Think of genes as computer algorithms – a plethora of data encrypted into our DNA, from our ethnicity and ancestry to health and physiological traits. While technology may have not evolved to the point that we’re genetically engineering hybrid dinosaurs or the X-men, it has come far enough for us to self-administer DNA tests to unlock unrecorded family and individual history, biologically contained within us.
Curious, but a little wary? We don’t blame you – after all, the whole concept of DNA testing, even for do-it-yourself kits, does not come cheap. Which is why we have shortlisted our best picks for DNA tests you can run from the comfort of your homes, so you can get the best value out of your money.
23andMe Health + Ancestry Kit
One of the most popular commercial DNA sampling kits out there, 23andMe currently holds the highest rating for “Overall accuracy and sophistication of the biogeographical ancestry analysis” by the International Society of Genetic Genealogy. Considered the most comprehensive out of five other major companies offering similar services, 23andMe holds the genetic data of over a million individuals around the world to find potential matches to your DNA.
One of the primary purposes of the kit is to be used medically – to trace possible health traits written into our genetic codes, health concerns prevalent in our family trees and likely to be a concern for us. That’s not all – 23andMe also uses the saliva sample they ask you for to decode your ancestry, estimating the percentage of your roots in different ethnicities, sub-dividing European ancestry to specific regions like the British Isles or Nordic countries.
DNA data is also matched with other entries in the database to locate potential family members or relations, and how you may be linked to or descended from them. Meanwhile, since the chromosomes making up our DNA include data from both our maternal and paternal sides, you can choose to trace your lineage from both parents’ sides as well.
The process is surprisingly simple, compared to the depth and complexity of information it generates. The kit asks you to collect a saliva sample and seal it up in the test-tube provided, register the unique barcode in your online account, and mail the sample back in the prepaid package. Reports are usually accessible through your online account in 6-8 weeks.
STAR BUDGET PICK
Vitagene Ancestry Plus DNA Test Kit
A simple cheek-swab is all Vitagene’s labs will require to unravel not just the composition of ethnicities mapped out in your DNA, but also the regimens of nutrition and exercise best suited to your lifestyle. The data is run through Vitagene’s comprehensive database of over 700,000 genetic markers – a thread of DNA which can be used to locate other threads on a genetic map. Corroborated with data about your family, medical history and lifestyle collected through an online questionnaire, Vitagene renders a thorough breakdown of your biogeographical roots from around the world.
While this service does not match you with potential relations or members of your family tree, the kit is nonetheless popular for using your DNA code to generate personalised nutrition and exercise plans to suit your specific needs. The process is simple – a saliva sample is sent to Vitagene’s laboratories via prepaid mail, reports available both online and in your post within 4-6 weeks.
Family Tree DNA Genetic Ancestry Test Kit
A testing partner with National Geographic, this service not only possesses an exhaustive database to match your DNA and trace your paternal and maternal lineage through its Family Finder tool, but delves back in time to discover your ancestors, too. Data collected via a cheek-swab is compared to DNA traces found at archaeological dig sites throughout Europe, uncovering how our ancestors of over thousands of years ago lived and migrated across the land.
While this feature is relatively newer and limited to Europe, Family Tree DNA nonetheless effectively uses your genetic code to break down your possible ethnic and geographic background, even providing insight into ethnic and population migration patterns and collusions in the past that shaped your unique ancestry.
Choosing the Best and Most Accurate DNA Test for Ancestry
As the viral YouTube video Momondo: The DNA Journey showed us, the process of discovering your roots can be an emotional one. While it helps reinforce a sense of identity and self-awareness in some, it may upset what we have known about ourselves in others. This, along with the possibility of discovering aspects of our ancestry or relations with others that we are not comfortable with, make it very important to weigh all the pros and cons before going through with a DNA test.
If you decide to take the plunge, we recommend picking a service with a large commercial data-bank – services which have tested larger numbers of people have a greater probability of connecting you with DNA matches.
What you hope to find from a DNA test also bears on the service you ought to choose – if you are merely curious about your ethnicity, a simple service with a general overview of your biogeographical ancestry will suffice. On the other hand, if you are looking to find and connect with possible family members or trace down ancestors, a more personalised service which can connect you to individual DNA matches, preferably from around the world, is better.
It is a little humbling to think about – not to mention intriguing. Whether you are trying to reconnect with family who migrated long before the advent of Skype, are from a multiracial family, or are descended from migrants themselves, DNA tests can produce interesting insights into your roots, or even help you reunite with long-lost family members.