23andme or ancestrydna

Which is Better: 23andme or AncestryDNA?

Are you trying to decide between 23andMe and AncestryDNA?

You’ve come to the right place.

These are definitely the two most popular ancestry DNA tests in the US, right now.

In this in-depth comparison, I’ll compare 23andMe vs. AncestryDNA on the following features important to any family genealogist:

  • Ethnicity Reporting
  • Maternal and Paternal Lineage
  • Finding & Contacting Relatives
  • Data Export
  • Health Screening
  • Data Privacy
  • Price

This page takes about 5-8 minutes to read.

So let’s dive in!

(Note: To see how these 2 tests compare against FamilyTreeDNA, see my three-way comparison.)

Quick Comparison: 23andMe vs.AncestryDNA


$ Check Amazon
$ Check Amazon
  • () Ethnicity Report
  • () Paternal Genealogy Tracing
  • () Maternal Genealogy Tracing
  • () Family tree
  • () Data Export
  • () Health Screening
  • Finding Relatives: Good
  • Data Privacy: Excellent


  • () Ethnicity Report
  • () Paternal Genealogy Tracing
  • () Maternal Genealogy Tracing
  • () Family tree
  • () Data Export
  • () Health Screening
  • Finding Relatives: Excellent
  • Data Privacy: Excellent

23andMe: Pros & Cons

23andme ancestry DNA test logo 150x75


  • Large database of over 2 million DNA records.
  • Maternal and paternal lineage tracing.
  • Neanderthal ancestry.
  • Provides FDA-approved genetic health screening.
  • Allows download of raw data.
  • Tight privacy controls.
  • Easy-to-read reports.


  • Low response rate from DNA matches.
  • Limited ethnicity regions.
  • No family tree management.
  • No chromosome browser to confirm results.

Ancestry DNA: Pros & Cons

ancestrydna ancestry DNA test logo 150x25


  • Largest database (6+ million DNA test results).
  • Fine-grained ethnicity coverage (150 ethnic regions)
  • Connect DNA matches with historical records.
  • Data privacy assured.
  • Best family tree tools in the business.
  • Sharing DNA results with others is easy.
  • Far higher DNA match response rate.
  • Allows raw data download.


  • No health screening.
  • No paternal or maternal lineage tracing.
  • Family tree feature requires a subscription.
  • No chromosome browser to confirm results.

Let’s dive deeper and look at how 23AndMe and AncestryDNA compare on the most important features, one at a time.

Ethnicity Reporting

Best DNA Test

Both 23andMe and AncestryDNA provide reports detailing your genetic ethnicity in terms of the regions of the world in which your ancestors lived.

To do that, they rely proprietary databases of DNA collected from their customers all over the world.

The size of their database is important: the larger, deeper and more diverse the database, the more detailed your ethnic report can be.

When it comes to fine-grained ethnicity reporting, AncestryDNA is the clear winner between these two as they provide insights for over 150 ethnic regions.

23andMe only reports your roots across 31 regions.

AncestryDNA covers dozens of regions in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. 23andMe covers the same areas, but its categorization is more broad.

Winner: AncestryDNA

If you want the most detailed ethnicity reporting possible, then AncestryDNA is the better choice.

Learn More at Ancestry.com


Maternal and Paternal Lineage

23andMe vs Ancestry

AncestryDNA’s results are based solely on autosomal DNA. Autosomal DNA looks at the 22 pairs of DNA that do not include the sex chromosomes.

The downside of relying solely on autosomal DNA is that you cannot trace your maternal or paternal ancestry individually. You can only look at general tribal history.

In contrast, 23andMe three types of DNA: mitochondrial (mtDNA), Y-chromosome (Y-DNA) and autosomal (A-DNA).

Because of this, 23AndMe can report your family history along maternal and paternal lines separately.

With one exception: the disadvantage of paternal (Y-DNA) haplogroup testing is that it disadvantages women. Women don’t inherit the Y chromosome, so a woman can only trace their father’s side on 23AndMe if they also test the DNA of a known blood relative male in their immediate family, such as a brother or uncle.

23AndMe also offers a unique Neanderthal test that tells you how much Neanderthal DNA is left over in your bloodline from tens of thousands of years ago. Of course, the size of your brow can tell you the same thing (just kidding!).


23AndMe reports your lineage beyond ethnic origins. Even though their paternal and maternal tracing is basic (compared with FTDNA), it’s better than the autosomal-only test used by Ancestry.com.

Buy 23AndMe Now & Save


Finding Relatives

23andme or ancestrydna

One of the reasons people get their DNA tested is to discover relatives they never knew they had.

There are many stories of cousins finding each other and people finding their birth parents using DNA tests.

Both of these services will help you find relatives.

You can contact them, too – although due to privacy policies, that is easier said than done.

Finding Relatives Using AncestryDNA

After you take AncestryDNA’s test and get your results, you will be able view your potential DNA matches online.

AncestryDNA maintains the largest DNA database for genetic ancestry research – over 6 million records and growing – so you will also have the best chance to obtain a match… especially if you are an American (their database is heavily weighted to the US).

The privacy settings that your matches use will determine what information you can see about them. You also choose what information you wish to display to your matches.

Based upon their settings, you’ll either see their real name or AncestryDNA username.  You’ll also be able to see their ethnicities if they have opted to display them.

If you both share a family tree on AncestryDNA, then you can see which relatives you share and their locations. Ancestry’s family tree feature is especially helpful if your goal is to research or verify your family tree.

