Family Tree DNA Levels the Playing Field…Sort Of

Family-Tree-DNA logoToday, I received an e-mail from Max Blankfeld, one of the partners at Family Tree DNA.  He said that per their promise a month ago, if they obtained a minimum volume of orders during their July promotion, they would retain the $99 price on their autosomal DNA test, Family Finder.  Well, the $99 price is now permanent.  What this does is to level the playing field between the three autosomal DNA players, Family Tree DNA, 23andMe and Ancestry…..sort of.  All other things are not equal, even though the price now is.

1. Company – Family Tree DNA

Shipping cost for kits: $5 domestic, $7 international

Where kits are shipped: worldwide

2. Company – 23andMe

Shipping cost for kits: $10 US, $60 Canada and $75-$120 other international

Where kits are shipped: some international, US except NY and MD due to state laws regarding the medical/health aspects of the testing

3. Company –

Shipping cost for kits:  $10

Where kits are shipped: US only

Caveat:  Ancestry does not have analysis tools that Family Tree DNA and 23andMe include.

Hmmmm….maybe the playing field isn’t so level after all!

32 thoughts on “Family Tree DNA Levels the Playing Field…Sort Of

  1. Pingback: Family Tree DNA Levels the Playing Field…Sort Of | Old Bones Genealogy

  2. Guess I didn’t have to hurry, but I did anyway and ordered one kit and two upgrades for distant cousins who have done the YDNA but couldn’t afford the FF. Hopefully the results on all three will help our family’s FF tests make more sense. Please tell Max and Bennett and others “thank you” from all of us seeking our roots!

  3. It sure would be nice for the three teams to work together. Do the same tests, share the results the same way, and charge the same amount. I think more people would jump at the opportunity to test in order to advance their genealogy research. The people who want to test for medical reasons could be kept seperate and private.

  4. FTDNA needs to level the playing field by improving the way those who test can compare genealogies. I have suggested to Mr. Greenspan and Mr. Barton more webinar education should be provided in order to increase volunteer administrators.
    I think all three testing facilities have pros and cons. When you link your DNA results to your Ancestry family tree, you and your DNA matches can find how you are related. I am constantly using my Ancestry account to research and compare ancestors and descendant lines of people who we show a match with at FTDNA and 23andMe. Some genealogist have suggested testing at all three companies. I have transferred my 23andMe results to FTDNA, and recently ordered a AncestryDNA kit just for comparison with the other companies.

    • I am deeply grateful that Family Tree DNA has group projects and group project administrators. That is something. I too am an advocate for improving education opportunities in many forms though.

  5. I see a few really exotic shipping costs for other places by 23 and me — Poland $94.95, — Serbia and Bosnia both $118.95 –and Macadavia? is $114.96 and lots more in the same price range. Thanks for FTDNA
    Spencer Field, Canada

  6. Let’s not forget that, while 23andMe’s shipping costs may be higher, they give you haplogroups, X matching, fully identical vs. half identical, the ability to compare all matches who are sharing against each other, Neanderthal and health results which you don’t get with the other two (except maybe X matching at AncestryDNA, but who would know?!).

      • There are more caveats, and I intentionally didn’t want to do a company feature by feature comparison, but I guess it’s too late for that now. 23andMe is the only company that does the health traits, so if that is what you want, they are the answer. However, this was directed at the genetic genealogy usage of the tests, not the medical. That doesn’t mean that part isn’t useful, just that it’s not the primary reason most genetic genealogists purchase the test. The haplogroups without the individual markers are interesting, but without the STR markers and such, not particularly useful genealogically. Same for Neanderthal percentages. Speaking of Ethnicity percentages, Ancestry’s are so far “out of the ballpark” as to be laughable, or cryable, depending on your perspective. Other than the autosomal test itself, 23andMe has nothing more to offer the genetic genealogist. No mtdna testing, no Y DNA testing, no SNP testing, no individual alleles, etc. Family Tree DNA also has projects, and volunteer admins, that can see your results (subject to security settings) within the projects they administer. They can compare people’s DNA, view it within the project, help people who are having trouble and with autosomal, can do things like compile a project table of those who are descended from the same line and who they match – looking for commonalities that might signal a missing maternal line, for example. (This is exactly what we are doing with 2 different lines right now.) This can’t be done at 23andMe. And there are more differences too. Both Family Tree DNA and 23andMe have comparison features the other doesn’t have. One benefit is that you can test at 23andMe (or Ancestry) and then transfer your results to Family Tree DNA for a discount. The transfer price is $69 right now. One last comment relative to Ancestry is that most of the people in the US are trying to figure out where they came from – and the from location is generally someplace in Europe – so not having any European people in their data base is simply ludicrous. The non-US percentage of the 23andMe data base is likely very small as well, due to the shipping costs. So in terms of genetic genealogy, and finding matches that are relevant to Americans (and Australians) trying to find their European roots, Family Tree DNA has the lead, hands down. But, that wasn’t my original point – my original point with this posting was that they had lowered the price but that the price of the test itself isn’t the entire cost story. And that’s without even considering an Ancestry subscription.

