5-MINUTE EXPERT:

Your guide to ancestry and genealogy kits

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Thu, Sep 13, 2018 (2 a.m.)

Maybe you’re hoping to discover more about that great-great grandfather you’ve always heard stories of. Or maybe you look around the table at every holiday dinner and think, “Am I really related to these people?”

Either way, there are kits and sites designated to help you find an answer, and they are only becoming more popular and accessible.

In 2017 alone, the number of genetic testing kits purchased doubled to 12 million, and since, it is estimated that one in 25 adults have looked for their ancestry or swabbed their cheek to find out more about their personal history.

Ready to find new branches hanging off your family tree? We’ve got the guide for you.

Looking for less expensive options?

Try these for just building out family trees.

■ FamilySearch

■ HeritageQuest Online

■ Cyndi’s List

Ancestry

Cost: Minimum monthly membership $19.99/maximum $44.99

How it works

• Family history: Ancestry has the largest access to records, with more than 20 billion from 80 countries of origin. You begin by building your tree with birth and death dates of family members, starting with your closest relatives and extending outward. Ancestry provides little green leaves that act as hints and reveal more detailed information about someone you may be related to.

The level of information you can access is based on the monthly membership you choose. For instance, if you want to look at records from around the world, you’d have to upgrade to a “World Explorer” membership for $34.99 a month. If you want to review old newspapers and military records the membership is $44.99 a month.

• DNA testing: Ancestry sends instructions and a tube to collect your saliva, which you mail back to their labs. The site estimates genetics from 350 ethnic regions, making it much more accurate than many cheaper sites.

Pros

• Through the site you can hire a genealogy expert, guaranteeing some discovery.

• Ancestry has an app, making it easy to access on your phone.

Cons

• There are hiccups when it comes to adding divorced parents or relatives with multiple marriages. You can note divorce but cannot add other spouses. If you have someone you considered family and want to know more about their family, you must try a separate search.

Concerned about privacy?

DNA tests have very specific licensing agreements. For some companies, your DNA results are royalty-free worldwide and can be used in research reports. Read the small print. If you’re looking for privacy, it’s going to require more searching before clicking “I agree.”

23AndMe

Cost: $99 for ancestry service, $199 health and ancestry service

How it works

23AndMe does not have you build a family tree or search a network of family members. Instead, you select one of two kit options—a request for information about your genetics or a request for you genetics plus medical predictions. You then spit into a tube registered to a personal barcode and mail it back. 23andMe sends your sample to their CLIA-certified lab, where DNA is extracted from your cells and processed on a genotyping chip that reads hundreds of thousands of locations in your genome. This takes six to eight weeks. Once your results are ready, you receive report about your ancestry, family matches and genetic health risks, such as cystic fibrosis, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

Pros

• 23andMe has one of the largest databases.

• Based on your genes, they can tell you what sports you may favor, physical strengths and weaknesses, and diseases you may be prone to.

• You can download your raw DNA file and share it with other companies as well.

Cons

• More about self-discovery related to medical traits and history rather than detailed family origins.

Happy reunions

Since the rise of DNA and ancestry sites, there has also been an increase in connections found because of the services. Message boards, videos and subject lines read “father found after 44 years” and “half-brother found and embraced with open arms!”

MyHeritage

Cost: Minimum monthly membership $9.95/maximum: $14.95

How it works

MyHeritage is a genealogy website that searches about 9 billion resources to help build (and find) branches of your family tree. If you’re solely looking to build out your family tree, you can do this on MyHeritage without a membership. With a monthly membership, you can view birth, marriage and death certificates, census data, military, immigration and legal information. There’s even access to find photos of newspapers, yearbooks, photos, maps and more.

DNA testing: MyHeritage also offers a DNA testing option for an additional $69. After purchasing a kit, you send in a cheek swab back for results within four weeks. The results have an ethnicity breakdown from 42 regions.

Pros

• MyHeritage is less expensive than other options with a decent-sized database.

• There is a “show neighbors” option, so if you’re curious about who lived next to you as a child, you can search for them.

• The old yearbook feature lets you dive into the days of permed hair and acne.

Cons

• You’re required to pay for a year subscription even though costs are broken down monthly. If you’re hoping to discover people throughout the year, this may not be an issue.

• The cheek swab is slightly less effective than a saliva sample.

This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.

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