Debbie Kennett examines the pros and cons of LivingDNA - the DNA testing company that offers detailed breakdowns for British ancestry
LivingDNA is based in Frome in Somerset, and offers fine-scale regional breakdowns for family historians with British ancestry. The company was founded in 2016 and is an offshoot of DNA Worldwide, which offers a range of DNA tests for paternity, relationship and immigration testing. The DNA testing is outsourced to a lab in Denmark, but all of the other operations take place in the UK. The firm is therefore a good choice for anyone concerned about privacy and data security, because it is the only major genetic genealogy company that keeps all of your data in Europe.
LivingDNA sells an ancestry test (£99) and a wellbeing test (£129), or you can buy a single combined kit for £179. The ancestry test is also sold by Findmypast with the brand name Findmypast DNA. Whichever way you order the ancestry test the results will be added to the same database. The wellbeing test offers reports on diet and fitness, but these reports are of questionable value and have no genealogical application.
LivingDNA’s ancestry test provides a biogeographical analysis and an autosomal DNA family-matching service. The ancestry report breaks the British Isles down into 21 regions, such as Devon, Cornwall, North Wales, Northumbria and South Yorkshire. LivingDNA is not yet able to provide regional breakdowns within Ireland, and doesn’t currently have any reference populations for people who have Jewish ancestry. The ancestry reports have been updated several times over the years. I have mainly English ancestry, and the reports have generally matched my known ancestry reasonably well. The high county percentages tend
to be more reliable.
LivingDNA also claims to offer the most detailed breakdown of African ancestry with 72 distinct regions. There is a full list of available regions here.
In addition to the autosomal DNA results, you will receive haplogroup reports providing information about your deep ancestry on your direct paternal (males only) and maternal lines. Males receive a Y-DNA haplogroup report showing their placement on the Y-DNA tree, and a map showing the distribution of their haplogroup. Both males and females will receive a mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroup report showing their position on the mtDNA tree along with a map. Narrative reports are also provided that tell the story of your haplogroups, although much of the information is somewhat speculative. Living DNA does not provide a matching database for Y-DNA and mtDNA results, so the haplogroups have a limited application for genealogy.
Upload your data for free
If you don’t want to pay for a new test you can upload your raw data free of charge. This will allow you to be included in the matching database, and you will receive a basic continental-level ancestry breakdown. You can choose to pay an upgrade fee of £29 to receive the regional breakdowns and the haplogroup reports. You can also upload kits for your relatives with their permission, and manage their kits through your own account.
The tools for working with your matches are still very basic. The firm reports the percentage of DNA shared, the amount of DNA shared in centimorgans and the relationship range (for example, second to third cousin). You can see a list of shared matches, and add notes to your matches. You can contact them via Living DNA’s Messaging Centre. A new feature known as Shared Maps allows you to see the sub-regions you have in common with your matches if they have opted into sharing. You cannot upload a family tree although a tree builder is in development. You’ll find that a significant percentage of your matches have a British flag against their name, indicating that they were born in the UK.
Living DNA is the smallest of the ancestry-testing companies with a database of 300,000 people, compared with 21 million at AncestryDNA. However, you never know where you will find the match that helps to break through your brick walls, and there are people in the Living DNA database who have not tested anywhere else.
LivingDNA: Our favourite features
Regional ancestry reports
See how much of your DNA is matched with different regions around the world. Living DNA offers fine-scale regional breakdowns in Britain.
The shared-match list allows you to see the other matches you have in common. Testing parents and known cousins will narrow the search pool.
Males receive a haplogroup map showing the distribution of their lineage and the percentage of people in each country with their haplogroup.
A narrative report describes the history, migration and distribution of your Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup, although it’s somewhat speculative.
Mitochondrial DNA map
The mtDNA coverage map shows where in the world your haplogroup is found, together with the percentage breakdowns by country.
Mitochondrial DNA description
This report describes the history, migration and distribution of your mtDNA haplogroup, although the information is again somewhat speculative.
Debbie Kennett is an expert on genetic genealogy and writes the blog Cruwys News. She is the author of The Surnames Handbook and DNA and Social Networking: A Guide to Genealogy in the Twenty-First Century.