Ancestry DNA tests were brought to the general public with the proliferation of “direct-to-customer” business models. The results of these tests bring a plethora of ethnic, geographic, biological, demographic, and genealogical information. Putting it simply, they are the best windows into our genetic and genealogical past.
So, if you’re intent on unshrouding your first prehistoric ancestor, locating the geographic origins of your DNA, following its migration routes throughout history or simply connecting to unknown relatives all around the world, Ancestry DNA tests would be the right way to go about it. Not to mention the genetic “health risks” you might uncover and deal with along the way.
Bypassing the perplexing clutter that is the DNA-testing market of today is the primary purpose of this best ancestry DNA tests of 2017 overview. Our team undertook an extensive theoretical, as well as practical research, and compiled the ultimate list of services to efficiently guide you through your ancestry exploration. The whole ranking process hinges on our professional ratings for each company, but also user feedback and overall satisfaction with performed services.
These are the best ancestry DNA tests currently available:
- 650,000 encoded markers checked at least 15 times over
- 80 world regions checked for matches, 21 in the British Isles
- Raw data download and unlimited free test updates
- Largest database in the world with over 3 million users
- 700,000 genetic markers checked for 100% result precision
- 16 billion historic records, 200 million scanned documents
- Health and medical-related genetic reports in the results
- Deep ancestry reports, including Neanderthal DNA matches
- 31 world region examined for potential ethnic DNA matches
- 3 separate DNA tests with 6 varieties and 4 bundle options
- Free autosomal transfer from AncestryDNA and 23andMe database
- The biggest DNA database with automated personal updates
Ranking Criteria Explained
Our gauge for judgment covers all the possible aspects of making a well-informed choice, once you fix upon ascending your ancestral ladder, so to speak.
This would be the pool of our ranking factors:
- The number of genetic markers explored (when available)
- The temporal framework – the overall “reach” of the test
- General possibility of errors and test failures
- Ease of the sample-collection process
- Turnaround time and result availability
- Result segmentation and features variety (and quality)
- Community development stage and connecting with potential matches
- Price-to-quality ratio
- Results transfer possibility
- User support quality
Autosomal testing presumes analyzing 22 pairs of so-called autosomal chromosomes. These differentiate from “gender” chromosomes, used to determine our direct paternal (Y-tests) and maternal (mitochondrial tests) ancestral lineage. Some of the companies offer this segregation within their fundamental ancestry test, though.
Living DNA Review
The test utilizes a customized version of the Illumina Chip Tech called the Global Screen Array. It’s basically 3 different tests in one. The results include:
- Family ancestry, a part which will give you an overview of the world’s regions featuring the highest similarity with your specific autosomal DNA signature. This segment looks at all relatives, regardless of sides of the family tree.
- Fatherline ancestry is exclusively available to male customers. The Y-chromosome is explored, which provides information on your fatherline genealogy. The connection established will pinpoint ancestors tens of thousands into the past. You will also see the percentages of highest geographical impact for your haplogroup.
- Motherline ancestry will define your assignment in the maternal haplogroup. The results follow the same outline as fatherline inspections, only the mitochondrial DNA is tested instead of Y-chromosome. Mitochondrial DNA passes from mothers to children unchanged, so it allows us to follow the direct maternal heritage down to the first ancestor common to our haplogroup.
- “Back in time” map, which shows the past development of your ancestral DNA matches.
The biggest advantage of using the Living DNA test is their sheer geographical coverage. They’ll check 80 regions of the world, searching for your DNA matches. If you’re British, they feature the most detailed genetic breakdown of the British Isles, covering 21 regions.
The price of the test is 139$ and the results usually come within 10-12 weeks. All further updates are free of charge, though. The biggest disadvantage is the fact that they don’t allow free access to their database, which we expect to see changed in the near future.
The all-in-one AncestryDNA test offers the following features:
- DNA matches from one of the world’s biggest DNA databases (around 3 million tested individuals at this moment). The relationship coefficient is expressed through “confidence percentage.”
- Your own AncestryDNA page where you can add relatives to your family tree.
- Ethnicity map, which offers an interactive visual interface for exploring your worldwide ethnic roots.
- DNA Circles enables a multitude of DNA matches to pinpoint one common ancestor.
- “Map and locations” map is a special offer for all Ancestry Magazine subscribers. It’s a specialized tool for locating the birthplaces of your ancestors, ranging 10 generations into the past.
