Best DNA Test 2018: Family Tree DNA vs 23andMe vs AncestryDNA vs MyHeritage DNA & More!

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Can a little spit really tell you that you’ve got some Albert Einstein in your DNA or that your ancestors migrated from the Middle East 2,000 years ago?

Surely, you’ve heard about the craze over at-home DNA tests. Interested in digging deeper into your family heritage? Want to know what test to take? DNA testing is easier and more affordable than you might think and can lead to amazing revelations about who you are.

Article Overview

What Can I Learn From A DNA Test?

We often get asked which test is best for revealing what type of information. Every DNA testing company has its own unique strengths and thus the results are better for certain types of data.

DNA Ancestry Test

Why Get a DNA Test?

When you hear about your friend doing a DNA test at home, there is a good chance that they are talking about an ancestry test. DNA testing for ancestry is growing in popularity as more and more people want to know about their family history. A DNA ethnicity test can help you discover your ethnic origins from around the world. DNA testing for genealogy can help you identify your ancestors and living relatives (from a parent to distant cousins). An ancestral DNA test may also inspire you to dig in deeper to your family tree with genealogical research.

DNA Paternity Test

Historically one of the more common types of DNA tests, a paternity test determines the biological link between a father and child. There’s even a non-invasive prenatal paternity test available now. Read our Paternity Test Comparison for the scoop.

DNA Health Testing

At-home DNA testing for most medical and health-related purposes is still in its infancy, but scientists are making advances every day.  Always consult your physician before doing one of these types of tests and ask lots of questions.

Genetic Testing For Cancer Risk

Some people have a higher risk of developing specific types of cancers that tend to run in the family. In these cases, a physician may test your DNA to look for gene mutations that could indicate a higher risk. One of the better-known examples is testing for mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes (breast cancer genes) in women whose mother and sister have had breast cancer.

Genetic Testing For Carrier Status

Want to start a family, but you’re worried you may pass on an unwanted risk to your child? Some DNA tests can tell you if you’re a carrier for certain inherited conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia or hereditary hearing loss. A positive match doesn’t mean your child will inherit the condition; it just lets you know whether you carry the gene.

Not all DNA tests are the same. A carrier status DNA test, for example, focuses on the specific markers known to be associated with certain inherited conditions. On the other hand, DNA genealogy tests focus on specific markers related to our ancestry.

Check out our article on DNA Testing For Health Reasons to see which at-home tests are legit.

How Much Do DNA Tests Cost?

The cost varies by the company and the type of kit you choose but most range from $39 to $300+ and some offer free shipping. (Prenatal paternity tests can be $1,000 or more). After the one-time fee to have your DNA analyzed, you have access to your DNA records forever without paying a monthly fee.

The prices of the tests vary greatly because of the different features each offers. For example, some test for more than one type of DNA, which means the test may be more accurate or detailed than others.

The cost of DNA tests is the same regardless of where you live. So that means that someone in the United States pays the same as someone in Nigeria for the same test.

Often our top-ranked ancestry DNA companies (see below) will offer special discounts and promotions, and we do our best to keep this page updated when those sales happen. You can find these coupons in the review sections below for each specific company.

DNA Test Costs And Features

 1st: Ancestry DNA2nd: Family Tree DNA3rd: 23andMeAfrican AncestryGPS Origins by HomeDNALiving DNAMyHeritage DNANational Geographic Geno 2.0Vitagene
Visit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteVisit WebsiteView on Amazon Visit WebsiteVisit Website
Read ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead ReviewRead Review
Test TypeSaliva sampleCheek swabSaliva sampleCheek swabCheek swabCheek swabCheek swabSaliva sampleCheek swab
Best ForIdentifying Relatives & EthnicityAdvanced Genealogical Research & Identifying RelativesDisease Risk Screening & General AncestryAncient African AncestryEarly Migratory PatternsBritish HeritageAdding DNA to Your Online Family TreeAncient AncestryNutritional Guidance
Database Size10 Million989,000+3 Million30,000+n/an/a1 Million895,000+n/a
Ethnic Geographical Regions150+24150+n/an/a8042n/a25
Price$99$79-359$99-199$299$39-199$159$69$199$99
Shipping$9.95$12.95$9.95FreeFreeFreeFreeFreeFree
Results In6-8 Weeks4-10 Weeks6-8 Weeks6+ Weeks6 Weeks10-12 Weeks3-4 Weeks8-10 Weeks4-6 Weeks
Autosomal DNACheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
mtDNACheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Y-ChromosomeCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkLimited

How Does At-Home DNA Testing Work?

Order Your Kit graphic Step 1: Order Your Kit

Order your kit online from anywhere in the world (see below for our top picks). It takes about a week to receive the kit. The package should arrive sealed so you are certain it has not been tampered with.

Set Up Online Profile graphic Step 2: Set Up Your Online Profile

You’ll need to activate your kit online using a unique code provided to you. This connects your name and contact details to your sample so you can track progress as it’s tested and later view results. You’ll most likely sign a consent form and agree to the company’s legal terms and conditions before getting started.

Provide DNA Sample graphicStep 3: Provide A DNA Sample

Now for the fun part — providing your DNA sample! Most tests offer cheek swab tests. AncestryDNA, 23andMe and NatGeo Geno 2.0 tests require you to spit in a vial.

Either way, they recommend not eating, drinking, smoking, chewing gum or teeth brushing at least one hour before to ensure a good sample. Also wash your hands before opening the test tubes to ensure a clean sample.

Seal & Ship graphic Step 4: Seal & Ship Your Sample

Once your samples are complete and ready to go, seal the samples in the specimen bag, place them in the provided mailing envelope, and drop the it in your mailbox for delivery. Don’t forget to make sure your unique ID is on each sample so the labs have a way to track it back to your profile.

Step 5: Wait For Analysis

Wait For Analysis graphic

In an age where we can get most things instantly, you might be anxious to get results right away. But, how long does a DNA test take to come back? Given the complexity of the process of analyzing your DNA and comparing your results to other samples, expect to wait anywhere from 4-10 weeks depending on the company.

