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 information shared below is from my personal experience testing multiple family members at each of the companies listed below.  I have not received any free tests, payments or other benefits.  I hope my information helps you select the most appropriate test for your circumstances and make a positive start on your DNA testing adventure! (this site includes some affiliate links which may result in me receiving a small credit if you click through and make a purchase, but will not affect the price you pay).

The fast growth and interest in genetic genealogy means that the products, features, prices and third-party tools change very rapidly, so I update this page constantly!

 

Quick link down to current prices of autosomal DNA tests

 

The DNA testing companies

There are now five direct-to-consumer DNA testing companies for genealogical purposes:

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

 

Testing Goals

If you are not yet familiar with genetic genealogy, you might be wondering why it is so incredibly popular?  DNA testing can be amazingly powerful for family history research, and different testers may have different goals.  As well as revealing ethnicity estimates - which are very popular in the general community, we can connect with cousins to share research or swap old family photos, we can check our existing research for accuracy (confirm or disprove relationships), check the accuracy of family stories, investigate (hopefully solve) long-standing research brick walls and family mysteries, discover branches of your tree not found through regular research, identify places of origin of our ancestors, determine if people who share the same surname are related, identify biological relatives (if unknown), or you may simply be curious to see what your DNA reveals.

 

Unknown Parentage

If you are adopted, donor-conceived, a foundling, a war baby, a child migrant, of unknown parentage for any reason, or the cost is not a consideration - and you are primarily testing to identify parents or close family, 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 by testing with AncestryDNA first then do the free transfers of your raw data file to Family Tree DNA to obtain your closest matches in the Family Finder database, and to MyHeritage DNA and to GEDmatch.  Depending on the your initial matching success in these popular databases, you can then consider further testing or upgrades (eg. test at 23andMe; upgrade to a full Family Finder test; consider a Y-DNA test for males with unknown paternity; consider mtDNA if needed to confirm maternal relationships).

 

Research 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.  Test with whichever company appeals to you most, and then you can transfer your data to the free GEDmatch site once you get your results.

If you test at one company and a relative tests at another company, you can both upload your raw data files from the different testing companies to GEDmatch to compare your results.

If you can only afford one test, do that test then upload your DNA data file to GEDmatch, and also take advantage of any free transfers to get your DNA into other databases.  Note that AncestryDNA and 23andMe do not accept any transfers inwards, so you need to test directly with them to get your DNA into their databases.

 

What do you get?

Autosomal DNA testing produces the following in your online account:

  • Ethnicity/Admixture estimates, usually from centuries ago, eg. % Irish, % Asian, % Italian, etc.
  • Matches to other people who have also tested at the same company, and are related in recent generations.  Close family matches are very accurate.
  • Raw data file of your results.  This is a text file containing about 700,000 rows of numbers, about 6MB in size when zipped.  Save a copy to your computer, and you can use it to upload to other testing companies and sites offering third party tools.

 

Features & Prices

 

Database size and makeup

  • AncestryDNA has the largest database containing more than 5 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.  Although a large proportion of testers are from the USA, the number of matches from Australia, New Zealand, UK and Ireland is increasing and results are becoming very productive for many testers.
  • Family Tree DNA's autosomal DNA database is considerably smaller than AncestryDNA's, 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, so many Australians, New Zealanders, British and Irish participants tested with Family Tree DNA's Family Finder long before AncestryDNA was available.  FTDNA also has hundreds of thousands of Y-DNA and mtDNA customers who tested their Y-DNA and/or mtDNA up to 17 years ago, and whose stored samples could be used to test their autosomal DNA if they haven't already (some of those testers are now deceased so can't be tested elsewhere).  Family Tree DNA also accepts transfers inwards from AncestryDNA, 23andMe and MyHeritage DNA.  Whichever testing route you take, it is worth getting your DNA into FTDNA's database, either by testing there directly or by their free transfer.
  • 23andMe's database contains over 2 million testers.  Many testers use 23andMe primarily for health reports, so not all will 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.
  • MyHeritage DNA's database is relatively new, but it is growing quickly and already new unique matches are appearing (ie. who haven't tested elsewhere).  MyHeritage DNA 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 91 million members, so their DNA database will continue to grow be very useful as they implement more tools and sharing features.
  • Living DNA launched its test late in 2016, and since then has been regularly phasing in new 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 mtDNA and Y-DNA haplogroup predictions.  Living DNA is expected to add a customer matching database soon, as well as data transfers inwards from other testing companies.  Raw data can be downloaded for use with third party tools

