We have been using ethnicity dna testing kits for many years. We seen them drastically improve and change over the years.
We have tried loads, some are great and others not so much. These are our recommendations.
Best overall ethnicity dna test
Our first choice is MyHeritage at $59.
This is because they send out free test kits all over the world to get the best ethnicity data samples. In this price range, they have the best data for getting accurate results.
Our second choice is Living DNA
This is because for a little bit more they also do YDNA and MtDNA. These tests show the path your ancient ancestors took throughout history.
Our third choice is HomeDNA
This is the only one that does XDNA, on top of doing AutoSomal that all the others do. YDNA and MtDNA that Living DNA does. They also do XDNA which gives them the most accurate results.
It is only the price and the less good presentation that makes it our third choice, otherwise it would be first.
Our fourth choice is Ancestry DNA
This is a good tried and tested product. It just does not have the specialist ethnicity tests that LivingDNA and Home DNA has. It also does not have quite as much ethnicity information for outside the United States.
Their ethnicity results are perfectly good. However they more just focus on areas of the globe rather than go down to specific countries.
People tend to choose them because they also test your genes to give the diet and fitness advice. If you are also into diet and fitness, this will be your first choice.
We like how it is designed by top medical professionals from leading institutions.
You may be wanting the kit for specific reasons. Each test has it’s advantages and disadvantages.
This is our summary and below it are the details.
Summary of which is the best ethnicity dna test for me
Finding my ethnicity: First choice MyHeritage, followed by Living DNA
Genealogy and family trees: First choice MyHeritage, followed by AncestryDNA
Giving as a present: MyHeritage followed by Living DNA
Finding missing relatives: MyHeritage for global, AncestryDNA for inside United States,.
Ethnicity information for extra clues, to find missing relatives: 23andMe
Full details, of which is the best ethnicity dna test for me
The best ethnicity dna test for giving as a present
Our first choice is MyHeritage at $59.
Our favourite for giving as a present is MyHeritage. The price is really good for what you get and that is what makes it go to the top.
We also love the presentation. They make it fun and entertaining, every step of the way. The packaging is a lovely present to give, it is fun to do and the results are presented in that way too.
Second choice is LivingDNA at $89
It also does a YDNA test and MtDNA so they can see how their ancient ancestors travelled through history. It also comes with the option of the results coming in a lovely book as well as through their portal.
We think the extra results are worth the extra money, but of course it does depend on what price point you want the present to be at.
The online presentation of the results are great and so is the optional book. However the dna test kit does look at bit clinical and does not have the lovely present feel.
Third choice is Ancestry DNA at $59
It is a very good Ancestry DNA test kit and the presentation is really nice. The ethnicity dna test kit is in lovely packaging and the results in the online portal are great too. It manages to tap into the emotions of family and is a beautiful experience.
It is also a brand that the person receiving the present will know, so they know you are giving them a proper and nice present.
Fourth choice is HomeDNA at $150
This is the only test that does XDNA testing. This makes it the most accurate for tracking your ancestors throughout history. It will show country by country how they travelled.
However to do this, it is a lot more expensive than the others. That is of course good though, if you are wanting to give that level of present.
The presentation of the ethnicity dna test kit is not as great as the others. It looks like a clinical thing and the presentation materials are scientifically great, but not fun and pretty like a present.
The test kit is more created by scientists and looks like it. That is of course perfect if the person you are giving the present to, wants substance over image.
If the person is interested in fitness and diet, then Vitagene is the first choice
As an ethnicity DNA test kit, we cannot say it is the first choice. The results are more general, focusing more on areas of the globe than specific countries.
However if the person is into fitness and diet, this is definitely the first choice. It analyses a person’s needs based on their dna. It also uses a questionnaire that helps as well.
If a person is into these things they will find it very interesting. To the very knowledgeable about their health and diet, they will know most of it, but may get some new surprises. For people who are less experienced, they will get a lot more from it.
The medical people behind this kit from the the best institutions and it has managed to blow away our originally massive scepticism.
The best ethnicity dna test for genealogy and family tree research
Most of the ethnicity dna test kits are done by specialist dna companies. Many of them do dna tests for many things, such as paternity and so on. Ethnicity is just one of their tests.
Creating the best family tree records and databases is a massive job and so it needs a large and proper genealogy company to do this. The family tree and genealogy records are another part of the companies business. So they charge this as a separate service and price.
The companies that also have family tree and genealogy information, just do DNA for genealogy and family trees. They do not have the ethnicity tests that two of the specialist ethnicity dna companies provide:
Living DNA does YDNA, MtDNA.
