Best DNA Test for Ancestry
I remember learning about Pangea (You know, the supercontinent?) when I was in elementary, and I remember wondering: Where in the world did my ancestors come from? With today’s best DNA for ancestry options on the open market, we don’t have to wonder anymore.
As DNA testing becomes more and more prominent and more and more affordable, more and more options are available to consumers. Some are better than others, and some offer different features.
Basically, the best DNA test for ancestry for your unique needs is going to depend on what exactly you’re looking for. Do you want health information? Do you want to meet long-lost relatives? Do you want a snapshot of your ethnic makeup?
There’s a DNA test for everyone out there. To help you find the one that best matches what you’re looking for, here’s a rundown of your options — including their pros and cons.
|Vitagene DNA Test (Our Top Pick!)||4 to 6 Weeks|
|AncestryDNA Test Kit||6 to 8 Weeks|
|23andMe DNA Test||6 to 8 Weeks|
1. Vitagene DNA Test — Our Top Pick!
In fact, Vitagene’s main focus is on delivering actionable health information that can assist you in losing weight, taking the right vitamins and more. AncestryDNA and 23andMe can deliver information beyond ancestry, too, but you only really gain meaningful access to that information by paying a little bit more.
Health Information You Can Use
What’s most interesting about Vitagene is the health insights that come as part of the $99 package. When you choose Vitagene’s DNA test, you gain information about the how your body reacts to certain diets and macronutrients, as well as how it processes certain foods. You learn which types of exercise will benefit you most, and you discover the vitamins that will deliver the greatest impact.
This is truly actionable information that requires no upgrade above the $99 price tag. Not only do you get a glimpse into your ancestry, you get to use those ancestral insights to live your healthiest life.
Industry-Leading Turnaround Times
We’re all impatient to learn about our ancestry, right? Join the club. You may not be comforted by a 4- to 6-week turnaround time, that’s about as good as it gets — and you only get it at Vitagene.
Also, other providers (see below) promise 6- to 8-week turnaround times — but they don’t always deliver. They provide the caveat that turnaround times may be longer when volume is high — which make sense, right? But it sounds like volume is often high, and the 8-week deadline is often blown through.
A Little More Upfront Effort
This isn’t much of a catch, but it’s worth mentioning: There’s a little more upfront work on your part when using Vitagene. Because of the in-depth heath information they want to provide, you must fill out a fairly lengthy questionnaire.
Again, it’s nothing too taxing, and it’s worth the effort, but be prepared to share about your health history, goals, etc.
Pros and Cons of the Vitagene DNA Test
Pros of the Vitagene DNA Test:
- Comprehensive and actionable health information
- Ancestry insights competitive with other providers
- Fast turnaround times
Cons of the Vitagene DNA Test:
- Extra effort required up front
- Less extensive community to plug into
- Shallower ancestry information
2. AncestryDNA Test Kit — Best for Connections
AncestryDNA is one of the original providers, which is why so many reflexively consider it the best DNA test for ancestry. This is a good option, one that delivers a strong ancestral profile and a great user interface.
This company also serves as home to the largest ancestry community — more than 3 million users who are actively building their family trees using AncestryDNA. That means you have access to a huge community and numerous data points. This wealth of information allows you to discover greater insights about yourself and your heritage.
The Largest Ancestry Community
When DNA testing companies promise to help connect you with relatives, what they mean is that you can fit into their existing web of family trees. The more people who’ve created family trees with a company, the more connections you’ll be able to make.
AncestryDNA is home to the largest such community, which means you can build your own family tree and make connections with distant relatives and discover ancestors you never knew existed. The only drawback, as mentioned, is that you must pay for a membership to fully enjoy these added benefits.
The Experienced DNA Tester
AncestryDNA brings unmatched experience to the DNA testing space. They’ve been doing this for 20-plus years, which means they know what they’re doing. Your information is safe and secure, as AncestryDNA has proven privacy processes. And the AncestryDNA interface is nicely designed and attractive — not to mention easier to process and understand than what you’ll find with 23andMe.
The Curse of Popularity
The promised turnaround time of 6 to 8 weeks doesn’t sound too bad. But AncestryDNA seems to be in constant high-volume mode — they are always behind. This is most likely a function of strong demand, but many users become frustrated as they wait for results to arrive.
Enhancing this frustration is a steady drip of marketing emails AncestryDNA sends while you wait. They’re trying to get you to pay to join their members-only community, which is where you really get the benefits of AncestryDNA’s services. But these marketing emails aren’t welcome when you’re still waiting 10 weeks after sending in your sample and you aren’t seeing any updates on progress.
