What's hidden in your chromosomes?

DNA & Genealogy

Which DNA testing company should I use?

Once you've decided to test your DNA as a part of your family history research, and which person to test and which test type, the next consideration is which DNA testing company to use.

This guide applies specifically to autosomal DNA tests with matching databases, and is from the perspective of testers living in Australia & New Zealand, although most of it is general to all testers.

As a brief reminder, anyone can do an autosomal DNA test, and it can match you with relatives on all ancestral lines.  It is most accurate for very close relatives and those in more recent generations, although it can also be very effective in connecting with more distant cousins.  Autosomal DNA test results also include admixture/ethnicity estimates.

 

The DNA testing companies

Until recently there were only three major direct-to-consumer DNA testing companies for genealogical matching purposes:

In late 2016, two new DNA tests were launched:

They all offer DNA test kits by mail and deliver the results online.

 

Unknown Parentage

If you are adopted, donor-conceived, a foundling, a war baby, of unknown parentage for any other reason, or the cost is not a consideration, then it is recommended that you test with all the major companies to maximise your exposure and connections to biological relatives in all the international databases.  If funds are limited, start with AncestryDNA first then transfer to Family Tree DNA to obtain your closest matches in the Family Finder database.  Depending on the your initial matching success in these two popular databases, you can then consider further testing or upgrades.

 

Research Goals & Considerations

When selecting a testing company, consider your research goals, proposed test types, who you want to match with and which database they might be more likely to be in.

 

Database size and makeup

  • AncestryDNA has the largest database containing more than 4 million people.  The AncestryDNA test was only available in the US until 2015 - launching in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Canada during 2015 and in more countries during 2016.  Participants are overwhelmingly from the USA, but the number of matches from Australia, New Zealand, UK and Ireland is steadily increasing.  Many branches of UK & Irish families emigrated to the US, so you will likely find many of their descendants in your list of DNA matches.  If your recent ancestry is mostly US-based or you are looking for US family, then AncestryDNA is an ideal choice due to large number of US testers in their database.
  • Family Tree DNA's autosomal DNA database is considerably smaller, but its Family Finder test has always been very popular and accessible internationally.  It has been available outside the US for five years longer than AncestryDNA has.  Thousands of Australians, New Zealanders, British and Irish participants tested with Family Tree DNA's Family Finder long before AncestryDNA was available, and some of those testers are now deceased and can't re-test elsewhere, so whichever testing route you take it is also worth getting your DNA into FTDNA's database.
  • 23andMe's database contains over 2 million testers.  Some participants test primarily for 23andMe's health reports so they may not opt-in to the genealogy results (DNA Relatives), and additionally testers are required to share their DNA data to enable comparisons.  23andMe launched in the UK and Canada in late 2014.  They still sell their kits to Australia & NZ from the US, even though they have previously expressed interest in selling DNA kits directly in Australia.  No health reports are available to Australian & New Zealand customers.  23andMe is often considered to have the best ethnicity estimates, and the best tools for examining ethnicity results (including visually in a chromosome browser), but it can depend on the population group of interest.
  • MyHeritageDNA's database is very new and very small, so it will take a while to catch up to the bigger companies.  MyHeritageDNA opened transfers inwards from other testing companies in mid-2016 (free), and started selling their own test kits from November 2016.  MyHeritage reportedly has over 85 million users, so their DNA database will grow quickly and be very useful.
  • Living DNA is very new, having launched its test late in 2016 and is still refining its results and phasing in product features.  It offers ancestral breakdowns into 80 worldwide regions, and is very popular with people of British origins, as it includes 21 British regions.  More regions are currently being developed - including Irish and German regions - and your results will be updated as these are completed.  Living DNA results also include predicted mtDNA and Y-DNA haplogroups.  Living DNA is expected to add a customer matching database soon, as well as data transfers inwards from other testing companies.

 

Family Trees

  • AncestryDNA's best asset is their huge collection of member trees that can be linked to DNA accounts.  AncestryDNA cleverly attempts to match DNA and family trees for the user, providing a range of connection 'hints' based on similarities in the trees of your DNA matches.  Note that trees need to be public to access some of the hint features. You can link each DNA test to only one tree at a time, but it can be linked to any tree that you created or a tree that is shared with you.  You can link multiple different testers to the one tree.
  • Family Tree DNA offers a free family tree for each tester account.  FTDNA's family tree system enables linking DNA tests of known or confirmed relatives/matches to your tree, which generates matches in the 'Paternal', 'Maternal' and 'Both' tabs on the Family Finder match results page, based on a sophisticated segment-matching algorithm.  The more relatives who test and are linked in your tree (via easy drag and drop), the more matches will be sorted into paternal and maternal sides of your trees, which is useful if your parents are unavailable to test.
  • 23andMe no longer includes an integrated family tree, but testers can now include a link (URL) to their family tree on another site, such as at Ancestry, FindMyPast, MyHeritage, FamilySearch, Wikitree, Geni or Rootsweb.
  • MyHeritageDNA offers free family trees for up to 250 people.  Once you reach 250 people in your tree, you need to either delete some people or subscribe, or your tree will be locked and become inaccessible until you subscribe.  DNA tests are linked to the tester in a tree.

