The Pros and Cons of the Main Autosomal DNA Testing Companies—2016 Version

Usually, the first questions someone new to genetic genealogy asks are “Which test should I do? And which company should I use?” In almost all cases, the answer to the first question is an autosomal test, which looks at DNA inherited from all sides of your family. There are three main companies that do autosomal testing – AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA (a.k.a., FTDNA), and 23andMe – and which is best for you depends on your goals and family history. Ultimately, a serious genealogist will want to be in all three databases, but you have to start somewhere. For basic genealogy and for unknown parentage searches, I recommend that most people test at the companies in the following order. Where a specialized strength at one company might alter that recommendation, I note that. I’ve included a quick-reference table at the end of this post for convenience.



AncestryDNA has by far the largest autosomal database of the “big three” companies, larger than those of the other two combined. They announced in April 2017 that their database had exceeded 4 million people tested. This means you’re likely to find both more DNA relatives and closer ones there. For example, as of November 13, 2016, I had 7,901 matches at AncestryDNA, 1,583 at 23andMe (but see below), and 1,098 at FTDNA.

Sizes of the main databases for genealogical DNA testing, based on numbers from the ISOGG wiki
Sizes of the main databases for genealogical DNA testing, based on numbers from the ISOGG wiki edit history. The Genographic Project (Geno 2.0) is not discussed in this post. (


AncestryDNA also has some excellent tools to assist with your genealogical research. One is the ability to link your DNA test results to a family tree and have their computers automatically find names in common between your tree and those of your DNA matches. These “Shared Ancestor Hints” can then be targeted for additional paper-trail or DNA-based work to confirm the relationship. Although counterintuitive, this tool is invaluable for people who don’t know their family trees, because you can substitute the tree of a close DNA match to determine where in that other person’s tree your own ancestors lie, a trick often called “mirroring”. Once you know who, for example, your 2nd great grandparents are, you can research toward the present to find your biological parent. The “Shared Matches” tool also makes it easy to find third parties who share DNA with both you and one of your DNA relatives. This can allow you to hone in on a biological connection.

Ancestry’s computers can use clusters of people who share both DNA and ancestors in their public trees to create “DNA Circles” of probable relatives. They can also suggest possible ancestors who aren’t already in your tree. These “DNA Circles” and “New Ancestor Discoveries” can then be investigated further to confirm or refute them. Finally, AncestryDNA has the fastest website, although all three companies can be glitchy at times.


AncestryDNA has only recently entered the international market, so people whose heritage is predominantly outside the U.S. may want to test with one of the other companies first. They also lack a chromosome browser, which many experienced genetic genealogists consider essential. Without a chromosome browser, their matching system is a “black box” that can impede advanced DNA work. Their messaging system can be unreliable. They only offer the autosomal test and don’t provide haplogroup information for either mitochondrial DNA or the Y chromosome. Finally, although the test price includes the ethnicity estimate and a list of matching people, you need to subscribe to make the best use of their tools (US$59/year and up).

Regular Price for U.S. customers: US$99 for ethnicity results and a list of DNA matches; additional charge for membership; occasional sale prices or other discounts available

For tests in the UK, see here.

Summary: Test at AncestryDNA first if you have unknown parentage or are mainly interested in basic genetic genealogy.

NOTE: Do not be confused by a company called AncestrybyDNA, which often advertises on coupon sites like Groupon. It’s not the same thing and is useless for genealogy.




FTDNA’s main strengths are its chromosome browser, the availability of other types of DNA tests in addition to their autosomal Family Finder, the group projects, and their global customer base. The chromosome browser lets you visualize where in your genome you match other people. If you find two people who both match you in the same place, you can work with them to determine whether they also match one another, which would be evidence that you all inherited that one segment of DNA from a common ancestor. Their new phasing tool allows you to link known relatives to your tree to automate some of this segment work. Their “ICW” (In Common With) tool works similarly to AncestryDNA’s “Shared Matches”.