      • YES! Roberta, thank you so much for your July 27, 2013 at 3:40 am comment. Your generosity in sharing such information is much appreciated. I know nothing of 23andMe but I can confirm that FTDNA accepts transfers. More important to me, they retest to INSURE the accuracy. They were able to confirm and clarify my results from SMGF for me and correct some minor misinterpretations I had previously received from SMGF. I was able to transfer my Y and mt DNA to but with no retesting. Their counseling was excellent and free but limited in scope where FTDNA’s responses have also been free but almost unlimited. There’s no question in my mind that FTDNA resources are essential for the serious genetic genealogist. Again, thank you Roberta for sharing your comparison between companies. Sorry you had to get into that. Comparisons may sometimes seem argumentative but are always needed where cost is involved.

  7. lags far behind the others with their lack of analysis tools. I feel like I threw away $100 testing at AncestryDNA. They’re having a $79 special right now that I’d love to take advantage of for other family members, but anyone interested in genetic genealogy is wasting their money even at $79 as long as there’s no reason to hope for the powerful analysis tools available at 23andMe and FTDNA.

  8. lags far behind the others with their lack of analysis tools. I feel like I threw away $100 testing at AncestryDNA. They’re having a $79 special right now that I’d love to take advantage of for other family members, but anyone interested in genetic genealogy is wasting their money even at $79 as long as there’s no reason to hope for the powerful analysis tools available at 23andMe and FTDNA.

    • Wow! Thanks for the comment. These are the kind of comments that both help and save money. I was gonna go with Ancestry when they offered the $79 discount but they never responded to my request. Glad they didn’t. I went with FTDNA instead. Hats off to FTDNA for matching the $99 price. Ancestry’s DNA services are no match for FTDNA’s.

  9. There’s no question. I had my DNA tested by SMGF 13 years ago. I found out the results in 2007 through GeneTree. When they shutdown a couple years ago I learned how out of date they were. I was gonna take advantage of the $99 autosomal offer from but decided to wait. I’m so glad I did. Friends had been telling me for years how much more FTDNA offered. After I purchased FTDNA’s Y-DNA upgrade from GeneTree, It made me wish I had found more sites like yours, Roberta, which give us valid comparisons between vendors. I’m grateful to SMGF for my inexpensive Y-DNA 46 marker results and equally inexpensive mt-DNA results. However, my eyes were opened when I purchased FTDNAs Y-DNA and mt-DNA results for comparison. My hats off to them for bringing me into the 21st century.

  10. Another point to keep in mind is that 23andMe offers a 20% discount on multiple kit orders. This drops the price per kit down under $80 (plus shipping) after you purchase the first kit for $99. The $79 sale price for the AncestryDNA test appears to no longer be valid. I just checked their web site and the price is currently $99 per kit.

  11. If you have the money to test at all three (23andMe, FTDNA and AncestryDNA), it’s certainly not a bad idea to do so. That’s what I did, and I got information from each company that I couldn’t get from the others.

    The most frustrating thing about AncestryDNA is that with their huge network of family trees, they are in a position to provide much more to their customers, but they’ve chosen to keep it hidden, just out of reach. If AncestryDNA would allow their customers to open up their own genetic information to the same extent that 23andMe and FTDNA have, it would be a boon to genealogists. It’s hard to understand why they don’t.

    I’m fairly new to all of this, so I will defer to CeCe and Roberta on the finest details, but I’ll echo one of CeCe’s points about 23andMe, namely, “the ability to compare all matches who are sharing against each other.”

    This is a massively powerful tool for genetic genealogy, particularly when used in conjunction with the free service provided at

    I agree with Tim Janzen’s points:

    “23andMe Complete Edition: recommended as initial test; because it has the most comprehensive information and the largest number of testees.

