Best DNA Tests for Genealogy

There are a ton of DNA test options out there. But which one is the best for a given situation – and why?

The DNA tests we recommend for specific situations are:

  • This general atDNA test from Ancestry.com atDNA test on Amazon. This test pulls data from both your father’s line and your mother’s line to give you some amazing generalities from your about 5-6 generations back. Anyone can take this test.
  • This mtDNA Find My Past and Living DNA Test. This test helps you find specific insights on your maternal line only. It can help you find answers much further back than just 5-6 generations. Anyone can take this test.
  • The Y-DNA Find My Past and Living DNA Test. This far-reaching DNA test helps you find specific answers from your paternal line. However, this test only works if you have a Y chromosome.

Ready to learn more about why – and how to find these tests? Let’s do this. Oh, and if you’d like to read specifics on all of the different companies that offer these types of tests, how samples are collected, turnaround time, and tons more cool data, please read our article here on the best genealogy tests.

The Best atDNA Test

The atDNA test that we recommend for anyone just starting out or seeking generalized genealogy information from DNA tests is the AncestryDNA: Genetic Ethnicity + Traits Test (click here to see it on Amazon). It’s a great place to start for anyone who’s wanting to know more about their genealogy and DNA!

Here is why we picked the AncestryDNA test as our top pick for atDNA tests.

  • Collecting your sample is as easy as spitting into a test tube. Seriously. It’s dang easy.
  • Ancestry has the largest database of users and the largest database of records. Seriously – they’ve got 16 million users and are still growing.
  • Results don’t take too long, though they aren’t overnight. They generally take between 6 and 8 weeks to get back to you.
  • AncestryDNA gives you your ethnicity estimates – and they’ve got 500+ regions worldwide.
  • Automatic updates, privacy controls, and access to raw data are all included.

If you’re just wanting general results, PLEASE don’t start with a more specific mtDNA or Y-DNA test. Start with the atDNA test – and get the AncestryDNA one.

Now, if you’ve already taken the AncestryDNA test and/or you want to see more options, then we’d also recommend that you take the MyHeritage DNA Test. MyHeritage is pretty awesome, too.

The Best mtDNA Test

If you need specific answers from your maternal line, then you’re going to want to take a mtDNA test. There aren’t a lot of situations where you’d do better with a mtDNA test rather than an atDNA test, but there are a few. The top example that springs to my mind is for adoptees trying to find their biological family. But even then, you’d also want the atDNA test, too.

But if you do find yourself in a situation where you need answers from your maternal line, then the mtDNA test is what you want. And the test we recommend for this situation is the Find My Past and Living DNA Test. This test may be on Amazon (click here for availability and pricing).

Find My Past and Living DNA have partnered up to give you access to more records, a larger user database, and an easy, visually appealing user interface. Collect your sample with a simple cheek swab. Results usually take between 6-8 weeks.

The only potential downside to FindMyPast and Living DNA is that, while they do have 80+ worldwide regions for ethnicity estimates, they do best for results that have ties to the United Kingdom. Even with that specialization, though, they’re still hands down the best mtDNA option we’ve found.

Just make sure you order the mtDNA test (instead of any of the other test options) at checkout. For this reason, we recommend you order directly from Find My Past and LivingDNA rather than ordering from anywhere else.

The Best Y-DNA Test

Looking for answers from your paternal line? As long as you have a Y chromosome (or access to a relative from that line with a Y chromosome), then a Y-DNA test can help you find answers.

The Y-DNA test we’ve used and recommend is the Find My Past and Living DNA Test. Breanne’s grandpa took the test – and it was a fairly easy process. The sample collection process is a simple cheek swab and results should be back to you within 6-8 weeks. This test may also be on Amazon (click here for availability and pricing).

Again, the potential downside to this test is that, while Find My Past and Living DNA do have worldwide results, they’re far more accurate if you have ties to the United Kingdom. Even so, they’re still the best choice for a Y-DNA test on all fronts.

Just make sure that you are ordering the Y-DNA test at checkout – some of the other options’ packaging looks similar. For this reason, we’d recommend you go directly to their website instead of buying the test from anywhere else.

Bonus: The Best DNA Test with Health Results

Thanks to advances in DNA testing, it’s now possible to get both genealogy and health results with a single test. Here is how we stack up our best recommendations for both.

Both services give a lot of really cool data. Personally, I think that 23andMe gives the better health data – and that AncestryDNA gives better genealogy data.

So if you want the best of both worlds – go ahead and get both. Or if budgeting is an issue, get the health data from 23andMe and get the genealogy data from AncestryDNA. That way, you’ll see the best of both worlds.