No doubt you have seen the commercials for Ancestry DNA and 23andMe and have piqued your interest. After all, who doesn't want to know how much neanderthal we have in our blood, am I right?
All jokes aside, both of these tests are great for what they do. So what do they do? Each DNA testing company has it's own proprietary elements that you will not find on the other one. The real question is not, "what do they do," but "what do I want out of the test?"
We will explore what you will get from each company's test results and you can base your decision from there. Simple enough, right?
Are you interested in your family history and the regions of the world your ancestors came from? Have you been told all of your life that you descend from Native American ancestors? Are you wanting to connect with distant cousins found based on your DNA?
Well then, Ancestry DNA might be your best choice. They specialize in answering all of these questions with your results. They will give you a map showing what percentage of your DNA came from each region of the world. Here is where you will find out if you have that Choctaw princess in your family tree.
Keep in mind, this is a generalization of your DNA and people are known to migrate. For example, you know for a fact that you are 100% Italian. Both of your parents were born in Italy, but your DNA results list Iberian, German, and even Ashkenazi Jew. So what are you to think about the test? You are probably cursing the company for lying on the test and wasting your money, right? I can assure you the company nor the test has lied. More than likely, somewhere down the line your ancestor migrated to Italy from somewhere else and his/her family remained there for generations. This is where those DNA results come from. Also keep in mind, countries and kingdoms were conquered by others and their people assimilated into new kingdoms.
So what about finding your distant cousins? If you have built a family tree on ancestry.com, your DNA results can be imported into the tree. Anyone who shares DNA with you and has taken the Ancestry DNA test potentially can connect with you. Maybe your 3rd cousin that you never knew existed had a family picture of your 2nd great grandfather and his household. To me, that would be worth the cost of the test. Ancestry is all about family and connections. If that is what you are looking for, then you should choose them.
Please note: DNA tests take weeks to analyze and receive reports back. I would hate for you to feel ripped off thinking you should get reports back within a week. With patience, you will receive your reward!
If you are not as concerned about you family tree or connecting with distant relatives; you just want to use the DNA test for more scientific purposes, then 23andMe should be your choice. Remember my comment about the neanderthals? This is where you can see how much neanderthal is in your blood. But 23and Me can give you much more. Like Ancestry, 23andMe will give you a report showing what percentage of your DNA came from what region of the world. They can also tell you character traits based off of your DNA. For example, your DNA can tell you if you are prone to hair loss, sneezing, freckles, asthma, motion sickness, etc.
To read more about how 23andMe is using DNA to research character traits and illnesses, click here. Gus Lubin goes into great detail in this article and explains 23andMe's scientific analysis.
So I hope by now you know which test you would like to take. As I said before, they are both great at what they do. You really can't go wrong with either if you know what you would like to get out of it. If you want the more family and ancestral approach to DNA, then choose Ancestry DNA.
If you are looking for a more scientific approach showing a detailed report on inherited traits passed on from your ancestors, Then choose 23andMe.
Christmas is around the corner and these tests make great unique gifts for those in your family that are interested in their roots.
For more information about starting to research your ancestry, please check out my previous blog post by clicking here.
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