 

Subscriptions

  • Family Tree DNA, 23andMe and Living DNA do not require subscriptions - the once-off purchase price of your test includes lifetime account access and upgrades of results.
  • AncestryDNA does not require a subscription to purchase a DNA test or view your results, but it does require a subscription to access its most useful tree matching features, and to view your matches' family trees.  You can contact matches through Ancestry's messaging system without a subscription.
  • At MyHeritageDNA, if you transfer your DNA data in from another testing company, you do not require a subscription to view and contact your matches, but if you purchase a MyHeritageDNA test, you do require a subscription to contact your matches.

 

Test types

  • AncestryDNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage, Family Finder and Living DNA are all autosomal DNA tests.
  • All the testing companies provide ethnicity/admixture estimates as part of their results.
  • Living DNA currently provides ethnicity/admixture results only (no relative matching yet).
  • Both 23andMe and Living DNA provide haplogroup predictions in their results - Y-DNA (for males only) and mtDNA for all.
  • Family Tree DNA sells detailed Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA tests as well as their autosomal DNA test (ie. called Family Finder).  Multiple test types can be administered in one account (eg. Family Finder, Y-DNA, mtDNA), and the Advanced Matches tool can be used to look for matches across the different test types.

 

Tools & data

  • AncestryDNA's tools include Shared Ancestor Hints, DNA Circles, New Ancestor Discoveries, and Genetic Communities (the first three of these require a subscription).  AncestryDNA does not provide customers with tools to examine their shared DNA segments - such as a chromosome browser.  AncestryDNA customers can transfer their raw DNA data file to GEDmatch to use their analysis tools.
  • FTDNA and 23andMe provide a range of tools for users to analyse their matches in detail and to confirm relationships, including chromosome browsers.
  • MyHeritageDNA does not yet provide any tools, but has announced that they will provide a chromosome browser within a few months.
  • All companies allow a copy of your raw DNA data file to be downloaded, for transfers to other companies and for use with third party tools (Living DNA will be adding access to raw data soon; the download button is visible but not yet active).

 

Contact & profiles

  • Family Tree DNA results display matches' names and email addresses, enabling direct and efficient contact with your genetic matches via email.
  • AncestryDNA and 23andMe testers often use usernames rather than real names, although customers can easily opt to display their real names.
  • Contact with matches at AncestryDNA, 23andMe and MyHeritage is via the testing companies' messaging systems.  The Ancestry app on mobile devices allows you to contact DNA matches, but does not have an inbox to see messages received, so you'll need to check your Ancestry message inbox on a computer occasionally, or login via the internet on your mobile device.

 

Test kit & DNA sample

  • All test kits are very easy and straight-forward to use.
  • FTDNA and MyHeritage use a cotton-toothed swab to scrape cheek cells - very easy sample collection for any age or circumstances.  As long as they are kept out of extreme conditions, these kits have a long shelf-life (years).
  • Living DNA uses an easy cheek swab kit that contains no preservative liquid - a bit like a mascara, where you just screw the swab-on-a-stick back into the tube after testing.  Living DNA requires their kits to be returned within 6 months.
  • AncestryDNA and 23andMe use a saliva sample collection kit, which requires the tester to spit into a tube.  Most people have no difficulty, but if you are intending to test an infant, an elderly person, or someone in poor health, be aware that they may find it difficult to produce enough saliva for a sample (dribble is no good, it must be saliva).  Some medications can cause dryness of the mouth and make it very difficult for some people to produce saliva.  To avoid wasting a saliva kit, see if elderly or infirm testers can spit into a small clean medicine cup first.  Then if they can produce saliva you can simply decant it into the collection tube, but if they can't produce any saliva, you know to use a cheek swab test kit on them instead, and you can allocate your unused saliva test kit to someone else.
  • If ever you receive a test kit that has been damaged or the preservative liquid has leaked or dried out, contact the testing company and they will send a replacement kit.  Before use, store your DNA kits sensibly, ie. not in a hot car or near windows receiving direct sunlight.
  • Note that DNA samples are stored at the company where you initially test, so if you first test elderly or infirm relatives at AncestryDNA, 23andMe or MyHeritage and later decide you want to test their mtDNA and/or Y-DNA at FTDNA, their DNA sample will not be available for FTDNA to use, so do not leave it too late to get samples to FTDNA for additional test types.

