Are Ancestry DNA test and 23andMe tests equally useful? And whose DNA would tell most (mine or my father's?)

+4 votes
My son, Matthew has been using Ancestry for several years. (and is resisting my every effort to get him to switch to WikiTree!)

  He has asked (early, for Christmas!) for DNA tests on his grandfather (my father) and his father (my husband).

My first question is whether the Ancestry DNA test and 23andMe tests are equally useful or is one preferable to the other...and why?

Second:  My mother (Martin-20508) is deceased.  Would MY DNA provide more information about my side of the family than my father's? Or would both tests be needed to winnow out information about my mother's background?

Last: How does WikiTree access the records available on Ancestry and how do I import them?
in Genealogy Help by Corky Smith G2G Crew (310 points)
Ancestry Member Trees are very useful in doing research for WikiTree. I use trees on Ancestry and FamilySearch both. (Pass this one along to your son :D)

2 Answers

+1 vote
Best answer
Hi Corky,

I would suggest having a read of this page as it gives a short run down on the different tests available. All three companies mentioned do Autosomal testing, while FTDNA and 23andMe also do yDNA and mtDNA tests. 23andMe include these all in one test, but their genealogical value is debatable. FTDNA have yDNA and mtDNA testing available as seperate tests.

If you have a look at this page shows you what information each type of test will supply from a genealogical point of view. Selecting the same page for your son's father and your father will display what information can be gleaned by testing each of them.

As has been mentioned by Benjie, there are pro's and con's with each of the companies. A lot of individual bias can also come into it. ;-) You would also want to have testing done on yourself, your father and your son's father as a bare minimum.

Three tests will cost US$300 at FTDNA, US$450 at Ancestry and $560 at 23andMe. If pricing doesn't come into the equation, I would suggest testing with Ancestry due to your son being already heavily invested in it. I would make your son agree to the test results being uploaded to YOUR GEDMatch account so that you gain some benefit by being able to add the kit numbers to your profiles and look for matches on that site.

by Simon Canning G2G6 Mach 2 (21.9k points)
selected by Corky Smith
Thank you!  This was a wonderful and very helpful response.  It answered many questions and gave me/us some direction on where to start. I'm certain I'll be back with more questions soon!

For now (while Matt gets over his shock that $99 doesn't provide the answers he's looking for). I'm considering the MyHeritage mitochondrial DNA offer.  Does this seem sensible?  I'm my mother's only living female descendant.

Thanks for your nice response!

Personally I am hesitant to suggest mtDNA testing, but that is due to my English/Irish/Scottish heritage. Currently the majority of mtDNA test takers are from the US so this means there would be a greater likelihood of finding a detectable match if your maternal line (mother's mother's mother) is in the US.

Maternal lines can be very difficult to trace back and match with someone else as the surname changes with each generation.

Those comments aside, I liken it to buying a lottery ticket. If you don't buy a ticket you definitely won't win, but if you do you could scoop the jackpot!

I also noticed that I didn't answer one of your initial questions about wikitree and DNA. You don't import any information. All you do is add that you have done a DNA test here by selecting the company and type of test. So in your case you might add that it was a Ancestry DNA and more importantly your GEDMatch ID number which you get when you upload the DNA data to GEDMatch. After 24 hours your test would show on each persons profile that could (and I stress the COULD) have contributed to your DNA.

Here is an example of my Great Grandmother's profile which shows on the right the test takers that might share DNA in common. The important information is the GEDMatch ID which allows comparison of the tests.

Hopefully clarifying things a bit more for you.

Another wonderfully informative response: thank you again!  As suspected, this raises/reminds me of another question:

I was especially interested in your remark about DNA testing being U.S. based. My paternal ancestors emigrated to Hawaii from Germany/Portugal in 1887 (great grandparents, paternal side: Germany,maternal side: Portugal.)   My husband's ancestors served in the Civil War, and so would appear to have been here sufficiently long, but that line has been followed, accurately, I believe, back 5 generations already,  Maternal side will present the same problems you had: "English/Irish/Scottish heritage." (I think)

Given this: what tests, if any, are going to answer what, if any, questions?!

