DNA home testing kits are a great way to trace your ancestry and discover a treasure trove of family history. Knowing where in the world you come from can also help you to develop a greater sense of identity.
However, because DNA testing companies use different data sets and algorithms, results can differ between companies especially if your DNA is traced to regions that have limited genetic data available. This can lead to you getting less specific results than what you’d hope.
In this article, we’re going to focus on the best DNA tests for Asian Ancestry.
According to Living DNA, Asians are the most populous group on the planet and makeup over 4.4 billion of the world’s people, equating to roughly 60% in total. China and India alone count for 2.7 billion of the world’s Asian people.
Asia has a rich and varied history and is made up of 48 countries but many more cultures. Take China: China is thought to be the location of some of the first human civilizations.
The Han dynasty, which ruled for 424 years, were the early members of what is now the largest ethnic group in the world, with 92% of people in China identifying as Han Chinese.
Japan is equally interesting; it’s been populated for tens of thousands of years, but it’s thought that the earliest Japanese cultures were entwined with the Han Chinese, Koreans, and Yayoi people. This is interesting because while Japanese people are considered an independent ethnic group, less than 12% of tested people can boast indigenous Japanese genes (Jomon).
Living DNA also points out that many Siberians and Inuit populations share some Japanese genes and vice versa because of their proximity.
Equally interesting is the fact that the people of the Korean peninsula typically share their genes with Han Chinese, but also have an increased percentage of Eastern Siberian DNA as well.
Asian DNA tests
Because DNA testing is more popular in the West - due to the mass migration from the East and South that has taken place over thousands of years - data is less available in Asia simply because fewer Asians take DNA tests.
However, this isn’t actually as limiting as it may seem, especially when we take a look at population size.
Currently, DNA test results are less specific for Asians, however, Europe and the US account for less than 15% of the world’s population, which actually gives Asians a huge advantage in terms of population, if more were to take DNA tests.
However, it’s thought that over the next decade, DNA testing and genetic research will explode in Asia, where 60% of the world’s population lives.
If more Asians take part in DNA ancestry testing, the genetic signature information could eventually become far more detailed and specific than that of Western DNA, as ultimately the larger population size means a greater level of accuracy.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that there are no DNA tests available on the current market that can give you a detailed insight into your Asian ancestry.
Several companies on the market are already ahead of the game and can boast specific results for regions that fall outside of the US and Europe, and we're going to take a look at these a little bit later on in this article.
What to look for in DNA tests for Asian Ancestry
The best test for Asian Ancestry is not necessarily going to be one with “Asian” in its name.
You’re going to want to find a kit that has a big database of DNA and members spanning all over the world, as well as in the West where these tests are popular.
Look for a test that offers specific sub-regional indications if possible, and a family tree tool can be useful for mapping your ancestry and linking you to relatives all around the world.
Best DNA Test For Asian Ancestry
- Breaks down ethnicity across 70+ potential ethnicity groups
- Next-generation sequencing technology
- 100x more data than other methods
- Interactive graphs and maps for your results
- Maternal and paternal lineage
- Custom East-Asian ancestry database
TeloYears Advanced Ancestry uses next-generation DNA sequencing technology that enables your ethnicity to be better quantified.
The test breaks your ethnicity down by percentage (%) across 70+ possible ethnic groups - not just into sub-lists like competitor tests. TeloYears uses Centrillion Technology and is performed at Centrillion facilities, to provide a genome-wide DNA ancestry test that leverages “next generation sequencing technology.”
This enables the collection of over 100 times more data than other methods, which results in more accurate and robust data. Through full mitochondrial DNA sequencing, TeloYears provides the most comprehensive and accurate maternal lineage possible so you can have greater confidence in your results.
Whereas other DNA tests have failed to provide those of Asian descent with a thorough and specific breakdown of their ancestry, TeloYears uses advanced interactive features to display your ethnicity in the most detailed way possible.
These include 3 levels of expandable ethnic regions and sub-regions, maternal and paternal lineage, migration maps, haplogroup trees, and ancestral timelines.
It uses multiple global reference populations for high standards of accuracy and even uses its custom East Asian ancestry database to ensure Asian ethnicities are broken down as comprehensively as European ethnicities are.
- 61 million users worldwide
- 12.6 billion historical records
- The breakdown among 42 “Founder Populations” ethnicities
- Results in 3-4 weeks
- Affordable price point
MyHeritage is one of the best-known names on the market, and they can now offer a genetic breakdown of 42 ethnicities, which is more extensive than any other DNA test available.
Their DNA test will provide you with a list of regions that both sides of your family hail from, as well as a percentage breakdown of the amount of DNA you have that can be traced to this specific region.
