Why test? Using DNA testing for genealogy you can identify countless new cousins, who often have a wealth of family information and precious documents and photos that you never even dreamed existed. Why do they have “your” family documents and photos? Because it’s their family too!
- Autosomal tests – (Men AND Women) (shows all lines) Regular price $99, often on sale for $79, seen as low as $49 (rare). Free shipping codes like FREESHIPDNA are common. Google “Ancestry DNA coupon code” to search for coupon codes to try. Sometimes you get lucky. The advantage to testing with Ancestry.com is that if you have an extensive tree on Ancestry and your DNA match has an extensive tree, Ancestry finds where your trees line up and shows you your common ancestors automatically. Even when you don’t have enough for a fully automated match, you can often dig through other people’s trees and find your common ancestors.
- You can build a tree and you can see your DNA matches with a free account. You don’t have to have a monthly Ancestry subscription. But, with a free account you can’t see other people’s trees or the documents and records. Those are only available with the monthly paid subscription.
- Autosomal tests – (Men AND Women) (shows all lines) Regular price $99, sometimes on sale for $79. The best thing about testing with FTDNA is that they have built in tools that let you look at exactly how you match (chromosome browser tools). Chromosome browser tools show you how big your matching DNA segments are and where they are on the chromosomes. If you figure out a common ancestor, then you know that that bit of DNA came down to you both through that ancestor. A disadvantage is that the family trees on FTDNA are difficult to navigate and contain much less information than Ancestry trees. An advantage is that there is no monthly fee for anything. Once you test, you have access.
- Upload your Ancestry DNA autosomal test results to FTDNA (Men AND Women) Regular price $69, sometimes on sale for $49. Upload your Ancestry DNA results to FTDNA to find matches with folks who have only tested there and to use their chromosome browser tools.
- yDNA tests – (Men ONLY) (shows direct paternal line) Regular price yDNA37 $169, sometimes on sale for $129. This 37 marker test is the smallest yDNA test offered by FTDNA now because this is the smallest test that will give meaningful genealogical information. There are also tests with more markers that will narrow down your results: yDNA67, yDNA11 and a test called the Big Y (crazy expensive). Once you do the yDNA37 you can upgrade later to yDNA67 or yDNA111. It costs more than if you just did the larger test to begin with, but it lets you spread out the cost. And always look for sales.
- mtDNA tests – (Men AND Women) (shows direct maternal line) Regular price for full sequence mtDNA $199, sometimes on sale for $169.
- Autosomal tests – (Men AND Women) (shows all lines) Regular price $99. 23 and Me was originally designed to give genetic health information and has been used mostly by people who want health information. Currently they are jumping through some regulatory hoops with the FDA and can’t offer the health information to new customers till that regulatory stuff is done. They have always offered some genealogy tools too, and right now that is all that they can offer, but the vast majority of their customer base was interested in health information only and not genealogy. The result is that few of the people on 23 and Me will respond if you email asking about how you might figure out a common ancestor.
So, which test should you choose? Start with the autosomal test at Ancestry DNA. For DNA newbies it is the easiest place to start. DNA testing only works well though if you put some work into putting up a tree. If you’re not able or don’t have the time or inclination to enter your family tree, then let a trusted family member who does have a large tree already administer your test. They can then share their tree linked to your DNA results with you. Ancestry doesn’t have chromosome browser tools, but they do let you download your raw data which you can then upload to Gedmatch.com (free) or to FTDNA (not free) and use the chromosome browser tools there.
Watch for sales. Most of these kits go on sale 2 or 3 times per year.
Ancestry DNA and 23 and Me both use the “spit tests”. The DNA is extracted from cheek cells that are in your spit. Family Tree DNA uses a “swab test” and the sample is collected by swabbing the inside of your cheek. The swab test is usually easier for older folks or folks who have dry mouth due to medication.