DNA testing comparisons

At the moment the four best places to test autosomal DNA in alphabetical order are:

  • 23andme
  • Ancestry.com,
  • Family Tree DNA, and
  • MyHeritage (good european records and trees).
    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 (now merged with GENESIS) in order to compare to people who have tested elsewhere as well as get some different ancestry composition results. You can benefit science and get some more information and another view of your ancestry composition by uploading your results to DNA.land (see my blog post about that site). MyHeritage.com is also taking DNA uploads of other companies’ test results with a small fee to see your matches.

    Which DNA Test is Best?

    I created a comparison table of the things I consider important for my recent DNA Basics talk. You can see the slide at http://slides.com/kittycooper/dna-basics#/29 – Since that chart was created Ancestry.com has increased in size to 10+ 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 and interesting presentation of your historic ancestry. If your ancestors are British, LivingDNA has the best breakdown of which area of Britain they are from. 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. 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.comDNA.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.

    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
    • 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
    • Ancestry composition 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 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

    AncestryDNA’s tree matching: we reconnected with cousin Irene thanks to Ancestry

    Family Tree DNA

    • Most privacy, best for your worried about their DNA being used for drug studies, etc …. BUT allows law enforcement to upload DNA profiles created from murderers and rapists.
    • 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 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
    • 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 $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 three of the main companies so if you click one of my links and buy a kit, then I get a little something.

    25 Comments

25 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.

  8. I DESPERATELY NEED TO UPLOAD OR TRANSFER A NOW DECEASED RELATIVES Y-46 DNA TEST SUBMITTED THRU ANCESTRY SEVERAL YEARS AGO. I CAN STILL VIEW IT AS A REPORT, BUT IT IS NOT COMPATIBLE WITH ANY OTHER WEBSITES SUPPOSEDLY?

    I TRIED TYPING THE INFORMATION INTO A FORM ON FAMILYTREEDNA.COM TWO YEARS AGO AND MANY EMAILS LATER, HAVE NOT HAD ANY COMPARISONS OR ANYTHING. I HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO GET THIS DATA INTO GEDMATCH OR ANYWHERE ELSE TO HAVE COMPARISONS RUN.

    WHAT WOULD YOU SUGGEST I DO WITH THIS CRITICAL DNA. WE DO NOT HAVE OUR GRANDFATHER LOCATED AND THIS IS HIS SON’S DNA.

  9. My sister and I both did AncestryDNA. I am the one very interested in ancestry and trying to put our tree together. In our results I get a lot of different matches than she does and vice versa. And the ethnicity is a bit strange. I have Italian 40% and she 0%. She has European Jewish I have 0%. As well the cM shared is 1703 over 79 segments. Could we still be full siblings with this information, or are we half siblings? Very curious…she opted to do 23andMe to see if it will show her with Italian ancestry. Still waiting for that. I have already done the 23andMe. Share your thoughts on our relationship.

  10. You are almost surely half siblings with that amount of cM. The 23andme results will be conclusive.
    This calculator says you cannot be full siblings:.php
    https://dnapainter.com/tools/sharedcmv4
    See also
    https://blog.kittycooper.com/2016/04/full-versus-half-sibling-dna-matches

    You could both upload you ancestry data to gedmatch genesis to find out for sure as well.
    Create a username at the gedmatch site and then upload
    I will be blogging more about genesis this coming week

  11. Thank you for this info.
    We are trying to pinpont a male ancestor, who came to NZ, spawned a couple of male children in 1850ish and left. We have a cousin who is a direct male descendent. Would it be best to have him do a YDNA test ( unfortunately are more expensive than an autosomnal) Or would an autosomnal prove sufficient to match him to any descendents of the male ancestor? ( was his great great Grandfather). There is another line of descendents in NZ, who our family say also came from the same ancestor, they dispute this- we share a G G grandmother also. So a female cousin has some matches with them through autosomnal on 23andme. But cant show which line it comes from ( male or female ) can it.Would 23andmes YDNA test be sufficent? Can their y results be uploaded to Family tree dna? Would appreciate some advice

