The Pros and Cons of the Main DNA Testing Companies—2018 version

This post has been updated.

“Which DNA test should I do? And which company should I use?”

I hear those questions a lot! There are now five main companies that offer genealogically useful DNA tests, there are three “types” of DNA tests, some of those tests are offered at different levels, and some companies will let you transfer your data from their competitors, so it’s no surprise that someone new to testing might feel completely overwhelmed!  

But in almost all cases, one answer to “which type of test” is what’s called an autosomal test. Autosomal DNA (atDNA) is inherited from both sides of your family, so it’s useful for genealogy research on any branch of your tree. atDNA tests are the ones that give the popular ethnicity estimates, with ancestral origins broken down by percentage (e.g., Senegalese, Southeast Asian, Spanish), as well as medical and trait reports. They also “match” you to genetic relatives based on how much DNA they share with you. The down side is that atDNA gets diluted each generation, so using it for genealogy becomes more difficult the further back in time you go. This fan chart below shows that atDNA in you (the central blue circle) is inherited from your father (left) and mother (right), all four grandparents, all eight great grandparents, and so on. Every one of your 3rd great grandparents contributed DNA to you. By the time you get to 5th great grandparents, however, there’s a chance you won’t have inherited any DNA from that ancestor, and the likelihood increases with each generation back beyond that.

Fan chart courtesy of RootsFinder


The other “types” of DNA tests examine Y-chromosome DNA (yDNA) and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Each type tracks a single line of your family tree: the direct male line (son to father to grandfather, etc.) in the case of yDNA and the direct female line (child to mother to grandmother, etc.) in the case of mtDNA. Only men can do a yDNA test; everyone can do an mtDNA test. Although each tracks only a single line of your family, yDNA and mtDNA aren’t diluted over generations the way atDNA is, so these tests can be used to address research questions much further back in genealogical time than atDNA tests can.

yDNA and mtDNA fan charts courtesy of RootsFinder

In 2018, there are five main companies that do genealogical DNA testing – AncestryDNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage, Family Tree DNA (FTDNA), and Living DNA – and which is best for you depends on your goals and family history. I personally use all of them, and I spend a lot of time on their websites as part of my work. Ultimately, a serious genealogist will want to be in all five 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 order that the are reviewed below. Where a specialized strength at one company might alter that recommendation, I note that. I’ve also included a quick-reference table for convenience.

Database Size 10+ million 5+ million 1.9+ million 890,000+ Unknown
Availability 36 countries 50 countries most countries most countries most countries
Regular Price $99 $99/$199 $79 $79 $99
Collection Method Saliva Saliva Swab Swab Swab
Ethnicity Estimates Very reliable Very reliable Least reliable Reliable Reliable for Brits
Ethnicity Regions 43, plus 349 communities 27 + 150 recent ancestor locations 42 24 80 (21 in UK and Ireland)
Tree–DNA Integration Excellent None Good Some TBD
Shared Matches Yes, basic Yes, advanced Yes, advanced Yes, basic TBD
Medical/Trait Reports Yes, a few (extra charge) Yes, many (extra charge) No No No
Additional Membership ($) Recommended No Available No No
Chromosome Browser No Yes, with triangulation Yes, with triangulation Yes, no triangulation TBD
Accepts Raw Data Files No No Yes Yes Yes
Contact with Matches Internal messaging Internal messaging Internal messaging Email TBD
Percent Users with Trees 75.1% 2.9% 88.4% 40.0% TBD
Test Types Available atDNA only atDNA with haplogroups atDNA only atDNA, yDNA, mtDNA atDNA with haplogroups
DNA Collaboration Tools Yes, sharing invitations No No Yes, projects TBD
Allows Law Enforcement Access to Database Not without a warrant Not without a warrant Not without a warrant Yes Not without a warrant
Top Reason to Test Here First General genealogy, unknown parentage Ethnicity estimates, medical reports Recent European ancestry yDNA and mtDNA tests, projects Recent British ancestry


Company Reviews is an American company that began as a genealogy magazine publisher in 1983. It has since expanded to offer online tree-building, subscriptions to genealogy records, and autosomal DNA testing.


  • AncestryDNA has by far the largest autosomal database of the “big five” companies, larger than those of its four competitors combined. As of September 2018, their database included more than 10 million people. This means the average tester is likely to find both more DNA relatives and closer ones there. This is especially important for adoptees, whose success at finding their birth parents is directly correlated to how close their DNA matches are.

