Finest DNA take a look at in 2020: 23andMe, AncestryDNA examined and extra in contrast

Finest DNA take a look at in 2020: 23andMe, AncestryDNA examined and extra in contrast

A DNA take a look at can jumpstart or increase your understanding of your loved ones historical past — from figuring out shut cousins all the best way again to your earliest ancestors. Some exams declare to disclose your “ethnicity” — although that is a thorny, controversial subject. And a few providers can make clear your genetic predisposition for illnesses and physiological traits starting from eye shade to your tolerance for cilantro. 

Over the previous 20 years, DNA testing has entered the mainstream, pushed by decrease costs, greater visibility and enhancing science. Again within the aughts, a do-it-yourself DNA take a look at price about $1,000. However in recent times, the kits have turn into fairly reasonably priced, with a variety of DNA testing firms — from trailblazers corresponding to Ancestry and 23andMe to upstarts corresponding to Residing DNA — providing fairly subtle evaluation of your genetic make-up for as little as $75 — or much less, if you’ll find a deal on Black Friday or through the periodic vacation reductions all year long.

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There are three sorts of DNA exams — every with its personal explicit strengths, limitations and rationales.

  • An autosomal DNA take a look at is the most effective funding for many inexperienced persons; it may possibly establish family members between 5 and 7 generations again, throughout each maternal and paternal traces. 
  • Solely males can successfully use a Y-DNA take a look at, which identifies male family members on the paternal line reaching again 60,000 years; should you’re trying to hint the historical past of your loved ones’s surname, that is the take a look at to make use of. 
  • And mitochondrial DNA testing, also called mtDNA testing, can decide genetic relationships on a maternal line from as much as 150,000 years in the past; each women and men can take this kind of take a look at. 

As soon as you have been examined, every firm will current you with an evaluation of your geographical origin; some declare to have the ability to pinpoint a selected nation, city and even “tribe.” Some will even serve up “matches” from their DNA databases, which will provide you with a head begin on connecting with attainable family members, and provide a point of household tree analysis assist. AncestryDNA, for instance, provides a subscription service that features entry to a whole lot of databases containing delivery, demise and marriage bulletins, census paperwork, newspaper archives and different historic data. 

Some firms promote exams designed for particular ethnicities or specialised kits that declare to make clear your optimum skincare routine or weight; others provide exams designed to establish the genetic make-up of your cat or canine. The specialists I spoke to had been doubtful of the efficacy and worth of those exams and really useful avoiding them.

Although there is not any blood concerned with fashionable DNA testing — you both swab the within of your cheek or fill a small take a look at tube along with your saliva — there are many causes to be leery of the businesses that promote these kits. Your success in DNA take a look at family tree is essentially depending on supplying extremely private details about your self and your family members — out of your genetic knowledge to your mom’s maiden identify, that conventional cornerstone of password safety. 

Considerations over knowledge privateness and safety are well-founded, and specialists warn that regulation — particularly within the US — lags far behind the know-how. And it is best to know that some DNA testing firms could share knowledge with pharmaceutical firms and legislation enforcement companies. Backside line: Assume critically earlier than volunteering details about your well being historical past and familial connections to any firm or group. 

Learn extra: Sooner or later, not even your DNA will likely be sacred

DNA testing, and family tree extra broadly, includes a sophisticated combination of genetics, possibilities and guesswork. The varied DNA testing providers use completely different labs, algorithms, tools and standards to research your genetic materials; although it is best to count on a point of overlap between analyses from completely different firms, they could differ considerably. There’s additionally a component of vital mass — the bigger the corporate’s database, the bigger the pattern they use to research your outcomes, and the extra correct your outcomes needs to be. 

We tried a few of the high DNA testing providers, assessing the breadth and depth of their choices, methodologies, status and value. Check out our suggestions under. And should you’ve taken any of those DNA exams, inform me about your expertise with it within the feedback under.

In search of extra in-depth data on DNA testing providers on the whole? Soar to our DNA take a look at equipment explainer.


Based in 2006, 23andMe is likely one of the pioneers of DNA testing for shoppers. In 2017 it grew to become the primary such service to win the FDA’s approval as a threat screener for illnesses. It has turn into one of the crucial well-known DNA testing firms — and well-funded, since taking in a $300 million stake from GlaxoSmithKline, which makes use of the corporate’s buyer knowledge to analysis and design new medication. Nonetheless, the corporate lately introduced a spherical of layoffs, citing a slowdown within the DNA testing market doubtless attributable to rising considerations about privateness.

23andMe segments its evaluation into three fundamental classes — well being, ancestry and traits. The fundamental ancestry and traits take a look at, which prices $99, contains an evaluation of your genetic make-up together with your areas of origin, maternal and paternal lineage and Neanderthal ancestry. As soon as you decide in, the corporate’s match database — which has greater than 10 million profiles — will establish and provide to attach you with individuals who share your DNA.