Still confused!  (I'm sorry that time and health issues prevent my entering all Ancestry data on WikiTree right now, and I cannot get Matthew to join and upload his Ancestry information: the tree is in his name.  Maybe if there's an incredibly fast and easy way to upload three - five generations?)

Many thanks again for your time and patience,


Thanks for the "Best Answer", it is appreciated!

I'll give you answers based on what it has and currently hasn't done for me and this is based on testing with FTDNA. So, I have tested yDNA and auDNA for myself, mtDNA and auDNA for my parent's and auDNA for two of my Mum's cousins.

My yDNA test has connected me with another Canning and it is a very close match. But we have not been able to connect the two families with genealogy as we most likely connect in Ireland and the records aren't that good in that area. So tantalising!

The mtDNA tests on my Mum and Dad have not produced any "hits" at this time, but could in the future. Fingers crossed.

The auDNA has been more successful. With my cousin's their Grandmother was an unofficial adoptee So that would have been a dead end line, but a close hit (possible 2nd or 3rd Cousin match) means that we have an indication of the family where one or both of her parents may be from.

The auDNA has also been good at confirming what we have on paper is accurate.

Earlier I mentioned the COULD for auDNA and the reason I stressed that was that just because someone doesn't share DNA with you doesn't necessarily mean that they aren't related. I had a match for my Mum's kit that didn't show as a match for her cousin Ed, but when I got the test results for his sister both Mum and Anita did match. This is why I suggested testing you, your husband and your father as a minimum, as we only get a portion of the DNA from each of our parents and they from theirs'.

So, while there may be limitations in the DNA testing presently, as it gains more traction and better coverage it will become more useful for everyone.

With you trying to discover more about your German and Portuguese heritage what auDNA testing may uncover is descendants of siblings for these ancestors who may have taken an alternative route to the US. These people may have knowledge (and family treasures) about the family that you don't.

I apologise for the verbosity of this "answer" and realise that it will probably generate more questions rather than giving you a definitive answer :-)


The "verbosity" (I call it thoroughness and detail) is what I like most about your responses!

Your great-Grandmother was a lovely lady and following that link really helped me.   I'm assuming you recommend FT Family Finder? 

 I'll digests this and see what conclusions I can reach.  Right now, I'm thinking "Family Finder" x 3 (my father, husband, and myself.) Then, thinking it was just mtDNA, I thought  I eould ALSO do the the following: (Family Tree DNA currently has a special offer with MyHeritage: An mtDNAPlus (HVR1 & HVR2) and a one-year PremiumPlus MyHeritage membership for $99.)

I'll reveal how much I still don't understand by asking if that seems sensible, or is the last redundant. (I'm guessing not, even though I don't understand the "HVR1 & HVR2"). If so, is it or the "Family Finder" preferable?

Thanks again, still confused, but learning, I think!



I'll start with the easy one first :-)

My Heritage is similar to Ancestry in that it gives you access to some historical records and makes suggestions for possible matches found in other trees. Also, it requires you to keep an ongoing subscription.

Wikitree doesn't have access to historical records, but has a single tree where you can collaborate with other members when your ancestors do connect to an existing profile ;-)

From what I can determine, an mtDNA and yDNA test is good to confirm or refute an existing ancestral connection, but isn't really going to enable you to discover a connection. If you are lucky there might be other people that have tested and you find that both of you share the same ancestor, but you still need the normal genealogy to show that link. With both yDNA and mtDNA it is better to test at the highest resolutions. The good thing with those tests with FTDNA is that you can upgrade as and when and the upgrade only costs the difference between the tests.

So, personally, I wouldn't recommend the My Heritage and mtDNA test combination.

Now I am probably going to confuse you :-)

Keeping in mind that the initial driver for DNA testing was a present for your son, so I would still suggest the Ancestry test for the three of you with you being able to upload the resulting data to GEDMatch.

I would also suggest asking your Dad to take a FTDNA yDNA test. That would mean that a sample of his DNA is available for any additional testing in the future as FTDNA keep your sample for that purpose. That is the route I have taken with my initial y37 test. As money has allowed I have upgraded to y67, Family Finder and y111 using my initial sample.

