How far back in time can you trace your family tree? Are you desperate to find out more about your heritage and ancestry, about the potential genetic health problems you and your children can face later on in life?
With a DNA test such as 23andMe or AncestryDNA, you can find out more about your genealogy.
The question which people have been asking is how to choose which test is best, and which one to rely on for all the answers.
Here is a comprehensive side by side comparison of 23andMe vs AncestryDNA home test kits, which may clarify this question for you.
We have delved into the details regarding the key features of both DNA tests for you so that you can make the best and most informed decision when picking the most suitable genealogy and DNA kit for your needs.
Why should you do a DNA test?
There is no doubt, that DNA testing can lead to a number of surprising and interesting facts, and can help you find long-lost relatives as well. With a reliable and accurate genetic test, you can find out more about any genetically inherited health conditions and problems which you may be prone to so that you can do your best to take all preventive actions in time. This is great news for you as well as for your children.
In other words, if you want to find out more about your ancestry, heritage and the history of your family, a DNA test is the easiest and most consistent way to do so.
Both 23andMe and AncestryDNA are leading companies in the field and have sold millions of their kits to people around the world.
Here is what to expect from each of these tests.
This is the more popular of the two. The company has accumulated a huge database of DNA data and potential matches, which makes it very reliable and useful for doing your personal genealogical research. In fact, you will have the chance to compare your DNA with more than six million sets of DNA from around the world if you take this test.
You can also get in touch with your matches via the company’s anonymous message boards and e-mail service, so you can find potential relatives no matter where you currently live.
The DNA testing service will store your personal results forever so that other users can compare to you, and eventually contact you in case there is a match.
You will also get the opportunity to link your own DNA results to an online family tree, so you can get a clearer and bigger picture of your heritage.
Of course, if you have privacy or other concerns you can opt not to share and store your DNA results in the database.
The potential cons of using AncestryDNA is the fact that the service no longer offers separate Y-DNA and mtDNA tests, and that you will need to subscribe to the service if you want to continue using the website and its online family tree functionality.
Also, you can’t upload any raw data for your personal needs which could be disappointing for some.
For the price of less than $100 for the AncestryDNA test kit you can get interesting information regarding your heritage and your ancestors, but you won’t get any health or wellness information based on your DNA.
The service uses a genotyping technology for analyzing your DNA and allows you to link it to your family tree.
This is the perfect DNA kit to get if you are doing research on your family history, or will make a perfect gift for a relative who is interested in doing some in-depth research and creating a more detailed family tree for your family.
The site has added a very nifty instrument which can map out the migration patterns of your ancestors which can be quite fascinating.
Thanks to the DNA Circles option, you can find out exactly which relatives you have descended from.
As for the accuracy of AncestryDNA, unlike other DNA test kits which test only the Y chromosome (for the paternal line if you are male)or mitochondrial testing (for the maternal line), this test uses an autosomal genetic test. This type of test will check your complete genome – both female and male, and thus can make more recent connections within hundreds of years back.
AncestryDNA will measure and analyze your genome on more than 700,000 locations. The DNA sample is also held in accordance with quality standards ensuring that it is 98% correct. In case your sample doesn’t meet the requirements of the standard, you may be asked to provide a new DNA sample.
The good part about the AncestryDNA service is that if you opt to share and add your genome to the database, you will receive any new matches in the future, as more people join the testing program. So, it is something which can further develop over time.
Plus, you can get some shocking information which you never imagined about your actual heritage, which can be fun for most too.
The website will allow you to share your results with other family members and friends too which is also a superb option.
Our verdict for AncestryDNA is that it is an excellent option for all of you interested in tracing your family tree to further back than anybody from your family can. It is perfect if you are interested in facts about your ancestry, its migration patterns and to find out more where your ancestors first came from.
On the other hand, if you are more concerned about the health screening aspects of such a test, AncestryDNA will not provide you with such information. It is more useful to find our fun and possibly surprising factors about where you came from. It is also an excellent way to get in touch with previously unknown relatives or cousins or other family members you were previously not aware of.