 

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 (often unknown) 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 hosted on another site, such as at Ancestry, FindMyPast, MyHeritage, FamilySearch, Wikitree, Geni or Rootsweb.
  • MyHeritage 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.  The Review Match page now shows a pedigree view of matches who have a public 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 to 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 DNA matches through Ancestry's messaging system without a subscription.
  • At MyHeritage DNA, 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 MyHeritage DNA test, you do require a subscription to contact your matches.

 

Test types

  • AncestryDNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage DNA, FTDNA's 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 provides a range of tools including a chromosome browser, ICW and NICW (in-common-with and not-in-common-with) for all matches, a Matrix tool, a range of search options and filters, Advanced Matching ( to identify atDNA matches sharing the same Y-DNA or mtDNA, or in the same FTDNA project groups), and ability to download all matches and chromosome data to spreadsheets.  The free transfer to FTDNA doesn't provide access to all features/tools, but they can be unlocked for US$19.
  • 23andMe provides a range of tools, including a chromosome browser, Shared Matches, shared ethnicities, and a great range of search options and filters.  Some tools require that matches agree to share their DNA information before you can see it.
  • MyHeritage DNA provides a range of sort and search filters and options, and also shows Shared DNA Matches, shared surnames and shared ethnicities.  They are planning to provide a chromosome browser soon.
  • Living DNA raw data files can be downloaded.  The autosomal data can be used in GEDmatch Genesis.
  • 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.

 

Contact & profiles

  • Family Tree DNA results display matches' real names and email addresses, enabling direct and efficient contact with your genetic matches via email.
  • AncestryDNA testers can choose whether to display their usernames, initials or real names to their DNA matches.  If a tester's kit is managed by someone else, only their initials will be displayed, along with the manager's username.  No email addresses are visible, so messages can only be sent through Ancestry's messaging system.  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.
  • 23andMe testers can choose whether to display their real names or initials to their DNA matches.  No email addresses are visible, so messages can only be sent through 23andMe's messaging system.
  • MyHeritage testers can choose whether to display their real name or an alias to their DNA matches.  No email addresses are visible, so messages can only be sent through MyHeritage's messaging system.

 

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 can have a long shelf-life (often years), but it is best to use them as soon as you can.
  • Living DNA uses an easy cheek swab kit that contains no preservative liquid - a bit like a mascara, where you just snap 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

Autosomal DNA test prices have been gradually reducing, and now range from approximately A$120 to A$199.  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 usually the most affordable, 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 an economical way to get an accurate answer.  In the US where test prices are significantly cheaper, you could use any of the major testing companies that have a matching database.
  • MyHeritage DNA is currently good value at its launch sale price, however, consider that you may require a subscription to contact your matches.
  • AncestryDNA costs a little more, and you may find that you need or prefer a subscription to exploit its best features.  If you have unknown parentage and can only afford one test, then test first with AncestryDNA if possible, then do the free transfers to FTDNA, MyHeritage DNA and GEDmatch.
  • Living DNA costs a little more, but it is a once-off cost with no ongoing subscription.  Its unique product provides detailed British regional breakdowns that you can't get elsewhere, and also provides Y-DNA and/or mtDNA haplogroup predictions (no matching database yet, but planned).  Ancestral breakdowns will be updated automatically as the reference population database is developed.
  • 23andMe has recently reduced its international price significantly, making it much better value.  23andMe uses international courier for shipping (and note that we 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.  23andMe kits are also sold in selected pharmacies in the US and UK, and also on Amazon US (but they will not ship them to Australia/NZ).
  • Some companies offer shipping discounts on additional kits in the same order to the same address.
  • The testing companies occasionally have sales.

