When it comes to ancestry testing, there are many different companies you can choose from. However, only a few companies can offer you the very best ancestry results at a reasonable price.
In this article, we directly compare FamilyTreeDNA with Ancestry.com, two of the main players in the ancestry DNA testing game. This compliments our previous comparison of MyHeritage vs Ancestry and 23andMe vs Ancestry. We compare everything, from company backgrounds to specific product offerings, so you can make an informed and confident decision!
Comparison: Ancestry DNA and FamilyTreeDNA Side by Side
|Can be used for||Personal Ancestry
DNA Health Testing
Y-DNA and mtDNA Ancestry
|DNA collection||Saliva Collection||Cheek Swab|
|Number of SNPs tested||706,393||711,424|
|DNA sample stored||Indefinitely||25 Years|
|Availability||Around 35 Countries||Worldwide – excluding Sudan and Iran|
|Price||$19-$45 per month for subscription services
$99 for AncestryDNA
$149 for AncestryHealth
|$59 – Family Ancestry
$119 – Paternal (Y-DNA) Ancestry
$159 – Maternal (mtDNA) Ancestry
|Platform matching for family?||Yes||Yes|
|Geographical analysis of ancestry?||Yes||Yes|
|Special Features||Compare ancestry origins between family matches. Use family tree features and research database as part of a subscription package, and get automatically located tips on historical documents.||FTDNA is one of the only companies to offer stand-alone maternal and paternal ancestry testing. Plus, FTDNA is available in all countries except Sudan and Iran due to customs restrictions.|
|Number of DNA kit users||> 14 Million||< 2 Million|
|Ownership||The investment firm Permira||Gene by Gene, Ltd.|
|Address||360 W 4800 N Provo, Utah 84604||1445 North Loop West, Suite 760
Houston, TX 77008
|Client Reviews||Amazon – 4.1 of 5
Trustpilot – 2 and 4.5 of 5 (see below)
|Amazon – 3.4 of 5
Trustpilot – 2 of 5
Conclusion: Unless you are trying to do very in-depth genetic genealogical research on your maternal or paternal lines, you likely do not need the mtDNA or Y-DNA tests from FamilyTreeDNA. For most users, Ancestry will provide a comprehensive and user-friendly analysis of your autosomal DNA. Plus, Ancestry can match you with the largest pool of users, has the most distinct global regions in its ethnicity reports, and has a massive historical records database to do research on. If you decide to go all-in for the AncestryHealth package you can even find out about a number of important genetic health conditions, information which FTDNA cannot offer. Keep reading to get the full breakdown!
Company backgrounds for Ancestry and FamilyTreeDNA
Ancestry.com has roots long before the internet or consumer DNA test kits were even invented. The company started in the 1980s with two guys distributing floppy discs containing genealogy information. Since then, Ancestry has expanded into a behemoth genealogy business. They published the Ancestry Magazine, which helped amateur genealogists dive into their family histories.
In the early 2000s, Ancestry expanded their already sizable empire onto the internet, connecting hundreds of millions of people with software that allowed them to build a family tree using Ancestry’s massive database of digitalized historical records. Then, when at-home DNA testing finally became a reality, Ancestry was one of the first companies in the world to offer a comprehensive DNA ancestry report with results that could tie directly into your family tree. Today, Ancestry has sold more DNA kits (14 million) than any other DNA testing company – even 23andMe!
By comparison, FamilyTreeDNA got its start in the era of DNA testing. In early 2000, an entrepreneur and amateur genealogist named Bennet Greenspan saw several news stories about the power of Y-DNA testing to track ancestral connections. Soon after, FTDNA was founded and began offering both maternal and paternal ancestry analysis, making them one of the first companies to analyze mtDNA and Y-DNA. As they grew, they also joined the autosomal testing game with their Family Ancestry test. Fast-forward to today, and FTDNA is among the top providers of ancestry DNA tests in the US and various parts of Europe.
Winner: Ancestry clearly takes this category. Although FTDNA was one of the first companies to pioneer Y-DNA and mtDNA testing, Ancestry has been helping people explore their genealogy for decades. With their massive historical records database, the ability to link your DNA results directly to your family tree, and the greatest number of DNA kit users of any DNA testing company, Ancestry has a massive advantage.
Ancestry vs FamilyTreeDNA Offerings
Ancestry offers two DNA test kits, the AncestryDNA test and the AncestryHealth Test. The Ancestry DNA test covers your ancestry and also gives you information on several important genetic conditions that have been correlated to specific genetic variants.
The AncestryDNA test looks into your relatively recent ancestral past using autosomal DNA. For reasons they explain on their support site, Ancestry only looks at autosomal DNA and not Y-DNA or mtDNA. This gives a good look at your more recent ancestors. The tests compare your DNA with that of over 1000 reference populations from around the world. With this data and data from their tens of millions of family tree users, the company can estimate your relatedness to various global populations to a high degree of accuracy. While the company does not test Y-DNA or mtDNA, they do look at your X-chromosome(s), which can tell them which side of the family your DNA connections come from!
An interesting feature of the service is the ability to track and learn more about potential migrations your family may have been a part of. Ancestry shows these potential migrations and provides some background on why these migrations took place. The platform also has a family matching service, which measures how much DNA you share with other users and predicts your relationship with them (first cousin, great uncle, etc.). This service allows willing participants to contact each other to further explore their family heritage.
Since 2019, Ancestry also offers the AncestryHealth DNA kit. This test covers a variety of traits, covering two main areas: Carrier Status, and Health Risks. Carrier status reports relate to genes you carry that can cause genetic disorders, such as Tay-Sachs disease and Cystic Fibrosis. Health Risk reports cover a variety of potentially-harmful genes related to breast and ovarian cancer, as well as genes related to heart and blood health.
