Are you looking for a DNA test genealogy UK?


Have you ever thought about completing a DNA test for your genealogy research? Don’t know which DNA test to use? Or simply want to know more about DNA home testing kits? Then you’ve come to the right place.

Interest in genealogical testing and ancestry is a growing phenomenon, in a recent TV moment that shocked millions, Danny Dyer the ‘hard man’ cockney actor found out he was a direct decedent of Edward III, courtesy of the BBC show “Who Do You Think You Are?”. This amazing moment has encouraged more and more people to become interested in finding out about their ancestors and their direct bloodlines.

Over 26 million people have taken at-home ancestry DNA tests. With as many people purchasing these DNA tests in 2018 than all previous years combined, we are seeing a surge of DNA genealogy testing!

Coming up in this post:



What is a genealogical DNA test?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details, let’s first look at what genealogical DNA testing actually is.

DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid, which is the nucleic acid that contains the genetic code.

Our DNA is divided into 23 pairs of chromosomes. That’s 23 from mum and 23 from dad. To determine the sex in humans, the 23rd chromosome is either two X- chromosomes which make females, or an X and a Y- chromosome which makes males. You may be wondering why we are getting into this, but it will become apparent later on in the post.

Genealogical DNA tests help individuals expand their family history research by comparing DNA variations to give clues about where their ancestors came from and relationships between family members.

They do this by tracing the locations of someone’s genome, to find out ancestral genealogical relationships and to estimate the ethnic mixture of an individual.


Direct-to-consumer genetic testing

Traditionally, DNA tests are carried out by health care professionals. But now we are seeing a huge rise in the availability of direct-to-consumer genetic testing. Otherwise known as DNA home-testing or ancestry testing.

DNA home tests can be bought online or in a store directly by the consumer. Once the DNA sample is collected (usually a saliva swab or the inside of the cheek), the consumer sends it directly to the company where they wait for their results either online or in a written report.

This process has made it easier for people who have an interest in their genetic origins to find more from the convenience of their own homes.


Reasons for completing a genetic DNA test

There are many reasons for someone to have a genetic DNA test, but when it comes to genealogy it can simply be broken down into these 3 generic reasons.

1.    Genetic health and medical background

Many people carry out genealogical research for health reasons. They want to know if they are prone to any genetic diseases or conditions that affect themselves or their offspring. While DNA tests can identify a higher risk for these health issues, it does not necessarily mean you or your family will inherit them. However, knowing that you are at higher risk may lead to life choices to minimise the risk. It can also cancel out any concerns that you may have if the results come back negative, leaving you with peace of mind. But it is important to note that even if someone in your ancestry didn’t contract certain health conditions or diseases, you won’t be immune.


2.    To find out one’s ethnicity

Most people test to get an ethnicity or ancestry report. An ethnicity DNA report can show where distant past relatives came from. The test is carried out by matching your DNA to thousands of reference samples from all over the world to see which you belong to.


3.    Finding relatives through DNA linking

There may be many reasons within your genealogical research that lead you to wanting a DNA test or to look at DNA linking for distant ancestors.

  • This could be to solidify and confirm your research up to date with some scientific backing.
  • You’ve hit a wall in your paper research and need a little incentive or clue to open up more avenues.
  • You may be confused about relationships in your discoveries and need a DNA test to shed some light on a mystery.
  • You want to see if you are related to people with the same surname. However, they need to take the same DNA test as you for this to be accurate.
  • You want to connect with more people. Some ancestry websites share your DNA results and make it possible for DNA matches to connect with you.


Problems with DNA testing

Irregular or inaccurate results

Before we move on to see the types of DNA tests available, it’s important to note the accuracy of these tests. There is a lot of speculation around how accurate the information from genealogical DNA testing is.

Take this story for example, two identical twins had their DNA tested by five companies. Now before we talk about the results, these were identical twins- that means identical DNA. Each one of these companies gave them different results. These results were not just different from each company, but the siblings had 5 sets of different results from each other! states, “In one instance, the consumer genetics company 23andMe told one twin she was 13 percent “Broadly European.” The other twin’s test, meanwhile, showed she had just 3 percent “Broadly European” ancestry, and had more DNA matched to other, more specific regions in Europe.”

So how does this happen?

It is known in the industry that results across different DNA testing companies use different databases of genetic references. They also use their matching algorithms, confirming all matches are an estimation at best. So even as a company grows and expands its data through more users, your results could change over time. The results are also compared with users with similar matches in their databases, so at best your results are estimated.


