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DNA Testing Comparison: DNA Tribes, DNA Heritage & GeneTree
What does the test involve?
No needles, no blood. You're given a swab which you use to wipe the inside of your cheek vigorously. You then send the swab to their labs for analysis.
Members of my family and I have tried the genetic ancestry tests from all 3 companies below (be sure to check out my comparison review of 23andMe and DecodeMe as well, which provide genetic health analysis alongside genealogical/ancestry information). Here's what I have to share on each. Depending on how much you're willing to spend and what questions you want answered, each could work for you:
- DNA Heritage - Their Y-SNP is only $129 and tells you the exact haplogroup (or specific ancestral group) of your patrilineal heritage (i.e. your father's father's father's father's....), along with an extremely detailed "history" of your haplogroup. Best for "ancestry geeks" and those looking for the most detail.
- DNA Tribes - This $200 kit gives you scores of likelihood of your ancestral group origins (the top 20 closest matches), but if your ethnic group is not in the database, you could get bizarre results.
- GeneTree - Their $240 test tells you simply the percentage (through your matrilineal side, or mother's mother's mother's....etc.) you are each of: African, Asian, Native American and European. So you'll get results saying, for instance, you're 57% European, 11% African, and 32% Asian.
DNA Heritage - Haplogroups
DNA Heritage offers the Y-SNP test (only for males, since it tests the Y chromosome, which is passed from father to son) and a matrilineal test that tests the X chromosome you received from your mother.
In both cases, the result they'll give you is your genetic haplogroup, which is basically your branch in the human evolutionary tree.
Example: R1a1 - predominant haplogroup in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, from Poland (56%) to Tajikistan (64%).
My father used DNA Heritage's test to confirm that he is of the general ethnic stock - European - he thought he was (in contrast to DNA Tribe's result - see below!). However, this particular haplogroup predominates in Ireland and Iberia, which suggests my great-umpteenth-grandfather was a Paleolithic hunter foraging for food somewhere in Galicia.
If you plan to take your ancestry hobby to the most precise possible, a haplogroup test (maybe on both your father's and mother's side) would help round out the picture for you.
Costs: Their Y-SNP (paternal; Y-chromosome) test costs $129, and their mtDNA (maternal; mitochondrial DNA) test costs $219.
Turnaround: However, it did take a full 3 months for my father to get his results, due to a supposed backlog at their labs. They normally promise 3 1/2 weeks.
DNA Tribes - Your top 20 closest ethnic group matches
DNA Tribes approaches the results differently, instead looking at your genetic makeup and seeing which specific ethnic group that they've gathered DNA results for provides the closest match for you.
3. Northeast China
4. China (Beijing)
This can give you, sometimes, very specific results. Friends of my parents, a Jewish couple, had this test done, and the results said the husband was Sephardic and that the wife was Ashkenazi (specific geographic Jewish subgroups).
The problem that can arise, which did occur in my father's case, is one of not having a match in their database. My father's ethnic group is traditionally very isolated, so the top 20 results were absolutely not even close to what he expected. DNA Tribes said that because my father's ethnic group is not in their database yet, the top 20 matches are fairly poor. He can pay another $25 to update his results once exact or closer matches show up in their database.
Costs: Their test costs $200.
Turnaround: They claim 2-3 weeks, and 3 weeks is what we observed.
GeneTree - Percentages of 4 broad racial groups
GeneTree offers a far simpler analysis ("Ancestry by DNA") using your mother's DNA. It just gives you your percentages of African, Asian, European and Native American blood.
17% Native American
My partner used this test which confirmed, more or less, what he knew about his mother's ethnic background.
There have been news stories of high school students using GeneTree (and similar companies') results to prove their have Native American (American Indian) blood, for scholarships.
There has also been something called "American Indian Princess Syndrome" among white women who find out they have no Native American blood on it, and call up GeneTree angrily demanding an explanation. (Apparently the Native American part is common family folklore, grounded in wishful thinking more than anything else, for many people).
Costs: The AncestrybyDNA test costs $240.
Turnaround: It took a while to get the results back in - about 2 months.