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Ancestry vs Family Tree DNA

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ANCESTRY

Ancestry is one of the most well-known names in family history research; you've probably seen commercials featuring people who thought their whole lives that they were Irish only to discover through DNA testing that they're actually of German heritage. If your reason for having your DNA tested is to make connections with your family history, both with living relatives and by exploring your heritage, Ancestry offers the widest membership database in the world.

Their DNA test is simple: fill the collection tube with saliva (no neat little buccal swab here), send it in, and wait for your results. Because of the company's popularity, you may wait a month or longer to get your test analyzed, especially if it's during a popular promotion. For example, the test is regularly priced at $99, but we were able to take advantage of a holiday sale price of $79. It took a little over a week to get our kit in the mail, and after Ancestry received it, we got our results in just over a month.

We were able to personally confirm that the DNA tests conducted by Ancestry are accurate: without entering any identifying information, it matched us with our mother with a confidence level of "Extremely High" (thank goodness for no surprises there!). The other more distantly-related relatives were all matched with appropriate levels of confidence as well; the only less-than-accurate match-up we saw was Ancestry's suggestion that a person was related as a possible child, when the confirmed relationship was "child of her half-brother". But, that's exactly why Ancestry gives confidence levels, and not absolute guarantees of a relationship; you have to apply your own research skills at times, to confirm or refute possible genetic connections.

Fortunately, Ancestry is the number one genealogy website currently available to researchers, and by using their DNA testing service, you can choose to have your results connected to other users. After our test was done, we were able to access our "DNA Story", which gave us a much more detailed "ethnicity estimate" than other DNA testing services we had used previously. It accurately tracked our ancestry through Pennsylvania - again, without our having entered any kind of family tree information or other records beforehand - and gave us a breakdown of our roots specific to Great Britain, Eastern and Western Europe, and other areas of lower likelihood.

Even more interesting were the DNA Matches: we could see a grid of pictures of those who were likely relatives at the level of fourth cousins or closer, along with the ability to reach out to any of those users. It's important to understand that these matches don't tell you through which family line you're related; once again, it requires some effort - and probably collaboration - to figure out if it's through your paternal grandmother, your maternal great-great-grandmother, and so on. We were given a list of 458 Ancestry users who were 4th cousins or closer and got responses from many of them.

Another great perk of using Ancestry: if you create a family tree, Ancestry will make suggested connections not only to relatives but also to the billions - yes, billions - of records already available on the site. You'll have to get a paid membership to access all of the records Ancestry provides, but with an average of 2 million new records added daily, it's definitely worth the investment if you're looking for historical records to document a possible family relationship. These memberships are usually priced at $99 to $189 for 6-month and 12-month subscriptions to US records, and $149 to $299 for US plus international records. But, Ancestry offers regular discounts both on their DNA tests and their subscription plans, especially around holidays like Mother's Day and Christmas, so keep a lookout.

For all of these reasons, Ancestry is the hands-down winner for DNA testing if you're looking to explore your family history and connect with people you never knew were your relatives. They earn a five-star rating, only missing the first-place ranking because they do not offer any kind of health assessment/analysis in their test. We highly recommend them for genealogical purposes.

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FAMILY TREE DNA

As the partner company for the National Geographic's genographic research project, FamilyTreeDNA enjoys a reputation as a well-respected company for DNA testing, for purposes of studying family history. The tests they offer go much more in-depth than most services that help users look into their genetic ancestry.

FamilyTreeDNA has tests in three primary categories:

  • mtDNA: This traces a subject's maternal ancestry by exploring mitochondrial DNA. It can be used to determine if two people are siblings.
  • yDNA: This is offered only for males, because it traces genetic links through paternal DNA (i.e. the y-chromosome).
  • Family Finder: This test provides an in-depth report of where one's ancestors came from geographically, and allows users to make connections with other tested relatives in their database

Of all the tests offered by FamilyTreeDNA, the Family Finder is the most popular. It gives you a percentage breakdown of your ancestral background and allows you to connect to their database of other users. The price of this test has gone down significantly over the past few years; at the time of our review, it had dropped from the original price of $99 to an everyday price of $59.

If you prefer to analyze your genetic makeup more closely, specifically delving into information that can only be accessed through your mother or through your father, you'll want to take a look at the mtDNA and yDNA tests. FamilyTreeDNA offers various packages that combine these types of inquiry; the higher the price of the test, the more genetic markers the test will cover. These too allow for connecting with their databases and finding relatives, as well as joining group projects and working with experts in a particular lineage.

One of the few drawbacks we identified with FamilyTreeDNA is the relatively small database. They don't publish the actual number of records they maintain, but in digging around we were able to determine that it's likely less than a million. Compared with other services currently available - that can have as many as six times that amount - these DNA tests may give you much more detailed information, but fewer people with whom it may connect you.

For that reason, FamilyTreeDNA remains in the middle of the pack with respect to DNA testing. They offer a depth of testing for ancestry purposes that can't be matched by most services, but it will cost you. And, with fewer available connections once those tests are completed, FamilyTreeDNA can't compete with some of the bigger names on the market.

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Best DNA Testing

To help you find the Best DNA Testing, TopConsumerReviews.com provides you with an in-depth comparison of Ancestry and Family Tree DNA.

Who has the best DNA Tests? It seems like everywhere you look these days, there are companies offering DNA Testing. The largest consumers of these DNA tests are people who want to connect with their heritage and/or living relatives, or who are hoping to gain insights into medical conditions and inherited medical predispositions that might affect their health.

Other reasons why people might want a DNA Test include establishing paternity of a child, identifying inherited traits, and detection of infidelity. But no matter the reason, one thing's for sure: DNA Testing has exploded in popularity as its reliability and usefulness continues to grow.

It's important to point out that, as a consumer industry, these DNA tests and the results that come from them are still an emerging science. This is especially true when it comes to testing for ancestry, where one's results are best considered a probability estimate and not an absolute conclusion. For example, you could have a DNA test done today that shows your heritage as 60% British Isles and 40% Eastern Europe, but re-running the same test in five years could show a slightly different balance as more people are tested and the estimates become more accurate.

Similarly, testing done to determine DNA traits and predispositions for medical conditions should be taken as one piece of the puzzle, not a foregone conclusion. Most experts recommend discussing these results with your doctor or a geneticist before making any drastic changes or coming to any written-in-stone conclusions regarding your future health.

On the other hand, DNA testing has been highly accurate when determining parentage. False positives are rare: if your test shows that Person X is the father of a particular child, those results are very likely to stand up in court.

There are many different companies offering DNA testing today, so it's important to know which ones offer the service you need before you purchase a home test kit. As you consider which company to use, you should keep in mind the following criteria:

  • Focus. Does the company offer DNA tests primarily for genealogy purposes, health testing, or paternity? Can you get a comprehensive test for multiple purposes (like ancestry and health background)?
  • Price. DNA testing fluctuates in price, with fees ranging from less than $50 to well over $500. Because these services have become more popular recently, you may be able to find promotions and discounts at certain times of the year.
  • Results. Have people used this service and been satisfied with the information received? If you're using a DNA test to explore your family history, how well does the company connect people with living relatives? (In other words, how big is their database of users who want to share their information with blood relations?)
  • Reputation. Does the company have a good track record for accurate testing and protection of privacy?

TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best DNA Testing companies available today. We hope these reviews help you find the DNA information you're looking for!



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