Thanks to the large database which includes more than a million test results, and to the handy chromosome browser, you can actually compare your DNA results with all of the others already entered in the database.
But, in comparison to AncestryDNA and other similar services, 23andMe has quite a limited ancestral community. It also doesn’t provide such an easy to access option to contact potential matches neither can you upload any raw data you may have from other similar sites.
Also, you should note that if you want a separate health and wellness test, you will need to pay an additional price to the basic fee for the DNA test.
The pricing of 23andMe is less than $199 for a variant with the ancestry as well as the health components, and less than $99 for the variant with the ancestry test only.
The 23andMe service uses genotyping to analyze your DNA sample. Since we all have 3 billion pairs of DNA in our genome, this technology requires that it looks for specific DNA parts and pieces them together.
As for the health and wellness report provided by the service, it can tell you more about the likeliness of specific physical traits such as whether you are likely to have curly hair, blue eyes or dimples. The part about the wellness will give you more information on whether you are more likely to be a successful sprinter, or how well your organism metabolizes coffee and caffeine for example. The report will also provide you with information about your carrier status and the likeliness you are a carrier of specific genetic mutations which can affect your children or grandchildren.
Now, the FDA also allows the 23andMe service to provide information regarding your genetic risk for specific diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, breast cancer and others.
Overall, this test includes over 80 health and wellness reports and the company keeps adding new ones all the time, and will keep you updated about the new additions over time via e-mail.
As for the ancestry report, 23andMe will provide you with information regarding the composition of your ancestry including the geographic area and the specific region and country where there are matches with your sample. It also includes the haplogroups which share a common ancestor as you.
You can also get information about the timeline of when your ancestors lived in a specific region or country over time.
You can get access to the DNA Relatives tool which can provide you with means to contact people in the database who are possible relatives.
Our verdict for the 23andMe DNA test kit and service is that if you are specifically interested in your genetic health risks and your wellbeing, it is a good idea to pay for the full test.
But, if you are more interested in your ancestry information and specific percentages, you may want to opt for the basic ancestry testing package.
If you choose to take the full 23andMe test you will gain access to a number of reports including your ancestry information, carrier reports, wellness info and genetic traits, health risks and other pertinent information.
You will also get access to various tools on the website including a share and compare option, a search option for relatives who also have taken the test, and a grand family tree. So, you can find out which traits you actually share with your parents, grandparents and other close relatives.
Overall, if you are interested in your genome and genes, this test is an excellent one to take, but the pool of people who have taken the 23andMe test is much smaller than that of AncestryDNA, so your potential matches are fewer.
As for the accuracy of the 23andMe test, the Company claims that it is the only genetic service available which meets all FDA standards for scientific and clinical validity.
The DNA saliva samples are processed in accredited labs by CLIA and CAP.
Each of the reports for the cases is properly validated by scientists and experts, and the claimed validity of the ancestry percentages of this service is about 99.9%, according to 23andMe.
Here are some of the main features and estimates which both home test services will provide.
The types of tests which each service offers
In order to be able to understand the differences and compare AncestryDNA vs 23andMe, you may want to know a bit more about the different types of genealogy DNA testing.
These include autosomal, mtDNA and YDNA.
As mentioned previously, AncestryDNA uses autosomal genealogical testing. This is a test of your DNA as it is passed down to you by all ancestors. With every generation the DNA gets mixed, so this type of test can tell you about your ancestors only up to 6-8 generations back.
As for 23andMe, the service offers all types of testing including autosomal, as well as mtDNA (mitochondrial) and YDNA (Y-chromosome testing).
Both YDNA and mtDNA allow for tracing a single paternal or maternal family line much farther back in the past. The YDNA tests the paternal line, and the mtDNA your maternal line.
Thanks to these more specific tests, 23andMe can provide you with more detailed information in regard to your haplogroups which include all of the descendants of a specific person. You can see all male descendants thanks to the YDNA test, and all descendants of both sexes with the mtDNA test.
YDNA tests are beneficial as paternity tests as well, but please note that only men can take this test because they have Y-chromosomes. If you are a woman, you can ask a close relative to do the test for you.
