DNA Testing Recommendation

+7 votes
There are many companies now doing DNA testing.  Who does the most through DNA test?
in The Tree House by Douglas Duggar G2G3 (3.9k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith

8 Answers

+10 votes
Best answer
You will get many answers on this one.  I have no agenda for answering.

When I had my first test done Ancestry was not doing dna.  Since DNA testing has became so popular, I did some research to see who the best of the companies would be to test with.  It  turns out I was shocked to find out that geneticists use and recommend Family Tree DNA as one of the top 3 for DNA testing.  Ancestry was not even on their radar, another big shocker.  

I always recommend Family Tree DNA.  You can have a number of different tests done with the one DNA sample through Family Tree DNA.  They can do YDNA tests which is male line only of dna passed from father to son down the line.  You can do the female line only and you can do Family Finder which will give you matches on both your mother and father's side. You can have one test done to start, then do others as you can afford it. They have had Family Finder Tests (autosomal) as low as $49. Their regular everyday price is $79.  

Not putting down ancestry, but they can only do one test... autosomal.  I'm glad I did YDNA for my dad because some of his origins were left out of the autosomal test.  

Ancestry and those tested as Ancestry boast of having the largest data base.  Family Tree DNA makes the same claims.  People with ancestry will try to tell you to test with them and upload your results to Family Tree DNA.  You can upload your autosomal to family tree DNA for free, BUT you will have to order another dna testing kit and submit another dna sample, if you ever want any other tests done.

I'm not an expert and don't claim to be.  Just my thoughts for what it's worth based on my experience and research into the subject.
by Debra Pate G2G6 Mach 2 (21.9k points)
selected by Peter Roberts
Also Family Tree DNA stores your DNA for future testing and they have good customer service with a phone number for it.
I agree with Debra on using FTDNA.  While all of the companies do a 'thorough' test, FTDNA, as Peter mentioned, stores the DNA, so if you initially get an autosomal test done, then later decide you want a mtDNA or Y-DNA (for males) done, they can do that.

On another note, I'd like to mention/suggest that you always test your parents and/or grandparents first.
YES!  Test your oldest living FIRST!
+6 votes
For just ethnicity estimates? Having tested multiple sets of siblings at multiple testing companies, I would suggest... pretty much any of them. With a couple exceptions, they all give roughly similar results. Some might see some DNA as Croatian, while another sees Eastern European, while another thinks its Ukrainian but it’s all kind of in the ballpark. One might say 10%, another 15% but the range on any kind of detail is a wide.

Ancestry will provide some additional analysis based on your matches, showing some regions many of them claim or some migration patterns. Ancestry not only pegged my Mom as from Hungary but from northeastern Hungary. 23andme does something similar now, though, and successfully predicted my Mom was Hungarian, although the unsuccessfully pegged her brother as Croation.