Home DNA does these and also and XDNA.
It means they can see the journeys of your ancestors throughout history. The ethnicity dna tests that also do genealogy and family tree, cannot do this.
First choice is MyHeritage:
This is the our favourite ethnicity dna test kit and we really like it.
The genealogy and family tree part is our favourite for if you have famly outside the United States. It has the most records and is cheaper for this.
Second choice is AncestryDNA:
This is really really close. We probably only have it in second place as it is more expensive if you have family outside the United States, as this is an add on option.
It is really nicely a done and a well done brand. In fact many people would choose it as first.
It really is a close thing.
These are the only two ethnicity dna test companies we know of , where the results can plug into this other information.
The best ethnicity dna test for finding missing relatives
Only 4 companies do this. They see if you are related to any of the other people who have also had their dna tested by them and have given their permission to be found.
They create a list with your closest matches at the top. They then also say how you are related, for example second cousin, once removed.
One a relative is 5 generations away it is possible you do not have enough shared dna to be matched and they cannot go further away than 10 generations away for the same reason.
Also once you get past 3 generations away, it may be a bit approximate in how you are related. For example it may just know you are between 3rd and 5th cousins.
Our favourite is MyHeritage
This is because they have so many people on their dna database. Currently over 3 million and it is growing hugely each year.
This is less than Ancestry DNA, but it is more present around the world and not just so focused in the United States.
Our second favourite is Ancestry DNA
This is a really close thing! It actually has more people to be matched with, over 5 million and also growing fast. The only reason we put it second, is that it is more focused on the United States and you may be looking for people that are also abroad.
If you are looking for someone in the United States and their relatives are also in the United States, this should probably be your first choice.
Our third favourite is Living DNA
This company does dna matches, however it does not have genealogy and family tree records software. It also only has 1 million people on their database and growing.
As a result, although it is a great test. For just this purpose, we recommend only doing it the above have not worked first.
Our fourth favourite is 23andMe
23andMe is awesome, but it did start with health dna testing and only later moved into ethnicity.
It is also the last of these to start matching people up with their relatives and we have not been able to find out the number of people on the database they can match people up with, or where they are mainly located.
We love this kit, but probably the one to use, only if the others have not got the person you need on.
Their technology is good, so if the number of people on their database to be matched with grows, it couple quickly go up the ranks.
Important notes about using these services to find relatives
If you do not find the person you are looking for. You may find someone that is related to both you and them. This can lead you to the person you are looking for.
This may not help if you are looking for a long lost adopted child. However can will help if you are an adopted child looking for your parents.
Also please remember that someone has to be first to do it, so if you do not get results, you may get a match in future if the person you are looking for then does it.
The sites enables you to send messages to dna matches. It is done through the site so they are not just giving people’s contact information away.
Also with MyHeritage and Ancestry, you can use their genealogy software to see how this relative, maybe related to the person you are looking for and other information that may help you track them down.
The best test for ethnicity clues, to give extra information for finding missing relatives
We put this last for a reason, it is the thing to do at the very end. If you have tried all the ethnicity dna tests and not found the person you are looking for. You have also integrated this with family tree records using MyHeritage or Ancestry.
This may give you an extra clue.
Most ethnicity dna test just says the percentage of your ethnicities. For example you are 23% Scandinavian, 40% United Kingdom and so on.
23andMe show a picture representing all 46 chromosome strands.
The diagram puts them in pairs, because half of them are from your mother’s side and half from your father’s side.
Then it shows where on each strand your ethnicities are. This is a unique pattern, like a fingerprint.
Someone else could have the same ethnicity percentages, but they are very unlikely to have them in the same places on each of the chromosomes. This can verify if you are really related.
Also as it shows the ethnicities coming from your father’s side and your mother’s side, it gives you a further way to trace things.
So it is an extra clue for tracing relatives and another way of verifiying if you are really related.
As said though, this is last on the list for a reason. There are the conventional ways that if two people have done an ethnicity dna test with the same company, the company will match them up and show how you are related. So this is just another tool.
AncestryDNA ethnicity DNA test kit review
AncestryDNA has breaks ethnicity down into 26 global regions. Then there are sub regions in that, for example North and South America put together, has 31 sub regions in it. The Native American sub regions have 30.
What we like is that they are open about how some regions will give accurate estimates which wiill be right by 1%. Others it shows will be less accurate to about 4.5%.
All the DNA test kits have similar accuracy levels, just not all admit it.
They cut the DNA from your sample into pieces. Their computer algorythm does 40 different analysis. These different analysis means that they are looking at your DNA ethnicity in 40 different ways to get better results.
