We all yearn to know more about ourselves. However, unless your family has a resident genealogist, you probably have some unanswered questions about your origins.
Up until about five years ago, that meant months, often YEARS of exhausting research. We don’t know about you, but countless trips to the local archives and interviewing distant relatives isn’t exactly our idea of fun. But then, science suddenly came to our rescue. In 2016, advances in biotechnology axed the price of DNA analysis to around £750. Just five years earlier, the same tests cost £7,500.
And in 2020, you can get your DNA analysed for as little as £75. As the price point of DNA test kits has cratered, the number of vendors selling them has soared. Companies like 23AndMe, Ancestry, and MyHeritage are the best known, but there are dozens of other options.
With speciality tests that evaluate everything from your health to the background of your dog, it can be hard to know what to buy.
In today’s blog, we’ll sort out this mess so you can make an informed decision.
What are DNA test kits?
DNA testing kits are a relatively new phenomenon for most. It has only been in the past couple of years that their prices have become affordable for consumers. So, what are DNA testing kits?
In short, they analyse your DNA for structures associated with ethnicity, health conditions, and other factors. When you order a test, they send you a collection vial or a swap. All you have to do is wipe the swab along your cheek, or spit in the vial.
You return it to the DNA testing firm, which analyses your sample. After the analysis is complete, they send you the results by e-mail or snail mail. Depending on the firm, you’ll get a detailed breakdown on topics like national/ethnic background, predispositions to diseases, and more.
Why are DNA testing kits so popular?
23AndMe has been analysing DNA since 2006. AncestryDNA has been doing the same from 2012 onward. However, these companies languished in obscurity until just recently. What changed?
Like many things in life, it all comes down to money. Let’s go back to 1990. In that year, the Human Genome Project kicked off. This multinational research project sought to map out the structure of our DNA for the first time.
Ten years later, in 2000, they had a rough draft of the human genome. After multiple revisions, the project’s lead researchers declared it complete in 2003. The total cost? About £3.8 billion.
With the hard part over, though, biotech firms began to refine their techniques. Soon enough, exponential reductions in cost took hold. By 2008, the price of DNA sequencing fell to £766,000. The next year, that figure plummeted to £76,000. In 2011, it dropped another order of magnitude to £7,600.
At that point, the wealthy started to explore their past. By 2016, though, when prices fell to £750, DNA tests became accessible to middle-class pioneers. That’s when things took off. Once consumers learned they could get insight on their background by swabbing their cheek, sales went viral.
This encouraged players like MyHeritage, FamilyTree, and Living DNA to wade into this growing market. Within two years, prices fell to only a couple hundred quid. Some kits went on sale for less than £100 before the holiday season. By 2021, the average cost is forecast to decline to £75 or less.
Soon, DNA databases became so densely populated, companies were able to start reuniting long-lost family members. Many DNA firms will notify you if you’re a close match with others in their DNA library.
In brief: Now that people can learn about their past, health, and lost family members for less than £100, those interested will happily pay for it.
How do leading DNA testing companies differ from each other?
So, now you know why DNA testing is widespread. The question now becomes: Which DNA testing kit should I go with? Reading reviews does help, but allow us to give you our two pence worth.
Want to learn about what conditions you may have a predisposition to? Give 23AndMe a try. As an industry veteran, they’ve been offering these analyses for a while. Customers love them as well – of all the major DNA firms, they have the highest overall scores online.
Need to fill out the missing spaces on your family tree? Ancestry DNA is your best option. They have the world’s largest DNA database – whilst you aren’t guaranteed a match, your odds are highest here.
If you want to try DNA testing, but are on a budget, check out MyHeritage DNA. They also have a sizable DNA database, but at less than £50, you won’t spend much to match yours against it. They also recently introduced health testing.
The jury is still out on whether they match 23AndMe’s product. However, even if it is less comprehensive in scope, the cost of this test still makes it a great value.
Don’t just opt for the first DNA testing kit you encounter
DNA testing is no longer restricted to those with ample means. These days, anyone can afford to get insight into their origins and their health. However, not all kits are built equally. Do your homework, and you’ll be more likely to get the results you’re after.
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