Having a DNA test performed is no small thing. As you pay quite a lot to have one done, it’s worthwhile to do some good research into the different types of tests. To help you out, we’ve already done a lot of the research for you, so that you can make a choice from the different DNA tests. Maybe you can already make a well-informed decision based on the table below. But we actually advise you to grab a cup of tea or coffee, and scroll down this page so that you’ll know exactly which type of DNA tests are right for you.
|Ancestry||MyHeritage||23andme||FTDNA||Living DNA||gps origins|
|Y-DNA test||–||–||included||$169 tot $649||included||–|
|Healthtests||–||–||$70 – $90||–||–||$199|
|DNA stored||No limit||25 years||No limit||25 years||No limit||–|
|Collection||Saliva||Cheeck swab||Saliva||Cheeck swab||Cheeck swab||Cheeck swab|
It used to be the case that if you wanted to learn more about your family history, you could choose to start a genealogical study to map your family tree. Online family tree websites like Ancestry.com and MyHeritage originated this way. Around the year 2000 a second method started to emerge, in which your ancestry is researched with the use of DNA. Thanks to this method, we keep learning more and more about our origins. This way we can more easily look thousands of years into the past. Using these tests, you can see where your distant ancestors came from, and find out, for instance, in what percentage your DNA resembles that of a Neanderthal.
The big family tree websites thus also offer DNA tests nowadays. Besides these, there also exist many sites that focus only on DNA tests to learn more about your ancestry. 23andMe is an example of a website that works without offering additional family tree software. As a result, this website is very suitable for people that don’t really feel like being actively involved in unravelling their family history. 23andMe offers more tests alongside the normal DNA test, unlike MyHeritage and Ancestry DNA. Through offering a Y-DNA test and mtDNA test, the platform can give you insight into the migration of your distant ancestors. Additionally, with 23andMe, you can also choose for research that focusses on health.
To better understand what the various players are offering, it’s good to delve a bit deeper into the different types of tests. There are 3:
All of the DNA test providers that we have discussed in the overview above offer an autosomal DNA test. This test deals with the first 22 pairs of chromosomes and doesn’t consider the 23rd pair of sex chromosomes. Because it doesn’t take these sex chromosomes into account, this test can be taken by both men and women.
This DNA test allows you to uncover to what extent the DNA of other people is related to yours. The autosomal DNA test gives a result that is interesting if you want to look back for about 5 generations. This is because you inherit 50% from both parents, who, in turn, also inherit 50% from both their parents. You have about 25% of your grandparents’ DNA. However, if you keep dividing this while going back for five generations, you’re left with only 0,03125% of the DNA of this ancestor. That’s how fast that goes. The further you look back with this test, the less accurate it gets.
The autosomal test can also give a reasonably clear indication of your ethnicity. Because groups of people usually remained within the same regions in the past centuries, you have more similarities with people from within your region. Of course, people traveled, but the majority caused for DNA to be transferred in the long term.
The mitochondrial DNA test, abbreviated as mtDNA test, looks at the DNA in mitochondria. This you receive only from your mother’s side. As it is not a combination of both parents, this DNA changes extremely slowly. The downside here is that you can only look back from mother to mother to mother. A nice aspect of this test is that you can pinpoint to which haplogroup you belong. In this manner you can track down your ancestry on the basis of geography.
Whereas women have two X chromosomes, men have a X and a Y chromosome. The Y chromosome is only transferred from father to son. The Y DNA test can thus only be performed on men. The results of this test reveal to which haplogroup you belong on your father’s side.
All DNA test providers that offer tests to measure ancestry perform an autosomal test. This DNA test is the most practical to get in contact with relatives. Additionally, you can get a relatively clear idea of where your ancestors came from. A downside of the autosomal test is that you can’t see where your distant ancestors came from. If you would like to know this, you could have an additional mtDNA test and Y-DNA test performed.
With some parties this has already been included into the price, but with others you have to pay extra for this service. Consult our overview table at the top of this page for this information.
People’s experiences with DNA tests are quite varied. On forums, you see varying reactions from people about the tests that they’ve had performed. For some people the results are in line with their family tree, while others think it strange that they originate predominantly from another region. It’s important to keep in the back of your mind that DNA tests differ from each other on the following points:
Companies that take DNA tests compare the results of your DNA test with other people who have did the test. That means that the more people subscribed for the DNA test, the more accurate the results will be. It is therefore wise to choose a company that already has a large user group. The data will often be updated by the DNA test provider and your results in the online dashboard will also receive an update. So it is nice to log in once in a while.
All providers of the tests have established regions within which people are compared to your test results. It comes down to it that if you have a lot of similarities with people within for example the region Germany, the origin of your ancestors will be linked to this. Every company that performs DNA tests uses its own classification of regions. For instance, with some providers the Netherlands is classified as part of the region: Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands. As a result, you can’t expect an extremely accurate result from these. Other providers classify parts of the Netherlands as belonging to the region Great Britain. You can thus get different results per provider.
Dutch people who know that their family tree consists of people that have been born in the Netherlands often see themselves being linked to the regions Scandinavia and Great Britain when they take a DNA test. That is because many people with similar DNA have taken the test within these regions. The more Dutch people take DNA tests in the future, the more accurate the results can be traced back to the region the Netherlands.
The bigger the region, the less useful the test results. That goes for Europe, for instance. Small countries are often placed within other regions here. There are tests that don’t consider the Netherlands as a separate region, because of which you get many similarities with England and Scandinavia. With 23andMe, for example, the Netherlands is categorised under the region Germany-France. Austria and Switzerland are also part of this region. Ancestry.com has integrated the Netherlands as a country in their reports.
The last important point of selection in choosing the right DNA test is the other additional products the researcher provides. If you find it important, for instance, to be able to compose a family tree as well, MyHeritage and Ancestry.com are interesting options. If you’d rather have a health test performed, 23andMe could prove a better choice.
For many people, the autosomal DNA test can be a bit of a disappointment once they find out that it doesn’t go back much further than the family tree that they’ve already composed. You only have about 6% of the DNA of your great-great-grandparents left. So, if you go back for just a few more generations, the test results quickly become less reliable. And it’s especially nice to find out that which you didn’t precisely know already. To get more information in that area it can be interesting to get the Y-chromosome test or the mitochondrial DNA test performed additionally (often this is already included in the DNA test you’ve requested). This test looks back further and provides insight to the haplogroup for example.
In some cases, it’s possible that you’ll receive results you hadn’t expected in advance. You might be related to someone you didn’t expect, for example, or, to the contrary, you might turn out to not be related to someone you thought you were. Keep this in mind beforehand. It’s also good to take this into account when you tick the option to be able to see relatives. It could be the case, for instance, that there has been a descendant in your family tree that had another father than was generally assumed. Your family line could also turn out to look very different from what you had expected. Maybe your data even ends up being linked to an entirely different region as opposed to the region you think you’re from.