  • Their ethnicity estimates are coupled with a more refined feature called Genetic Communities or Migrations. They add precision to your ethnicity estimates, which are based on larger geographic regions. For example, if your ethnicity is part Ireland/Scotland/Wales, you might be placed in a Genetic Community for Central Ireland and then further localized to Roscommon. Alternately, if your Genetic Community is based on a unique population that settled somewhere other than the originating ethnic group(s), it will be called a Migration. Southwestern Louisiana Acadians, for example, are a mixture of French, Irish, German, and Spanish who occupied southern Louisiana starting in the mid-1700s. You can tell “ethnicity estimates” from “Genetic Communities” because the former are depicted with solid colored circles while the latter have dashed lines around the circles.
  • Seventy-five percent of their DNA users have family trees in their accounts, meaning that you can often figure out the connection and advance your own research even if the other person is not active in genealogy.
  • When you link your DNA test results to your family tree, Ancestry’s computers will automatically suggest possible connections between you and your DNA relatives who also have trees. These “Shared Ancestor Hints” show the probable lines of descent for both parties. They can then be targeted for additional paper-trail or DNA-based work to confirm the relationship.
  • Even without Shared Ancestor Hints, the system will identify surnames that you share with your matches.
  • A “Map and Locations” tab maps geographic locations for your ancestors and for those of your DNA matches.
  • The “Shared Matches” tool allows you to find groups of matches who are all related to one another. 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 linked trees to create “DNA Circles” of people who are likely descended from a common ancestor. They can also suggest possible ancestors who aren’t already in your tree. These DNA Circles can then be investigated further to confirm or refute them.
  • AncestryDNA is the only company that allows you to grant other people access to your DNA results without having to share your login information. They will be able to see your results from within their own account, and you can control how much access they have. This feature is especially important for adoptees who need help and for those working closely with relatives to solve genealogical puzzles.
  • Reports for 18 appearance and sensory traits are available for an extra fee. The traits can be compared to DNA matches who have also purchased the reports.
  • The data file from AncestryDNA can be transferred to the most other databases, so if you can only afford one test, this one will give you the most versatility for the least cost.
  • Messages sent within the AncestryDNA system are private. They are not read by Ancestry employees without your consent.
  • Finally, AncestryDNA has the fastest website, although all of the companies can be glitchy at times.


  • AncestryDNA is available in the fewest number of countries (36), so people who live outside their market-or whose heritage is predominantly from countries outside their market-may consider testing with one of the other companies first.
  • They also lack a chromosome browser, which lets you see the specific segments you share with your matches. Many experienced genetic genealogists consider a chromosome browser to be essential. Without one, the matching system is a “black box” that can impede advanced DNA work.
  • Their shared matches feature shows you whether two of your matches also match one another, but not how much DNA they share with one another.
  • They only offer autosomal testing and don’t provide haplogroup information for either mitochondrial DNA or the Y chromosome.
  • Some of the testing companies will allow you to upload your data file from a competitor’s lab into their system for free, with a fee for additional features. AncestryDNA is not one of them. They do not accept so-called “raw data file transfers”. The only way to get into their database is to buy a test from them.
  • Although the test price includes the ethnicity estimate and a list of matching people, additional tools are only available to subscribers (US$49/year and up).

Regular Price for U.S. customers: US$99 + shipping for ethnicity results and a list of DNA matches; additional charge to subscribe; occasional sale prices or other discounts available Pricing outside the U.S.: United Kingdom, Canada, Australia (click on the country) Summary: Test at AncestryDNA first if you have unknown parentage or are mainly interested in confirming and expanding your family tree.


23andMe was founded in 2006 as a direct-to-consumer genetic testing service for health traits and to simultaneously advance biomedical research. Genealogy is not a primary focus of their business model, although their service is nonetheless valuable to many genealogists.


