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AncestryDNA vs FamilyTreeDNA (2020): Which DNA Test Is Better For You?

AncestryDNA and FamilyTreeDNA are among the most reputable companies providing genetic testing services. Ancestry is the biggest in the field while FamilyTreeDNA is the pioneer of using DNA testing to discover one’s ethnic roots and find relatives through genetic genealogy. While both can tell you your approximate ethnicity breakdown, they can address different needs and goals. Keep reading to find out how they’re different and which one best fits your DNA testing goals.

AncestryDNA vs FamilyTreeDNA Comparison Chart

ModelAncestryDNAFamilyTreeDNA
ancestrydna accuracyFamilyTreeDNA - Family Finder DNA Test - Genetic Testing to Discover Your Ancestry 
PriceCheck PriceCheck Price on Amazon 
Genetic Tests AvailableFamily Ancestry, Traits, HealthAncestry (Family), Paternal Ancestry (male-specific), Maternal Ancestry
Health ReportsCan be purchasedNo
Autosomal DNA (atDNA for ethnicity and matches)YesYes, for Family Ancestry
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA for maternal ancestry)NoYes, for Maternal Ancestry
Sex Chromosomes (Y-DNA)NoYes, for Paternal Ancestry (male-specific)
Population Clusters2624
DNA Relative Database Size15 million+2 million+
Monthly SubscriptionYes, monthly rates range from $24.99 to $49.99Free
Processing Time2 to 3 weeksFamily Finder: 2 to 4 weeks
Maternal Ancestry: 6 to 8 weeks
Paternal Ancestry: 3 to 6 weeks
Sample Collection MethodSalivaCheek Swab
Upload of DNA DataNoYes

DNA Types

AncestryDNA only analyzes autosomal DNA while FamilyTree DNA offers services that analyze more DNA types

Ancestry DNA vs family tree dna
FamilyTreeDNA analyzes DNA types that can trace paternal and maternal groups more accurately

Genealogical tests analyze these three types of DNA:

  • autosomal DNA (atDNA): 22 pairs that are equally inherited from your mother and father
  • mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA): only inherited from the mother, thus can tell you about your maternal ancestors
  • Y-DNA: males have the Y-DNA inherited by their father while females only have the X chromosome
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Both AncestryDNA and FamilyTreeDNA perform an autosomal DNA test to give you their best estimate of your ethnic breakdown and help find family members through their database. They study specific markers in your autosomal DNA and compare them to reference populations to identify your DNA’s approximate ethnic composition.

As the autosomal DNA is made up of 22 pairs out of the 23 chromosome pairs, testing autosomes will yield accurate data on the continent level of your ethnic estimates. So if you simply want to know your ancestral composition (e.g 50% Italian, 25% Scandinavian, 25% East Asian) and find some relatives, either AncestryDNA or FamilyTreeDNA will tell you that. Do note though that autosomal DNA is only accurate for up to 5 to 6 generations back.

However, if you want to get more in-depth results about your ancestral roots beyond the 5th or 6th generations, for either your maternal or paternal side, FamilyTreeDNA offers genetic testing that can give comprehensive reports on these.

Database Size

AncestryDNA boasts 15 million+ records while FamilyTreeDNA only has 2 million+

Having a larger database means a better probability of finding families and distant relatives

If you’re doing the DNA testing to learn your ethnic breakdown and ancestral roots, either AncestryDNA and FamilyTreeDNA can do that well. Where the database size will have more weight when choosing your DNA test is if you want to specifically find and connect with families and relatives.

AncestryDNA has a much bigger database and family tree records, but they also come at an additional cost (ranges from $24.99 to $49.99/month). Ancestry boasts more than 15 million members compared to FamilyTreeDNA’s two million. However, you won’t have to pay extra to use FamilyTreeDNA’s Family Finder feature in its matching database. They also keep your records for up to 25 years at no additional cost whereas AncestryDNA requires membership to access your reports.

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Ease of Use and Processing Times

FamilyTreeDNA’s collection method is slightly easier than AncestryDNA’s

FamilyTreeDNA boasts an in-house laboratory while AncestryDNA uses a third-party lab to process your DNA sample

AncestryDNA and FamilyTreeDNA use different methods to collect your DNA sample. For AncestryDNA, they collect your saliva sample while FamilyTreeDNA simply requires a cheek swab. If you or a family member have a condition that hinders you from spitting the required amount of saliva, getting the FamilyTreeDNA kit is the clear choice for you.

While both cheek swab and saliva are effective ways to extract your DNA sample, there are more precautions to take note of when taking a saliva sample. This includes avoiding eating, drinking, smoking, or chewing gum 30 minutes after brushing your teeth. You also need to be sure you can spit enough saliva or your sample can’t be processed.

As for their processing time, both AncestryDNA and FamilyTreeDNA take around two to four weeks to do the autosomal DNA test once they receive your sample in the lab. It is worth noting that FamilyTreeDNA has its own in-house state-of-the-art laboratory. They won’t need to send your DNA sample to a third-party laboratory, unlike what AncestryDNA has to do. The Y-DNA and mtDNA testing services require longer processing time that the Family Finder as these tests sequence a larger portion of the DNA.

DNA Data/Results Portability

FamilyTreeDNA lets you upload your raw DNA data from other genetic testing services while AncestryDNA doesn’t

ancestry dna vs family tree dna
You can transfer your raw DNA data to FamilyTreeDNA

The beauty of getting a DNA test through these at-home DNA testing kits is they will provide you with the raw DNA data. As different services like AncestryDNA and FamilyTreeDNA may yield different ethnic breakdowns, you can download the raw data and upload them to websites that analyze your DNA data for free.

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Where FamilyTreeDNA trumps AncestryDNA is you can upload your raw DNA data to their platform. Say, you already had your autosomal DNA testing from AncestryDNA, you can download the raw data and transfer them to FamilyTreeDNA. You can upload your data for free and pay a minimal fee to access their Family Finder features. This minimizes the processing time so you won’t have to wait longer.

Verdict

Those who want to find close relatives will find AncestryDNA and its vast database more helpful while those who want more in-depth testing of other DNA types should go for FamilyTreeDNA

Both AncestryDNA and FamilyTreeDNA are established DNA testing companies that deliver accurate autosomal DNA results, especially when talking about the continental level of your ethnicity breakdown. If your goal is to find relatives and build a family tree for up to the 5th or 6th generation, AncestryDNA is the better fit for you. However, do note that finding matches on their database is not for free.

If you want a cost-effective DNA testing service where you won’t have to pay a fee to find DNA matches, go for FamilyTreeDNA. This also makes it easier to avail of their mtDNA and Y-DNA testing services should you wish to learn more about your ancestral roots from either your maternal or paternal side.

Last update on 2020-08-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Rhodaline Escala-Phelps
Rhodaline Escala-Phelps

Managing Editor and Team Leader at Compare Before Buying. Writer and researcher passionate about people, product comparisons, culture, and current events.