DNA Testing Kits - Everything You Need to Know

Complete DNA Testing Guide
article by Maria P. author
Ever wonder what the secret ingredient is that makes you, you? The answer is in your DNA! It tells us everything we need to know about our heritage, our health, and our families. Finding this information out is as easy as using an at-home DNA testing kit. Isn’t it time for you to finally put the puzzle pieces together?  

What is DNA?

Different brands of DNA exist in all of us. Chromosomal DNA is made up of autosomal DNA, mtDNA (or X-chromosome DNA) and Y-DNA (from the Y chromosome.) Individual tests can be done on each of these types.

Deoxyribonucleic acid (or DNA) is the magical ingredient that is found in all living organisms. It carries instructions for the growth, development, reproduction, and functioning of our bodies and the bodies of all living things. That is why some people have blue eyes, while others have green or brown.

Did You Know?

  • No two people have the same DNA (except identical twins)
  • Half of your DNA comes from your mother, and half comes from your father
  • If all the DNA in your body was unraveled it would reach the sun and back over 600 times
  • 99.9% of all human DNA is identical, it’s the 0.1% that makes us unique
  • Your DNA can link you to locations and ethnicities you’d never thought were possible
  • There are different brands of DNA in all of us and you can test each of them

Now that we know more about DNA, let’s find out about the different types and what they can tell us.

Autosomal DNA Tests

Wondering where in the world you come from? If so, then this is the test for you.

Autosomal testing will give you the ability to trace back your ancestry some four or five generations back, letting you know where they lived hundreds, even thousands of years ago.

How Does it Work?

In the center of every cell in your body, there is a nucleus with 23 pairs of chromosomes. 22 of these are autosomes which contain a complete genetic record, while the 23rd determines your sex. Autosomal DNA testing can survey over 700,000 locations in your DNA and discover your genetic information passed through generations.

This is the most common type of DNA testing completed by people all over the globe.

mtDNA Tests

Because many females change their surnames when they get married, it’s difficult to find out which females you might be related to. Thankfully, mitochondrial (mtDNA) testing changes this notion completely.

This special type of DNA testing will tell the story of your mother’s heritage and will go all the way back to the woman that we all descended from, mitochondrial Eve. It will not, however, give you any information about your paternal lines.

This DNA testing might be more limited than the autosomal test, but it can be useful in other ways. If you were separated from a female family member or have no contact with your mother, this is the test that will provide you with the most information.

Y-DNA Tests

Y-DNA tests are what we commonly refer to as paternity tests, and can be useful for understanding complicated situations like illegitimacy or adoption.

Because this test searches the Y-chromosome, which is only found in men, it is only available to men. Y-DNA tests will show you exactly how closely you might be related to a person with the same surname, going back many generations.

How to Find the Right DNA Test Method for Your Needs? 

To determine to right method, you first have to consider your needs. If you’re looking for an overview of your family history, go for the autosomal test, as it covers both sides and looks at your gene-base as a whole. If you want to learn more about a particular racial heritage or merely explore where your ancestors came from, it’s the top choice. However, if you’re looking for more specific results, the mtDNA and Y-DNA options have the potential to uncover up to 10,000 years of your ancestry. Perhaps you want to know more about a particular ancestor or gain a detailed understanding of your health and the potential risks. If this is the case, then the latter options are the best choice.

Getting Started with a DNA Test – How Does DNA Testing Work?

It all depends on what you want to find out. Below you will find a quick and easy guide showing you which type of test will be the right one for your needs.

  • Ancestry DNA Tests

Have you always suspected you have Viking ancestry running through your veins? Ancestry DNA tests reveal European, African Asian, Jewish and Native American records using a simple saliva or swab test.

Price: Depending upon which service you choose from, prices range from $69-$99.

  • Pet DNA Tests

Do you have a sneaky suspicion that your feline was part of an Egyptian royal family? Pet DNA tests will show if your favorite four-legged friend is a pure breed, their history, and origin.

Price: Pet DNA test kits retail around half the price of a standard ancestry test.

  • DNA Paternity Tests

DNA Paternity tests are now available at a fraction of the cost which you might have once paid. Although these results might not be recognized by the government, finding out the truth about your paternal heritage is now easier than ever before.

Price: An at-home testing kit will set you back as little as $30.

  • DNA Heritage Tests

Wanting to understand where your heritage stems from is part of human nature. DNA heritage tests will break things down for you into percentages of your ethnic background.

Price: Depending on which provider you choose, the price of this DNA testing kit can cost from $50-$100.

  • Sibling DNA Tests

Think you might have a long lost twin somewhere in the world? A sibling DNA testing kit will reveal both whether or not two people are related and if they share the same parent. Combining the sibling DNA test with a heritage or ancestry DNA test will give you a more comprehensive result.

Price: Prices vary, but are generally around the same that you might pay for an ancestry DNA test.

  • DNA Health Testing

This is a popular choice for those wanting to find out risk factors for certain health issues. Discover your chances of genetic mutations, food sensitivities or predispositions to certain cancers and diseases.

