Which DNA test lab would you recommend?

+25 votes

A viewer asked me: What DNA test lab would you recommend that would provide the best information for WikiTree?  Would anyone have any suggestions?


in Genealogy Help by Mary Hammond G2G6 Mach 7 (79.2k points)
edited by Chris Whitten
I tested with FTDNA, AncestryDNA, 23andme, Geno 2.0, and DNA-me. Still waiting on DNA-me's results.

Why the test is being done should influence which one to take. As mentioned, 23andme is great for the health results. As long as one realizes the percentages are only the risk factor based on the genes tested and not the total risk. Environmental factors, hereditary factors, other family members having the condition, etc. can all increase or decrease the total risk factor. Also, if you have the condition, 23andme does a poor job of making the point that risk factor is moot in those cases. If you show as 1.4% risk factor on 23andme and you have the condition, then you are 1 of the 14 in 1,000 of your genotype who got the disease. 23andme is bad for genealogy as many don't have trees on the site. You are only allowed one tree/account and if you manage multiple tests, you still only get one tree. Many people report 10% or less response rates. A way to increase your odds are to list surnames and locations since many genealogy testers base acceptance on having a surname and/or location match.

For AncestryDNA, it's great for genealogy. Again, one needs to realize family trees are often full of errors and take them with a grain of salt. It does not offer haplogroup information and is considered the worst at predicting ancestry origins. It has limited tools on Ancestry and to get full benefit, you need to be a paid subscriber. You have to dig for them, but it does offer both Y-DNA and mtDNA in addition to its $99 autosomal DNA test. You can manually add Y-DNA and mtDNA information from FTDNA and Geno 2.0 to Ancestry, but you will have to dig for how. It doesn't allow autosomal transfer.

While Geno 2.0 isn't directly a genealogy tool, you can do a free transfer to FTDNA. It offers a deeper subclade test than the other tests and for that alone is worth the $200 price. If you haven't tested with FTDNA, or mtDNA tested, the transfer includes mtDNA information. In my case, Geno 2.0 also gave me the results for almost 400 FTDNA tests and improved my subclade. I still need to run a few subclade tests on FTDNA, but a lot less than before the transfer.  Before the transfer, FTDNA had me as J1-M267; Geno has me as YSC234. After the transfer, FTDNA updated me to J1-P58 (J1c3).

FTDNA's autosomal test is now the same price as both AncestryDNA and 23andme. However, you can do an autosomal transfer from 23andme or AncestryDNA for $69. FTDNA does regular discounts and there are discounts for surname, region, and haplogroup projects. Once a customer, some upgrades qualify for a large discount. It is also one of the few companies to offer individual SNP, STR, and other tests. It offers Factoid tests, but most of them are included in 23andme's test. Not sure they test the same genes or rely on the same research. FTDNA also offers a full range of Y-DNA and mtDNA that are great for genealogy.

Many think 23andme's ancestry origins are more reliable than FTDNA or AncestryDNA. However, none of them are that reliable. You may find they agree with your known family tree, or you may find they are way off.

If you can afford it, test with either 23andme* or AncestryDNA, then transfer the results to FTDNA for $69. Personally, I would go with testing both 23andme and AncestryDNA, transfer whichever one (don't need to transfer both) to FTDNA. If you are really interested in your endpoint SNP, add Geno 2.0 and transfer to FTDNA. This gives you the greatest exposure to all three groups.

*23andme does not allow tests from Maryland residents due to state law and New York residents can order the test, but most collect the sample outside NY and mail it with a non-NY/non-MD postmark. If they receive a kit from a MD resident or  NY postmark, they destroy it - no refund. If they determine you are from MD (maybe you used a MD bank to order the kit or had a MD return address in your information), the kit is destroyed. The NY/MD restrictions are based on the medical component of 23andme's results.

After testing, upload the results to www.GEDMatch.com. It's free and you can do One to One or  One to Many comparisons. I uploaded AncestryDNA, 23andme, and FTDNA results to GEDMatch. It takes about 6 weeks before you can do One to Many matches, but I can do One to One. I always do One to One with all three tests since there can be wide variation between matches. The site has compiled many admixture tools accessible directly from it. There are numerous other free sites which allow similar comparisons (YSearch, mito, etc.).

You really can't go wrong testing with any of them - 23andme, Geno 2.0, AncestryDNA, or FTDNA. Don't be surprised if the ancestry origins are different from your expected and take them with a grain of salt if they 100% agree with your known ancestry.

DNA Tribes is a good alternative, but I haven't tested with them yet. It's next on my list. It does allow cheaper transfer of autosomal results for STR and/or SNP from other companies  in addition to offering its own test.