  • 23andMe has the second largest database, reported at about 5 million people in February 2018.
  • Their autosomal test includes basic mitochondrial and (for men) Y-chromosome haplogroup information at no extra charge.
  • Of the five main companies, they are widely acknowledged to have the most accurate ethnicity estimates.
  • The “Ancestry Composition” (ethnicity estimates) include a chromosome map, showing which segments are assigned to which ethnic groups.
  • Like MyHeritage and FTDNA, 23andMe has a chromosome browser that lets you see the specific segments you share with your matches.
  • Better yet, if you can find two people who match you in the same place, 23andMe’s chromosome browser allows you to directly compare them to see whether they match one another on the same segment or other segments (a process called “triangulation”). This information can help you categorize your DNA relatives into the family branches through which they relate.
  • Their “Relatives in Common” feature (equivalent to “Shared Matches” at AncestryDNA) shows you not only whether two of your matches also match one another, but how much DNA they share with one another.
  • 23andMe is the only one of the five companies that provides both medical and trait reports. While not useful for genealogy, these reports can be fun (now I know why I drink so much caffeine) and valuable 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 it’s unlikely that a genetic counselor would have recommended testing for that trait.
  • No additional subscription is required to access the DNA matching or ethnicity reports.
  • They estimate how much Neanderthal you have in your genome.
  • Messages sent within the 23andMe system are private. They are not read by 23andMe employees without your consent.


  • 23andMe is not primarily a genealogy company; it’s a medical one. Most of their users aren’t interested in family history and either opt out of relative matching entirely or are not willing to share information.
  • They sell two “tests”, which differ only in price and in which features are offered. Medical and trait reports are only available for the higher priced test.
  • To protect the medical privacy of their customers, the company has instituted a multi-tiered “sharing” system for viewing DNA segments. Users can opt in to “Open Sharing”, can participate in segment sharing on a case-by-case basis, can participate in relative matching but never segment sharing, or can opt out of relative matching entirely. The system protects genetic privacy (a good thing) but is confusing and limits the utility of the database.
  • The relative list is capped at 2,000 matches, and the cap is applied regardless of whether your DNA relatives have opted in or out of the matching program. That means a close match who has opted out of DNA Relatives can displace a more distant match who has opted in. Most users at 23andMe report seeing around 1,200 matches of the possible 2,000.
  • There are no family trees within the 23andMe system. Instead, 23andMe allows user to link a tree from another site to their 23andMe account. Very few of their customers-about 3%-use this feature.
  • Without trees, there are obviously no tree-based genealogy tools, such as automated common-ancestor identification, geographic overlap, etc.
  • Some of the testing companies will allow you to upload your data file from a competitor’s lab into their system for free, with a fee for additional features. 23andMe is not one of them. They do not accept so-called “raw data file transfers”. The only way to get into their database is to buy a test from them.

Regular Price for U.S. customers: US$99 + shipping for ethnicity results, haplogroup assignments, and a list of DNA matches; US$199 + shipping 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.


MyHeritage is an Israeli company that was founded in 2003 as an online genealogy resource. They began offering autosomal DNA testing in late 2016, and their database has grown rapidly to nearly 2 million today. MyHeritage currently has the third largest atDNA database, as well as subscription-based access to genealogical records.


  • MyHeritage has the highest percentage of customers with trees associated with their DNA tests: 88%. That means you can often figure out the connection and advance your own research even if the other person is not active in genealogy.
  • Their chromosome browser lets you visualize where in your genome you match other people. It also highlights DNA segments where two or more of your matches also match one another (called “triangulating”), which is evidence that you all inherited that particular segment of DNA from a common ancestor.
  • Their Shared Matches feature shows you not only whether two of your matches also match one another, but how much DNA they share with one another.
  • “Smart Matches” show possible common ancestors present in your tree and that of a match.
  • The MyHeritage test uses a cheek swab, which may be easier for people who have trouble producing saliva.
  • The MyHeritage DNA test is available in most countries. The only countries it is not available in are Israel, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, North Korea, Lebanon, and Syria.
  • Their market penetrance in Europe is good, so those with European ancestry may find DNA relatives there who have not tested elsewhere.
  • Their website is available in 42 languages.
  • If you have already done an autosomal DNA test with AncestryDNA, 23andMe, Family Tree DNA, or Living DNA, you can transfer the “raw DNA data file” from your original testing company to MyHeritage to get into their matching database for free. Some features will require an additional subscription.