The company also offers yDNA and mtDNA testing to trace specific lines of your family tree (your father’s father’s father’s, etc. and your mother’s mother’s mother’s, etc., respectively). Group projects allow you to collaborate with other people descended from the same lineage and get advice from the group administrators, who are generally experts on that family or family group. Group projects are particularly useful for yDNA and mtDNA tests, less so for autosomal testing at the moment. Perhaps because of the availability of different types of DNA testing there, FTDNA’s customer base seems to be the most ardent about genetic genealogy. Overall, their responsiveness and willingness to help reflect well on the company.

FTDNA also has a more global database than AncestryDNA. Thus, if your recent ancestry is from Europe, you will probably find more and closer matches at FTDNA, despite their smaller database overall.

Other nice features of FTDNA are: they use a cheek scrape, which is easier for some older people than the saliva tests at Ancestry and 23andMe; they will store samples for 25 years so you can order additional tests later, even if the person you want to test has passed away; no additional subscription is needed to use their tools; and contact with your matches is via email, so you needn’t depend on an internal messaging system. (Of course, if you don’t want to share your email address, this might be a drawback.)

Oh, and the price! They recently announced a new, permanent price of $79 for the autosomal test, which is the least expensive in the industry.


FTDNA’s main weakness is the size of it’s autosomal database, which is estimated at about 500,000 people (April 2017). Also, their matching system includes small DNA segments that probably don’t reflect recent shared ancestry. As a result, they generally overestimate how closely related your DNA relatives are. Their trees are awkward to work with, adding to the challenge of finding shared ancestors with your DNA matches. Finally, their ethnicity estimates are generally considered the least accurate of the three companies. (An update to this tool has been promised.)

Regular Price for U.S. customers: US$79

Summary: Test at FTDNA first if your recent ancestors were not from the United States.

NOTE: If you have tested at one of the other two companies, you can transfer your raw autosomal data into the FTDNA database to get a list of matching relatives for free. You can gain access to their tools, like the chromosome browser, for a small fee of US$19. Depending on when your test at the other company was done (and therefore which version of the test you did), you may or may not be matched to distant relatives.




23andMe has the second largest database, last reported at about 2 million people (April 2017), and their autosomal test includes basic mitochondrial and Y-chromosome haplogroup information at no extra charge. Of the three main companies, they are widely acknowledged to have the most accurate ethnicity estimates.

Like FTDNA, 23andMe has a chromosome browser. Better yet, if you can find two people who match you in the same place, 23andMe’s browser allows you to directly compare them to see whether they match one another. This information can help you categorize your DNA relatives into the family branches through which they relate.

23andMe is the only one of the three companies that provides medical and trait reports. While not useful for genealogy, these reports can be fun (now I know why I drink so much caffeine) and can be useful for family planning. For example, one friend found out he’s a carrier for cystic fibrosis, despite being about 75% of African descent. Cystic fibrosis is most prevalent in Europeans, so learning that he was a carrier was a shock.

No additional subscription is required to access the DNA matching or reports.


23andMe’s weaknesses center on the fact that it’s not primarily a genealogy company; it’s a medical one. Most of their users aren’t interested in family history. For example, of my 1,583 matches there, only 633 (40%) have agreed to participate in the ancestry component of the website.

To protect the medical privacy of their customers, the company has instituted an awkward “sharing” system for viewing DNA segments. This means that you must individually request that each of your matches allow you to see where in your genomes you match one another. A small fraction, about 15% in my case, of users have opted into “Open Sharing”, which eliminates the need for individual requests. Their “Relatives in Common” feature equates to AncestryDNA’s “Shared Matches” and to FTDNA’s “ICW”, but it only works for those few matches who are participating in Open Sharing.

There are no family trees within the 23andMe system. Instead, 23andMe has partnered with MyHeritage to host trees. Very few of their customers use this feature.

Regular Price for U.S. customers: US$99 for ethnicity results, haplogroup assignments, and a list of DNA matches (not available outside the U.S.); US$199 if you also want medical and trait reports; sale prices are rare

Summary: Test at 23andMe first if medical reports are important to you, or if you are only interested in an ethnicity estimate.

Quick Reference Table




MyHeritage recently entered the DNA testing market. Because their database is still quite small, I have not reviewed them here.

Regular Price for U.S. customers: US$99


Living DNA

Living DNA is another new entry into the market. They provide haplogroup assignments and biogeographical analysis, and they advertise the most detailed ethnicity estimates available. Living DNA does not currently offer relative matching but are planning to do so in the future.