Still, the testing done by 23andMe is still rather basic, so if you want more precise and detailed information you may want to look for another DNA testing service in case you want to track your haplogroups and how they have migrated back in the years. One such service is FamilyTreeDNA which is more exact but will cost you more as well.
A clear benefit for using 23andMe when it comes to the types of tests offered is the option to receive a health and wellbeing screening report if you pick the more expensive full bundle.
So our final verdict when it comes to a comparison of the type of tests provided is that 23andMe is the winner, because it provides all types of genealogical testing (autosomal, YDNA and mtDNA), plus you get the option to pay for a health and wellness reports based on your DNA sample with them as well.
The ethnicity estimates provided by both tests
An ethnicity estimate is the main result which both 23andMe and AncestryDNA will provide you with. This is an actual breakdown of all of the regions of the world where your ancestors have been tracked based on the sample you provided.
Each of the DNA testing companies will give you this information based on regions and based on the DNA patterns which have been typically found in these regions throughout history.
By comparing your DNA with that of specific regions, both companies will provide you with estimates or percentages of just how much of your genes come from any region.
AncestryDNA has broken down the world into 150 regions, 23andMe will give you information in regard to 31 separate regions.
This means that with AncestryDNA you can potentially narrow down your search more than the 23andMe test.
Just remember that these are estimates, and the more specific you want to get – the lower the statistical validity of the results is.
Also, over time as more people are taking each of these tests, they are getting more specific as the algorithms and data research is getting more specific with more data added to the databases of both companies.
So, both services can provide you with relatively accurate and reliable ethnicity estimates. Currently, AncestryDNA currently is slightly better because of the higher number of ethnic regions it tests your sample against.
Finding family members with the help of these services
Finding lost and unknown relatives is most possibly the best reason to take a genealogical DNA test. This will enable you to find and connect with any living relatives, no matter where they live.
Chances are that you don’t know most of your more distant relatives, so if you want to find your third and fourth cousins, this type of testing can really help.
Both AncestryDNA and 23andMe offer to connect you with any distant relatives, but please note that these services will have contact data only for the people who have already taken the test and have agreed to share their DNA information with the services.
Although it does sound a tad scary to agree to share your DNA information with either of these companies, you must know that they will not freely provide everybody with this information, but just to people who are close matches. Also, you won’t be handing out your actual contact details, phone or address to either of these services. Rather, the online platforms will allow you to contact potential relatives anonymously.
When compared in this aspect, AncestryDNA is definitely the winner. It is much better at connecting potential family members via the online community message center and the opportunity to contact anybody who is possibly related. Also, AncestryDNA has much more members with over 5 million people already tested and added to the database as compared to the 2 million at 23andMe.
AncestryDNA also doesn’t limit the number of results you get and the number of connections you make which makes it much more suitable than 23andMe if building a more complete family tree and reuniting with relatives is your goal.
23andMe is an excellent website but if your goal is genealogy only, you should opt for AncestryDNA instead.
Don’t forget that both services will ask you whether you want to share your DNA details with the database, so you never should worry about privacy when taking either of the tests.
So, for family matching – opt for AncestryDNA, and for wellbeing and health screening choose 23andMe.
The raw data download option
You will be able to see the summaries of either of the tests on the websites of AncestryDNA or 23andMe, as well as how you compare to other people.
This though doesn’t mean that you will be looking at the actual results. In fact, the full results of your DNA tests are included in tables with more than 700,000 pieces of data. This is also known as raw data.
Even though this particular piece of information will likely make very little sense to you, having access to your actual raw data is an advantage if you want to use it for other purposes, such as to upload it to other sites or share it with somebody.
You will get the option to download your raw data from both AncestryDNA and 23andMe in regard to the specific results of your DNA test.
This will allow you to use it on other genealogy websites which have tools that these two don’t have.
For example, you can upload your raw data on the FamilyTreeDNA website, to get more information regarding your ready results.
You can also use the GEDmatch website to get online links of your DNA to your family tree.
You can build your family tree via the Ancestry website as well. But please note that Ancestry doesn’t allow you to upload the raw data from other tests done by other companies.