  • For most users, their ethnicity estimates are the least accurate of the competition. An update is expected in the near future that should bring improvement.
  • The “Smart Matches” algorithm is not as effective as the “Shared Ancestor Hints” at AncestryDNA, nor does it show the lines of descent.
  • The website is very slow.
  • They only offer autosomal testing and don’t provide haplogroup information for either mitochondrial DNA or the Y chromosome.
  • The company has been inconsistent in which features are available to which customers. For example, people who transferred their DNA files there for free sometimes have more tools available than people who purchased tests directly from MyHeritage.
  • Messages sent within the MyHeritage system are not private. The company reserves the right to read them.
  • Although the test price includes the ethnicity estimate and a list of matching people, additional tools are only available to subscribers (US$99/year and up).
  • As of 16 December, 2018, the pricing scheme at MyHeritage is not fully set. It’s possible that it will be more cost effective to transfer a data file there and pay a one-time fee for all tools than to test directly with them and have to purchase a subscription.

Regular Price for U.S. customers: US$79 + shipping; sales are frequent Summary: Test with MyHeritage first if your recent ancestry is from European countries where English is not the primary language.


FTDNA is an American company that offers atDNA, yDNA, and mtDNA testing. Their website also allows basic tree building.


  • FTDNA is the only one of the five companies that offers advanced yDNA and mtDNA testing in addition to their autosomal “Family Finder” test. These specialized tests 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).
  • Both the yDNA and mtDNA tests are offered at different levels of specificity, allowing customers to select entry-level to advanced testing, depending on their budget and research needs.
  • Group projects allow you to collaborate with other descendants of 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.
  • Their autosomal chromosome browser lets you visualize where in your genome you match other people. When 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 unique “phasing” tool allows you to link known relatives to your tree; other matches are then automatically sorted to your paternal and maternal sides if they match the known relatives.
  • Their “ICW” (In Common With) tool works similarly to AncestryDNA’s “Shared Matches”.
  • Perhaps because of the availability of projects and of different types of DNA testing there, FTDNA’s customer base is especially ardent about genetic genealogy. Overall, their responsiveness and willingness to help reflect well on the company.
  • FTDNA will ship test kits to all countries except Iran and Sudan, and the company is especially popular in certain regions, like The Netherlands and the Middle East. Thus, if your recent ancestry is from those areas, you will probably find more and closer matches at FTDNA, despite their smaller database overall.
  • The FTDNA test uses a cheek swab, which may be easier for people who have trouble producing saliva.
  • 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.
  • Contact with your matches is via email, so you are not restricted to a company’s internal messaging system. (Of course, if you don’t want to share your email address, this might be a drawback.)
  • If you have already done an autosomal DNA test with AncestryDNA, MyHeritage, and the older versions of 23andMe, you can transfer the “raw DNA data file” from your original testing company to Family Tree DNA to get into their matching database for free. Some features require an additional fee of $19.


  • A weakness of FTDNA is the size of its autosomal database, which is estimated at about 900,000 people (late 2018).
  • The FTDNA matching system includes small DNA segments, down to 1 cM. Such segments are probably false positives and don’t reflect recent shared ancestry. As a result, FTDNA generally overestimates how closely related your DNA relatives are.
  • Their chromosome browser does not show triangulations.
  • Their ICW feature (equivalent to Shared Matches) shows you whether two of your matches also match one another, but not how much DNA they share with one another.
  • They do not have an automated system to compare trees for potential shared ancestors.
  • Only about half of their users have family trees in their accounts.
  • They do not accept raw data file transfers of the latest version of 23andMe’s test, and some test versions from other companies are not matched to distant relatives.
  • FTDNA claims ownership of your DNA if you do not specify a beneficiary in their system. They are the only testing company with this policy.
  • They have a mixed track record on customer privacy.
  • On 31 January, 2019, the public learned that FTDNA had changed their Terms of Service-without notifying their customers-to allow law enforcement to search their database without a warrant. Gene-by-Gene, the parent company of FTDNA, is also selling lab services to the FBI and possibly other agencies.

Regular Price for U.S. customers: US$79 + shipping Summary: Test at FTDNA first if yDNA and/or mtDNA are critical to your research, or if you want to participate in formal group projects.


Living DNA is the newest entry into the genetic genealogy market. Based in England, they began offering a combined atDNA test in 2017 that includes yDNA and mtDNA haplogroup assignments.