 

Affordability

  • See the detailed pricing tables further below and check for DNA test sales and discounts.
  • If price is your main concern, then for customers in Australia & NZ, FTDNA's Family Finder is the most affordable (approx A$120 incl shipping), particularly when you want to test multiple family members.
  • If you are not interested in genealogy or ethnicity, but simply want to test two people to determine if and how they are related (eg. parent-child; sibling/half-sibling), then two Family Finder tests is the most economical way to get an accurate answer.
  • MyHeritageDNA is currently good value still at its launch sale price (approx A$120 incl shipping), but you may end up requiring a subscription just to contact matches.
  • AncestryDNA costs more up-front (A$179 incl shipping); you may find you need a subscription to exploit its best features.
  • Living DNA costs more (A$199) but is quite a different product, with its detailed British region breakdowns and haplogroup predictions (and no matching database yet).
  • 23andMe is the most expensive (approx A$300 incl shipping), due to its international shipping by courier (and note that Australian & New Zealand customers do not receive any health reports).  For customers in the USA only, 23andMe now offers an Ancestry-only product for US$99 (with no health reports), or a combined Ancestry & Health test for US$199.
  • The testing companies occasionally have sales, so check for current discounts.

 

Third party tools

  • Regardless of which testing company you select, once you get your results you can download a copy of your raw DNA data file from your testing company account, and upload it to a free site called Gedmatch, where you can compare your DNA to testers from other companies who have also uploaded to GEDmatch - it is a great way to find new matches and to use GEDmatch's range of analysis tools and reports.  GEDmatch accepts DNA data from AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage, and also from some health testing companies.
  • If you have already tested with AncestryDNA, 23andMe or MyHeritageDNA, you can transfer your raw data file to Family Tree DNA's Family Finder for free (see Autosomal DNA Transfers below).  FTDNA will be accepting transfers from recent Genographic Project tests soon.
  • Other third party tools, websites, and software include: DNAGedcom, DNAGedcom Client and Genome Mate Pro.

 

Projects and collaboration

  • Testers at Family Tree DNA can join a large range of DNA projects, such as surname, geographical, haplogroup or dual/multi projects, and can even apply for private projects.  Many surname projects now accept autosomal DNA too.  FTDNA hosts over 9300 DNA Projects, including: Australian Citizens; Australian Settlers; Australian Convicts; New Zealand DNA; Aboriginal Tribes Australia; British Isles by County; Ireland Y-DNA; Ireland mtDNA; Kilkenny Surnames; Cork DNA; Fathers, Sons & Brothers Y-DNA; Mothers, Daughters & Sisters mtDNA; WW1 Missing-in-Action; Romany Gypsy DNA and many more. 
  • AncestryDNA has just launched their new Genetic Communities feature, and its DNA Circles and New Ancestor Discovery hints may also provide opportunities for relatives to contact each other and collaborate with research on particular branches of their tree.

 

Ethnicity/Admixture

  • If you are only interested in discovering your ethnic makeup but not your genealogy, all companies include ethnic/admixture predictions with their autosomal DNA tests.
  • Be aware that you will probably get different results from each company, as they use different reference population samples, different regional definitions/cluster boundaries, different time periods (anywhere from 200 to 2000 years ago), and different algorithms.
  • The testing companies are regularly reviewing, updating and evolving their products, reference databases, regions and algorithms over time, so any results you get now will be automatically updated later.
  • Some testers prefer 23andMe for their more detailed predictions which are provided at three levels: standard, conservative and speculative, and they provide ethnicity segment information in a chromosome browser view.
  • Regardless of which company you choose, you can also upload your raw data to GEDmatch to experiment with their free Admixture tools, and compare your data with ancient DNA sample kits.
  • For more information, refer to ISOGG's Admixture Analyses.
  • Testers with British ancestry will be very interested in the new Living DNA test that provides regional breakdowns into 80 worldwide regions including 21 British regions. More regional breakdowns are currently being developed, including for Ireland and Germany, and existing test results will be updated automatically as these are implemented. (Living DNA does not yet have a matching database, but that is expected to be added soon).