ISOGG has a great list of all the DNA companies since there are probably 25-30 other ones.
Family Tree DNA is a good company.  They have the most DNA results.  Personally I am checking on the results of six different men.  Results are not always the way you want them to come out.  But one match has made it worthwhile for us.  Five generations were added to one of our WHITE lines.  That is hard to beat.
What great information, Paul. Thanks for taking the time to give us such an insight.

Thanks for describing the tests from different companies.  I'm trying to decide which I should buy.

I don't undestand your comment:

< Many think 23andme's ancestry origins are more reliable than FTDNA or AncestryDNA. However, none of them are that reliable. You may find they agree with your known family tree, or you may find they are way off. >

Would you explain why they aren't all equally reliable to show my ancestry origin?   Shouldn't each one report my same family tree?



Two part answer.

AncestryDNA uses base pairs to determine matches and FTDNA and 23andMe use cM (centiMorgans) for matching. This can lead to matching differences. I believe 23andMe and FTDNA use different minimums for cutoffs which can lead to some matching differences. Overall, these matching differences probably won't be a big deal for matches of close kin. You will probably not catch some more distant matches due to the differences. A good solution here is to use GEDMatch.com. Upload your results there and you can use their standard matching criteria or raise or lower it. 

For the most part, your close family should show up on any of the tests. There are occasions when a person may not match a first cousin because they inherited significantly different parts of the relative's DNA. 

My reliability comment was directed more towards ethnic or ancestral origins percentages and not family tree related. 

Judy G. Russell summed it up best in this blog article:


AncestryDNA has rolled out its new ethnicity estimates to its full database over the past month and — more than anything else — the results seem to be underscoring the reasons why The Legal Genealogist has one thing to say about these deep ancestral percentages:

Forget them.

They’re cocktail party conversation pieces — and little more. The science just isn’t there yet to back them up.

While she was talking specifically about AncestryDNA's new results, the comments apply to the other companies and various admixture tools as well. 

It's also important to understand that our paper trail DNA percentages aren't necessarily the true percentages we actually inherited. 

Kelly did a good job of creating a beginner's guide. Lesson 7 shows how a person's actual DNA might differ from their paper trail version. 


Below are my ethnic/ancestral origins results from the five companies I tested with. I am including the pre and post update for AncestryDNA. FTDNA and 23andMe are working on updates so it should be interesting to see how those changes play out. I have played with most of the admixture tools on GEDMatch and those can show major differences. 

To confuse matters, different testing companies and admixture tools may not define regions/areas the same way. Mediterranean may include one set of countries with company A, but a different set with company B.  
Family Tree DNA 
Continent (Subcontinent)  - Population - Percentage (Margin of error ±13.95%)
Europe (Western European) -  French, Orcadian, Spanish 80.72%
Europe - Tuscan, Finnish, Romanian, Russian 19.28% 
23andMe Standard Comp.
Y-DNA J1e (appears to be the same as FTDNA's J1c3); mtDNA C1b2
98.9% European
Northern European
11.3% British and Irish
6.1% French and German
62.1% Nonspecific Northern European
0.1% Ashkenazi
19.4% Nonspecific European
0.9% East Asian & Native American
0.9% Native American
0.2% Unassigned
2.8% Neanderthal
23andMe Speculative Comp.
99.1% European
Northern European
31.4% British and Irish
23.9% French and German
39.9% Nonspecific Northern European
0.8% Eastern European
Southern European
0.5% Nonspecific Southern European
0.1% Ashkenazi
2.5% Nonspecific European
0.9% East Asian & Native American
0.9% Native American
< 0.1% Unassigned
23andMe Conservative Comp.
97.9% European
Northern European
1.4% British and Irish
53.2% Nonspecific Northern European
0.1% Ashkenazi
43.3% Nonspecific European
0.8% East Asian & Native American
0.8% Native American
< 0.1% Nonspecific East Asian & Native American
1.3% Unassigned
AncestryDNA Updated version
Region Approximate Amount 
Europe 99%
Europe West 31% 
Scandinavia 26%
Great Britain 15%
Iberian Peninsula 13%
Ireland 10% (includes Scotland and Wales)
Trace Regions 4%
Italy/Greece 3%
Europe East < 1%
West Asia  < 1%
Trace Regions < 1%
Caucasus < 1%
AncestryDNA Pre update
Central European 50% 
British Isles 42% 
Finnish/Volga-Ural 8%
Nat Geo Geno 2.0 Project
Y-DNA YSC234 (subclade of the P58/J1c3 series) mtDNA C1b
Northern European 42%
Mediterranean 38%
Southwest Asian 16%
First Reference Population - German
Second - Tuscan (Italy)
2.5% Neanderthal and 3.7% Denisovan
African 0.20%
American 2.30%
Asian 0.70%
European 96.80%

Updated because the FTDNA information wasn't added.