Pros and Cons of the AncestryDNA Test Kit
Pros of the AncestryDNA Test Kit:
- Huge community makes family tree building easy.
- Well-designed user interface.
- Experience and strong brand reputation in this space.
Cons of the AncestryDNA Test Kit:
- Wait times longer than the competition.
- Greatest benefits require paid membership.
- Weak on ethnicity profiles.
3. 23andMe DNA Test — Best for Ethnicity
23andMe is another well-known DNA testing brand, one that offers industry-leading ethnicity insights. As with AncestryDNA, 23andMe offers an upgrade option that delivers much deeper information about who you are and where you came from. In this case, the upgrade is to the $199 package that also includes health information.
Founded in 2006, 23andMe is a trusted provider of DNA testing for ancestry. While it’s not atop our list, you can’t go wrong with choosing 23andMe for the best in ancestry information at the $99 entry rate.
Not all testing companies offer information on your Neanderthal ancestry, but 23andMe does. This is a neat differentiator that makes ancestry feel real and powerful. We think of Neanderthals as people who exist only in museums or textbooks, but there existence lives on today in many of us.
Decent Turnaround Times
Vitagene offers the fastest turnaround time at 4 to 6 weeks. AncestryDNA offers a slightly longer turnaround time of 6 to 8 weeks, but it struggles to meet its own deadlines. 23andMe promises delivery in 6 to 8, and it can be expected to meet (or beat) that deadline. There’s no long waiting and wondering period with 23andMe.
Best Features Come at Higher Package
Adding on the health report is what makes 23andMe a great option. As mentioned, some users will be looking for different types of information. If you’re interested in robust ancestry and health information, upgrade to the more expensive package and you’ll get insights that are closely aligned to your expectations.
Pros and Cons of the 23andMe DNA Test
Pros of the 23andMe DNA Test:
- Deep and insightful ethnicity analysis
- Dependable turnaround times
- Attractive upgrade options
Cons of the 23andMe DNA Test:
- Difficult-to-understand reports
- Must upgrade for maximum benefit
- Limited family-tree building opportunities
Maybe it would be helpful to learn just a little bit more about DNA testing before you decide whether or not a DNA test for ancestry is right for. Here’s a look at everything you ever wanted to know about DNA:
Basically, there are four types of DNA testing:
- Parental DNA Testing
- Forensic DNA Testing
- Therapy DNA Testing
- Ancestry DNA Testing
We’re of course focused on ancestry DNA testing. Each testing kit, including the three above, will offer slightly different information and approaches. The key differentiators are:
- Ethic Profile: Almost all test compare your genetic makeup to sample from specific populations of people. The result is a series of percentages that indicate a best guess at your ethic makeup.
- Haplogroups: Certain DNA types trace back to certain genetic mutations that emerged at specific times and in specific places.
- Neanderthal Percentage: Some DNA tests offer an estimated percentage of DNA you inherited from Neanderthal ancestors — which some users find cool … and other users don’t.
- Top Surnames: Some tests use your DNA to identify specific surnames with whom you share much in common.
- Raw DNA: Almost all tests will give you a raw DNA sample you can download for use with other DNA analysis platforms.
Are the Results Trustworthy?
Think of DNA testing like political polling. Both use models and samples to provide what is essentially an educated guess at what might be — ancestry and ethnic origin in the case of DNA, and popular opinion in the case of polling.
These estimates are only as good as the models and samples they are based on. These models and samples will also differ from company to company, so you could conceivably receive three different sets of results if you took a test from each of the three companies on this page.
This is a reminder that DNA testing, while fascinated, remains an imperfect science. It provides helpful insights and information, but it’s not infallible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Final Thoughts on Finding the Best DNA Test for Ancestry
Tempered enthusiasm is recommended when searching for the best DNA test for ancestry. $99 is a heck of a deal to get information about where you’re from and where your ancestors may have lived, but don’t expect sweeping insights and specificity. If you’re lily white and the test shows that you’re from Western Europe, it’s hard to be disappointed in that — even if there’s no real surprise.
For a little bit more, consider getting the Vitagene kit, which includes the in-depth health information. Or, upgrade with AncestryDNA or 23andMe to get the detailed information you are looking for. Otherwise, maybe consider taking a pass on DNA testing altogether. Sometimes it’s fun to just wonder and to embrace the mystery.
Have you had an experience with DNA testing for ancestry, good or bad? If so, let us know in the comments, or send us a message using our contact page.