At the moment the four best places to test autosomal DNA in alphabetical order are:
- 23andme (best DNA tools),
- Ancestry.com, (best genealogy tools)
- Family Tree DNA, (the only one with detailed Y testing) and
- MyHeritage (good european records and trees, good DNA and genealogy tools).
A newer DNA testing company, not yet reviewed by me is LivingDNA (best breakdown of ancestral locations in the British Isles). If you test at Ancestry.com or 23andme or MyHeritage, you can take your results and upload them to Family Tree DNA to see your matches there for free plus get their full tools for a small price ($19). Whichever one you use, upload the results to GEDmatch.com in order to compare to people who have tested elsewhere as well as get some different ancestry composition results. MyHeritage.com is also taking DNA uploads of other companies’ test results with a small fee to see your matches.
Both GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA allow law enforcement to use their databases in order to identify victims and violent criminals but you get to chose whether to opt in or not. Click here for my many articles on law enforcement and genetic genealogy.
Which DNA Test is Best?
I created a comparison table of the things I consider important for my DNA Basics talk. It does not include MyHeritage yet which does have tree matching and is a cheek swab. You can see the slide at http://slides.com/kittycooper/dna-basics#/29 – Since that chart was created, the largest database at Ancestry.com has increased in size to about 20 million testers! Leah Larkin keeps a graph of the current testing company statistics on her blog here.
The ISOGG wiki has an excellent article about DNA testing here:
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 and interesting presentation of your historic ancestry and the size of its database. Then upload elsewhere.
If your ancestors are recently non-American, then use 23andme which has the largest non-USA database (and then upload elsewhere); 23andme is also best for those with endogamous ancestry because of the segment comparison capabilities. MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA have many foreign testers as well, but very few German or French people have tested anywhere. If your ancestors are British, LivingDNA has the best breakdown of which area of Britain they are from. Use Family Tree DNA or MyHeritage for older family members since the cheek swab is easier for them than filling a vial with spit, note that Family Tree DNA saves the physical DNA for up to 25 years so more tests can be done on the sample later.
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.com, DNA.land, and MyHeritage.com to find matches from other testing services who have also uploaded to those sites. LivingDNA is also accepting uploads.
Here are the details about each company in alphabetical order.
- Twice the price of the others (currently $199) but only $99 if you skip the health part.
- Very good ancestry composition plus includes which chromosomes are from which population group.
- Gives you health related information about your genes.
- Has easy to use tools for looking at the data including a chromosome browser where you can compare your matches to each other (this is very important for those with much endogamy in their tree)
- 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 many international customers (lots of Norwegians, very few Germans).
- Builds a tree of your closer relatives based on DNA see https://blog.kittycooper.com/2020/05/the-23andme-family-tree-built-from-dna/
- Does the work of searching your DNA relatives tree for you and uses other trees at Ancestry if needed (see https://blog.kittycooper.com/2019/03/ancestrys-new-dna-feature-thrulines/).
- Best for those with colonial ancestry.
- Ancestry composition very good and is constantly improving. By looking at trees as well, often they can tell you what part of the old country your ancestors are from.
- 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 MyHeritage.com for that.
- No tools for looking at the raw data.
- Wonderful automated tree matching for your DNA matches which can be used with private research trees to help adoptee searches.
- Most privacy, best for those worried about their DNA being used for drug studies, etc …. BUT allows law enforcement to upload DNA profiles created from victims, murderers, and rapists.
- Can compare yourself to anyone you match, so better in 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: Norway – Scandinavia Y – Germany 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 Jewish testers and includes Sephardic jewish ancestry composition unlike any of the others.
- 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.
- Often the best price
MyHeritage.com always has the best price except when the others have sales. It now includes health results. Click here for posts about MyHeritage. Since they take uploads from other companies, I have not been recommending testing here first but if you want to have their health results then you have to have tested there.
If you want detailed health results and can afford it, try GENOS at $499 which claims to sequence your entire exome, thus 50 times more SNPs than the genealogy focused companies listed above.
Disclaimer: I am an affiliate with all four of the main companies so if you click one of my links and buy a kit, then I get a little something.