Ancestry Testing Reviews for 23andMe

Kit
App
Prices start at £79.00

At a Glance

Editor's Rating:
Customer Service:
Clarity of Results:
References Cited:
Value for Money:

Screenshots

Summary

In summary, the genetic ancestry test from 23andMe was excellent. All the interactive features were beautifully displayed, easy to use, and there were a dozen more tools compared to the other ancestry providers I've tried.

The Neanderthal section was an unexpected highlight, and I was impressed by the scientific details accompanying each result. The abundance of diagrams and explanations also made the report easy and enjoyable to go through.

I haven’t seen any other test that provides such a wide range of information about DNA relatives, which was both fun and informative, though I thought the vagueness of the relationship estimates let this section down a little. Overall however, this test is great value for money and I would definitely recommend it.

Full Review

23andMe are one of the largest DNA testing services in the world, with over two million genotyped members. I was intrigued to see what their test would tell me about my genetic ancestry compared to the others I've tried.

Please note that reviews for the health-related aspects of the test can be found here.

Product Expectations

I was told the test would cover my maternal and paternal ancestry using over 750 maternal and 500 paternal lineages. I’d also find out how many Neanderthal genetic variants I had, and would be shown what proportion of my DNA comes from various populations around the world. I’d be able to break down my European ancestry by region, contact living relatives in the 23andMe database, and even build an extended family tree. Unfortunately, the exact regions that were used for the test weren't listed on the main product page, but I was able to find out by searching 'Reference populations' in the help section, that the test would compare my DNA to 31 reference populations from around the world, all of which were listed.

I really appreciated being able to preview what I should expect to find in my kit in the 'How it works' section. There was also a three minute video which gave a thorough explanation of how they would test my DNA and interpret it to provide me with results. All of this was helpful and made me feel a lot more prepared for taking the test.

Ordering Experience

The ordering process was really straightforward - I received the kit within three working days via DHL, and was glad to see that the return DHL cost had been paid. I had to return the sample from a DHL Express location which was a little inconvenient, but after sending it off, 23andMe confirmed receipt in under a week.

The Results

An email indicated my results were ready eight weeks later in an online account. On signing in I was shown a ‘Recommended for You’ section which contained a few of my abridged results, a ‘Featured Content’ section with links to surveys and video resources, and a 'research' section that prompted me to answer survey questions.

Results Section: Ancestry Composition

The first section I looked at contained an 'Ancestry Composition' breakdown. This was displayed on a map (shown below), and it then went on to reveal that my DNA was 100% European: 74.8% British & Irish, 4.9% French & German, 0.6% Scandinavian, 17.4% Broadly Northwestern European, 1.9% Ashkenazi Jewish and 0.5% Broadly European.

My Ancestry Composition map.

My Ancestry Composition map.

I was also able to view this information as a proportion of each of my 23 pairs of chromosomes, which was accompanied by a more detailed breakdown of the different populations. This provided another effective way of visualising these results and made it easier to understand how they had been worked out.

For some of the ethnicities identified in my Ancestry Composition, a further diagram showed me the approximate time period in which my most recent ancestor had likely lived. This added an extra level of detail that helped me to better understand my ethnicity breakdown and made its connection to my ancestors clearer.

There was a lot more to explore than I had expected in this section. I felt that I’d gotten a really in depth insight into my ancestry and how it linked to my genetic ethnicity.

Results Section: DNA Relatives

The ‘DNA Relatives’ section wasn’t grouped with the rest of the Ancestry results, instead being classed as a tool. It showed I have 1234 DNA relatives in the 23andMe database.

All of these relatives were displayed in a list and I was able to see quite a lot of information about them, including their ethnicity breakdown, the percentage of DNA we shared and on which segments our DNA matched. Additionally, I could contact them in order to ask for further details.

I was slightly disappointed to find that my closest relative was estimated to be a ‘Third to Fifth Cousin’ which, as well as being quite a distant relationship, was a bit of a broad classification.

The DNA Relatives section had another great feature, which allowed me to focus on a smaller selection of my long list of matches, to compare them to each other and myself. I was able to pick up to five matches, each of which was assigned a different colour. This allowed me to look over all of my chromosomes to see where the segments I shared with each match were located, and whether any were the same. Hovering over these coloured regions provided detailed information about the segments, including the genomic position, genetic distance and SNPs. This information was a bit too complex for me, but I imagine that it might be helpful for someone more experienced and/or with a more serious interest in genealogy.

Results Section: DNA Family

There was another part of the report that provided information about my DNA relatives, the DNA Family section. Instead of adding more details about individual matches, this part of the report gave me an overview of the people I shared DNA with.

