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Human DNA is about 99.5% identical for every human on this earth; it is also 98% identical to a chimpanzee’s.
Look what difference this 1% makes.
Technically, in the world of 7 billion unique people, it is only zero-point-zero-something percent that sets you apart.
Marvelous as that might sound, you can do more than marvel about this minuscule difference – you can actually SEE what makes you different. From your ancestry to the genetic diseases you might develop, your misty past and obscure future is squeezed into a tightly-coiled mega hard drive we call DNA. This DNA (and its secrets) can now be unravelled in little less than a month.
DNA test kits. (Yep, they exist. Even for your dog.)
Now a popular gift item, DNA test can be taken from the comfort of your home. Just some spittle or check swab and you’re done. Absolutely no needles!
Bet you are bouncing off the walls just hearing that. But, hold your horses because the sheer number of tests available in the market will smash your tinkling bells.
And, that’s where this guide comes into the picture. So, without any more delay, let’s jump right to it.
Step 1. Choose your test: Types of DNA Tests
Before ordering a test, you must choose a type. Every DNA test kit out there has 3 variants, each of which tells you different things:
- Autosomal DNA test:
- Looks at all the DNA from every line in your family tree
- Estimates your ethnicity
- Can be used for cousin matching
- Traces back to 5-8 generations
- mtDNA test:
- mtDNA or mitochondrial DNA is passed down from mother to child
- Traces your direct maternal lineage
- Can follow the lineage back to thousands of years or 20-100 generations
- Y-DNA test:
- Male-only tests
- Follows the Y (male) chromosome
- Traces the paternal line (your father’s lineage)
Choose the one that suits your purpose. Once done, move to step 2.
Step 2. Buying a Test Kit
Before diving into the murky waters of DNA testing, remember that prices may change anytime without any notice. Do double check their prices online.
Price: $99 ($59 till 20/8/18)
Possibly the most well-known test provider, AncestryDNA traces migration patterns and helps you find distant relatives in the family tree. The only thing you need to do is fill the tube with your saliva and send it back for testing. The results usually take 4-6 weeks and are kept in the company’s database indefinitely.
A pure genealogical test, Ancestry DNA has a massive database of over 10 million lineage records. Only the standard autosomal variant test is offered. (No Y-DNA or mtDNA test)
It can trace your ancestors’ migration pattern back to over 350 locations around the world. However, people of East Asian descent might find it a bit frustrating because the database doesn’t have enough samples from that part of the world.
Price: between $99 and $199
23andMe is the only kit in this guide that offers health screenings along with the standard autosomal test. Though the health screening inclusive test is priced at $169 (at times $199), this option can give you valuable information about genetic illnesses and health risks that run in your family.
It is another saliva-based test; the results are sent in 6-8 weeks and can be looked into time and again, indefinitely.
However, when compared with AncestryDNA, the database (5 million+) and genealogical community network fall quite off the mark.
Comparatively cheap when compared to other kits, it the best one if you’re balling on a budget. A simple autosomal test with no confetti, it takes cheek swab as a sample. You can expect the results in 3-4 weeks; they are kept for 25 years in MyHeritage online servers and do not require a monthly subscription for access.
The test is quite user-friendly – perfect for first time users. It traces back DNA to 42 geographic regions while putting it against a 1.4 million strong database. Also, raw data (data from a previous genealogical test) can be uploaded and included in the test results.
LivingDNA gives the best bang for the buck for any of the three tests (Y-DNA, mtDNA, Autosomal).
However, only if your ancestry has UK-based roots would this test work the best for you. It is another cheek swab sample test, and your results will be delivered in 10-12 weeks. The test results are kept by the company indefinitely and can be accessed anytime.
What’s more, mtDNA and Y-DNA tests are offered for free along with the standard test. As it traces your ancestry across 80 different geographic locations, with the British Isles accounting for 21 of those, the results can be quite comprehensive for a person with UK roots. However, family tree integration and database matching system are not offered by LivingDNA.
Price: Autosomal at $ 79.99
Autosomal + Y-DNA at $169
Autosomal + Y-DNA + mtDNA at $ 199
Seems like an extensive test kit, doesn’t it? Offering results on cheek swab samples, FamilyTree DNA provides results in 6-8 weeks, which can be accessed for 25 years. It is said to give the most comprehensive reports on maternal and paternal lineage tests. Also, if you have raw data, you can upload it too. You even have the option to contact database matches, which is great for cousin matching as well.
However, a word of caution, as all the three tests are conducted separately, you will have to send 3 different swab samples and make 3 different payments, which is quite steep.
Until a few decades ago, lineage was only documented. Today, it can be proven with just your saliva. In future, we will be able to make out a person’s face with just his DNA. Even today, DNA has us amazed. Just recently, silkworms were genetically modified to spin gold, as crazy as it might sound. But crazy is ok, after all, you do share 50% of your DNA with BANANAS!