The 40 different tests also helps them see how approximate your results are.
Your ethnicity dna test kit results, actually show how approximate the results will be. For example, they may say that a certain ethnicity is 5% to 9.5%.
This means it is accurate to 4.5%. With the example above, one of their tests said 5% and thee other said 9.5%. The other of their 40 tests gave results between those two numbers.
The number they give you, is the final average of all the tests.
Seeing the results of the AncestryDNA, ethnicity DNA test kit
The main report is a world map with the ethnicity percentages shown next to it.
Click on these percentages and it shows you how accurate they are. Each one has a bar showing the maximum and minimum it could be for each one.
For example, although the main report says 9%, this sub report shows it could be 8% or 10%.
We really like that they have this secondary report, not every ethnicity dna test kit is so open and transparent about the accuracy.
23andMe ethnicity DNA test kit review
23andMe have their own system that they do not let anyone else use.
They call their computer aloryithm FINCH. They seperate the DNA from your mother from the DNA from your father. This is called phasing.
Each DNA chromsome pair, is two made out of two chromosome strands, that is why they are called a chromsome pairs.
Once they have seperated them, they are just called a chromsome.
So there are two chromsome strands in each DNA, one for the mother and the other strand from the father.
They just seperate these. It is done in the computer, not physically with the DNA.
Normally phasing is done so that a child’s DNA can be compared seperate to each of it’s parents.
23andMe then break the DNA down into ab out 100 markers, that is about 50 to 400 genes.
Genes are the actual genetic codes, that are on the chromosome strands.
They then compare to your DNA to their database. On their database are the genes of each particular ethnicity.
Interestingly, this sounds all very ordered and reliable in theory. In practice they do have to make adjustments to make it work.
They have to smooth out the data to cover up any mistakes in it. For example:
- A row of 10 genes maybe from one ethnicity, but in there is a gene from another ethnicity. They ignore that one gene’s difference, by saying it is from the same ethnicity as the others.
- There can be a mistake where they seperate the dna sample into those that came from the mother and those that came from the father. The computer also has to change the results to fix this
23andme, DNA test kit results
The results report reviewer, does not just show your results as a set page, it has settings to filter what you see.
You can filter out ethniities with a lesser chance of accuracy. These are the ones with only 50% accuracy, they call them ‘Speculative’. The ethnicities with 90% accuracy, they call ‘Conservative’, as these are very cautious because they the ones they are very sure are accurate.
You can also choose just to see regions of the world such as Europe and not have the more specific areas of sub regions like individual countries, that can be less accurate.
We really like how it shows all of your chromosome strands as a line on a page. This page is called a Chromosome browser. Then on each line, it shows in different colours, the locations in the world where each part of the lines come from.
The Chromosome Browser shows where in the dna your ethnicity comes from
On each line are different colors. They match up to the ethnicity shown on the right.
So if on the right it says that you are 2.5% Scandinavian and by that is the color dark blue.
On the lines that show your your dna strands, the color dark blue is where that Scandinavian ancestry is.
It also shows which side of your family your ethnicities come from
There are 23 pairs of lines.
On those pairs, one of lines comes from your mother and one from your father.
It means that when you are looking at your ethnicity, you can see which came from your mother and your father.
This is really special and the only one that shows this.
There is a problem though, ethnicity does not come from one place on one dna chromosome strand. So if a specific ethnicity is on lots different strands and each parent has some of it. It becomes too hard to work out which parent did what.
Family Tree DNA, ethnicity dna test kit
Family Tree DNA does not have anything different or special, such as gadgets or presentation.
We like them because they do a very good at ethnicity dna.
Whereas many of the ethnicity dna test kits are sold by marketing companies that sub contract the work to a laboratory. Family Tree DNA have their own laboratory and is more run by scientists than marketing people.
As they are more run by scientists and less by marketing people, the presentation can be less polished than the others. If you like substance over image, this would be a good choice for you though. Some of their reading materials are also more like academic papers.
The basic autoSomal testing is the same price as the others, but the MtDNA and YDNA is good but at the top of the price range.
Family Tree DNA Ethnicity dna test kit results
Like the others, the results come back first showing which general area of the world your dna comes from and the percentages from each part.
You click in each region to see in more detail the percentages form each part of those regions.
For example it may show a certain percentage of your ethnicity is from Europe. Then clicking on that shows how much comes from the main part of the continent, Scandinavia and Britain.
They tend to only show results they are sure about, which means you get a bit less information. Others may show more information, but they are the areas they are less sure about, saying at the same time they may not be accurate. Personally we like to have the extra information, but be told it may not be accurate.