For large number of cousin matches, who most often have family trees, go Ancestry.
by Davis Simpson G2G6 Mach 2 (23.3k points)
+7 votes
My answer "It depends." What do you want to do with a DNA test? Do you have a problem to solve or mostly curious? As Debra said, FamilyTreeDNA does Y and mitochondrial testing as well as autosomal. Ancestry probably has the most people who have taken autosomal tests due to the really big marketing pushes and the somewhat misleading TV ads. Both FamilyTreeDNA and Ancestry are fine. 23andMe will be similar. I've done both FamilyTreeDNA and Ancestry and will likely do one of the others. They all do similar testing but using slightly different parts of the DNA.
by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (447k points)
+3 votes
The best thing to do is get an Ancestry DNA test and then upload the DNA to FTDNA, Myheritage, 23andme and all the other sites. That way you can get a clear, concise picture of everything and find more matches at the same time. Good luck!
by Chris Ferraiolo G2G6 Pilot (571k points)
This is the way I did it as it seems to give the best coverage for only doing one test. I have copied my AncestryDNA test to FTDNA, MyHeritage and GEDmatch. However I don't think you can copy an AncestryDNA test to 23andMe? I know 23andMe had a one-off promotion a few months ago when you could copy it, but that was just for ethnicity and didn't include a list of matches so I didn't bother. People who tested with 23andMe are the main group that I can't currently see matches with, unless they copy their data to GEDmatch, so if you know a way of doing this I would be interested.
Right. The 23andme didn't show matches. It did however allow a match to find me on here. I thought that was pretty neat. I am on there and on FTDNA and on Myheritage. There you can see matches. I'm more confident with FTDNA and put my dad's DNA there.
THE PROBLEM with getting an Ancestry DNA test done 1st is.... if you want to have future tests done and you only did a DNA test with ancestry and your DNA donor dies you will not be able to get any other tests done with their DNA.  I would do Family Tree DNA 1st.  Upload for free to GEDmatch and the others. Most people who are doing real genealogy will upload their ancestry dna results to the other sites.  You can always do a test at ancestry too, but I would definitely do Family Tree DNA 1st, so that the DNA will be available for future testing.
I'm not sure what you mean, Debra. Unless you mean something like not being able to download someone's DNA once they pass away. I have my parents and my own DNA on the site. Already downloaded my dad's. May do my mom's later. A few of my matches are people I already know how they connect. So there's that.

I was told to go with AncestryDNA for two very simple reasons. It may not be the same for everyone. But, here they are:

1. It's best for Italian-Americans like myself. The sample there is gigantic. Almost 500K people. When the admixtures changed a while back, my Italian percentage did not move.  The sample size matters a lot.

2. Most of my family was already ON there and my dad actually wanted to check it out since his aunt and cousins were there.

But, hey. it's up to the original poster. I just think it's easiest to do that. Plus the price was an issue. That's always gonna be a thing. I got mine and my dad's test for 75 each because of an after Christmas sale. I got my mom's for 60 because of another sale. The sale now is 50. XD. I think we got hosed.
I am referring to the fact that ancestry only does one type of test.... autosomal DNA.  Therefore, I would do Family Tree DNA First to ensure that I have the DNA sample stored with a company that offers other types of tests besides autosomal DNA tests.

If one does a DNA test with ancestry first and later decides they want other types of DNA testing done in the future they will have to pay for another test with another company and submit another DNA sample.

Should the DNA donor be tested with ancestry first and the donor dies before they are able to submit a test with another company, say for YDNA,  you will not be able to have any future DNA tests done for them.  

Ancestry does not offer other tests.  Ancestry only does autosmal testss.  The donor is dead so you can no longer submit DNA samples to other companies.

I'm not saying I wouldn't test with ancestry, but I would test with Family Tree DNA FIRST to secure the ability to have other types of test done.
Okay. That makes sense now. I was a little confused. Thanks!
Another quick point is that sample size of current test takers isn't what affects admixture estimates. Current testers aren't the reference set for admixture...can't be, because there's no way to verify geographic location for deep lineage. The reference sets are gleaned from studies done in population genetics, and modal haplotypes are arrived at as benchmarks for admixture segmenting. More population studies performed using autosomal DNA, more input for the models. That's why admixture estimates change from time to time, and why a company like LivingDNA--with, comparatively, a tiny number of test takers on file--can claim the most granular admixture genotyping for the British Isles. The baseline data is acquired from scientific studies; it isn't generated from the direct-to-consumer tests.

Debra, just a single-user case, but I finally had an FTDNA sample "retired" after almost 15 years and 16 separate tests performed against it. A Big Y-500 was ordered during the DNA Day sale, and that 2003 sample had finally given up the ghost...er, as it were.

