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DNA testing

Best At Home DNA Test Kits 2022: Reveal Your Family Tree

What Is a DNA Test and How Does It Work

When looking for the best at home DNA test kits, you need to first know what kind of DNA test you need. You can use a DNA test to find out more about your ancestry, to look for genetic health problems, or to determine paternity.

Genetic tests have been used for years in doctors’ offices, usually to screen for genetic disorders in unborn babies. This information allows doctors to make treatment plans and new parents to better prepare to care for their new baby.

Home DNA test kits have become increasingly popular over the last 10 years. In 2018, 1 in 25 Americans had used some kind of genetic test. Most of these tests were done from the comfort of their homes. The process now is very easy – you just type something like “DNA testing near me”, order the test, and do some simple actions.

A home DNA test is conducted by taking a sample, usually from the inside of your cheek, and sending it into a lab that does genetic testing. The lab then looks for gene variants or genetic matches to other people and reports the results back to you.

These tests provide a “best guess” about your ancestry and heritage. DNA is not passed perfectly. Just like siblings can have different eye colors and hair colors, your ethnicity may look a little different from that of your siblings. This doesn’t mean the test is wrong, just that you inherited more or less of a particular set of DNA.

Photo of 2 DNA Testing Kits

At Home DNA Testing Kits

At home DNA testing is a fun way to find out more about yourself and your relevant ethnicities. Some testing kits claim to provide you with information about allergies, food sensitivities, weight loss strategies, and genetic disorders. These tests are low-risk, and it won’t hurt you to collect the sample. There is, however, some risk of getting inaccurate information.

If you are concerned about a serious health threat or rare genetic disorder, it is better to go to a doctor’s office and have a trained clinician collect your DNA sample. This way, you not only ensure accuracy, but can receive guidance on how to deal with symptoms or problems that may occur as a result of any disease.

Most tests are quite accurate, however, because the tests are done at home, there is a high risk of user error that can give false results. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to get the most accurate results.

When you get your test kit in the mail, be careful opening the package. You will want to make sure that the swab and test tube do not get contaminated. Swab the inside of your cheek or fill the cup with saliva.

Make sure you get enough sample and seal the package well before you mail it back in. A contaminated sample with someone else’s DNA may give you a false positive or false negative test for your ethnic background.

Privacy Concerns: Is My Genetic Data Secured?

Several mails in genetic testing sites have experienced data breaches. This not only includes genetic data, but any data you entered in order to get the test mailed to you. While there are not many malicious things anyone can currently do with your genetic information, no one can be sure about the future.

Health Information Laws

Some of the laws in place to protect you and your health information include:

  •       Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
  •       The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)
  •       The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act
  •       The Patriot Act

HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. This law protects your sensitive health information from being disclosed without your knowledge or consent. This law applies to all genetic testing performed in a doctor’s office.

HIPPA laws are fuzzy when it comes to mail in genetic tests. Most at home genetic tests have you sign a waiver when you order your test. This waiver allows the testing company to use your information however they might like, and sell it to anyone they want.

The Affordable Care Act prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage based on a pre-existing genetic disorder.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act prohibits employers from discriminating against anyone based on their genetics.

The Patriot Act states that the United States Government can collect health information from any healthcare provider during a terrorist investigation. The government is not required to inform you if they collect your information for an investigation.

Although there are laws in place that protect you from discrimination, your genetic information might be used to deny your life insurance coverage or workers compensation. It can also be used during criminal and terrorist investigations.

Protecting your Health Information

Remember that when you share data about your DNA, you are also sharing data about your family’s DNA.

When you order an at home DNA test kit, look closely at the disclosure information. Before you sign anything or order a test, make sure you know exactly what information you are sharing.

Once your data is sent in, it is almost impossible to delete. Because your DNA results can be sold to third party companies including research studies and law enforcement, your data might end up in places you’ll never be able to find.

Best At Home DNA Test Kits Manufacturers: Size Does Matter

The most common use for home DNA test kits is genetic testing for family history. Test performance of these kits depends heavily upon sample size. This is because there has to be enough data in the system to compare samples to. The more data points the system has, the more accurate the results get.

The best DNA test kits for discovering more about people’s genetic descent will always be the ones with the largest databases. Currently, AncestryDNA has over 20 million customers. This gives it the largest database of the at-home tests. Testing companies with large databases include:

  1. AncestryDNA
  2. 23andMe
  3. FamilyTree
  4. MyHeritage
  5. LivingDNA

Most of these tests use self-reporting for known ancestry. This means that someone who is confident about their family history submits their DNA and tells the company about their ancestry. Then that data is used as a reference point. This has the potential to cause some errors if people are not reporting accurately.

Ancestry DNA kit

AncestryDNA focuses on understanding your genealogy. They can help you find out about your global origins, get DNA matches on unknown relatives, and give you details about communities in your history. They can also send you information about unique traits you have like freckles, and tell you which ancestor you got them from.

Different tests also have different geographical areas they will test for. Some are more broad and some more specific. If you are hoping to find information about a specific group of people you may be related to, make sure you choose your test accordingly.

Database Size

Ancestry.com has the largest customer base, and they continue to grow. With over 20 million customers, they have a lot of data to compare yours to. This makes it more likely that you will find relatives in the system.

Reliability

Because they have one of the largest databases, AncestryDNA is quite reliable. Some people have reported that their results change over time. This is because as more people send in their samples, the company can provide more accurate information.

