Find the Best DNA Tests and Ancestry Websites
Compare Reviews for Top DNA Tests and Ancestry Websites
|23andMe||Read 115 Reviews|
23andMe was the first company the FDA authorized to offer genetic testing directly to consumers in 2015. You can choose to receive reports on your genealogy, actionable health and carrier status information. Tests start at $99.
|Ancestry||Read 640 Reviews|
Ancestry offers a membership to search genealogy records for $99 for six months. DNA ancestry tests can be bought separately for $99. It provides raw DNA data and sends results in six to eight weeks.
|African Ancestry||Read Author Review|
African Ancestry helps people identify where in Africa their ancestors were from. It charges about $300 for DNA tests.
|Archives||Read Author Review|
Archives offers access to databases for genealogical research. You can also create an online family tree and purchase AncestryDNA. Archives is part of the Ancestry.com family of companies. Access is $9.99 per month.
|Family Tree DNA||Read Author Review|
Family Tree DNA offers autosomal, mtDNA and Y-DNA tests to help you trace your maternal and paternal ancestry. Prices for DNA tests with this company range from about $70 to nearly $700.
|Findmypast||Read Author Review|
Findmypast is a genealogy search site with over two billion historical records, including the 1939 Register. It has a 14-day free trial, and annual membership starts around $35.
|Fold3||Read Author Review|
Fold3 has digitized documents related to the military going back as far as the American Revolution. It’s part of Ancestry, and annual memberships are about $80.
|GenealogyBank||Read Author Review|
GenealogyBank provides subscribers access to over 7,000 digitized newspapers, as well as other genealogy records and resources. An annual membership costs around $60.
|Genographic Project||Read Author Review|
The Genographic Project provides individuals with information about their ancestry and helps archaeologists study human migration. DNA testing costs $200 but often goes on sale for $130.
|MyHeritage||Read Author Review|
MyHeritage offers both genealogy research and DNA testing. Access for about $85 a year. DNA analysis costs $99.
Common questions about ancestry websites and DNA testing
What can DNA testing tell you?
The type of information that you get from a DNA test depends on what kind of DNA test you pay for. Genetic ancestry tests can detect genetic markers that identify where your ancestors lived thousands of years ago, and health DNA testing can tell you about health problems you might develop or about traits you could pass on to your kids.
- Genetic ancestry: So, can a DNA test tell where you’re from? To a certain extent, yes. Genetic genealogy tests can tell you things about your ancestry that you can’t learn from your relatives or historical records, like where your ancestors lived 1,000 years ago. Some DNA analysis services focus primarily on giving you information about your relatives and ancient ancestors. They use your genetic information to determine where your ancestors came from, and they may even help you find lost relatives. However, these sites can’t usually provide any reports related to your health.
- Genetic health risks: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only recently approved direct-to-consumer DNA testing. Companies that offer this service send you data related to genetic health risks, such as whether or not you’re predisposed to develop particular diseases. They can also tell you your carrier status for some genes, meaning whether you carry a gene that could cause problems for any children you have. These websites may include information about your ancestry, but don’t always do so.
- Raw DNA data: Some companies give you all the raw data from your DNA test. You can upload this data onto other websites that will analyze it and give you additional information, like your genetic predisposition for certain diseases or how difficult it might be for your body to process certain medications. Scott M. Weissman, a Certified Genetic Counselor at Chicago Genetic Consultants, cautions that results from third-party analysis can often show false positives for genetic markers associated with serious medical conditions, like breast cancer. People should never make changes to their health management without first consulting a genetic counselor.
How accurate are DNA tests?
DNA analysis continues to evolve; currently, some of the information that DNA tests provide is more accurate than other information. For example, DNA tests predict your eye color with a great deal of accuracy. Tests can also determine where your ancestors lived thousands of years ago with a fair degree of accuracy.
Although certain tests provide additional health information, the accuracy of some results, like genetic health risks, is less certain. For specific, health-related information, you may want to talk to a genetic testing professional to understand fully the information that direct-to-consumer DNA tests can accurately provide.
- DNA genealogy testing sites: Is ancestry DNA testing accurate? In general, yes, and the more consumers who submit samples, the more accurate it becomes. DNA testing companies use their existing pool of DNA samples to provide each new customer with information. The more samples a company has, or the larger its customer base, the more accurate information it can provide. The diversity of the overall group also impacts accuracy, since a less diverse sample group will share more genetic traits. This is especially important for DNA testing for ethnicity. In other words, if the majority of a company’s customers have the same ethnic background, the company will be able to give the most accurate information to new customers with the same background.