    • No 23andme’s Y is not sufficient as it just gets the haplogroup from the SNPs. If the haplogroup is not the same then they are not from the same male line ancestor. However if it is the same, nothing is proven yet since haplogroups reach thousands of years back. For more recent genealogy you need to do the STR test to at least 37 markers at family tree DNA to confirm a common male line ancestor.
      This slide explains the difference between testing Y SNPs and STRs
      https://slides.com/kittycooper/dna-basics#/6

      To try and figure out who this person was, get as many cousins descended from him as you can to do autosomal tests and then look at their shared matches. Similar techniques to adoption searches

  12. Can my brother have a y test to try to find out who our Great Grandfather was , only recently my Grandfather was adopted . He never knew this and my only living Aunt was in total shock when we told her . I’m with MyHeritage . Do they do the Y test ? Or would I need to have it done through another company ?
    Regards Betty

    • Betty –
      Good idea to do a Y 37 or 67 test while they are on sale for father’s day, if your brother is on the straight paternal line from the adopted great grandad. However it may or may not tell you the surname. That is a matter of luck as to who else has tested.
      The Y test at family tree DNA is separate from the autosomal tests done by MyHeritage and others.
      Did you read this post?
      https://blog.kittycooper.com/2019/06/why-y
      If your ancestors are North American, then ancestry is the best place for autosomal testing to find an unknown ancestor since it has by far the largest database and good tools. Use the methodology adoptees use, see
      https://blog.kittycooper.com/dna-basics/help-for-adoptees/
      good luck!

  13. DNA Tests

    Don’t have it done at 23 & ME

    To anyone contemplating paying good money for a DNA test …
    And to any and all of the 23 & me staff and management ….
    You can expect these comments to show up on every DNA test blog and anywhere else that I can post them !!!

    PLEASE READ THIS !!!
    IF there a human at 23 & Me that’s really going to read this and get back to me ???
    ( for a 23 & Me reply when I originally submitted this to their feedback page )
    My great grand mother was a Native American ! ( North Eastern US , into Canada ) A number of my first cousins qualify for , and carry an Indigenous Canadian status cards . My brother looks like , and has been mistaken for a Native American ! His daughter , my niece , looks like , and has been mistaken for a Native American. My mother looked like a Native American !
    You said there is no Native American in my ancestry test !!!
    I would really like to get my money back !!!
    ( I haven’t pursued that because it would be a waste of time !!! )
    I have been discouraging anyone and everyone from paying for your test !
    Until you have a database that reflects an enormously larger sample of the population , you should either close up shop or advertise in the Psychic section of the Newspaper !! ….. ( I really hope that you get the inference )
    Your test revealed less than I knew before , about my ancestry !
    If your so-called genetic health and disposition revelations are as flawed as your Ancestry revelations , You might as well be selling snake oil !
    And Finally , There seems to be no way to access the actual DNA results ?
    I would really like to compare my DNA from your test to other DNA tests that I will have being done in the future ….
    I’d be more than happy to have you send them sent to me ….
    so I could have them on hand for re-evaluation .
    ( :– – me holding my breath … LOL )

    To —- 23 & Me management … my test identification number is
    68 6419 2027 5590

    • Wayne –
      Please do not blame 23andme which is a fine company in many ways.
      DNA testing is very accurate for relative matching but not that accurate for ancestry composition. Native American can show as Asian. How far back is your native American ancestor? You could just have inherited less NA DNA than expected, luck of the draw.
      You cannot go by looks. Frankly these companies hear this complaint all the time from people because the NA DNA is often so diluted over time that their algorithms do not pick it up.
      If your maternal halogroup ia A,B,C,D, or X then that is Native American see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_mitochondrial_DNA_haplogroup

      And lastly, you can download your DNA results for upload elsewhere from the Browse Raw Data page found on the drop down under your name.

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