  • Living DNA advertises the most detailed ethnicity estimates available, with 80 reference populations.
  • They are able to assign ancestral origins to 21 regions within the UK and Ireland.
  • Their autosomal test includes basic mitochondrial and (for men) Y-chromosome haplogroup information at no extra charge.
  • They ship worldwide, with no country restrictions listed on their web page.
  • The Living DNA test uses a cheek swab, which may be easier for people who have trouble producing saliva.
  • If you have already done an autosomal DNA test with AncestryDNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage, or Family Tree DNA, you can transfer the “raw DNA data file” from your original testing company to get into their matching database for free. Ethnicity estimates are not available for transfer kits.


  • The matching database at Living DNA is not fully functional yet. In December, 2018, most users surveyed had no matches at all.
  • To participate in their “Family Networks” matching program, you must agree to share your data with a third party company called Find My Past. If you do not consent, you will not be matched to other Living DNA users. This policy seems to apply even to customers who purchase a test directly from Living DNA.
  • Many users are assigned to very specific regions within England even though they have little to no British ancestry.
  • Messages sent within the Living DNA system are not private. The company reserves the right to read them.
  • Their website is slow.

Regular Price for U.S. customers: US$99 + shipping Summary: Test with Living DNA first if regional breakdowns within the UK are important to you.


Updates to This Post

  • 16 December 2018 – added information on new pricing and subscription policy at MyHeritage
  • 2 February 2019 – noted that FTDNA is now allowing law enforcement agencies to access their database


35 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of the Main DNA Testing Companies—2018 version”

  1. I believe that unless something has changed without a big announcement, MyHeritage does NOT sell their tests in Poland. This is 2016 – -“A. MyHeritage DNA is currently offered in all countries worldwide except Poland, Israel, the state of Alaska, and a few French island territories.
    In the restricted regions mentioned there are some legal challenges related to DNA, and although distribution of DNA is not explicitly prohibited in some of these cases, or in other cases limited only to specific age groups, we prefer to avoid any potential issues.”

      1. I live in Alaska, but my parents, who gave me permission to upload their Ancestry results to MH, do not. I performed the upload from a location 4000 miles from AK. Nonetheless I cannot view my parents’ MH DNA matches from an IP address within Alaska. Presumably this ban also applies to casual travelers to my state, who will be amazed to see a page warning that “DNA tests cannot be sold in their country” (meaning the US State of Alaska) if they happen to check their DNA matches from an AK IP address. I think this policy is just plain silly. It’s presumably based on MH’s fears of being sued based on the AK state constitution (strong privacy protections), but I doubt a plaintiff who lived elsewhere could successfully claim AK court jurisdiction over their DNA test.

        1. Have you tried to view your parents’ results recently? MH changed their ToS and no longer lists Alaska as a location where they don’t sell DNA tests.

    1. My top choice is Dante Labs for their 30X whole genome test which gives complete Y-DNA, mtDNA and autosomal DNA.

      In my opinion, nobody has completed their DNA testing until their Y-DNA and mtDNA are on display at YFull for all the world to compare.

  2. Not to appear as a 23andme shill, but your table does not mention that 23andme also includes 155 “Recent Ancestor locations), which is a country-by-country breakdown of your relative matching strength to people in their reference population who come from specific geographical locations (drawn from modern country borders). These most people also find very accurate, and although probably not the same thing as Ancestry’s GCs should not be ignored, as they really do help narrow in on your ancestry from the continental level to a finer scale level.

    LivingDNA is by far the least useful of all sites for genealogy, and I’m surprised its even compared to the others here. It embarrassingly limited, and glacially slow to evolve and improve to catch up to the rest of the market.

    1. Thank you for the reminder. I added the 23andMe recent ancestor locations to the table.

      My threshold for inclusion in my blog is relative matching. Living DNA is included because they’ve promised it. Unfortunately, they’re behind schedule.

    2. I have to agree regarding Living DNA… “Glacially slow” is an apt description of the way they have introduced any of their “new” features such as “Relatives” (in other words, matches) Chromosome browser, etc Ive been hearing about them literally for years and as of July 2020 they are still not all up and running…I held great hope for them but man they blew the How to promote a business by timely implementation of promises” test…

  3. In FTDNA I find the following of considerable use:
    1. The NOT In Common With sort to help distinguish paternal vs. maternal side matches
    2. Display of more matches per page than the other at match lists
    3. Display of relationship on the match list if it’s manually added to the tree. Useful as indicator at a glance to see that the relationship to the tester has been determined.
    4. Display of surnames on the match list with surnames in common with tester bolded.
    5. Availability of true y (both STR and SNP) and mt testing that compares results to others in the database to find matches. Some mistakenly equate the 23andMe labeling of a single y and mt halplogroup along the tree with no comparison to others (and is free) to be the same as for ftdna. There is no comparison. They are totally different.
    6. Emphasis that there are about 10,000 free projects based on surname, geography, ethnicity or haplogroup. Projects are very valuable.
    7. By messaging via e-mail, document, picture, spreadsheet attachments are allowed.

