23andMe vs FamilyTreeDNA

While 23andMe remains one of the more well known DNA testing packages out there, there are many more available you can look into. One of them being FamilyTreeDNA.

In this article we’re going to talk about each of these DNA tests and compare them against each other, before wrapping up with a conclusion. We’re going to compare how much you can find out, the costs and value for money, and privacy and how your data is treated.

Let’s get straight to it...

Overview of 23andMe

23andMe may not offer many kits to choose from, but that doesn’t make it any less broad. It basically has two main kits, the Ancestry and Traits Service, or the Health and Ancestry Service.

It is the Health and Ancestry Service where 23andMe really stands out against the DNA tests that focus on ancestry alone. It entails over a whopping 130 different reports, including genetic health predispositions, wellness, and status of genetic markers for diseases that can be passed on. The ancestry specific elements of this service make up less than 50% of the total reports.

23andMe also offers a VIP package as well, but for the purposes of this particular comparison against FamilyTree DNA, this article will concentrate more on the ancestry side of things.

Cost of 23andMe

23andMe’s Ancestry and Traits Service costs close to the £80 mark, at the time of writing this article.

Meanwhile 23andMe’s Health and Ancestry Service costs almost double that at about £150.

Features of 23andMe’s Ancestry and Traits Service

The 23andMe’s Ancestry and Traits Service tracks both your maternal and your paternal ancestry. It’s then able to track your entire family tree, and give you your ancestry composition which is described in terms of a percentage of each type of heritage.

Your ancestry composition is presented in the form of a pie chart, accompanied with a world map. These illustrations are color coded so you can see at a glance exactly which locations in the world your DNA can be traced back to.

You also get a timeline of your DNA ancestry, and can view when your ancestors lived in certain areas, sometimes going as far as naming cities and towns within a country that could be in your ancestry. 

It’s worth noting at this point that this city level pinpointing is based on how many people in the area in their database share DNA markers with you. 

A plus point to the 23andMe’s Ancestry and Traits Service is that they also provide the participant with plenty of historical and cultural information about the various areas where your DNA can be traced back to.

Another area where 23andMe stands out is in their information regarding Neanderthal DNA, and their ability to reliably tell you how much Neanderthal DNA you have in you. This is almost exclusive to 23andMe.

Another plus point for 23andMe is that they offer relative finder service, whereby you can find out if you have living relatives who have also utilised 23andMe’s services. Don’t worry, this service is strictly opt in, and you won’t have any distant relatives making contact without your clear consent.

Procedure for 23andMe

If you order through 23andMe, you will receive a sample kit through your letterbox.

All you have to do is fill a barcoded tube halfway through with your saliva. Then simply place the tube into its biohazard bag to return for testing. 

Turn Around Time for 23andMe

The turnaround time to receive your results from 23andMe is quite variable.

It could be 2 weeks. It could be weeks. But that still fares better than many of its competitors.

How 23andMe Uses Your Data

23andMe makes their use of your data quite clear in their Privacy Statement which is available on their website. The webpage starts with a few highlights, but then the full statement follows complete with a glossary.

In addition to using your personal data for your benefit, if you choose to consent, 23andMe researchers will include your genetic information, less any identifiable data, in research projects aimed at making scientific discoveries. 

Overview of FamilyTreeDNA

FamilyTreeDNA is a global leader in the field of genealogy, and is the longest-serving genealogical DNA specialist in the world, the company who started it all.

The focus with FamilyTreeDNA is very much about ancestry. Their services are centered around discovering your ancestral lines, and although they do off a health report, this comes at hundreds of pounds more than their other tests.

Cost of FamilyTreeDNA

FamilyTreeDNA offers a number of different tests, and they vary quite considerably in price. 

Their most affordable option uses autosomal DNA, that is chromosomes other than the sex choromosomes. It costs around £60 (but this is subject to change), and it includes their Family Finder, which as the name suggests, helps you to connect with living DNA relatives.

There is also a maternal ancestry test, which costs over £100.

Or you can choose from 3 different versions of a paternal ancestry test. The more affordable option costs just under £100, while there’s a more in depth version which costs closer to £200, and finally an expert level option which costs over £300.

Features of FamilyTreeDNA

With the Family Finder option, you get your ethnic percentages, along with a visual mapping tool, which provides a detailed ethnic and geographic breakdown of where your ancestors came from.

You can go back to ancient times and see how much DNA you still carry of the Neolithic Hunter/Gatherers and other groups.

But of course, it’s the family matching system that makes this option so appealing. And it gives you the best chance of finding relatives because it uses the world’s most comprehensive DNA matching database.

The maternal and the paternal ancestry tests meanwhile, offer a little more. And these tests are particularly precise. But where they really stand out is in the provision of a little video, where you can trace your ancestor’s ancient migration paths. 

The paternal ancestry test also allows you to trace the history of your surname.

Procedure for FamilyTreeDNA

When the FamilyTreeDNA sample kit arrives in the post, all you have to do is use the swab to collect a little saliva from inside your mouth, seal the swab in it’s container, and you can send it off for testing.

Turn Around Time for FamilyTreeDNA

Again with FamilyTreeDNA the results can take some time to get back to you. You will have to wait at least 3 weeks, but this can go up as much as 6 weeks.

This is almost on a par with 23andMe, and is only slightly longer on average. However it’s worth pointing out at this point that some of the competing DNA testing services offer a quicker turnaround time still.

How FamilyTreeDNA uses your data

How FamilyTreeDNA sees it is that your DNA belongs to you. User privacy is a high priority for them, and they handle your Personal Information with great care and use safeguards to protect your data.

Their privacy policy is lengthy, and is available in full on their website.

They say that they will never sell your DNA to any 3rd parties. However they do use and share some of your personal information with third parties in a few ways as described in their privacy statement.

It’s important to note at this point that this sharing of information can only go ahead with your agreed consent.

23andMe vs FamilyTreeDNA

In terms of their product offering, even at their more affordable service offering you get the family member finding service, which is a big draw for both companies. 

If we had to say which of these services is the better of the two, it’s hard to gauge, but if we had to pick one to go with it would be FamilyTreeDNA. This is simply because they have the larger DNA database of the two, which means you get a better chance of finding your long lost relatives.

In terms of their turnaround time, both companies are rather, so if you’re particularly eager to get your results, you may be left feeling frustrated about having to wait for results.

However competing services that offer a quicker turnaround time don’t tend to offer the relative finding services, so if that’s a main reason for your DNA testing, then you may have to just bear with them.


The main difference between these two tests is that 23andMe also provides various health, wellness and carrier status reports. The drawback however is that this comes at twice the cost of the ancestry report alone.

On the flip side however, if your main intention is to find living family members, then FamilyTreeDNA has the largest database, so gives you better chances.

We would argue that if you’re unfamiliar with a large portion of your family tree, it’s better to also get that all important health and carrier status information. Especially if you’re thinking of starting a family of your own. But of course that’s a personal decision and can only be carried out if you have sufficient budget.

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