Are you wondering what is the best ancestry DNA test? I have taken two of the most popular ones, and in this post, I will share what I liked, what I didn’t like, and the little known thing you can do with the raw data from both!
AncestryDNA vs 23andMe: Which DNA Test Should You Do?
Over the past few years, I have become really involved in family history.
My mom works in the family history department in our ward (congregation) at church, and since we are in the same ward, I often go to the the family history center during second hour.
I’ve loved finding family members, reading stories of ancestors, and finding a great appreciation for those who have gone before me.
Last December, Forrest and I bought the AncestryDNA tests. I had heard about doing DNA testing to find our your ancestry earlier that year, and I was really interested in finding out what it had to say.
I was even more interested to do this when I found out that you could use the raw data from the test to find out health information about yourself (more on that in a little bit).
So Forrest and I got our kits, sent them back, and a few weeks, we were able to find some interesting information about our genes and ancestry.
While most of mine wasn’t too surprising, I loved being able to see where I came from (and the percentages!)
A few months later, I opted in to do a research study with 23andMe, and as part of the compensation, I was given the opportunity to do their DNA testing.
It was also really interesting, and I was able to do a side by side comparison with what was shown in AncestryDNA.
So, I thought since so many people are wondering which DNA test is the best, I would share my experience with both. While I do share my referral links in this post, I am not being paid by either to write this comparison post, so I do hope that you’ll be able to trust my experience.
I think that everyone should consider doing DNA testing, especially if you don’t know much about your heritage. I have heard of people uncovering family “secrets” so be aware that you could unearth some information you may not have wanted to know. However, for most people, I think it just gives some great information into your life, and as I’ll talk about at the end of this post, it can even help you improve your health.
I have read that it is recommended to have the oldest living family member in your family take the test to get the best picture of your ancestry.
I think DNA testing can open the door to a lot of fascinating things. Not only can you learn more about where your family stems from (which can be rather surprising!), but it can help connect you with living relatives.
I think it could be really interesting especially for people who really don’t know much about their heritage. For instance, if someone was adopted, it can give them important insight into their life and even their health history.
Even if you have a lot of information about your family history, it’s really cool to see it all laid out in front of you. For instance, Forrest and I both are primarily from European ancestry – however, the regions we stemmed from were different in percentages, which was interesting.
Ancestry DNA Test Review
We initially went with Ancestry DNA because I felt it had the best opportunities to help us with family history. We use Ancestry.com a lot with our church (in conjunction with FamilySearch.org), so it seemed like the logical choice. I felt that I might be able to make the most connections with family members through here, as well.
What is AncestryDna?
Ancestry.com has been around for many years. It’s a hub for family history – it has thousands and thousands of records to help you discover your past, resources to create your family tree, opportunities to communicate with family members, and more.
They offer AncestryDNA, which is a DNA test that helps you discover where you came from!
How Much Does Ancestry DNA Cost?
With no coupons available, AncestryDNA is $99. However, there are often Ancestry DNA coupon codes available throughout the year. I’ve seen the price go as low as $49!
Currently the test is $79 – buy here. You can buy three and get one free.
How does Ancestry DNA work?
After you place your order, you will be sent a kit in the mail. It should arrive within a few days.
The kit has a little container that you spit into (it does seem like a lot, too!), and then you will mix it with some kind of included solution, and then you will send it back.
In a few weeks, you will receive an email that your results are in and you can check them.
Ancestry DNA Results
When you get that email, you can go online and see your results. The homepage will look like this:
There are three main sections, which are shown in the image above:
- DNA Story
- DNA Matches
- DNA Circles
These are really interesting to go through, because they all give you a little bit different information.
The DNA Story shows you what areas in the world you are from, and what percentage of those areas make up your genetics. This is definitely the part I love the most. It will look somewhat like this:
You can click on each of the regions to learn more about it, which is kind of fun.
In DNA Matches, you will be shown other people who have taken the test through Ancestry that you are related to. It suggests what your relationship is (for instance, for my aunt, it says “close family – possible first cousins”) and what their confidence is that you are related. This is a great place to connect with your relatives, see the pedigree charts they’ve created in Ancestry, etc. It’s important to keep in mind that you have to opt in for others to see you on here.
I thought this was fun, because my maternal grandfather had done this as well. It was interesting to see some of the regions that were “lower confidence” for me showed up more prominently with him, showing me that I actually did stem from that area.
and finally, there are DNA circles. These help to show exactly which relatives you descended from, and it gives you more confidence in that.
It’s kind of hard to explain, so this is what it says on the website:
“Congratulations! Being part of a DNA Circle is a good sign that you’re a descendant of a particular ancestor and that you inherited DNA from him or her (especially if your connection level is high).
Before DNA Circles, you could only use your DNA matches to assess whether or not you descended from a particular ancestor. For example, if you and a DNA match both had the same ancestor in your trees, you could take that as one piece of evidence that the person was your ancestor. But your list of DNA matches doesn’t tell the whole story. This is because we identify common ancestors based on member trees, which are not always accurate. Second, it’s not uncommon for you to find one of your ancestors in someone else’s tree even if you aren’t related through that ancestor. That’s because the further you go back in time, the more ancestors you have (1024 8th great- grandparents!), and the more chances there are that one of them may appear in someone else’s tree by chance and that an ancestor other than the identified shared ancestor explains why you’re related.”
