DNA testing comparisons

At the moment the three best places to test autosomal DNA are 23andmeAncestry.com, and Family Tree DNA (alphabetical order). New DNA testing companies, not yet reviewed by me are LivingDNA (best breakdown of ancestral locations in the British Isles) and MyHeritage (good european records and trees).

If you test at Ancestry.com or 23andme,  you can take your results and upload them to Family Tree DNA and see your matches there for free plus get their full tools for a small price. Whichever one you use, upload the results to GEDmatch.com in order to compare to people who have tested elsewhere and get some different and perhaps better ancestry composition results. There is also a new site to upload your results to called DNA.land (see my blog post about that site) and MyHeritage.com is also taking DNA uploads and now is doing DNA testing (to be reviewed soon).

Which DNA Test is Best?

I created a comparison table of the things I consider important for my recent DNA Basics talk.  You can download it here Download and see the slide at http://slides.com/kittycooper/dna-basics#/29 – Since that chart was created Ancestry.com has increased in size to 5 million testers! More than twice the size of the next largest.

The ISOGG wiki has an excellent article about DNA testing here:
http://www.isogg.org/wiki/Understanding_genetic_ancestry_testing

Another detailed discussion of where to test is in Kelly Wheaton’s Beginner’s Guide lesson 2 at https://sites.google.com/site/wheatonsurname/beginners-guide-to-genetic-genealogy/lesson-two-which-dna-test

And Roberta Estes goes into even more detail in her comparisons at https://dna-explained.com/2017/04/24/which-dna-test-is-best/

My Advice on Where to Test

Unless you want to join a specific surname project or have mainly non-USA ancestors, I recommend that you test at Ancestry.com – which is best for the non-serious genetic genealogist because of its tree matching. If your ancestors are recently non-American, then use 23andme which has the largest non-USA database. MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA also have many foreign testers, but very few Germans have tested at all and those few are at Family Tree DNA. Use Family Tree DNA or MyHeritage for older family members since the cheek swab is easiest for them, note that Family Tree DNA  saves the physical DNA for up to 25 years so more tests can be done on them. Additionally perhaps get your Y STRs tested at Family Tree DNA if you are male and interested in your paternal line. Whichever testing company you choose, you can then upload your raw data to GEDmatch.comDNA.land, and MyHeritage.com to find matches from other testing services who have also uploaded to those sites.

Here are the details about each company in alphabetical order.

23andme.com

  • Twice the price of the others (currently $199) but only $99 if you skip the health part.
  • Best ancestry composition of the three.
  • Gives you health related information about your genes.
  • Has easy to use tools for looking at the data but it is a bit clunky now during their transition to a new site
  • Many of the people who have tested there are not interested in genealogy and will not respond to queries and invites, n.b. you cannot look at where you overlap people you are not sharing with unless you and they have selected “open sharing”
  • Tests SNPs on the Y chromosome which gives you your haplogroup (you also get your mtDNA haplogroup)
  • Has the second largest database and the most international customers (lots of Norwegians, very few Germans).

Ancestry.com

  • Connects you to those shaky leaves and thus often does the work of searching your cousin’s tree for you (see http://blog.kittycooper.com/2014/08/in-defense-of-ancestry-coms-dna-offering/ for an example)
  • Best for those with colonial ancestry
  • By far the largest database and getting larger every day because of all the folks with family trees there.
  • You cannot do chromosome comparisons with other testers there so you have to load your data to FamilyTreeDNA or GEDmatch or DNA.land for that.
  • No tools for looking at the raw data
  • Wonderful automated tree matching for your DNA matches which can be used with private mirror trees to help adoptee searches.
AncestryDNA3rdIreneSmll

Sample of ancestryDNA’s tree matching

Family Tree DNA

  • Can compare yourself to anyone you match, so better for adoptees than 23andme.
  • Easy to look at matches but tools not as good as 23andme (cannot compare your matches to each other)
  • Has many surname and geographic projects: NorwayScandinavia YGermany mtDNA
  • Connects to the world family tree at GENI.com (see my post on DNA at GENI)
  • If you buy your test through a project you may get a discount.
  • Has the smallest database of autosomally tested people but presumably they are all interested in genealogy
  • Has many Ashkenazi testers.
  • Commits to storing your DNA for at least 25 years; thus additional tests can be run on it.
  • Uses a cheek swab to collect the DNA, rather than spit, which the other two use, so better for old folk.
  • Can test STRs on the Y chromosome which are more useful for recent genealogy, for surname research (father’s father’s father’s etc line), but this is a separate test from the family finder test.
  • For deeper ancestry, more detailed mtDNA testing is available here (again a separate test) which is the mother’s mother’s mother’s etc line
  • Best price, currently $79

