HomeDNA Ancestry Test Kits – How precise can you map?

HomeDNA Ancestry Test Kit Review

HomeDNA ancestry test kit is a service that uses defined gene pools to pinpoint where your DNA has traveled. Learn more in our HomeDNA ancestry test kit review!

Fiyin Ebemidayo, B.S.

Results
Price
Interface

Summary

HomeDNA Ancestry test kits provide interesting information regarding ancestor migration patterns but lacks in depth information and is unable to track specific relatives. The map interface is fun and intuitive. However, the price is relatively expensive for the information provided and requires separate purchases for African and Asian ethnicities.

4

This review is written with the intent to be as unbiased as possible. However, it represents the opinion of an individual reviewer and is therefore subjective. Furthermore, at Nebula Genomics we seek to educate the public about the benefits of Whole Genome Sequencing. Information about our Whole Genome Sequencing DNA test is therefore incorporated into the review.

January 18, 2022

7 Facts from our HomeDNA Ancestry Test Kits Review

  1. Location: Fairfield, OH
  2. Products: 7 different tests for customers to learn about different aspects of their ancestry, pinpointing the country or even town level
  3. Cost: $69 to $199
  4. Reports: Origin maps, gene pool estimates, and detailed migration map
  5. How it works: Customers purchase tests either online or in store, send their DNA, and receive reports through a secure online portal
  6. Raw Data Access: Yes, but only with some of the tests
  7. Alternative Products: Nebula Genomics (30x whole genome sequencing) is a genomic profiling test that decodes all the information on your genome. The test reads 6 million+ positions on your genome and provides all the information you need to know about them.

HomeDNA Introduction

HomeDNA wants its customers to gain insights into their health and well being to help improve quality of life. All of its tests can be taken from home, eliminating the need for a doctor’s visit. Their mission is to give their customers power over all the information available in their DNA by making at-home DNA testing accessible and affordable. 

HomeDNA offers high quality tests
HomeDNA offers high quality tests

Their lab, DNA Diagnostic Center (DDC), was established in 1995. The company has been offering DNA testing for over 20 years and has processed about 10 million DNA samples from 168 countries. The company also gives back to communities through the Innocence Project. This project uses DNA evidence to help exonerate individuals wrongly incarcerated.

It has several types of DNA tests, including paternity tests, forensics, HomeDNA skin care, dog DNA tests, and ancestry. This review focuses on the HomeDNA DNA test for ancestry.

Did you know that most ancestry tests decode only 0.02% of your DNA? At Nebula Genomics, we offer affordable Whole Genome Sequencing! This DNA test decodes 100% of your autosomal DNA, mitochondrial DNA, and the Y chromosome. Whole Genome Sequencing will enable you to learn more about your ancestry and family connections than any other DNA test! Click here to learn more!

The Science Behind HomeDNA Ancestry Test Kits

HomeDNA offers several ancestry test kits based on the information being sought by the customer. Unlike other testing companies which only provide broad ethnic percentages, HomeDNA ancestry test kits identify DNA origins (not individuals) to a precise location.

The company claims to pinpoint your ancestry by comparing your sample with 80,000 autosomal genetic markers, 1,000+ reference populations, and 41 gene pools. These are defined as the collective set of genetic information within a distinct region where populations had limited interactions with populations from outside the group for up to about 20,000 or 60,000 years. Gene pools became mixed at different points in history through events such as migration or invasion. 

Other genetic tests give broad estimates of ethnicity based on where fragments of your DNA formed within countries or continents. HomeDNA provides more precise locations by leveraging unique DNA markers to pinpoint specific places where your DNA was formed. Through this tracking, it can make very precise migration routes. 

The science is based on a unique model of how populations formed. Other DNA tests base their DNA analysis on the idea that humans branched from a small number of populations that changed over time. HomeDNA views human populations as mixed from 41 global gene pools. This method allows the company to capture historical events that pinpoint your ancestors to particular locations in human history. 

The different ancestry tests may focus on autosomal DNA, Y DNA, or mtDNA. The algorithm was developed at the University of Sheffield in 2016, led by the research team of Dr. Eran Elhaik. Dr. Elhaik also collaborated on an early version of the technology in 2012 called Geno 2.0 on behalf of the National Geographic Society.

Taking a HomeDNA Ancestry Test Kit

A customer can order any of the DNA test kits online, except for the Advanced Ancestry test, after creating an account and the test kit will be delivered to their home. The Advanced Ancestry version must be purchased at a retail store, such as CVS or Walgreen.