 

Shipping

  • Family Tree DNA sends their kits via regular post, so your kits will arrive in your letterbox in a small plastic envelope, with your regular mail.  If you order multiple kits around the same time or in one order, they usually arrive together in one larger plastic envelope.  Kits purchased from FTDNA usually take around 2 weeks to arrive at Australian addresses, although they can take a few weeks longer after big sales.  FTDNA charges US$12.95 per kit for shipping.  A small, pre-addressed padded envelope is supplied in each kit for you to return your samples to Houston, Texas USA.  You can post your kit back to the USA as a letter for A$2.95.  You may be required to complete and affix a small customs sticker to the return envelope.  When filling it out, described the contents as 'Genealogy Kit', and don't forget to sign it.  Kits sent back to FTDNA usually arrive in a couple of weeks, but when they are busy (eg. after big sales), delays may occur before the kits are checked-in on their system.  You can check your Order Status in your online account at any time after purchasing.
  • AncestryDNA sends their kits via Australia Post Parcel Post, so your kit will arrive in an Australia Post satchel.  Sometimes a signature is required upon delivery, other times they leave it in your letterbox or other safe place if you are not at home.  AncestryDNA charges A$29.99 shipping per kit, or if you purchase two or more kits in one order to the same address, additional kits after the first one are charged at A$10 shipping each. Your parcel will include one pre-paid return-addressed Parcel Post satchel, so once you've done the test, put your sample box in the satchel and simply drop it into any red Australia Post box in Australia.  If you order multiple kits in one order with reduced shipping, you will only receive one return-paid satchel, so if you can't return them all at the same time, you will need to pay postage to return the additional kits.  To return additional kits separately, you can purchase an Australia Post Parcel Post 500g satchel for $8.50, or use your own packaging or the sample box itself and pay by size and weight.  Although AncestryDNA kits come from the USA, they are sent out from Minchinbury, NSW, so they will usually arrive within a week (Ancestry says to allow 7-14 days).  The return parcel is sent back to NSW, from where it is sent to the USA for processing.  If you record the tracking number off the label before you post it, you can monitor the tracking back to NSW on the Australia Post website.  Depending on how busy they are, it can take AncestryDNA a few weeks to acknowledge receipt of your returned kit.  As long as you follow the instructions and Activate your kit before posting it, you can monitor your order progress online from the DNA tab in your Ancestry account.
  • 23andMe ships their kits to Australia via economy international courier, delivered locally by Australia Post (requiring a signature on delivery).  Standard shipping to Australia for one kit, taking up to 20 business days, costs US$39.99 (approx AU$55);  Express shipping to Australia for one kit, taking up to 12 business days, costs US$58.99 (approx A$80);  23andMe offers 20% off additional kits in the same order to the same address but the higher shipping charges negate most of the discount; Shipping for two kits in the same order to the same address costs US$102.99 (approx A$140); Shipping for three kits in the same order to the same address costs US$146.99 (approx A$200).  A return-paid courier satchel is included, requiring a call to the courier to collect it, or you can drop-off it off at a local affiliated depot (depending on the courier's services in your area).  If you purchase multiple kits and want to return them at different times or from different locations, it may be wise to order the kits separately so you receive a return-paid courier satchel with each kit.
  • MyHeritage DNA offers the most attractive shipping, providing incentive to order multiple kits.  They charge A$15.99 shipping for one kit, half price shipping for two kits (two for A$15.99) and FREE shipping for three or more kits in the same order to the same address.  Their kit box arrives in a plastic satchel, delivered to Australia in about 2 weeks.  A small, pre-addressed padded envelope is supplied in each kit for you to return your samples to Houston, Texas, USA.  You can post your kit back to the USA as a letter for A$2.95.  You may be required to complete and affix a small customs sticker to the return envelope.  When filling it out, described the contents as 'Genealogy Kit', and don't forget to sign it.  Kits sent back to MyHeritage DNA usually take about two weeks, but may take longer after sales, and delays may occur before the kits are checked-in on their system.  You can check your kit's status in your online account at any time after purchasing, by clicking on the DNA tab in your MyHeritage account, then click on Manage DNA Kits.
  • Living DNA offers two levels of shipping to Australia - standard shipping for A$14.95, which takes a few weeks, and Express Shipping for A$69.95, which takes just a few days.  A Reply-Paid International satchel is included in each kit to return your sample to Denmark.  After placing your sample in the satchel as per the instructions and sealing it, sign the customs sticker on the front of the return satchel, and simply drop your satchel into any red post box in Australia.  There is no need to go to a post office, as the employees may insist on charging you unnecessarily.  You may choose to pay for an express service to speed up the return shipping.  By dropping the satchel into a red Australia Post box, it should arrive back at the lab in Denmark in about three or four weeks.