Step 6: View & Share Your Results

View & Share Your Results graphicTo access your results, sign in to the online portal using the login you created when you activated your kit (results will not be mailed to you for privacy reasons). Once logged in, you can view and analyze your DNA in more detail using the provided percentages, maps and more depending on which kit you chose.

2018 Best DNA Test Winners

We chose our best DNA test for 2018 based on a number of factors, including: the types of tests they offer, DNA database size, the extent of ancestry information you can find from each test, cost, genealogy research tools and more. If you need to brush up on DNA and ancestry-related terms, jump to our DNA terminology section.

AncestryDNA Review

#1

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AncestryDNA, part of the wildly popular genealogical company Ancestry.com, wins our top spot as the best DNA ancestry test. This company has really stepped up its game over the last several years, giving you an unparalled ability to find familial matches and a breakdown of your ethnicity from across the globe.

AncestryDNA offers affordable pricing, an extremely active online community, a huge DNA ancestry database of 10 million people and access to millions of family trees and billions of historical records via the Ancestry website. Their autosomal test analyzes more than 700,000 genetic markers to find your genetic matches.

AncestryDNA also gives you results on migration patterns from several areas around the world to post-colonial North America. This can help you better pinpoint where your recent ancestors lived in the U.S. and migrated from around the world.

Best For Identifying Genetic Matches & Ethnicity

Far more people have tested with AncestryDNA than any other service — a whopping 10 million people. This means you’ll be more likely to find living relatives and shared ancestors. You can also use the website’s extensive historical ancestry records to try to trace your ancestors on you mother’s and father’s sides.

Pros

Cons

  • Competitive pricing for autosomal DNA test
  • Largest DNA database by far — 10 million people
  • Provides ancestry ethnicity estimates for 150+ global regions
  • CLIA and CAP certified laboratory (third-party lab)
  • Reliable security for DNA test samples and results
  • Excellent online community forums and customer service
  • Stores your DNA sample indefinitely
  • Can connect with genetic matches via anonymous email and Ancestry.com message boards
  • Doesn’t offer separate Y-DNA or mtDNA testing
  • Can’t upload DNA data from other services
  • No chromosome browser available to compare shared chromosomal segments
  • Those tested must opt in so that other users can see their results, meaning you may not be able to see all your matches

Pricing

  • $99 Autosomal DNA testing kit (saliva sample)
  • $9.95 shipping
  • Results available in 6-8 weeks

Coupon

AncestryDNA often has time-sensitive coupons including a BLACK FRIDAY / CYBER MONDAY sale $49 kits through midnight on 11/26 . Click here to take advantage of the offer.

Read our in-depth AncestryDNA Review

Family Tree DNA Review

#2

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Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) is the best DNA ancestry test if you’re committed to serious genealogy research. This company is the only service that offers all three types of tests separately: autosomal, Y-DNA and mtDNA testing. Their Y-DNA and mtDNA tests are much more in-depth than other companies’ maternal and paternal-line analysis. (Learn more about these different tests.)

Also, FTDNA is one of the only services that offers a chromosomal browser, which allows you to compare your matching DNA segments (blocks) with each genetic match. You get the email addresses of your matches and can join targeted genealogical projects within their network. This is one of a few services that gives you the ability to transfer your data from other services to help you further your research.

Best For Advanced Genealogical Research

FTDNA gives you a list of all your genetic matches who share common ancestors from your maternal and paternal lines from the past 5 or so generations. You can even view, sort and compare individual DNA matches by parental lines and contact matches via email (if they’ve permitted access). Their separate mtDNA and Y-DNA tests give you uniquely specific analysis into your DNA, and their online resources are phenomenal.

Pros

Cons

  • Competitive pricing for DNA autosomal test and frequent promotions
  • Only site to offer separate autosomal DNA and in-depth Y-DNA and mtDNA testing kits and a good variety of bundled packages
  • Provides ethnicity estimates for 24 global regions
  • In-house laboratory certified by CLIA and accredited by CAP
  • Stores your DNA sample for 25 years
  • Strict privacy policy
  • You receive email addresses for your genetic matches
  • Chromosome browser tool to compare shared chromosomal segments
  • Allows uploading of raw DNA results from 23andMe, AncestryDNA, MyHeritage and NatGeo Geno 2.0
  • Excellent online community forums and customer service
  • Database (989,000+ people) isn’t quite as extensive as other services
  • Shipping is expensive

Pricing

FTDNA offers several bundled packages in addition to the pricing below.

  • $79 Family Finder Autosomal DNA Kit (cheek swab), Results in 4-6 weeks
  • $89 mtDNA Plus DNA Kit, Results in 4-6 weeks
  • $199 mtDNA Full Sequence Kit, Results in 6-8 weeks
  • $169 Y37 Markers, Results in 8-10 weeks
  • $268 Y67 Markers, Results in 8-10 weeks
  • $359 Y111 Markers, Results in 8-10 weeks
  • $12.95 shipping
  • View all options

Coupon

Family Tree DNA often has time-sensitive coupons!

Read our in-depth FamilyTreeDNA Review

23andMe Review

#3

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23andMe comes in third as our best ancestry DNA testing company for the unique services they provide. 23andMe is your best bet if you want to trace your lineage and get disease-risk and carrier-status DNA results. They offer two testing kit types — an autosomal Ancestry test for $99 or a Health + Ancestry test for $199.

On the ancestry side, you’ll get reports on your ethnic composition, haplogroups and Neanderthal ancestry. 23andMe also provides you an anonymous report of where your current genetic matches live in the world, and you can opt-in to their DNA Relatives tool to find, connect and message those who share DNA with you. If you want to use your DNA results to help you trace your family tree, however, 23andMe’s research tools and genealogy community aren’t up to par with FamilyTreeDNA or Ancestry.com.