 

Autosomal DNA transfers

  • Family Tree DNA's Autosomal Transfer Program accepts transfers inwards of autosomal DNA raw data results files from AncestryDNA, 23andMe (from Nov 2010) and MyHeritageDNA.  Note that you are not removing or deleting anything from your existing testing company, you are simply downloading a copy of your raw data results file from your testing company account and uploading it to FTDNA.  You can transfer to FTDNA's Family Finder for free to see your matches and access the In Common With (ICW), Not In Common With (NICW) and Matrix tools.  For US$19 you can unlock the full features of Family Finder - including the chromosome browser, your myOrigins ethnicity estimate, ancientOrigins, and advanced family matching (paternal, maternal tab matches).  FTDNA's Autosomal Transfer Program will soon be accepting transfers from the more recent Genographic Project tests too.  For details about matches included for different test versions, refer to Should you upgrade your Family Finder transfer?
  • MyHeritageDNA currently offers free inward transfers of raw DNA data files from AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA and 23andMe, to view all your matches.  Initially the only matches were transfers in from other companies, but now match lists are including new matches who have purchased MyHeritageDNA tests.
  • Living DNA is planning on accepting transfers inwards from other testing companies soon.

 

Test kit administration

  • At FTDNA, each person who provides a DNA sample has a separate account - with their own unique kit number and password for logging in, and the different test types for that person are managed from within that one account.  If you administer kits for many relatives, you either have to login to each kit separately as required, or you can apply for a personal project to administer all your kits from one login.
  • At AncestryDNA, where there is only one test type (autosomal DNA), multiple tests can be administered in the one Ancestry account.  So, if you order tests for relatives, you can administer them in your own Ancestry account (eg. with one subscription and one or more trees), and easily switch between viewing different testers' results within the one account.  You can also share AncestryDNA results with others as Editors or Guests, and even change Administrators if required.
  • 23andMe, MyHeritageDNA and Living DNA also allow for administration of multiple DNA tests from within one account login.

 

Sharing DNA results

  • At Family Tree DNA, you can share a tester's kit number and password with the tester and administrator, and perhaps an additional family member for backup as well (in case a tester or administrator passes away).  You can also add multiple email addresses to FTDNA accounts, as either Primary or Secondary email addresses, or both (Primary emails receive all notifications from FTDNA, including new matches; Secondary emails are a backup).  Any number of relatives can receive email notifications from FTDNA, and some FTDNA results and tree pages can be shared by clicking on the Share icon.
  • AncestryDNA results can be shared by administrators to testers and other friends, relatives or helpers as required.  From the DNA Settings page, usernames or email addresses can be entered to send an invitation to anyone to share DNA results, as a Guest, Contributor or Editor.  An Ancestry account is required to view shared results (registration is free), and matches trees will not be visible without a subscription.  You can also share your AncestryDNA ethnicity results to your friends on social media.
  • 23andMe enables sharing of genomes by sending an invitation to other 23andMe account holders, but you can't view their matches, only any shared DNA segments in the chromosome browser view.

 

Autosomal DNA Test Price Comparison

Prices as at 29 April 2017 - using Google Exchange Rates
Prices shown in red are current sale prices.

 

Australia & New Zealand

  Regular Price Current Price
Shipping Total AUD NZD* Shipping
FTDNA US$ 79
US$ 79 US$ 12.95 US$ 91.95 123 134 Return postage A$2.95
AncestryDNA  A$ 149
A$149 A$ 29.99 A$ 178.99 179 195 Return postage included
23andMe  US$ 149
US$ 149 US$ 74.95 US$ 223.95 299 326 Return courier included
MyHeritageDNA  A$ 133
A$ 106 A$ 16.99 A$ 122.98 123 134 Return postage A$2.95
Living DNA  A$ 199
A$ 199 included A$ 199.00 199 217 Return postage included
* Note: NZ prices may also be subject to 15% GST

 

United Kingdom & Ireland

  Regular Price Current Price
Shipping Total GBP Shipping
FTDNA US$ 79 US$ 79 US$ 12.95 US$ 91.95 71 Return postage extra
AncestryDNA  £ 79 £ 79 £ 20 £ 99.00 99 Return postage included
23andMe
 £ 149 £ 149 included £ 149.00 149 Return postage included
MyHeritageDNA £ 77.95 £ 61.95
£ 9.95
£ 71.90
72 Return postage extra
Living DNA  £ 120 £ 120 included £ 120.00 120 Return postage included

 

