February 24, 2020
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23andMe vs. FamilyTreeDNA: A simple comparison for the DNA newbie

Before you buy, it’s important to know the differences between 23andMe vs. FamilyTree DNA. Both companies offer several unique features!
Tomohiro Takano
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Here at Genomelink, we think it is important that everyone picks the 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 fit for you!

Keep reading to see how the companies are the same, how they differ, and what your options are with a raw DNA data file from each company!

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 test 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 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 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 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 DNA 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!

Product Offerings

23andMe Products

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.

FamilyTreeDNA Products

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 this 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 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 that will explain your results.

The Bottom Line

All things considered, 23andMe will give you much more valuable 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 company!

Know "More" About Your DNA Data

1. Genomelink — FREE

2. Promethease (genetic health risk)

Ancestry Tests

3. Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) — FREE

4. MyHeritage DNA — FREE

5. LivingDNA — FREE

6. GEDmatch — FREE

Nutrition and Fitness

7. Genopalate

9. Vitagene

10. DNA Fit

To find out more DNA upload sites, check out our article "The Best DNA Upload Sites"

Tomohiro Takano
Tomohiro Takano
Co-Founder and CEO