The Best DNA Testing Kits 2020 - Trace Your Ancestry and Heritage
As the industry gets bigger, the features offered by DNA companies become more expansive and appealing. In order to narrow down the list, we compiled this handpicked list of the best DNA testing kits for 2020.
These are the best DNA testing companies I tested and ranked:
1. Best overall: MyHeritage
2. Best for worldwide database: Ancestry
3. Best for next-level accuracy: LivingDNA
4. Best for preventative wellness: Vitagene
5. Best for learning your behaviors: Orig3n
6. Best for mapping your roots: GPSorigins
7. Best for metabolism insights: Nutrisystem
8. Best for health screenings: LetsGetChecked
9. Best for controlling your health: Futura Genetics
MyHeritage DNA has become one of the most popular DNA kits and it’s easy to see why. MyHeritage’s DNA test kit is affordable, highly-informative, and can be combined with one of the most extensive family tree builders out there. Simply put, it’s an all-in-one platform for learning about the ethnic makeup of your DNA and the twists and turns of your family history.
With MyHeritage you get an easy to use DNA testing kit that will trace your ethnicity across 42+ regions across the world. You can also pay to access billions of historical records kept on file by MyHeritage, allowing you to really go deep on your genealogy research.
Part of what makes MyHeritage work so well is the sheer size of its user database. This database of tens of millions of users powers the company’s “DNA Matching” tool, which allows you to plug in your DNA sample and see if it matches anyone in the MyHeritage database. It’s a great way to learn more about yourself, and maybe even reach out and connect with a relative.
How to do the test: When your MyHeritage kit arrives you’ll receive a number you will use to activate the DNA kit online so that you can receive the results when they’re ready. Inside you’ll find 2 cotton swabs. Rub one on the inside of your cheeks for 30-60 seconds and then place it inside the enclosed vial, seal it, and do the same with the second swab and vial. Ship it back inside the enclosed envelope and a few weeks later you should be able to see your results online.
Reading your results: You will receive an ethnicity estimate, a comprehensive breakdown of your DNA compositions analyzed by percentage across 42 ethnicities across the world. The results are superimposed across a map of the world for easy viewing. You will also receive a series of DNA matches, in the event that there are other users online that you are related to.
AncestryDNA is the DNA testing service of genealogical juggernaut Ancestry.com, and since its opening in 2012 it has already become one of the biggest names in DNA testing.
A big plus with AncestryDNA is its massive database of more than 10 million users, meaning that with AncestryDNA you have a better chance of finding a long lost relative that you match with genetically.
The DNA reports cover more than 500 regions around the world, giving you your ethnic makeup estimate, a look at your family’s migration routes from the ancient world to the modern era, and can even tell you how much Neanderthal DNA you have.
With AncestryDNA you can also make use of the resources of the world’s most popular genealogy website. By purchasing a membership for the archival records, you can potentially access billions of records form across the world.
How to do the test: AncestryDNA will send you a package that includes a vial that you fill with your saliva, and then add a blue stabilizing liquid. Place it in the collection bag and ship it back to the company. Make sure not to eat, drink, smoke or chew gum for 30 minutes before providing your sample. Make sure to activate your account online beforehand.
Reading your results: You can view your DNA matches online as well as receive an ethnicity estimate broken down across all types of ethnicity regions. On the “map and locations” map you'll see different colored pins that may show the locations of where your ancestors came from.
LivingDNAEvery DNA testing company makes use of sophisticated modern technology and scientific know-how, but LivingDNA takes it to another level.
The company goes beyond the industry standard family-line ancestry, known as autosomal DNA, and also provides you results of your maternal line. If you are male the test can also check your paternal family line. This is a more extensive sort of testing that is not provided by most competitors, and can provide you with an extra layer of insight. That said, this does make the test more expensive than the industry norm, and the results can take longer to arrive—up to around 12 weeks.
LivingDNA test results go back 10 generations and cover 80 different regions around the world, so you can get very accurate and specific results about your family history. In addition, the results come with a map called, “Your Ancestry Through History,” which is a sort of timeline that you can use to trace your family's migration over thousands of years.
How to do the test: Your LivingDNA kit will come in a box that includes instructions for activating it online. You then use the cotton swab to scrape inside your cheek, and put the swab back into the enclosed bag to ship back to the company. Within 12 weeks the test results will be ready to view online.
Reading your results: Your DNA report will be posted on your account with an easy-to-read, interactive and color-coded map that breaks down your ancestry across different ethnicities worldwide. It will also show your ancestors’ ancient origins and the results can also be printed if
Best forHealth screening and preventative wellness
Vitagene is more than a DNA test—it provides health screening and the potential to buy into a monthly supplement plan. This is a pretty rare offering for the DNA testing industry, and really sets Vitagene apart.
