Science World History

Should You Get a DNA Test?

Author: Elisha Kayne

DNA tests are becoming extremely popular, and for good reason. They give people an opportunity to dive into their past, come to terms with the present and prepare for the future. A DNA test has the potential to unlock a mystery that’s never been accessible before, and can help provide vital information about someone’s ancestry, immediate family connections and possible medical concerns. However, with every new innovation, comes a wave of questions and potential for misuse. Many point to issues over privacy, and question the legitimacy of results as many companies offer varying conclusions based on the same data. So, if you’re watching this video (reading this article), there’s a chance you may be interested in getting a DNA test, but aren’t quite sure if it’s worth the cost, or if the pros outweigh the cons. While such a decision can’t be made by anyone but you, we would like to offer a little bit of guidance on the subject, so you can make an informed choice. Here are a few tips and factors to consider before shelling out cash on a DNA test.

How Do DNA Tests Work?

All direct to consumer testing companies will begin the process by testing a client’s DNA sample, normally obtained from a tube of saliva, cheek swabs or chewing gum. In most circumstances, a customer will purchase a home based test kit, and send it to the company directly through the mail. Once they receive the sample, it goes to the laboratory where it will be tested in one of three ways. Autosomal, Y-DNA or mitochondrial DNA. Autosomal tests closely observe the chromosomes which are inherited from both the mother and father at the moment of conception. By comparing these chromosomes to inheritance patterns from other clients or scientific data from varying regions and time periods, a conclusion can then be drawn about possible ancestry and shared traits.  Mitochondrial DNA is inherited specifically from the mother’s mitochondria, and can be traced back through the line from female to female going far back into humanities history. Likewise, Y-DNA tests offer the same insights from the male line. However, women do not have a Y chromosome, and therefore cannot obtain information on their descent from a male line without having their father or brother’s test results. In both Y-DNA and Mitochondrial DNA testing, the customer is assigned a haplogroup, which can then be traced through the ages, thanks to the large database of haplogroup testing performed on skeletal remains from archeological sites around the world.

When choosing which type of DNA test is best for you, there are many factors to consider. First, determine why you are most interested in getting the test done in the first place. Perhaps you have a family history of certain genetic traits, and have medical concerns. Maybe you’re interested in geneology and want to find more relatives nearby who have common ancestors in the recent past. Or, you might simply be curious about which region of the world your ancestors come from, and you want a more complete picture of the history of those who came before you.

This is important because different companies offer a range of information and each seems to focus on their own niche. For example, the DNA testing results from can offer enhanced benefits for members of their genealogy program. My Heritage DNA kits offer a similar advantage. However, if you specifically want to acquire information about health or inherited traits, then 23 and Me might be the best choice. You may have already had a more generic analysis of your ancestral composition, and want a more in depth look at your mitochondria or Y-DNA haplogroup, in which case sites like Family Tree DNA might be perfect. You’ll also want to decide if obtaining your raw DNA information is important to you, as only some companies will provide this data. If your testing company does offer the raw data, you may choose to upload it to other free sites like and GED match which can offer further insights.

The best way to ensure you’re satisfied with your investment is to do plenty of research ahead of time. Look at what kind of information is included in the price and be sure you’re getting the best overall results that works for you.

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