United States of America

  Regular Price Current Price Shipping Total
USD Shipping
FTDNA US$ 79 US$ 79 US$ 12.95 US$ 91.95 92 Return postage included
AncestryDNA US$ 99 US$ 99 US$ 9.95 US$ 108.95 109 Return postage included
23andMe *
US$ 99 US$ 79 US$ 9.95 US$ 88.95 89 Return postage included
MyHeritageDNA US$ 99 US$ 79 US$ 12.00 US$ 91.00 91 Return postage extra
Living DNA US$ 159 US$ 159 included US$ 159.00 159 Return postage included
* Ancestry-only kit; 23andMe also sells a Health + Ancestry kit in the US for US$199

 

Canada

  Regular Price Current Price Shipping Total
CAD Shipping
FTDNA US$ 79 US$ 79 US$ 12.95 US$ 91.95 126 Return postage extra
AncestryDNA C$ 149 C$ 149 C$ 19.95 C$ 168.95 169 Return postage included
23andMe
C$ 249 C$ 249 C$ 19.95 C$ 268.95 269 Return postage included
MyHeritageDNA US$ 99 US$ 79 US$ 12.95 US$ 91.95 126 Return postage extra
Living DNA C$ 199 C$ 199 included C$ 199.00 199 Return postage included

 

Europe

  Regular Price Current Price Shipping Total
EUR Shipping
FTDNA US$ 79 US$ 79 US$ 12.95 US$ 91.95 84 Return postage extra
23andMe
€ 169 € 169 included € 169.00 169 Return postage included
MyHeritageDNA € 92.95
€ 72.95
€ 11.95 € 84.90
85 Return postage extra
Living DNA € 159 € 159 included € 159.00 159 Return postage included
AncestryDNA kit prices and shipping will vary by country.

 

Before ordering, don't forget to check for current DNA test sales and discounts.

 

 

Genealogy DNA testing company main features

 

Family Tree DNA

  • Website:  FamilyTreeDNA.com
  • History:  Since 2000; the first genealogy DNA testing company for consumers.
  • Lab location:  Houston, Texas, USA
  • Database:  International.  Also contains some kits transferred from other testing companies.
  • Family Tree:  Yes, one myFamilyTree per tester's account; Upload a Gedcom or build/edit your tree manually; Link your known or confirmed DNA-tested relatives to your trees; Trees can be Private or Public; Global public search (box at top left of FTDNA web pages).
  • Test types:  Autosomal DNA (Family Finder), Y-DNA (37, 67, 111) and mitochondrial DNA (mtPlus, FMS), plus more specialty tests (eg. SNPs, Big Y).
  • Ethnic makeup:  Yes, included in Family Finder (myOrigins).
  • Price:  Autosomal:  US$79 (Family Finder)
    Y-DNA testsY37 US$169;  Y67 US$268;  Y111 US$359; 
    mtDNA tests: HVR1 & HVR2 US$79;  mt Full Sequence US$199.
  • Shipping:  US$12.95 to Australia (approx A$17); A$2.95 to post back to US.  Postage takes approximately 2-3 weeks in each direction.
  • Sample:  FTDNA's cheek swabs are easy to use for all ages
  • Storage:  Stores sample for 25 years; Existing samples used for test upgrades.
  • Transfers:  FTDNA's Autosomal Transfer Program accepts raw data from 23andMe, AncestryDNA, MyHeritageDNA and National Geographic.
  • Specials:  Yes, several times per year.
  • Tools:  Yes, Chromosome Browser, Matrix, In-Common-With; Name & Ancestral Surname/Location searches; Parental Phasing.
  • Downloads:  One-click download of matches to Excel or CSV format; Raw data downloadable for use with external tools, including GEDmatch.
  • Match details:  Testers' name, email address, date matched, haplogroups, tests undertaken (optional: ancestral surnames, family tree, most distant known ancestors).
  • Autosomal SNPs tested:  about 690,000
  • Autosomal match thresholds:  Minimum 7.69 cM & 500 SNPs for the largest segment; If the largest segment is less than 9 cM, a 20 cM total is required (including shorter segments) to be shown as a match.
  • Health Reports:  No, but you can upload your raw data to Promethease.com for $US5.
  • Projects:  Over 9000 FTDNA projects (surnames, geographical, haplogroup, dual geographical - see summary below).
  • Privacy:  Family Tree DNA's Privacy Policy & Terms of Service.
  • FTDNA Quick Reference

 

 

