How To Choose The Best DNA Ancestry Test

May 9, 2017

Every person out there measuring the pros and cons of DNA testing has different thoughts and expectations for the process. Once you have enough useful information, though, you’ll be able to give form to your personal needs and expectations. Choosing the right DNA ancestry testing company from that point will look a lot less confusing than it might now. So, we’ll go over the crucial factors that can make or break your DNA testing experience.

In-House DNA Database

Dna Ancestry Test

The company’s database dictates how many potential DNA matches you’ll be able to find. From this perspective, it’s always better to go with a provider that’s in the business longer, as it had ample time to gather a significant pool of customers. Equally, a modest database doesn’t immediately spell a poor company. It takes a lot of time to build customer confidence, so expanding a database is definitely not the fastest or easiest of processes.

Luckily, companies saw the advantage of “sharing” consumers by allowing them to transfer their data from one database to the next. This option enables you to seek out potential relatives among all the people ever to take any of the DNA tests with the companies in the program.

The “Scope” Of Ancestry DNA Tests

In this section, we’ll show the importance of numbers in the overall enterprise that is exploring your genetic ancestry.

These are the particulars you should pay attention to:

  • Region coverage Your ethnic and genealogical maps will spread over world regions covered by the chosen company. The more surface they investigate, the more detailed the picture of your genetic impact and geographical relevance will be. Living DNA, for example, rules in this field with 80 regions (or reference populations). 23andMe covers 31, just to put things into perspective.
  • Genetic markers checked This is the number of “places” within your genome the ancestry DNA test will check for matches. Understandably, the higher the number, the higher level of accuracy will be provided. AncestryDNA offers a test with 700k genetic markers compared.
  • Gene populations explored This entails the number of ethnic groups against which your DNA strain will be compared, looking for possible matches. A higher numbers of genetic groups will give you a clearer and more precise picture of percentages present in your ethnic ancestry.
  • Turnaround time Receiving quick service is paramount in some cases, so the time you’ll spend waiting for the test results is also important. The general time frame for ancestry tests is 6-8 weeks, but it can also take 10-12 weeks in some cases, like with Living DNA’s ancestry test.

The general rule of thumb is, the higher the numbers, the better, so be mindful of that fact when approaching your first ancestry discovery. The problem is, the highest numbers are not all within one company. For example, Living DNA has the highest quantum of reference populations, but AncestryDNA checks the highest number of genetic markers. This conundrum is made easier and more comprehensive by our compare DNA ancestry tests page.

The point is determining the highest priority between fuller ethnic reports, lower speculation percentages, quicker results or more detailed geographic DNA presence and proceeding accordingly.

Genetic markers checked


Tests & Features Available

In many cases, an insignificant-looking feature can be the breaking point of opting for one company over another. The “tests” part of the headline is there due to 23andMe, as they are one of the rare DNA testing companies to offer a health-related DNA test. It is designed to register potentially hazardous “carrier genes.” These may cause hereditary conditions, so it’s very important to catch them early on and take appropriate steps to neutralize them. The need for this test grows if you are aware of a certain hereditary condition.

Also, be mindful whether the company of your choosing offers solely autosomal tests or if you can get reports on direct paternal/maternal lines as well. These are done through Y-chromosome and mtDNA testing.

The purpose of this section is not to generate an extensive list of features available (we have our comparison page for that), but to teach you two things:

  • Features don’t make a DNA test either good or poor, they’re there as a second tier of benefits after the initial test already passed your judgment. In short, don’t pick any particular company based on extra features. The scope of the test is much more important.
  • If you like a particular feature one company offers but don’t like their test, it’s always better to go the other way and then transfer your results to unlock the said benefit.

For more information on DNA ancestry testing, check out our review of the best DNA ancestry testing companies on the market.

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