What does the test involve?
No needles, no blood. You're given a swab which you use to wipe the inside of your cheek vigorously. You then send the swab to their labs for analysis.
Members of my family and I have tried the genetic ancestry tests from all 3 companies below (be sure to check out my comparison review of 23andMe and DecodeMe as well, which provide genetic health analysis alongside genealogical/ancestry information). Here's what I have to share on each. Depending on how much you're willing to spend and what questions you want answered, each could work for you:
- DNA Heritage - Their Y-SNP is only $129 and tells you the exact haplogroup (or specific ancestral group) of your patrilineal heritage (i.e. your father's father's father's father's....), along with an extremely detailed "history" of your haplogroup. Best for "ancestry geeks" and those looking for the most detail.
- DNA Tribes - This $200 kit gives you scores of likelihood of your ancestral group origins (the top 20 closest matches), but if your ethnic group is not in the database, you could get bizarre results.
- GeneTree - Their $240 test tells you simply the percentage (through your matrilineal side, or mother's mother's mother's....etc.) you are each of: African, Asian, Native American and European. So you'll get results saying, for instance, you're 57% European, 11% African, and 32% Asian.
DNA Heritage - Haplogroups
DNA Heritage offers the Y-SNP test (only for males, since it tests the Y chromosome, which is passed from father to son) and a matrilineal test that tests the X chromosome you received from your mother.
In both cases, the result they'll give you is your genetic haplogroup, which is basically your branch in the human evolutionary tree.
Example: R1a1 - predominant haplogroup in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, from Poland (56%) to Tajikistan (64%).
My father used DNA Heritage's test to confirm that he is of the general ethnic stock - European - he thought he was (in contrast to DNA Tribe's result - see below!). However, this particular haplogroup predominates in Ireland and Iberia, which suggests my great-umpteenth-grandfather was a Paleolithic hunter foraging for food somewhere in Galicia.
If you plan to take your ancestry hobby to the most precise possible, a haplogroup test (maybe on both your father's and mother's side) would help round out the picture for you.
Costs: Their Y-SNP (paternal; Y-chromosome) test costs $129, and their mtDNA (maternal; mitochondrial DNA) test costs $219.
Turnaround: However, it did take a full 3 months for my father to get his results, due to a supposed backlog at their labs. They normally promise 3 1/2 weeks.
DNA Tribes - Your top 20 closest ethnic group matches
DNA Tribes approaches the results differently, instead looking at your genetic makeup and seeing which specific ethnic group that they've gathered DNA results for provides the closest match for you.
3. Northeast China
4. China (Beijing)
This can give you, sometimes, very specific results. Friends of my parents, a Jewish couple, had this test done, and the results said the husband was Sephardic and that the wife was Ashkenazi (specific geographic Jewish subgroups).
The problem that can arise, which did occur in my father's case, is one of not having a match in their database. My father's ethnic group is traditionally very isolated, so the top 20 results were absolutely not even close to what he expected. DNA Tribes said that because my father's ethnic group is not in their database yet, the top 20 matches are fairly poor. He can pay another $25 to update his results once exact or closer matches show up in their database.
Costs: Their test costs $200.
Turnaround: They claim 2-3 weeks, and 3 weeks is what we observed.
GeneTree - Percentages of 4 broad racial groups
GeneTree offers a far simpler analysis ("Ancestry by DNA") using your mother's DNA. It just gives you your percentages of African, Asian, European and Native American blood.
17% Native American
My partner used this test which confirmed, more or less, what he knew about his mother's ethnic background.
There have been news stories of high school students using GeneTree (and similar companies') results to prove their have Native American (American Indian) blood, for scholarships.
There has also been something called "American Indian Princess Syndrome" among white women who find out they have no Native American blood on it, and call up GeneTree angrily demanding an explanation. (Apparently the Native American part is common family folklore, grounded in wishful thinking more than anything else, for many people).
Costs: The AncestrybyDNA test costs $240.
Turnaround: It took a while to get the results back in - about 2 months.
Other personal genome tests
For deeper (including health analysis) of your genome, albeit at a higher price, I've tested and written Hubs on the following:
- Gene Tree
- DNA Heritage
- DNA Tribes
- Haplogroup - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
General discussion plus links to learn about each subclade.
MarkG on November 05, 2015:
Just fyi, dna heritage is no longer active. They have been acquired by family tree dna so if you look up the website and try to access it you will be rerouted to family tree dna's website.
