How does "Living DNA" compare with other tests?

+10 votes

I'm curious about how Living DNA's tests compare with others.  Unfortunately Living DNA isn't listed on the ISOGG Autosomal DNA testing comparison chart, where I usually turn for reference. 

I've read a couple of reviews - here and here and here - but I'm not walking away with a definite sense of "this is (or isn't) better". The comparison on their website (linked above) seems favourable - would the advantages noted present practical benefits which might make it worthwhile?


in The Tree House by anonymous G2G6 Pilot (128k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith

5 Answers

+11 votes
Best answer

Funny you should ask!  I just received my Living DNA results (a month early), and had previously been asked to provide a comparative review of it, once results came back, and I was just now examining all of its parts.  I didn't need this test, had already taken an AncestryDNA test, then loaded that into FTDNA and paid for the unlock, then took the FTDNA Y67 test, and the MT Full test.  Later I added the M269 Backbone pack, then the Z18 Pack.  But the Living DNA presentation is enticing, and I wanted a double check on my results, plus I always want to encourage competition (even when I should probably have been saving my money!).

* Downsides: small user base so far, long wait time for results (predicted 3.5 months, actual was 2.5 months); no evidence they store your DNA sample (cheek swab) for future testing; yDNA results are almost but not quite as deep as others' tests, and no STR results for comparisons; mtDNA download does not contain all of your mutations; autosomal comparisons won't be useful until GEDmatch merges in the Genesis system; web site issues - they try to get fancy, but the page navigation and handling is buggy, and you'll see corrupt page scraps at times - this is unimportant, just a nuisance until they get it fixed (I'm using Firefox 55.03)

* Upsides: $119! still! for a test that includes all 3 genealogical DNA tests (autosomal, yDNA, mtDNA); raw downloads are immediately available for all 3 results, a 15MB text file for autosomal, and CSV files (only one column) for the yDNA and mtDNA SNP's.  This is incredibly cheap for an autosomal test plus deep yDNA and mtDNA haplogroups

* yDNA: very impressive (for only $119); returned a haplogroup of R-U106, subclade R-L257, and their phylogenetic tree showed exactly the same SNP path as FTDNA down to R-U106, then a slightly different path to R-L257, a path that corresponded to YFULL.  On closer examination, FTDNA has a few more SNP's than YFULL, and took my end result several SNP's farther to R-S23346 (using the Z18 Pack).  But a result of R-L257 is really impressive - that is much farther than the STR test (Y67 for me), farther than the M269 Backbone pack, and well into the Z18 Pack.  We will have to see if others get as deep a result.  The download file has 377 SNP lines, not sure how it compares to others, or how you would use it to compare.  It's my impression that it aligns more with YFull naming, so may be harder to compare with FTDNA tests.

* mtDNA: very impressive again!  at only $119, it provided the same maternal haplogroup K1c2 as the much more expensive MT Full test.  The result file does not list all of the mutations though (this will hamper comparisons), but was sufficient to identify K1c2.  I was disappointed it did not include my one unique mtDNA mutation.

* autosomal: seems to be a standard test (680,000), is comparable to all others.  I registered at GEDmatch Genesis and used the generic upload link, and in half a minute, the file was uploaded and processed (per the instructions, you wait for the word 'Finished' at the bottom).  Admixtures seemed to be immediately available, and comparisons will be ready within a few minutes to a few hours, but I did not test anything there yet.  The Living DNA 'Origins' like screens were essentially identical to what both Ancestry and FTDNA display, with the addition of local regions within the British Isles.

Basically, competition is a great thing!  This should provide some additional downward pressure on pricing from the big 3.  For anyone with limited funds that wants fairly deep paternal and maternal haplogroups plus an autosomal test for comparisons (once Genesis is ready), this is a great choice.