Regular Price for U.S. customers: US$159

This post has been edited to clarify that prices are for U.S. customers. International customers should check availability and pricing within their own countries. Prices and sizes of the databases were updated in May 2017.

61 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of the Main Autosomal DNA Testing Companies—2016 Version”

  1. Good analysis. Should mention that customer service at the big three leaves something to be desired, but FTDNA seems to be the worst in my experience. I have a Y-DNA 37 marker kit that was finished in September, but lacks two markers. I’ve contacted them multiple times with no avail. FTDNA does have fairly quick turnaround time, but Ancestry is the fastest.

    23andMe – which I dearly loved until they began tinkering with the website. Too many permissions, too difficult to navigate. One positive with the new site, if you have multiple kits on one account, the mail and sharing requests are now going straight to the kit in question.

    OK, I’ll get down off my soapbox.

    1. Thanks for comments. Customer service is an important topic that I didn’t address in my post.

  2. Great contribution! One small thing about Ancestry that is hard to say exactly, but it’s approach, despite warnings, makes it look like the dna driven ancestor hints 5ate more reliable thsn they actually are. If you can test at least 1 parent, you can detect genetically impossible hibts.

    1. That’s a good point, although definitely well past the beginner level I intended as the audience for this post. At the simplest level, you might get a “Shared Ancestor Hint” and assume that it’s solid proof of a relationship, which it’s not. It’s just a hint that needs additional work to confirm or disprove. At the next level, you could get a “Shared Ancestor Hint” through your mother to a DNA relative who matches only your father and then assume that the hint is wrong. That might also be a false assumption. Especially if you have deep roots in the U.S., you could genuinely be related to that person through both parents and simply not share DNA on your mother’s side.

      Definitely an advanced topic!

  3. Thanks for the information. I have been researching for nine years but just recently started testing DNA. I love finding information that is more on my level. I get emails saying we match but I do not understand where they found the match. Thanks, Clara Owen

    1. An email saying you match someone is based only on the fact that you share DNA segments. It doesn’t mean the company knows *how* you’re related.

      If you’re getting emails about “Shared Ancestor Hints” from AncestryDNA, they’re telling you that they found the same person (or couple) in your tree and in the tree of someone who shares DNA with you. This kind of hint should be treated as a suggestion, not solid proof of the relationship. You still need to do paper-trail work, and ideally you can use other DNA relatives, like parents, aunts/uncles, or close cousins to check that you’re on the right track.

  4. I’m surprised that the database with Family Tree is not larger. Both my husband and I tested with them and each of us received over 1,500 matches.

    1. It may well be larger. FTDNA hasn’t released official figures, so we only have an estimate to go on. I hope they’ll announce their autosomal database size eventually.

    1. Thanks for adding that observation. For some people, that’s a drawback. In some cases, like endogamy, limiting the Shared Matches to people who share 20 cM or more is a benefit. because distant cousins often match you on both sides of your tree. Ideally, the companies would allow us to set our own thresholds for these tools.

  5. Terrific post, and great information. I will share with my newly formed DNA Interest Group, as most have not yet tested.

  6. While 23 does test more medically-relevant SNPs than the other two sites, you can get a medical report that is FAR more thorough than the one the FDA will currently allow 23 to sell in the USA by paying just $5 to have Promethease analyze your raw DNA results from any of the big three. Also, I believe 23 has ended its brief partnership with My Heritage. Almost none of my 23 matches has a tree and few even bother to list more than one or two surnames or ancestral birth locations, so despite its relatively large membership, 23 is IMHO almost completely useless for genetic genealogy.

    As someone whose maternal origins are 100% UK and Ireland, FTDNA has been fantastic at helping me find cousins in those countries plus Australia and NZ. Given the number of close cousins I have there, I think it’s likely that far more than a quarter of a million people have tested. I also think the recent improvements to FTDNA’s tree, allowing you to easily add a close match, have brought FTDNA close to Ancestry in tree integration.