Diane Burns from Hampden, New Zealand on April 30, 2014:
Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Level 6 Commenter
Wonderful information that you have chosen to share! Have you heard anything about a New Zealand tribe whose DNA is different enough from all other tribes so as to not be directly related to humans - their DNA is 2% or more different? A National Geographic global DNA tracking project put forth this information in mid-2005 and I can no longer find it anywhere. Perhaps it weas an error, since the research is continually updated.
Hi I am new on this site and spotted this info; I live and was born in New Zealand, my blood type is (A rh d negative) my parents did not have this blood type, and I believe it is of Basque origin, so curious enough to do a DNA , any info will be great and would like very much to know about National Geographic global DNA tracking project that put forth this information in mid-2005. Cheers
hollace on December 18, 2013:
I used DNA Tribes for my mom's test and what a colossal waste of money. The results are impossible to understand and extremely vague. A total scam if you ask me.
Nolza2ne1 on June 18, 2012:
I have been thinking about doing a DNA test for about a year now amd I was wondering which one would best for me to take and it legit? there is a lot of confusion about what my families hertiages are. We know for fact that we have mixes in our race but we just don't know what. I did a lot of my own research last year on migration patterns in the carribbean (my parents were born in southern haiti; my mother south west). there was a lot of Chinese and Japanese migration to south america and the carribbean in the early 1900's and late 1800's. My grandfather isn't alive, but i know that he was born in like 1900-1907. I also looked at our facial features and compared them. Me, my father, and most of my uncles share very asian facial features. I think my grandfather did too, but i dont have a single picture of him to really know. I dont have any records of them, and i only know stuff about them from story telling.
I think one of my great grandparents was chinese or japanese. but i dont know if it was my great grand mother, or father. If its my great grandmother who is chinese/japanese, then my father's dna sample won't show that since y chromasome testing only shows in males? or am i wrong? the only i can test is with my dad, brother or uncles since all of grandparents diesd fairly early.
Adrienne on June 07, 2012:
I had the same experience as Miriam with Connect My DNA. I am English, Scottish, French and a bit of Native North American and my countries came up as Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Afghanistan and Sweden! I am totally ticked off. Have asked for a refund but they said no. I saw plenty of complaints on the BBB Ohio website.
Miriam on May 31, 2012:
Connect My DNA is a total rip off! The phrase "if it sounds too good to be true, it is" should have been in my head when I sent my money. The results are nothing short of absurd and despite my email to them saying as much, they did not offer to redo the test. Of the 10 countries given, only one was correct. The other 9 are so far off, it is ridiculous. I have my family tree going back to the 1400's on some lines so I know what areas of the world should have come up. Save your money or go with a legitimate company. This one is NOT!
Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on May 14, 2012:
This is a great hub. When I read the DNA testing websites it seems the DNA strands and haplogroups do nothing but whirl around in my head. My husband I plan to have ours tested. We will probably go with one of the tests recommended on comanchenation.com because he is purported to be more than half Cherokee and I have a lot of Native American blood.
@ Danita: Try posting on Genforum under the surname of her father. Include as much information as you can in addition to the full name, such as birth and death dates, marriage, places, etc. Someone might recognize his name and know enough to give you a start. Then sit back and wait. It took me six months for a reply to my first post, but we found my great-grandfather's family living in another state, and they supplied me with family history going back to 1700s Ireland. As we say "good hunting!"
Sharron L on March 17, 2012:
Thank you for the info. Although I recently got 2 different mtDNA haplogroup results from 2 companies. GeneTree gave one answer & Family Tree DNA gave another totally different answer. I'm now questioning GeneTree as to how they came up with their result for the same genetic markers.
Jason Menayan (author) from San Francisco on February 28, 2012:
Sandy: You might consider 23andMe nowadays. It's $207 including a year's subscription to updates, and might include some interesting health insights, too. You can check out my review here:
sandy on February 28, 2012:
A group of friends (ten peplum males and females) want to have our DNA tested to find out our basic ancestry. We plan to have a "who's your daddy" party, at which we will pass out the test results and guess whose genome is described. I was thinking of using DNA Tribes but the negative comments on this site have me worried. Can you recommend a company that would work best for our purposes. Cost is not a major factor.
Danita on February 21, 2012:
My mother would like to find out about her fathers side.her dad died 64yrs ago,never knew his father,know other males alive.how can she find out who her grandfather?