 

Printed Books

  • Living DNA offersLiving DNA Personalised Ancestry Book an optional extra printed personalised ancestry book outlining your tester's ancestry.  The book can be ordered at the time of purchase of the DNA test, or it can be ordered later on by contacting Living DNA's Help Centre.  Allow 4-6 weeks after your results are ready before the book is ready for despatch.  The cost of the personalised book depends on your geographic region (£39, €59, USD$69, CAD$79, AUD$79, NZD$79), and it includes free standard shipping.  A great gift idea, but if you are ordering it for a special occasion, allow plenty of extra time for the testing, results, book production and shipping.
  • None of the other DNA testing companies offer printed books.

 

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.  Gedmatch is currently working to accept raw data files from Living DNA, which are in a different file format.
  • If you have already tested with AncestryDNA, 23andMe or MyHeritage DNA, 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 recently launched a 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. 
  • AncestryDNA's Genetic Communities are predicted to be from 'hundreds of years ago', whereas their ethnicity estimates are from 'thousands of years ago'.
  • Many testers like 23andMe for their detailed predictions, which are provided at three levels: standard, conservative and speculative, and they display ethnicity segment information in a chromosome browser view.  23andMe provides a timeline showing when the predicted ethnicities were likely to have been introduced into your ancestry.
  • 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's results are predicted to be more recent, from the late 1700s to mid-1800s.  Living DNA also provides a simulation showing your regional changes over time, and now also provide family ancestry map results at three different levels of certainty:  complete, standard and cautious.  View my Living DNA results.
  • 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.
  • 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.

 

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 MyHeritage DNA.  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?
  • MyHeritage DNA currently accepts 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 MyHeritage DNA tests.
  • Living DNA is planning on accepting transfers inwards from other testing companies soon.  For testers at Living DNA, raw data files can be downloaded and can now be uploaded to Gedmatch Genesis, and potentially uploaded to other testing companies in the near future.

 

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 need to login to each kit separately as required, or you can apply for a personal project to administer all your kits from one login.  If you share administration with another relative, they can either login to the accounts directly, or you could nominate them as a co-administrator of your project so they get their own project account login.
  • At AncestryDNA, each new tester is required to activate their own DNA test in their own Ancestry account.  Up until 18 July 2017, multiple tests could be activated and administered in the one Ancestry account, and these will remain accessible to the administrator.  If you order tests for others, regardless of who pays for them, the tester will be the Owner of their DNA and will be requested to activate their DNA kit in their own Ancestry account.  If they don't already have an Ancestry account, they will be required to register a new account.  After activation in their own account, the tester can then choose to invite you to be a Viewer or Collaborator, and subsequently upgrade you to a Manager if desired.
  • 23andMe allows for administration of multiple DNA tests from within one account login, but kits can't be accessed by more than one administrator.
  • MyHeritage DNA allows for administration of multiple DNA tests from within one account login, but kits can't be accessed by more than one administrator.
  • Living DNA allows for administration of multiple DNA tests from within one account login, but kits can't be accessed by more than one administrator.

