23andMe vs. FamilyTreeDNA: A simple comparison for the DNA newbie
Before you buy, it’s important to know the differences between 23andMe vs. FamilyTreeDNA. Both companies are known to offer several unique genetic DNA testing features!
Here, at Genomelink, we think it is important that everyone picks the genetic DNA testing company that is right for them. In this article, we directly compare 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA), to help you figure out which one may be the best DNA analysis fit for you!
Keep reading to see how the companies are the same, how they differ, and what are your options with a raw DNA data file from each of these companies!
Similarities Between 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA
Both 23andMe and FTDNA offer ancestry reports based on an autosomal test. With their ancestry test results, you can find out where your genes came from in your ethnicity estimate, learn about potential mass migrations your family may have been a part of, and use a chromosome browser to see where particular DNA segments came from. You may find that you are European, Scandinavian, Irish, Native American, Asian, or you may even find that you have a little Neanderthal DNA!
Each company offers DNA testing kits for various purposes, though the offerings are slightly different. You will also be able to search for DNA matches in each company’s database. This is a great option for people looking to find family members or distant relatives for genealogy research. Both companies use industry standard DNA testing kits for analyzing your DNA data, and measure a similar number of SNPs. Both will give you similar ancestry DNA results to research your family history.
Differences Between 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA
A major difference between the companies is that FTDNA does not give health reports, wellness reports, carrier status reports, or information on general genetic traits. 23andMe tests offer genetic DNA testing reports on many of these traits, and can give you a lot of information about specific genetic predisposition health risks, such as your risk for breast cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Crohn’s disease. 23andMe also has fun reports which detail how your genes affect your eye color, height, and other physical traits.
FamilyTreeDNA is more focused on ancestry, similar to Ancestry.com. However, when it comes to AncestryDNA vs. FamilyTreeDNA, FTDNA comes without the extensive historical records database. While the Family Finder autosomal DNA test is very similar to the Ancestry test from 23andMe, FTDNA offers two other options for exploring your genetic genealogy. First, you can do their mitochondrial (mtDNA) test to find out about your maternal line and haplogroup. Mitochondrial DNA is only passed on through the egg, so it only traces your mother’s heritage.
On the other hand, the Y-DNA test analyzes the Y-chromosome your received from your father’s side (if you are a male). If you don’t have a Y-chromosome, you can have your dad or brother tested to learn about your paternal line and that side of the family. The FTDNA Y-chromosome test is one of the best genetic DNA testing kits for discovering information only a genealogist can provide. 23andMe does not offer DNA testing kits for mtDNA tests or Y-DNA tests.
Additionally, one important difference exists between each company’s raw DNA data files. Keep reading the section on Raw DNA data to learn more!
Now, let’s take a look at the specific offerings from each company and compare!
Ancestry + Traits Service - $99
This service covers over 1,500 global ethnic regions, tying Ancestry.com for the largest number of possible regions you can be matched with. This is by far one of the most valuable ancestry tests in the industry. It offers a huge number of ethnicities, plus your maternal and paternal haplogroup analysis.
Health + Ancestry Service - $199
Since FTDNA does not offer health testing, 23andMe is the obvious winner in this category. 23andMe offers probably the most comprehensive DNA health test on the market, with dozens of health conditions and carrier status reports.
VIP Health + Ancestry Service - $499
If you have some cash burning a hole in your pocket, you may want to consider the “VIP” package. This package comes with the same analysis of health and ancestry as the previous package, but it comes with one important perk. With the VIP package, you get 1-1 counseling with a genealogist to discuss and analyze your ancestry results. This is perfect for someone who wants to understand their family history better but doesn’t have a solid grasp of genetics or inheritance. This counselor will help you understand your ancestry results and will explain some of the basic concepts behind DNA analysis.
Family Ancestry - $79
While this basic autosomal ancestry test is cheaper than the test from 23andMe, you won’t be getting as many results. First off, 23andMe has reference populations for far more global regions. Second, FTDNA has a much smaller user base, so you will likely find fewer living matches. Lastly, this test does not include an analysis of your haplogroups, also known as your maternal and paternal lines.
