AncestryDNA and 23andme are arguably the most popular autosomal DNA testing options around, but which is the best DNA test for genealogy? Is one test better than the other for finding family? One, in fact, is. AncestryDNA offers a far superior product if your goal is to build a family tree, trace or discover familial lines, or find new family members. The aim of this page is to not only offer an in-depth AncestryDNA review, but likewise explore the area where Ancestry DNA’s test really shines—genealogy.
AncestryDNA Tree building and research service:
One major difference between 23andme and AncestryDNA as far as genealogical research use, is that AncestryDNA eliminates the need to create a tree off-site, find records at various sources, and then compile everything and compare it to your DNA matches. You can build a tree entirely free on the AncestryDNA site, though to utilize research options there is a subscription fee. With your purchase of an AncestryDNA test, you get 50 percent off this service. Subscription costs and levels as of May 2018 are as follows:
AncestryDNA test cost: $84+ shipping from Ancestry.com with this referral link or $99 with prime shipping from Amazon
US subscription: Allows search of US databases only: $22.99 monthly or $49 for 6 months
International subscription: Allows search of worldwide databases: $34.99 monthly or $99 for 6 months
Your subscription allows you to:
-Search, view, and save files from a large database of records including birth, death, marriage, immigration, census, newspapers, and more.
-View “hints” that automatically suggest records and other member trees based on data entered.
-View connections you share with your DNA test matches.
Ease of connecting the DNA dots:
The primary reason AncestryDNA boosts the best DNA test for genealogy and family finding though is not it’s research tools, it’s the ease of tracking down match connections. While at 23andme you would need to contact each match to find out if they even have a family tree, AncestryDNA streamlines this process by allowing you to sort matches with trees and even see where your tree (assuming you have one) overlaps with that match’s tree. You simply click the tree icon, and the connection pops up.
Once you click into a match you can then view that match’s tree (if public), shared surnames and tree members, shared matches, and regions where shared tree members originated. Each of these options is useful in its own way.
For example, shared matches are an easy way to determine which side of your family a match is on if you already have confirmed relations in your matches. Say, your mom, dad, an aunt or an uncle have tested, depending on those your match shares you could quickly see if a match was paternal or maternal.
On the regions tab, say you have a name for an ancestor, but don’t know where the ancestor was from. Your regions map can help narrow down where to focus your source search for possible matches to that ancestor.
Automatically generated genealogical goodies:
Your DNA story:
This is the page that gives you your ethnicity report. If you click any ethnicity, it will show you a percentage match for the sample pool of that region, as well as locations included in that region.
As you click the timeline bar at the bottom, the map will change showing you the migrations of your family line through time (requires a tree) while likewise circling the regions your DNA results showed. The pinpoints that display either numbers or a pink or blue profile are ancestors in your tree. You can click each to see details or in the case of numbers, to zoom in to see all tree members in that area. I wouldn’t say that this feature really aids in research much, but it is neat and provides a quick way to compare your genetic ethnicity to your genealogical origins.
In this section your tree is compared to those of your matches to create “circles” of people who share an ancestor. The name of that ancestor is the name of the circle. For example, if the circle is called “John Smith,” you had a DNA match with all of these members and all of these members have “John Smith” with the appropriate birth and death data in their tree. This is a convenient way to have numerous sources with a confirmed DNA match to compare notes so to speak on certain parts of your tree.
New ancestor discoveries:
Basically, this is DNA circles for potential ancestors not already in your tree. Say that many members in your “John Smith” circle have listed John’s parents, but you don’t have those parents in your tree. This section shows you the details of those high-probability tree members. If you click one of these results, you’ll be shown the circle that prompted this match and how many matches had the suggestion in their tree.
The final AncestryDNA section is your matches for the database. Next to the ease of connecting tree members to matches, this is the second biggest reason AncestryDNA is better for genealogy than 23andme, database size. As of May 2018, AncestryDNA boosts double the database size that 23andme has (5 million vs 10 million). If your trying to use DNA to find family or trace your family tree using DNA matches and can only afford one test, the bigger the database size the better.
Having a look at the match screen, you can see at the top there are several options to sort your matches.
-Hints will show you members that you share a common tree member with.
-New will show you new DNA matches.
-Starred will show you members you mark with a star to quickly find later.
-If a parent comes up in your matches you’ll see “father” or “mother,” this allows you to sort matches from your maternal or paternal line.
-Regions gives you an option to select a migration region from your timeline, and see matches that share that region.
You can also filter by relationship closeness (example, a sibling would appear higher than a cousin) or date of match (to see matches since your last visit for instance).
While 23andme may offer more nifty genetic tidbits to amuse you, it offers none of the above family finding tools. This is why if you’re looking for the best DNA test for genealogy, I’d recommend starting at AncestryDNA and only testing at 23andme if you hit a wall and need more matches or just are interested in said genetic niftiness. You can also upload your raw DNA (which is free with your test result, of course) to GEDcom, a mostly user-submitted DNA match data base as well as FamilytreeDNA. FamilyTreeDNA will allow you to upload your results and see limited matches, but there is a fee to see more. GEDcom is free. You can’t, by the way, upload your raw DNA to 23andme, you would need to retest to see your matches there.
If you have any questions or see something I missed here, feel free to drop me a comment.