 

Activation

  • Family Tree DNA accounts are created and linked to the person testing during purchase, so no further activation is required.  Note that you can still change the tester’s details in their online account after purchase, which may be required if you use the test on a different person.  You can also order spare test kits in your own name and later change the account name and details to those of the tester.  Changes will be reflected overnight.  You can't change the tester's gender in your online account, but you can select it on the green authorisation form that you send back with the sample, or you can contact FTDNA who will change the gender for you.
  • AncestryDNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage DNA and Living DNA kits all require activation at the time of testing, to provide a link between the sample and the person who has tested, via their online account.  The samples will not be processed in the lab unless they have been activated, and may even be discarded if not activated, as the lab cannot otherwise know who provided the sample.  If you accidentally post your sample without activating your test first, you can still activate it later if you kept your box and instructions, as the activation code is normally printed elsewhere in your kit (eg. Ancestry prints the Activation code on the back of their instruction leaflet; the other companies usually print the TestId or activation code on the test kit box, instruction sheet, or on stickers on the swab packets).

 

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.  If you manage FTDNA kits for multiple relatives, you can apply for your own private project from which you can manage all the kits from the one account/login.
  • 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 Viewer, Collaborator or Manager.  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.  You can register and manage kits for multiple relatives in the one account if you have their permission/legal authority.
  • MyHeritage DNA includes sharing buttons to share ethnicity results on Twitter or Facebook, but does not yet offer any match sharing functionality.
  • Living DNA includes a simple sharing widget in each tester's account, so you can drag and drop the desired results to share with family and friends via Twitter, Facebook or a URL.  View my Living DNA results produced by the sharing widget (note that results for males also include their Y-DNA haplogroup).

 

Autosomal DNA Test Price Comparison

Prices as at 17 October 2017  (estimates only, using Google Exchange Rates)

Prices shown in red are current sale prices.

 

Australia

  Regular Price Current Price
VAT/GST Shipping Total AUD Return Shipping
FTDNA US$ 89
US$ 69 $0 US$ 12.95 US$ 81.95 104 A$2.95
AncestryDNA  A$ 149
A$ 149 included A$ 29.99 A$ 178.99 179 Included
23andMe  US$ 99
US$ 99 $0 US$ 39.99 US$ 138.99 177 Included
MyHeritageDNA  A$ 126
A$ 87.99
A$ 8.80 A$ 15.99 A$ 112.78 113 A$2.95
Living DNA  A$ 199
A$ 169 $0 A$ 14.95
A$ 183.95 184 Included

 

New Zealand

  Regular Price Current Price
VAT/GST Shipping Total NZD* Return Shipping
FTDNA US$ 89
US$ 69 $0 US$ 12.95 US$ 81.95 114 Extra
AncestryDNA A$ 149
A$ 149 A$ 22.35 A$ 29.99 A$201.34 221 Included
23andMe US$ 99
US$ 99 $0 US$ 39.99 US$ 138.99 194 Included
MyHeritageDNA A$ 126
A$ 87.99 $0 A$ 15.99 A$ 103.98 114 Extra
Living DNA NZ$ 199
NZ$ 169 $0 NZ$ 14.95 NZ$ 183.95 184 Included
* Note: Purchases from NZ may be subject to 15% GST

 

United Kingdom & Ireland

  Regular Price Current Price
VAT Shipping Total GBP Return Shipping
FTDNA US$ 89 US$ 69   US$ 12.95 US$ 81.95 62 Extra
AncestryDNA  £ 79 £ 79   £ 20 £ 99.00 99 Included
23andMe
 £ 149 £ 149   included £ 149.00 149 Included
MyHeritageDNA £ 74.95 £ 52.95
£ 5.30 £ 9.95
£ 68.20
68 Extra
Living DNA  £ 120 £ 99 included £ 9.95 £ 108.95 109 Included