    “FTDNA’s Family Finder: recommended that one transfer their data from 23andMe into Family Finder database. Current transfer cost is $99. [now apparently a bit less]

    “’s AncestryDNA: recommended as compliment to 23andMe and Family Finder if you are an subscriber”

    • I have tested at all 3 as well. The only matches I bother with at Ancestry are the ones that have “shakey leaves” meaning our trees match too – and many of those people have private trees or don’t reply. If they do reply, I encourage them to either transfer to FTDNA or to upload their results to GedMatch. Most don’t. In any case, without comparison tools, because the tree matches doesn’t mean that is the line the DNA matches on. Both CeCe and I have written about that, but she had several personal examples of how it is actually incorrect. My biggest frustration with 23andMe matches is that you have to ask each one to share through a message system, even after they are shown as a match to you. Most people never reply, even with a “custom” invitation that is personalized. So the long list of matches and comparisons isn’t really what it appears. You can only compare to those who agree to share. At Family Tree DNA, when they test, they agree to share, so what you see is what you get. Everyone you see is sharing. Of course, sometimes they don’t reply to e-mails either, but generally, you’re dealing with people who tested for genealogy, not people who tested for health, and my experience has been a much higher response rate and the people tend to know something about their genealogy. I was very pleased when FTDNA began offering the transfers from 23andMe and Ancestry.

      • thanks for the re-education Roberta. now i can do my friend who’s mom is on dawes roll. i also have several friends who are going to test. caught the bug!k

  12. For what it’s worth, I thought I’d share the fact that AncestrybyDNA testing is being offered through GROUPON, the discount program, for $98 which is supposedly a 50% discount from their regular price of $195. WE usually buy restaurant coupons from GROUPON…Pretty good deals, usually. At any rate, I’ve never heard of Ancestry by DNA but I just took a look at the website, Perhaps they’re just another player? I’m not interested in testing with them as I’ve already had 37 markers and the Family Finder test done at FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe. My first test was back in 2008. Today I find myself trying to keep up with these blogs so that I can learn what I’m looking at!!

    • AncestrybyDNA is a very old test the provides you with percentages of ethnicity – but very poorly. It’s been outdated for years, but is still sold to the unsuspecting. It uses a few markers, less than 200, I can’t remember how many for sure, as compared to more than half a million with the tests provided by Family Tree DNA, 23andMe and Ancestry. Very different animal. I had that test in about 2003.

      • Quite a few people have been confused by this offer, thinking that they were getting the AncestryDNA test. I wrote about it last year when it was on Livingsocial (where it continues to be offered periodically) and you can see in the comments that a lot of people were disappointed with what they received:
        They have since changed the wording, so it doesn’t actually claim to be AncestryDNA anymore, but people are still confused unfortunately. I always hate to see anyone venture into DNA testing only to have a bad experience.

  13. I’m curious. . . does FTDNA test say for the whole range of SNP’s or whatever but reveal them only on payment or do they wait to test after payment. IIRC, the last time I sent swabs in, I sent several swabs back with the same kit upgrade.

    The $39 . . . per testing . . . I forget . . . for SNP’s or some such. If I chose 2 of them now and later 2 or one now and one per month . . . would that require a new kit of swabs sent and returned given that I should have a swab or 3 left to test?

    BTW, I’m all for price sanity with FTDNA. It’s been disappointing to repeatedly pay high prices and get little solid info desired as a result. Otherwise, I like FTDNA a fair amount.

    BTW, the Nat Geo version 2 upgrade . . . it seems to me that for those of us who’ve participated early and all along . . . particularly with several upgrades–to participate in that at such an outrageously high price on top of all the other high fees we’ve paid is . . . cheeky and absurd.

    Thx in advance.

      • Speaking of SNPs, a friend who’s been at this a while says “SNPS are made up of a number of STRs” meaning a certain series of STR numbers can indicate that a certain SNP test will be positive. Actually, we know SNPs are single markers and STRs are a series of them. We know they both come from YDNA. Are SNP markers physically INSIDE an STR series of markers (for example could a SNP be found inside GATA-H4) or are they found elsewhere within the YDNA? And do are they or are they not indicated by certain series of STR markers?

        • STRs and their results can certainly be predictive of certain SNPs being present or absent, but that isn’t always true. Sometimes SNPs are present and there is no corresponding STR indication mutation. One of the other bloggers, Rebekah Canada, is preparing a blog about SNPs vs STRs for her blog. I don’t want to steal her thunder, so tune in there for upcoming info:)

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