(My actual results are available to anyone that wants to examine them, just ask)

by Rob Jacobson G2G6 Pilot (127k points)
selected by Thom Anderson

Note to our fine developers:

* You have added 'Living DNA' as a choice on the list of DNA Tests, but implementation does not appear to have been completed.  Once you select 'Living DNA', there are only 2 text boxes for input, and one of them is not usable.  The first is for 'GEDmatch ID' (requires an entry with one letter and 6 digits), but Living DNA has to be uploaded to the Genesis system, which for me at least assigned a 2 letter 7 digit ID, which cannot be entered.  The other box is for associated notes, which becomes the sole place to enter all Living DNA test results.

* I entered the following into the note field:

GEDmatch Genesis ID:  NQ6881848
yDNA haplogroup:  R-L257
mtDNA haplogroup:  K1c2

After saving, it displays on the DNA Tests page as:

GEDmatch Genesis ID:  NQ6881848

yDNA haplogroup:  R-L257 mtDNA haplogroup:  K1c2

* You will want results from others for confirmation, but the haplogroups I got are very good, quite deep.  The yDNA result is MUCH better than any of the FTDNA STR tests, and the mtDNA result is equivalent to the FTDNA MT Full test result.  That makes both of them more than legitimate for propagation, and deserve their own input boxes, in the Living DNA test dialog.

* After several days, no Living DNA information has appeared on my profile.  It does not appear to be propagating, even to the same profile.  It's only visible on the DNA Tests page.  Edit: after a month, it's still not propagated.

+6 votes
At present you can't easily compare Living DNA results with other Living DNA customers or relatives who tested with different labs.  GEDmatch's Genesis (which is attempting to address that issue) is still in Beta.   I also don't believe Living DNA stores your DNA which would allow you or your surviving relatives to do additional testing on your DNA in the future.

For those reasons, I recommend Family Tree DNA's Family Finder test.  Using Family Tree DNA would also allow you to take a Y chromosome test (e.g. Y-DNA37) which is the easiest way to discover which Murphys are your relatives and which are not.

Sincerely, Peter
by Peter Roberts G2G6 Pilot (543k points)

Thanks for the suggestion, Peter! I think that I'd need to figure out if a 37 marker Y-DNA would be sufficient to identify which Murphy Y-DNA cluster my surname belongs to. That would certainly be useful. 

Y-DNA37 would likely be sufficient.  

If it is not, then you can upgrade from 37 to 67 markers.  Family Tree DNA uses your DNA already in storage (so no need to collect your DNA again).

Sincerely, Peter
+6 votes
If you are based in the UK or have a sizable amount of English, Scottish Welsh ancestry then it stomps all over the other main tests. Living DNA breaks down  your direct  x10 ancestry into about 18 different regions in the Uk . This is useful for backing up or exploring further your "paper trail". They are currently working in the same sort of break down for Southern and Northern Ireland and also for Germany. That is more of the unique selling point of the test.
by Norma Farnhell G2G3 (4.0k points)

But do understand that has nothing to do with the DNA itself or the testing protocol used. Ethnicity and admixture estimates are just that, estimates, and are driven entirely by genotyping performed on an existing database(s) where the origin/localization of the DNA samples is believed to be known. What I've struggled with is that Living DNA is a relatively new company, and by all accounts has only a small pool of samples tested. They don't disclose it, but that would mean--for their localization estimates to have any possibility of accuracy--that they must be using genotypes (or at least the raw data) from some third-party database. So whatever estimates you're seeing are coming not from Living DNA, per se, but from third-party data somewhere.

Their initial research was based on the results of the People of Britain Project amongst others (and they do say that within their blog) where about 5,000 people across the country had their DNA sampled via blood tests - and also with the requirement that they have four grandparents who were born in the same rural area.  One thing I have noticed ...  and this might be a generalisation.. is that people outside of the UK don't seem to recognise that family groups historically did not move very far from each other in peacetime . We are talking  10 - 15 miles unless they were at the very top of society and had the cash to travel. So the genetics in an area can have been concentrated for a long time.