First things first: the ancestry report section of the test will show you unique blend of ethnicities mapped across 25 regions of the world with a breakdown by percentage. The health section provides recommendations about which vitamins you need to take, in addition to which exercises and fitness regimens are best for your unique DNA. It can also check a variety of traits, including how your body handles lactose and alcohol, and if you should avoid gluten.
With Vitagene you can opt in to a plan that will provide you with supplements that are custom-made specifically with your DNA results in mind. While there isn’t an option for an ancestry-only report, the combined ancestry and health report costs the same as what many companies charge for the ancestry test alone. That said, while Vitagene provides a unique package focused on your health, it doesn’t have the same genealogy research documents or family tree builders offered by other companies.
How to do the test: Your Vitagene test should arrive 3-5 days after ordering, at which time you should register your kit online, and then use the cotton swabs to rub on the inside of your cheeks and then seal them and ship them back. The results should be ready for viewing 3-4 weeks after they are received by the lab.
Reading your results: With Vitagene you’ll receive your health, diet, and supplement reports online, in addition to tips for exercising. You can also receive the results from the company as a raw DNA file that you can later use elsewhere.
While many DNA testing companies are focused on decoding the history of your family bloodline, Orig3n is all about using DNA science to help you figure out what makes your body tick.
You can opt for a “fitness and nutrition” test, to show you what type of food and exercise might work best for you, a beauty test, which looks at what skin regimen could get better results, a child development test that is meant to give some insight into childrens’ health, and the “superhero test” which tests your DNA to gauge your strength, intelligence, and speed.
The tests only take about 2-4 weeks to turn around, which makes Orig3n one of the fastest on the market. The prices on the tests also vary widely, depending which one you opt for.
How to do the test: Orig3n uses a simple cheek swab test. You simply order your kit, and when it arrives you swab your cheek for about 30 seconds, reseal it, and register your kit online. Then you ship it back, and in 2-4 weeks your results will be ready for viewing.
Reading your results: Your Orig3n results will be sent directly to you as soon as they are available, and you will be able to view them on your phone or computer. The results will include insights and tips about health and fitness, as well as which physical traits you have. The results are easy to read on your device and scroll through at your leisure.
GPS Origins touts its tests’ ability to map your DNA and family history over more than 900 unique geographic regions across the globe. This is more than most companies promise, though with GPS Origins the price is also somewhat higher.
The DNA test doesn’t offer you health or fitness suggestions, though through GPS Origins you can also order skin and healthy weight tests that are geared toward fitness. The DNA origins test checks your DNA to find the specific migration paths of your gene pool, by looking at hundreds of thousands of autosomal markers.
In addition, the test results are very easy to read across a series of color-coded maps, as well as reading material that is included with your results.
How to do the test: GPS Origins uses 4 cheek swabs which you wipe inside your mouth and then include in a package that you send back to the company, after registering the kit online.
Reading your results: When you receive your reports, you can read them online by way of a series of handy, easy-to-read maps that trace your family’s migration path over the many, many generations. The report will be posted on your profile page on the GPS Origins website, where you’ll see the percentages of your makeup that comes from dozens of gene pools.
Over the past 45 years, Nutrisystem has helped millions of people lose weight with its nutritional meal plans and personal coaching. Now, they’re taking weight-loss to a more molecular level.
The idea behind Nutrisystem’s DNA Body Blueprint Kit is to give people a closer look into how their bodies work. The process is similar to other DNA tests, except instead of learning about ancestors or possible relatives, customers will gain key insights into how their bodies process food and how their genetics influence their eating behaviors.
The results map out a unique portrait of your metabolism that can explain how your body absorbs specifics foods, vitamins, and minerals, why you have certain cravings, and how you can use the information to adopt a diet that better suits your own metabolism. With an updated package you can use this information in tandem with Nutrisystem’s dieting plans and turn your results into actionable steps toward slimming down.
How to do the test: The test can be taken at home and requires easy cheek swabs, which you then send back to the lab for analysis.
Reading your results: Results will outline genetic information about your metabolism as well as how it affects your body’s ability to process foods and lose weight. Depending on which kit you buy, your results will either include actionable steps to help you make use of your genetic information or a personalized nutrition plan with a grocery guide tailored to your unique DNA profile. Nutrisystem customers can also use their results in tandem with their 4-week dieting plan.
LetsGetChecked doesn’t do DNA testing. Instead, the company offers at-home health screening kits for those who either can’t make it to a doctor or wish to be discreet. There are dozens of health tests to choose from, including kidney and liver tests, cholesterol tests, hormone and fertility tests, and STD screenings.
