Autosomal DNA Transfers – Which Companies Accept Which Tests?

Somehow, I missed the announcement that Family Tree DNA now accepts uploads from MyHeritage.

Update – Shortly after the publication of this article, I was notified that the MyHeritage download has been disabled and they are working on the issue which is expected to be resolved shortly.  Family Tree DNA is ready when the MyHeritage downloads are once again functional.

Other people may have missed a few announcements too, or don’t understand the options, so I’ve created a quick and easy reference that shows which testing vendors’ files can be uploaded to which other vendors.

Why Transfer?

Just so that everyone is on the same page, if you test your autosomal DNA at one vendor, Vendor A, some other vendors allow you to download your raw data file from Vendor A and transfer your results to their company, Vendor B.  The transfer to Vendor B is either free or lower cost than testing from scratch.  One site, GedMatch, is not a testing vendor, but is a contribution/subscription comparison site.

Vendor B then processes your DNA file that you imported from Vendor A, and your results are then included in the database of Vendor B, which means that you can obtain your matches to other people in Vendor B’s data base who tested there originally and others who have also transferred.  You can also avail yourself of any other tools that Vendor B provides to their customers.  Tools vary widely between companies.  For example, Family Tree DNA, GedMatch and 23andMe provide chromosome browsers, while Ancestry does not.  All 3 major vendors (Family Tree DNA, Ancestry and 23andMe) have developed unique offerings (of varying quality) to help their customers understand the messages that their unique DNA carries.

Ok, Who Loves Whom?

The vendors in the left column are the vendors performing the autosomal DNA tests. The vendor row (plus GedMatch) across the top indicates who accepts upload transfers from whom, and which file versions. Please consider the notes below the chart.

  • Family Tree DNA accepts uploads from both other major vendors (Ancestry and 23andMe) but the versions that are compatible with the chip used by FTDNA will have more matches at Family Tree DNA. 23andMe V3, Ancestry V1 and MyHeritage results utilize the same chip and format as FTDNA. 23andMe V4 and Ancestry V2 utilize different formats utilizing only about half of the common locations. Family Tree DNA still allows free transfers and comparisons with other testers, but since there are only about half of the same DNA locations in common with the FTDNA chip, matches will be fewer. Additional functions can be unlocked for a one time $19 fee.
  • Neither Ancestry, 23andMe nor Genographic accept transfer data from any other vendors.
  • MyHeritage does accept transfers, although that option is not easy to find. I checked with a MyHeritage representative and they provided me with the following information:  “You can upload an autosomal DNA file from your profile page on MyHeritage. To access your profile page, login to your MyHeritage account, then click on your name which is displayed towards the top right corner of the screen. Click on “My profile”. On the profile page you’ll see a DNA tab, click on the tab and you’ll see a link to upload a file.”  MyHeritage has also indicated that they will be making ethnicity results available to individuals who transfer results into their system in May, 2017.
  • LivingDNA has just released an ethnicity product and does not have DNA matching capability to other testers.  They also do not provide a raw DNA download file for customers, but hope to provide that feature by mid-May. Without a download file, you cannot transfer your DNA to other companies for processing and inclusion in their data bases. Living DNA imputes DNA locations that they don’t test, but the initial download, when available, file will only include the DNA locations actually tested. According to LivingDNA, the Illumina GSA chip includes 680,000 autosomal markers. It’s unclear at this point how many of these locations overlaps with other chips.
  • WeGene’s website is in Chinese and they are not a significant player, but I did include them because GedMatch accepts their files. WeGene’s website indicates that they accept 23andme uploads, but I am unable to determine which version or versions. Given that their terms and conditions and privacy and security information are not in English, I would be extremely hesitant before engaging in business. I would not be comfortable in trusting on online translation for this type of document. SNPedia reports that WeGene has data quality issues.
  • GedMatch is not a testing vendor, so has no entry in the left column, but does provide tools and accepts all versions of files from each vendor that provides files, to date, with the exception of the Genographic Project.  GedMatch is free (contribution based) for many features, but does have more advanced functions available for a $10 monthly subscription.
  • The Genographic Project tested their participants at the Family Tree DNA lab until November 2016, when they moved to the Helix platform, which performs an exome test using a different chip.
  • The Ancestry V2 chip began processing in May 2016.
  • The 23andMe V3 chip began processing in December 2010. The 23andMe V4 chip began processing in November 2013.

Incompatible Files

Please be aware that vendors that accept different versions of other vendors files can only work with the tested locations that are in the files generated by the testing vendors unless they use a technique called imputation.