The corporate’s DNA well being take a look at, which begins at $199, provides details about your genetic predisposition for late-onset Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and different illnesses. The service additionally contains evaluation of your standing as a possible genetic service for issues like Cystic Fibrosis and Sickle Cell Anemia in addition to indicators for lactose intolerance and different “wellness” points. The $499 VIP Well being and Ancestry bundle gives precedence lab processing, premium buyer assist and a customized walkthrough of your outcomes. 

I discovered 23andMe’s web site and cellular app very simple to navigate and brimming with fascinating, understandable details about each my ancestry and well being in addition to the science of genetics and family tree. The primary dashboard provides intuitive hyperlinks to exploring your ancestry, studying in regards to the genetic dangers for well being situations, constructing out a household tree and connecting with family members. Amongst all the DNA exams I attempted, 23andMe delivered the most effective introduction to my current and historic family tree together with evaluation of my genetic well being. The one actual disadvantage is that it doesn’t provide built-in entry to historic paperwork.

23andMe does present quick access to a full vary of privateness preferences and consent choices, nevertheless. (That famous, 23andMe’s phrases of service and privateness assertion is among the many most in depth, exceeding 20,000 phrases.) You’ll be able to ask the corporate to retailer your saliva pattern indefinitely for future testing or have them discard it. Having signed off after I first signed up, I subsequently modified my thoughts about giving the corporate permission to share my knowledge with researchers outdoors of 23andMe, and was in a position to retract my consent with the press of a button.

Learn extra: Ancestry vs. 23andMe: Which DNA testing equipment is greatest for tracing your loved ones historical past?

Ian Knighton/CNET

Based in Utah within the 1990s, — the mother or father firm of AncestryDNA — began out as a publishing and family tree firm. Since then, it has had a considerably tumultuous company existence, having been purchased, offered, publicly traded after which bought by non-public fairness teams.

The corporate’s fundamental service, which prices $99, gives you with an “ethnicity estimate” derived from its proprietary sequencing methods. It is noteworthy that the corporate’s testing, which is outsourced to Quest Diagnostics, is distinct from most different firms that use paternal Y-chromosome and/or maternal mitochondrial DNA methodologies, and fewer is understood in regards to the explicit standards it makes use of. 

That famous, AncestryDNA’s database of 16 million profiles is the most important of all the testing providers. The corporate additionally maintains a strong device for looking by way of a whole lot of historic doc databases — however any substantive analysis will shortly deliver you to a paywall. Ancestry’s databases are additional bolstered by its partnership to, a genealogical data website run by the Mormon church.

An entry-level membership, which gives entry to greater than 15 billion U.S. data, prices $99 for six months or $25 monthly, after a free two week trial. The “World Explorer” membership, for $40 monthly, broadens your entry to worldwide data, and the “All Entry” tier, beginning at $50 monthly, contains limitless entry to Ancestry’s historic and modern database of greater than 15,000 newspapers and army data from world wide. 

AncestryDNA provides a customized well being report with “actionable insights,” entry to genetic counseling assets and an internet device that will help you map your loved ones’s well being over generations. However its outcomes should not diagnostic — although the take a look at should be permitted by one of many firm’s physicians — and they don’t have FDA approval. For now, 23andMe maintains the benefit in relation to introductory DNA testing for well being dangers and genetic screening. However AncestryDNA’s service is especially well-suited for leveraging an introductory DNA evaluation into deep historic analysis to construct out a household tree.

AncestryDNA permits you to obtain your full DNA profile and add the uncooked knowledge into different instruments, and it gives moderately good management over your privateness preferences, although the choices should not as granular as others. 

Learn extra: What AncestryDNA taught me about DNA, privateness and the complicated world of genetic testing


Based in 2000, FamilyTreeDNA provides a complete suite of stories and interactive instruments to research your DNA and construct a household tree. With a reputable declare to “the world’s most complete DNA matching database,” FamilyTreeDNA provides all three sorts of exams — autosomal DNA, Y-DNA and mtDNA. And it is the only real firm to personal and function its personal testing facility: The Gene-by-Gene genetic lab, positioned in Houston.

The corporate’s entry-level “household ancestry” bundle prices $79 — although it is regularly discounted to $59. The take a look at outcomes present details about your ethnic and geographic origins, identifies potential family members and provides entry to the corporate’s huge DNA database. I paid $275 for a broad DNA take a look at that included evaluation of my mtDNA and Y-DNA — exams that price $119 and $159, respectively, once you purchase them individually — in addition to the “Household Finder,” the corporate’s autosomal take a look at.  