23andMe is the only direct-to-consumer genetic test that has FDA approval for several genetic health risks, including late-onset Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Hereditary Thrombophilia, and most recently three genetic variants found on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes known to be associated with higher risk for breast, ovarian and prostate cancer.

Other health results include 40 FDA-approved carrier status reports (whether you carry genes for certain health conditions), five wellness reports (lactose intolerance, for example), and more than a dozen trait reports (male bald spot, unibrow, etc.).

Best For General Ancestry and Disease Risk Screening

If you want to learn where your ancestors lived around the world and, at the same time, gain insights into your health and risk for certain diseases, 23andMe’s Ancestry + Health test is the way to go.

Pros

Cons

  • Only at-home DNA test to offer FDA-approved health screenings
  • Large DNA database of 3 million people
  • Provides your ethnicity breakdown from 150+ global regions
  • CLIA and CAP certified laboratory (third-party lab)
  • Test samples and results are secure for privacy
  • Provides chromosome browser to compare shared chromosomal segments
  • Stores your DNA sample
  • Doesn’t offer separate, in-depth Y-DNA or mtDNA testing
  • No genealogical DNA projects available to join on website
  • Can’t upload raw DNA data from other services
  • Genealogical community forums are lacking compared to our top two choices
  • Users have to opt in to allow others to even see that they’re a genetic match (members say many don’t, making it more difficult to identify and connect with living relatives)

Pricing

  • $99 Ancestry autosomal DNA test (saliva sample)
  • $199 Ancestry + Health DNA testing kit
  • $9.95 shipping
  • Results available in 6-8 weeks
  • View all options

Coupon

23andMe occasionally has time-sensitive coupons including a Holiday Offer: Save 30% on each kit through December 25th, 2018. Click here to take advantage of these limited time deals.

Read our in-depth 23andMe Review

The Rest Of The Pack

These may not be in the top 3 overall for best DNA test for ancestry, but they are winners in their respective categories.

African Ancestry | GPS Origins by HomeDNA | Living DNA | MyHeritage DNA | National Geographic Geno 2.0| Vitagene Health+Ancestry

African Ancestry Review

African Ancestry logo

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African Ancestry was launched in 2003, and since that time, African Ancestry has partnered with historians, archaeologists, anthropologists and other geneticists to build the largest collection of African lineages in the world, including over 30,000 indigenous African DNA profiles.

This company offers separate mtDNA and Y-DNA tests but no autosomal test. African Ancestry says they can trace your roots back to a specific present-day African country, but that’s a somewhat problematic claim.

Given the science they use and the limits of DNA ancestry testing in general, what they can do is determine a likely estimate of broad genetic matches “based on the frequency of identical and closely related haplotypes,” according to their website. They also provide broad results from other continents.

Best DNA Test To Discover Ancient African Roots

Do you want to know which specific area, or perhaps even tribe, in Africa your ancestors hailed from? If you know (or highly suspect) that you are of African descent, African Ancestry traces your African roots from 500 – 2,000 years ago.

Pros

Cons

  • World’s largest database of African lineages
  • Traces your African roots back 2,000 years to specific areas and ethnic groups of origin
  • You can upload your mtDNA and Y-DNA test results from FamilyTreeDNA if you have African ancestry (fee for running your results through their algorithm)
  • Active online community
  • They don’t share your sample or results with third parties
  • They destroy your sample once it’s been tested (good for people concerned with privacy)
  • Very Expensive
  • DNA database is too small for entirely accurate results — their website states “Company does not warrant that a Report will be accurate or complete.”
  • No familial matches — can’t identify living relatives or individual ancestors
  • Testing is limited to direct maternal or direct paternal lines (you won’t get results regarding branches of your family tree)
  • No information on lab accreditation
  • No sample storage option
  • Few genealogical resources on website

Pricing

  • $299 MatriClan™ Test Kit
  • $299 PatriClan™ Test Kit
  • $680 Family Celebration Package, includes one mtDNA kit, one Y-DNA kit, t-shirts, certificates
  • Free shipping
  • Results available in 6+ weeks
  • View all options

GPS Origins By HomeDNA Review

HomeDNA logo

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GPS Origins test by HomeDNA uses a unique ancestral tracking technique that breaks down your gene pool and family migration patterns. Their in-house and highly-accredited laboratory, DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC), tests 800,000 autosomal genetic markers and analyze 862 reference populations and 36 gene pools to tell you where your ancestors moved over hundreds of years starting roughly 1,000 years ago.

Although their GPS Origins test kit is expensive, HomeDNA allows you to upload your results from 23andMe, Ancestry.com, the Family Tree DNA Family Finder or National Geographic Geno 2.0 for HomeDNA’s unique analysis for a reasonable $39 fee. HomeDNA also provides special editions of their GPS Origins test.

  • The African Edition autosomal test analyzes 11 African–specific gene pools and ancestry markers from more than 100 African populations. You receive your African ethnicity in percentages and can see your ancestors’ migration routes going as far back as 2,000 years, along with anthropological stories explaining the movement of your DNA over time.
  • The Asian Edition test analyzes 17 Asian gene pools and goes back 2,000 years, with date stamps and geographic coordinates.

Best For Early Migratory Patterns

Want to know where your early ancestors originated and migrated to over hundreds of years? The GPS Origins tests give you basic migratory patterns within certain areas of the globe starting as early as 2,000 years ago based on your genetically-matched haplogroups.