  7. Nice blog post. I think I will share it also via FB and Twitter. I’ve done all my atDNA tests through Ancestry and for the most part also support it as the first place to test in *most* cases. The “shared ancestors” tool was a *wonderful* addition and is very useful for categorizing all those no-public-tree matches.

    One last mention: please pitch GEDMatch. Wouldn’t be wonderful if all those many Ancestry matches were immediately available in GEDMatch. Wow, that would be a genetic genealogist’s Nirvana!

    ps…nice start on blogging. I just started one myself.


    1. Thanks for your comment and for the link. FTDNA hasn’t released the size of their autosomal (Family Finder test) database. The 830,094 figure is the total of yDNA (590,276) and mtDNA (239,818) testers.

  8. Can anyone say which system is the best at using X-DNA to help trace ethnicity? If I have an interesting branch in my tree, it is most likely through my maternal grandfather. As such, atDNA is a must and Y-DNA and mtDNA are useless. X-DNA could help with this difficult branch, I think.

    Once I have the ethnicity down, I will attack my paternal branch through Y-DNA testing. Any suggestions on that? While this probably won’t provide surprises (my father’s uncle traced this branch back to ancient Rome already using record at the Vatican) it does still have potential as that last known person on that branch was a soldier in the Roman Army.

    1. Ethnicity is reflected in all of your autosomomes plus the X, so confining your analysis to just the X chromosome is limiting your options. The X is most useful for ruling out certain lines as possible connections between yourself and a DNA match. It’s not a reliable way to prove connections, because you may not have inherited X DNA along that particular line just because of chance.

      For yDNA, start with the y-37 or y-67 test at Family Tree DNA. You might consider ordering it now, because it can take a few months to get the results in. Sounds like you have an exciting family story!

  9. Just received Myhertiage DNA results. Compared to DNA, I would not recommend. You can’t send a message to a match unless you pay.
    You get a broad overview, compared to Ancestry. Too many 2-4 cousins, 2 removed. Who do you believe? Hertiage stated I was 1 percent Native American,
    Ancestry said something else. Heritage said I was 84 percent N, S , W European,
    Ancestry broke it down.
    Your money, but I wish I had tried 23 and me.

    1. That’s interesting. I am able to message my DNA matches at MyHeritage without a subscription. I can’t comment on the ethnicity estimates, as I got into their database via the free upload, and I don’t have that feature. That said, I get different estimates from AncestryDNA, 23andMe, and FTDNA.

      The free upload is available here:

  10. Which database – if any- would be more reliable on shared ancestors? I have done both ancestry and 23 and so have 2 other distant relatives. In 23 and me- we are all common shared relatives. In ancestry I still relate to both- but they no longer connect to each other! This part has me confused – ideas?

    1. Two possible explanations: First, the two distant relatives may match one another in the Distant Cousins to one another at AncestryDNA. If so, you won’t be able to tell that they match using the Shared Matches tool, because it has a cut-off at 4th Cousins or closer. You’d have to ask one of them to check their matches for the other (by searching for an uncommon surname in the other’s tree or by using the DNAgedcom Client to scan all of their matches … the Distant Cousins category contains too many people to scroll through it manually).

      The second possibility is that they really aren’t one one another’s match lists at AncestryDNA because the Timber algorithm has down-weighted their matching segment(s) to the point that they no longer meet the threshold for matching.

  11. I’d like to get a kit for my wife to learn more about her genealogy and ethnicity (75% British Isles and 25% Russian, as far as she knows) without obligating her to either a long-term paid membership with one of the sites or needing to do extensive research on her own (which she won’t be interested in doing). I know there’s no breaking the “you get out what you put in” rule of the universe, but what is my best bet for a one-stop-shop approach? Thanks!

    1. If she’s only interested in the ethnicity estimates and nothing else, I suggest the 23andMe Ancestry Only test (without the health information). They have the best ethnicity estimates, in my opinion. It’s currently $99. There’s not much in the way of genealogy tools there, though. If she wants the health reports too, the cost is $199.

      If she’s willing to go with “second best” ethnicity estimates in exchange for the ability to build a (free) family tree and link it to her DNA results, she should test with AncestryDNA. She wouldn’t need a subscription for that. Their test is $79 right now.

      Either of those test results can be transferred to Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage for free.

