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Family DNA Tests Compared

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the four best-selling ancestry DNA test kits.  Each feature is explained in detail, below the chart.

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 FTDNA

$79

AncestryDNA

$99

23AndMe

$99 on Amazon

Geno 2.0

$199

OUR TAKEThe best DNA test for serious family genealogists. If you only buy one, buy this one.Excels at finding new matches, but you'll need a separate tool to verify them.Best choice if you also want/need health screening ($199).Best choice for learning where your ancient ancestors came from and your ethnicity.
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WebsiteFamilyTreeDNA.comAncestryDNA.com23AndMe.comNationalGeographic
DNA Database850,000 records
200 countries
1,000,000 records
95% US
UK added Feb-15
1,000,000 records
56 countries
90% US
700,000 records
140 Countries
StrengthsImport DNA from other services. Built-in verification tools.
Emails provided for matches. International coverage.
Largest collection of family trees.
Leaf feature makes finding potential matches a breeze.
Unique medical/health DNA screening ($199). Identifies ancient ancestors and migration paths back to 500,000 years BC.
WeaknessesUser interface & forum need work (but getting better).No way to verify potential matches.
Some family trees are off limits / locked.
US-centric.
Family tree support is weak.
Matches don't always respond.
Does not identify potential relatives.
TechnologyCheek swab /
Autosomal DNA,
Y-Chrom. (paternal),
mtDNA (maternal)
Saliva sample /
Autosomal DNA
Saliva sample /
Autosomal DNA
Cheek swab / Autosomal DNA
Find Relatives?Yes - Name, Email addressYes - name & family tree.
Request email using internal messaging.
Yes - non-identifying data only.
Request email using internal messaging.
No
Verify Match?Yes - Chromosome browser (Best in Class)NoYes - Chromosome browserNo
Reveal Ethnicity?Yes - Best in class for non-European ancestryYes - new featureYes - Best in class for European ancestryYes
Maintain Family Trees?YesYesYesNo
Import Tree Data?Yes - GEDCOMYes - GEDCOMYes - GEDCOMNo
Import DNA Data?Yes - AncestryDNA and 23AndMeNoNoNo
Customer SupportExcellentGoodLimitedLimited

Explanations

Size of DNA Database

The number of DNA test records contained in the DNA data base – the larger the number the better. Also, we note where the records came from (where the tests are sold).

Technology

There are three types of DNA tests used for geneology research today:

  • autosomal DNA:  analysis of 22 chromosomes that all humans share. Can identify male and female lineage. Accuracy is limited to 5 or 6 prior generations (typically the 17th to 18th century).
  • Y-Chromosome (paternal): analysis of the Y-chromosome. Can determine male lineage only. Accurate to thousands of years.
  • mtDNA (maternal): analysis of mitochondrial DNA. Can determine female lineage only. Accurate to thousands of years.

The Genographic Project uses a special, custom test that blends all three of these together.

Easy To Find Relatives?

Can the test identify specific relatives (by name or ID) in the DNA database who are related to the test-taker, based on a DNA match? If you are trying to find lost relatives or build your family tree, this feature is critical.

Can We Verify a Match?

Does the test offer tools such as a chromosome browser that let the test-taker verify the accuracy of a DNA match? Critical for autosomal tests due to the statistical nature of the match.

Reveal Ethnicity?

Can the test reveal long-term (>5 generation) ethnic and racial history of the test-taker?

Can We Maintain Family Trees?

Does the test platform support the creation and maintenance of family trees? Or is a separate tool required?

Can We Import Tree Data?

Does the test allow for the import of existing GEDCOM family tree data files (or another format)? This feature is important for test takers who have documented their family tree in another tool or platform.

Can We Import DNA Data?

Does the test let you import your DNA test records from another service? At this time, only FamilyTreeDNA allows you to do this.

Customer Support

How responsive and effective is the company’s customer support, relative to other test services?


Glossary of Terms

Autosomal DNA

Autosomal DNA is DNA from one of our chromosomes located in the cell nucleus. It excludes the sex chromosomes. Humans have 22 pairs of autosomal chromosomes and one pair of sex chromosomes.

centiMorgan (cM)

A measurement of how likely a segment of DNA is to recombine from one generation to the next. A segment of DNA with a single centiMorgan has a 1% chance that it will crossover, or recombine, within one successive generation. In human DNA, 1,000,000 base pairs average one centiMorgan, and the rate of recombination is extremely variable.

Chromosome

A molecular structure found in the nucleus of a cell that contains genetic material. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes: 22 pairs of autosomes plus 1 pair of sex (X-Y) chromosomes.

Endogamous Population

The members of an endogamous population typically only marry within the population (usually cousins). Long periods of intermarriage leave many endogamous people with very low genetic diversity, compared with the general population. The Amish, Basque, Cajun Americans and several Jewish clans are known to be highly endogamous. DNA matches in endogamous populations can appear to be much more modern than they are (for example, appears to be a direct cousin when in reality is a distant second cousin, three generations back).

Haplogroup

A haplogroup is an ancestral clan defined by a particular genetic mutation present in all of its members’ DNA. Most haplogroups are larger than a clan or a tribe, think: Anglo-Saxons vs. Vikings. All American Indians fit into one of two haplogroups, for example. Haplogroups are either male (defined by Y-chromosome mutations), female (defined by mitochondrial DNA mutations) or both.

GEDCOM

A Genealogical Data Communication (GEDCOM) file is used to store encoded genealogical data and is used by DNA genealogists to exchange pedigree data.

Geneology

The study of family history.

Genetic genealogy

Using your DNA and your family’s DNA to connect with others and to answer geneology/family history questions.

Marker

A marker is a single physical location on the chromosome. For example, the Y-DNA67 test is a panel of 67 markers.

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)

The genetic material found inside of intercell structures called mitochondria. mtDNA is passed from females to sons and daughters, but a son cannot pass down his mother’s mtDNA to his children. Used for tracing maternal lineage.

Y-Chromosome

One of the two sex chromosomes, the other being the X chromosome. The Y-Chromosome passes from father to son only; females cannot receive it and do not contain a Y chromosome in their DNA.  Y-Chromosome DNA tests are used to trace paternal lineage. A graphic tree of Y-chromosome haplogroups is available online at YCC2010.