Although the consumer interface is a little more sophisticated than what you will discover on different websites, FamilyTreeDNA gives probably the most full suite of introductory instruments of any supplier I examined. For every kind of take a look at, you might be offered with matches — I received greater than 22,000 for my autosomal DNA take a look at — a chromosome browser, migration maps, haplogroups and connections to ancestral reference populations, details about mutations and a hyperlink that permits you to obtain your uncooked knowledge. Suffice to say, there are quite a few threads to tug on to study your self, your loved ones and your well being. 

FamilyTree additionally provides plenty of higher-end exams, for these considering digging deeper, together with a variety of Y-DNA exams that can hint the trail of your male ancestors and the historical past of your surname. The corporate additionally permits you to add uncooked DNA knowledge information from different providers and switch your autosomal info to its database to develop your universe of matches and relationships. 

From a knowledge safety and privateness perspective, there are a number of issues I discover interesting about FamilyTreeDNA. The corporate does its personal DNA testing in home, processing and storing your pattern in its lab. Posted prominently on the entrance web page of its web site is a promise that the corporate won’t ever promote your DNA to 3rd events. Like most different firms, nevertheless, FamilyTreeDNA could use your combination genetic info for inside analysis and should adjust to requests from legislation enforcement — until you decide out. 

Different DNA testing choices

The three providers above are our high selections. However they weren’t the one ones we examined. What follows are some further choices, None of which eclipsed the 23andMe, Ancestry or FamilyTreeDNA in any important style. 




Primarily based in Israel, MyHeritage was based in 2003, and like plenty of different providers profiled right here, began out as a family tree software program platform. Over time, it acquired plenty of historic databases and ultimately added DNA testing in 2016. (MyHeritage outsources its DNA evaluation to FamilyTreeDNA.) In 2018, MyHeritage skilled a safety breach, exposing the e-mail addresses and hashed passwords of greater than 92 million customers.

MyHeritage provides a free tier of service that features some fundamental household tree-building and entry to excerpts of historic paperwork. It will not get you too far. 

The essential DNA testing and evaluation service, which begins at $79, contains the same old fare — a report of your genetic make-up throughout the corporate’s 42 supported ethnicities, the identification of family members and connections to them the place attainable. All issues thought-about, I most popular FamilyTreeDNA’s presentation of my DNA info. However MyHeritage highlighted a primary cousin residing within the US, with whom I shared about 15% of my DNA, and supplied to indicate me her household tree — if I paid a $209 annual subscription charge. 

Sure, that is costly — a free 14-day trial is out there — however the firm maintains a powerful on-line database of historic paperwork that features 3.5 billion profiles along with details about over 100 million subscribers and their collective 46 million household timber. This huge database is powered by, a family tree social media website that is additionally MyHeritage’s mother or father firm. In line with the New York Occasions, has assembled “the world’s largest, scientifically vetted household tree.” 

In 2019, MyHeritage launched a well being screening take a look at much like the one supplied by 23andMe. As a part of this effort, the corporate partnered with PWNHealth, a community of US physicians who oversee the method. I used to be required to finish a private and household well being historical past questionnaire — it was 16 questions — which was then ostensibly reviewed by a health care provider. Although the corporate says it might suggest a “genetic counseling” session administered by PWNHealth, my well being outcomes had been merely delivered together with my ancestry evaluation.

On the plus aspect, I like MyHeritage’s easy entry to a variety of understandable privateness preferences. Nonetheless, general, I discovered MyHeritage’s consumer interface far much less intuitive and tougher to navigate than others. Although the corporate’s providing is broad — it is one of many few to supply a complete analysis database of historic paperwork, DNA evaluation and well being screening — I discovered the mixing amongst them to be a bit clumsy. 

Residing DNA


Residing DNA

Residing DNA describes itself as a “client family tree DNA service that doesn’t promote or share clients’ DNA or knowledge with third events,” which supplies you a way of its priorities — or, at the least, its sense of consumers’ considerations. LivingDNA’s headquarters within the UK might also be a consider its distinctive mission assertion, because it’s topic to the extra stringent knowledge and privateness laws of the GDPR

LivingDNA divides its choices another way than others. A $49 starter equipment gives a “taster” with an introductory overview of your ancestry in eight geographical areas and entry to the corporate’s genetic matching device, along with some knowledge about private health and diet. The total autosomal DNA testing equipment prices $99 and expands the percentage-based ancestry breakdown to 80 areas and options details about maternal and paternal haplogroups. The “wellbeing bundle” contains stories about your physiological compatibility with nutritional vitamins, meals and train. And the $149 deluxe bundle incorporates all of this.