Also keep in mind, that only the raw data with your autosomal DNA results can be downloaded and used on other websites. You won’t be able to do that with the YDNA and mtDNA raw data from 23andMe.
So, both DNA test services will provide you with access to more than 700,000 genetic points of your autosomal DNA test results which you can further use with other websites and genealogy tools available.
This is very useful if you want to run your results with other services and compare the results, because many of them will analyze and calculate them differently, so you will get access to more viewpoints and results on your genealogy and ancestry.
You can also use your raw data results to run them on other databases available and to make more possible matches with relatives.
So, in either case, it is a very good idea to take advantage of the raw data download feature which both AncestryDNA and 23andMe offer after you do your tests.
So the verdict on this feature is that both services allow you to download your raw data, but this fact is especially useful for 23andMe because of its more limited database of results, and so that you can run your DNA test results on larger databases.
With Livewello, you can get all the relevant information from your raw data in an easy to read and understand form. This service will cost you about $5.
With Promethease, you can get an interpretation of all of your genes, with all of the benefits and risks related to them. This online service will cost you about $20.
The health screening test and results
This is a unique service which only 23andMe offers when it comes to genealogical DNA online testing.
This useful option will provide you with specific health and wellbeing screening based on your DNA. This option costs a bit more, but it actually could be worth it – both for you and for your children and future generations as well, as you will receive information about potential health risks and genetic mutations.
You will also receive a carrier status report about whether you carry any potential genetic diseases and mutations, a wellbeing report, as well as a traits report along with a list of potential health risks based on your DNA.
Of course, these results are for reference only, so for specific health concerns and decisions, please turn to a qualified doctor or health provider.
Here is more about the different health and wellbeing reports you can get if you choose the full test offered by 23andMe.
Carrier Status Report
The Carrier Status report from 23andMe will include a detailed analysis of your X-linked recessive genes which include any potential genetic mutations you are carrying or could be carrying which can have an effect on your children or grandchildren.
This part of the report will screen your DNA for more than 40 genetic disorders including SickleCell Anemia, Cystic Fibrosis, Muscular Dystrophy, and other disorders.
The carrier status doesn’t mean that you are or will be affected by these disorders, but rather that you may be carrying them, and could pass them on to your children or grandchildren.
In the Trait report provided by 23andMe, you can find more details about yours and your children’s physical characteristics. This means that you will be able to predict more correctly whether your children are more likely to have dimples, freckles, curly or straight hair and other physical characteristics which are affected by your DNA.
This report will include further insights in your general wellbeing, including your tolerance to lactose, your metabolism rate, your BMI approximations, sleep quality, whether you prefer sweet or salty foods and others. This may help you maintain a healthy weight and get better sleep by avoiding certain foods, substances or making lifestyle changes.
The wellness report is the perfect way to get the motivation to eat and live healthier and better.
In this wellness report, you will find out any information about eating better and avoiding certain foods in order to maintain a healthy weight and to stay healthy.
But keep in mind that even though DNA plays a role in your wellbeing, your exercise level, your diet, and your lifestyle choices play a much more important part in it.
Health Risk Report
This is probably the most useful part of the health-related report from the full test kit by 23andMe. It will include information which actually can affect you personally rather than the Carrier report which is more pertinent to your children and your grandchildren’s health.
In the health risk report, you will get information about early detection or prediction of a number of hereditary disorders, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Celiac disease and others.
This information will enable you to take early measures and actions to help counteract and possibly prevent or manage many of these genetic diseases.
The 23andMe testing service has been FDA approved for testing of 10 and more genetic disorders. This is a test of about 40 of the most common hereditary disorders and health conditions and can be incredibly useful information which can help prevent and treat these conditions later on.
As usual, please don’t take any health care actions without talking to your doctor or a licensed physician about your results and the possible risks as well as the preventive actions you can take.
Our verdict is that if health and wellbeing is what is of primary interest to you, the only option to go is 23andMe as it is the only such home based internet service which provides health and wellbeing DNA screening.