Great information, Paul, thank you for sharing this!
Thanks for the explanation, Paul.  I love that the National Geographic project shows percentages for Neanderthal and Denisovan!

Interesting updates on the Y-DNA front.

Yesterday (09 November in case anyone is still in a Saturday time zone) Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) released news of a Big Y test. They are having a Pre-Sale price of $495 (regularly $695 so $200 discount) for exisiting customers. If a person did the WTY, they will receive a $50 coupon. Sale price ends 01 December so about 3 weeks from now. 

If you log into FTDNA, you will see a big blue Big Y icon on your home page. I haven't ordered it, but it does show up in my Upgrade option.

Information to date indicates it will include nearly 25,000 known SNPs, 10 million base-pairs (in a FB group, it was stated 18 million base-pairs, but expected only 10 million will be in mappable regions). Possibility of discovering SNPs unique to you. No mention of STRs. If you have a sample with them that less than 4-5 years old, they can use it. It does use the same amount of DNA as a Full mtDNA test and they will send you a new kit if they need sample. 

By contrast, Full Genome's (FG) Full Y tests around 28,000 SNPs, 20 - 25 million base pairs (with an expected mapping region of half that so 10 - 12.5 million base pairs). It does offer 300 STRs, but the results to date have been "not pretty good" according to someone in a FG group. Price $1,250 + shipping.

Depending on who you listen to, Big Y is either a good or great deal, a fair deal relative to its price, or a bad deal. I think it's a fair deal for the sale price and only time will tell if it is a good deal, a great deal, or a bad deal. More people can come up with $500 than $1,250. 

FG announced to its testers that it will be offering a new lower coverage Y test. No word on price, when it will be available, or how it will compare to the Big Y. Will be interesting to see how the Big Y and the Full Y will compare once enough people test, or how the lower coverage Y will compare to the Big Y.

FG indicated they will begin offering individual SNP tests for those wanting to test for specific SNPs, but no details on how soon or how much. FTDNA already offers this option and the price ranges for $10 for some of the marker tests to $39 for many of the SNP tests. 

FTDNA announced a new Geno chip should be out in 7 - 12 months, but no word on price or how it will compare to Geno 2.0, Big Y, Full Y, or BritainsDNA's Chromo 2. It should be comparable to or better than Chromo 2 if they expect people to buy it. 

No word from FTDNA on a year-end sale, but last year they announced it on the last day of the conference. If anyone wants to follow the conference, try the hashtag ftdna2013 on Facebook, Twitter, and beyond 



Update. Sale prices are up on FTDNA. They don't include the basic autosomal (still $99), but include many other things. They haven't announced it at the conference yet, but I saw when I went to the FTDNA website.

Sale ends December 31st

Y-DNA37 was $169.00   now  $119.00
Y-DNA67  was $268.00   now  $189.00
Y-DNA111 was $359.00   now  $289.00
mtFullSequence was $199.00   now  $169.00
Family Finder + Y-DNA67 was $367.00   now  $288.00
Y-DNA67 + mtFullSequence was $467.00   now  $358.00
Y-DNA37+mtDNAPlus was $218.00   now  $168.00
Family Finder + Y-DNA37  was $268.00   now  $218.00
Family Finder + mtFullSequence was $298.00   now  $268.00
Y-DNA37+mtFullSequence was $368.00   now  $288.00
Comprehensive Genome was $566.00   now  $457.00
Autosomal DNA Transfer   was $69.00   now  $49.00
They are offering Free $100 Restaurant.com Gift Card! for those who do the Family Finder  (still $99) by itself so it's a nice incentive if someone hasn't tried it yet.
If you have already tested at FTDNA, the sale prices may not be cheaper than what an upgrade would cost. They would give you the cheaper of the two prices. Same thing if you were part of a project that had a cheaper price.
I hadn't checked the upgrade prices because I don't have many standard upgrades left. They did include many of the standard upgrade items with discounts. The Y 67 to 111 marker is $109, was $129 and others have reported similar discounts for most of the other standard tests. You can check the Upgrade button and if it has Current Special Offers, then check it out.