Pros

Cons

  • Approach and results are unique with GPS Origins test
  • Provides historical write-ups of specific migratory patterns
  • DNA lab is highly accredited
  • Strict privacy policy
  • Special African and Asian GPS Origins editions
  • You can have your raw DNA from other companies analyzed by HomeDNA for $39
  • Charitable support for the Innocence Project
  • Customers report helpful support reps
  • GPS Origins test kit is expensive compared to most other DNA ancestry tests
  • No familial matches — can’t identify living relatives or individual ancestors
  • Doesn’t offer separate mtDNA or Y-DNA tests
  • No chromosome browser
  • No information about sample storage on website
  • Website lacks online community and supplemental resources

Pricing

  • $199 for GPS Origins® test
  • $199 for GPS Origins® African edition
  • $199 for GPS Origins® Asian edition
  • $39 to upload your results from the Family Tree DNA Family Finder, 23andMe, Ancestry.com or National Geographic Geno 2.0
  • Free shipping
  • Results available in 4-6 weeks
  • View all HomeDNA test kit options

Read our in-depth HomeDNA Review

Living DNA Review

Living DNA logo

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England-based Living DNA launched in early 2015. At the time, they claimed to be the “first truly global DNA test” because they break down ancestral origins across 80 worldwide regions. AncestryDNA and 23andMe, however, are putting that claim to rest as both sites are in the process of improving regional ethnicity analysis several notches. Living DNA does still have the edge on British ancestry —  they break down your roots across 21 regions in the British Isles.

If you already have a good idea that your roots are from the United Kingdom, Living DNA could be a great test for you to delve deeper into the region. Living DNA has partnered with several leading genomics, analytical, testing and research organizations, which lends them a lot of credibility in our book. We’re keeping our eye on this relative newcomer to see how their reputation develops.

Best For British Heritage

If you have Brit in your blood, Living DNA is your best choice for DNA testing. Based in the UK, their database is specifically geared toward the European and UK markets, making their results much more comprehensive in those regions.

Pros

Cons

  • Excellent for a more in-depth British regional breakdown (80 regions alone in Britain)
  • Traces your mtDNA and Y-DNA lines back and gives you your haplogroups
  • Good security and privacy policy
  • Shipping of kit (and return shipping) included in price
  • Doesn’t have its own database, so you can’t compare your results to others who’ve tested or find familial matches
  • Lab is located in the UK, which doesn’t hold the same certification standards as in the U.S.
  • Can’t upload raw DNA data from other services
  • No chromosome browser
  • Very limited website resources, tools or community
  • No information on website about long-term DNA sample storage

Pricing

  • $99 DNA testing kit (cheek swab)
  • Free shipping
  • Results in 10-12 weeks

Coupon

Living DNA occasionally has time-sensitive coupons.

Read our in-depth Living DNA Review

MyHeritage DNA Review

MyHeritage DNA logo

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MyHeritage is one of the most popular genealogy research and family tree websites in the world. In September 2016, they launched an autosomal DNA ancestry test at a competitive price. This DNA heritage test is similar to AncestryDNA, with fewer ethnic regions identified.

Although the test is relatively new compared to other services, MyHeritage uses FTDNA’s highly-accredited testing lab. An advantage of MyHeritage DNA? You can import DNA testing results from competing companies to compare with their database for free. Other services charge you a fee for this feature.

The downside? While they have a massive database of family trees and active users, their database of DNA results is still in its early stages. But based on the popularity of this website, we anticipate their DNA database will grow quickly.

Best For Enhancing Your Online Family Tree

With more than 2.8 billion family trees and 95 billion users worldwide, MyHeritage’s Family Tree Builder and related services are among the best online. How do you benefit from connecting your DNA to your family tree? DNA results can prove or disprove documented family tree connections. Family trees are also vital for understanding the relationship path to DNA matches.

Pros

Cons

  • Competitive pricing for autosomal DNA test
  • DNA database of more than 1 million people
  • Provides ancestry ethnicity estimates for 42 global regions
  • CLIA and CAP certified laboratory (they use FTDNA’s lab)
  • Reliable security for DNA test samples and results
  • Can import raw DNA data from any service that uses gedcom or autosomal test
  • New chromosome browser
  • They store your DNA sample indefinitely, or you can request to have it destroyed
  • Good online community forums and customer service
  • Additional fee to use their family tree and genealogical services
  • No separate Y-DNA or mtDNA testing
  • Doesn’t offer targeted genealogical DNA projects available to join on website

Pricing

  • $59.00 Autosomal DNA testing kit (cheek swab)
  • Free shipping
  • Results in 3-4 weeks

Read our in-depth MyHeritage DNA Review

National Geographic Geno 2.0 Review

National Geographic Genographic project logo

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The Geno 2.0 Next Generation DNA testing kit is best for people who want to trace their roots all the way back to ancient origins (even to Neanderthals). The test is part of the National Geographic Genographic Project, a scientific effort to analyze historic patterns in human DNA across the globe.

How does it work? You purchase and submit your saliva sample test, their lab runs its DNA testing, which identifies thousands of mtDNA markers for direct maternal lineage, examines Y-DNA markers for direct paternal ancestry and analyzes more than 750,000 other ancestry-informative markers to reveal your ancestry’s regional affiliations.

The Geno 2.0 Next Gen test is expensive, and their database is relatively small which limits your research abilities. But the great thing about this test is that FTDNA allows you to upload your Geno 2.0 results into their database for free, so you can find your relatives and get additional insight on your ancestral origins. And you get the satisfaction of knowing that you’re contributing to a global historical genomic project.

The Geno 2.0 project was started in part by the folks at Family Tree DNA, our top pick for best ancestry DNA kit, and the samples are processed by the Genomics Research Center which is operated by Gene by Gene, Ltd., Family Tree DNA’s parent company.

Best DNA Test For Ancient Ancestry

The Geno 2.0 test allows you to trace your roots back hundreds or thousands of years and gives you their ancient migration patterns across countries and continents around the globe.

Pros

Cons

  • Offers autosomal and full mtDNA testing (but limited Y-DNA)
  • Provides biogeographical ancestry analysis
  • CLIA and CAP certified laboratory (third-party lab)
  • Test samples saved securely for privacy
  • Can upload your results to Family Tree DNA
  • Contributing to a globally targeted genealogical DNA project
  • Excellent customer service
  • DNA test is expensive
  • No familial matches — can’t identify living relatives or individual ancestors
  • Smaller database at 905,000+ 
  • Can’t upload raw DNA data from other services
  • No chromosome browser
  • Limited website resources

Pricing

  • $199.95 DNA testing kit (cheek swab)
  • Free shipping
  • Results available in 8-10 weeks

Coupon

Mothers Day 2018 Sale: Buy 2 or more GENO 2.0 Kits and get them for $69.95 each - regularly priced at $199.95 each!