The emotional backlash

There can be some unexpected results from DNA testing that you aren’t prepared for. This can cause an emotional backlash and leave you trying to deal with the unexpected.

Ancestry DNA test success and fail stories

Here are some real-life stories for example. Some for better, and some for worse.

Happy reunions

You’ll easily have heard of the wonderful success stories that many ancestry websites boast about. Take the two adopted South Korean sisters who found each other after home-DNA testing. They miraculously grew up just 30 minutes apart, never knowing of each other’s existence! The crazy part? They were both adopted by American families! One sister arriving in the states in 1988 and the other 1989.

While this is a lovely story and a DNA Matching success, not so frequently boasted about on ancestry DNA websites is the sad stories.

Sorry for the upcoming doom and gloom, users need to recognise there can be serious consequences to finding out your genealogical DNA.

Broken Families

One woman took the DNA home-test for her genealogical research and discovered that her father was not her biological father. She then later found out her biological father had died in a motorcycle accident. After a huge falling out with her mother (who denied all possibilities of this being the case), she ended up severing all ties and her life was flipped upside down.

Another horrifying home DNA result confirmed that a mother who had her baby safe-kept by catholic nuns in the 1960s gave her back the wrong child. Both mother and accidentally adopted daughter are now on determined journeys to find their true lost relatives.


While these stories are rare and unlikely for the majority of people, it is important to recognise that you may get some unexpected news.


Types of genealogy DNA testing

Now let’s move onto the different types of genealogy DNA tests out there. The most common tests are broken down into 3 types. It’s important to know which DNA test you need before ordering a kit, as each test delivers quite different results.

1.    Autosomal DNA testing

The good news, both men and woman can take an autosomal DNA test! It works by only looking at the first 22 pairs of chromosomes, ignoring the gender-defining 23rd.

An autosomal test is the most generic type of genetic testing, especially when it comes to finding out your ethnic background. However, as the test results in such a large amount of DNA matches, only the last 4 or 5 generations have reliable results.

Many people use it for matching cousins, ethnic background, distant relative matching, and common genetic traits like eye colour.

It’s important to remember that this test is based on both lines, so it is hard to determine which family lines traits belong to.


2.    mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA)

Mitochondrial DNA otherwise known as mtDNA is the genetic testing along the maternal lines. It can be used by both sexes, but will only follow the mother’s line. This is because the genetic material found inside the mitochondria have their own separate DNA strands, that are only passed through the mother.

Accuracy for mtDNA is extremely accurate due to the slow mtDNA changes over time. So while it’s limitations are only on one side of the family, it can go back hundreds of generations. The positive thing about maternal genetic testing is the ability to accurately trace back through the female ancestor lines. Enabling you to clear up any marriage discrepancies or lost data through the change surnames for marriage.


3.    Y-DNA testing

Y-DNA genetic testing focuses on Y, the 23rd chromosome, which in contrast to mtDNA is in the paternal lines only. Unfortunately, only males can take this test directly.

But females can still find use from the tests by looking at the results of her male relatives such as a brother or father, but not a son as the Y chromosome would come from her husband.

Like the female genetic testing, the male lines are very accurate, allowing reach for as far back as 10,000 years ago from a single common ancestor.


What to learn from genetic DNA testing?

It’s important to note that when taking a genetic DNA test, the results you receive are only how much of your ancestor’s DNA you inherited. It won’t tell you where each of these ancestors lived.

DNA ancestry isn’t the same as heritage. Heritage is inherited cultures, objects, languages and so on, things we inherit that we preserve by passing onto future generations. Genetic DNA tests sort your DNA from geographical locations that you are likely to have inherited the genes from.

The limitations:

As we discussed there are limitations to genetic DNA testing.

  • Databases are based on test results from other individuals. This also means that databases from different providers are all different.
  • Providers only test on certain types of tests. The limitations can occur from these tests only focusing on certain lines (matriarchal, patriarchal etc.) Or autosomal testing can only go back accurately for 5 generations.
  • Many test providers add the ‘countries of origin’ into the results from DNA testing, but it’s not your country of origin, it’s just the mtDNA and Y-DNA matches of people whom you share distant ancestry with. This means you can have multiple countries of origin on your results if many other users share the same results. Ancestral origins which are the results on your DNA tests are completely user-generated. So these need to be used as a rough guide alongside your paper research.



What can’t a DNA test tell me?

Exact locations of origin

Genetic DNA testing is estimations for ethnic backgrounds at best. They can’t accurately tell you where your ancestors came from, especially with geographical boarder’s changes so much over the course of history. At best they can point you in a general direction of regions.


