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Best DNA test 2024: Explore your heritage and health with these home kits from Ancestry, 23andMe and more

Best DNA test - Ancestry, 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA against a blue gradient background

I’ve tested a selection of kits to find the best DNA test for you, whether you’re researching your heritage, health risks or family tree

Deciding on the best DNA test for you can be tricky. The market has expanded massively over the past decade, with companies competing for your attention with a raft of mind-boggling statistics and extra features. You can get everything from simple lineage information to a full rundown of your genetic predisposition to diseases – and even whether you’re likely to hate the taste of coriander. Luckily, I’m here to sort through the crowd.

Below, I’ve put five different DNA tests through their paces by using them and sending them off for analysis. I’ve then judged how easy the process was and the accuracy of the results, noting any (figurative) pain points or omissions. The result is a list of tests that you can trust to not let you down or waste your money.

If you’re not sure where to start or are bamboozled by all the buzzwords the testing companies like to use, check my detailed buying guide at the bottom of the page.

Best DNA test: At a glance

Best DNA test overallAncestryCheck price at Ancestry
Best DNA test for health screening23andMeCheck price at Amazon
Best value DNA testLivingDNACheck price at LivingDNA
Best DNA test for heritageMyHeritageCheck price at MyHeritage

How we test DNA kits

I’ve thoroughly tested all of the best DNA test kits on this roundup and have also written separate, in-depth reviews of Ancestry and 23andMe.

My methodology is simple enough: First, I send the DNA test off for analysis and make a note of both how easy the process was and how promptly the results came back. I’ll then exhaust the reporting abilities of the test kit provider, exploring every aspect of the results and noting any areas that I found lacking in detail or interactivity. I’ll also note the type of tests run and how easy the report is to access, navigate and export elsewhere.

There’s also a good amount of comparison required here: I tested these kits simultaneously to compare results based on the size of the provider’s database and the accuracy of the tests.

The best DNA tests you can buy in 2024

1. Ancestry: Best DNA test overall

Price: From £79 | Check price at Ancestry

Ancestry DNA test box with smartphone displaying app against a white background

Test typeAutosomal
Test methodSaliva
Information providedHealth and heritage

Ancestry has the biggest DNA testing database in the world by far, which could make all the difference if you’re looking to locate lost relatives or expand your family tree.

You don’t technically need to do a DNA test for the latter but, if you do, you’ll automatically get suggested connections and the option to share your tree with them. For example, I was given nearly 38,000, including my mother. Just keep in mind that you’ll have to pay an extra monthly fee if you want to add, for instance, census and marriage records to your tree.

Ancestry also offers a “Traits” screening service, alongside the usual ethnicity estimates (in my test, 80% England, Wales and Northwestern Europe, 15% Ireland and Scotland and 5% Germanic Europe). It explains how your genetics influences your metabolism (food and vitamins) and predisposition towards a variety of different traits such as freckles, beard thickness and hair loss. Again, note that this is an additional, paid-for service on top of the standard heritage test.

Nevertheless, by adding the extra Traits service, Ancestry has cemented itself as our favourite DNA test overall. Just be sure to choose your package wisely to avoid paying for services you don’t want.

Read our full Ancestry review

Key specs – Contactable matches: Yes; Import results: No; Export results: Yes; Deletable data: Yes

Check price at Ancestry

2. 23andMe: Best DNA test for health screening

Price: From £99 | Check price at Amazon

23andme DNA test box against a white background

Test typeAutosomal, Y-DNA and mtDNA
Test method Saliva
Information providedHealth and heritage

23andMe is unique among the entries on this list: as well as analysing your heritage, you can also order a health screening that uses your genetic information to assess your predisposition to illness/disease – hypochondriacs beware.

The standard package doesn’t include the health risk screening service but still provides an insight into your traits: genetic predispositions towards things like freckles, baldness and even taste/smell preferences. Meanwhile, the pricier package also looks at more serious health risks such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s; it asks you to read a brief tutorial before receiving your results for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene, which is associated with breast and ovarian cancer.