 

United States of America

  Regular Price Current Price VAT Shipping Total
USD Return Shipping
FTDNA US$ 89 US$ 69   US$ 12.95 US$ 81.95 82 Included
AncestryDNA US$ 99 US$ 99   US$ 9.95 US$ 108.95 109 Included
23andMe *
US$ 99 US$ 99   US$ 9.95 US$ 108.95 109 Included
MyHeritageDNA US$ 99 US$ 69 US$ 6.90
US$ 12.00 US$ 87.90 88 Extra
Living DNA US$ 159 US$ 99   US$ 9.95
US$ 108.95 109 Included
* Ancestry-only kit; 23andMe also sells a Health + Ancestry kit in the US for US$199 

 

Canada

  Regular Price Current Price VAT Shipping Total
CAD Return Shipping
FTDNA US$ 89 US$ 69   US$ 12.95 US$ 81.95 103 Extra
AncestryDNA C$ 149 C$ 149   C$ 19.95 C$ 168.95 169 Included
23andMe
C$ 249 C$ 249   C$ 19.95 C$ 268.95 269 Included
MyHeritageDNA US$ 99 US$ 69   US$ 12.00 US$ 81.00 102 Extra
Living DNA C$ 199 C$ 169   C$ 14.95
C$ 183.95 184 Included
* Note: Purchases may be subject to GST

 

Europe

  Regular Price Current Price VAT Shipping Total
EUR Return Shipping
FTDNA US$ 89 US$ 69   US$ 12.95 US$ 81.95 70 Extra
23andMe
€ 169 € 169   included € 169.00 169 Included
MyHeritageDNA € 83.95
€ 58.95
€ 5.90 € 10.95 € 75.80
76 Extra
Living DNA € 159 € 129 included € 12.95 € 141.95 142 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).
  • Regular Prices:   Autosomal:  US$89 (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

 

Discover Your Origins With Family Tree DNA

 

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.
  • Regular Price:  US$99 in Australia & NZ;  US$99 in USA (Ancestry only, excl. Health);
    £149 in UK;  C$249 in Canada;  169 in Europe.
  • Shipping:  Standard shipping to Australia, 20 business days - US$39.99 (approx AU$55);
    Express shipping to Australia, 12 business days - US$58.99 (approx A$80);
    20% off additional kits in the same order to the same address (each extra kit US$119.20);
    Shipping for two kits in the same order to the same address:  US$102.99 (approx A$140);
    Shipping for three kits in the same order to the same address:  US$146.99 (approx A$200).
  • 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

 

 

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.
  • Regular 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 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
  • Regular Price:   US$99 + 10% VAT + US12 shipping in USA;
    Non-USA countries' prices fluctuate due to the exchange rate, but are approximately:
    A$133 + 10% VAT + A$16 shipping in Australia;
    £77 + 10% VAT + £10 shipping in UK;  
    92 + 10% VAT + 12 shipping in Europe.
  • Shipping:  A$15.99;  US$12;  Half-price shipping for 2 kits; Free shipping for 3 or more kits!
  • 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).
  • Regular Price:   A$199 in Australia;   NZ$199 in NZ;    £120 in the UK;  
    US$159 in USA;   C$199 in Canada;    €159 in Europe   (plus shipping).
  • Shipping:  A$14.95 Standard Delivery to Australia (14-20 working days);
    A$69.95 Premium Delivery to Australia (5-7 working days).
    A Reply-Paid International satchel is included to return your sample to Denmark.
  • 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 can be downloaded.
  • 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.

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.

 

Support & Resources

Read blogs and beginners' links, buy or borrow a book on genetic genealogy, read some DNA success stories, consider joining some online support groups or a local DNA Interest Group to learn more, simply observe, or ask questions.  If your local Family History Society doesn't have a DNA Interest Group, encourage and help them to establish one.