Latest ancestry outcomes are offered with a breakdown of share by nation in addition to the proportion attributable to extra detailed areas, in addition to the origin and migration path of haplogroups. In February 2020, LivingDNA launched an African Ancestry DNA take a look at report that options knowledge on 72 areas in Africa and, in line with the corporate, “5 instances the element of every other take a look at in the marketplace.” The report is out there without cost to current clients. 

That famous, the corporate has a very restricted household match database; an organization consultant declined to provide me a selected quantity however mentioned that it contained lower than 1 million profiles. My spouse, who took the take a look at, returned precisely zero matches. So, should you’re trying to establish and make connections with family members, there are higher selections available in the market. That famous, LivingDNA has a really stable status for each the standard of its DNA evaluation and privateness phrases amongst skilled genealogists. 

For specialists solely: Entire genome sequencing

There are a selection of firms — together with Full Genomes, Veritas Genetics, Nebula Genomics and Dante Labs — that may sequence your whole DNA, in any other case referred to as your genome. This degree of research is acceptable for superior customers solely. Not solely is it costly — these exams can run into the 1000’s of {dollars}, in some instances — it requires a classy understanding of each genetics and a variety of technical instruments required to discover and interpret your outcomes. 

The least costly complete genome exams price about $300. For instance, Full Genome’s 30X take a look at — which scans each focused location of your genome 30 instances on common — is taken into account the usual for a medical evaluation. It prices $1,800.

For most individuals, the principle rationale for sequencing the entire genome is to dive deep into your genetic well being outlook. You’ll be able to glean your private threat components for illnesses, drug sensitivities and your standing as a service; that’s, what you may go on to your children. However there are additionally loads of purposes for superior genealogical initiatives. 

All of those efforts will also be undertaken — to a much less intense diploma — with a few of the extra reasonably priced choices outlined above. However complete genome sequencing gives a considerably extra complete, correct and excessive decision evaluation. 

If you wish to dip your toe into this realm. you may wish to begin with Nebula Genomics. You can even add an current DNA sequence from Ancestry or 23andMe’s DNA database and get Nebula’s stories at a diminished value.  

DNA testing: What you want to know

In case you’re utilizing a house DNA testing service, you are doubtless on the lookout for one among three issues:

Ancestry and household historical past: The primary massive draw of a full DNA take a look at is that you’re going to get an in depth breakdown on ancestry and ethnicity, and the migration patterns of your frequent ancestors. Spoiler alert: Your ethnic background could also be radically completely different than you suppose it’s. You will additionally discover out what a haplogroup is.

Relative identification: Together with your permission, some DNA providers will allow you to join with family members you by no means knew you had — folks with matching DNA who’ve used the service and likewise given their permission to hook up with attainable relations.  

Well being and illness data: DNA testing may also point out which situations for which you’ll have a preponderance. It is a controversial characteristic, to make sure. Figuring out that you’ve a genetic predisposition to a sure type of most cancers could make you extra vigilant for testing, however it might additionally result in elevated stress — worrying a few potential well being situation which will by no means develop, even should you’re “genetically inclined” to it. The opportunity of false positives and false negatives abound — any such info needs to be mentioned along with your physician earlier than you act upon it.

How DNA exams work

Afraid of needles and drawing blood? Excellent news: That is not a problem with these exams. All you want to do is spit right into a vial or rub a swab in your mouth — all of the genetic knowledge wanted for these exams is current in your saliva — and ship the DNA pattern to the corporate for evaluation. 

The explanation {that a} saliva pattern works in addition to blood (or hair follicles or pores and skin samples) is that your DNA — which is brief for deoxyribonucleic acid — is current in all of them. It is the essential genetic code current in your whole cells that makes up your key attributes, from the colour of your eyes to the form of your ears to how inclined you might be to ldl cholesterol.

The important thing phrases you want to know when evaluating DNA testing providers are:

SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism): Genotyping is finished by measuring genetic variation. One of many extra frequent is SNP genotyping, which measures the variations of a single nucleotide polymorphism. The extra of those an organization measures, the extra granular the evaluation.

Autosomal DNA testing: An autosomal take a look at that is efficient for women and men, and which traces lineage again by way of each maternal and paternal bloodlines.

Y-DNA: The Y-DNA take a look at can solely be administered to males, and traces DNA again by way of the patrilineal ancestry — principally from father to grandfather to nice grandfather and so forth.

mtDNA: The mtDNA is matrilineal and allows you to hint your ancestry again by way of your mom, grandmother, nice grandmother and so forth. 

Learn extra

David Gewirtz contributed to this story. The present model is a serious replace of previous revisions, and contains hands-on impressions of many of the providers listed.

The knowledge contained on this article is for academic and informational functions solely and isn’t supposed as well being or medical recommendation. All the time seek the advice of a doctor or different certified well being supplier concerning any questions you’ll have a few medical situation or well being goals.

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