    In Ancestry I find the following to be of considerable use:
    1. Display on the match list the number of entries in the trees of each match to see if it’s worthwhile looking at it.
    2. In the View Match, display of the lineage of the two matches back to the MRCA.
    3. Using the Chrome MedBetterDNA app, the ability to display personal notes on the displayed match list.
    4. Family Circles provide linkages to others that are not dna matches, but might have a match in common.

    You have a good comparison, but I would suggest expanding on the need for subscriptions (annual) vs paying for matches vs paying for additional testing (one-time). The additional subscription costs are often ignored in atdna testing comparisons and can make the cost of the at-test insignificant.

    1. Excellent list. Thank you. A few minor corrections:
      – AncestryDNA displays 50 matches per page, FTDNA 30, 23andMe 25, and MyHeritage lets you it to 10, 25, or 50.
      – AncestryDNA also shows a list of the match’s surnames from their tree, and both AncestryDNA and MyHeritage show surnames in common.

      Subscriptions are a separate service and not required to do a DNA test. Once the new system at MyHeritage is clearer, I’ll be happy to update this post to compare how subscriptions affect testing at AncestryDNA and MyHeritage.

  4. Let me clarify the amount per page. I was referring to the number of matches per display page, i.e., how many matches you can see on the screen at one time. These are about 8 for FTDNA FF, 4 for Ancestry, 2 for MyHeritage. It is very useful to be able to look at several matches in a match list on one screen, so the more the better. It is a reflection on the screen design of the application and its efficient use of the screen that does waste screen space with empty white space containing no information.

  5. Thank you for sharing. I have been sharing posts like this with friends who have been asking about DNA research. Now I have another one to share. I know that some of the things that various sites may or may not offer can be made up for with tools on other sites like Rootsfinder’s Triangulation tool and others.

    1. You’re absolutely right. The third-party tools are a great way to add on to what the testing companies offer. I recently started a series on some of the third-party tools that I use the most. I hope you find it helpful.

    1. The same could be said of the other sites. All of the companies were evaluated based on the same standard (presence/absence).

  6. I’ve also found My Heritage ethnicity estimates to be very unreliable. Any idea when the update will occur?

    Also hoping the next AncestryDNA update will be more accurate when it comes to Southern European ethnicity.

    1. I don’t know when the MyHeritage ethnicity update will happen. I wish I did. I agree about the recent AncestryDNA update. It was an improvement for most Europeans, with the exception of Southern Europe.

  7. You made no mention of 23andMe’s parental phasing feature that improves your ancestry estimates (1st parent phased improves the most) and sorts DNA relatives by parent like FTDNA does.

    You also failed to mention 23andMe’s and Living DNA’s confidence feature that allows you to adjust the confidence level of you ancestry estimates.


  9. Quick note on the FTDNA update – “On 31 January, 2018, the public learned that FTDNA had changed their Terms of Service—without notifying their customers—to allow law enforcement to search their database without a warrant.”

    That should be January, *2019*.

  10. Hi there.

    I’m trying to find my mother’s bio father through DNA. So I came across this post of yours (I follow your blog and you have been VERY helpful).

    I have done an Ancestry test and manage 7 other family member tests including my mother’s and have had zero issues. The tests have all been completed by Ancestry without issue.

    I have uploaded my and my mom’s DNA raw data files to GEDmatch, MyHeritage and to Familytree, again, without issue.

    Following this blog post, i decided to further expand the search and ordered 23andme tests for both me and my mother back in January. I ordered our tests separately, about 2 to 3 weeks apart. I had them send my mom’s directly to her home in a different city and I walked her through what to do while on the phone with her. Remember, she had successfully completed the Ancestry test.