Paternal Ancestry - $119
Before 23andMe and other large DNA testing companies started covering haplogroups as a standard part of their ancestry analysis, FTDNA was one of the only companies that offered an analysis of your Y-DNA. However, now that 23andMe offers the Y chromosome DNA test as part of their $99 package, it seems completely unnecessary to purchase this test.
Maternal Ancestry - $159
Likewise, the maternal ancestry test analyzes your mtDNA to find your maternal haplogroup. But, since 23andMe offers this information as part of their $99 package, there is almost no reason for the average DNA consumer to consider this test over 23andMe. In fact, the 23andMe Ancestry test covers all three tests offered by FTDNA. So, you could spend $357 dollars at FTDNA or $99 at 23andMe for the same DNA analysis results. At that point, you might as well spring for the VIP package from 23andMe to get health reports and 1-on-1 time with an actual professional who will explain your results.
The Bottom Line
All things considered, 23andMe will give you much more valuable DNA analysis results. FTDNA does not offer any health traits, and their ancestry tests are far overpriced. While some professionals may find more depth in FTDNA maternal and paternal haplogroup tests, the average user will get all that they need from the basic 23andMe ancestry test. Plus, since 23andMe has far more users, they likely have more accurate and detailed global ethnic regions.
Raw DNA Data
FTDNA and 23andMe use different types of files to store their raw DNA data. 23andMe users will be able to use their data file at a larger number of sites, because 23andMe is more popular. You can use a 23andMe raw data file with companies like Genomelink. FTDNA data files are accepted in a few places, but not all. Check out the sites below to see all the things you can do with raw DNA data from each of these companies!
Know "More" About Your DNA Data
1. Genomelink — FREE
2. Promethease (genetic health risk)
3. Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) — FREE
4. MyHeritage DNA — FREE
5. LivingDNA — FREE
6. GEDmatch — FREE
Nutrition and Fitness
Should You Choose 23andMe or Family Tree DNA?
With so many DNA testing and analysis companies on the market these days, it can be challenging to know which one will be the right fit for your personal genetic research. The answer depends on a number of factors, including budget, preferred insights, and time commitment willingness. Two companies that individuals often decide between are Family Tree DNA vs. 23andMe. Let’s review some of their top similarities and differences:
- Both companies offer ancestry reports based on an autosomal test
- Both companies allow you to search for DNA matches in their proprietary databases
- Both companies use industry standard DNA testing kits to analyze your DNA data
- Both will allow you to download a raw DNA data file (but see below for a key difference on this point)
- You can get started with both for less than $100
- Only 23andMe offers health, wellness, and carrier status reports
- Family Tree DNA offers more tools and information for building out your family tree, including their extensive historical records database
- Only Family Tree DNA offers testing kits for mtDNA or Y-DNA tests
- 23andMe’s raw DNA data files can be used in more places than those from Family Tree DNA, giving you more options for secondary research and reports
- Prices for DNA testing and various ancestry reports - especially the extra reports beyond the basic starter kit - are different between the two companies
Overall, if health and wellness information, including information about possible genetic disease propensity and other inherited health concerns is most important to you, you’ll likely want to opt for 23andMe. Family Tree DNA simply doesn’t offer these particular reports in its catalog of reports. Additionally, the 23andMe mtDNA test might be a draw for some users, as it allows them to find out about their maternal line and haplogroup.
On the other hand, if you’re keen to build out your family tree, then you should take a closer look at Family Tree DNA. Their database of historic records and family tree tools and resources are some of the best in the business. You can map your ancient history, explore chromosome painting, and find living relatives all with Family Tree DNA.
And while both companies offer additional reports and access that you can purchase for an extra cost, getting started with either one (DNA test + basic ancestry or ancestry + traits report) will cost you less than $100. The science behind studying the human genome is constantly evolving. Amateur DNA researchers thinking about using 23andMe, Family Tree DNA, or any other DNA testing and/or analysis services should check frequently for updates to reports and new insight availability. It’s an exciting time to be conducting personal genealogy research - have fun with it!
Once you have your raw DNA data from either testing service, upload it for FREE at Genomeline to get access to 25 additional traits. Add on other reports, including information and insights you won’t find with any other DNA analysis company, to build out the full story of you.
To find out more DNA upload sites, check out our article "The Best DNA Upload Sites".