A lot of the companies have specials during Christmas, Mother's Day and Father's Day which can help reduce the costs as well. Keep in mind that with the auDNA tests, the more known relatives that you can get tested the more you can get out of it.

Hopefully I am clarifying things for you :-)
Hello again, Simon, and apologies for a long silence.  Matthew was here for a wonderful visit with his wife and I've accumulated enough funds that I think I can tell him to order the initial kits so we can get started.  I'd like you to reiterate your advice, however, so I don't go astray.  We will be away for a bit, and with my dad nearly 95, I would like to know this has been done before we leave him.

Just to be clear: you recommend that we have $99 Ancestry DNA tests done on my husband and myself (as Matthew's parents), also on my father, and the $268 ($228 currently) FTDNA yDNA as well on my dad?  (And...if that breaks the bank.....skip the Ancestry on my dad?  Or the FTDNA?  Or just tighten my belt?)  I gave up MY birthday present for this project: it will SO be Matt's Christmas gift!

As always, thanks for your patience.  It would be helpful if I were consistent enough to keep focused, but some health issues have kept us both busy and distracted for months.  

Hi Corky, no rush. Genealogy is like a good cheese or wine. Good things take time.

You have made me feel guilty that you are forfeiting your birthday present! You are giving your DNA to your son, so he should be paying the bill :-)

With funds being tight, if you can, I would get Ancestry tests for you, your husband and your Dad. FTDNA currently have a sale on their Family Finder at $69, so perhaps get that for your Dad as well. That test is a duplicate of the Ancestry test and won't give you anything, but will mean that a sample of your Dad's DNA is available at FTDNA for testing the yDNA and mtDNA as funds allow.
(removed the duplicated comment about getting more people tested)
Thought I would mention that the FTDNA Summer Sale ends on the 31st August. Just in case you opt for the Family Finder test for your Dad.
Holy cow!!  Thank you!!  I wondered but couldn't find that information on their site.  Very valuable: I will act accordingly!

Hi, Simon,

I have ordered the three autosomal tests from Ancestry.  I have the FTDNA $69 order ready to go.  I sent them an email requesting verification that they truly will store my dad's DNA and that it will be available for future testing. I called Ancestry and they do not.  I'm waiting - long past the promised response time - for an answer from FTDNA.  Their Q&A page really dodges the question.

Given my dad's advanced age (and the fact that the test is redundant and useful for nothing else, really), this is information I really need....before the Wednesday (8/31) sale deadline.

Any advice?  I know you were able to go back several times and use your first sample.  Do you suppose this has changed?  I can't even find an accessible phone number for these people! click away!
They do keep your sample for additional testing, but the reason they would be unwilling to state categorically that this is the case is due to the original sample.

If the initial sample taken is not very good it makes it difficult and sometimes impossible to be used for additional testing.

I have currently tested myself and four others. My sample I have tested six times and Ed's kit I have tested five and the other three twice. By that I mean that I did the initial test and then, as money and exchange rates collide, I have requested additional tests.

Like FTDNA, I can't say that your Dad's sample will be good for additional testing, but it should be.

You would think THEY would offer the courtesy of that explanation, any case, thank you for doing so:  I'm reasonably certain I'm capable of obtaining an adequate sample!  All kits are ordered and the Ancestry ones due to be delivered momentarily.  Now six or eight weeks of peace before the onslaught of my "What does this mean?!" questions!  I guess that will be a different thread.

For a final time, thank you for your generosity: all the time, the patience, the explanations, and the links to even more information have been invaluable.

You are the epitome of WikiTree's mission of establishing a site where friendly and helpful people make genealogy better for all!




Living DNA is based in England but their database is much smaller than Ancestry
0 votes
They all have pros and cons.  I think that with the new illumina sequencing technique they all have a lot to offer. Ancestry does a good job but some of the newer family finder tests from ftDNA are pretty close.  Since you can upload the raw data to GEDMatch, you can compare results across a wide spectrum.  Database size, incorporation into your tree, statistical cut offs (i.e. When a company limits your hits to 1000) are all considerations.  So, I really don't think it matters that much. Look at what the test offers in terms of raw sequence data and price and you should get some good data.
by Benjie Blair G2G Rookie (200 points)

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