Melis Ann from Mom On A Health Hunt on January 25, 2012:
I'm a new hubber and just came across your hub. This topic is very exciting. I've thought of getting this done in the past. I've traced parts of my family tree back to 1400's, but I'd love to fill in the dead-ends. Thanks for the info.
scajomar on January 24, 2012:
Delia, I just received my results from Connect My DNA and I am angry and disappointed. Though my ancestry is probably 98% European, they had my second, third, and fourth possible origin countries as Bangladesh, Qatar, and Kuwait. Outrageous. When I contacted them to get a refund or another sample kit, they gave me a boilerplate reply disavowing any possible mistake. A total rip-off. Don't give them your money.
bri on January 24, 2012:
ehhh I like the native american princess comment... its stupid because these test can only show your mother's mother's line or your father's father's line so if your dad's mother is native american or your mom's dad is half then it wouldn't show up right? my ancestery on both sides of my family crisscrosses through both males and females from different countries so wouldn't this only give me a partial history? even if I took both tests? I know you can get a discount if you do them both.
Delia Echegaray on December 20, 2011:
Whoops, Here is their website: http://www.connectmydna.com/
Delia Echegaray on December 20, 2011:
Could anyone comment on the Self Discovery Kit that "Connect My Dna" offers? Is there any legitimacy to this Gene Ring?
David Sutherland on December 14, 2011:
Would not recommend Genetree. I paid about $50- to have my SMGF results "unlocked" by them but it took several years to discover the results were corrupted and inconclusive. When I asked what could be done about this they said basically it wasn't their fault that they only could give me the data that Sorenson had provided.
Really scammy organization if you ask me. Better off to go with a more honest organization.
Jason Menayan (author) from San Francisco on December 06, 2011:
If both sets of your grandparents were full-blooded Indian, then, pretty much by definition, you'd be 100% Indian yourself. I would take one of the tests that I mention above, like GeneTree.
Frederick steward on December 06, 2011:
I have been thinking about my indain trait for a quite some time now and what I'm saing is this is it possible for me to have at lease 65% indian blood in me if bolth of my grandparents were full blooded undaunted and were can I go to find out.
Carissa on November 28, 2011:
If I'm a girl what test would I take to see if I am Native American?
TERESA on November 24, 2011:
I just happened on this hub and its great! very interesting details and very informational
Jason Menayan (author) from San Francisco on August 28, 2011:
Dave on August 28, 2011:
OK My mom's grandfather was half Scottish so how should I consider my self.
kushBABYkush on July 04, 2011:
So if I wanted to figure out my exact percentages from BOTH sides of my family, I would have to do the maternal and paternal tests?
wiaru on May 02, 2011:
Late comment, but was wondering, what test would you recommend for someone very ethnically diverse? I believe I'm a mix of Hawaiian, Filipino, English, Spanish, Irish, Italian, and Slovakian. What test would give me meaningful results?
sfrentz06 from Sterling Heights, MI, USA on February 13, 2011:
This sounds very interesting. Thanks for sharing this information.
KristylJLS on January 21, 2011:
what do you know of dnaancestryproject.com? i am considering using them the website looks pretty legit but id rather have more information before i use them. (FYI I want to find out what Native American Tribe my family comes from if any- I am African American)
Ponto on December 31, 2010:
I wouldn't be so harsh to say DNATribes is a scam. There results can be off the planet many a time but I sincerely believe that is what their statistics tell them about your origins. My DNATribes results were certainly queer to say the least though the first result, the Native Population, region was reasonable. The other two were the weird ones.
I am probably more open minded as I know my ancestry on paper going back to the 1400s and a little beyond that, and I come from a group of people who live on a small island in Europe's south, and those people lived and died on that small island for hundreds of years. However, knowing this genealogical facts still means that there are a lot of unknowns especially before the advent of surnames and probably literacy in that part of Europe. So yes, the information within genealogical bounds is inaccurate, and those ancestors are the ones who contributed most to you, whereas the ancestors from 1000 years or more ago probably contributed nothing more than a fraction of dna in your genome and can be ignored.
Just be open minded. Sometimes what we believe isn't true, the factoids that come down to us are made up, and even what is written on paper from 500 years ago may be incorrect.
Chasity on September 03, 2010:
I am adopted woman and am deeply interested in what I am. My birth mother died when I was 3 and she never knew who my father was. My Anthropology Professor said to do a nuclear test, not mitochondrial. What test should I take?