23andMe

  • Website:  www.23andMe.com
  • History:  Since 2006; originally health reporting, expanded into genealogy.  Limited health reporting for US, Canada & UK residents; No health reporting for Australia or New Zealand.  Users must opt-in to genealogy matching (DNA Relatives).
  • Lab location:  California, USA
  • Database:  International.
  • Family Tree:  No.
  • Test types:  Autosomal DNA (includes low level Y-DNA and mtDNA haplogroup predictions - useful for ancient population migratory groups, but not relevant to genealogical timeframes or people-matching).
  • Ethnic makeup:  Yes, included.
  • Price:  US$149 in Australia & NZ;  US$99 US$79 in USA (Ancestry only, excl. Health);
    £149 in UK;  C$249 in Canada, 169 in Europe.
  • Shipping:  US$74.95 to Australia (approx AU$100); via courier; sample delivered & collected (or may need to be returned to a courier depot, depending on local services); US$41 shipping for additional kits in the same order to the same address.
  • Sample:  Saliva sample - infants, the elderly or infirm may find it difficult to produce saliva (tips & tricks).
  • Storage:  Testers have the option of biobanking or discarding their sample (during kit activation, the storage option is 'from 1 to 10 years').
  • Transfers:  Does not accept transfers inwards; 23andMe data from Nov 2010 can be transferred into FTDNA.
  • Specials:  No sales.
  • Tools:  Yes, a chromosome browser, but only usable on matches who have accepted your invitation to share genomes or those who have opted in to Open Sharing.
  • Downloads:  Raw data downloadable for use with external tools, including GEDmatch.
  • Match details:  Match name (if their profile is set to public); Many matches are anonymous so no details are visible, and some cannot be contacted; No email addresses - you must invite matches to share using 23andMe's messaging system; (Optional: ancestral surnames; family tree).
  • Autosomal SNPs tested:  577,382
  • Autosomal match thresholds:  Minimum 7 cM & 700 SNPs for the largest segment; 5 cM & 700 SNPs for additional segments (and for people you are sharing with).
  • Health Reports:  Australia & New Zealand: No;  US (US$199), Canada, UK & Ireland: Yes.  You can upload your raw data to Promethease.com for US$5.
  • Privacy:  23andMe may use your raw data (non-identifiable) for medical & pharmaceutical research purposes.  See their Terms of Service, Privacy Policy, and optional Research Consent information.
  • 23andMe Quick Reference

 

23 Pairs of Chromosomes. One Unique You. Get your DNA story at 23andMe.com.

 

AncestryDNA

  • Website:  dna.ancestry.com.au
  • History:  Since 2012 through Ancestry.com
  • Lab location:   Utah, USA
  • Database:  International; Huge number of member trees.
  • Family Tree:  Yes, you can link your DNA results (and those of your relatives) to your Ancestry Family Tree.
  • Test types:  Autosomal DNA only.
  • Ethnic makeup:  Yes, included.
  • Price:  Autosomal AU$149 + AU$30 shipping;  US$99 + $10 in US;  £79  + £20  in UK;
    C$149 + C$20 in Canada;  In Europe, prices will vary by country.
  • Shipping:  Shipping for Australia & New Zealand is AU$29.99 per kit (includes a return-paid satchel); $10 per kit for additional kits in the same order to the same address (only one return-paid satchel is included, but you can post kits back separately if needed; $8.50 for a 500g Parcel Post satchel).  If the voucher box is active/visible in the checkout, use code FREESHIPDNA to reduce the shipping by $9.95.
  • Sample:  Saliva sample - infants, the elderly or infirm may find it difficult to produce saliva.
  • Storage:  No storage options, although Terms & Conditions mention they keep your sample.
  • Transfers:  Does not accept transfers from other companies; You can transfer AncestryDNA raw data into FTDNA.
  • Specials:  Yes, occasionally.  Look for banners on the Ancestry website.
  • Tools:  Shared Ancestor Hints (tree matching), DNA Circles, New Ancestor Discoveries.  No analysis tools provided. The Ancestry trees of DNA matches are compared and suggestions are made based on similarities in trees, surnames and locations.
  • Downloads:  Raw data downloadable for use with external tools, GEDmatch, and transfer to FTDNA.
  • Match details:  Admin's username (no email address); total shared cMs and number of segments; communication via Ancestry's messaging system.
  • Autosomal SNPs tested:  682,549
  • Autosomal match thresholds:  5 cMs for the first segment.
  • Health Reports:  No, but you can upload your raw data to Promethease.com for US$5.
  • Subscription: An Ancestry subscription is required to access some features. You can contact your matches and access your raw data without a subscription, but you'll need a subscription to view your matches' trees, to see shared surnames & birth locations, and to see Shared Ancestor Hints, DNA Circles and New Ancestor Discoveries (NADs).  The cheapest Ancestry AU subscription is $179.99 per year or $21.99 per month.  There is no reduced-price DNA Insights subscription for Australia.  See more information on AncestryDNA with and without an Ancestry subscription.  TIP: If you have a subscription and you buy kits for relatives, activate their kits in your own account, and give the tester access to their DNA & ethnicity results and also to your tree, so they won't need their own subscription to view your tree (they still won't see matches' trees unless they have their own subscription).  If relatives activate their own kit, ask them to add you as a Guest or Editor of their DNA account, so you can access their results.
  • Privacy: AncestryDNA's Terms & Conditions.  Also read AncestryDNA's Consent Agreement in relation to optional participation in health & research projects.  Review your options in regards to the Consent Agreement, and see AncestryDNA's FAQ.
  • AncestryDNA Quick Reference