- DNA health tests: Although DNA testing sites will provide you with reports about genetic health risks and your carrier status for certain genes, that information may not be accurate. You shouldn’t rely on the health information provided by these sites to make medical decisions. In fact, the sites’ fine print often stresses that the information on the report may not be completely accurate.
How much does a DNA test cost?
Direct-to-consumer DNA tests offered by companies like Ancestry and 23andMe range from about $99 to $300, depending on what kind of results you’re looking for. DNA tests with health info tend to be more expensive, and the more specific and in-depth information you’re seeking, the more the DNA test will probably cost.
- Type of test: In general, DNA tests to determine genetic ancestry are less expensive than ones related to your health. For example, 23andMe gives you results that simply show ancestry information for $99. If you’d like health information as well, the DNA test cost is $199.
- Future DNA tests: Some companies, like Helix, retain your DNA so you can pay for additional tests as they become available. DNA research is developing quickly, so it’s hard to predict what kind of tests might be options in the future. The price for additional tests will probably depend on how complex additional analysis would be.
Is DNA testing safe?
Before you submit your DNA sample, you’ll have to agree to a lot of terms and conditions, which are often buried behind links or in the fine print. Make sure to find and read the terms and conditions so that you know exactly what will happen to your DNA once you send it in. Whether the company that you use focuses on health information or details about your ancestors, the report will include medical information that should be kept private and secure.
- Privacy concerns: Many companies share your anonymized data with nonprofit groups doing DNA research to cure genetic diseases or sell it to for-profit companies for pharmaceutical research. If you’re concerned about DNA privacy, rest assured that companies anonymize your data before sharing DNA results. This means that your personally identifiable information is stored separately from your DNA test results, though, like with any online information, some hackers might still gain access to your info. Some companies get DNA ownership rights over your DNA sample and the analysis of it, meaning they can sell it to a pharmaceutical or medical company or share it with scientists. Some companies allow you to opt in or out of sharing your information in this way. That said, sharing your DNA can help researchers to get more data and reach their goals, leading to important scientific breakthroughs. For example, Orig3n is specifically interested in using DNA and blood samples to develop regenerative medicine.
- Emotional concerns: Depending on the services they offer and the reports they issue, DNA and ancestry companies can provide upsetting information to you. You could learn that you’re adopted, have a sibling who you never knew about or are likely to develop a serious illness. Geneticists in the healthcare field often require patients to go through counseling before receiving the results of genetic tests because of DNA testing risks. Make sure you’re prepared for any unsettling news before you have a DNA test done. If you’re only interested in learning about your ancient ancestors, consider a DNA test like that offered by the Genographic Project, which doesn’t include health information or a way to find living relatives.
What public records do you need to research your family tree?
You’ll have a better chance of finding information about your family on ancestry websites with extensive collections of historical documents. Different kinds of sources will be useful for different types of information, so think about what information you want before purchasing a genealogy website membership.The most common public records used by ancestry websites include:
- Census records: Records from the U.S. Census provide information about where your family lived, what industries they worked in, what level of education they received and more. These documents can provide a great amount of detail about your relatives’ lives.
- U.S. immigration records: If any of your relatives came to the United States from another country, you’ll want to choose an ancestry website like MyHeritage with databases that include U.S. immigration records and records from Ellis Island.
- Other government documents: Marriage, birth and death certificates provide a better picture of your family tree than your relatives might be capable of giving you. You can get many of these public records if the ancestry website you choose includes the Social Security Birth Index and the Social Security Death Index. Perhaps your grandmother was a widow when she met your grandfather. Or maybe you have a great aunt who passed away in childhood.
- 1939 Register: People with ancestors from England or Wales should choose an ancestry website like Findmypast that includes the 1939 Register. It has data similar to that from the U.S. Census but from England and Wales for the year 1939. These historical records could be helpful in finding distant cousins or other relatives even if your direct ancestors immigrated before 1939.
- Newspapers: Digitized newspapers include stories of community events and local news, so they can help you discover a lot about your relatives’ daily lives, like that your great aunt Sally won the pie making contest at the Fourth of July picnic in 1945 or that your first cousin twice removed got a big send-off from the town when he went to Harvard in 1923.
How do ancestry DNA tests work?
Genetic DNA tests can tell you about your ancient ancestors and more recent relatives. They do this by tracing your mitochondrial DNA (passed down from your mother), your Y chromosome (if you’re male) or your autosomal DNA (all the chromosomes besides the X and Y ones). Because DNA is inherited from your parents, looking at DNA can tell you about the people you’re related to.
When you order a home DNA test, the company you choose will send you a test kit with a swab or tube for submitting a saliva sample. You mail back the kit, and then the company analyzes it to trace your lineage and find genetic patterns.