The first thing you should do after receiving the test is to register your kit on your account. The kits come with easy-to-follow instructions and a collection tube for the cheek swab sample. Customers ship the sample back to the lab in the prepaid envelope provided.

HomeDNA Ancestry testing kit
HomeDNA Ancestry testing kit

Customers will be notified via email when their DNA test results are ready on the secure online account, usually 6 weeks after the sample arrives at the lab. 

Review of HomesDNA Products

HomeDNA offers seven different ancestry testing products, based on the type of information. Customers can also upload their raw DNA data from 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, and AncestryDNA to create a new, unique ancestry report based on the GPS origins test. Results are usually complete within 24 hours. 

Due to changes in their algorithms, the company cannot accept 23andMe Version 5 data, or FamilyTree DNA versions after November, 2018.

GPS Origin Ancestry Test

This test checks your DNA to determine where your family DNA is from and how your distinctive DNA pattern changed over time by cross-referencing your DNA with over 1,000 population groups and 80,000 genetic markers. Customers receive a detailed DNA report about where their family’s DNA originated and how their unique DNA signature migrated over time.

This is an autosomal DNA test, which means it traces both the maternal and paternal lineages and can target locations down to the town or village level. It also includes historical context by providing stories about what happened at specific locations in which your DNA changed dramatically.

GPS Origin Ancestry Test Asian Edition

This test offers the same features as the GPA Origin Ancestry Test. Out of the 41 gene pools, it focuses on 11 African–specific gene pools and ancestry markers from more than 100 African populations. The gene pools included are:

  • The Kalahari
  • African Bushmen
  • Hadza
  • African Pygmies
  • Nile Valley Peoples
  • The Horn of Africa
  • Southern Ethiopia
  • Bantu Africa and the Niger-Congo Areas
  • West Africa
  • Madagascar
  • Northwestern Africa
African edition sample results
African edition sample results

GPS Origin Ancestry Test Asian Edition

This test offers the same features as the GPA Origin Ancestry Test. Out of the 41 gene pools, it focuses on 17 Asian–specific gene pools and ancestry markers from hundreds of Asian populations. The gene pools included are:

  • Northern India
  • Southwestern India
  • Southeastern India
  • Western Siberia
  • Silk Road
  • Northeastern Siberia
  • Northern Mongolia and Eastern Siberia
  • Northeastern China
  • Sino-Tibetan and Hmongic Southeast Asia
  • Central Southern China: Yunnan and Guangxi
  • Tuva
  • Japan
  • Bougainville
  • Austronesian Southeast Asia
  • Papuan New Guinea
  • Austronesian Oceania
  • Arabia

HomeDNA Advanced Ancestry Test

This advanced DNA test allows you to trace your ancestry DNA back to around 1,000 years. It uses the same 41 gene pools and the more than 1,000 population groups as the GPS Origins test.

This is essentially the same test as the GPS Origins test except that it does not include raw data to download.

HomeDNA Starter Ancestry Test

This test provides ancestral gene-pool percentages for four basic groups: Indigenous American, European–South Asian, East Asian, and sub-Sahara African. The Starter test also shows where DNA like yours is most prevalent in the world today. It is not as detailed as the Advanced test.

Ancestry results from a HomeDNA starter kit
Ancestry results from a HomeDNA starter kit

DNA Origins Maternal Lineage

This test decodes mtDNA, genetic material that is passed down from a mother to her children. Markers are traced through the maternal line and determine where ancestors migrated based on shared DNA in different geographical regions. The results are expressed in terms of haplogroups.

DNA Origins Paternal Lineage

Like the Maternal Lineage version, this test reveals haplogroups of where your ancestors migrated. This test decodes genetic information on the Y chromosome. Because this genetic material is passed down from a father to his son, only biological males can trace their maternal lineage through this method.

Review of HomeDNA Ancestry Test Kit Cost

Costs of the HomeDNA ancestry test kits range from $69-$199. Users can also upload raw data from other testing companies for $39. Shipping is free.

  • GPS Origins Ancestry Test: $199
  • GPS Origins Ancestry Test – African Edition: $199
  • GPS Origins Ancestry Test – Asian Edition: $199
  • Advanced Ancestry Test: $124
  • Starter Ancestry Test: $69
  • DNA Origins Maternal Lineage: $69
  • DNA Origins Paternal Lineage: $69

Review of HomeDNA Ancestry Test Kit Reports

The results will show migration paths that your ancestors’ DNA took, using large circles to represent uncertainty and smaller circles for higher confidence in the geographical region. A location is only represented if your DNA was there. It’s important to remember that the results do not indicate where specific ancestors lived, just where your DNA has been. It can still help you build a family tree by focusing on the areas your DNA has traveled.