One major advantage to being involved in a surname project is being able to compare and discuss with others who share your same DNA. FamilyTreeDNA has a huge number of surname projects that center mainly around YDNA (male to male to male) but can also include others who have tested with mtDNA or FamilyFinder. The Smith Official DNA project is one of those. Although 12 marker matches are usually so numerous as to be non-definitive at that level, especially with such a ubiquitous surname as Smith, a starter price of $59 currently for YDNA, with the understanding that the partcipant will want to upgrade markers at some point, may be just the thing to jump in. And of coruse, with any surname project, you have the advantage of being able to compare results with others who share your surname and hopefully your same footprint

3 Answers

+16 votes
Best answer

Hi M,

It really depends on what the test participant, or the person paying for the test, wants to learn.

A yDNA (men only) test will give DNA information about a male test participant's paternal line of ancestors.  The yDNA is passed from father to sons, father to sons in a relatively unchanged state, except for occasional mutations, from a forefather that lived long before historical family records (that is, long before about 1500 AD).  When two yDNA tests match, we know that those two men share a common forefather.  Once we know they match, we return to traditional book and record research to try and discover who their common forefather was. In this way we can scientifically prove different branches of a family tree.

Next, every natural born person in the world has 2 genetic parents, 4 grandparents, 16 great-grandparents, 32 great-great-grandparents, 64 great-great-great grandparents, etc. If you take a FamilyFinder test and have a match with a "cousin", you share a common ancestor with your match somewhere in this group of people.  There are many surnames in 64 great-great-great grandparents, so the more distant the connections, the harder it is to find the common ancestor for two people.  WikiTree makes it a little easier to share these surnames with a cousin-match with the Surname view.  Here is my surname view: http://www.wikitree.com/treewidget/Cooper-1/10  Males or females can participate in a FamilyFinder test which I prefer because of their huge database of potential matches.  But you could opt for the auDNA test on 23&me.com which includes a genetic medical component if you want that information.

The mtDNA (for men or women) test follows a continuous line of mothers. So that would be your mother, her mother, her mother, and her mother, back through the generations.  This is less convenient because we often can't find a mother's maiden name in the tradional book and record research.  And in this case, we a talking about a different maiden name in each generation. Personally, I think this is the least informative test for family history research, but it does tell you where your ancient maternal ancestors started long, long ago.

If your contact wishes to order a test kit from FamilyTreeDNA.com, please encourage them to use this link to place your order so that WikiTree gets the referral credit:  http://www.familytreedna.com/cj.aspx?ftdna_ref=600 

I would be glad to help with any further DNA testing questions.  Thanks for the great question. 



by Kitty Smith G2G6 Pilot (542k points)
selected by Mary H.
+20 votes
Family Tree DNA  is my first choice by far. (familytreedna.com)

I have tested with FamilyTreeDNA, 23andMe, and AncestryDNA.... and NatGeo's Geno 2 but tNatGeo is only for very distant family reseach.

Family Tree has by far the most people who are interested in genetic genealogy and you will also find more people interested in sharing their information. Also you can compare chromosomes with anyone you match,. Family Tree customer service is pretty good also. The FamilyTreeDNA Forum is a great place to post questions and get quick answers from experienced genealogist.

23andMe - most people on 23andMe are interested in their health profiles. There is getting to be more people interested in genteic genealogy but you have to ask each person idividually to share their info with you... and thats the hardest part because most people do not reply to your request to share.  23andMe has the best ethnicity breakdown of your DNA.

AncestryDNA - My least favorite... I have lots of DNA matches but very few verified connections. Most of my matches keep their tree's private so you cannot see any of their information and they will not respond. This is what I hate most about Ancestry... There are too many people who data mine and keep everything to themselves. I have had a lot of people pull pictures of my ancestors for their private tree's but they will not respond to any of my emails. I have had similar luck with DNA matches. Ancestry.com is the better place to create your family tree if you have not started one, but it will cost you...

Now that Family Tree DNA has reduced the price of their family finder to $99 I think it is the best bang for your buck. If you want to be able to research your paternal lineage, the Y-DNA tests from FamilyTreeDNA is the best, as well as the maternal mtDNA tests.  FTDNA has surname projects that you can join as well.

At 23andMe you will get your basic Y-DNA and mtDNA haplogroups designations with your order. but thats only the haplogroups.  You will not be able to match others to verify if you came from the same ancestor.
by Darin Neves G2G2 (2.7k points)
Great answer, Darin. Thank you for posting this.
+2 votes
Personally Id have to vote ancestry and Genographic 2


Gengraphic is easierto undertand without a genetics background, plus its  little moe definative  while ancestry equaly easy to understand, plus pretty inexpensive
by Matt Pryber G2G6 Mach 4 (48.3k points)

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