Its probably something the academic staff at Living  DNA should wade in on and answer. I know they work in conjunction with Bristol University  which is one of the top Universities in the world.

However, I know for me  the type of answers I observed on You Tube when people revealed their results with the other Labs were a bit too woolly for me - vaguely UK vaguely Irish vaguely western Europe. I know I come from the UK - I live here and the paper trail so far backs it up.. I want to get into the detail - find out who that Cornish part of the family are - who was it who has been identified as Aberdonian  and where are those welsh results coming from . I'm fascinated by the percentage of my Scandinavia results and is that because of a large number of ancestors having live east coast Scotland and a remnant of Danish/ Viking influx.

Still looking for the random 1.2% random Kurdish results and where that came in on the tree
+1 vote
I had my mtDNA done through livingDNA  My Haplogroup is H1 Subclade H1at1.   I have only found one other person so far with the same Haplogroup of H1 on Facebook.  I also posted it on Wiki but so far nothing.
Hello Patricia,  What is your WikiTree ID?  You were not logged in when you posted to G2G.
Hi Peter

ID Annandale -22
Hi Patricia,

I have just had my results back from Living DNA and my Motherline subclade also H1at1a. So there... another person in the group. Lol
Hi Richard

Have you loaded your results on GedMatch Genesis?  We can compare my GedMatch number is FP5431664


Hi Patricia,

This is all new to me... so unaware what GedMatch Genesis is, however I will check it out and upload the information if I think this is a good thing.

At the moment it all seems a bit of a mine field... there is so much out there!! lol.

kind regards,

Hello I am also tested as H1At1a on the Maternal side. Does anyone know of any Jewish lineage perchance?
Hi we might be related. I think the ancestors were forced to convert to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition. Many of my ancestors have Jewish surnames but were RC.  You can check your heritage surnames on I am Jewish and live in Israel.  What is your surname? My 9th great grandfather was Joannes Anthonius Maartens born 1654. I think that his surname was Anthonis and mother’s surname was Maartens so  it meant that he was the son of Martin.  I have reached a block here as I cannot find his parents or any info about his wife Elisabetha as her surname of Uxoris means wife of.  Perhaps you have some connection and I would be interested to know.
Hey thats very interesting. I am new to this so am not sure about how to navigate research or interpret much. My MT dna shows a preponderance of both Sephardic and Ashkenazi lineage.  The thing is my great Grandmother was almost certainly an immigrant Jew to the USA around 1920 but no one knows anything about her or her name. She was never married into our family and remains a mystery except for a single photograph found after my grandmothers death.  The resemblance is obvious that it is my grandmothers Mother.
Have you loaded your autosomal on to GEDmatch? If you do then you can compare and find out more
+3 votes
Probably confirmation bias, but their ethinicity/admixture results that I'd be even remotely impressed by:
(I don't set much store by them)

That aside, what I liked most since the above post is that my Living DNA results uploaded to GEDMatch Genesis seem to be the only way I can compare to those who have tested on the newer 23andme chip there.

My sample of one that I draw this conclusion from, is my 3C1R whom I found via my 23andme test recently.

The newer 23andme data wont process fully (ie not available for the one to many reports) in the normal GEDMatch and was incomplete in the one to one between her 23andme kit and my FTDNA one there, but works fine in GEDmatch genesis when comparing her 23andme and my LivingDNA in GedMatch Genesis.

For autosomal testing, they are an interesting alternative, but for a first test I still recommend either Ancestry, or FamilyFinder at FamilyTreeDNA, preferably both as only the older (pre ?Jun 2016?) Ancestry test transfers well to FTDNA . The newer Ancestry tests will only show the closer matches after such a transfer, and Ancestry does not provide the segment data  I prefer working with to confirm matches "fit" where a tree may indicate.
by Lorna Henderson G2G6 Mach 2 (23.2k points)

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