How accurate is ancestry DNA?
Many DNA tests only test the Y chromosome (which can only be taken by a male to look at paternal lineage) or mitochondrial testing (which can be taken by both male and female but only looks at the direct maternal line), Ancestry DNA uses an autosomal DNA test.
An autosomal DNA test tests your ENTIRE genome – both male and female. This test also makes it possible to test more recent connections (so within 100s of years, rather than 10-50,000). In regards to how accurate the testing is, this is what Ancestry DNA says:
“AncestryDNA uses advanced scientific techniques to produce your results. We measure and analyze a person’s entire genome at over 700,000 locations. During the testing process, each DNA sample is held to a quality standard of at least a 98% call rate. Any results that don’t meet that standard may require a new DNA sample to be collected.
Then we compare your DNA to one of the most comprehensive and unique collections of DNA samples from people around the world, to identify overlap. As our database of DNA samples continues to grow, you could receive updates with new information.”
My results matched up pretty closely to what I anticipated, based on the family history that I have done. I didn’t have any crazy surprises (though I did have a trace region of India, which was a little interesting!)
Who is this test best for?
I think that anyone who is passionate about building their family tree or wants to connect with their family members the most will love AncestryDNA. Not only does it connect you with others who you share DNA with, but it gives you access to a huge database of pedigree charts and information.
Ancestry Raw Data
I think one of the most valuable parts of taking an ancestry DNA test is that you will get access to the Raw data. I will talk more about how you can use this to better understand yourself and your health at the end of this post, but here is how you can access it.
- Login to https://www.ancestry.com/dna/
- In the top right hand corner, click on “settings”
- On the next page, on the right hand side there will be a box that says “Download Raw DNA Data”. You can download it there and upload it to other websites later on.
Sharing Your Results
I’ve loved being able to share my results with my family members. Ancestry makes it easy to do so.
- Login to https://www.ancestry.com/dna/
- In the top right hand corner, click on “settings”
- Scroll down the page until you get to “DNA Results Access”
- Enter the emails of people who you want to share your results with
On the setting page, you can also determine what shows on your profile to potential matches, an optin to a research study, etc.
23andMe DNA Test Review
What is 23andMe?
23andMe was started over a decade ago with the goal to help people understand the human genome and how it shapes who they are.
They offer two different tests – the Ancestry test and the Health+Ancestry test.
How Much does 23andme cost?
Without any discounts applied, you can get a 23andme test done for $99 or $199. However, they almost always have a discount for the $99 test.
The $99 test only shows your ancestry information, but the $199 includes different health tests. It shows you if you are a carrier for certain diseases, if you are more likely to have certain characteristics, etc. You can upgrade to it later, or you can take the $99 test’s raw data and upload it to some different programs later on.
How does 23andme work?
It’s very similar to Ancestry – you are sent a kit with a tube that you spit in. Within a few weeks, you are notified that your results are in, and you can go and access them online.
23andMe Sample Report
The navigation and reports with 23andme look a lot a different than Ancestry. Some people find it harder to navigate, but I didn’t have too many issues.
When you sign in, you will first see this page:
There are a lot of different links and information on this page, which might be why some people aren’t sure where to start (most of you won’t have the fertility study on there, because that’s something I’m doing separately!) Thiis is really just a synopsis of what was found in your tests and a notification of new data.
However, the best place to start is simply by clicking on the “reports” tab at the top. Depending on what test you got, you will be able to browse through your ancestry reports, carrier reports, genetic health risk, traits, and wellness.
Here is what the ancestry reports look like.
If you did get the $199 test, here are a few screen shots of the information it gives.
After you’ve looked through your results, 23andme offers a lot of different tools – one that allows you to find other relatives who have taken the test, the option to “share and compare”, and a grand tree.
I thought that the grand tree was kind of cool – it allows you to show how you are related to grandparents, parents, etc. They do need to take the test for this to really work, though, because, if I’m understanding it correctly, it will show you which traits you share with others.
If you do the health component, here is some of the information you will be able to see. It has a really huge database for different genetic diseases you might be a carrier of or have a risk of developing in the future.
The first two were most interesting to me. I loved the genetic traits one!
How Accurate is 23andMe?
Who is this test best for?
23andMe provides you with a lot of information – even when you just do the Ancestry testing. I think if you are really interested in your genes and the human genome, this is a great test. I thought it was really fascinating. However, for some, the data might be a little bit intimidating. It really just depends on how data heavy you like things to be 🙂
I also feel that their DNA connection tool isn’t as great as Ancestry, simply because the pool of people in it isn’t as wide as Ancestry DNA.
I do think that the wellness, traits, and carrier information that is provided with the $199 is super fascinating. While you can draw that information from other places using your raw data from the Ancestry only test, if you’d rather just have it all laid out for you in an easy to read format, it’s definitely the way to go.
