The understanding of genetics has come a long way since James Watson and Francis Crick proposed the idea of a double helix DNA structure in the 1950s. These days, the application of genetics has extended beyond police stations and university labs and entered people’s homes. There are now a variety of companies that offer an in-depth analysis of your DNA through mail-in kits.
While DNA is in no way the most important thing about a person, familiarizing yourself with the information that lives in your chromosomes can be a valuable experience. The genetic kits on the market aren’t exactly cheap, but they can be worth it for many. That expense means that, whether you’re looking to get a DNA test to learn more about yourself or you’re thinking of a gift for someone else, you’re probably just going to choose one kit. That’s why we have put together this guide.
The first question that comes to mind for many is “which kit is the best?” But the better question might be “what do I want to find out?” That’s because the information stored by one’s genetics is so complex. Many of the testing companies focus on and excel in one aspect or another. There is arguably no one kit that’s simply superior to the others. For example, as Ancestry’s name would suggest, the company is great at finding information related to your family, ethnicity, and ancestry, even including living relatives.
On the other hand, 23andMe has a specific focus on the health and wellness information that DNA can hold, but they also provide ancestry information. Another thing worth noting is that no ancestry kit can overcome basic human biology. Since females have two X chromosomes, they can only trace information down the maternal line, whereas males can trace information from their mother and father.
Within the two major brands, there are various kits that come in at different price points and can paint a richer picture. And while Ancestry and 23andMe dominate the market, there are also other companies that are worth considering. It might be a lot to take in, so we’ve run down some of the best options that you can get right now. We’ve also run down the pros and cons to help you make a more informed decision.
1. 23andMe Health + Ancestry Service
23andMe staked a lot of their brand on health and wellness reports, and it quickly got them in some hot water with the FDA. Fortunately, 23andMe has been back on track, this time with approval from the FDA. So if you are interested in learning things about carrier status, predispositions, and traits, this kit from the brand will offer some of that information. Along with a raw data report, 23andMe will provide an analysis of the information to give you a snapshot of the health issues you may be more predisposed to because of your DNA. This kit is more expensive than some of the other 23andMe kits for its health information. Like all 23andMe kits, it also offers ancestry information, and you can connect to living ancestors through their service.
Pros: This kit from 23andMe provides a detailed health report, including genetic predispositions and health and wellness reports. Like all 23andMe kits, ethnicity and ancestry information is provided.
Cons: Expensive. There may be limitations for those of East Asian ancestry. Some of the health information is more limited than it used to be since the FDA stepped in.
2. AncestryDNA: Genetic Testing Ethnicity
As the name implies, Ancestry is designed for discovering one’s familial links and ethnic background. Its online database can help you construct your family tree, and they also have an online service for finding living family members such as cousins. You can also find detailed regional information related to your ethnic history, such as where your ancestors are from and even simulations of the travels of your ancestors. An optional subscription can allow you to continually follow up with the information you have found, such as creating more detailed family trees.
Pros: Provides more thorough genealogical information than 23andMe, and it’s helpful for finding relatives, like cousins, through the family tree online service. Detailed information such as migration history and regional history.
Cons: This kit from Ancestry provides no health analysis, unlike 23andMe. Also, some might find that the ancestry information is lacking for those of East Asian ancestry.
3. MyHeritage DNA Test Kit – Ancestry & Ethnicity Genetic Testing
While 23andMe and Ancestry are still the major players, the market has substantially opened up to include other services. Best of all, some of these are considerably cheaper. One such service is MyHeritage. Like Ancestry, MyHeritage focuses heavily on the ethnic and ancestral aspects of genetics. In fact, this particular kit from MyHeritage does not provide any health information. When you go online after getting your results, you’ll get maps illustrating your ancestry, as well as specific percentages that break down ethnic groups. Like the other services, this one has a matching service for living relatives to help you find family members you might not know about.
Pros: Vibrant and informational graphics that make receiving your results more exciting. More affordable than some other services. Provides ancestry matching service to find living relatives.
Cons: On top of the cost of the kit, you have to pay for shipping. Overall, the information is less detailed and in-depth than Ancestry.
4. AncestryDNA: Genetic Ethnicity + Traits Test
This option from Ancestry offers more complex information than the basic kit. Like the other Ancestry kit, it offers detailed information on ancestral history and migrations. Plus, it provides a feature for personal traits that allows you to see traits around the world and compare others. Some of the traits information provided are basic things like eye color and hair type, and others are more unique like information about how you perceive sweet and bitter tastes. There are 26 traits provided in total. Other than the 26 traits, this kit offers all of the same information as the basic kit.
Pros: Provides some unique information such as details about birth weight and genetic aversions to certain kinds of foods. Provides detailed ancestral information.
Cons: For some, the information provided in the traits package may not justify the extra cost compared with the basic kit.
5. 23andMe Ancestry + Traits Service
Even though much of the focus of 23andMe’s service is the health factors analysis, they still offer robust and informative ancestry information. This particular kit provides ancestry plus traits information. That can potentially make it a better gift than the health analysis option from 23andMe, because many people might (understandably) not want a readout of all the things that might be wrong with them as a gift. Like Ancestry, 23andMe offers tools to help you connect with living relatives. The traits tool allows you to analyze things like features and what flavors you might be predisposed to dislike.
Pros: Robust ancestry information for a lower price than the 23andMe health kit, in addition to interesting traits information like genetic predispositions to things as varied as motion sickness to ice cream flavor preference.
Cons: Building a family tree is easier with Ancestry. Asian genealogy through 23andMe is also less comprehensive than other ethnic groups.
6. DNA Test Kit tellmeGen
This option provides some of the same information as 23andMe, including ancestry information in addition to a health report. It provides details on disease risks, inherited monogenic disorders, as well as a variety of individual traits such as lactose intolerance, vitamin D levels, and muscle endurance. The genetic predispositions category is thorough and detailed, and there are a lot of individual categories included. It also provides percentages on ethnic origins, including specific countries and ethnic groups.
Pros: Offers a lot of the same detailed information that 23andMe provides. There is detailed health information include traits, disease predispositions, and inherited monogenic illnesses.
Cons: Does not feature the ancestry matching service of the major companies.