The AncestryDNA kit is $99, while the AncestryHealth kit is $199. The company also has various subscription services available for using its historical records database to build and explore your family tree.
FamilyTreeDNA has three DNA kits you can purchase. The company offers a basic Family Ancestry test that essentially does the same things as the AncestryDNA test. It looks at your autosomal DNA to determine your recent ancestors and to match you with living relatives. With this test, you will see a breakdown of DNA into the various ethnic groups that have contributed to your genome. While the results should be similar to what you get from Ancestry, FTDNA has far fewer users and reference populations.
FTDNA also offers two tests that few other companies offer – the Maternal Ancestry and Paternal Ancestry tests. The Maternal Ancestry tests analyze DNA found within the mitochondria in your cells, which can only be passed down from your mother. As such, this test can track your maternal ancestry all the way back to Africa. Similarly, the Paternal Ancestry test looks at your Y-DNA, which is only passed down from father to son. As such, only men can take this test. But, it is a powerful way to look into your paternal family history, specifically.
FTDNA offers its Family Ancestry test for the new reduced price of $59. Its other tests, the Maternal and Paternal Ancestry tests, will cost $159 and $119, respectively. The company also offers more in-depth paternal ancestry testing than any other company on the market, though these expert-level tests can run up to $449!
Winner: Ancestry! While FTDNA does offer several powerful tests for looking into your maternal and paternal lines, Ancestry has for more users and over 1,500 ethnic regions it can match you to. This means your autosomal results will be much more specific and that the company can match you to a much larger field of potential family members. That being said, if you are an amateur genetic sleuth looking for complex information about your maternal and paternal lines, you may want to choose FTDNA over Ancestry. (However, you should also look into 23andMe, which offers basic maternal and paternal lines in their ancestry package.)
Compare Ancestry vs. FamilyTreeDNA Results
Both companies offer an online platform with the ability to explore your results in-depth. With both companies, you will get the ability to find DNA matches and see what ethnic regions your autosomal DNA comes from. However, this is where the similarities end.
With Ancestry, you will be getting much more detailed autosomal results. With over 14 million users, Ancestry has truly leveraged its spot as one of the most trusted genealogy companies in the world to build one of the most comprehensive breakdowns of your ancestry available on the market. Plus, with a subscription, you can access their family tree and historical records database services which can help you research and expand your family tree.
Despite its name, FamilyTreeDNA does not actually offer a family tree building software. However, it does offer the most comprehensive Y-DNA and mtDNA analyses on the market. For example, the “Big Y-700” test analyzes over 700 sites in your Y-DNA to provide the most detailed view of paternal ancestry currently available. Similarly, their maternal ancestry tests are far more detailed than any other company offers and can look at your maternal ancestry all the way back to the expansion of humans out of Africa!
Winner: Draw! When it comes to the results you get, it really depends on what you are looking for. If you are looking for living family members and an intuitive way to explore your family history, Ancestry should provide everything you need and more for a fairly reasonable price. However, if you have already done a standard ancestry DNA test and are looking for even more answers, you should consider the maternal and paternal ancestry tests
Will your data be shared?
Fortunately for users of both services, Ancestry and FamilyTreeDNA seem to have pretty solid privacy policies. Both companies claim that your genetic data is kept in-house, and neither company clearly states that they are selling your data to third parties. Both companies do aggregate your DNA data with other users to conduct research and expand their product offerings. However, both companies require additional consent from users before their data is shared with another party for research purposes.
If you are concerned about your privacy, you can read Ancestry’s Privacy Statement and FamilyTreeDNA’s Privacy Statement for yourself, though you may need a lawyer to fully understand your rights and privacy when it comes to DNA testing.
Winner: Draw! Both companies aggregate and use your anonymous data in their in-house research, and neither company aggregates data to sell to other companies.
Media coverage and user opinions
In general, both companies have received a fair shake in the media. While there is always the occasional negative story, both companies have managed to stay out of the worst media coverage that the industry has received. In fact, both companies have several positive stories of families being reconnected and users who greatly value their services.
In terms of customer reviews, Ancestry reviews are slightly mixed online. On Amazon, Ancestry rates at 4.1 of 5 stars with over 10,000 reviews. On Trustpilot, Ancestry.com has only 2 of 5 stars with nearly 5,000 reviews. However, Trustpilot also lists Ancestry.co.uk which received 4.5 of 5 stars with 2,000 reviews. So, in general, Ancestry scores pretty high.
FamilyTreeDNA has far fewer reviewers online. On Amazon, FTDNA only scores 3.4 stars and on Trustpilot, the company only scores 2 of 5 stars. While these seem like very low scores comparatively, keep in mind that FTDNA only has around 300 reviews total. Their scores may improve as they get more online reviews.
Winner: Ancestry! FTDNA simply does not have near the number or the quality of reviews online. Ancestry is one of the most reviewed companies on the web, and they have managed to stay in the good graces of most of their users.
Conclusion: Ancestry Vs FamilyTreeDNA
Unless you are trying to do very in-depth genetic genealogical research on your maternal or paternal lines, you likely do not need the mtDNA or Y-DNA tests from FamilyTreeDNA. For most users, Ancestry will provide a comprehensive and user-friendly analysis of your autosomal DNA. Plus, Ancestry can match you with the largest pool of users, has the most distinct global regions in its ethnicity reports, and has a massive historical records database to do research on. If you decide to go all-in for the AncestryHealth package you can even find out about a number of important genetic health conditions, information which FTDNA cannot offer.
Winner: Ancestry wins! FTDNA does provide some very cool tests for advanced users. However, for people new to DNA testing, Ancestry is a no-brainer!