- Trace lineage: Mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosomes can trace your maternal and paternal lineage. These types of DNA don’t alter much between generations. Analyzing one or both of these types of chromosomes, geneticists can see the DNA from your grandparent, great-grandparent, great-great-grandparent, and so on. When traced back far enough, this DNA indicates where your ancestors lived based on genetic patterns.
- Trace genetic patterns: The chromosomes that differ from person to person are how geneticists can use DNA to identify someone. Some differences are passed down through generations. By looking at patterns of differences, geneticists can tell you whether you’re related to other people and determine where your ancestors migrated from.
How much do websites with family records cost?
Subscriptions to genealogy websites range from $10 to $20 a month. Some ancestry websites, like Fold3, offer a free membership that gives you a limited set of records. Most free genealogy websites allow you to access more databases when you pay for a subscription.
- Free trial: Many genealogy research and family tree building websites have free trials, including Archives, Findmypast and MyHeritage. Use a free trial to determine whether you like a website before making a purchase.
- Annual subscription benefits: You can save money over time by purchasing a semi-annual or annual subscription. For example, Ancestry costs $19.99 a month, but if you sign up for a six-month membership, you’ll pay $99, which saves you about $20 if you keep a month-to-month membership for six months. Note, you’ll usually be billed for the entire membership at once.
- Automatic renewal: The fine print on membership agreements typically states that they will continue renewing your membership and charging you for it until you cancel. Make sure you read the terms and conditions to learn how to properly cancel your membership, so you don’t get billed after you’ve stopped using the ancestry website.
Types of DNA testing
Y DNA test
A Y chromosome DNA test shows variations in the Y chromosome, which is passed from father to son. It’s good for tracing your specific lineage because only slight variations occur in each new generation. Only males can learn about their ancestry through Y chromosome testing. Women interested in learning more about their male lineage can ask a male relative to submit a DNA sample. 23andMe and the Genographic Project do Y DNA testing when you send them a sample.
Mitochondrial DNA testing
Mitochondrial DNA is passed from mothers to their children without too many changes in each generation. Mitochondrial DNA testing is good for tracing your maternal lineage. Both men and women can learn about their ancestors from mitochondrial DNA testing. 23andMe and the Genographic Project do mitochondrial DNA testing, also known as mtDNA testing, when you buy a kit from them.
Autosomal DNA test
Autosomal DNA, also known as atDNA, is made up of the 22 chromosomes that don’t impact your gender and is inherited from both your parents. It includes thousands of individual genes–the first chromosome alone contains 2,800 genes. Autosomal DNA testing can show where your ancient ancestors lived and help you with more modern genealogy through cousin matching. AncestryDNA, MyHeritage DNA and 23andMe all offer autosomal DNA testing. The Genographic Project also does autosomal DNA testing, but it doesn’t give you the cousin-matching information, so it may not be the best choice if you want to find living relatives.
X chromosome DNA testing
X chromosome DNA testing looks at the X chromosome. Females inherit one of these from each parent, while males inherit an X chromosome only from their mother. This means a woman could learn about her paternal grandmother, and her paternal grandmother’s paternal grandmother, and so on, based on their shared X chromosomes. Having X chromosome data can be useful for tracing maternal ancestors on your father’s side of the family. 23andMe provides X chromosome information when you use their service.
How to find your ancestors
Talk to your relatives
The best way to start your family history research is to talk to your relatives. They may have done some research on your family tree already, and they might be able to give you information that will help you choose the best ancestry website for your situation.
Choose an ancestry website
Choose an ancestry website for genealogy research based on what you know about your family history. For example, if one of your relatives served in the military, you might want to use Fold3 because it focuses on military records. It’s also among one of the free genealogy website options, though you may have to pay to access all the records included in their database.
Decide if you want to find relatives
If you’re hoping to find living relatives who can fill in holes in your family tree, look for an ancestry website that has both genealogy records and DNA testing, like Ancestry.com. If you find your family through one of these ancestry websites, they may be willing to share their own genealogy research with you and expand your knowledge of your ancestors. Keep in mind, DNA testing to find relatives can sometimes expose unsettling information, like finding a sibling you didn’t know you had.
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Compare Reviews for Top DNA Tests and Ancestry Websites
|NewspaperARCHIVE||Read Author Review|
NewspaperARCHIVE offers access to more than 8,000 digitized newspapers going back as far as the 1600s. A semi-annual subscription costs $60.
|Orig3n||Read Author Review|
Orig3n offers DNA analysis specifically for helping people understand how their genes affect their health. Pricing for DNA health tests starts at $99.
Information in this guide is general in nature and is intended for informational purposes only; it is not legal, health, investment or tax advice. ConsumerAffairs.com makes no representation as to the accuracy of the information provided and assumes no liability for any damages or loss arising from its use.