For example, Family Tree DNA tests about 700,000 locations which are on the same chip as MyHeritage, 23andMe V3 and Ancestry V1. In the later 23andMe V4 test, the earlier 23andMe V2 and the Ancestry V2 tests, only a portion of the same locations are tested.  The 23andMe V4 and Ancestry V2 chips only test about half of the file locations of the vendors who utilize the Illumina OmniExpress chip, but not the same locations as each other since both the Ancestry V2 and 23andMe V4 chips are custom. 23andMe and Ancestry both changed their chips from the OmniExpress version and replaced genealogically relevant locations with medically relevant locations, creating a custom chip.

I know this if confusing, so I’ve created the following chart for chip and test compatibility comparison.

You can easily see why the FTDNA, Ancestry V1, 23andMe V3 and MyHeritage tests are compatible with each other.  They all tested utilizing the same chip.  However, each vendor then applies their own unique matching and ethnicity algorithms to customer results, so your results will vary with each vendor, even when comparing ethnicity predictions or matching the same two individuals to each other.

Apples to Apples to Imputation

It’s difficult for vendors to compare apples to apples with non-compatible files.

I wrote about imputation in the article about MyHeritage, here. In a nutshell, imputation is a technique used to infer the DNA for locations a vendor doesn’t test (or doesn’t receive in a transfer file from another vendor) based on the location’s neighboring DNA and DNA that is “normally” passed together as a packet.

However, the imputed regions of DNA are not your DNA, and therefore don’t carry your mutations, if any.

I created the following diagram when writing the MyHeritage article to explain the concept of imputation when comparing multiple vendors’ files showing locations tested, overlap and imputed regions. You can click to enlarge the graphic.

Family Tree DNA has chosen not to utilize imputation for transfer files and only compares the actual DNA locations tested and uploaded in vendor files, while MyHeritage has chosen to impute locations for incompatible files. Family Tree DNA produces fewer, but accurate matches for incompatible transfer files.  MyHeritage continues to have matching issues.

MyHeritage may be using imputation for all transfer files to equalize the files to a maximum location count for all vendor files. This is speculation on my part, but is speculation based on the differences in matches from known compatible file versions to known matches at the original vendor and then at MyHeritage.

I compared matches to the same person at MyHeritage, GedMatch, Ancestry and Family Tree DNA. It appears that imputed matches do not consistently compare reliably. I’m not convinced imputation can ever work reliably for genetic genealogy, because we need our own DNA and mutations. Regardless, imputation is in its infancy today.

To date, two vendors are utilizing imputation. LivingDNA is using imputation with the GSA chip for ethnicity, and MyHeritage for DNA matching.

Summary

Your best results are going to be to test on the platform that the vendor offers, because the vendor’s match and ethnicity algorithms are optimized for their own file formats and DNA locations tested.

That means that if you are transferring an Ancestry V1 file, a 23andMe V3 file or a MyHeritage file, for example, to Family Tree DNA, your matches at Family Tree DNA will be the same as if you tested on the FTDNA platform.  You do not need to retest at Family Tree DNA.

However, if you are transferring an Ancestry V2 file or 23andMe V4 file, you will receive some matches, someplace between one quarter and half as compared to a test run on the vendor’s own chip. For people who can’t be tested again, that’s certainly better than nothing, and cross-chip matching generally picks up the strongest matches because they tend to match in multiple locations. For people who can retest, testing at Family Tree DNA would garner more matches and better ethnicity results for those with 23andMe V2 and V4 tests as well as Ancestry V2 tests.

For absolutely best results, swim in all of the major DNA testing pools, test as many relatives as possible, and test on the vendor’s Native chip to obtain the most matches.  After all, without sharing and matching, there is no genetic genealogy!

34 thoughts on “Autosomal DNA Transfers – Which Companies Accept Which Tests?

  1. More than a year ago I transferred my Geno 2.0 data to FTDNA, where I had also tested my autosomal DNA. Nothing seemed to show up as additional matches due to the Geno 2.0 data transfer. I had an absurd exchange of emails with the people at FTDNA trying to find out how I could identify where in the FTDNA results I could see the data from Geno 2.0. It was like having a conversation with Sean Spicer. I finally gave up and still don’t know how I benefited from transferring the data from Geno 2.0 to FTDNa. If I even did at all.

  2. I made a Y – 12 markers and full sequence MtDNA test. Recently I made the Family Finder test and the results were really marvelous but when the new version of my origins tool came it blew my mind out.

    Will updating my tests with a Big Y test could refine even more my Autosomal DNA results?

    Thanks in advance for your accurate response;

    Martin

  3. Roberta,
    FYI — Family Tree DNA currently does *not* accept transfers from MyHeritage. Only the following are accepted currently:

    1. 23andMe© V3
    2. 23andMe© V4
    3. AncestryDNA™ V1
    4. AncestryDNA™ V2

    When I inquired about this last week, this is the response I received from FTDNA customer support (on 4/6/2017):

    “We do have plans to allow myHeritage transfers but do not have an estimated date this will be available.”

