Living DNA Review
Looking for a DNA test to discover your family roots and expand your family tree?
Living DNA (see latest price) is one of the several companies that offer genealogical DNA testing. Each company has its own great features, and Living DNA is no exception.
DNA testing is a great way to help move forward with your family tree research. It can give you vital clues about where your ancestors came from, how they migrated through time, and even connect you with distant family members who are alive today.
DNA Testing Offered by Living DNA
There are three different types of DNA testing that can be used for genealogy, and Living DNA offers all three bundled into one single test.
Autosomal DNA makes up most of the DNA in every cell of your body.
Half of your autosomal DNA comes from each of your parents. They each got half of their DNA from their parents, and so on back through time.
This type of testing tells you a lot about your recent ancestors but gives very limited information once you go back past five to eight generations.
Mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA, is made up of much smaller strands of DNA that support cell function.
It is passed on directly from a mother to each of her children and changes very, very little in each generation.
That means that your mtDNA can tell you about your direct maternal line (that is, your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother, and so) back for 20, 50, even 100 generations or more.
YDNA looks specifically at the 23rd chromosome, the last little piece of DNA found in all of your cells.
The YDNA test looks only at Y-chromosomes, which are found only in males and inherited directly from father to son.
Women do not have a Y-chromosome, so this test only applies to men. It lets you trace back your direct paternal line for many generations.
Living DNA Versus the Competition
You have several options for having genealogical DNA testing done. Here are some considerations to look at when deciding on a company.
We talk about some basic comparisons below, but for more complete comparisons check out our guide to DNA testing.
LivingDNA vs FamilyTreeDNA
FamilyTreeDNA offers all three DNA tests, but you have to get each one done separately. That means it is going to cost you more than testing with Living DNA.
The mtDNA and YDNA tests done by FamilyTreeDNA are more extensive, meaning a higher level of accuracy.
So if those two tests are your main concern, Family Tree DNA might be a better choice.
However, the tests done by Living DNA are a great starting place for an affordable price.
Also, Living DNA’s autosomal DNA test provides a more detailed breakdown of ethnic ancestry than FamilyTreeDNA.
FamilyTreeDNA offers a matching function where they’ll show you possible cousins who have also done a DNA test. Living DNA has not added this feature yet.
See our complete FamilyTreeDNA review here.
LivingDNA vs 23andMe
Both Living DNA and 23andMe bundle all three types of DNA tests into a single test.
However, 23andMe goes into very little detail when it comes to your YDNA and mtDNA results.
23andMe does offer the unique feature of an optional health screening based on your DNA that no other company offers.
Because a lot of people use 23andMe for health screening, a good chunk of customers choose not to share their personal information or family trees which can be frustrating for genealogy.
When it comes to using your results for genealogy, the reports you get back from Living DNA are going to be more useful.
See our complete 23andMe review here.
LivingDNA vs AncestryDNA
Living DNA’s test provides you with results for autosomal, mtDNA, and (if you’re male) YDNA all in one package, while AncestryDNA only tests autosomal DNA.
Living DNA’s autosomal test also breaks your ethnicity results down into nearly three times as many regions as AncestryDNA, including 21 individual regions for the British Isles.
On the other hand, AncestryDNA lets you connect your results to your Ancestry.com account, which offers a wealth of resources, but also requires a paid subscription.
Ancestry offers the most extensive matching function where they’ll show you possible cousins who have also done a DNA test. Living DNA has not added this feature yet.
See our complete AncestryDNA review here.
Taking the Test
Getting your DNA tested with Living DNA is about as easy as it gets.
Begin by ordering your kit from the Living DNA website.
It will arrive in about 5 to 7 days (2 to 3 days if you pay for express shipping).
Once your kit arrives, you need to go online and link the kit’s unique barcode to your account on the Living DNA website so that you can receive and view your results.
The kit comes with a cheek swab and a simple set of directions. You will swab the inside of your cheek and seal the swab in the vial provided.
Then all you have to do is apply the prepaid shipping label to your kit and drop it in the mail.
Anyone can get tested, regardless of their age. Because the kit uses a cheek swab, rather than a saliva collection vial used by some companies, it can even be used to test infants.
It is incredibly easy, and only takes a couple of minutes from the time you open your kit until you seal it up and ship it off again.
Getting Your Results Back
It takes about 10 to 12 weeks to get your results back from Living DNA, so you might as well keep digging into your roots while you wait.
When your results are ready, Living DNA will send you an email to let you know.
You can then access your results directly through the Living DNA website. The website has a variety of tools and helps files to make sure you get the most out of your DNA test.
Unlike most companies, you also have the option of ordering a personalized ancestry book.
This provides you with the same information that you can access through the website in a format that is handy, permanent, and easy to flip through again and again.
Unfortunately, there is an extra fee to order the ancestry book, but it makes a great addition to your genealogy bookshelf.
What Your Results Will Tell You
Obviously, before you go to the trouble and expense of having a genealogical DNA test done, it’s important to know just what the test is going to tell you.
Because the Living DNA test is a bundle of three tests (two, if you’re female), it will provide you with more than one set of information.
The autosomal DNA test gives you an estimated profile of your ethnicity for every line of your ancestry (not just direct maternal and paternal).