Tests are divided into 4 categories: men’s tests, women’s tests, sexual health, and wellness. Within these categories are test kits that touch on many of the same areas that would be analyzed in a typical lab from a doctor’s office. The fact that customers can be tested for everything from thyroid conditions to hepatitis, HPV, and vitamin D deficiencies without going to a doctor makes it an attractive option for those without insurance or who are dealing with sensitive or confidential topics.
LetsGetChecked has a boutique feel to it. Kits come in discrete, smart packaging and are delivered next-day. You set up a personal health record online or through the app, which is reviewed in real time by a physician. Once you send your samples in, they are analyzed in CLIA-approved and CAP-accredited laboratories.
How to do the test: It’s important to note that unlike DNA tests, LetsGetChecked’s kits require more extensive collection methods. These might include:
While collecting your sample is safe to do at home, it’s certainly more involved than a cheek swab, and should be understood before purchasing. Tests requiring a blood sample include cleaning swabs and lancets that you use to prick your finger. Once you’ve drawn blood, you fill the included blood tube to the top, and mail it back in an included biohazard bag and box. Urine and stool sample kits likewise come with all the collection materials needed and easy-to-follow instructions.
Reading your results: A team of physicians reviews your results when they’re released, and a nurse will call you to tell you the results, answer questions, and offer follow-up guidance if needed. Users will have access to their full test results through their personalized dashboard on LetsGetChecked’s platforms.
Futura Genetics harnesses the latest in cutting-edge DNA science to provide empowerment and awareness of our own health. The company, which is based out of Vancouver, runs advanced DNA profiling tests out of its EU lab to determine each person’s predisposition to 28 of the most commonly occurring diseases.
Those looking to take a proactive approach to their health can utilize Futura Genetics’ state-of-the-art testing for knowledge about their health risks. Based on studies of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs), scientists zero in on genetic markers for diseases such as alzeheimers, lung cancer, type 1 and 2 diabetes, and more than 20 other common diseases, and reveal each person’s risk level for developing those diseases later in life.
How to do the test: Samples can be collected at home easily and quickly through a saliva test. You just collect your saliva in a tube through an included funnel, check for bubbles, and then remove the funnel, shake the sample for 5 seconds, and send it to the lab. The test kit includes all the necessary materials as well as instructions.
Reading your results: Futura’s reports are some of the more straightforward and easy to read reports on the market. They list every one of the 28 diseases tested, with 2 charts beside them depicting the average risk, and your risk beside it. Each disease also includes graphic icons, such as a cigarette, sunglasses, or a stethoscope, which depict the particular activities you should do, or avoid, in order to minimize your risk of developing that disease. The report also includes a detailed summary of each disease and a glossary of terms used in the report.
Cutting-edge science performed in EU lab
Identifies your risk of cancer and other common diseases
Straightforward report with actionable suggestions
Very specific test for identifying potential illnesses
With 23andMe you can get a look back at where you come from, and also learn about your health and possibly what to expect down the road.
23andMe is one of the few DNA testing companies that also provides you with a wealth of information about your health, if you opt for the Ancestry + Health test. The health report gives you information such as an assessment of your chances of acquiring Parkinson’s or Alzheimer's, in addition to other genetic conditions. It also gives you “trait reports,” which can determine some pretty specific things, such as if you’re more likely to enjoy sweet or salty foods.
If you opt for just the ancestry test, you get a break down of your family history, including your ethnic mix and what percentage of your genes match certain global populations. In addition, the DNA relatives tool can find you people you genetically match and help you build a family tree.
How to do the test: Your 23andMe test will come in a small kit that includes a sheet of instructions, a plastic bag, and the sample collection tube with funnel cap. First create an account online and register your kit with the company. Then fill the tube with your saliva, after making sure you didn’t eat, smoke, drink, chew gum or brush your teeth 30 minutes before giving your sample. Then put the buffer liquid in, seal the tube, shake it, and ship it back to the company in the enclosed box.
Reading your results: Your online genealogical report will show your family history on a helpful map as well as your ethnic mix and what percentage of your genes match certain global populations. You will also get a report of what percentage of your DNA you share with Neanderthals, in addition to some assessments of your health, if you opted for the ancestral + health test.
In-depth health and ancestry reports
Online genealogy report
Relative matching tools
Slightly more expensive than other options
Extra costs for shipping
Frequently Asked Questions
Which DNA test is the most accurate?
Ancestry and MyHeritage are two of the more credible DNA test companies out there. Both of them boast millions of users, positive press, and plenty of success stories that attest to their accuracy.