MyHeritage also has a project called the Founder Populations project, which involves more than 5,000 participants who were hand-picked for this project from MyHeritage's 92 million members.
These people were picked because their ancestors had lived in the region for generations, meaning that their DNA was highly characteristic of this specific region. By testing the DNA of these participants, MyHeritage was able to establish profiles for each region that reflect its unique DNA sequences.
During this project, MyHeritage used a statistical procedure called Principal Component Analysis to ensure that each founder population sample is free from any outliers or people who were mistaken about their genetic heritage.
The final result is a rich and reliable data set from the 42 Founder Populations, which is used as a reference when MyHeritage analyzes your DNA. They call this “Ethnicity Estimate” which is a breakdown among these 42 ethnicities, with percentages, and it’s considered to be one of the best of its kind globally.
- One of the most popular DNA ancestry and health tests available
- 2000+ countries
- Global Genetics Programme with special focus on China
- Continually improving and updating their testing services
- Optional DNA relative finder and family tree
23andMe is one of the leading consumer DNA testers worldwide, however, they’ve received criticism in the past for failing to provide a comprehensive background of certain Asian ethnic groups.
However, thankfully they’ve improved their ethnicity breakdown a lot and these updates mean DNA can now be traced to 2000+ locations and, in some cases, a specific country.
Another great aspect of using 23andMe is that if you’ve already done a DNA test with them, you’ll still be able to benefit from the continual updates and improvements to their services.
For example, the company recently launched its Global Genetics Project which is aimed at diversifying 23andMe’s database to boost studies in populations currently underrepresented in genomics research.
One of the countries the project is appealing to is China, and if you are based in America and have one or more grandparents who were born in China you may be eligible to participate.
It’s expected that by focusing on boosting the amount of data available in certain regions and countries around Asia and Africa that 23andMe will soon have the largest Asian DNA database available.
In doing this, they’ll help people discover more about their ancestral history, and will also shed light on worldwide migration patterns over the last 5,000 years.
- Highly comprehensive test
- 80,000 autosomal genetic markers tested
- 1,000+ reference populations
- 41 gene pools analyzed
- Ancestral Tracking technique can pinpoint more precise locations
- Results in 6 weeks
The GPS Origins Asian Edition test claims to be the most comprehensive DNA test available and can pinpoint your ancestry, even to the town or city.
The company tests more than 80,000 unique genetic markers and cross-checks that information across dozens of gene pools and more than 1,000 reference populations to create a detailed report about where your family's DNA originated from.
It also illustrates how your own unique DNA signature migrated over time to help fill in gaps regarding your family’s history and the origins of certain traits that you may share.
GPS Origins makes use of a new ancestral tracking technique to pinpoint your genetic genealogy with optimal precision.
This advanced autosomal test aims for such precision that it may even be able to indicate the town or village where groups of your ancestors from different cultures met, which helps build a more thorough picture of your ancestor’s migration journeys that formed your deep genealogical heritage.
- Upload results from 23andMe or AncestryDNA into the WeGene Database
- A comprehensive breakdown of your ethnicity into sub-groups
- A Chinese-based company with an extensive Asian reference group
- Includes rarer Asian minority groups that may not be identified in other tests
This isn’t a DNA test but is extremely useful if you’ve done one from AncestryDNA or 23andMe, as it’s a Chinese-based firm and will run your DNA sample results from either of these companies through its massive database of Asian members.
Due to the fact that the database is more exclusive to Asians, it provides far more precise results than the more global DNA testing companies that are marketed more towards Americans and Europeans.
WeGene will break down your DNA results into the various ethnic groups so you get a far more comprehensive and illustrative picture of your ethnicity rather than a vague umbrella group.
It’ll then break your ethnicity(ies) down into subgroups. Some of the ethnic groups available via the WeGene report include:
- Southern Han Chinese
- Northern Han Chinese
If you’ve already taken your DNA tests, WeGene lets you import your results directly into the system, so you won’t have to go through another waiting period or pay for another DNA test.
While you can only upload DNA results from AncestryDNA and 23andMe at the moment, hopefully, the company will accept results from more companies in the future.
What is DNA testing?
Genealogical DNA tests look at specific locations of a person's genome, in order to find or verify ancestral genealogical relationships or to estimate an individual’s ethnicity - although this is less reliable, and is often dependent on the database and reference groups used by a specific company.
There are three principal types of genealogical DNA tests, and each one looks at a different part of the genome and is therefore useful for different types of genealogical tests. These three types of DNA tests are autosomal, mitochondrial (mtDNA), and Y-DNA.
