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Best DNA test 2022: Explore your ancestry with a home DNA test kit

Best DNA test UK
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A number of genetic testing sites promise to reveal the secrets of your DNA. Which one is right for you?

These days, the best reason to take a DNA test is curiosity. DNA tests were once the preserve of medical professionals, used on behalf of patients to determine the parentage of a child (among other things). Now, though, you can take a DNA test from the comfort of your own home purely to fill in the gaps in your family tree.

There are dozens of online tests to choose from, so which one is right for you? A lot depends on what you want to find out, how seriously you’re taking it and how much you intend to spend. To help you navigate this new and growing field, here’s our guide to the best DNA tests in 2022.

If you're not sure which DNA test is for you and want to know more about the process – and are more than a bit baffled by all the various buzzwords – then take a look at our detailed buying guide immediately below.

Best DNA test 2022: At a glance

Strapped for time? Here's a quick list of our favourite DNA test kits.

1. Ancestry | The best overall

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2. Living DNA | The best value for money

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3. 23andMe | The best for health screening

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How to choose the best DNA test for you

What can a DNA test do?

DNA tests can provide two basic sets of results that pertain to either your heritage or your health. We've split these two categories further still:

Heritage: Lineage

A rough guide to where your predecessors came from and an idea of how your clan has moved over the centuries. This is the most basic level of detail offered by the overwhelming majority of DNA testing sites.

Heritage: Family

Whether you’re trying to trace your family tree or looking for long-lost relatives, the majority of DNA testing sites offer this to some degree. Of course, if you want to check you’re related to someone specific, both you and the other person will need to be on the DNA testing database being used, or you won't find them.

Health: Wellbeing/traits

A detailed look at how your body metabolises food and vitamins, as well as how it responds to specific forms of exercise. It's designed to help you make changes to your diet/exercise routine based on your unique results. Some results are simply for fun: for example, some tests will tell you how likely you are to dislike a specific type of food, or how likely you are to get freckles.

Health: Risks

If you're a hypochondriac, look away now. Some DNA tests can tell you whether you have a genetic predisposition towards specific diseases or other ailments, including some pretty grim stuff such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's. Of course, having a predisposition towards something does not mean you're guaranteed to get it, but you should think long and hard about how well you take bad news before you buy.

Why do you want a DNA test?

The answer to this question will determine both how much you spend and which service you choose.

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 (which normally costs around £80).

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.

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.

Obviously, if you want to do all of the above – or you simply don't give it much thought – you may well end up paying an extortionate fee. We break down the costs of each service below.

Should you worry about privacy?

The short answer is: no. Every DNA test on our list lets you delete your data from their database after you've taken the test and read your results. Moreover, the privacy policies for DNA companies tend to be extremely comprehensive, so be sure to read them thoroughly if you're truly concerned about who can access your information.

You can find out more about choosing the best DNA test for you at the bottom of the page

The best UK DNA tests to buy in 2022

1. Ancestry: The best DNA test

Starting price: £79 | Buy now from Ancestry

With a database of 20 million samples, Ancestry is the biggest DNA-testing site by far. If you’re only interested in uncovering your lineage, that may not matter, but if you want to track down relatives the sheer number of DNA tests on record could make all the difference.

It’s also a great way to build your family tree. You don’t need to do the DNA test for this – you can simply enter the details of each member manually – but if you do the test, the site will give you access to people who share your genetic code, with options to contact them and share your bit of the tree. Enter a name with dates and Ancestry will suggest who you're going to add next, with corresponding local records to prove it.

However, if you want to flesh out your tree with census records and marriage indexes, or connect DNA test results, you'll need to plump for a monthly/bi-annual subscription (prices listed below). This can get expensive.

Ancestry also offers a health screening service. Like others on this list, it will explain how your genetics influences your metabolism (food and vitamins) and predisposition towards a variety of different “traits” such as freckles, beard thickness, hair loss and so forth. This comes as an additional service on top of the standard heritage test and carries a higher price tag as a result.

With this health service under its belt, Ancestry has cemented itself as our favourite overall DNA test. Just be sure to choose your package wisely.