I found 23andMe to be the most user-friendly DNA test: all of the information is presented simply, with fun facts along the way. I’m genetically less likely to get mosquito bites than most, for example. It’s a pity nobody told the mosquitoes.

It’s all an interesting insight into how your genes affect your health. Aside from a slightly raised risk of age-related macular degeneration (declining eyesight), it gave me the all-clear. Always keep in mind that a higher risk of something isn’t the same as definitely having to deal with it one day, though.

Read our full 23andMe review

Key specs – Contactable matches: Yes; Import results: No; Export results: Yes; Deletable data: Yes

Check price at Amazon

3. LivingDNA: Best-value DNA test

Price: From £79 | Check price at LivingDNA

livingdna DNA test box against a white background

Test typeAutosomal, Y-DNA and mtDNA
Test methodCheek swab
Information providedHealth and heritage

It’s not the cheapest DNA test in this roundup, but LivingDNA is the best value. It provides both heritage and health results, depending on the package you choose, as well as including autosomal, Y-DNA and mtDNA tests – unlike many of its rivals.

This means you can see the results based on each individual test and, therefore, figure out with more accuracy what heritage comes from your father or mother. It’s especially good for the UK and even breaks down your heritage by region. I’m 30.1% from the south east and only 9.2% from the north west, for example. All of this data is illustrated using lovely animations that show your family’s migration over the years.

Meanwhile, you can connect with any genetic matches you uncover, and you can both export and import your genetic data. As it provides autosomal, Y-DNA and mtDNA tests, LivingDNA is a good-value way to obtain all of this data for subsequent uploading to other sites.

The main negative is that this is a UK-based firm so you might not be getting the kind of coverage you would get from LivingDNA’s more established competitors. There’s also no family tree-building tool here, though that does mean there are no extra subscription fees.

Key specs – Contactable matches: Yes; Import results: Yes; Export results: Yes; Deletable data: Yes

Check price at LivingDNA

4. MyHeritage: Best DNA test for tracking heritage

Price: From £79 | Check price at MyHeritage

myheritage DNA test box against a white background

Test typeAutosomal
Test methodCheek swab
Information providedHeritage

If you just want a fuss-free DNA test that provides the basics of your genetic lineage, look no further than MyHeritage. There are no tiered packages here – just a single, autosomal test kit that covers heritage and skips health altogether.

As a relative newcomer in its field, MyHeritage’s database is quite a bit smaller than its rivals and there’s a subscription fee for the family history tool, which works out as £229/yr (you can try out a free, 30-day trial). This unlocks the family tree builder, as well as access to billions of historical records and photo tools.

You have to pay your own postage, which can be a little bit awkward in the post office. Since it needs to be sent to the US, you’ll need to explain what you’re sending. When I sent mine, it cost £3.30.

Feature-wise, the service is very similar to Ancestry’s: you can build your family tree and contact relatives as and when the system tags them. However, MyHeritage DNA has one significant advantage over Ancestry: it lets you both import and export DNA information. That increases means you can increase your chances of finding matches using other services.

Key specs – Contactable matches: Yes; Import results: Yes; Export results: Yes; Deletable data: Yes

Check price at MyHeritage

5. FamilyTreeDNA: Best DNA test for detailed results

Price when reviewed: From $79 | Check price at FamilyTreeDNA

 FamilyTree DNA test box against a white background

Test typeAutosomal, Y-DNA and mtDNA (for a fee)
Test methodCheek swab
Information providedHealth and heritage

A standard FamilyTreeDNA autosomal test starts at $79 (the company only charges in dollars, but that’s around £60), and you can buy various Y-DNA and mtDNA tests separately or as a bundle to supplement your results. The more detailed the Y-DNA test, the pricier things become, with a 37-marker test for $119 and a 700-marker test aimed at experts for $449.

You can also buy a package called myDNA Wellness that assesses your health wellbeing and traits, as well as providing a heritage assessment for $119. Fundamentally, the more you pay, the more you’ll get from your test results.

FamilyTreeDNA has only a sixth of the records that Ancestry claims, but its in-depth tests mean that any matches may be of a higher quality than some of the cheaper options. This service not only offers an impressive set of tools (for instance, the chromosome browser lets you compare between people to see which DNA strands you share), but its online community is also well-informed about what can be read into your DNA should you have any questions.