Cost/Where to buy

You can buy basic AncestryDNA kits online for $99. There are other services you can add on to the test kit. For a $27 per month membership, you can access all U.S. and international records on Ancestry. For the more expensive $33 per month membership, you also get access to military records and a subscription to newspapers.com

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Largest database
  • Ease of testing

Cons

  • Takes 8 weeks to receive results
  • Requires a subscription

23 and Me DNA test kit

The 23andMe site states that they will interpret your ancestry and health data from your DNA sample. With their most expensive option, they will report your genetic traits, find relatives, check health risks, and analyze how you process different medicines.

They also state that they can assess your risk of heart problems, diabetes, and certain cancers. 23andMe looks at whether you carry genetic variants that might impact the health of your future family.

23andMe is not primarily a genealogy company. Though they do provide ancestry information, their focus is on biomedicine and predicting disease through genetics.

Database Size

While not as large as the Ancestry DNA database, 23andMe still carries a lot of information. Over 10 million people have sent samples to 23andMe.

The 23andMe website states that 80% of their users will receive a report with a genetic variant that could affect their health.

Reliability

Reliability for 23andMe is good, but has limitations. Their website states that the health information provided by 23andMe should be used for informational purposes only. You should not start or stop any medical treatment plan based on 23andMe results. If you have a concern, you should see your medical provider.

Cost/Where to buy

The 23andMe kit can be purchased online. The most basic test costs $99 and includes ancestry information and DNA relative finder. For $199 you get the ancestry and health information. For $169 plus a $29 per month membership you get all ancestry and health data, plus information about how your genetics might respond to different medications.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Ease of testing
  • Expensive for health information
  • Can get results within 4 weeks for a fee

Cons

  • Wait 6-8 weeks for non-expedited results
  • Smaller database

FamilyTree DNA testing

FamilyTree is similar to 23andMe, with options to discover both ancestry and health information by sending in a DNA sample. They also provide an option to specify maternal and paternal DNA patterns.

Database Size

Family tree has a little less than 1 million data points.  This makes it the smallest of our reviewed DNA analysis sites.

Reliability

Because of its small database, there is less data for FamilyTree to compare. This mostly impacts ancestral data. Reliability of genetic health tests is comparable to all other test types.

Cost/Where to buy

FamilyTree is slightly cheaper than some of the other DNA test kits. The basic kit starts at $49 and provides information about your origins. To add health information, the test will total $69. For specific maternal and paternal ancestry analysis, the cost is $139 and $99, respectively.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Ease of testing
  • Does it sell information to third party websites
  • Less expensive
  • Results in less than 4 weeks

Cons

  • Small database

MyHeritage DNA test kits

MyHeritage DNA kit will analyze your DNA to give you an ethnicity estimate and find your relatives. Their website has several systems for tracking family history information. They also offer genealogy courses through their website.

Database Size

MyHeritage has a database of about 6 million.

Reliability

MyHeritaage is reliable and checks its historical records for accuracy. Their website connects to Federal Census information and U.S. Army Enlistment records. You can compare these to your own family records to look for errors.

Cost/Where to buy

MyHeritge DNA kit costs $49. A subscription to all organizational tools and historical records on the website costs an additional $149 per year.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Ease of testing
  • Website organization
  • Includes photograph enhancing software for old family photos
  • Results in less than 4 weeks
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • Smaller database
  • No health information

Q&A

Which DNA test should I choose?

The best DNA test for discovering more about your heritage is going to be the one with the largest database. Choosing between the two largest, 23andMe vs Ancestry DNA test, will depend on whether or not you want health information included.

If cost is a concern, FamilyTree and MyHeritage are good options. While their databases are smaller, they still have enough data to provide you with reasonably accurate results about your ancestry.

How much does a DNA test cost in a healthcare clinic?

Since a DNA test performed through a healthcare provider is more reliable and more likely to keep your information safe, this seems like the better choice. However, how much is a DNA test in a clinic compared to an at home test?

Doctors offices will look for different things than the at home test. Generally, the doctor’s office test is either done to determine paternity or look for health problems.

Without insurance, a DNA test can cost between $100 and $1,000 at a clinic. Some insurance companies will cover genetic testing during pregnancy.

Where can I find a cheap DNA test near me?

The cheapest DNA tests are found online, directly through the manufacturer. Paternity tests can be found at Walmart for about $200.

Health DNA tests must be done in a clinicians office, or ordered online. Ancestry tests are only available for purchase online.

Do these work for DNA paternity test results?

At home tests can tell you whether you are related to someone. If both a father and child take a DNA test from the same company, they will both show up in the system and the results will show their relationship to one another.

However, these tests are not to be used in child support cases.

If you need a paternity test for child support reasons, the DNA test must be performed at a medical clinic.

Can these results be used for a court case?

The results obtained through an at home test kit cannot be used in cases of child support or inheritance cases. They can, however, be used in criminal investigations.

It is extremely rare for police to search DNA samples from ancestry websites.

23andMe reports that of the millions of DNA samples they have, only 5 requests for DNA information have been submitted by police.

Conclusion

Overall, DNA testing is safe and a good way to find out more about your ancestry. As more people submit their DNA, the databases grow. You can continue learning more about your heritage long after you submit a DNA sample.

Costs range from $50-$200 and results are usually delivered in 4-8 weeks.

If you have privacy concerns, make sure you opt out of any studies, and delete your information after you receive your results.

Any health information you get through at home testing should be verified by a doctor. Do not stop or start any medical treatment plan based on your home testing results.