GPS Origins Ancestry Test

The GPS Origins Ancestry test includes two formats:

  1. Online: Dynamic online experience featuring an interactive map, allowing you to zoom into your GPS locations
  2. Offline: Downloadable PDF analysis report 

Both of these formats include:

  • Maps of your top three ancestral origins (the gene pools or ancestral communities that contributed to significant portions of your genetic makeup) along with the percentages of DNA you inherited from each.
GPS Origins Map with circle areas
GPS Origins Map with circle areas
  • A comprehensive gene-pool profile with DNA percentages. The African and Asian editions of this test include only the targeted ethnicities. 
Gene pool percentages
Gene pool percentages
  • A detailed map illustrating your maternal and paternal migration journeys with descriptions on how your ancestors’ circumstances may have changed as they crossed territories and continents

Starter and Advanced Ancestry Tests

The Advanced Ancestry test contains the same reports as the GPS Origins. The starter kit results include the same information, but not in as much detail.

Sample of a HomeDNA Advanced Ancestry report
Sample of an Advanced Ancestry report

Maternal and Paternal Lineage Tests

The test reports for the maternal and paternal lines are presented as haplogroups – the migration patterns your DNA traveled throughout history. It includes a map showing your ancestors’ journey and where they initially settled in the old world.

Review of HomeDNA Ancestry Test Kit Privacy

HomeDNA is very private with patients’ data in their DNA testing services. As such, they prioritize protecting their customer data at every point in time. Customers can be assured of full privacy on their personally-identified information. The company claims not to sell information to third parties except in the case of a sale of the company or required to by law. 

They note that they may use aggregate anonymous data for research and marketing purposes and to improve their services. Customer service can help customers destroy DNA samples if requested. 

Other HomeDNA Ancestry Test Kit reviews

Customers on Amazon rank the Ancestry test a 3.6 out of 5 stars with almost 70 reviews. Some customers thought that it was a good product as a starting point for learning about their family history. Negative reviews indicated that the results were vague and undetailed and that processing times took longer than promised.

It should be noted that this product is no longer available on Amazon.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Can pinpoint more precise locations than other tests
  • Contains unique markers
  • Follows two genetic lineages by tracing DNA migration route

Cons

  • Cannot help you find family members or genetic matches
  • Health tests must be purchased separately (same for health, ancestry, and other tests)
  • Does not work as well for those with many mixed ethnicities

Nebula Genomics

Like HomeDNA, Nebula Genomics is a top genetic testing firm with a much wider scope in terms of human testing. Nebula Genomics offers 30x Whole-Genome Sequencing which sequences all 20,000 human genes 30 times. This is much higher coverage than most other DNA testing companies that only sequence 0.2%. 

Because Nebula decodes 100% of your DNA, all of your ancestry information is provided and immediately accessible to users with any of our kits. Genetic data includes that from the Y chromosome and mtDNA. With this information, customers are able to receive deep ancestry reporting that goes beyond ethnicities and basic haplogroups. 

Nebula Genomics is also open with the cost of its products, with tests at $299 or lower. We also provide weekly updates on the most recent genetic research so that you can get the most out of your DNA sequencing.

HomeDNA AncestryNebula Genomics
DNA testing method80,000 genetic markersAll 3 billion base pairs
Ancestry reportingComprehensive ancestry testing based on pinpointing geographic locations via gene poolsPerforms deep ancestry reporting with the complete Y chromosome and mtDNA sequencing
Data accessYes, for certain testsYes, always
Report for making medical decisionsNoNo but data is of the highest quality and can be used by physicians and genetic counselors
Traits and wellness genetic predispositions includedNoYes
Cost$69 to $199$0, $99 $299
HomeDNA Ancestry vs Nebula Genomics

Did you like our HomeDNA Ancestry test kit review? You can read more reviews on our blog and check out our complete guide to the best DNA test kit and other home tests.

Other ancestry tests you may be interested in include:

If you want to focus on your maternal and/or paternal lineages, you can look at Genovate, YFull or YSeq, services which analyze mtDNA or the Y chromosome to determine specific lineage haplotypes. Full Genomes also offers Y chromosome sequencing and analysis.