I'm kinda thinking it may be time for companies like FTDNA and YSEQ, that maintain and the store samples provided with tests, to start offering a "warehousing" option: you don't have to pay for a test and crack open a sample vial right now, but can pay a small fee to have the sample(s) stored for future testing. Unopened, epithelial cell (cheek swab) samples should stay viable for a couple of decades, or longer (not so with saliva samples). And it seems a sound business model for the companies: no more than a few dollars cost for a couple of swab kits (that they buy in bulk anyway) with two swabs in each; customer pays shipping; only other costs are handling, receiving, and storage; and it's as close as there is to a guarantee of future purchases against that sample...small profit assured, with no chance of a net loss on the service. Wait; anybody know a trustworthy venture capitalist?  wink

Yesterday I updated the ISOGG entry regarding YSEQ's whole-genome sequencing (https://isogg.org/wiki/YSEQ#Whole_genome_testing) because they've expanded the offering and lowered the base price. They now offer three different coverage (density) options for the tests: 15x, 30x, and 50x. I personally wouldn't bother with the 15x, but the cost of the 30x is now down to $1,300. When Full Genomes introduced a similar resolution test at the end of 2014, it was $1,850; it's come down in price four times in less than four years to also about $1,300. Five years ago, options were limited but you'd have been looking at around $5,000 for that sort of test.

I won't postulate that we're a year away from a $200 whole-genome test, but the cost will continue to drop as HiSeq equipment and techniques continue to evolve. I bet we're under a thousand dollars in a year or so, and under $500 within four or less. With every generation so vital to autosomal DNA's ability to look into the genealogical past, wouldn't it be great if we could pay something like $25 now to get an aging relative's sample in storage for state-of-the-art testing circa 2025?

I suppose that's true, Edison. =D Still, I've said this many times. Been told Ancestry was the way to go for people with Italian ancestry for a reason. So, I dunno then.

Would be great to get granny's sample in storage for state of the art testing. All we can do now is test her and back up family info with stories and censues. That's what I do.
Edison, that would be great!  Sound exciting. That has always been my thought that what  we are offered would continue to improve and our DNA samples secured indefinitely. I’m going to be upset if my sample times out. I’m going to call the company to see if there’s anything I can do to keep that from happening. You can’t get a another sample from a dead person.
+7 votes
I will say that if you are really interested in "finding family", Ancestry is probably not the best place to go.   Because of all of the poorly done genealogies that have been copied over and over, there is too much "myth" on Ancestry.com for me.   I have spent many hours trying to help people understand that the Quaker Lees of Pennsylvania, and the Virginia Lees are NOT related (from a YDNA standpoint, they are different Halogroups).  Using triangulation to validate a DNA relationship when all of the genealogies are based on "nothing" is just creating more false genealogies in my book.
by Robin Lee G2G6 Pilot (752k points)
Robin, one of the other frustrating things about ancestryDNA is all of the people that tested that have no family tree.  The only reason they tested was to see their ethnicity estimate (which they don't realize truly is only an 'estimate').  I spoke with the ancestryDNA people at RootsTech last year and asked them when they were going to start letting us see the DNA segments that we share with our matches.  They told me "Never."  When I asked why, they responded that the majority of the people that test with them aren't interested in that -- that they only want to know their ethnicity!  I was so-o-o-o-o frustrated with them!
I did find some family on the site, Robin. I helped a fourth cousin trace her line down to me on the site. But, that was done with a combination of both DNA matches with us, our mothers and good old fashioned documentation. With all that we managed to find how we were related.

There are some erroneous trees on Ancestry. Don't get me wrong. And don't get me started. Several people had my grandfather as being born in Sicily. Funny after the first tree or two. Not so much when FIVE trees have that. He wasn't born anywhere near Sicily.

With regards to trees, a few of my close matches DO have trees. They're in the fourth cousin area and they do have trees and shared ancestor hints. Some do. Some don't. I send messages and I hear back from them and we talk a bit.

However, I am beginning to think that my case is probably unique among many people here given that I know how some matches match thanks to a few factors.  It is what it is.

I actually just got in touch with a match tonight and he's sharing his tree with me. So, we're seeing how we connect. So that's cool. Some people do want to see how we all relate. Some already knew before they even took a DNA test. And hey like I said I have a feeling my case may be unique.

