If you’re planning to do a DNA test, hundreds of DNA testing labs are eager to take your money. Some of them are worth every penny they charge for their services. But many more are not.
In my adoption search quest I used several types of DNA testing labs. So I learned a lot during that time. And I’ve acquired even more knowledge since I decided to create this web site.
Except for some introductory and concluding topics, I have organized the balance of this page by DNA test type. If you’re not interested in some types, just scroll down until you find the type you need.
Sample Collection Methods
Today, most DNA testing labs use DNA samples from your mouth. Methods include DNA swabs to collect cells from inside your cheek, and spit tubes or mouthwash to collect saliva. Blood testing is no longer necessary.
For many tests, you don’t even have to come into a lab. Home DNA tests are widely used, except as noted below.
The parent-child relationship is the closest one possible. As a result, paternity testing can tell you that a man is a child’s father with 99.99% certainty. If DNA testing shows that a man is not the father, you can be 100% certain of that fact.
Situations involving child custody and child support, plus inheritance and immigration require legal paternity tests. In those cases the courts require all parties to show up in person at the DNA testing labs. Then lab personnel will confirm each person’s identity, collect the samples, and follow a legal chain of custody process through analysis and reporting.
Home DNA test kits for paternity testing are available. But you should only use them when the test is solely for personal knowledge. Tests done at home are not legal paternity tests.
For paternity tests (and the less common maternity tests) you should choose an AABB-accredited laboratory. AABB is the American Association of Blood Banks. Even though DNA testing labs rarely use blood anymore, this organization still ensures laboratory quality.
Another certification to look for is ISO 17025. This is the global standard for the technical competence of calibration and testing labs.
Recommended Lab for Paternity Testing
can search for a lab that does paternity tests and meets these
standards. The following lab meets every standard and is the one I recommend for any form of paternity testing:
If you need a legal test, then the location of a convenient testing site can be an important factor. If the tested parties are in different locations, choosing a company like the one above, which has a large network of sampling sites, can minimize travel expenses
Close Relationship Testing
If the parents are not available for paternity/maternity testing, you may still be able to determine whether or not two people are related. For example, I knew my father was one of five brothers. By comparing my DNA with that of a child from each brother, I was able to determine which man was my father.
In addition to siblings and half siblings, you can do relationship testing to confirm grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Since you will need two test kits, price is an important factor. The least expensive DNA test for checking close relationships is 23andMe.
For additional options see the Relationship Testing page of this web site.
Family Tree DNA Testing
Ethnic or Ancient Ancestry Testing
Doing a paternal line Y-DNA test or a maternal line mtDNA test with Family Tree DNA will reveal your ancient ancestry by predicting your haplogroup.
To measure the ethnic contribution of all your more recent ancestors, the new SNP-based autosomal DNA tests can tell you a lot. The Family Finder test includes a report called Population Finder. Similarly, the 23andMe test includes a report called Ancestry Composition.
To learn more about these tests and the DNA testing labs that offer them, see my Ethnic DNA Testing page.
Finally…Customer Service Matters
No matter what type of DNA testing you are considering, look closely at each company’s ability to provide personal customer service. Ideally, they should have a published telephone number where you can reach real people to answer your questions before and after you order a test.
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