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Which DNA test should I buy?

Consider these factors when choosing the best DNA testing service for family history and ethnicity
With more and more tests on the market and prices continuing to drop, it’s never been a better time to take the plunge and discover your genetic background with a home DNA test. You can learn where in the world your family came from, connect with new relatives, and brag about your results to the the growing community of people around the world who are choosing to test their DNA. But with a wide selection of available tests on the market, how can you know which is best for you? Here are some criteria that can help you make up your mind.
Ethnicity results

All four top DNA testing services provide a breakdown of your ethnic background as part of the test results. You can see what percentage of your DNA comes from different populations around the world, giving you a very real look at your ethnic makeup as a whole. But not all ethnicity results are created equal: some are more accurate and specific, and some are merely general guesses.

The more ethnicity regions a test provider has, the more specific the results you’ll be able to get. Some providers present only a handful of regions in their ethnicity breakdowns — which means your results won’t be very exact. For example, Central American heritage might show up as Native American or East Asian, since those are two very general designations with similar genetic profiles to native Central Americans. You’ll want to look for the DNA test that offers the greatest number of regions, even for smaller population groups. Even better are DNA companies that are continuously growing their ethnicity offerings through independent genetic research projects.

Matching abilities
The DNA testing service you choose can help you find other people whose DNA matches yours, indicating that you are probably related. Of course, the accuracy and usefulness of these matches depend on a few important key elements:
Powerful matching technology: Your matches will only be as good as the algorithms that produce them. Select a company well-known for high-quality matching — for DNA, family trees, or historical records. Obviously, a service that handles genealogy as well as DNA will have an edge here.
Large user database: The more people testing and creating family trees, the easier it will be for you to find your relatives.
Ability to handle results from multiple companies: For the best chances at being matched, look for a DNA testing service that looks at results from other companies, too. Some testing services only compare data between people who have used their own test. Others allow you to upload DNA data from multiple companies and search between them, maximizing your chances at getting a match (and saving you from having to waste money on multiple tests).
Privacy and security
This one’s pretty straightforward: do you want your DNA data to stay yours? Choose a DNA test provider with a strong privacy policy. Check to see if your data is protected by encryption, and ensure only you can view and share your DNA results. Some companies may want to use your data for scientific research — or pass it on to third parties. If you’re concerned about privacy and security, choose a testing service that is obligated never to share any of your data (raw or identifiable) without your explicit consent.
Sample type
Don’t underestimate the importance of convenience when selecting your DNA test. Although no home tests involve drawing blood or plucking hairs, some do require you to produce quite a lot of spit. Older people in particular sometimes have a hard time producing enough spit to fill the required sample size for the saliva-based tests. To avoid the yuck factor (and a messy sample collection vial), consider opting for a kit that calls for a simple cheek swab instead.
Home DNA testing kits currently range in price from $79 to $199, or even more. When comparing prices, it’s important to think about the value offered at each price point. Look for the lowest price on a test that offers as many of the key benefits discussed above as possible. You might be surprised to see that some of the most affordable testing kits are actually extremely high-quality… and vice versa!
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