KAte on September 02, 2010:
DNA Tribes is a scam! I carried out the test - on my mothers side I can go back about 400 years in England to small villages and on my fathers side it is the same other than one ancestor who came from Finland to England in the 1920s and who I know little about.
My top results for native population indicated that I am was either from Karamuja Uganda (I don't even know what that is), Southern Tunisia (I wonder why not North?) and Maghrebi. My global population match results were Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (before doing the test I stupidly thought Rio would not have one population seeing as it is one of the most multi-ethnic cities in the world), Toscana, Italy and Costa Rica.
While I would like to believe that my Ugandan ancestors migrated to Toscana 1000 years ago and then moved to Brazil before settling in Belton, Norfolk 400 years ago as rural farmers it is probably not the case.
Mark on August 30, 2010:
I tried dna tribes along with my parents. Everyone had different results. This company is a scam, save your money. they lie.
MarkE on August 11, 2010:
I always thought i was Mexican/Mestizo. I found out that I'm Polynesian & Russian.
anichik26 on August 11, 2010:
thanks for the info. I was searching cause my dad's family saids "we're just french and that's it" but I try to trace his family back and of course comes up french, but go back far enough and one of the great great x 5 grandfathers was adopted into the family.. and it doesn't help that all I've known most of my life is "you're french" and I go to cultural festivals to learn about it and random people walk up to me while I'm looking for info and go "what's your last name?" I tell them and they go "you have indian blood in you" uhh..I do? one of these days I'd like to find out for sure. Now I know where to go to find out for sure!
jez_jay33 from Los Banos Laguna on July 12, 2010:
hmmm...that was nice...i just made a hub also about DNA but its about DNA recombinant technology...you might want to see this
pinkhawk from Pearl of the Orient on June 26, 2010:
...quite interesting, it tickles my curiosity to explore some info about my ancestors.. thank you for sharing!^.^
Chasuk on May 18, 2010:
I've have thought about taking these tests many times, but I've never read a comparative review like this one before to help me make an educated choice.
Thank you kindly for the article.
mquee from Columbia, SC on May 11, 2010:
A lot of good info, since tracing my family's genealogy, I have strongly considered doing this. I didn't know where to start, thanks for the information.
callstar on May 03, 2010:
This is excellent! I have to get this done!
Tricia Mason from The English Midlands on March 01, 2010:
We have had our results back, but can now find no-one to compare them with :(
sreeiit on March 01, 2010:
This has been a useful worth post
noremo67 on February 26, 2010:
I have traced my father's line back to Pres. James Monroe. We have the name passed on through our family. I know we could not be related to him as his son passed away at an early age. I am thinking he had children through his slaves. The best way I can think to prove this is to find out if we have African American in our blood line. As a female I am thinking now I must use my brother's DNA to find this out since you need the Y for testing. If anyone has a suggestion - I am open to it.
SHORTTEXAN on January 20, 2010:
MY GRANDMOTHER **MILLIE ANNA JOHNSON* WHO MARRIED MY GRANDFATHER, THOMAS CLEVELAND SANFORD WAS HALF CHEROKEE. MY GRANDMOTHERS PARENTS WERE **FRANCES AND ISABELLE JOHNSON** HOW DO I FIND PROVE SHE IS CHEROKEE WHEN I HAVE NO RECORDS OF HER PAST? I AM TRYING TO FORM A HISTORY TO BE LEFT TO MY DAUGHTER AND GRANDDAUGHTER
Tricia Mason from The English Midlands on January 20, 2010:
This is a fascinating subject.
I am currently awaiting Y-DNA (male surname) results from DNA Heritage. It's really exciting.
asdfasfd on January 05, 2010:
i'm a really neat "whatever"
BabyDaddy on January 05, 2010:
angel1485_us on November 13, 2009:
I'm 24 and have always wanted to know for myself if I'm indian or not. My dad and his family would be the indian side but he and the rest of the family have passed on . My mom is definetly white so how can i go about trying to find out the truth? please help I'm also a female if that helps
Gwendolyn Bordenave on July 16, 2009:
I am looking for the money. What percentage Indian do you need to be to receive benefits?
Ashlee on May 15, 2009:
I had recently been told that you could do these types of tests and become very interested. My father passed away 4 years ago and I have always had my questions about if I am at all Native American. I just graduated college so Im not looking for money, I just want to find out if it is true or not and like this post says- for most people its just wishful thinking. Which one of these tests would be the best to find this out specifically from my fathers side?