How you are related to someone

While you may find lots of matches often leading to distant cousins, you won’t necessarily find out how exactly you are related. That’s where you need the paper research to match results.

The best course of action is to have family members take DNA tests from the same companies, to ensure the most similar results.


Inherited medical conditions

While Medical DNA test can show you diseases and conditions that are in your family bloodline, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll inherit these. The results just highlight an increased risk.


Where to get DNA tests for genealogy in the UK

So you’ve heard the good, bad and ugly when it comes to DNA genealogy testing, now its decision time. If you’ve made up your mind and want to find out more about your genealogical DNA then we’re here to help you decide.

Below we’ve listed the best at-home DNA test genealogy for the UK. We’ve listed their price, type of test, the database selection and highlighted some pros and cons. Hopefully, we’ve given you enough information to help make a decision about which test is best for you.


1.    AncestryDNA

Ancestry DNA is probably voted one of the best home- genetic tests. It has the largest database out of all the other providers.

  • Tests: Autosomal
  • Price: £79.00
  • Database: 15 million
  • Wait time for results: 6-8 weeks
  • How to take the test: Saliva sample


  • Possibly the world’s largest ancestry database of DNA test kits.
  • You can also contact family members if they are also signed up to the ancestry website.


  • Doesn’t offer separate mtDNA and Y-DNA tests to trace paternal or maternal lines.


2.    23andMe

23andMe is great for if you want to do a genetic medical test. However, it has a small database and the price is the same for the autosomal test from

  • Tests: Autosomal, and a health test
  • Price: £79 or £149
  • Database: 1 million
  • Wait time for results: 6-8 weeks
  • How to take the test: Saliva sample


  • You can take a health DNA test to check your ancestor’s health conditions or genetic illnesses.


  • Doesn’t offer separate mtDNA and Y-DNA tests to trace paternal or maternal lines.


3.    MyHeritage

MyHeritage has a faster results time than Ancestry. They also do their testing via a cheek swab, this is ideal for elderly who cannot produce enough saliva for a sample.

  • Tests: Autosomal
  • Price: £79 sometimes you can catch a sale for £59
  • Database: 1.4 million
  • Wait time for results: 3-4 weeks
  • How to take the test: Cheek Swab


  • Shorter wait time for results
  • Sends results back directly to you, don’t need a subscription to view results online


  • Can’t contact relatives with DNA matches
  • Doesn’t offer separate mtDNA and Y-DNA tests to trace paternal or maternal lines.



4.    LivingDNA

Living DNA has one of the longest wait times, but they offer something most providers don’t- the mtDNA and Y-DNA tests as part of the deal. Making this the best value home-DNA test on the market. However, they do not disclose how big their database is. But if you’re researching from the UK, they do have in-depth records for the British Isles.

  • Tests: Autosomal, mtDNA, Y-DNA
  • Price: £79 sometimes you can catch a sale for £59
  • Database: None disclosed
  • Wait time for results: 10-12 weeks
  • How to take the test: Cheek Swab


  • In-depth British Isles records
  • Great for all 3 tests at no extra charge.


  • Can’t contact relatives with DNA matches
  • Have to wait the longest for results


5.    Ancestral Origins

Ancestral Origins are the priciest test on the market. But they do offer the speediest result time! You also get in-depth reporting with your results.

  • Tests: Autosomal
  • Price: £149.95
  • Database: unknown
  • Wait time for results: 2 weeks
  • How to take the test: Saliva sample


  • Shortest wait time
  • Results come with an expanded 10-page report with customised Ancestral Origins map


  • Very pricey
  • Can’t contact relatives with DNA matches
  • Doesn’t offer separate mtDNA and Y-DNA tests to trace paternal or maternal lines.


Further help on Genealogy research

For more help on your genealogy research check out our post on Genealogy in the UK.

The UK is one of the best places to complete your genealogy research. We have the best records dating back to the 1500s.

There is also a wide range of genealogy databases from which you can choose to research your genealogy. We have written a post listing all the free and premium genealogy databases available online. You can check it out here.

Start recording your genealogy

If you’re just at the beginning of your genealogy research journey, or you’re looking for a smart way to store all of your findings, choosing a digital app may be the way forward.


Reliving is an app that can assist your genealogy research by encouraging you to record your life and your loved ones today. To find more about how the Reliving app can help document your genealogy research check out the link here.


Connect and share with us on social media!

If you’ve taken one of the above genetic DNA tests, please take the time and share your results with us on social media. We would love to hear from you! You can reach our Twitter here!