 

MyHeritageDNA

  • Website:  myheritage.com/dna
  • History:  MyHeritageDNA test launched on 7 November 2016
  • Lab location:  Houston, Texas, USA
  • Database:  International.  New, so small, but 85 million member trees so will grow quickly.
    Contains many kits transferred from other testing companies.
  • Family Tree:  Yes, free family tree up to a maximum of 250 people, after which a subscription is required
  • Test types:  Autosomal DNA
  • Ethnic makeup:  Yes, 36 ethnic groups, more to be added
  • Price:  A$132  A$105 + A$17 shipping in Australia;    US$99  US$79 + US12 shipping in USA;
    £78  £63 + £10 shipping in UK;   93  €75 + 12 shipping in Europe
  • Shipping:  A$15.99;  US$12
  • Sample:  Cheek swab sample, same style as FTDNA kit
  • Transfers:  Transfers inwards accepted from AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA, 23andMe
  • Specials:  Currently still at launch sale price; future sales unknown
  • Tools:  Not yet, but a chromosome browser is expected to be launched in the coming months
  • Downloads:  Yes, can download raw data file
  • Match details:  Match’s name, profile image, age group, country of residence, shared DNA (% and cMs), number of shared segments, largest segment, possible relationships, link to tree if available.
  • Autosomal SNPs tested:  700,000
  • Privacy:  MyHeritageDNA Privacy Information
  • FAQ:  Your MyHeritageDNA Questions Answered
  • Help:   MyHeritageDNA Help Centre

 

Living DNA

  • Website:  livingdna.com
  • History:  Living DNA test launched on 29 September 2016
  • Lab location:  Denmark
  • Database:  Coming soon!  Will also soon accept transfers from other testing companies.
  • Family Tree:  No
  • Test types:  Autosomal DNA, plus selected Y-DNA and mtDNA SNPs tested.
  • Ethnic makeup:  Yes, 80 worldwide regions, including 21 British regions, with more to come
    (Irish and German regions currently under development - results will be updated automatically).
  • Price:   A$199 in Australia;   £120 in the UK;   US$159 in USA;
    C$199 in Canada;   €159 in Europe.
  • Shipping:  included;  prepaid return mailer also included
  • Sample:  Very easy cheek swab kit, no liquid
  • Transfers: Transfers inwards from other testing companies coming soon
  • Specials:  Yes, occasional sales
  • Tools:  Not yet
  • Downloads:  Raw data to be available soon; button in menu but not yet active
  • Match details:  No matching database yet, coming soon
  • SNPs tested:  Autosomal SNPs: 650,000+;  mtDNA SNPs: 4000+; Y-DNA SNPs: 20,000
  • Privacy:  Living DNA's Privacy Policy
  • Help:  Living DNA Help Centre

 

 

So, which company do I choose?

Consider all the features, pros and cons above, and your goals, and see what is most important to you.

If you are just venturing into genetic genealogy for the first time and after reading all of the above you still don't really know what to do or where to start, or you are just curious about what your DNA might reveal, simply start by ordering either an AncestryDNA kit and/or Family Finder kit and see where it takes you and who it matches you with.  If you aren't interested in matching with other people just yet, but more interested in a detailed breakdown of where you came from in the last couple of hundred years, start with a Living DNA test.

Regardless of where you test, you will be embarking on an exciting adventure in a strange new world.  Read blogs and beginners' links, consider joining the support groups Using DNA for Genealogy - Australia & NZ and DNA for Genealogy - UK on Facebook to observe or ask questions, and also join DNA Detectives if you are an adoptee, or DNA for the Donor Conceived if you are donor conceived.  There are so many helpful people in these friendly groups, who understand how overwhelming genetic genealogy can be for beginners.