Read our in-depth National Geographic DNA Review

Vitagene Health+Ancestry Review

Vitagene Health+Ancestry logo

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Vitagene Health +Ancestry by HomeDNA is currently the only DNA test kit on the market that analyzes your ethnic ancestry and nutrition genetics from one single cheek swab. For ancestry results alone, there isn’t much to get excited about with this Vitagene test. The simple autosomal DNA test only gives you ethnicity results from 25 regions around the world with percentage breakdowns — you can get these results and more from other ancestry tests.

What makes Vitagene Health+Ancestry worth consideration, however, is their health-related analysis. The test looks at specific genes related to vitamin deficiencies and common sensitivities, like gluten or lactose intolerance, as well as weight regain after dieting, obesity risk, emotional eating, sodium and fat intake, alcohol metabolism, triglyceride and cholesterol levels and more.

There’s also an online questionnaire, where you provide secure and confidential information about your medical history and lifestyle. They use this information, along with your DNA, to develop a personalized plan for exercise, diet and supplement recommendations.

Best For Nutritional Guidance

Vitagene Health+Ancestry test is a great beginner’s kit to get your feet wet with DNA testing. It’s an affordable way to start answering basic questions about where your ancestors came from and gain some insights into what diet you should be eating based on genetics. You’re not going to get any major genealogical findings or disease risk results, but if you want basics, it’s a reliable option.

Pros

Cons

  • Reasonable price
  • Ethnicity breakdown across 25 global regions
  • Uses the latest available scientific research in the fields of genetics and nutrition
  • DNA lab is highly accredited (same lab as GPS Origins)
  • Strict privacy policy and they destroy your sample once it’s tested
  • You can have your raw DNA from other companies analyzed for $49
  • Quicker results than many other companies
  • Good online resources
  • Customers report helpful support reps
  • No familial matches — can’t identify living relatives or individual ancestors
  • Doesn’t offer separate mtDNA or Y-DNA tests (can’t learn about maternal or paternal lines)
  • Website lacks online community

Pricing

  • Health Report + Ancestry: $79
  • Premium Report: $99
  • Vitality Bundle + Free DNA Test: $169
  • View all options
  • Free shipping
  • Results in 4-6 weeks

What Does That Mean? DNA Test Terminology

Before we delve into the types of DNA tests, we’re going to give you a quick breakdown of the terms you’ll run into so you can understand what we’re talking about!

What Is DNA?

DNA graphic DNA stands for “deoxyribonucleic acid,” and everyone’s DNA is unique to the individual. More than 99 percent of your DNA is the same as everyone else’s in the world. But there are small groups of sections across each person’s genome that differ (these variations make you the unique person you are).

What’s The Difference Between mtDNA and Y-DNA?

We go in-depth on these in the next section on types of DNA tests.

What Is A DNA Test?

DNA analysis looks at small sections of DNA, called “markers,” to create your DNA profile —  a unique genetic fingerprint. Not every DNA test, however, is the same, and not every test’s design finds the same information from your DNA.

What Are Genetic Markers?

A genetic marker is a DNA sequence with a known location on a chromosome. Scientists use genetic markers to identify cells, individuals, populations, etc.

What Does Autosomal Mean?

Autosomal refers to a chromosome that is not a sex chromosome. People have 22 pairs of autosomes in each cell, as well as 2 sex chromosomes (X & Y in a male and X & X in a female). More in our next section on autosomal DNA testing.

What Is Shared DNA?

Two people who share identical segments of DNA share a recent common ancestor. The relationship between relatives (siblings, cousins, etc.) depends on the length and number of these identical segments.

What Is Deep Ancestry?

Deep ancestry is based on either mitochondrial DNA (maternal, or coming from your mother’s side) or Y-chromosome DNA (paternal, or coming from your father’s side), and it shows a single line of descent. It’s often referred to as a direct maternal line or direct paternal line, going back hundreds to thousands of years.

What Does Haplogroup Mean?

A haplogroup is a genetic population (group of people) who share a common ancestor on the direct paternal or maternal line.

What Is Y-Haplogroup, E3a, Q3, Etc.?

Each haplogroup is assigned its own group “name,” which consists of a letter of the alphabet followed by more specific refinements indicated by additional number and letter combinations. Some haplogroups indicate clear ethnic groups. For example, the Y-haplogroup E3a is the most common among African Americans, and Y-haplogroup Q3 solely includes Native American populations.

A Guide To Types Of DNA Tests

Now that you have a better understanding of the scientific part, let’s define the various types of tests, what to look for and who can take each one. It’s important to do your research about the type of test to make sure you’re testing your DNA for the specific information you’re looking for.

What Is An Autosomal DNA Test?

Autosomal DNA Test relationship graphic Autosomal DNA tests look at chromosomes 1-22 that you’ve inherited from both your parents.

Don’t know much about your grandparents or other relatives? Autosomal DNA testing can determine how closely related you are to other individuals. It can also give you an ethnicity estimate, telling you where your ancestors lived around the world.

  • Who Can Take The Test: Males and females.
  • What it Tests For: Autosomal DNA testing matches you with other individuals based on a certain amount of shared DNA.
  • What it Can Reveal: You can expect to find matches as far out as 5th cousins and in some cases even further. Tests analyze shared DNA and give you your matches as well as how much DNA you have in common. Autosomal tests also identify your ethnic origins from around the world.
  • How Far Back Are Results: Autosomal DNA tests trace back anywhere from five to ten generations on both your mother and father’s sides of the family.

What Are Ethnicity Estimates?

