Ever since commercial DNA testing companies made their products widely available, how to choose the best DNA tests has become a perfectly valid question to ask. The shortest possible solution to this conundrum is defining your personal needs and what you expect the results to do for you. In order to do that, however, you’ll need a full “lay of the land” regarding all the potential options available and the scope of their services.
You’ll also need some basic insight into the world of genetic genealogy and DNA testing in general. All that, put into a succinct literal format is what this brief overview is designed to equip you with.
How Many Different DNA Tests Are There?
Even though looking at separate tests and the science behind them can be mind-boggling at first, crushing your initial intent to even scratch the surface, we’ll blunt that edge with comprehensive information and concrete advice.
DNA tests are many, but they can all be sorted into 3 categories:
- Relationship tests – These tests are used to establish potential genetic connections between two or more individuals. It’s your classic paternity/maternity test, but this group contains much more than that (uncle/aunt, twin, grandparents, siblings, family reconstruction, male/female lineage, and so on).
- Ancestry tests – They provide a (pre)historic picture of your genetic ancestry. You’ll be able to see the world’s regions with the highest concentration of your DNA throughout history, look at genetic and ethnic maps, determine percentages of residue Neanderthal DNA in your genome, and identify unknown relatives and connect with them.
- Genomic tests – According to the NHGRI (National Human Genome Research Institute), these tests are used to determine potential “risk-carriers” within your genome. By risk-carriers, we mean genes able to cause genetic disorders. Having the information in advance helps people choose treatments and assess their effectivity over time. Many chronic diseases have a genetic component, so uncovering your family history in that regard is of vital importance.
If you need to confirm/negate a biological relationship with someone, relationship tests will provide you with 99.99% accurate information. You can use the results in courts, state bodies, immigration services or for your personal peace of mind.
Ancestry tests look deeper into the past (thousands of years) and define the origins of your genetic signature down to the first ancestor who carried your DNA. So, if you’re interested in your ethnic origins and the development of your genetic family throughout the ages, ancestry tests will answer all your questions. They’ll also uncover your DNA relatives in the chosen company’s database and allow you to connect with them.
Genomic/health DNA tests are done as a precaution or if you know for a fact that certain conditions run in your family. You can take the test to see if you’ve inherited the “carrier gene” and take appropriate steps in advance.
What Makes A Good DNA Testing Company?
Now that you know what DNA test you need, we can focus on pinpointing the right provider for the job.
Here’s what factors you should pay attention to when choosing the best DNA testing company for your needs:
- DNA database – Every company has its internal database comprised of its customers. The larger the database, the more potential DNA matches can be found. This is the most important factor for ancestry and health DNA tests.
- Legal test option – This applies to relationship tests. You’ll want to know if the company can provide a court-viable document or not.
At-home tests are never admissible in courts or other state-sanctioned bodies since the chain of custody cannot be established beyond doubt.
- Scientific credentials – Is the company renowned in the world of genetic genealogy? Does it employ famous experts or not? Does it have internationally acclaimed certificates or backing?
- Test quality – How many genetic markers are being checked? What technologies are they using and what’s their turnaround time? What different features does their membership offer? What are the accuracy percentages/error margins?
- Service quality – Will they keep your information safe? How’s their customer support? Do they update your test results automatically? Do they offer consultations and results reviews? How many times do they perform each test to minimize potential errors? How long do they store your sample? Is your raw data available to you?
We know this section looks more like one giant question mark than anything else, but the purpose of this guide is teaching you to ask the right questions. Top 10 DNA Tests is brimming with answers to all of them. You can find out more about every respectable company on the map here.