How do you check out an online DNA test for its reliability?

How do you know if a DNA company you found online is reputable? And whether its results are reliable? These are common questions. And they are difficult to answer.

If you're asking about tests that will give you ancestry or genealogy information, the International Society of Genetic Genealogy is a great place to turn. Their beginner's guide section has a list of articles to get you headed down the right track. I've also written about choosing between the options in this area of DTC testing before and linked to other articles with advice in this blog post.

"Hey Brianne, which ancestry test do you recommend?"

The number one question I get from family, friends, and colleagues is this:

"Hey Brianne, which ancestry test do you recommend?"

It's a simple question with a complex answer. Some people have blogged about the options (here and here) or written books. Others have put together comparison charts (here and here). Some groups have posed questions (here and here) not to answer the question but to give you more to think about before you decide.

After reading through all of these sources, you still might not know which test is best for you! The answer won't be the same for everyone, so there is no one-size-fits-all. This can be rather disappointing to those who are hoping for a simple expert opinion and straight shot to the right answer. 

But no despairing because I have some solid advice. Before you order a test kit, take some time to learn what ancestry tests can provide in generalThis 30-minute free webinar in which I talk the fastest I've ever talked in my life is a great starting point! Once you figure out your priorities and get a sense of what ancestry tests can and do provide, you'll have a better sense of what you are hoping to gain personally from the testing. 

All of this can feel like a lot to navigate, which is why I want you to hire me to help you!

I enjoy working one-on-one with individuals so much. I get the chance to guide clients to a test - or help them set up a strategy for testing at multiple companies - that puts them in the driver's seat. Clients are aware of and in charge of what happens to their DNA and data and what types of information they get back from testing. We make the test or tests fit around the client's needs, rather than letting the marketing tactics of a testing company make the decision for the client. 

Helping people become informed consumers before they test is the best and most rewarding part of my job, and I wish I could do more of it. 

My recent offering of one-time "Which Test to Choose?" consults has proven to be very well-received. These are 45-minute phone calls (or video chats). We can talk about ancestry, genealogy, and health components to consumer test options. You guide the conversation so your questions get answered. 

Think this might be for you? You can schedule your session online. I'd love to work with you!


DNA Testing Creates Two Things: Curiosity and Confusion

My recent booth experience at the National Genealogical Society was a combination of many things: 

Excitement. Exhaustion. Spurts of busyness separated by long sessions of thumb-twiddling.

My booth time was a learning experience above all else, in ways that will help me do my job better.

I have been informed I need "more color" at my booth which, TBH, is an entirely fair assessment! 

There were some great (and colorful!) booths at the National Genealogical Society with valuable information and fantastic products. Genealogical societies marketing memberships, record keeping companies offering new ways to save and preserve precious family heirlooms and memories. Even DNA testing companies (Hey, 23andMe, you were conspicuously absent! And it was noticed by meeting attendees...). 

Yup, a pretty drab booth. Next time I will bring party balloons and crepe streamers.

Yup, a pretty drab booth. Next time I will bring party balloons and crepe streamers.

In a few ways, my Watershed DNA booth stood out (confusingly). And I "get" that. I'm okay with that. Because my product is consultations.

Consultations are a bit nebulous. They are not tangible like a spit kit or a paper genealogy chart or a book about Virginian settlement history. Unless someone has consulted with a lawyer or a specialist or accountant, it's a little unclear what it means to "consult" with someone.  

Like the sign at the booth reads, I offer to clients compassion along with sound advice. My product won't sit on your shelf, but it may affect the rest of your life, or how you view your past. 

A book can't offer a listening ear when an adoptee explains she loves her adoptive mother and father to the core of her being...but still just wants to know what she is and where she came from.

A DNA testing company up can't offer unbiased advice or support to someone trying to decide between the testing options on the market.

Through a consultation, my clients leave understanding the differences between tests, and the limitations of using a consumer test for other purposes, like health risk information.

 I've learned that DNA testing creates two things: curiosity and confusion. 

This is where a Watershed DNA consultation comes in. I'd love to work with you to validate your curiosity, whatever its reason, and help replace your confusion with clarity and purpose.

The NGS conference only happens once a year, but I'm here in Virginia the whole year round, just a call or video chat away. 

Reach out through the "Contact Me" button on my page and tell me what kind of support you need on your DNA journey.