    Within a few weeks, I received an email from 23andme stating that “sometimes this happens” that they couldn’t extract DNA from my test and would be sending me a replacement test.

    In the meantime, i got an email stating they couldn’t extract DNA from my mom’s test. And so they sent her another test which she did the spit today and it is now in the mail to 23andme.

    Just now, i got another email from 23andme stating they could not extract DNA from MY replacement test and would therefore refund me, which is what I would expect.

    But now, i’d bet big money that my mom’s replacement test will fail again.

    Have you heard of this kind of track record with 23andme tests? Its the exact same process we went through with all of our successful family Ancestry tests: Don’t eat, drink, brush teeth etc for a time; spit in a tube, release the preservative stuff; lightly shake and mail.

    It sucks because this was gonna be a further tool in the kit to solving the mystery of my mom’s birth father whom we know zero about expect he was an Irish Merchant Marine. That’s it. Now, this tool is useless to us and you can’t upload Ancestry DNA file to 23andme to take advantage of that database and I know alot of people are using it.

    Any ideas on what might have gone wrong?

    BTW, again, love your blog!

    1. Oh how frustrating! It’s rare that a kit will fail more than once. Let’s hope your mother’s works this time.

      Thank you for the kind words about the blog! I’m glad you find it helpful.

  11. I manage several relatives’ kits using three of the sites (Ancestry, FTDNA and My Heritage) and my assessment is a little different, perhaps because I live in Australia and my ancestry is from UK.

    1. While Ancestry has the largest database, I find it far more difficult to use – no chromosome browser, a virtually useless search function and no way to download the match list so I can search it in a spreadsheet (there is third party software to do this, but it isn’t running on a Mac, which I use). I cannot understand why Ancestry doesn’t offer these functions.

    2. I have done comparisons of the several kits I manage with other known relatives (mostly 2nd & 3rd cousins), to test the accuracy of the estimates of the three companies plus Gedmatch – 37 comparisons in all (not a lot I know). Unlike your comment that FTDNA tended to overestimate the closeness of relations, I found FTDNA, MH and Gedmatch were all very accurate if I used the middle of the range. Ancestry underestimated the closeness if I used the middle of the range, but was as accurate as the others when I used the closer end of their range.

    3. Knowing that the predicted matches were similar, I then looked at how many matches I obtained at each site at the 3rd cousin or better level (for my kit only). The results I currently have are FTDNA 55, Ancestry 13, My Heritage 4, Gedmatch 8. I find that hard to explain, granted the sizes of the databases. Perhaps FTDNA is overestimating as you say, despite being accurate in my limited test sample, perhaps FTDNA has more testers from Australia (certainly Ancestry wasn’t available when I first tested with FTDNA).

  12. LivingDNA’s database is non existent. They won’t provide numbers, assume it’s zero until they do.
    LivingDNA files will not currently upload to My Heritage. Apparently LDNA changed the format. Ancestry and 23 Me don’t allow 3rd Party DNA uploads
    Ancestry and 23 and Me will not ship kits to South East Asia. (can someone ask them why ? – there is a big expat community here).

    So for me the Venn intersection of company that actually has a Database and will ship to South East Asia is “My Heritage”.

    1. MyHeritage is a great place to test. Their database is growing rapidly, and they’ve got some really nice analytical features.

  13. There are at least two main reasons for testing: one is to get cousin matches and for that Ancestry wins easily due, probably, to the size of its database; the other reason is to do some ‘science’. For that,Ancestry ain’t too good. Inadequate information provided and poor tools – okay, I know you can upload to various other sites – but should you have to?

    On ethnicity. Living DNA comes closest to my documented ancestry. With a couple of exceptions, its suggested regions for my UK ancestry are pretty damn good. There are large areas of the UK (especially England) where they show me having no ancestral roots. My paper trail would suggest they are right. 23andMe, on the other hand, has most of my ancestry in those areas where Living DNA (and my paper trail) suggests there is nothing of interest for me.

    Who’s right? At the moment, I would think Living DNA wins hands down.

    1. Living DNA seems to have quite good ethnicity estimates for those with recent UK ancestry. However, they have a ways to go for those of us with ancestors from elsewhere in Europe. For example, they assign me more than 29% English & Scottish—localized to various regions in the British Isles—when in fact I have a single 4th great grandfather from Brompton-on-Swale. He is not represented in my estimates.

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