you are only required to swab your mouth and get it shipped locally for free while you await your results within 3 weeks. Your results are also kept for as long as 25 years.
I also found out that this kit is not only beneficial to men. If you also desire to find the breed history of your dog, you can get a test for your pooch. Testing and screening for the health status of your dog or cat is also possible with HomeDNA as it performs a series of test for genetic diseases and traits.
Even though HomeDNA offers quite a number of fantastic genealogical services, it only goes for a few dollars so you wouldn’t have to break the bank to get a test. It is very affordable and you can always get it in stores like the Walmart, Rite Aid, CVS, and Walgreens pharmacies.
However, one major downside of the HomeDNA test is that it has no match database you can compare your result with which thus makes ancestry searching a bit difficult.
What I liked about the HomeDNA test kit
- Results arrive in 3 weeks
- Allows you to find the ancestral history of your pets
- Very affordable
What I don’t like about it
- It has no match database
Buying Guide for Best DNA Ancestry Test Kits
There comes a time when we become curious about knowing our roots. We make inquiries about where we come from in order to fully understand who we are but most times, we get incomplete details. Your relatives may not know about your family tree beyond four to five generations, so you cannot fully rely on the words from their mouth. So how do you get the accurate information about your root? Science has provided a solution to this by creating a DNA ancestry test kit which is capable of determining your full heritage. This tool is very accurate in showing details about the branching of your family tree.
However, there are lots of DNA ancestry test kits available in the market that if you are not careful, you will make the wrong choice which cannot fully meet your needs. A smart way to go about purchasing a DNA kit is to first find out the kind of analytics the kit offers, what type of tests that can be run on the kit, the size of the available DNA database and key features that can provide you with all the relevant information about your background even from ancestors.
What Can a DNA Ancestry Test Tell You?
The advantage of a DNA ancestry test kit is that relevant information that pertains to your family tree can be traced with a high level of precision. Some of the vital details that can be ascertained using this kit include
1. Unfamiliar Relatives
Consider a child who is adopted and is trying to find his biological relatives. Such a child becomes clueless about his/her full heritage after many years go by. This is one of the solutions that a DNA ancestry test kit will provide you. It is capable of showing a proportion of relatedness and DNA matches among a large number of people who take the test. In this process, you can accurately discover people who are related to you but have been separated from you for so many years due to some reasons.
2. Ethnic Background
This is often used by people who were abducted and enslaved for so many years in a foreign land. Many people do not know their ethnic background and this DNA ancestral test kit can provide genetic estimates and help you trace it accurately. It can show you if you from Scotland, Africa or Native American descent.
3. Complete Family Tree
A DNA ancestry test kit can build a family tree for you providing a starting point for your genealogical research. This provides a depth of information in addition to helping you discover your living relatives that you have not seen before.
4. Health Details
You can know about your general wellness status and if diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and celiac disease are common in your family tree. This kit shows you important health information in addition to ancestral details. This can help you manage some diseases that you are at risk for. Also, information about lactose metabolism can be traced using a DNA ancestral test kit. This detects if your body is lactose tolerant or not and whether you should consume milk products or not. Many other health details can be fully understood with this kit and this can be a life-saving approach to a healthy living.
Types of DNA Tests
There are many tests that can be conducted using the DNA ancestral test kit. They include the following
Mitochondrial DNA test
You can clearly determine your ancestral line from your mother’s side. A DNA kit will show you the several branches of the family tree using the DNA from the mitochondrion. This test can be taken by both men and women since the mitochondrion is a common nuclear component of both sexes.
Y chromosome test
Another useful test that can be conducted using a DNA test kit is a Y chromosome test. This test can clearly show a man’s direct ancestry line only from the paternal side. It does not show details from the mother’s side because the Y chromosome is exclusively carried by the male gene. So women are exempted from this particular test because they carry only XX chromosome.