Which is better AncestryDNA or 23andMe?
It depends what you're looking for. Both are respected DNA test companies, but they differ slightly in what they offer. Ancestry is exceptional for those interested in discovering historical records and documents, while 23andMe offers more options for exploring your health and personality traits.
Do siblings have the same DNA?
Siblings don't have the exact same DNA, but will have roughly 50% of the same DNA if they come from the same two parents.
What is DNA Testing?
DNA testing examines the genetic code that’s carried in every person’s unique DNA profile. The code can be found in the cells of any human material, from a drop of saliva to a smear of blood or a strand of hair.
How Does DNA Testing Work?
DNA testing works by taking a sample of cells from the person who’s undergoing the test. Scientists isolate the DNA code that is at the heart of every single cell and carries the information which determines all of your physical characteristics, from your hair color and height to your chances of developing certain conditions.
How Do I Use the Kit?
If you use a home DNA testing kit, you’ll find all the instructions included. Usually, you’ll be sent a sterile tube to collect your saliva sample. It can be awkward to get enough spit for the test purposes. Some companies send a cheek swab that you rub against the inside of your cheek to get a sample of cells from there, instead.
Once you've collected your DNA sample, you'll seal it into the sterile package and use the included mailing package to send it back to the company. It usually takes a few weeks to get the results, but the time frame varies; it can be anything from 4 to 12 weeks.
When your results are ready, you’ll typically get an email inviting you to view the results online. Ancestry DNA companies have a dashboard that lets you explore your results.
Watch this video to see just how easy it is to find out extensive information about your family history that you thought was only accessible to the rich and famous.
Types of DNA Tests
A DNA sample can reveal many different facets of a person depending on how it’s tested and what the analysts are looking for. These can range from ancestral roots to biological parents and health predispositions. Here’s a look at some of the more popular tests than can be run on your DNA:
Paternity tests are used to confirm who is the father of a baby, child, or adult.
Genealogy or ancestry tests are used by genealogists to determine ancestral ethnicity and relationships.
Health tests can determine how your body works, as in the case of metabolism and processing vitamins and nutrients, to what risks are at play in developing common diseases.
Gene therapy DNA testing is most commonly used for parents before they try to conceive or for fetuses to check for inheritable genetic conditions, or if an embryo is carrying any birth defects.
Forensic DNA tests are used by police at crime scenes in order to identify victims or find criminals after certain crimes.
How to Choose a DNA Test Kit
Like countless other purchases in life, when it comes to ordering a home DNA kit, it’s crucial you determine what’s most important for you. Here are the key considerations to look for when you choose a DNA testing company or a DNA testing kit.
1) What the test reveals
If you’re most interested in family genealogical research, your best bet would be to go with a company like MyHeritage or AncestryDNA. With both of these companies you can also access a massive database of billions of historical records, as well as trace your roots through the family tree builder. In addition, the companies have millions and millions of users in their databases and can match you with relatives, so if you’re looking to find long lost family members, companies like these are your best bet.
If you’re looking to learn more about your personal health and also perhaps get tips for nutrition and exercise, then companies like Vitagene, 23andMe and Orig3n may be better options. Other than 23andMe—which combines ancestry mapping with health assessments—the kits aren’t marketed toward users who are interested in deep, extensive genealogical research, rather, they are interested in learning about their health through DNA testing.
Finally, you should also consider how important it is to you that the company does more than just autosomal testing and if it travels across enough geographic regions for mapping your ancestry, or if you want a company like GPSorigins, which looks at more than 900 geographic regions.
2) Type of test
If you want a DNA test in order to learn more about your family and your origins, you have a few options. An autosomal DNA test checks only 22 out of the 23 pairs of chromosomes and can be used to compare DNA from both males and females, so it's best for finding a range of living relatives. It gets less reliable the further back you go because of autosomal DNA changes every generation, so it's only good for identifying up to third or sometimes fourth cousins, and can only give reliable information back to your great-great-grandparents.
A mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) test checks the tiny mitochondrial strands inside every cell. Both males and females inherit these mitochondria from their maternal line. It can be extended much further back in time because it doesn't change quickly. It gives very precise details about your ancestors and distant cousins – even your 48th cousin! – but only if they lie on your maternal line. It’s good for proving you come from a particular region, ethnicity, or family group but not for finding relatives.
Y-DNA testing examines only the genetic information in the Y-chromosome, which is only found in males. It also does not change quickly, so like mtDNA, Y-DNA testing is good for proving relationship to a common ancestor or checking relationship with another individual, but it only works along the male or paternal line. This also means that only men can do a Y-DNA test, although women could ask a close male relative to take the Y-DNA test and then share the results.