If what you want to know is your deeper ethnic roots consider the nat GEO genome 2.0 project

If you want detailed health results and can afford it, try GENOS at $399 which claims to sequence your entire exome, thus 50 times more SNPs than the genealogy focused companies listed above. My results are just in and a blog post will come out about it eventually.

 

Disclaimer: I am an affiliate with all three of the main companies so if you click one of my links and buy a kit, then I get a little something.

14 Comments

14 thoughts on “DNA testing comparisons

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  1. These days if you test at 23andme you can then upload those autosomal test results to family tree DNA inexpensively as they use the same chip

  2. NB: Of course since 23andMe changed their chip at the end of 2013 you can no longer upload new test results from 23andMe to FTDNA… Although FTDNA expressed interest in reinstating the transferability, it seems unlikely that it will work out.

  3. Kitty,
    I need to prove or disprove a long standing family story of american Indian ancestry in my genealogy research. I have done the 1.0 Genome DNA test which only test mitochondrial sense I am a woman and came back with Northern European background. Is there a new test I could take that would show if there were American Indian DNA anywhere in my lineage?

    • Unless it is recent, within a few generations, the autosomal DNA from a distant ancestor can easily be gone. Test the oldest family members on the line expected to have Native American with the autosomal test at 23andme for the best ancestry composition. Then a trace may still show.

      mtDNA, which you did, needs to be on the straight maternal line that is expected to be native american, mother to daughter, to show that group. So if your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother was native american then the mtDNA would show this.

  4. Hi Kitty,

    I love your site, thank you for providing such great information to the public! I recently found a 1st/2nd cousin relative of my Dad’s on Ancestry.com DNA test. The two of us have been working together to try and solve this family mystery. The results of the DNA test show the following comparison from GEDmatch.Com Autosomal Comparison – V2.1.1(c):

    Largest segment = 72.6 cM
    Total of segments > 7 cM = 443.3 cM
    18 matching segments
    Estimated number of generations to MRCA = 2.5

    With a 2.5 estimated # of generations to MRCA, I’m trying to determine how he fits in the family. I know for sure, the connection is on my Father’s Mother’s side based on other distant relatives connections or lack there of.

    My suspicion is that his Father is a half sibling of my Father’s Mother. Do half cousins show up differently in the Estimated number of generations to MRCA? Is there a way to prove or disprove this theory?

    Thanks in advance for your help!

  5. Estimated generations is just that, an estimate. Below 4.0 they are reasonably accurate. If you look at the latest charts you will see that 2nd cousin, 1st cousin once removed, and half first cousin (take half the first cousin number) all fit. Your theory is a half 1C1R which is possible but the actual cMs are a bit high for that although in range.
    http://thegeneticgenealogist.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/SharedcMProject.png

    The best way to solve this is to test more people. Obviously his father and your mother if available for testing, but other older generation folk, siblings of his dad or your mom would help if those two are not available. Sometimes it helps to draw diagrams to see who else you might test that would narrow this down.

  6. How do I convert yDNA test results from my late cousin’s 2006 Relative Genetics 43-marker test to my 2017 FTDNA 111-marker test? At DYS452 he is 6 and I am 25. At DYS463 he is 20 and I am 22.

  7. Hi Kitty.
    I want to buy DNA tests for myself, my husband, and my two adopted children. Mostly I am just curious about where we come from. It is my understanding that some companies are vague with regard to geographic area of ancestry. I would like to know specific countries of origin.
    I am not interested in finding relatives at this time. Some information about health issues would be great. Also, I am wanting the test to be reasonably priced and easy to administer.
    Would you be able to recommend one company over another? Thanks much for your blog.
    Meg

    • Meg, for your needs it sounds like 23andme is the test you want. Amazon has it on sale recently and it may still be … however it is not that reasonably priced. Ancestry is cheaper and you can upload the results to prometheuse to get some health information.

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