Key specs – Contactable matches: No; Import results: Yes; Export results: Yes; Deletable data: Yes

Check price at FamilyTreeDNA

How to choose the best DNA test for you

What can a DNA test do?

DNA tests can provide two basic sets of results about either your heritage or your health. We’ve broken these down in the list below.

  • Lineage: A rough guide to where your ancestors came from and an idea of how your family has moved over the centuries. This is the most basic level of detail offered by most DNA testing sites.
  • Family: Whether you’re trying to grow your family tree or looking for long-lost relatives, the majority of DNA testing sites offer this to some degree.
  • Wellbeing/traits: A look at how your body metabolises food and vitamins, as well as how it responds to specific forms of exercise. Some results are simply for fun, though: for example, how likely you are to dislike a specific type of food, or how likely you are to get freckles.
  • Health risks: Some DNA tests can tell you whether you have a genetic predisposition towards specific diseases, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Of course, having a predisposition towards something doesn’t mean you’re definitely going to get it.

Why do you want a DNA test?

If you want to explore your heritage without any health screening or family tree-building, you can get away with simply buying a basic DNA test kit such as the one from MyHeritage.

If you want to examine your health in detail, you’ll have to spend a bit more on a test kit that includes wellbeing/trait assessment or health risk assessment as described above. 23andMe is currently your best option here.

If you want to build a substantial family tree, you’ll often find that full access to a service’s database is locked behind a monthly/yearly subscription.

READ NEXT: Best body fat scales

Should you worry about privacy?

In short, no. I’ve made sure to check that every DNA-testing service on our list lets you delete your data from its database after you’ve taken the test and read your results.

What does the DNA test involve?

You don’t have to do much at all: visit the website, enter your credit card details and fill out a questionnaire. A kit will show up a few days later. Simply spit into a tube or take a cheek swab, package it up and send it off to the lab. Six to eight weeks later, you’ll get an email telling you that the sample has been analysed and your results are ready to browse online.

What do autosomal, mtDNA and Y-DNA mean?

Companies offering DNA tests tend to throw around a lot of scientific terms such as “autosomal”, which can be confusing. In short, though, they just refer to the type of tests and the information you can glean from them. I’ve covered the main ones below.

Before I begin, though, I’ll cover a bit of biology: humans have 46 chromosomes, of which 23 come from the mother and 23 from the father. They’re arranged along two strands, which are twisted to form a double helix. The final chromosome on each strand is either an X or Y and determines whether you’re male (XY) or female (XX). Here’s how the different tests interpret that information.

Autosomal – This concerns itself only with the first 22 pairs of chromosomes, before the gender-defining 23rd. That’s important, as it means both men and women can take an autosomal DNA test. It’s really only accurate for the last four or five generations, so it’s the best option for identifying living relatives. It also offers some clues about your ethnicity, which can be firmed up with additional tests.

mtDNA – Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) testing analyses the genetic material found inside mitochondria. Mitochondria have their own separate DNA strands, which are passed down through the mother. The big advantage is that mtDNA changes are remarkably slow. That means mtDNA testing is accurate and reaches a long way back in time, but you can only roll back through female relatives. It’s of limited use on its own, but some companies bundle it with the autosomal tests for greater accuracy.

Y-DNA – Y-DNA testing looks at the Y on the 23rd chromosome, which females lack, so this test is only available for men. In contrast to mtDNA testing, Y-DNA testing concerns itself exclusively with male relatives. So, the subject’s father, his father’s father, his father’s grandfather and so on.

READ NEXT: Best dog DNA tests

Do I need to take more than one test?

Not necessarily. Plenty of DNA-testing sites let you export your results. Unless you’re a professional genealogist, you won’t have any luck decoding these yourself, but several services will let you upload them for the benefit of their opinion. This is handy if you’re on the hunt for long-lost relatives, as you can check for matches between different services.

What are contactable matches?

Most of the testing companies include an option to contact people who have already taken the test and have a DNA or family tree link to you. The messaging process is secure, but it’s not obligatory if you’d rather not get involved.

Read more

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