23andMe Raw Data
To get your raw data in 23andMe, you will:
- Navigate to you.23andme.com/tools/data/
- Read the disclosure and press “I Understand” (if you really do understand 😉
- Click download
I will say that 23andMe is connected to several of the resources I will list below, so it makes it even easier to upload your raw data later.
How Accurate is 23andMe?
Here is what 23andme says in regards to their accuracy:
“23andMe is the first and only genetic service available directly to you that includes reports that meet FDA standards for clinical and scientific validity.
Our rigorous quality standards:
- Genetic Health Risk* and Carrier Status* reports meet FDA criteria for being scientifically and clinically valid
- All saliva samples are processed in CLIA-certified and CAP-accredited labs
- Our DNA collection kit is FDA-cleared for use with our Genetic Health Risk and Carrier Status reports manufactured in accordance with FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practice regulations
- Genotyping is a well-established and reliable platform for analyzing DNA
- Our team of scientists and medical experts use a rigorous process to develop and design each report, ensuring validity and ease of use
- Ancestry percentages are derived from our powerful, well-tested system that provides you with ancestry estimates down to the 0.1%”
You can learn what type of genes they use here.
What these tests can tell you about your health
Okay – this is the part of the post I’ve mentioned a few times, but it’s the part of this post I’m most excited about.
While it’s really interesting to learn more about your heritage, I think the most “life altering” part of these tests (you know, unless you discovered a close relative you never knew existed) is how much you can discover about your genetic risk factors, why your body does things the way it does, etc.
I used three different services to analyze my Raw data:
- Livewello (a website – I think it was about $20?)
- Promethease (a website – costs $5)
- Genetics (a free app that allows you to import your raw data)
I thought they were all super fascinating and gave me different information.
Livewello seemed to take all the pertinent details from my Raw data and compile it into an easy to read format. It doesn’t require you to know a bunch of different terms, and it kind of filters out contradicting information to give you the most relevant. It does seem to have a lot of upcharges though, which was annoying.
It has everything divided into Nutrigenomics, Pharmacogenomics, and Health and Wellness traits, and in each of those sections, you can see which information is most prominent/relevant to you.
Promethease was my favorite, but I think it could be kind of confusing to some. It shows you ALL of your genes that it interpreted, what risks/benefits are related, and even how much more likely you are to have that condition or characteristic.
It starts with the genes that are most prominent (such as your gender, your hair color, etc.) and goes down from there. I did find that sometimes there would be contradicting information (for instance, one thing said that I wasn’t likely to live past 90, while another said I had a longevity gene that meant I would live a really long time), but if you are able to sort through it and determine which genes are most relevant, it can be really fascinating. There’s a lot of resources linked to everything you read as well.
You can filter based on different health conditions, medications, etc.
My Genetic Health is one that I accidentally stumbled on the other day, but I really liked it. It combined what I liked about Livewello with the ease of Promethease. It is $1.99 and it kind of sorts through all the data to give you what is most relevant to you. It looks like it is only available on iOS. You can download it directly here, or you can check out the website for more information.
I found out so much interesting information. For instance, I was very curious to see if I was a carrier for breast cancer, as my mom, her mom, and her grandma all had it. I was happy to see I didn’t have any of the BRCA genes, though I did have a gene that put me at a higher risk of breast cancer than some people.
Some of the information was really encouraging and optimistic, while other things kind of made me fear a little for my future…but as I went through it, it really gave me some ideas of how I could better improve my health – what types of foods I should avoid, what medications are better suited for me (this was really interesting to me!), and it made me aware of what my future could hold, especially if I don’t take care of myself. If anything, it was a big kick in the pants to get healthier!
I did find Genomapp which is available for Android, but I haven’t used it. I also say Weather My Way, which apparently analyzes your genes and combines it with the weather report…which I don’t really get, but hey, it sounds interesting! It is available on iOS and Android.
Is 23andMe or Ancestry DNA Better?
Honestly, I don’t think there’s a clear cut answer here.
I appreciate both of my tests. While they share the same information, they both presented it in different ways.
If you are really just going for the Ancestry information, building your family tree, and connecting with others, I would probably go with with Ancestry. I was connected to far more people in Ancestry than I was in 23andMe, and I felt it was really amazing to get access to a lot of pedigree charts and research that is stored on Ancestry.
However, if you are more interested in the science-y part of the human genome, 23andMe is definitely for you. They have tons of information about where you came from, how it happened, and just really pulls the picture together. It is very information heavy, so if that’s your type of thing, then go for it! I think it’s a great option as well.
My ancestry results from both were more or less the same, which leads me to believe they are both pretty accurate – especially because it matches up with what I already knew about my history!
Either option is great – it really just comes down to what you want to get out of it 🙂
Other DNA Tests
Although these are the only ones I have taken, these are two other popular ones to consider:
- MyHeritage DNA
- LivingDNA – this one apparently can pinpoint exact areas where your family is from, which can be really helpful for doing family history. I’m curious about trying this one!
Looking for other family history gifts? Check out this post for the best gifts for the genealogist in your life!