Privacy considerations when taking these DNA tests
Many people who are very curious about learning more about their ancestors, family tree and possible genetic health conditions and predispositions are staying away from DNA testing options like AncestryDNA and 23andMe due to privacy concerns.
This seems quite normal given the fact that these tests do handle your very individual and unique private information.
Before clicking on “I Agree” or “I understand”, do take the time to read every word, because the data you will be providing these services which can affect not only your privacy but that of your immediate family, children, and grandchildren!
Always take into consideration the following factors before agreeing on doing a home DNA test:
- Who will own your DNA?
- Who will have access to my information (with and without my name attached)?
- How will the data which you will tie up to your identifiable information actually be used?
- Do you have an option to opt-out of sharing your genetic data?
- Do you have the option of erasing the information after you take the test?
What about the price?
Comparing the two tests price-wise is not very easy because the price is good for both but which one is better depends on your specific needs and expectations for the results.
The basic 23andMe test is more expensive than the AncestryDNA one, but 23andMe includes 3 types of testing (autosomal, YDNA and mtDNA), while Ancestry only offers autosomal DNA testing.
23andMe will cost you nearly double if you want the health screening feature as well, but then again, AncestryDNA doesn’t offer health and wellbeing screening and reports at all.
In order to make the most out of your test results from AncestryDNA, you will need to subscribe to the paid services of the Ancestry webpage too. You may download and transfer your raw data to another website or online tool if you prefer, of course.
You may want to keep an eye on both websites because both 23andMe and AncestryDNA offer discounts and other promotions on a regular basis.
So, there is no definite winner in the price category, as the answer depends on what exactly you are looking for in such a test – is it to find out more about your ancestors, to find lost relatives and find out more about the migration of your relatives back in time, or do you want to find out more about the potential genetic problems you are carrying, your genetic traits, your genetic wellbeing and all of the potential hereditary health risks you are susceptible to?
In case the former is your answer – the price of AncestryDNAis definitely better, and in case you are interested in the latter – then there is no better-priced home DNA kit than 23andMe.
Overall, both tests are rather reasonably priced given the valuable information they will be providing you with, so which one to buy and take is a matter of personal preferences and your expectations. Comparing the two is somewhat like comparing apples to oranges, as both DNA tests are excellently priced for the information they will provide you with.
It is time for the final verdict of 23andMe vs AncestryDNA
As you can see from our side by side comparison, both AncestryDNA and 23andMe are very useful if you want to find out more about your family history and where you came from. Both have quite solid reputations, but Ancestry has a larger database and compares your DNA with that of more regions around the world than 23andMe. This makes the chances of finding more specific information about your ancestors or to locate long-lost relatives much higher with AncestryDNA.
On the other hand, 23andMe offers a health and wellbeing screening option which is absolutely unique when it comes to home DNA testing. This is an additional package to the basic one offered by the company, but the information it will provide will not only be interesting (such as your trait and wellbeing status) but can help you improve your health, prevent or manage future hereditary diseases and conditions, and help prevent or control the genetic predisposition of your future children and grandchildren to certain diseases and conditions.
So, if your health and getting more detailed information about your genes is priority number one of taking a genetic test, the clear winner is 23andMe.
Overall, our suggestion is that you decide on your main goal before proceeding to buy either of these DNA test kits.
A direct comparison between AncestryDNA and 23andMe is not possible, as they are the best but in two completely different spheres.
So, take the time to decide whether you are more interested in the genealogy and in expanding your family tree back in time, or whether you prefer to know more about your health, potential health problems, your wellbeing, as well any traits or health conditions you may pass on to your children or grandchildren.
After you have the answer to this question, you will immediately know whether to invest in an AncestryDNA or in a 23andMe DNA test kit because both tests are quite accurate and reliable. It is just a question of what you are looking for exactly!
Good luck with your testing, and prepare to be amazed by the results which will most probably make you happy, sad, wondering, surprised, amazed and make you feel all other kinds of emotions because there is nothing more interesting than finding out something about yourself that you have never known before.
With a home DNA test kit like one of these two, all of these mysteries will be unraveled and you will have the answers to more questions than you have ever imagined asking.