Everyone has a different experience with the site is what I am saying.  Might just depend on the person. I hope I am not sounding like I am bragging. =/

As far as the messed up trees go, oy. I think I FINALLY convinced everyone that my grandfather was not born in Sicily. =D

Hey, Chris!  At least it was only where your grandfather was born being in error.  I came across over half a dozen trees that had me as my father's sister -- and dead!  I sent off messages assuring them that I was alive and kicking -- and much younger than they thought!  frown

Being dead is such an inconvenience! =P

My dad was marked dead, too by a cousin I recently talked to. I was like "Oh, he's alive. In fact he's at work right now." What happened was he confused my dad with my great grandfather, Vincenzo. His name became James in the US. So they had my dad's birthday and his death in 1970.

I messaged him and we had a good laugh about it. Gotta be careful with sources.  No idea how Vincenzo became James. That is definitely a weird one.

There were a few other trees that were in error. That 4th cousin I mentioned had a helper make a tree. It was full of errors. So many. She just said to me she was gonna just purge. And she did. She has an all new, much better and accurate tree.

Doing what I can to have accurate trees. My own tree I really try to make as accurate as possible. Though some stuff in the early 1600s I am unsure about. Like 1590s-1600s. That stuff gets eh....kinda weird and makes me skeptical.
+1 vote
I agree with the previous answer regarding Family Tree.  I've seen a lot of good projects and information that come from their set up
by Eric McDaniel G2G6 Mach 4 (41.2k points)
+1 vote

The recommendation would depend on your aims. What are you trying to learn or accomplish?

Generally there are 5 aims: 1. Obtain an ethnicity estimate. 2. Find cousins to do matching. 3. To use segment data to do chromosome painting. 4. To find haplogroups (mitochondrial & Y DNA). 5. To obtain health information.

Even excluding the 5th category, the current best overall for the first 4 categories is 23andMe. 

  1. 23andMe's data for ethnicity estimates is the best that I've seen thus far. Moreover, they provide an ethnicity-based chromosome painting which can be very helpful.
  2. For finding cousins, the larger the database, the better (generally). Ancestry is #1, but 23andMe is #2, and MyHeritage is #3. 
  3. 23andMe and MyHeritage give you matching segment position data; Ancestry does not.
  4. 23andMe reports your haplogroups. MyHeritage... I don't think it does. Ancestry definitely does not. 
  5. For about $100 extra, you can get a health report. (Not that I recommend that).
Generally, I like MyHeritage too: They probably have more "global reach" than other testing companies, hence more matches outside of North America. MyHeritage's interface is also just awesome. They're going to keep growing, for certain, so I expect them to catch up quickly.

Family Tree DNA is very small although they have more testing options. Unless you are solving some intractable mystery on your direct male line, their high-resolution Y chromosome tests won't help you; analogously for mitochondrial DNA, it only tells you about your direct maternal line. 

Ancestry provides lots of cousin matches, but their algorithms require significant refinement... I'm looking at you, "Timber". 

It hurts nothing other than the wallet to test at more than one place, so if you're able, do that. 

by anonymous G2G6 Pilot (130k points)
+2 votes

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All the answers are about genetics but nobody looked at the marketing factor. Let me explain. I did my DNA in both Ancestry and FTDNA. From the 150 4th cousins I found in Ancestry, I was able to identify about half of them on which side of my family they came. Out of the same amount of cousins in FTDNA, I was able to identify only one or two. Why? I am from the Caribbean (mostly Haiti and Jamaica) and more people from that region use Ancestry. Most FTDNA cousins I found at FTDNA are mostly Americans or Europeans. Maybe people from the Caribbean are part of the target market of Ancestry and they watch the TV programs that Ancestry use to advertise. So for me, Ancestry was very effective to identify my ancestors, while I got nothing from FTDNA.  Note that the test done with FTDNA was productive when I used it in combination with Ancestry on Gedmatch. My two cents.

by Harry Angus G2G3 (3.0k points)

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