      Finally, the companies tend to do Black Friday sales right after American Thanksgiving, so that’s a good time to buy if you’re in the US.

  12. I understand the concept of DNA databases. However, is every ethnicity conclusion drawn specifically from whichever database is being used?

    If so, then doesn’t the relative makeup of the database participants actually determine the ethnic group parameters to begin with?

    I’ll use an extreme example for what I’m trying to ask. Let’s say there is a DNA database of one million people. Let’s say that there are 200k people from Germany who have submitted DNA. Now let’s assume all of those 200k are the pure descendants of Turkish immigrants. Would the DNA of those 200k shape the standard of what constitutes German ethnicity (or Northwest European, et al) for the entire study?

    I guess another way to put it is “Are these DNA companies using any starting point pre-database?” If not, then all databases are skewed by any and all recent immigration to any region.

    I would hope there are certain genetic markers that science has decided unequivocally belong to certain indigenous/historic ethnic groups. I would hope that every company would use some sort of stand-alone precedent before they look to their databases. If not, then I don’t see much point in any of this.

    I hope someone can explain, because I was very interested in ordering a kit until reading some things about the databases.

    1. The companies estimate ethnicity by comparing your DNA to data from a set of reference populations (also called a reference panel). And you’re exactly right that a reference population that is not representative of that region will affect how accurate the ethnicity estimates are. For that reason, the companies don’t construct their reference populations from their general customer bases. Rather, they use a combination of publicly available data from the scientific community, people they’ve recruited specifically to build their reference populations, and carefully screened individuals from their customer bases.

      Because each company has its own reference panel and its own way of analyzing the data, you won’t get the exact same ethnicity estimates from each one.

      You can read more about the ethnicity estimates here:

  13. “Rather, they use a combination of publicly available data from the scientific community, people they’ve recruited specifically to build their reference populations, and carefully screened individuals from their customer bases.”

    This is wonderful to know. And thank you for the links. I had checked the specific sites originally but saw nothing. It seems that info is pretty-well buried. Thank you for them.

  14. Thanks for providing the additional information regarding testing. Please notify me of new posts by email. I have read many customer reviews in which the individuals believe the test results from Ancestry DNA are inaccurate. Is there any evidence to support their claims, and are there any reports which might indicate which testing site has the most accurate results? Also, I can find little or no comparisons on which site(s) are the most user-friendly or easiest to interpret as well as which have costs beyond the basic autosomal test. Any answers you may be able to provide would be appreciated.

    1. You can subscribe to my blog by entering your email address in the “Subscribe!” field to the right of any of the posts.
      As for “accuracy”, it depends whether you’re talking about ethnicity estimates or relative matching. For various reasons that deserve their own blog post, no company can give you 100% accurate ethnicity estimates. If that’s your primary goal, you should understand that the estimates will always have some “fuzziness” around the edges, especially within a continent. That said, I find that the ones at 23andMe are generally pretty good. For relative matching (that is, finding other people who share DNA with you and predicting how closely related they are to you), AncestryDNA and 23andMe are both pretty good. Again, there are limitations “baked in” because of how DNA is inherited.

  15. I did my atDNA test through because I have a pretty extensive family tree (10+ years of research). I’d like to have my dad tested only because his grandfather never knew who his father was–he has mother’s surname. The mother was Swedish and I assume so was the father. Would it be best to have my dad do the Y-DNA test through Family Tree DNA or should he just do the same atDNA that I did? Thanks!

    1. If you can afford it, I would do both: Y-DNA through Family Tree DNA and autosomal DNA through AncestryDNA. Then, transfer the atDNA results from AncestryDNA into his account at FTDNA. That will get him into the largest matching pool for the least amount of money. FTDNA tests are on sale right now worldwide, and AncestryDNA may be on sale depending on what country you’re in, so now is a good time to buy.

  16. So are all of these tests only testing the maternal side??? I don’t understand the autosomal, mitochondrial, etc., etc., etc. I am female and did MyHeritage test, and results show 92% British/Irish, and my mom’s was 100% British/Irish/Welsh/Scottish. So does that mean that my other 8% is from my dad (some scandinavian, middle-eastern, other european, and north african), and that both of my mom’s parents and their ancestors were from that same area???

