Who are you?

A comparison of three DNA sites

Suzanne Pacey, a few years back...

A gene is a distinct sequence of DNA that determines what characteristics every living creature has. Genes, inherited from both parents, are found on the chromosomes.

Every person has two copies of each gene, one inherited from each parent. Humans share most of the same genes, but a small number of genes vary slightly from person to person. It is these variations that give each person unique physical features and tendencies. Your genes determine everything about you: eye, hair, and skin color; tendency to gain weight; athleticism and other unique characteristics.

Humans inherit 23 chromosomes from each of their parents, for a total of 46 chromosomes. Forty-four of these chromosomes are identical in men and women; the remaining two determine if we are male or female (the X and the Y chromosomes). The genetic information we inherit is never exactly the same as that of our parents. During reproduction, the chromosomes are recombined, which produces new combinations of genes. These gene combinations give us similarities to our mother and our father, but are a new mosaic that makes us unique.

I always knew my ancestral background was mostly French and Irish, but my skin tone looks more Italian or American Indian. To get definitive answers to my genetic pool, I decided to investigate how I could find out my exact heritage.

As I found out quickly, there are several different DNA sites available, along with a wide range of prices and features. So how do you know the right one to use? Which ones are authentic, and which are less credible?

I found the DNA process starts around $99 and goes up to more than $300 from some companies. A pretty wide range, which makes it hard to figure out which one is really the best based on cost alone.
I decided to narrow it down to three services:

  • Ancestry $99
  • GPS Origins (now HomeDNA) $199
  • Living DNA $159

Time for results: 6-8 weeks

Ancestry has an enormous and diverse database, and also offers free features. Even if you’re a beginner genealogist, some of the features, such as easy document viewing and the professional research assistance are very user friendly.
DNA was collected via saliva sample, by spitting into a tube until your saliva reaches a certain amount. Place the sample in the storage bag and place the bag in the pre-paid mailing box included with the kit and drop in in the mail. The results of your DNA test are stored in a secured database
My results came back as:

  • 56% Ireland
  • 31% Great Britain
  • 13% Other regions

1% Native American Primarily located in: North America, Central America, South America, and within the Genetic Communities French Settlers along the St. Lawrence as early at the 1700.

This DNA site seemed to be the most accurate from what I experienced, and it was easy to understand.

GPS Origins
Time for results: 8-10 weeks

The GPS Origins report is split into two parts. In the first section you are provided with your gene pool percentages. The second part of the test provides two migration stories for each customer. GPS Origins’ test relies upon genetic uniqueness created by the mixing of global gene pools in different proportions. GPS Origins’ test uses 36 gene pools to trace the origin of your DNA, more than twice the number being used by other methods.

Cheek swabs were used for DNA collection and sent in a Postage-paid envelope to a (U.S. customers only) highly accredited lab with privacy-protected service and expert staff; your DNA is not sent to a third-party lab.

I was sorely disappointed. This one, I felt, was way off and the results were confusing to understand. I do however like the migration map that comes with your results.
My results came back as:

  • 20.8% Fennoscandia (The area known as Fennoscandia encompasses the countries of Norway, Sweden, Finland and a part of Russia known as the Kola Peninsula)
  • 15.7% Southern France (Southern France was a major crossroads of Europe with multiple waves of human migration.)
  • 15.1% Orkney Islands (The Orkney Islands are a small group of islands that lie off the north coast of Scotland)

Weren’t we all from these places at one point or another…funny part is no Irish, and I know I have some Irish heritage based on my immediate relatives.

Living DNA
Time for results: 10 to 12 weeks

Living DNA does not compare your DNA with anyone else they test. They do compare DNA to a database of famous DNA groups and will flag you if your DNA matches up with any of these “famous” DNA. You do have full access to your raw data and can transfer it to another company that could make those match ups.
Most DNA testing goes back four to five generations; Living DNA goes back throughout human history. What it does give you is a very detailed region-specific look at your ancestry throughout human history. Living DNA offers one of the most in-depth DNA tests on the market.

The family ancestry test (autosomal DNA) looks at all your ancestors both in recent times (approximately 10 generations) as well as allowing you to look at your ancestry at different points in history until we all share common ancestors together.

My DNA sample was collected with an easy-to-use mouth swab. After collecting a DNA sample, you drop it in the mail using a free return bag. The basic results of your DNA test, being your genetic data, which is referred to as “raw data,” is stored electronically on a secure and encrypted computer system.
My results came back as:

  • 81% Great Britain and Ireland
  • 15.7 Europe (south)
  • 3.3% Europe (north and west)

My results seemed a little broad. But after digging into the site I found the mapping and Motherline Migration Map interesting and informative.

Choosing the right DNA testing company comes down to several factors, including your own goals in getting tested and what you already know about your ancestry. For example, if you are fairly certain your ancestry has roots among British populations, then Living DNA can pinpoint the specific regions of Britain. However,

if you are relatively certain you don’t have much British ancestry, Ancestry might be a better option. GPS Origins went far back in history – great for a genealogist, but maybe more than the general population requires.


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