How Do you Do a DNA Test at Home?

Consumer DNA testing has been around over 20 years now and to date millions of people have used them. The vast majority of such tests have been taken to assist family history fans learn more about their origins. Alternatively, consumers can also purchase tests to help determine paternity.

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In this post we are going to look at what types of tests are available to perform at home, how much they cost and also how to best perform the tests. It is of course vital to make sure you perform the test correctly as failing to do so may compromise the results and leave you having to get another test.

What Tests Are Available and How Much Do They Cost?

As mentioned there are two main types of DNA tests that you can purchase and take at home. These are the genealogical tests from websites like Ancestry DNA, FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe as well as the over the counter paternity tests that are available at many drug stores.

The prices of these tests can vary greatly depending on what type of DNA you are testing and for what purposes the tests are performed. In the table below is a breakdown of the current pricing for some of the main genealogy related testing companies and what they offer.

Company Available Tests and Costs
AncestryDNA Basic Autosomal DNA test $99 + shipping
MyHeritage Basic Autosomal DNA test $89 + shipping
LivingDNA Basic Autosomal DNA Test $99 + shippingWellbeing Kit for Health $129 + shippingWellbeing and Ancestry $149 + shipping
23andMe Ancestry and Traits test $99 + shippingHealth and Ancestry $199 + shippingHealth &Ancestry $228 + shippingW 1 year membership
FamilyTreeDNA Ancestry test $79 +shippingAncestry and Health $119 + shippingmtDNA (maternal) test $159 + shippingY-37 (paternal) test $119 + shippingY-111 (paternal) test $249 + shippingBig Y-700 (paternal) test $449 + shipping

Paternity DNA tests that you can take at home also vary in price based on brand and if they test for both paternity and maternity. There are kits available from as low as $42 ranging up to around $150 on average.

Kits that test both paternity and maternity are also available and cost in the region of $220. As with all things in life you get what you pay for so do a little research and check out reviews of the available products before you buy.

Order or Purchase Your At-Home DNA Test Kit

The first step in taking an at-home DNA test is obviously to purchase the kit. This may involve an online purchase with one of the big genealogy websites who typically send you your kit through the mail. If you purchase a paternity test this too can be done online or you can walk into a drugstore and purchase over the counter.

Whichever process you use to obtain your test kit make sure that the kit and testing are included in the price you pay. Also make sure that the kit is not in any way damaged as this may lead to the test being unsuccessful. If the box is damaged or any of the packaging is broken, return the kit for a replacement.

How to Take the Test

There are two main ways at home test kits are performed and realistically they are not too complicated. AncestryDNA for example requires a sample of your saliva which you spit into the tube they supply you with.

They have very specific instructions regarding eating or drinking prior to the test as this can result in contaminating the sample. So make sure to read and follow the instructions that come with your test kit very carefully.

Those who have issues with dry mouth which can include elderly testers might want to specifically use a testing company that offers cheek swabs. MyHeritage for example offers cheek swab tests that do not require you to produce enough saliva to fill a vial.

Over the counter paternity and maternity tests tend to be cheek swab tests as well. There is some thought that saliva samples are better but in some instances the tester just can’t produce enough to meet the requirements.

The testing processes themselves although similar may also vary so as mentioned read the instructions thoroughly, maybe even twice, before you start the test. These companies want you to be able to successfully test so trust that the instructions are all important.

Sending Your Samples Back

Generally speaking even if you purchased your test kit at a drugstore you will be mailing your sample back to a lab. This is usually paid for and the packaging you require is part of the kit. Companies tend to make sure their packaging can stand up to the rigors of being mailed.

You should try to be careful with the package yourself, however, perhaps place it in an inside mailbox in case of a leaky outdoor mailbox. Take care of the package to avoid damaging it. Testing is not cheap so the last thing you want to do is damage the sample ruining the chances of getting a result.


At-home DNA tests are designed to be as simple as possible and as long as you follow the instructions to the letter you have a good chance of getting a result. Remember the better quality product you buy the greater your chance of success.

Do your research before choosing your kits. There may be the need to choose a cheek swab test over a saliva sample. Also read the reviews so you know to help determine the best fit for your specific requirements.

Neil Edwards

Neil Edwards

Genealogist and family-tree research specialist

Neil was born in Shropshire, England surrounded by centuries of living history. His interest in the past has been a lifelong passion leading to undergraduate degrees in both Economic History & Geography and History & Politics.

This interest in history quickly translated to family history when he moved to the U.S. in 2010. It was here that he began working on his own family tree as well as that of his American wife. That research allowed him to gain a wealth of experience working with both U.S. and European genealogical documents and studying their best uses in researching family history.

Following 9 years of honing his genealogical research skills, Neil was proud to have earned a certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University in late 2019. Neil also took part in the research process for a Duke University study into the families of 19th Century UK Members of Parliament.

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