    My sons tested and they got 74% and 77% British, some scandinavian, (some other european including jewish, and some north african) and the rest is different, so does that mean they got that from me and the rest from their dad??? Or is this all based on what they got from me and we don’t know what they got from their dad???

    Thanks, debbie

    1. Ethnicity estimates are based on autosomal DNA, which includes both maternal and paternal side in equal doses. Ethnicity estimates are complicated, though, and even someone who considers themselves to be 100% British might show small contributions from other areas. Also, because ethnicity estimate are complex science, the results have some uncertainty.
      To address your situation: if you mom was 100% British Isles and you’re 92%, you can assume that the other stuff *probably* came from your father. Same for the differences between you and your sons. It’s also possible that some of the differences are due to the uncertainty in the underlying method.
      (My recent post might help to understand ethnicity estimates better:

  17. I just started testing my dna, so i went through «myheritage» since they had a christmas deal, i have knowledge that a part of my family is dutch and german, but was very much hoping to get scandinavian results as well for personal reasons. The results i got was east europe 2%, nigerian 1%, irish/scottish/welsh 39.7%, and english around 60%, i was very surprised by these results and have a feeling its not very accurate, so im deciding to invest in other dna tests. If you know what company would best analyze earlier ancestry in northwest europe please let me know. And This was very well written and i appreciate you for taking the time to make it! As far as im seeing looks like you said ftdna was the best for outside usa ancestry.

    1. I personally think that 23andMe has the most accurate ethnicity estimates. MyHeritage is planning to revise their ethnicity estimates soon, so check back with them later.

  18. Greetings and thanks for your willingness to respond to us inquiring parties with such knowledge and cheerfulness! My Mom and I tested our DNA through MyHeritage at Christmas. The results were interesting. I have a couple questions that perhaps you could shed light on: 1) Through my detailed genealogy work over the past 15 years I documented my Mom’s French-Canadian heritage through her Dad’s Mother’s side (she was 3/4 French Canadian) back to the 1600s. Interestingly NO French showed up in her ethnicity. By layman’s reckoning she would be 3/16 French, but is that a small enough fraction that it could get lost through recombining, etc., through the generations? 2) It also showed that she was 66% English, which is a much higher percentage that we would have thought, but the odd thing is that my ethnicity estimate showed 0% English! Is that genetically possible? If she actually is 66% English, even through recombination, etc., wouldn’t I have to inherit at least some of that? How could I show 0% English? And lastly, 3) you mentioned that MyHeritage is revising its ethnicity results “soon” – can you offer any more info about that? Should I contact them about this upcoming “revision”? Thank you so much.

    1. It’s complicated. First of all, French and German are both incredibly hard to assign based on DNA because of those countries’ locations at the crossroads of Europe. People from other regions moving through the area left their genetic marks, diluting the genetic signature there. In fact, most of the testing companies don’t even have a category for French, and many of us with French ancestry get assigned to “British” instead. I would wait until MyHeritage revamps their ethnicity estimates and re-evaluate then.

  19. I have been tempted many times to have my DNA tested. I have been on for several years researching my family tree. I have been curious as to how much native American I have among other things, but I am skeptical every time I think of ordering a Dna kit I am advice against it. The government will have it on file. Is your DNA actually safe?

    1. AncestryDNA is a private company, not the government, so if you test with them, the government will not have your data on file. Like any company, though, AncestryDNA may grant access to law enforcement if they are presented with a valid court warrant. In 2017, they complied with warrants 31 times, but all of them were related to credit card fraud; they weren’t for access to DNA data. Here is a quote from their Transparency Report for 2017: “We received no requests for information related to genetic information of any Ancestry member, and we did not disclose any such information to law enforcement.”

      You can read the Transparency Report yourself here. It has information to help decide whether testing is right for you:

  20. I am new to the DNA aspect of my family tree. I did my test through Ancestry and really like the ‘circles’ component. Are the circles actually made up of DNA matches or your tree or a combination of both? I am worried that my tree has a lot of errors because when I first started years ago, I blindly accepted hints… especially when I had a hard time with a paper trail. Now, with more archives online, it is easier to source it. However, I decided to research a specific branch and was able to get to my 4 great grandparents. While on Wiki Tree, I tries to do a GEDmatch comparison between a known decendant (according to wikitree) and myself but it said there were no common markers. Do I need to do a maternal test specifically to see a match? Could it be they are too distant?

