Best DNA Tests for Family History
The best DNA tests for family history include both ethnicity results AND the tools to help you identify and connect with your DNA matches, or genetic relatives. Here are the top autosomal tests available.
Taking a DNA test can help you discover more about your heritage and connect with biological relatives. The most common type of DNA test to take is an autosomal test, which sheds light on your genetic family history on both your mother’s and father’s sides of the family for the past 4-6 generations.
These leading DNA tests give you ancestral ethnicity results AND a list of your DNA matches (genetic relatives) who have also tested on that site. These sites have tools to help you connect with your genetic relatives and figure out how you’re related. Here’s a short description of the perks of testing at each site, listed in alphabetical order.
Top 5 DNA Tests for Family History
23andMe is best known for attracting testers who are interested in the health information the company provides. That said, they have a large testing pool, which increases the odds of finding genetic relatives in their database. They include data on 45 regional ethnicities, and can break down your ancestry even further into 115 locations where you ancestors may have been recently. Their website is bright and interesting, and has some great tools for comparing DNA with your matches. However, if you are into family history and are hoping to find ancestors using this test, it may be difficult as 23andMe has very few resources for genealogists.
AncestryDNA currently gives you access to the largest number of total testers (and is especially strong within the United States). Their ethnicity results include more than 500 ethnic, geographical and migratory groups from around the world. Their DNA matching tools integrate any genealogy information that you enter into the site to better help you determine your relationship to your matches including a tree-comparing service that shows you common surnames, common places and possible common ancestors for your matches who post family trees; and the ability to see who else is related to both you and one of your matches. Their ThruLines tree reconstruction tool draws on the huge number of trees posted on the site—not just your own tree and your matches’ trees—to help you visualize which of your DNA matches may descend from specific common ancestors.
Family Tree DNA
Family Tree DNA offers a Family Finder autosomal DNA test as well as tests that specifically explore your maternal or paternal lineage. Its ethnicity results include 24 historical-geographical clusters. The site shows how much total DNA you share with your matches, suggests possible genetic relationships, and identifies common ancestral surnames from your matches’ trees. Family Tree DNA has tons of genetic studies you can join after testing: for example, you could add your DNA to a study looking specifically at one of your family surnames (if you take a paternal line test) or geographic regions.
Living DNA is great for those who want a DNA test that focuses on U.K. heritage: it reports on 21 locales just within England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales: the most specific ethnicity report you can get for the British Isles. This autosomal test provides very basic information about the deeper origins of your “motherline” (maternal) and “fatherline” (paternal) heritage, too. The DNA matching experience is still evolving. Their testing pool is still growing; tools to view your shared ethnicity and shared chromosomes are both “coming soon.”
MyHeritage DNA is known for its relatively strong testing pool outside the United States. Their ethnicity results encompass 42 distinct regions and ethnic groups, including several global Jewish ethnicities. In addition to the tools described above for Ancestry, MyHeritage also tells you how your DNA matches are related to each other (which can help you figure out your relationship to them). Its Theory of Family Relativity tree reconstruction tool is the most sophisticated of its kind, using not only trees from its own site, but tree data from other website and historical records to make educated guesses about how you might be related to your DNA matches.
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