These results started with a diagram (shown below) that displayed how many matches I had that were estimated to be ‘Close Family to Second Cousins’, ‘Third to Fourth Cousins’ and ‘Fifth to Distant Cousins’.

My DNA Family relationship diagram.

My DNA Family relationship diagram.

I thought this was a really nice way of displaying my matches and it gave a much better overview than looking through the extensive list in the DNA Relatives section. The only thing that I found a bit frustrating was that I couldn’t go on to see exactly who was included in each category, just the number of matches in each.

This section went on to show two maps, one of which showed where in the world my matches lived and another showing in which states my US ones were located. I thought that it was a bit of a shame that even though I'd bought the UK version and paid in GBP, there was no UK map included.

I was also given an overall ethnicity breakdown, showing how many of my matches had at least 1% of each of the genetic ethnicities identified by the test.

These were all great features, but my favourite was definitely the list of some of the traits and experiences that, as a group, we were more likely to share. A part of this list is shown below.

My DNA Family traits and experiences.

My DNA Family traits and experiences.

It was interesting to see that my matches and I seemed to be a lot less likely to carry out big challenges, such as running a marathon. Maybe it was because of our higher likelihood of having differently sized feet!

Results Section: Haplogroups

The ‘Maternal Haplogroup’ and ‘Paternal Haplogroup’ sections revealed that I was in paternal haplogroup 'R-U152’, which was a subgroup of R-M269 and that my maternal haplogroup was H1. I wasn’t really sure what these apparently random set of letters and numbers meant, but fortunately there was a short and straightforward explanation beneath my result. I learnt that a haplogroup was a selection of people descended from a common ancestor on either their maternal or paternal side of the family who therefore share a specific set of genetic variants.

The result also came with a map (my maternal one is shown below), that showed the migratory routes of my ancient ancestors.

The map showing the migratory paths of my maternal ancestors.

The map showing the migratory paths of my maternal ancestors.

As well as displaying my result in such a visual way, this map provided extra information, going through all the haplogroups that had led to mine, the oldest of which (L) dated to around 180,000 years ago! The next section went on to explain that although H1 was common, (1 in 17 23andMe users were assigned it), it wasn’t seen in large numbers outside of Europe, except in a group of nomadic Libyan people. It also went through a bit of the science, explaining how my mitochondrial DNA had been analysed to determine my maternal haplogroup and my Y DNA had been for my paternal one. I found all of this really interesting to read about and felt that I had a gained an all round understanding of my haplogroups.

Results Section: Neanderthal Ancestry

The ‘Neanderthal Ancestry’ section of the report revealed that I had 265 Neanderthal genetic variants. Apparently this is less than 69% of other 23andMe customers and accounts for less than 4% of my overall DNA. I was fascinated to discover that Homo sapiens mixed with Neanderthals tens of thousands of years ago, and that our DNA reveals the extent to which they contributed to our genetic ancestry. It was really fun to see the actual characteristics that might have been influenced by Neanderthal DNA too (shown below).

Characteristics influenced by Neanderthal DNA.

Characteristics influenced by Neanderthal DNA.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any of the variants that were associated with these characteristics, but there was plenty more to discover in this section. As well as the percentage of 23andMe users that had more Neanderthal variants than me, I found out that the person with the most had 397. There was also a timeline that went through how the Neanderthals had ended up mixing with Homo sapiens and how they evolved and eventually died out.

Overall, this was definitely one of my favourite parts of the report. It added something extra and fun and also taught me about the ancient history of humans, putting the rest of my ancestry results into perspective.

Summary

In summary, the genetic ancestry test from 23andMe was excellent. All the interactive features were beautifully displayed, easy to use, and there were a dozen more tools compared to the other ancestry providers I've tried.

The Neanderthal section was an unexpected highlight, and I was impressed by the scientific details accompanying each result. The abundance of diagrams and explanations also made the report easy and enjoyable to go through.

I haven’t seen any other test that provides such a wide range of information about DNA relatives, which was both fun and informative, though I thought the vagueness of the relationship estimates let this section down a little. Overall however, this test is great value for money and I would definitely recommend it.

Click here to visit the 23andMe website to learn more about their DNA test.

Index

  • Summary
  • Full Review
  • Product Expectations
  • Ordering Experience
  • The Results
  • Results Section: Ancestry Composition
  • Results Section: DNA Relatives
  • Results Section: DNA Family
  • Results Section: Haplogroups
  • Results Section: Neanderthal Ancestry
  • Summary