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How to Test Your DNA: Guide for Beginners

Are you interested in learning how to test your DNA? In this post, learn how to test your DNA, beginning with the basics – including how to choose a DNA test.

Maybe you want to test your DNA because you’ve seen one of those shows on TV, or maybe you just want to figure out where your red hair comes from. You might even be interested in using DNA as a helpful genealogy tool.

There are numerous reasons that people become interested in testing their DNA.

How to Test Your DNA_ Guide for Beginners

No matter what your reason, doing a DNA test is a simple and fun. It’s a great way to learn about your ancestry and even find new family members. 

Are you ready to learn more about testing your DNA?  Read more!

Which is the best DNA test?

The first step that you will take when thinking about taking a DNA test is choosing which DNA testing company you would like to use. You have several companies to choose from.

I first chose to use Ancestry DNA for testing my DNA.  I like the fact that they have a huge database of over 14 million testers.  This was perfect for helping me trace my difficult-to-track family tree. 

I also found a new first cousin of my mom’s – they never knew about each other!  We now have an amazing relationship and have visited each other even though we live on opposite sites of the country.

And I use Ancestry’s family tree building site, which is connected with Ancestry DNA, and it has made figuring out how my DNA matches are related to me pretty simple!

As of 2020, there are five major companies who do DNA testing for ancestry or heritage. All of the results can be used for genealogy, if that is your motivation for testing.

The top recommended DNA testing companies are as follows. Click on each company name to see example results: Ancestry DNA, Family Tree DNA, and 23 and Me, My Heritage DNA, and Living DNA.  Each company has it’s advantages and disadvantages. 

I cannot recommend any company that is not listed above, as these are the best companies with the most reputable products available.

The best way to choose a DNA testing company is to think about the reason that you want to take a test. The chart below will help you decide which test is best for you based on your motivation for testing your DNA:

Chart explaining the best DNA to take depending on your reason for wanting to do a DNA test
If you want to use your DNA results for genealogy, I highly recommend Ancestry DNA. If you are interested in health information along with learning about your ancestry, 23andMe is for you.

If you are ready to order your DNA test, you can use any of the links below. The sooner you order your kit, the more quickly you will be on your way to learning about all that your DNA can reveal about your ancestors.

(Read below for more about the next steps after you have ordered your DNA testing kit)

Visit the website of the company you decide to use, and order your kit. Note that Family Tree DNA offers more than one type of DNA test.  You only need to do the basic one, and on Family Tree DNA it’s called “Family Finder”). 

If you want to know more, you might be interested in my post called, “DNA Testing For Beginners: The Ultimate Strategy“.

Click here to buy the Understand Your DNA Results Ebook

How to test DNA for Ancestry

After you’ve chosen and ordered your DNA test, the fun begins. It’s not hard to test your DNA and the company that you ordered your kit from will include detailed instructions about how to send in your DNA sample.

There are currently two ways that DNA testing companies accept samples:

  • Saliva samples
  • Cheek swabs

Each company only accepts cheek swabs OR saliva samples:

  • My Heritage DNA (cheek swab)
  • 23andMe (saliva sample)
  • Ancestry DNA (saliva sample)
  • Living DNA (cheek swab)
  • Family Tree DNA (cheek swab)

Once your kit arrives, follow the instructions that come along with it.  It’s very easy to take a cheek swab or provide a saliva sample – I promise!

Just be sure to not eat or drink anything, or brush your teeth, for at least one hour prior to providing your sample.

Once you complete the instructions, pop the kit back in the mailbox.

Within 4-8 weeks, you will have your DNA results!  The companies will notify you via e-mail that your test results are ready.

While you are waiting for your DNA results to come back, I have a list of some things you can do while you are waiting. This will help you get the most from your DNA results once they come in:

 Check back with this website to learn how to understand your results and use them to find family and build your family tree.


I hope that this post has helped you understand the steps that you should take to test your DNA for ancestry. If you have any questions about something that you read in this post, I would love to hear from you in the discussion below.

Thanks for stopping by today!

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