- The possibility of downloading your raw DNA, which you can later use on several free DNA-researching sites, but also with different companies, should you decide to tap into their DNA databases.
- The results also uncover and pinpoint your potential Native American ancestry.
Since their DNA test encompasses Y and mt tests as well, separate results for direct parental/maternal lineages are no longer available. The price of the test is 99$ and the number of checked genetic markers is 700,000. Women and men can both take this test since they all carry the relevant genetic material.
The company takes part in numerous research projects and they’re offering their users an opportunity to take part in them as well. The main goals are making advances in understanding the history of human migrations, uncovering more about human health, exploring ties between our genetic makeup and traits, and much more. AncestryDNA database also contains more than 16 billion various historical records and genealogy resources, all made available to their customers.
The basic 23andMe DNA test holds over 74 distinct reports. We’ll just highlight some of them:
- DNA relatives, which can be sorted using any number of criteria. Some of them being your surname, mother’s or father’s side of the family tree, common birthplace, and so on. You can also establish contact with your DNA matches through this page and click every single one of them separately for more information.
- Ancestry timeline allows you to see the origins of your genetic material.
- Haplogroups will sort you into the group with a particular body of genes. This should identify the first human carrying your DNA strain.
- Neanderthal DNA will show you the percentage of Neanderthal variations left over in your genetic signature.
The test costs 99$ and can be expanded to include results regarding health and medical information. For 100$ extra, you can also receive a full report of genes carrying potential illnesses and other conditions. This is a service not offered by many companies and it certainly makes 23andMe stand out in the crowd.
The health-related “bonus” will examine 41 different health condition carriers, 7 wellness results, and 19 trait-defining genes. 23andMe is very active when it comes to scientific research and science acceleration. It also offers you the opportunity to take part in studies being done at various universities. Numerous fail-safes are put in place to guarantee the complete security of your personal data, which will not be shared with third parties without your explicit consent.
Family Tree DNA Review
The “main” Family Tree DNA (autosomal) test is called “Family Finder” and it offers the following:
- A personal FTDNA profile with extensive possibilities of finding your DNA matches.
- The quantum of your visible personal information is completely customizable.
- MyOrigins mapping tool for a detailed geographic and ethnic breakdown.
- AncientOrigins provides a map of your ancestral migration routes and establishes the percentage of your DNA connection with ancient European civilizations.
- Family Matching is their enhanced feature for segregating your paternal and maternal lineage.
- Chromosome browser is an exclusive tool comparing actual DNA segments with your new-found matches.
The test itself is designed to locate DNA relatives within the last 16 generations and it produces results in 4-6 weeks since the initial order. The results can be viewed online as soon as they’re available.
Family Tree DNA also allows for data transfer from AncestryDNA and 23andMe. This allows you to comb through 3 different databases, looking for potential matches. Different people do their DNA testing through different companies, which makes every database very unique and a new genetic frontier to explore.
This service is absolutely free, but it’ll cost 19$ to unlock all of the features the Family Finder has to offer. We’re talking the Chromosome Browser, Ancient Origins, and so forth. The overall price of the test is 89$ and the test kit is shipped worldwide.
The company also features an extensive knowledge base and frequent educational webinars. The results are automatically updated free of any further charge. There are numerous volunteer-based projects you can join as FTDNA user and you’ll also get personalized user support.
Choosing The Best DNA Ancestry Test For Your Needs
Five separate tests might still be four tests too many if you feel indecisive about the best way to go with your ancestry DNA exploration. That’s why the initial step should always be identifying your specific needs or, to put it simply, what you expect/need to get out of the whole process.
For example, if you expect a British-heavy genetic ancestry, Living DNA will provide optimal service; if you want to explore different unique databases, Family Tree DNA is the top choice, with transfer options from AncestryDNA and 23andMe; also any company which allows raw data download is a good place to start; if you want the most detailed geographic coverage of your ancestry, paired with Native American DNA info, AncestryDNA is the way to go, etc. Every company offers something unique, so it’s up to you to identify the number one thing that you find the most important.
All of the companies have a highly professional staff and user support, so it’s usually the best practice to start your journey there. The consultations are free, for the most part, so you can have an expert helping you in determining the best course(s) of action. Whatever you opt for in the end, we hope our review of the best DNA ancestry tests of 2017 helped shed some informational “light” on this convoluted subject and steer you in the best possible direction.