Many keen genealogists test themselves at all available testing companies - for interest, experience and exposure to all databases.  Ideally you will get more matches in the biggest databases (although not necessarily closer matches), but now that transfer options and third party tools are available and more are certain to emerge, test at the company that suits your needs and goals initially, and transfer your data to make the most of additional databases and utilities.  As you learn more, you may want to try other test types, other test companies, and test additional family members.

The genetic genealogy industry is moving at a very fast pace, so I update this page often.

 

Further Information

 

Overall Rating (4)

4.5 out of 5 stars
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  • Thank you Scott. You are right, but unfortunately here in Aust/NZ, as you are probably aware, we can't get the health reports from 23andMe - they are only available in the US, UK, Ireland & Canada. Many genealogists have commented that uploading their autosomal DNA raw data files to Promethease.com is giving them more detailed health information than the New 23andMe reports. There are some more health-related DNA testing companies emerging now too, including Livewell, GenetiConcept, Genes for Good, and WeGene (China). The DNA data files from these can now also be uploaded to Gedmatch, so health-focused testers can do more analysis and find genealogical matches as well. :)

  • Graeme

    Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Thanks for this article, I was a little confused with which service was best to use, and this has really helped.

    I have some suspicion that I have some Aboriginal Australian on my mother's side, but when I've asked any of the services if their test would show that, they've all said that it won't be that specific, it would only show up as "Oceania" or "South Pacific". I'd be interested to know if there is a test available that will show Australian Aboriginal background, but in the meantime I'm happy to go for the Family Finder I think, just to get an idea of where I'm from!

  • Hi Graeme, you are right that the testing companies don't specifically show Aboriginality just yet, but it may show as South East Asian, Oceanic or Melanesian, depending on which company you test at. The companies may refine or add more population groups in the future if they develop reference populations for such (you won't need to upgrade, your results will just be updated). In the meantime, you may match relatives with Aboriginal ancestry, which could help you with your research. If the suspected Aboriginality is on your mother's direct maternal line (ie. her mother's mother's mother's mother, etc), then a mitochondrial DNA test could reflect that (you inherit mtDNA from your mother). There is also an Aboriginal Tribes Australia DNA Project at FTDNA (for mtDNA or Y-DNA) that could be of interest to you. Cheers, Louise

  • CK

    I am a little suspect that you are funded by Ancestry

  • I wish! Unfortunately for me I am not funded or assisted by any of the testing companies. I have not received any free test kits for review either. I have paid for all my own tests, and all my information and observations above are from my own extensive experience using the products and helping hundreds of others use them as well (volunteer coach, presenter, support group leader, online groups' administrator, family history society volunteer, people searcher, and genetic genealogy pro bono services). This post aims to help beginners choose the most appropriate test for them, alerting them to the pros, cons, and costs of each. Hopefully it also helps beginners avoid wasting money on the many expensive ‘non-genealogy’ DNA tests advertised elsewhere that many get tricked into purchasing and end up very disappointed. The more people that test, the more matches everyone else gets. I update this page often, as the products and their features are evolving very rapidly. Perhaps you should try FTDNA's Family Finder test - you can't go wrong with that.

  • haylie

    Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Thank you so much that was the most amazing review. I have NEVER EVER commented on any website but I had to thank you I research and look at reviews for everything and this was so well put, easier to understand and answered questions I didn't even think to ask.

  • Thank you Haylie, I hope it has convinced you to test your DNA and if so, I hope you get some interesting and exciting results. :)

  • John Mc

    Thank you Louise,
    Sorry to ask personal advice on my test...on my Dads Maternal (mother, mothers, mothers, Mother) I suspect to find a Aboriginal woman....My Dad is deceased, so I was going to ask his Brother or Sister to do the Test. Which one do I ask ?; Brother or sister for accuracy or do I just do it myself ?....& do I need a specific test for that line ? & is it part of a standard ancestry test ?

  • Hi John,
    To learn about your father's mother's direct maternal line (using mitochondrial DNA), you could test either of his siblings, as all children inherit mtDNA from their mothers, so your Dad's brother and sister's mtDNA should be the same as his. Your mtDNA is from your own mother, so not the right line. You don't have to do the mtDNA test, but if there was an Aboriginal woman on that line, it may show up as mtDNA haplogroup 'M'. You could start with an autosomal DNA test (eg. AncestryDNA or Family Finder), as that will match you with cousins (who have also tested) from all your ancestral lines, going back about 5 or 6 generations. So you may find some maternal line cousins that share DNA with you. You could do the autosomal DNA test on either or both of your father's siblings, or on yourself (for all your lines). Your father's siblings are one generation closer to their mother than you are, so should get some stronger matches to that maternal line. Read about the different test types and how they apply to your ancestry. Good luck! :)

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