Autosomal DNA test
This test is just perfect to trace genealogical information from both the father and mother’s side. Autosomal DNA test can be taken by both men and women and it doesn’t just focus on a single ancestral line. So, if you intend to trace your complete family tree, this test is just appropriate to give you full details.
DNA/Ancestral Test Kit Feature Considerations
There are some requirements for each ancestral test kit and the most common ones are
Not all sample types can be used on a kit. Most times the required DNA sample would be specified by the maker of the kit. Sometimes, a cheek swab can do a great job. It’s simple to collect and only requires the use of a cotton swab. You can collect cheek swab, insert it in a protective tube and seal it. You can then transport it to a competent testing company. Another sample type that you be efficient for a DNA test is a saliva sample. This sample is also simple to collect and all you have to do is spit into a collection tube until it crosses the fill line a bit. Then, you stabilize the sputum within 30 minutes of collection using a buffer. Seal and ship the sample to a testing company. Saliva samples can be ineffective for elderly relatives because the result may not be accurate enough. In such cases, the cheek swab is just appropriate for DNA tests.
Don’t be in haste to get the result of A DNA test because it’s actually not a fast process. Testing companies may take several weeks to completely process and analyze your DNA sample but some companies may offer shorter waiting periods. If you intend to get a fast result, ensure you make enough inquiries about the waiting periods of the testing company you are working with before they can give a reliable result. Most companies require an eight-week waiting period but some DNA ancestral test kits can provide result within four to six weeks waiting period. It’s very important you make enough research into delivery time of testing companies.
DNA Database Size
Not all testing companies provide a large DNA database but very detailed information can be gotten from a larger database. Make sure the DNA ancestral test kit of your choice can provide accurate ancestral information including some health or genetic issues. Consider the proprietary database of the testing company and know if it can handle samples as much as two million. Some companies accept DNA results from other testing companies and charge a small fee to enter it into their database.
If you are interested in discovering your ethnic origin, it is important to know the range of ethnic regions that the DNA/ancestry kit you are using is capable of covering. Not all kits can give you a comprehensive genetic ethnicity estimate so chose one that can cover the greatest number of ethnic region. This is vital for in-depth information about your ethnic background. Some test kits carry information about the range of ethnic groups that it can effectively test for so ensure you clearly understand its working specifications before using it.
Family Tree and Relative Matching
Many testing companies use a family tree feature to construct genetic matches based on the information contained in their database. They use the DNA ancestral test kit to build a family tree and they can show you if you share DNA with another user. You can get to know about your relatives and where you came from through genetic matches constructed on the website of such companies. This can be helpful if you are adopted and want to trace your biological relatives although, tribal affiliations can be hard to decipher.
Raw Data Upload/Download
One of the advantages of using a DNA ancestral test kit is its ability to share your DNA result with other companies that run databases as possible. You can as well download test results from some companies and enter it into the database of other companies. But make sure the company also allows upload of DNA test result from other companies to their own database. This is a fast and easy way to share genetic information to ensure better processing and analysis for better and reliable result.
Not everyone is comfortable with providing DNA samples to testing companies that they are not sure of. You need to ensure the privacy policies of the test kit you are choosing is okay by you in terms of how safe your data is, who can see your test result and what information is shared with other users. Every DNA/ancestry testing company has a fine print, read it carefully to know their privacy policies when you sign up.
DNA Ancestral Test Kit Prices
The price of DNA ancestral test kits varies depending on the depth of information it can provide. The price of Kits for ancestral and ethnic information only range between $70 and $100, whereas kits that will carry both ancestral and health information is more expensive and range between $100 and $200 in price.
- Don’t drink, chew gum, eat or smoke 30 minutes before collecting cheek or saliva samples
- When using a DNA ancestral test kit that works with cheek samples, ensure you get enough cells as possible from the inside of your cheek by firmly rubbing the tip of a cotton swab against the cheek walls.
- In cases of low saliva production, rub your cheek just behind the back of your teeth to stimulate the salivary gland to produce enough saliva needed to meet the fill line in your collection tube.