    1. The more distant a cousin, the greater the chances that you won’t match one another (even though you really are cousins). There are no known cases of 2nd cousins who don’t match, but about 10% of 3rd cousins don’t, 50% of 4th cousins, and maybe 90% of 5th cousins. That’s why DNA Circles are so powerful; they allow you to aggregate all of those distant cousins together. Even so, they should be considered “hints” rather than proof. They’re a great way to focus your research combining paper trails with DNA matches.

      1. One more question… Do the other DNA test trace back generations more accurately? Let’s say to a 7th cousin for example? Thank you for your help! ?

        1. The only tests that can trace back more generations are the yDNA (father’s father’s father’s line) and mtDNA (mother’s mother’s mother’s line). Those tests can trace matches back hundreds of years, but only on the one line. That is, there would be no wayto trace your mother’s father’s mother’s side.

  21. Thanks for this great site with comprehensible information for the day-one starter. I want to test but do not know how extensive I should start and where. I was always told that my paternal grandfather was from Spain, maybe either from the Canary Islands or Barcelona (I know nothing else except, of course our last name). On my mother’s side, her father was born in Puerto Rico, which originally/historically was the result of African, European, and native Taino Indians. He was white, with light colored hair and deep blue eyes. His last name also seemed to have come from Spain, but I am only guessing so.
    Based on you comparison of testing companies, I would say I need to start with FTDNA, but would/should I also need to do the paternal and/or maternal testing? I want to take advantage of the TG sale prices. Thanks in advance.

    1. I recommend the Y-37 test from Family Tree DNA to track the direct-male line, and then the AncestryDNA and 23andMe autosomal tests to find more relatives. You can either transfer the AncestryDNA results to MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA or test directly with Family Tree DNA (their Family Finder test) during the sale. It’s only $39 right now, and you’ll get $5 off if you do Family Finder and Y-37 at the same time.

      Current prices are listed here:

      By the way, southern Louisiana has a large number of Canary Islanders who immigrated in the late 1700s. If you find a lot of matches from southern Louisiana, that will help to confirm that your grandfather was from the Canary Islands. Some of the surnames in Louisiana have been modified over time (e.g., Migues instead of Miguez), but most will still be recognizable as of Spanish origin.

  22. Would it be wise to simply get autosomal tests from as well as FTDNA?

    Would there be a lot of overlap if I did?

    1. Ancestry’s database is at least 10 times larger than FTDNA’s, so you’ll find a lot of matches at Ancestry that you won’t find at FTDNA. I would definitely test at both, and if you can only do one, do Ancestry.

  23. Thank you for responding to all these questions. I’m very new to this ancestry testing, and my boyfriend mentioned he was interested in getting tested. Trick is, he’s a first generation immigrant from Jordan. He believes both his mother and father’s families have been there for the last 200 years, with potential of integration with those from Turkey. First, if I was to get this as a gift, what would be the best company if he has no family here in the States? Is it even worth it based on the databases? I believe he is interested in the ethnicity breakdown. Second, his family does have health issues, so regardless of his heritage, would the reports from 23 be enlightening based on the information above? Thanks for your insights!

  24. Does Ancestry’s DNA test name half relatives? John and Mary have known each other all their lives and should test as first cousins. Ancestry says they are first or second cousins but likely to be second cousins. There is a rumor in the family that would make John and Mary half cousins. Is this the likely answer for the second cousin result?

  25. We are about 1 1/2 years away from your last reply. Can you tell me if your assessment
    of the dna companies today has changed ? What are the improvements.

    1. Good question! We’re long overdue for an update. You can see current database sizes here:

      All of the companies continue to make improvements, but I think AncestryDNA and MyHeritage have advanced the most since 2018, with 23andMe and LivingDNA improving to a lesser degree. I’ve lost trust in FTDNA, so I no longer recommend them except for yDNA and mtDNA matching, where you basically don’t have a choice.

Comments are closed.