Autosomal is the most popular type of DNA test and often results in a large number of DNA matches along mixed male and female lines and each DNA match will come with an estimated distance in your family tree.
However, only close relationships can be identified reliably due to the random nature of DNA and how much is inherited by each tested person from their common ancestors.
Autosomal testing is also used for ethnicity estimates, though like we mentioned above, these can be more subject to the specific company, and the size of their reference group and database.
These tests are usually utilized to identify archeological cultures and migration paths of a person's ancestors along a strict mother's line or a strict father's line, so they may feature in more comprehensive ancestral DNA tests.
Based on MtDNA and Y-DNA, a person's haplogroup(s) can be identified, but only men can take Y-DNA tests since women lack the Y sex chromosome.
Why take a DNA test?
There are many reasons to take a DNA test, particularly if you’re of Asian ancestry - or suspect you may be - and you want to get a more comprehensive breakdown of your ethnic subgroups or ancestral history.
While ultimately who you are is defined by where you grow up, your culture and social customs or religion, there is plenty you can take from your ancestral heritage and ethnicity, as this also plays a part in who we are.
Taking a DNA test may help you fill in vital gaps of your family tree and could enable you to trace your ancestry back generations. In some cases, there may also be an option to connect with relatives you share DNA with across the globe, who you would otherwise never know existed.
A DNA test can be a great starting point for deeper historical familial research, and is not only interesting and informative but is a great pastime and hobby, too.
There are also other reasons why people take DNA tests, for example, they may wish to determine paternity or other family relationships. Another reason is to assess their health, as our DNA is a great insight into our predisposition to certain diseases or certain traits we inherit from our ancestors or parents.
These may enable you to make changes to your everyday life, such as your diet or exercise regime to ensure you are experiencing an optimal quality of life.
How home DNA test kits work
Most home DNA kits work in the same way: you purchase the kit online and it’ll be posted to your chosen address, along with instructions on how to perform the test.
Consumer kits usually collect your DNA from a mouth swab, which is completely harmless and is then returned to the company in the pre-paid envelope they’ll provide you with.
The company then processes and analyzes your sample, which usually takes between 6-8 weeks, but may be quicker or longer than this in some cases.
Once your DNA has been analyzed, the company will then provide you with a report of your results, which is usually accessed through their online interface.
Things to consider
- Accuracy: No DNA test is infallible, and as we said previously, many different factors play a role in your results, such as the size of the database a particular company uses, and the geographic location of their reference groups. This is why when it comes to DNA tests for Asian ancestry it’s essential to choose a testing company who can offer a comprehensive break-down of your ethnicity and not just a broad label such as “South East Asian” - which has been the case in the past before companies started focusing on certain regions in the global east and south more. On the other hand, the key thing to bear in mind with any DNA test is that it should be used for further ancestral research, rather than treated as the “be-all and end-all.”
- Price: Due to the competitive nature of the market, and the increase in people wanting to delve deeper into their ancestral heritage, home DNA kits are now more affordable than ever, and as we near Christmas and the new year, you can expect discounts on many of the big names. Look for a DNA kit that offers the full package: including a comprehensive breakdown of your predicted ethnicity, extra maps or resources, family tree networks, and even the opportunity to connect with relatives around the world.
- Updates: Some people get confused when they are notified that their results have changed, but this is quite common, as most DNA testing companies are continually trying to improve their services and broaden their reference groups, as seen with 23andMe and others. This means that if you get notified of a change to your DNA results it’s likely to be because the company has improved its accuracy and can provide you with further details or more specific information regarding your ethnicity breakdown or family tree.
We hope this article has shed some light on the best DNA tests for Asian Ancestry. In our opinion, TeloYears offers the most specific and comprehensive breakdown of ethnicity and ancestry for those of Asian descent, with MyHeritage and 23andMe also improving their services for Asian ancestry.
The truth of the matter is that at present DNA testing isn’t as strong for Asians as it is for Europeans and Americans, however, most companies are fully aware of this and are striving for better results.
They’re doing this by offering tests to those of Asian descent in the US or by providing some of the world’s “founding populations” with DNA tests to strengthen and broaden the reference groups used when analyzing your sample.
Many companies are also increasingly marketing their products in the global East and South as well as in the West to acquire more DNA data from regions they have less genetic information on.
With this in mind, DNA testing for Asian Ancestry is set to explode, especially when it’s considered that Asians make up the largest population on earth. Most companies will also update you once they acquire more information, even if it’s months or years after your purchase.
With the increasing focus on Asian DNA, there has never been a better time to delve into your ancestry.