Read our full Ancestry DNA review for more details

Pricing

PriceResults provided
AncestryDNA£79Heritage (lineage & family)
AncestryDNA + Worldwide Membership£80Heritage (lineage & family) + 3mths access to UK, Ireland and all international records
AncestryDNA + traits£94Heritage (lineage & family) + health (wellbeing/traits)

Family tree-building fees

Price/mthPrice/6mths
Key UK Census records only£11£55
All UK and Ireland records£14£70
All UK, Ireland and international records£20£100

Key specs – Test type: Autosomal; Collection method: Saliva; Information provided: Heritage and health; Contactable matches: Yes; Postage included: Yes; Import results: No; Export results: Yes; Database size: >20 million (July 2021); Deletable data: Yes

2. LivingDNA: The best-value DNA test

Starting price: £99 | Buy now from LivingDNA

While it isn't the cheapest option on this list, LivingDNA offers the best value. It covers both sides of the DNA test coin, providing heritage and health results depending on the package you choose. It also includes Autosomal, Y-DNA and mtDNA tests, which is more than can be said for some of its competitors.

Does this make a difference? Well, yes and no. You can see the results based on each individual test, which is handy as it means you can figure out with more accuracy whether your foreign heritage comes from your father or mother. It’s especially good for the UK, where most samples have been collected, and even breaks down your heritage by regions of Britain. 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 delightful animations that show your family’s migration over the years.

You can connect with any genetic matches you discover during the process and you can both export and import your genetic data as well. Given that it provides autosomal, Y-DNA and mtDNA tests, LivingDNA looks a good-value way to obtain all of this data for subsequently uploading to other sites. The downside is that this is a UK-based firm that doesn't share its database size, so you might not be getting the kind of coverage you'd get from LivingDNA's more established competitors. There's also no family tree-building tool here, although that does mean there are no subscription fees to worry about.

Pricing

PriceResults provided
Your ancestry£99Heritage (lineage & family)
Wellbeing kit£129Health (wellbeing/traits)
Wellbeing and ancestry kit£179Heritage (lineage & family) + health (wellbeing/traits)

Key specs – Test type: Autosomal, Y-DNA and mtDNA; Collection method: Cheek swab; Information provided: Heritage and health; Contactable matches: Yes; Postage included: No; Import results: Yes; Export results: Yes; Database size: N/S; Deletable data: Yes

Buy now from LivingDNA


3. 23andMe: The best DNA test for health screening

Starting price: £79 | Buy now from 23andMe

DNA testing service 23andMe is unique among the entries on this list. As well as a genetic heritage test, you also have the option of buying a health screen that uses your genetic information to assess your susceptibility to illness/disease. You’ll notice this is one of the few kits that includes Autosomal, Y-DNA and mtDNA tests.

The cheaper package forgoes the health risk screening service but still provides an insight into your traits: genetic predispositions towards things such as freckles, baldness and even taste/smell preferences. The more expensive package also looks at more serious health risks such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and 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.

As tests go, this is probably the most user-friendly. Whether you’re interested in genetics or health screening, all information is presented simply, with fun facts along the way (presumably to offset the bleaker ones). I’m genetically less likely to get mosquito bites than most, for example. It’s a pity nobody told the mosquitoes.

All in all, it provides 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. If you’re a natural hypochondriac, or not sure you can handle bad news, you might want to avoid 23andMe. After all, a higher risk of something isn’t the same as definitely having to deal with it one day.

Read our full 23andMe review for more details

Pricing

PriceResults provided
Ancestry + Traits£79Heritage (lineage & family) + health (wellbeing/traits)
Health + Ancestry£149Heritage (lineage & family) + health (wellbeing/traits & risks)

Key specs – Test type: Autosomal, Y-DNA and mtDNA; Collection method: Saliva; Information provided: Heritage and health; Contactable matches: Yes; Postage included: Yes; Import results: No; Export results: Yes; Database size: >12 million (Jul 2021); Deletable data: Yes

4. MyHeritage DNA: The best DNA test for tracking heritage

Price: £79 | Buy now from MyHeritage

If all you want is a straightforward DNA test, giving the basics of your genetic lineage and where your family has migrated from over the years, look no further than MyHeritage. There are no tiered packages here, just a single £79 DNA test kit that covers heritage but skips health altogether.

