DNA Testing – Which One Is For Me?

DNA testing is quickly growing in popularity.  Not only do these tests provide insight on your estimated ethnicity makeup, but they also enable you to connect to family members from across the globe.  I have personally tested with two DNA sites, imported my DNA file to a handful of others, and have witnessed some pros and cons of each. With DNA Day coming up on April 25th, I wanted to briefly share my experience with some of these services (more detailed blog posts to come) to enable you to decide which test may be for you.  I’m also listing the compelling deals that are being offered in honor of DNA Day (they typically offer these discounts during Black Friday), so this is a good time to grab some of them.

Ancestry.com 

I first began my DNA testing journey on Ancestry.com [Full Disclosure: I’m now an affiliate but became an affiliate after the initial publishing of this post]. The great thing about Ancestry DNA is that you are able to tie your test results into any existing tree that you currently have on the site. This enables tree building and connections with potential cousins and ancestors to be a bit more seamless.  Like most DNA tests, you register your kit, spit into a tube, send it off, and get your results in about 6-8 weeks.  Once completed, the breakdown looks a little something like this.

mydna

I find that the interface is quite easy to navigate and they’ve recently enabled a new feature that allows you to see what “Genetic Community”  you may be a part of. This latest feature offers a look at migration paths, specific historical details, and insights that could be added to your DNA results. Additionally, you’re able to see “DNA Circles” that you’re in if you have created a tree on Ancestry. This gathers together people who share similar DNA as you and who have common ancestors.

dnacircles1

Conclusion:  All-in-all, I think Ancestry is a great easy-to-use tool for people just starting their genealogy journey. The mass adoption of the tool also makes it easy to find cousins (or unknown closer relatives) too.

In honor of DNA Day, Ancestry is offering 20% off of their original $99 price ($79).  This offer ends 4/26/2017.

23andMe.com

I jumped at the chance to get a 23andMe test, complete with the health report, when a friend told me about a sale (it’s quite expensive with and without the sale). This process was similar to Ancestry’s in terms of spitting into a tube (fun!) and waiting about 6-8 weeks for the results. While many people would rather not know of any potential medical issues that could arise based on their inherited genes, I truly wanted to know and be well-armed with information just in case. Since first investing in the test, 23andMe announced that the FDA had given them approval to release results for genetic tests for 10 additional (and major) conditions. I received an email last week asking me if I’d like to know the results of these new tests. I opted-in (as required) and took a big gulp to review my results.  I was relieved to see that I fortunately do not have the carrier genes for diseases such as Late-Onset Ahlzeimers, Parkinsons, and more (although it does not test for all carrier genes).

23andme

There were a lot of peculiar, but interesting, test results I received from this test. While I appreciated receiving this information, I found the dashboard a bit hard to navigate (even for a technology-savvy individual like myself). I initially missed several reports and didn’t find them until weeks later and felt like there was almost too much info available.  Either way, finding out that I’m 78% more Neanderthal than those who have tested on the platform made me laugh and wonder. Additionally, all of the reports were about 95% accurate in regards to my physical attributes and even included results on what my likely finger length, ear wax consistency (yes, earwax), and eye color would be given my DNA.

23andme2

If the health aspect does not interest you, there is a more affordable DNA test that does offer the ancestry and family finder functionality. I did uncover some cousins on 23andMe that hadn’t shown up on Ancestry. At this point, I was able to search through surnames that people had listed in their profiles in order to find out which side they may come from. However, I was frustrated with many of the Anonymous profiles that matched highly with me, but didn’t provide much information.

Overall, the heritage results were quite comparable to Ancestry.com. The most prevalent ethnicity segments matched pretty closely percentage-wise, whereas the most “exotic”, low percentage results were different but made up about the same percentage. This suggests that while I can take those results with a grain of salt, both sites were trying their best at deciphering what these small segments of DNA could be. What I also like about 23andMe is that they offered potential insight on your Ancestry timeline.  This allows you to see where Ancestors may fit within each generation.

23andme3

Conclusion:  23andMe offers the health aspect which Ancestry and other tests lack, but may not be as seamless to use from a family-finding and family tree-building perspective.

FamilyTreeDNA.com

Like many New England families, I’ve heard that we may have Native American in our ancestry, so I was pleasantly surprised to see some show up on the 23andMe results (it didn’t show up on Ancestry.com).  To further test my DNA without having to shell out another $80+ dollars, I went to FamilyTreeDNA.com. They offer what could be the widest and most advanced collection of DNA testing to the general public, allowing users to upload their raw DNA files (you can download them from virtually any site you test with) to their site for $19 in order to get their read on your ancestry, as well as cousin matches.   This process takes anywhere from 24-48 hours and it beats having to pay the money for a new test and wait another 6+ weeks.

My results?  By far the most different, overall results from the other two tests and more family members to connect with (they also provide a way to organize each one by maternal or paternal side). Additionally, no Native American DNA was shown which leads me to believe that 1 out of 3 tests claiming this may not be as accurate.  In another blog post, I’ll walk through the exact percentage differences between all tests. However, I found this one to skew the most.

Conclusion: While I’m considering FamilyTreeDNA for more advanced testing, I’m still curious as to how accurate it may be for some of the population groups (especially groups where I have no known ancestry).  It is a widely-respected site, so I still believe it’s a top contender for people looking to get basic testing done.

*For DNA Day, FamilyTreeDNA is offering some pretty heavy discounts for their tests.  The discounts can be found here.

MyHeritage.com

This site has recently offered DNA testing for a lower price tag ($79).  They have also been offering free DNA transfer tests since last year but the results were a bit wonky when I first uploaded my data.  It began identifying hundreds of supposed cousins in countries where I had no tie to.  It turns out, there was a glitch in their system and they have since fixed it but it still remains to be a small pool of matches.  Either way, it can’t hurt to upload your data here to find a few more folks to fill in your tree.

Conclusion: MyHeritage wouldn’t be my first pick for DNA testing but the free transfer is a good option once you take the test elsewhere.

This is my personal opinion and while many advanced genealogists have been able to use these sites and tools more thoroughly, these are my experiences playing around with them as a somewhat new genealogy discoverer.  In a future blog post, I’ll dive into additional FREE tools to help you find even more cousins with the results you receive from one site.  If you enjoyed this post, please consider following me on Twitter and liking Geni Journey on Facebook.  

Disclosure: One of these links is an affiliate link and if you order through them, I may receive a small commission but it does not affect the cost of the orders and/or my opinion on any of these services. 

3 comments

  1. I would love to learn more about both sides of my family, as my maternal grandmother grew up without her parents..she’s had no idea who she was.

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