Facebook groups are a great resource for learning, observing, asking questions and for general or technical support.  There are so many people in these friendly groups who understand how overwhelming genetic genealogy can be for beginners:

 

Further Information

 

Overall Rating (12)

4.5 out of 5 stars
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  • b

    I'm not sure about the others, but Ancestry.com.au doesn't even identify Australian DNA, they call it SE Asian.

  • Ross Hansen

    Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Hi Louise, Great article clearly presented with no complicated "DNA-speak". I recently attended a conference where several good speakers also presented clear information on DNA testing and what to do with results. Your article reinforces my learning. Thank you.

  • Mick Reed

    Rated 4 out of 5 stars

    Good review. But potential Ancestry users may want to know my experience. In 2008 (I think) I and my cousin tested with Ancestry. Me in Australia, him in England. I paid a fair amount for our Y-chromosome tests back then.
    Then Ancestry decided to block people outside of the US and we lost all access to our matches. We never got ti back even when Ancestry reintroduced testing for those outside of the US. Repeated emails have never even had a rely.
    So, money down the drain for us and the main reason I have since tested with FTDNA and am unlikely to give Ancestry any more cash.

  • Bill

    Hi Louise.
    I was recently "definitely" recommended to test at 23andme, in addition to the full suite of tests I currently have at FTDNA.
    Reading up, 23andme's latest chip is their v5. Is this the one to go for?
    But to complicate things, Living DNA has been recommended to me also, and apparently it uses a version of the same chip.
    I can't afford to test here, there and everywhere. So, let me explain what I am hoping for out of tests.
    1) Fourth generation Australian (one 2nd gen Irish), I already know that my entire heritage comes from all points of Britain and Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England, Ireland North and South. I have no known heritage from without the British Isles.
    2) I am far more concerned with identifying genetic matches than discovering my origins.
    Given the above, and my willingness to submit for one more test, I am wondering what to go for. The most advanced testing seems to be associated with this new chip, but 23andme and Living DNA both seem to use it. I am leaning to Living DNA, principally because of its derivation from Britain. But could this be denying me the chances for more matches elsewhere?
    Bill

  • Hi Bill, I'm sure whichever test you chose you will obtain interesting results. Living DNA does not yet have a matching database, but that is supposed to be coming soon (and you can already upload your Living DNA data to Gedmatch Genesis to compare with testers from other companies). Re the v5 chip, apparently all the testing companies will eventually have to transition to it, as the current Illumia chip is being phased out. AncestryDNA may provide you with more genetic matches than 23andMe, although hopefully now that 23andMe has just reduced their price significantly, the number of testers from Australia will increase dramatically. :)

  • Denis Nový

    Great informations! Thank you so much, helped me a lot.

  • Rachelle

    Rated 4 out of 5 stars

    Great article that makes the whole DNA testing idea much clearer. I was thinking about doing the AncestryDNA then transferring data to familytree, etc as suggested. But when I went into Ancestry they said they can’t show Aboriginal heritage clearly. Can you tell me which tests show Aboriginal heritage best? And if I start with AncestryDNA will the other databases be able to tell me more about this? My dad was adopted and I’ve always been curious about having Aboriginal family.

  • Hi Rachelle, at this time none of the testing companies specifically show Aboriginal ancestry. It may be represented by Southeast Asian, Oceanic, Melanesian or Polynesian, but it also depends how far back any Aboriginal ancestors were in your father's ancestry. Family Tree DNA does host an Aboriginal Tribes Australia DNA Project, but that uses Y-DNA (direct paternal line) and mitochondrial DNA (direct maternal line). The autosomal DNA tests, including AncestryDNA, match you with biological relatives - so your &/or your father could potentially match with cousins of Aboriginal origins. Good luck!

  • Carol

    Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    What a brilliantly detailed and informative report. Thank you so much. You've opened my eyes to the wonderful possibilities of this new field.

  • Thank you Carol - if you choose to test, I hope you have an exciting DNA adventure! :)

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