23andMe vs AncestryDNA

Which DNA test provides the most comprehensive results for your needs?

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DNA tests are done for a whole range of personal and medical reasons. Whatever it is you're seeking to discover, it's a good idea to compare a few different DNA testing companies before settling on the kit that works for you.

In this article, we help you make the right choice by comparing the key features of two of the most popular brands around right now. Who will come out on top: 23andMe or AncestryDNA?

A quick review: AncestryDNA and 23andMe

23andMe logo

23andMe

AncestryDNA logo

AncestryDNA

DescriptionFind out if you have unknown relatives from around the world or if you're at risk of genetic health risks.Learn about your family's health and origins with over 1,500 regions analysed.
DNA collection typeSalivaSaliva
Test typemtDNA
Y-DNA
Autosomal
Autosomal
Result in4-5 weeks6-8 weeks
Price per kitUS$99 + shipping (approximately $136) (excludes shipping)From $129 + shipping (excludes shipping)
Database size12 million20 million
DNA matching?YesYes
Genetic traits report?YesYes
Ancestry reportsYesYes
Geographic regions1,000+1,500 +
Downloadable raw data?YesYes
Family tree softwareYesYes

Collection method

Both 23andMe and AncestryDNA provide clients with a test tube to collect their saliva to process their DNA. The collection method is relatively easy as all you will have to do is spit into the test tube, ensure the cap is secure and then ship it out to the company.

Testing

AncestryDNA tests your autosomal DNA to cover your family tree's maternal and paternal sides. 23andMe also uses autosomal testing, but it can also estimate your y-DNA and mtDNA haplogroups. This information could help you to trace your ancestry more widely.

Ethnic regions

The results you receive will depend on the package you choose, how detailed the company is and the number of regions it covers.

AncestryDNA covers more than 1,500 regions including ethnicities from Cameroon, Congo and Western Bantu Peoples, Early North Carolina African Americans, Northern Philippines and more. The brand compares your DNA to the DNA of people with known origins from around the world, known as its reference panel. AncestryDNA has a total of more than 20 million DNA samples. It has updated its ethnicity estimate reference panel recently too. So, customers will now have the ability to see a possible genetic connection with the Indigenous Australian community.

In comparison, 23andMe covers more than 1,000 regions worldwide. These regions are European, East Asian, Native American, West Asian, North African, Sub-Saharan African, Melanesian and recent ancestry in the Americas.

Results

With AncestryDNA, you can break down your ethnicity by percentage and determine the degree of relatedness you may have to another person. AncestryDNA offers ThruLines, which show you the common ancestors that are likely connecting you to your DNA matches. The company also predicts your traits and provides health and wellness reports.

23andMe provides reports on your ancestry timeline and inherited traits and detailed insights into your personalised characteristics and features. Some examples are the ability to match musical pitch, cleft chin, earlobe type, cilantro taste aversion, ice cream flavour preference and more. Perhaps more importantly, it provides information on genetic health risks and carrier status. It also has an optional online network, DNA Relative Finder, where you can find matches, compare ancestries and traits.

Additionally, 23andMe will automatically build a family tree from your DNA relationships.

Processing speed

23andMe typically takes 4-5 weeks to process your sample. When your results are ready, you'll be notified via email, and then you can log into the portal to view them.

The processing time for AncestryDNA is comparatively longer. Once your sample arrives at the lab, it takes approximately 6-8 weeks to process your sample.

Price

23andMe offers different services starting at US$99 plus shipping (approximately $136) with the ancestry kit. This option will give you results about where your family line may have started, an analysis of your maternal and paternal lines and information about your DNA relatives.

If you are looking for a premium kit, you can opt for the Health and Ancestry service for US$199 (approximately $274). In this case, the results will include everything you get with the Ancestry kit, plus information about health-related genetics. With the premium kit, you can also benefit from in-depth wellness and trait reports along with information about your carrier status.

AncestryDNA's kit is $129 plus shipping costs. The company also offers memberships starting at $21.99. Becoming a member may give you access to records of different regions as well as the ability to connect with other Ancestry members. Membership typically gives you access to records on birth, marriage, death, census, military, church and more.

AncestryDNA also offers its ancestry kit with a Traits package. This is priced at $159 and as well as mapping your DNA, it offers insights into 36 individual traits including sweet and savoury sensitivity, finger length and earlobe type.

Privacy and security

Both 23andMe and AncestryDNA identify the samples only with a unique code to track your DNA. Results are encrypted and stored in a secured database to protect the information from unauthorised access.

The company sets internal limitations on accessing the database. If you agree to AncestryDNA's Informed Consent for Research, the company will store your sample for future research; otherwise, you can choose to have your sample destroyed.

23andMe requires clients to review its Consent Document for Sample Storage and Additional Genetic Analyses during the kit registration. Unless clients consent to biobanking or sample storage, the saliva sample and DNA are destroyed after the laboratory completes its work.

Verdict

One of AncestryDNA's key features is the provision of the ethnic breakdown of your DNA through an interactive map. It is also possible to peruse historical documents with AncestryDNA. These include birth, marriage and death records, immigration and emigration records and more.

23andMe offers a very similar scope of results. However, it also offers insights into your health and wellbeing, whereas AncestryDNA does not.

Given its more extensive database of results for comparative analysis, we'd say that AncestryDNA has the upper hand for anyone looking to delve deep into their family history. That said, if you want to dig into your health and wellbeing while researching your heritage, 23andMe is the right choice for you.

Ultimately, this option really does boil down to what it is you want to learn above all else.

Compare more DNA test kits

1 - 5 of 5
Name Product DNA Collection Type Test Type Result in Price per kit
AncestryDNA
Saliva
Autosomal
6-8 weeks
From $129 + shipping
Learn about your family's health and origins with over 1,100 regions analysed.
Living DNA
Cheek swab
atDNA, mtDNA, Y-DNA
6-8 weeks
From $139
Receive ancestry reports with actionable insights about your health with results.
MyHeritage DNA
Cheek swab
Autosomal
3-4 weeks
From $139 (plus shipping)
Personalised & comprehensive assistance in 19+ languages all over the world.
Findmypast
Findmypast
Cheek swab
atDNA, mtDNA, Y-DNA
6 - 8 weeks
From $129
Find out if you have a British or Irish past and trace your history with records dating back to 1538.
Nebula
Nebula
Cheek swab
1 week
From $99
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Compare up to 4 providers

Frequently asked questions

Why do some DNA samples fail?

If a test tube’s cap is not secure, the lab might not have enough of your saliva to process. Typically, you should also not eat, drink, smoke, chew gum, brush your teeth or use mouthwash for at least 30 minutes before providing a sample.

Can I do a DNA test if I've had a bone marrow transplant?

Generally, people who have received a bone marrow should get a close relative, like a parent or sibling, tested instead. Since your cells will contain blood cells created by the bone marrow, your saliva will probably include your DNA and that of your bone marrow donor. So, your results can end up inconclusive or possibly report the results of your donor.

How long is a DNA kit good for?

Many companies have an end-date saliva collection printed on the test tube. Generally speaking, you can store a DNA kit for at least a year after the date of purchase. But be sure to check the manufacturer's guidance on any DNA test you're looking to buy.

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