Autosomal DNA tests match your DNA with population samples and studies from across the globe. When you get your DNA test results back, you’ll get a report that gives you a mixture of percentages (ethnicity estimates). These are your unique percentages of where your ancestors lived in defined geographical regions, i.e. 82% British Isles, 10% Eastern European, 2% Native American and so on.

NOTE: Each company’s ethnicity report differs slightly by their defined global regions, how they present their data to you, and the number of population studies they use in their analysis. Your percentages can also differ slightly because of each lab’s unique testing methods. Some autosomal tests also look at parts of your DNA going back even further.

What Is An mtDNA Test?

Mitochondrial DNA Test relationship graphicA mitochondrial (mtDNA) test traces your mother-line ancestry using the DNA in your mitochondria. mtDNA is passed down unchanged by every mother to all her children, both male and female.

  • Who Can Take The Test: Males and females.
  • What it Tests For: mtDNA tests along the direct maternal line, examining genetic markers on your mtDNA, which is passed down from mother to child each generation.
  • What it Can Reveal: Your direct maternal deep ancestry and which haplogroup you belong to.
  • How Far Back Are Results: All humans descended from Mitochondrial Eve, who lived an estimated 200,000 years ago in Africa. Her descendants are organized into different branches called haplogroups.

What Is A Y-DNA Test?

Y Chromosome DNA Testing relationship graphicThe Y-chromosome DNA (Y-DNA) test traces direct male-line ancestry — grandfather to father to son and so on. The Y-chromosome passes down each generation virtually unchanged. Since females don’t carry the Y-chromosome, they can’t take this test. Females, however, can learn something from this test by having a brother, father, paternal grandfather, paternal uncle or a male cousin (your father’s brother’s son) take a test for you.

  • Who Can Take The Test: Males only (because women don’t have a Y-chromosome).
  • What It Tests For: The Y-DNA test traces direct male-line ancestry. Each male’s Y-DNA test results are compared to other males’ results to find out their most recent common ancestor (MRCA) in their direct patrilineal lines.
  • What It Can Reveal: This test can tell you which Y-haplogroup you belong to if you’re male. Your Y-DNA haplogroup reflects the ancient ancestry of your paternal line.
  • How Far Back Are Results: Like mtDNA tests, Y-DNA tests can go back hundreds of thousands of years.

Video: Types Of DNA Tests

Still a bit confused? This short video breaks down the types of DNA tests in a nutshell for you.

Don’t Miss GEDmatch On Your DNA Quest

GEDmatch.com is a free website, where you can upload raw autosomal DNA results and your match lists from AncestryDNA, 23andMe, Family Tree DNA, and other services. In GEDmatch you can compare your DNA results with the results of all other GEDmatch users who’ve made their results public, regardless of what company they used to obtain autosomal DNA results. GEDmatch can help you:

  • Identify cousins and share research efforts for matching relatives.
  • Identify what portions of your DNA came from each parent if you and one (or both) of your parents have their DNA tested.
  • Potentially get more detailed ethnicity breakdowns. GEDmatch has six different options for displaying more detailed ethnicity, with many breakdowns under each option.

How Does GEDmatch Protect Your Privacy?

GEDmatch requires you to provide your email address and the exact name you used with your testing company. While we don’t recommend that you make your name or any of your information public, not sharing will limit much of what you can do with the website.

DNA 101 Infographic

Infographic: DNA Tests

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FAQ’s

Here are some additional questions we get asked regularly.

What About DNA Testing Privacy?

Are my DNA sample and results protected? We see this question often. What do companies do with your results and private information? The best testing sites don’t share your DNA results with insurance companies or other third parties. We recommend you read each company’s privacy policy before ordering a test if you’re concerned about your results ending up in the wrong hands.

In 2008, the U.S. passed the Genetic Information and Non-Discrimination Act to protect citizens from having their genetic information used against them for health insurance or employment purposes.

Do My Parents or Siblings Need To Take A DNA Test For My Results To Be Accurate?

It depends on what type of information you’re looking for. It’s not necessary if you just want general ethnicity results. An autosomal DNA test will tell you what’s been passed down through your mother and/or father’s blood line, so save yourself the money!

But keep in mind, each person inherits different percentages of each parent’s DNA, and every person is different (even twins!). So if you want the most complete results, everyone in the family should test.

Can DNA Tests Tell Me What Countries My Ancestors Lived In?

In most cases no. Most ethnicity breakdowns involve broader regions, rather than specific countries.

Which DNA Test Offers The Best Bang For The Buck?

Family Tree DNA has the lowest autosomal test price tag.

Can I Transfer DNA Test Results From One Company To Another?

  • AncestryDNA and 23andMe: You can’t upload other companies’ DNA test results
  • Family Tree DNA: Does allow you to upload results from AncestryDNA, 23andMe and Geno 2.0 to match your results to their DNA database.
  • HomeDNA’s GPS Origins: You can upload your autosomal DNA test results from the FTDNA, 23andMe, AncestryDNA or Geno 2.0
  • African Ancestry: You can upload your mtDNA and Y-DNA test results from FTDNA if you have African ancestry
  • My Heritage: Accepts other results, but their database isn’t as sophisticated or comprehensive.
  • There are also a few free sites where you can upload your raw data results to help you match your DNA to others. The most popular is GEDmatch.com.

Do DNA Test Companies Share My Results With Researchers Or Third Parties?

The best testing sites don’t share your DNA results with third parties. But as with most things in life, we urge you to read their policies carefully before proceeding.

How Accurate Is Ancestry DNA Testing?

DNA testing for forensic purposes, paternity and ancestry are 99.9% accurate. This DNA accuracy level for ancestry pertains to matching relatives, not for ethnicity results.

How Accurate Are DNA Ethnicity Tests?

