Have you ever wondered what untold secrets might be lurking in your DNA? DNA testing has become a popular trend lately. Though DNA tests used to be reserved for medical condition testing, they can now be used to consolidate a large range of data. Scientists have identified many different biological components affected by specific genes.
In addition to being able to tell you things like what texture your earwax is (really!), these tests can give you a detailed breakdown of your ancestry. You'll learn where exactly your forebears came from, and you might be surprised at what you find.
Two of the main services used for DNA testing are Ancestry and Living DNA. Ancestry is among the largest databases in the world, having results for more than seven million people. By comparison, the Living DNA database is still new and growing. But Living DNA can compile some information that Ancestry can't, including a more detailed geographical analysis of your genetics.
I've examined what each test tells you, how the tests are done, and what you can expect after you get your results.
Overview of Ancestry and Living DNA
Unique Ancestry Features
Unique Living DNA Features
How to Do the Test
Both kits function the same way. You'll place a DNA sample in the provided container or baggie, then mail it to the specified address.
Ancestry's kit requires you to spit into a tube until there's enough saliva to test. With Living DNA, you just have to do a cheek swab.
Ancestry measures the percentage of different ethnicity markers in your autosomal DNA. This gives you a detailed breakdown of where your ancestors may have come from for the past several centuries or millenniums. Ancestry's system can look for Jewish and Native American ethnic markers that the competition lacks.
The system will also tell you about ways that your ancestors may have migrated until you were born. Information about migrations during these time periods is available. There are multiple interactive maps and historical facts used to contextualize the information.
There are millions of Ancestry DNA profiles. The system is able to find familial connections including immediate relatives and distant cousins. If you've created an Ancestry family tree, you might even be able to find out your exact relation to your relative by combining your family tree with theirs.
You have the option to reach out and message your Ancestry relatives. Whether you want to research together or ask to meet up, the option is in your hands.
You'll also have access to information about genetic traits that might surprise you. For example, you'll find out whether you have complex irises or a genetic marker for detached earlobes.
Living DNA's database isn't yet extensive enough to match you up with potential living relatives. But the system focuses exclusively on ancestry, giving a more detailed breakdown of your ancestral roots than you can get with competing kits.
The three results categories are:
If you don't have a Y chromosome, the test won't be able to measure the fatherline results.
The family ancestry gives you detailed percentages regarding your recent ancestors, so you get a more comprehensive look at your ancestral roots. The fatherline and motherline can break down your maternal and paternal lines from up to 200,000 years ago.
You can view the data through a variety of graphics. One is a "What Makes You" tool, which places your ethnic percentages onto an illustrated human body. There are also interactive maps that let you toggle between "Subregional," "Regional," and "Global" results.
"Subregional" results are unique to the system. Because the company is based in the UK, the main subregion section is broken down into 21 parts of the British Isles. But there are plans to expand to offer detailed subregional data for all over the globe.
The results also include a "Through History" tool. This visualization animates your ancestry as it spread throughout the globe, following your DNA back up to 80,000 years. Throughout the presentation, you'll be given notes about what life was like at these points in time.
Your parental categories each show how your ancestors migrated out of Africa, based on your haplogroup. Haplogroups are individuals who share common genetic ancestors from thousands f years ago. The system will also show you how commonly your haplogroup shows up in different parts of the world.
There is a "Family Networks" feature in beta testing to help people find their relatives, but since the data pool is so small, there's no real guarantee of results.
Ancestry wins because of the larger amount of available data, the relative matching, and the listing of genetic traits. However, Living DNA does have more comprehensive ancestral breakdowns, and the system will catch up quickly once it has more participants.
Ancestry lets you access your data on a subscription basis. There are three tiers:
Living DNA offers two kits. One has your base ancestry, and the other is an ancestry and wellbeing tool that includes nutrition and fitness information about your body.
The ancestry kit costs $79 plus shipping, and the wellbeing bundle costs $149 plus shipping. This is a one-time kit fee, not an ongoing subscription.
Winner: Living DNA
Living DNA has much more reasonable pricing considering you don't have to pay an ongoing subscription to access your test results.
Pros and Cons of Ancestry
Pros and Cons of Living DNA
Final Thoughts: Which is Better?
Both of these DNA test kits will give you access to detailed information regarding your ancestry and history. The one that you prefer will vary depending on the exact information you want to learn.
Ancestry gives you information about participants whose DNA identifies them as your cousins or relatives. This makes it the best database if you want to find genetic matches. However, it does have limited information since it only tests one portion of your DNA.
Living DNA combines three DNA tests to analyze each component of your DNA. In addition to autosomal, it analyzes your Y chromosome (if you have one) and your mtDNA. The extra information allows the service to give you a more detailed breakdown of where your ancestors come from. Almost three times as many locations are specified in the same geographic area.