What DNA Tests are the Most Accurate?
There’s nothing wrong with wanting the best possible results in life especially if you are spending hard earned money on a product. This is why websites like Yelp are so popular, we want to know how good something is before we buy.
In this post we will take a look at the available DNA testing companies in terms of genealogy. We will try to determine which are the most accurate and whether or not any stand out ahead of everyone else.
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Accuracy Is Subjective
When it comes to DNA testing as long as you are following the science and using the right equipment and procedures you can’t really go wrong with the test results. Our DNA after all is set since birth and no matter what site you test with they will likely get exactly the same results.
How those results are analyzed after being produced however is where the question of accuracy comes into play. It’s how the tests are viewed in comparison to the individual companies' databases that really makes the difference in accuracy.
Who Has the Best Ethnicity Estimates?
If you have tested at multiple companies who offer ethnicity reports you will likely notice that your results from both are different. This doesn’t mean your DNA has changed but simply that the companies may have looked at different segments of your DNA and they have different base samples with which they compare yours.
In the table below are my own ethnicity estimates from AncestryDNA and MyHeritage as of June 2022.
|Wales 45%||English 51.2%|
|England & Northwestern Europe 31%||Irish, Scottish & Welsh 42.8%|
|Ireland 12%||East European 6%|
|Sweden & Denmark 6%|
As you will note from the percentages above they differ greatly when it comes to my estimated ethnicity. Ancestry assesses that I am mostly Welsh whereas MyHeritage has English as the dominant ethnicity.
Well in truth I was born in England close to the border of Wales. I know my paternal grandfather was born in Wales and his line goes back generations there. I also have Welsh ancestry through my paternal grandmother and likely some on my maternal side as well.
I do obviously have English ancestry and like most British people it is common to have Scandinavian DNA due to the Vikings. So in terms of my personal results in ethnicity Ancestry appears the most accurate, but why?
The simple answer is that AncestryDNA not only has the largest DNA sample base but they have also identified, uniquely, far more global regions than any of their competition. They have managed to determine DNA markers that are specific to Wales whereas Myheritage for example includes Wales Ireland and Scotland as one group.
When it comes to ethnicity estimates ancestry is currently the leader when it comes to producing more detailed results. Is this more accurate? Being more specific does not always mean more accurate because when it comes to ethnicity estimates the clue is in the name. They are estimates and are based on observing segments of your DNA that match those found in specific ethnic groups or regions.
The truth is no ethnicity estimate company can see the DNA that we didn’t inherit from some distant ancestor. As an example you might know your great-great-great grandfather was Italian but have no Italian DNA. This could be because you did not inherit any of his DNA. If it’s not there it can’t be found.
Sometimes DNA recombination can accidentally look like something else. I for instance was assessed as having 1% Native American DNA when I first tested. This has since disappeared from my estimate. The DNA didn’t change but the understanding of it did. Obviously this segment of DNA looked Native American in origin but later was determined to just be coincidental.
Those who have tested with multiple companies may have experienced circumstances where you match distantly with one person on one site but do not on another. Are you related to this person or not? This typically happens when the amount of DNA you share with an individual is very low so there can be a couple of reasons for this confusion.
As mentioned earlier different companies will sometimes look at different sections of your DNA. As such a small match found by one company may not be viewed by the other. This could mean you are distant cousins with this person but then again you may not be.
As with ethnicity estimates the companies are looking to match you to other users on the site based on segments of identical DNA. When these matches are low they can actually be purely coincidental. You may not share a common ancestor with this person even if you share a small amount of DNA.
So the question is, is any site more accurate than the others when it comes to our DNA matches. Well not really because we either share DNA with another person or we do not. The higher amount of DNA we share the more likely it is that we are related.
A large amount of shared DNA leaves no question whatsoever we are related to that person. Smaller amounts as mentioned may be coincidental but it is hard to be definitive about that.
You will find more matches on certain sites than others but that is simply because not everyone tests on all of the sites. Ancestry has far more customers in the DNA database so you will probably have more matches with them. This doesn’t mean they are more accurate, only that they have more customers and potential matches.
When it comes to the actual DNA test itself as long as it is from a reputable company the results are likely to be accurate. There really isn’t a standout company who is better at testing your DNA. Then accuracy comes into play when it comes to comparing your DNA with their respective databases.
The DNA is the same no matter which company you test with but they may look at different segments of your DNA for their comparison purposes. All companies are fairly accurate with determining family and cousin matches that share a reasonable amount of DNA. When it comes to ethnicity estimates AncestryDNA seem to be able to give a more detailed accounting of your genetic ethnicity than their competition.
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"What DNA Tests are the Most Accurate?". NameCensus.com. Accessed on June 4, 2023. https://namecensus.com/blog/what-dna-tests-are-the-most-accurate/.
"What DNA Tests are the Most Accurate?". NameCensus.com, https://namecensus.com/blog/what-dna-tests-are-the-most-accurate/. Accessed 4 June, 2023
What DNA Tests are the Most Accurate?. NameCensus.com. Retrieved from https://namecensus.com/blog/what-dna-tests-are-the-most-accurate/.