DNA Testing for Beginners

Welcome to your DNA testing journey! To get started, click the button that describes you:

Haven’t taken a DNA test yet? Let us answer your questions. 


Why take a DNA test?

DNA testing can reveal all kinds of things about you. Here at Your DNA Guide, we focus on helping people use their DNA to explore their heritage and learn about their family history.

How can I use DNA in my family history?

Your test results come with two kinds of results: your ethnicity background and a list of DNA matches, (other people who have tested at that same company who are genetically related to you). With this information, you can:

  • connect with relatives, including unknown birth relatives;
  • build your family tree: identify unknown ancestors and add new branches to your tree;
  • use your ethnicity results to better understand your ancestors’ origins and migrations.

Want a handy-dandy PDF to walk you through choosing a testing company? Click on the button below and the guide is yours!

Which DNA test should I take?

You’ll want to take what’s called an autosomal DNA test. It looks at both sides of your family tree, about 4-6 generations back. It will give you an estimate of your ethnicity and connect you to cousins from all your recent ancestors. These are offered by AncestryDNA, MyHeritage, 23andMe, Family Tree DNA (the Family Finder test) and Living DNA.

Which of these tests should you take? They are all a little different. Features to consider include: whether it’s a spit or swab test (if you have a strong preference); ethnicity estimates; how many other people have tested there; and the genealogy and genetic genealogy research tools available with each testing experience.

Click on the images below to read more about each testing company, or click the button to compare them all at once. (And thanks for using our links to make a purchase! We’ll get a small affiliate commission that doesn’t change your price—but it supports more free DNA education like this article.)

Family Tree DNA
Living DNA
MyHeritage DNA

Any reason I should avoid DNA testing for family history?

Before participating in a DNA test, be sure you are emotionally prepared for whatever your test results might be. You might find genetic connections to people you didn’t know about—or you may learn that you are not genetically connected to someone you thought you were. The science behind your ethnicity results is still evolving, so be prepared to take that with a grain of salt—and also that you might discover unknown ethnic heritage.

Some people have concerns about privacy and DNA testing. The major DNA testing companies all have privacy policies. You should read them, along with their terms of service, before you test. Learn where each company stands on law enforcement use so you can choose according to your preferences.

Take us with you on your DNA testing journey

As you start down the path of DNA discovery, you’ll want an expert friend you guide you through your questions and next steps. That’s us. Take our free guide with you:

Ready for a little more info?