How Does A Home DNA Test Work?

This post may contain affiliate links. I will earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through an affiliate link.​

The Two Types Of Home DNA Testing

Home DNA test kits can be divided up into two types: one is a typical paternity test. These are quite common and are used in order to determine whether or not you and another person are a genetic match.

This test only really has two outcomes – you’re either a match, or you aren’t. The second test offers the user a lot more information: the test is used to help you to discover ‘DNA relatives’, as well as learn about your ancestry and your genetic make-up.

This amount of information can also enable the test to inform you of any risk of conditions that your genetic make-up seems more naturally prone to, allowing you to adapt and prepare as necessary. 

How does a home dna test work?

What Information Can I Get From A Home DNA Test Kit?

Home DNA tests can provide you with two different kinds of information! 

The first type of information that they can provide you with is information about your ancestry. Your ancestry information tells you how your DNA has previously been distributed across the world, and as a result, where your DNA comes from.

This information can also sometimes be used to connect you to other people that your DNA has a close match with, although this will usually be something you can choose to opt-in to.

The second bit of information you can obtain from these kits is information about your health. If you are more likely to have a disability or health condition, this can sometimes be identified through these types of test kits.

This information may include whether or not you are more at risk for specific conditions, such as diseases like Alzheimer’s or cancer, as well as problems with your heart.

Tracing Your Ancestry With A Home DNA Test Kit

Companies that offer home test kits may use software such as algorithms that break down and look at small pieces of your DNA.

These pieces of DNA will then be used against references, like discussed earlier, to identify differences between your DNA and the reference DNA (obtained from people all across the world).

If there are certain similarities between your DNA and reference DNA from a specific area or population identified throughout this process, it can then be assumed that this DNA is largely derived from this area or group of people. 

What Is Genotyping?

Genotyping is a process that is used to observe differences within people’s genetics. This is done by using a reference genotype and using this reference as a baseline to identify differences between the reference and another genotype.

Genotyping allows us to see whether certain genetic make-ups can be more at risk for different health conditions. It’s also our genotypes that are responsible for how tall we are, what our hair color is, and whether our eyes are brown or blue, among many others.

Each individual human’s genotype is unique, but also eerily similar. This means that genotyping is a really interesting process, and can help us to learn a lot about who we are as a species, as well as who we are as individuals. 

How To Obtain A Home DNA Test

With DNA testing becoming more and more popular, there are a large number of companies that now offer kits similar to the second test described above. All you need to do is choose one of these testing services, complete their sign up and wait for your test to appear in the post.

Everything that you need in order to complete the test will be included with this. These types of tests will usually include a unique identifier, which you will need to register online.

This ensures that the lab will know whose test kit it is, and make sure that it doesn’t get lost or get misplaced. 

Providing A DNA Sample

These tests will usually ask you to provide your DNA using a saliva sample, however, some will ask you to provide a blood sample (by pricking your finger) instead.

The tests that require saliva typically require you to abstain from smoking, eating, or drinking for at least half an hour before you take the test. Then, all you will need to do is spit into the tube and seal it up as required!

Home DNA testing swab and test tube

What Does The Lab Do With My Sample When They Get It?

Your saliva contains DNA, so the lab that your sample is sent to will work to extract this DNA from your saliva. This sample of your saliva will then be coped multiple times so that it can be genotyped, through something called ‘amplification’.

The saliva is copied so many times because in a small quantity, it is hard to obtain the information they need from it, so through amplification they are able to create more material to work with, and as a result, give you more accurate results. 

What If My Sample Gets Misplaced Or Mixed Up?

It is extremely unlikely that your sample will be mixed up with anybody else’s sample or misplaced.

This is because the companies that provide these tests understand the confidential and personal nature of the services they provide, so the last thing that they would want to do is break any of their customer’s trust by taking bad care of their samples.

As a result, these companies will have secure, foolproof procedures in place, as well as ample employee training, to take care of your sample and make sure that this does not happen. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Are The Results Accurate?

Yes, for the most part, Home DNA test kits are fairly accurate. This is because, for health reporting, the FDA regulates them.

The only reason there may be a potential error is if there were issues with the sample, such as contamination, mistaken identification, or error whilst undergoing testing. 

What’s A DNA Relative?

A DNA relative is someone that shares the same DNA as you. These may be people that use the same DNA testing service as you, and as a result, you may have the opportunity to find a new relative!

Does My Sex Affect My Results?

Yes, your sex may affect your results. This is because there are potential health risks that your report might inform you of, such as prostate cancer or cervical cancer, that are based on sex.

What Do They Do With My DNA Data Afterward?

You can choose whether to allow the company that you tested your DNA with to use the information that they have found within their research programs. This might be something that you choose to support, as your data may help with medical research.

The only time that your data will be shared with anyone without your consent, would be if law enforcement has a requirement for it, as they will need to comply with any court orders. 

Use these genealogy forms to stay organized as you discover your family history!

Get more of our favorite resources here!