Because there are so many family trees on the service that document maternal and paternal lineage, you can use AncestryDNA to trace your maternal and paternal lines using just autosomal DNA results. However, you need to be an Ancestry.com monthly subscriber to create, use and maintain family trees.

On AncestryDNA, you unfortunately cannot see your matches’ contact information. Instead, Ancestry.com provides an internal messaging system you can use to contact potential matches and invite them to join your family tree.

AncestryDNA is just one part of Ancestry.com’s many genealogical tools and services. Almost every Ancestry.com member is there to learn about their family history. Because of that, you’ll find that people there are generally more willing to reply to your messages and to share information with you than on other services.

Finding Relatives Using 23andMe

As with AncestryDNA, you get immediate access to potential DNA matches as part of your 23andMe test result. How much information you will see about your matches will also depend on your matches’ privacy settings.

If the match opts out of sharing their info, you’ll only be able to see their haplogroups, their ancestor locations and their surnames – as long as they have added this information to their profile.

Likewise, if you want matches to find you, then you’ll need to make sure your profile is filled-out and publicly visible.

If both you and your match have sharing turned on, then you’ll be able to compare more information including ancestry composition and how much DNA you share.

You can communicate with your potential matches in one of two ways: either send a request to them to share their information, or send them a message through the internal messaging system.

Unlike AncestryDNA, 23andMe is most often used for DNA health screening. Many users there are not looking to learn more about their family and are more hesitant about sharing sensitive medical information. The match response rate on 23andMe is quite a bit lower than AncestryDNA, as a result.


If your goal is to find possible relatives and connect with them, then AncestryDNA is your best choice.

Learn More at Ancestry.com


DNA Data Export

23AndMe Raw DNA Data Browser

23AndMe Raw DNA Data Browser

23andMe and AncestryDNA both provide summaries of your test results in their reports.

But there is a whole lot of raw data extracted from your DNA that stands behind those beautiful graphs and charts.

This section explains how easy it is for you to get that data yourself, to learn more things.

OK, so first off, unless you are a genealogist you probably don’t want to “see” your raw DNA data. It’s filled with hundreds of thousands of data points that are impossible to interpret on your own.

But that doesn’t mean you raw DNA data is useless. Using a variety of third party services and software (see a few recommendations here), you can glean a lot more information from your autosomal DNA.

The most popular tools for doing this include Promethease, GEDmatch, Oymygenes and Genetic GenieSome are free, others charge a fee.

Both 23andMe and AncestryDNA let you download your raw data and use it in any way you want.

Note that the raw data you download is not fully validated because neither of these services don’t validate data not used in their reports. You should only use it for informational, educational and research purposes. Do not use it to make a medical decision.

If you learn something troubling about your genetic health, talk to a doctor or a licensed genetic counselor.

Note: Neither service allows you to upload raw DNA data from other services.  FTDNA, however, does.



Genetic Health Screening

23AndMe - sample health screening results

23AndMe – sample health screening results

Only 23andMe offers genetic health screening and wellness reports that tell you:

  • Your genetic health risk for Celiac disease, late-onset Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
  • How your genes affect your overall wellness in areas like genetic-related weight gain, sleeping habits, and lactose intolerance.
  • Whether you are a carrier for certain inheritable health conditions. There are over 40 reports on genetic-related hearing loss, sickle cell anemia, and cystic fibrosis.
  • How your DNA is connected to your physical traits such as the amount of body hair, taste senses, and hair loss.

If you buy AncestryDNA and want genetic health reports, then you’ll have to download your raw data and upload it into a third-party DNA analysis tool or service.


Buy 23AndMe & Save


Data Privacy

23andme or ancestrydnaBoth services are serious when it comes to your genetic privacy. You always have control over what to share and what to keep private.

AncestryDNA offers an especially convenient system where you can give others varying levels of control (viewer, collaborator, and manager) over your account.

23andMe goes to great lengths to protect your privacy. Your DNA information and personal details are stored separately. Your DNA data is identifiable only through a barcode. This ensures that even if someone got their hands on your data, they wouldn’t know it was yours.

Both services promise to ask for your consent before using your genetic data for any research purposes.




Best DNA Test Options Best DNA Test for Ancestry

Before discounts, 23andMe’s combined health and ancestry package sells for $199 while their ancestry-only package costs $99.

But discounts are frequently available for $20 to $40 off.

AncestryDNA costs $99 but is usually discounted by at least $20. This does not include subscription costs for Ancestry.com if you also want to build a family tree.

WinnerDepends on Your Goal

If your goal is to build your family tree, then AncestryDNA is the better choice.

Buy AncestryDNA NOW


If you want health screening, then choose 23AndMe.

Buy 23AndMe NOW


23andMe is Your Best Choice If…

Best DNA Test

You want quick information on your ancestry plus a detailed genetic health screening.

We also recommend 23AndMe if you want to trace your paternal and maternal lineage separately or you want to find out how much of a Neanderthal you are 😉

Buy It Now at 23AndMe.com


AncestryDNA is Your Best Choice If…

Best DNA Test

You want to build your family tree or find and connect with relatives online.

AncestryDNA’s larger DNA database and family tree services make this the better choice for genealogical research.

We also recommend AncestryDNA if:

  • You want to leverage other family trees to build your own.
  • You want to find matches and contact them.
  • You are serious about researching your genealogy.

Buy It Now at Ancestry.com


About the Author Charles McKnight

I'm just another amateur genealogist investigating my American-Scots-Irish lineage. I built MyFamilyDNATest.com after buying all of the leading DNA tests to discover everything I could about my family history. Hopefully, this site will save you time and demystify the emerging science of DNA-based genealogy, for your family project.

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