Four things to check before choosing which DNA test to use


31 July 2020
Wondering which DNA test to use to help you explore your family history? DNA expert Michelle Leonard reveals the four checkpoints that will help you decide.

With so many DNA tests on the market it can be difficult to know which one to choose. The tests vary in price, features and follow-on support, making it important to pick the one that’s right for you.

Michelle Leonard takes a look at five important features that will help you weigh the choices and narrow down which test and which testing company is right for you.

1 Database size

This is a crucial consideration as the larger the database, the more matches are received and the better the chance of being successful in using DNA for family history purposes. Ancestry has by far the largest database of all the testing companies with over 16 million testers which means it’s generally essential to test there to maximise chances especially for those with mysteries to solve.

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2 Ethnicity estimate

Autosomal tests consist of two principal features – ethnicity estimates and DNA match lists. Ethnicity estimates provide percentage overviews of the global regions your ancestry stems from but, while they are the most well-known and advertised aspect of autosomal tests, it is DNA match lists that are actually the most genealogically valuable.

3 DNA match list

This is by far the most important feature of a DNA test for genealogy purposes. It is essentially a list of all other testers in the company database with whom you share DNA starting from closest to most distant. Access to match trees and a facility to create your own shareable tree are important features.

4 Raw data transfers

Some major DNA testing companies allow free uploads of results from competitor companies and this can help you greatly expand your pool of potential DNA cousins. Check out the raw data transfer summary table here.

Join Michelle Leonard in our new year DNA bootcamp, starting on 4 February. Details here.

Michelle Leonard is a professional genealogist, DNA detective, speaker, co-author of ‘Tracing your ancestors using DNA’, historian and the official genetic genealogist of #AncestryHour.  She runs her own business, Genes & Genealogy, and specialises in solving all manner of unknown ancestor mysteries using a combination of DNA and traditional research methods. 

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