DNA ethnicity results are the least reliable part of DNA tests, but the science behind this testing is improving. AncestryDNA and 23andMe have recently dramatically expanded the number of global regions they identify in your ethnic mix, but drilling down to specific countries is complicated and problematic. Why? There are two major reasons:

  1. Each company that offers ethnicity tests uses groups of reference populations to compare your results and place you in an ethnic group. Results, however, can vary widely based on which and how many of these reference populations a certain company uses.
  2. Over the course of hundreds and thousands of years, there has been a great deal of intermixing of populations, particularly in Europe. Let’s use warfare as a good example. Wars cause invasions, which in turn change country borders and cause the mixing of disparate populations. Refugees migrated to different parts of their continent, further mixing people of different ethnic regions.

Because of these factors, you can see why your ethnicity results are just estimates. The better testing companies, however, give you confidence levels for each of your ethnic percentage results so you get a better idea of how “accurate” your results are.

How Accurate Is DNA Testing for Health Reasons?

The lines are a bit more blurry when it comes to DNA testing for disease risk (i.e. health).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal organizations want the public to be aware that many companies are prematurely marketing genetic tests for disease risk with limited scientific backing. Many of these tests may not provide valid or useful results. Why? Researchers have yet to identify a large part of the genetic makeup with most diseases.

23andMe, however, is one company that has received FDA approval for a few of its health-related DNA tests. You can discover your genetic disease risk for certain cancers, Parkinson’s Disease, Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, Celiac Disease and other hereditary conditions. Learn more in our article about 23andMe and other DNA tests for health reasons.

What Do You Know About Your Pets DNA?

Why should your pets be left out of the family tree fun? You can now test dog DNA withy Embark, a top-rated company that can help you find your dog’s breed makeup and identify many health markers. Your cat can get in on the genealogical action too, with the reputable cat DNA company, Basepaws (enter promo code caninejournal (from our sister site) to get $20 off each kit.)

Learn More About Our Human History And How You Fit In

Whether you’re searching for living relatives or want to know where your ancestors originated, a DNA ancestry test is a fun way to find out more about what made you who you are. If you’re not already researching genealogy online, you may want to check out our Best Online Genealogy Software  comparison article for our recommendations.

Check out our At-Home Paternity Test Review to learn more about legal paternity tests, prenatal paternity tests, a host of relationship tests (sibling, grandparent, maternity, etc.), and more. You’ll find features, pricing, and pros and cons.

We tried to answer all your questions but if there’s something we neglected to cover, feel free to ask us below in the comments or in our Reader Questions.

What do you hope to discover via DNA testing?

Sources: International Society of Genetic GenealogyDarkDaily

Disclaimer: The information provided through this website should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
An international traveler since she was under 10 years old, Sally loves exploring the world’s mysteries first hand. Her favorite destinations? Greece and the British Virgin Islands. She grew up learning to question, explore, and discover new things and ideas — it’s probably why she went into journalism as a career! She loves what the Internet has brought to research and exploration, but she still hits the ground to travel whenever she gets the chance.

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Patricia
Hi Sally,
I have already done 23andMe. I like it a lot and I am learning more every time I explore results or my 1000+ living DNA relatives. My one issue is that it combines all UK and Irish descent into one statistic. I would like to find out my percentage breakdowns of Irish, Scottish, and English heritage. Is there another site that identifies these more specifically?
Kathleen Cole
Sally,
Thank you for all the information, but it’s all a bit overwhelming. I have a written family tree, for the most part, and some previous ancestors researched some members of my family all the way back to the 1100’s. But there are still a lot of gaps. I’m not that interested in finding family members, but I AM interested in finding where in Europe most of my ancestors came from (I know I am Dutch and German, but what else?) There is also a bit question if my father’s family has Native American in it; according to family “legend”, we are Choctaw and Comanche. I realize these DNA test kits can’t break down individual tribes, but which kit would be the best for 1) finding out exactly where all in Europe all my ancestors come from, and; 2) am I part Native American? thank you so much!
NauvooMom
Need clarification on number in the databases – your chart comparing the companies has different numbers than the text
Sadie Cornelius (Admin)
Sorry for the confusion it should be correct now!
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Sally, for Mother’s Day we’re wanting to get my mother-in-law an ancestry test. We plan on going with FTDNA but they offer tons of tests. Do you recommend one over the other?
Cathy Grigsby
Hello,
I have been raising my grand daughter basically her entire life. She will be 18 this year. Her mother has left her with me. I told her she loves you so much she knew you would be safer with me.
Her mother will not give us any information about her father or does not know. Her mom has married twice, divorced twice, has a 1/2 brother, and now has taken off again to another state to live with another man.
Which of the services would be the best one to use? Considering, we not only want her heritage and medical information, we also hopefully someday will meet the rest of her family.
This will be my birthday gift to her this year. I can’t imagine any better gift this kid deserves. No one should feel unwanted.
Thanks,
Cathy Grigsby
Grandma
Mercedes J Pena
Ms Jones, based on your article I would need to take the Ancestry test to find family, 23 & me to get more in-depth health info, National Geographic to find migration patterns/halogroup, & I can share my Ancestry results with Family tree but I would still have to take their mt test to have “full” access & accuracy on their site. Plus, their mt is more “in-depth” than anyone else. Is all this right? I am mid-30’s Puerto Rican female born in NYC. Currently live in the Southern US/Central time zone. I want to find family, get health info, know what areas ancestors may have lived/came from, & if I can trace my roots back to “Eve.” I watch “Who do you think you are?” & “Finding your roots.” One actress could trace her family line back to “Eve” = Noah’s Ark, not Adam & Eve. Also, my significant other is interested in doing this too. He is young-30’s male from California. Since male, he would do y test, not mt. His father is supposed to be: Irish/Italian. His mother is mixed with White/Japanese/Mexican. Her mother, his maternal grandmother is: 100% Japanese but married an American who was part Mexican. So, we both want to know EVERYTHING but don’t want to take every test available if it’s redundant, like testing the same thing, or can be shared/transferred with other company testing websites. Please advise if I’ve understood correctly & narrowed it down to the 4 swab/saliva tests we should purchase. Thank you!
Pat
I know who my mother was but not my biological father (I am female). There are are no KNOWN siblings. I have a half brother on my mothers side. Is there any dna test to give me information on my biological father?
Tammy James
Hello, I am interested in finding out our ancestry for 8 people in my family, then I would like to do the dna health for 3 of us (23 and me). Should we do them all from the same company for better accuracy? Also, we are of middle east decent/Europe/poss native American, which test would you recommend. Would the 23 and me be accurate and give us enough information?
Thanks,
Tammy
Julia
Will you be reviewing the Africanancestry.com site anytime soon?
Daniella R
I have a general question in regards to DNA testing – I’ve noticed that all these genetic test products have flooded the market in the past decade. What scientific progress has suddenly made all this possible – was it the sequencing of the human genome?
Alex Schenker (Admin)
Hi Daniella! I’m answering this on behalf of Sally, here’s her response:

