October 24, 2019
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Ancestry vs FamilyTreeDNA: A simple comparison for the DNA newbie

Ancestry vs, FamilyTree DNA, which to choose? Each company offers benefits in certain areas. See how they differ!
Tomohiro Takano

With dozens of companies offering ancestry DNA tests, sometimes it can be hard to discern the differences between the offerings of different companies. But, have no fear! The editors at Genomelink make it easy with our direct comparisons.

In this article, we explore the differences between Ancestry.com and FamilyTreeDNA, two companies that offer ancestry-related DNA test kits. Below you can see a breakdown of each company’s services, as well as the main reasons someone would choose one company over the other.


Ancestry, the company, has been around much longer than DNA testing. For decades the company has provided North Americans with genealogical resources, from their enormous records database to a magazine that covered important family history research topics. They are widely known for their family tree creating software. However, they also became one of the first companies to offer autosomal DNA testing services.

AncestryDNA kits, therefore, have one of the largest collections of reference populations out of all the DNA testing companies. Plus, they are constantly expanding and refining their reference populations to provide you with the most accurate DNA results and many geographic regions. This makes their ethnicity estimates some of the most accurate in the business. An ancestry testing DNA kit from Ancestry.com is typically $99, though it can sometimes be found on sale.

AncestryDNA has also expanded into the health-testing arena recently, offering a DNA health test for $149. You provide a DNA sample the same way, but different SNPs related to health are tested. The test covers fewer traits than reported by some genetic testing companies, but it still provides a solid amount of genetic testing information. Plus, the platform allows you to track your family health outcomes to better predict and understand your potential health risks. 

People choose Ancestry because...

It offers excellent resources for creating and building a family tree. This is where Ancestry started, and it continues to be a strength of the platform. Not only can you directly connect your genetic testing results to your family tree, but you can also get access to millions of historical records to help validate your findings. Plus, Ancestry is one of the most widely used genetic genealogy services, which increases your chances of finding DNA matches on the site. You can learn more about Ancestry at our full review of the site and its features.


With the FamilyTreeDNA Family Ancestry Test, you will find many of the same features provided by Ancestry. You can see an ethnicity estimate concerning the groups that contributed to your genome with the myOrigins report, and you can even see possible mass migration routes your family may have been a part of with the ancientOrigins report. However, FamilyTreeDNA has two offerings you won’t find on Ancestry.

First, you can discover more about your mother’s side using the Maternal Ancestry Test. The test covers your mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). This form of DNA, mtDNA, is only passed down via the egg cells. So, an mtDNA test tracks your mother’s line directly. Males and females can take this test for $199.

Second, if you are a male you can take the Paternal Ancestry Test, which only tests Y-chromosome DNA. This form of DNA is passed only from father to son, so it can be used to accurately estimate a person’s paternal heritage. If you are female, a clever workaround to this inherent genetic bias is to simply have your father or brother take the test so you can research your father’s side of the family. Both of these tests only require a simple cheek swab, so they are just as easy as a regular autosomal test.

People choose FamilyTreeDNA because…

They want to explore their maternal or paternal lines more completely. Some people also choose FamilyTreeDNA over Ancestry for basic ancestry test results because it is slightly cheaper for essentially the same ethnicity results. Y-chromosome testing and mtDNA testing are both powerful tools for researching one side of your family, and they are not offered by AncestryDNA. These tests allow you to discover your maternal and paternal haplogroup, which can connect you to your deepest ancestral roots. While Ancestry offers a number of powerful tools for researching and building your genealogy, they do not offer these more specific insights into your parental lines. Check out our full review of FTDNA, if you are thinking of going this route.

Raw DNA Data Portability

Luckily, both of these companies offer the ability to download your raw DNA data. With this data file, you can upload your sample to many of the sites below to gain extra insights into your genetic information. For instance, you can use a chromosome browser, learn about traits not reported on by Ancestry or FamilyTreeDNA, and get access to additional family finder databases to find more family members. Many of these sites also offer free services when you upload your raw data sample. Check them out!

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

Tomohiro Takano
Tomohiro Takano
Co-Founder and CEO