This is a purely autosomal test designed to help you build a family tree with help from your genetic code. Unfortunately, as a relative newcomer in its field, its database is quite a bit smaller, with around 5 million samples as of July 2021. There’s a subscription fee here, too: MyHeritage opts for an annual model, the most expensive of which works out at around £19/mth (£229/yr). You start with a family tree for 250 people and can upgrade that to 2,500 and then unlimited people by paying extra per year. You can also add in a data subscription that provides census info for 250 people – or you can just spend the full £229/yr for unlimited access to everything MyHeritage has to offer.

You do 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 that offered at Ancestry: you can build your family tree and contact relatives as and when the system tags them. However, MyHeritage DNA has one big advantage over Ancestry: it lets you both import and export DNA information. That means you can take a test at a site with a bigger database and upload your data there, skipping the fee entirely, to increase your chance of finding missing relatives.

Family tree-building fees

Price /yrContents
BasicFreeFamily tree for 250 people
Premium£89 (£59 for one year)Family tree for 2,500 people
PremiumPlus£169 (109 for one year)Family tree for unlimited people
Data£129 (£79 for one year)Censuses/records for 250 people
Complete£229 (£139 for one year)Censuses/records & family tree for unlimited people

Key specs – Test type: Autosomal; Collection method: Cheek swab; Information provided: Heritage; Contactable matches: Yes; Postage included: No; Import results: Yes; Export results: Yes; Database size: >5 million (Jul 2021); Deletable data: Yes

5. Family Tree DNA: The best DNA test for detailed results

Starting price: $79 | Buy now from Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA may appear off-putting at first. Compared to the other sites, it doesn’t feel hugely user-friendly, its prices are only in dollars and it offers a dizzying array of tests. This actually makes it the most flexible, albeit at a price that some will find hard to justify.

A standard autosomal test starts at $79 (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 more expensive things get, with a 37-marker test coming in at $119 and a 700-marker test aimed at experts for $449. You can also buy a new package called MyDNA Wellness that assesses your health wellbeing/traits as well as providing a heritage assessment for $119. Fundamentally, the more you pay, the more detail you can glean from your test results.

Family Tree DNA has around 1.7 million records in its database, so only a sixth of what Ancestry claims, but the nature of its tests means that any matches they offer may be of a higher quality than some of the cheaper options are able to provide. As the choice of serious genealogists, this service not only offers an impressive set of tools (the chromosome browser lets you compare between people to see which DNA strands you share, for example), but the community that uses it is also extremely well informed about what can be read into your DNA should you have any questions. And let’s face it: you will.

Pricing

PriceResults provided
Family Finder$79General heritage (lineage)
Family Finder + MyDNA Wellness$119General heritage (lineage) + health (wellbeing/traits)
mtFull Sequence$159Maternal-specific heritage (lineage & family)
Y-37$119Paternal-specific heritage (lineage & family)
Y-111$249Paternal-specific heritage (lineage & family)
Big Y-700$449Paternal-specific heritage (lineage & family)
Family Finder + Y-37$189Combination of the above
Family Finder + mtFull Sequence$229Combination of the above
Family Finder + Y-111 + mtFull Sequence$469Combination of the above

Key specs – Test type: Autosomal, Y-DNA and mtDNA (for a fee); Collection method: Cheek swab; Information provided: Heritage and health; Contactable matches: No; Postage included: Yes; Import results: Yes; Export results: Yes; Database size: >1.7 million (Jul 2021); Deletable data: Yes

How to choose the best DNA test for you (continued)

What does the DNA test involve?

From your side, very little. Just visit the associated 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 (it’s not painful), 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 happens in those six to eight weeks depends on the kind of test you’ve taken: autosomal, mtDNA or Y-DNA. Knowing what each of those is, and how they differ, will help you make your choice.