Price: The health DNA testing kit might be a little pricier than others it usually comes in combination with ancestry results so you’re getting two for the price of one.

  • DNA Fitness Testing

Discover your genetic fitness blueprint created to show you why you might have a slow metabolism. This type of DNA testing is ideal for people hoping to improve their physical fitness based on your specific DNA analysis.

Price: Costs range from $100-$300 depending on how much information is analyzed.

  • Prenatal DNA Testing

This non-invasive test gives accurate paternity answers during pregnancy. It can be completed as early as 8 weeks’ into the pregnancy and can even reveal the gender of the baby.

Price: Prenatal DNA testing is somewhat pricier, costing around $300, but peace of mind has no price.

Getting Started with a DNA Test – How Does DNA Testing Work?

If you’re intimidated by what seems to be an overwhelming process, you can stop stressing right now. Completing a DNA test is now easier than ever before. Below we have answered any questions we think you might have about the process.

How to Order a DNA Test

  • Visit your chosen DNA Test company’s website·
  • Create an account
  • Add a DNA test to your account
  • Fill in payment and delivery details
  • Kick back, relax and wait for your package to arrive in the mail

DNA Sample Collection Methods

Have a fear of injections and faint at the sight of blood? Luckily for you, none of these elements are involved in providing a test sample. Each DNA testing kit will have its own set of instructions that it comes with, which you need to read carefully.

Generally, DNA test samples come from saliva taken from the inside of your mouth, via a simple cheek swab or a spit sample.

What Then?

  • Follow the postage instructions that come with the test
  • Depending on the services you use, the company doing the testing may provide a self-addressed envelope to make things that much easier to send your sample back
  • Activate your kit on the corresponding website so that your sample can be matched to your online account

How Long Does a DNA Test Take?

At-home DNA testing kits can take from 4-8 weeks to come back with the results. Make sure to check with your chosen provider for a more accurate time frame.

Where can I see my Results?

Usually, you will get notified that your test results are ready. You can then simply log into your account and see your DNA results online.

Some will even send your information via post, but that is a process that takes longer. If curiosity gets the better of you, it is much quicker to check everything out online.

Are DNA Test Results Easy to Read?

Think you have to have a science degree to read DNA results? No way! It’s very simple, so let’s break it down.

Your test results are broken down into a few sections so it is easier for the reader to interpret. If you had an ancestry test done then it will break down the main regions that your past ancestors came from. It will specify which regions and percentages.

Secondly, it will go into more detail about specific ethnicities that your genetic code comes from.

If you have any additional testing like, like a health report, that will come in at the end.

How Accurate are DNA Tests?

DNA tests measure your DNA at around 700,000 locations across your genome and compare it to populations spreading throughout over 350 regions in the world. Your DNA test will be at least 98% accurate.

Although DNA testing kits will not be able to pinpoint the exact town that your ancestors came from, it will tell you their approximate geographical locations. You will be able to trace your heritage back to Eastern Europe, Scandinavia or other parts of the world.

How much does a DNA Test Cost?

It all comes down to which test you would like to take.  There are some ancestry subscription packages going for $20-$40 per month.

If you take the one time offer, ancestry DNA testing kits generally cost under the $100 mark.

How Do I Pay For My DNA Testing Kit?

Many services offer various ways of paying for your DNA test kit including PayPal, credit cards, bitcoin, or personal checks.

Are My Results Confidential?

Yes! There is no need to worry as your test results are strictly confidential and are stored in a secure database.

Also, the lab that processes your DNA results does not have access to your name or contact information.

Your DNA data can only be shared if you choose to make that data public, and this is entirely your own decision. This means that only people with similar DNA profiles will be able to view you as a DNA match, but they will only have an anonymous ID number, not your name or any personal information.

Additionally, you can choose to delete your DNA test results. Be warned that by doing this you will no longer be able to recover your data.

Can my Home DNA Testing Kit be used in Court?

There is a difference between legal testing and home DNA testing. Your home DNA testing results will generally not be admissible in court, but they will be able to give you peace of mind for personal reasons.

Can I Purchase a DNA Gift Kit?

Did you know that the more people in your family who get tested, the more accurate your results will be? The more tested family members, the more distant relatives you will be able to locate!

You can purchase a gift kit and give your loved one a DNA test as a birthday or holiday present. Some companies even give discounts for more than one DNA testing kit order at a time. Brilliant!

What is the Best DNA Kit for me?

The best answer to this question lies in one important element: what it is that you really want to find out about yourself. Once you have answered this question, you will find it much easier to understand which testing kit is the perfect one for you. You might want to:

  • Know more about your ancestors
  • Learn about your heritage
  • Confirm paternity
  • Find relatives
  • Improve your health and fitness
  • Find out about medical predispositions

For further information check out our best DNA testing kits reviews.

Is it Worth it?

In short, definitely. DNA testing kits have become a powerful tool in researching not only your family tree but also in finding out information about your medical health too.

Considering the fact that these testing kits have become easily attainable and much cheaper than they once were there is little reason not to expand your knowledge about your ancestors and your ethnicity.

You never know, you might even get the chance to uncover family members you never knew existed and connect with people all around the globe.