What Do You Get from a DNA Test?

A Segment-ology TIDBIT

You get a LOT with a DNA test at 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, AncestryDNA and/or MyHeritage. Each of these companies is different, and has its own tools and programs, but some of the features are fairly common among all of them. It’s actually quite amazing how much you get, no matter where you test.

1. Genetic testing of over 500,000 Markers (SNPs – pronounced: snips). Your DNA has two of each marker so actually you are getting over a million data points.

2. This is your data – you may download and save/use this file (about 10MB), but by itself it’s not much use to you (exceptions noted later).

3. A password protected/secured web site for your profile and information about your test results. This is your hub, or base, for your interactions with your results. Each company is different and has different tools and configurations for your personal page. See #16 below.

4. Ethnicity (aka admixture, deep ancestry, origins, geographic makeup, etc.) report. This is interesting in it’s own right (and many take a DNA test solely for this report). It’s important to remember that these are estimates! But there are many other features of your DNA test that are much more valuable – read on.

5. A list of people who share DNA with you – called Matches. These Matches are usually related to you – both of you sharing some DNA that you got from the same Common Ancestor.

6. A profile for each Match – some info about themselves that they may post.

7. Access to any genealogy Tree that your Matches may post

8. The ability for you to post/upload your own Tree and build on it – highly recommended.

9. Tools – these vary by company and include DNA tools and genealogy tools. See #16 below for some of them.

10. A list of Shared Matches (aka InCommonWith or Relatives in Common) that both you and each Match share – these lists are very important, particularly in grouping Matches.

11. Notes – each company offers a way to enter and save notes on each Match Profile – you type these in, and they are available to you when you return to that Match.

12. Communicate – each company has a way for you to contact your Matches. Yes, probably only 10% of the Matches will reply, but it’s often worth a try.

13. Updates – each company adds new Matches frequently as new people test; they also update/improve their ethnicity program every few years; they add new tools; etc.

14. Bargain prices – all of this for an up-front, one-time, $50-100 price. (Try to get any genetic test for under $100). Yes, each company will try to get you to buy more/other tests and reports, and some offer subscriptions to use their tools.  You decide – in any case, you get an ethnicity report and list of DNA Matches which are updated… forever!

15. NB: If you want, you can upload your DNA data file to other companies – www.gedmatch.com lets you compare tests between companies; other companies offer analysis and services for health or wellness, based on your DNA, etc. Research carefully before you upload your DNA data file anywhere.

16. The International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) has a page that compares the features of the major DNA testing sites: https://isogg.org/wiki/Autosomal_DNA_testing_comparison_chart This table covers a lot, including links to various blog posts about each company.

Readers are invited to post comments on other insights that all/most of the major companies offer. Please do NOT tout your opinions about each company and/or their extra features – that is not the objective of this post. The target audience for this post is someone deciding to take a DNA test, or not. Feel free to pass this blog-post to others.

[22BC] Segment-ology: What Do You Get from a DNA Test TIDBIT by Jim Bartlett 20210929

2 thoughts on “What Do You Get from a DNA Test?

  1. Ancestry has by far the largest database so most matches there. Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage are the oldest so they may have testees who died before Ancestry DNA came to their country. People of older generations have more ancestral DNA.


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