Autosomal, mtDNA and Y-DNA tests explained

Before we begin to explain the minutiae of these various tests, keep in mind a bit of high-school 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).

Autosomal DNA testing

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.

The autosomal test examines around 700,000 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to reveal how closely you’re related to somebody else. However, because you inherit half of your DNA from each of your parents, the results from this kind of test become less reliable the further back you go in time: parents pass down 50% each, grandparents 25% each, great grandparents 12.5% and so on. It’s really only accurate for the last four or five generations, so third or fourth cousins may be identified, but not much beyond that.

That means it’s the best option for identifying living relatives. It also offers some clues as to your ethnicity, which can be firmed up with additional tests.

mtDNA testing

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) testing describes the kind of analysis that concerns itself with the genetic material found inside mitochondria. Mitochondria have their own separate DNA strands, which are passed down through the mother.

The big advantage here is that mtDNA changes are remarkably slow. That means mtDNA testing is both accurate and reaches a long way back in time – sometimes more than 50 generations. But – and it’s a big but – you can only roll back through a line of female relatives. So, the mother, then the mother’s mother, the mother’s grandmother and so on. That means it’s of limited use on its own, but some companies bundle it with the autosomal tests for greater accuracy. As it goes so far back, it’s very useful for getting a picture of where your relatives were thousands of years ago.

Y-DNA testing

Remember our XX and XY chromosome explainer back in the introduction? 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, which only rolls back through female ancestors, 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.

Although women can’t take the test themselves, they can still potentially benefit from the data by getting a close male relative to take it on their behalf. A woman’s father, brother or uncle would be the best fit, as long as she’s certain they’re related. A son won’t help, as his Y-chromosome will have come from his father, not his mother, so would have originated in an entirely separate part of the family tree.

The best tests will cover all of these bases, but it’s worth noting that Family Tree DNA is the only one below that allows you to choose exactly which of the three types of test you'd like to take.

What can’t a DNA test tell me?

The first thing to understand is that the geographical estimates are at least partially guesswork. If you’ve read and absorbed the last section, this should come as no surprise. That's because autosomal DNA covers the entire family tree, but is too mixed up to examine after five generations, while Y-DNA and mtDNA go back thousands of years, but only for one side of your tree. That, combined with the fact that geographical borders change all the time, means your ancestry estimates may even vary from test to test. They are, after all, estimates. Even when they agree, they can generally only point you to regions – Eastern Europe, say – rather than countries.

Second, while DNA tests can tell that you’re related to someone, for more distant relatives it can’t say exactly how. That’s why you’ll find a lot of possible matches coming up as “fifth to eighth cousins”. Likewise, while they can often point to who your father is, that’s only the case if your father has also taken a DNA test on the same site, since the various services don’t share their results.

Third, be wary of tests that promise insights on things such as optimal diet and sporting ability. Scientific consensus is that drawing these kinds of conclusions from DNA is either unproven or impossible.

Finally, health-related DNA tests can only show you increased risk, which isn’t the same as either a medical screening or actually looking into your future. By the same token, getting an all-clear on a DNA health test shouldn’t make you complacent – you may still fall ill.

Are you sure you want to know the results?

That brings us to a key point: do you really want to know this stuff? There’s a reason that each of these tests asks you to agree to its terms and conditions: you may discover things you don’t want to know.

A risk of Alzheimer’s doesn’t mean you’ll definitely get it, so you may end up worrying over nothing. Likewise, a variant not being detected shouldn’t lull you into a false sense of security. With cancer in particular, your genes only tell part of the story as lifestyle choices and plain bad luck also play their part.

That’s probably why most DNA tests avoid health-related issues, but even straightforward genealogy has its pitfalls. Are you ready to discover that you’re adopted or that the man you (and possibly he) thought of as your father actually isn’t?

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.

Why would sites offer this? Well, some charge a fee for the service (though it’s not as expensive as actually taking the test again), but most offer it gratis, either to expand their database so it’s more useful for paying customers or because they want to sell you their own subscription services.

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