You are correct! Scientists have made a lot of progress in sequencing the human genome through the Human Genome Project and other research over the last decade. What they’ve discovered makes DNA testing more accurate than ever before — and more discoveries are made every day!

Jane M
Thanks for this comprehensive DNA test review Sally, I am very curious to know my ethnicity since I have darker skin and am adopted. Will be so nice to have some answers now that I’ve wondered about for so long!
Corey D Shaw
Hi. I purchased the National Geographic Geno2.0 (Helix). When trying to transfer the kit into the FamilyTreeDNA website, it showed a notice that it was not accepting transfers from Helix. It appears that the U.S. is left out of this partnership deal, because it uses Helix to do the DNA testing. Does anyone know if this is temporary or if I can upload the raw data into FamilyTreeDNA?
Monica Deel
Hi! I was hoping you might help. Both of my parents are living and I want to test both their DNA before mine. My Dad side has deep American Indian heritage. Based on my research I want to do FTDNA for both of my parents. Should I have my Dad do both FTDNA Y-DNA and MT-DNA since his Indian is on his mother’s side (my Grandmother) and have my Mother do just the MT-DNA?

In the future I want to test myself and my husband. Should we plan to test the same way? FTDNA Y-DNA and MT-DNA for my husband and just MT-DNA for me?

I would like to feel confident before ordering all these very expensive tests.

Thank you, Monica

Steve M.
I have twin grandsons from a failed relationship of my daughters. I have been trying to trace their paternal genealogy, but their father and paternal grandfather are unwilling to provide me with any family information. Which dna test would give me the best results to trace the boys family tree without their help?
Margaret Ann Dunn Jones
Hi Sally,
I have hit two brick walls in my family research. My paternal wall stops at the second generation. My maternal wall stops at the third generation. What DNA test do you believe might be beneficial to my efforts?
Thank you for your time.
George W. Jones, III
Hello Sally,
I have traced my maternal side of “the tree” over 30 generations. However, I am stuck at three generations of my paternal “Jones” side of the tree. Might you offer your opinion as to the best DNA program to follow?
Respectfully yours.
Pat Nelson
From what my mother remembered and what a cousin found doing genealogy half a century ago, I am mostly descended from all the British Isles. One outlier comes from my maternal grandmother who said that her grandmother had been a slave who was freed by her grandfather when he returned from the Civil War. The grandmother had died in childbirth delivering my grandmother’s mother. I would very much like to know as much about my ancestry as possible, but I have no living paternal relatives. I do, however, have a son whose father was second-generation Swedish.
With all that possible mixture, what would be the best testing company? And would having my son also tested be helpful?
Tammy
Sally,
I did the Ancestry dna test and was highly disappointed and frustrated. My paternal grandfather was 100% Cherokee and not a single drop of Indian showed up in my test. I contacted Ancestry about it and they said that even though I have it in me, it doesn’t always show up on the test. They tried explaining it to me in a way of if your dad has green eyes that doesn’t mean your eyes will be green. Which doesn’t really make sense to me. DNA is DNA, so I don’t get why it doesn’t show up. I kind of said to my mom in a half joking way that if she had an “affair with the milkman”, now would be the time to tell me. Of course nothing like that is really true, but it makes me wonder…..I have also been in contact with a cousin on my dad’s said, and she said her daughter took the same test and got the same results I did. My grandfather is listed on the Dawes rolls also. I don’t know if you have an explanation for me. I feel like I was conned out of money for a test that obviously not 100% accurate. But I was wondering if I did another company’s test, would I get the same results? I wanted to try the 23andme for the health aspect of it too. Any advice?
Julia
You are not alone. There are not enough dna samples of native americans in any companies data base to give you a result of any accuracy.
Dot
Hi Sally, Which ancestry dna testing company(s) might have a large sample size (and perhaps better accuracy) for estimating Native American percentage that you might recommend? I took the AncestryDNA and was overall pleased with results, but felt the Native American results should have included my Asian percentage. Thanks for the great article and suggestions!
Dawn
Hi Sally,
thank-you for all of the information. there is a lot to choose from. From what I know I have both English/Scottish and Eastern European/Ukrainian in me. My husband swears he is of Viking Blood and has English/Scottish in him. Any thoughts on what would be the best tests? Thank-you.
Dennis
I am so glad you shared the best ancestry tests of 2017. It’s something that I always wanted to find out and now seems the best time to do it. The data centers must be so filled with tons of genome information. I would to learn more about human history and genealogy in general.
Lesley
I am wondering which test kit is most appropriate for someone wanting to investigate their English/Scottish/Norwegian heritage?
Carol Kirk
Hi Sally….I want to find out about both my paternal and maternal ancestors. Will the Autosomal give me the connections to the past? I should have ties to western Europe and the British Isles.
Larry T.
Hi Sally. I am Acadian/Cajun. I’ve traced both my maternal and paternal sides back to around 1560 France. Is doing a DNA test worthwhile for me? If so, which test? What knowledge could I gain? Thanks!
Doro
I want to order my kit through Family Tree DNA but am not sure which one. I am interested in getting my father’s and my mother’s heritage as well, so I was thinking about buying the mtFull sequence and the family finder. Has anyone ordered those and if yes, were you satisfied with the information? Thank you.