3) DNA testing price
The price of the DNA test varies between different companies as well as depending on the type of test you take. mtDNA tests are the most expensive type of DNA testing, while the cheapest dna test kit are probably autosomal DNA test, while Y-DNA tests come in somewhere between the 2. Although the tests are more or less the same, there’s a huge fluctuation in price between different companies, so compare prices before you buy. Some companies, like LivingDNA, offer a package of all 3 tests for a discount.
When most people think of home DNA tests what typically comes to mind are what is known as ancestry or ethnicity tests. These are tests which pore over your DNA sample in order to get an overview of your ethnicity and build an assessment of the migration paths your ancestors took over the eons. Typically a straight ancestry/ethnicity test on its own will be your cheapest dna test kit, ranging from as little as $59 to around $79-$99 for most companies. These kits are often on sale online, especially around holiday time.
With many companies, you can combine an ancestry test with access to genealogical records and family tree builders. This allows you to create a comprehensive genealogical research tool that can be eye-opening, and can also help you find long-lost relatives you never even knew you had. The average price is about $99, though some companies offer more advanced access to historical archives and will charge additional fees.
In addition, many ancestry DNA tests can also be used to establish paternity. These can be far more expensive—especially if they need to be legally admissible for immigration or custody reasons. You can expect to easily spend several hundred dollars or more on such a test, with even higher prices for paternity tests with results that can be used in a court of law.
Health DNA tests can use your DNA sample in order to build a personalized health assessment. These tests can assess if you are likely to have a genetic disease later in life, which vitamins you should take, and even if you like spicy foods or favor the sweet stuff.
Combined ancestry + health tests can easily cost around $199. Other tests include not only a health and ancestry report, but also a monthly shipment of supplements. This can cost around $150 for the initial test and then a monthly charge that can be $50-$100.
4) Ease of use
Most DNA testing kits are pretty straightforward, but some elderly or weak individuals can find spit tests awkward to use. In those cases, companies that offer a cheek swab for taking samples instead of needing a saliva sample could be easier.
Not every company offers the same range of reports. Very few genealogical DNA testing companies will include health and wellness reports. Most companies provide ancestral reports, which break down your family heritage, ethnicity, and which region of the world you hail from, although some are more detailed than others. Some also provide a chromosomal browser which lets you compare your genetic profile with that of others from around the world. You can also find cousin matching reports, which let you know if you have any matches with other people registered with the same service.
6) DNA test accuracy
The type of test you choose affects the accuracy since autosomal DNA tests are less accurate the further back you go but mtDNA and Y-DNA tests remain reliable for dozens of generations. The biggest DNA testing companies such as Ancestry.com, MyHeritage, and LivingDNA are all pretty equally accurate in their dna test results. However, all companies warn that you shouldn’t use home DNA tests for detailed and critical genetic information like the risk of genetic disorders or of developing cancer.
8) Special features
As well as these considerations, there are a few extra features that are offered by some DNA testing companies. Some companies store your data indefinitely which means you can discover new family history information 50 years down the line. Others only store it for a certain number of years.
Another feature is the size of the database. The bigger the database of users, the better your chances of finding a match.
Some companies also permit you to upload raw genealogical data to their database so you can see if you have any matches without taking a test again.
New Trends in DNA Testing That Will Change the Future
If you’ve ever been curious about your heritage, the 21st century is a great time to be alive. Although it was once an astronomical and laborious undertaking, DNA testing has become almost as commonplace as taking a standard blood test. Home DNA kits are cost-effective, convenient, and incredibly cool. Plus, the results are astounding and thorough. DNA testing is an exciting and viable option, and people everywhere are taking note. In fact, forward-thinkers are already using this innovation to fill global needs and maximize the benefits of having your DNA sequenced in a jiffy. Here are 7 trends that are cropping up from DNA testing research and results, and you can be a part of them:
Advancing Health & Fitness
Early Cancer Detection
Fueling the Future
Fighting Crime (Without the Cape)
Mapping the Story of You
Now that you’ve read more about what the DNA testing industry can provide you, it’s time to get comfortable and find the test that really speaks to you. Genealogy is a fascinating hobby, and it's also a very personal one. You may be more interested in health information than detailed ethnic history, you may want to go deep on genealogical records and track down family relatives across a vast family tree, or you may just want to learn solely about your ethnic makeup. This is a journey that you call the shots on.
You also may find that you can use the DNA information and tools as a sort of jumping off spot for building a full-on family tree. Luckily, a number of companies can set you up with an extensive, intuitive digital family tree which you can update in a flash and even use to meet other relatives online