    –Thomas

    • I just spoke with FTDNA’s Director of Development who indicated that while they were initially accepting downloads beginning on March 26th, MyHeritage has currently disabled the downloads and is working on an issue. They hope that this is resolved shortly and are ready when MyHeritage once again makes downloads available. Obviously I didn’t know that and have added an update note in the article. Thank you for the heads up.

      • I was assisting a potential group project member who already had his raw data file downloaded from MyHeritage, but FTDNA still will not accept it… Perhaps there is an issue with the current format of the download file from MyHeritage? In any case, I certainly hope it will be resolved soon. 🙂

  4. What is going on at FTDNA? I can’t access any of the kits that I manage! I have been calling them for two days now and only get a busy signal. I am “dead in the water” until I get this problem solved!

    • They don’t test, so there is no download. You can upload there, but they only do ethnicity. Be sure you understand that the purpose of their site is to gather your DNA data for medical purposes, including for products that Big Pharm can later sell. At least they are very straightforward about this.

  5. geni.com does sell tests but they are the myheritage tests. you can transfer ancestrydna, familytreedna and 23andme to geni.com. Even though it is now owned by myheritage the matches at geni are only for those who have dna tests purchased or transferred. The matches are different than those on myheritage.

  6. I have seen a few posts about people uploading genes for good at gedmatch. I understand the matches might be less because the file has tested less in comparison to the other companies. However it does offer a free test for someone who does not have the funds to purchase a test and can get them on gedmatch if that is the goal.

  7. I hope this isn’t a silly question. I am new to this. But you speak of V1, V2, V3, V4 files which the different companies use. I’ve taken the AncestryDNA test and the Full Sequence mtDNA at Familytreedna. How do I tell which “V” number is associated with the tests?

    • I’ve updated the second chart to reflect the dates that the various versions went into effect. Also, if you upload to GedMatch, they tell you in your comparisons which kits are which versions.

  8. I transferred my FamilyTreeDNA.com raw data to MyHeritage.com. I found a new 2nd cousin, Yeah. But haven’t been able to figure out if they have a chromosome browser or any other tools that would make going through the effort worth it. So far only 109 matches and most of them look like transfers from Ancestry.com. I have transferred a couple of kits that I manage at Ancestry.com to FamilyTreeDNA.com. To me, FamilyTreeDNA.com is the way to go for the tools you gain for the new lower transfer fee. I’m still holding out for a chromosome browser at Ancestry.com. Their new Genetic Communities is interesting, but a chromosome browser would have required less coding and data mining and to me, would have been much more beneficial.

    Thanks for providing us a forum for discussion,

    Jerry

  9. FTDNA and My Heritage seem to be using the same vendor so I assume comparing those two companies should get the same results.

    • They use the same chip, but their matching algorithms and such are their own and the same results are not guaranteed. So far, at MyHeritage, the results are not the same as at FTDNA. However, if you transfer a MyHeritage file to FTDNA, the file is absolutely compatible.

  10. Am I correct in concluding that tests on Ancestry’s V2 chip when uploaded to Gedmatch will only match FTDNA kits on Gedmatch for the in common locations, as is the case for V2 uploads to FTDNA?

  11. A quick question that shows my ignorance of DNA: I tested on Ancestry V1 and my mum on Ancestry V2. Both are uploaded now to FamilyTreeDNA, and we show the canonical 3400 cM of shared DNA. However, if the chips for V1 and V2 tested some different segments, why do we still match at this requisite parent/child level?

  12. Hi. Roberta, Ancestry autosomal DNA marker measurements imported to FTDNA drop out remote cousin matches as we know. I have recently seen estimates of remote matches as a percentage of total matches. About 88% – 92%. That would give a usable proportion of ancestry match raw data for further analysis of about 10%, rather than 40$ or more.
    Interested in your comments.

  13. I was accepted into a German DNA Research project last week at LivingDNA and they accepted my AncestryDNA raw data.

  14. Hello Cornelia, I have a colleague living in Australia with German ancestry. He has data obtained from Ancestry.com and would be interested in joining the German DNA Research project – can you provide a web link or email address?

  15. I have been searching around for more information concerning Living DNA. I was drawn to the fact that their ethnicity tool is a lot more comprehensive, particularly for more detailed regions within the UK.

    However, I still haven’t been able to figure out what the exact type test that they offer. I have ssen people call it an “all-in-one” test and I have read through their website but it is unclear what this means: is it combined Y-mT and Autosomal? Or just Y-and mT-DNA? Does anyone know?

    They also don’t seem to have any tools to help analysis, which makes me suspect that Autosomal is not covered in their kit.

    • The report only provides ethnicity plus base haplogroups. It is autosomal, but it does not give matches for genealogy. There are no tools. I’ll be reviewing this shortly. I think it is best used by people in the British Isles with a majority or all of their ancestry there.

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