The mtDNA and YDNA tests trace single ancestral lines very far back through time and tell you your haplogroups.
As mentioned above, your haplogroup information will not be as specific as with FamilyTreeDNA who have dedicated tests for both yDNA and mtDNA.
Let’s take a closer look at what that all means.
When the same group of people lives in the same area for several generations, they tend to marry and have children with other members of the same group, and their DNA begins to look similar after a while.
Their DNA also begins to look distinct from any other groups around them. That is the basis for ethnicity.
Your ethnicity profile can help identify where your ancestors lived based on your DNA. Once you know where they lived, you know where to go looking for them.
Living DNA breaks the world down into 80 separate regions, two to three times more than any other company.
The more precise the region, the better your results can narrow down where you ought to be concentrating your search.
In particular, the Living DNA test can be especially useful for performing research in the British Isles. Most companies lump the British Isles together into one or two regions, but Living DNA breaks it down into 21 distinct regions. That means a whole lot less ground to cover during your search.
Native American Heritage
Many Americans want to know if they have Native Americans in their family tree. Your ethnicity profile can tell you if you do, and roughly what percentage of your ancestry might be Native American.
However, there is no way that it can identify a specific tribe. For that, you still have to rely on good old-fashioned research.
A man passes on the same YDNA to every one of his sons, and a woman passes on the same mtDNA to all of her children.
Over the course of 50 generations or more, that can add up to many millions of people who share the same YDNA or mtDNA. These are called haplogroups.
A haplogroup is essentially a group of people who are all descended from the same male ancestor (for YDNA haplogroups) or the same female ancestor (for mtDNA haplogroups).
Because YDNA and mtDNA change so slowly over time, that common ancestor could have lived thousands of years ago.
And because humans migrated slowly throughout most of history, that lets researchers track how each of these haplogroups moved through time.
That means they can give you a good idea of not just where your ancestors lived, but when they lived there.
As we mentioned above, Living DNA does not provide you with any medical information based on your test.
In fact, the only company that does offer both genealogical and medical testing is 23andMe. Click here for more information about 23andMe.
How Accurate Are the Results?
Nothing based on human behavior is an exact science.
For most of our history, humans moved slowly, often living their entire lives within a few miles of where they were born.
But sometimes rapid migration happens (to escape war, for example). And with the European rediscovery of North and South America and the vast improvements in transportation over the last 200 years, people are moving all over the world at an unprecedented rate.
That makes it impossible for any genetic test to tell you 100% where your ancestors lived.
Even if it could, you are still looking at large regions most of the time. So while your results are based on comparisons to millions of other tests, including those with well-established family trees, they are still estimates.
The good news is that the more people take genealogical DNA tests, the more accurate they become. If better information does become available, your results will be updated on the Living DNA website.
Finding Your Family
One of the best reasons to have a genealogical DNA test done is that it can help you connect with living relatives, often out to third, fourth, or fifth cousins.
Because they share some of the same ancestors as you, there’s a good chance they are researching some of the same family lines.
It can also be a great way (and perhaps the only way) to find your birth family if you are adopted, or to learn more about a recent ancestor who was adopted.
One of the biggest drawbacks to testing through Living DNA is that they do not currently offer any way to contact your relatives. They are working on adding that feature, but it isn’t available yet.
But that doesn’t mean you have to get tested by another company.
You can download the raw data from your test with Living DNA and upload it to another website such as GedMatch.
That lets you enjoy all the benefits of both services, including FamilyTreeDNA’s excellent tools for finding and contacting relatives.
They will never sell your information or share it with another company without your express permission.
Their testing laboratory never even sees your name, just your kit’s barcode number. As long as you keep your Living DNA online account secure, you can be confident that your results are safe.
What Does All This Cost?
The list price for the Living DNA test bundle is $159, but pricing tends to fluctuate so be sure to check the latest price here.
Shipping costs an additional $9.95 for standard delivery or $39.95 for express delivery.
The fee covers the cost of the kit, shipping to you, shipping from you to the lab, and processing.
This is a one-time fee, with no subscriptions or maintenance fees or anything else, and you can access your results as long and as often as you want.
Buying as a Gift
You can multiply the benefits of having a genealogical DNA test done by getting your relatives tested as well.
Unless you are an identical twin, no one in the world, not even your siblings, has the same DNA.
By having your relatives tested, you can get a complete picture of your family’s genetic past.
Because the Living DNA test covers direct maternal and paternal lines, the more relatives you have tested, the more lines are likely to be covered, revealing even more about your past.
Like most companies, Living DNA makes it easy to order their test kit as a gift.
You can either have it shipped to you or directly to the person being tested. There’s no specific deadline for using the kit, so you can do your gift shopping early and order them a month or two in advance.
The kits can be used by anyone. They aren’t linked to a specific person until they are activated.
So you don’t even have to worry about which kit you ordered for which person. And if you have a relative who decides not to get tested, you can always give the kit to someone else.
Genealogical DNA testing offers some great benefits to anyone who wants to know more about their family tree.
Living DNA’s combined test is one of the most affordable on the market today. It is especially powerful for narrowing down where your ancestors lived, even more so if they came from the British Isles.
Check out Living DNA’s website today at www.livingdna.com to see what they can do for you.