FamilyTreeDNA Testing Kit Review
My Family Tree DNA Packages Start From
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Researching your past relatives and learning more about where you come from is a fascinating process that most will be happy to undergo. There is a range of companies out there nowadays who offer the service of helping you discover more about your ancestors with just a swab of your DNA. Let's take a closer look at one of them; FamilyTree DNA.
FamilyTreeDNA is a subsidiary of Gene by Gene that offers DNA testing services to individuals to determine ancestry. With the world's most comprehensive DNA database, Family Tree DNA is the market leader for Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA testing and ranks fourth when it comes to autosomal DNA tests.
Although most companies outsource DNA testing, FamilyTree DNA has its own facilities in Houston, Texas. At their top-notch CLIA-certified and CAP-accredited laboratory, they store samples and process tests, led by a team of recognized industry experts that ensures the highest standards. By using state-of-the-art technology, including HumanOmniExpress-24 chip and NovaSeq Sequencing System, FamilyTree DNA possesses the most substantial amount of samples and, consequently, delivers accurate results.
Since 2007 onwards, FamilyTree DNA has forged strategic partnerships, which allowed them to access international markets.
FamilyTree DNA offers three types of DNA tests as follows:
Family Finder Test
Focused on autosomal DNA, which comes from both bloodlines, the Family Finder test is tailored to find matching ancestry in the extensive database. Results for all of your ancestral lines up to the last five-generations and sometimes more will be registered within this test.
You also receive a breakdown of your overall ethnic ancestry in percentages through their report called myOrigins.
Also called the Y-DNA test, the sex chromosome "Y" is passed on from father to son. This test will allow the identification of male relatives who share ancestors in your direct paternal line, i.e. your father’s father’s father, etc. going back hundreds of years. Testing will also reveal your paternal haplogroup, which can reveal the ancient migration routes of your paternal ancestors.
There are three options available and the difference is how many short tandem repeats they consider (STR’s). An STR is repeating nucleotides in your DNA and they look for matches with others to indicate a genetic relationship. We’ll go into more detail about the differences in the prices and details section.
FamilyTree DNA also offers mitochondrial DNA, mtDNA, which is inherited from mother to child. Males receiving mtDNA from their mothers do not pass it on to their children. Similar to the Y-DNA, the mtDNA focuses on investigating your maternal line, identifies living relatives, and can also provide insight on migration routes for maternal ancestors.
Pros and Cons
- Easy to use cheek swabs
- Results available from 2 weeks from receiving samples
- Will ship test kits to more countries than other testing companies
- Huge database to discover worldwide results
- In-house lab guarantees minimal manipulation of your sample.
- Affordable prices and seasonal discounts for all tests
- Industry experts that ensure accuracy
- Includes many tools for working with your genetic matches
- Provides email addresses for your matches instead of forcing you to use a testing company’s communications system
- Protects your DNA data storing it for 25 years in-lab with no extra cost.
- No health screening DNA test
- Their database is still not the largest in the market
- Ethnic ancestry breakdown is less detiled than that of 23andMe
Collecting Your DNA
Collecting your DNA with FamilyTree is simple.
First, you need to order a DNA kit online. It consists of two cotton swabs and two vials which should be used by the same person. The containers include a fluid to avoid bacteria from growing and damaging the sample, regardless of the weather at the time. You merely need to swab the inside of your cheeks with convenient 'snap-off' swabs and return the sample, which will remain fresh and intact for months.
Inside the kit, you will also find specific instructions in several languages for collecting your DNA sample and a consent form, which allows FamilyTree DNA to process your data.
Once you are done, you have to send back to FamilyTRee DNA the vials and the signed consent form in the self-addressed envelope that is included in the kit. However, orders outside the U.S. do not include return shipping.
Depending on the type of test, results will be ready between 2-8 weeks. You will get an email notification to check on the FamilyTree DNA website.
In the event that you already have a kit and you wish to order further testings, upgrades or add-ons, you need to sign in to your existing account and order from there.
Another exciting option that FamilyTree provides is the possibility to order a DNA kit as a gift to someone else. Once you purchase the package, you only have to ship it to the person you want to gift it to.
How Fast Do Results Come Back?
Once you mail your kit, it takes roughly 5-7 seven business days to arrive for U.S. and Canada. Packages shipped from overseas might take between 3-5 weeks, depending on the origin.
When FamilyTreeDNA receives your sample, you will be notified via the registered email address on your account. The sample goes straight into the lab, and processing times depend on the type of test(s) required.
Result processing times:
- Family Finder results roughly take 2 to 4 weeks
- mtDNA results roughly take 6 to 8 weeks
- Y-DNA results roughly take 3 to 6 weeks
What Do the Results Include?
FamilyTree DNA results include:
- myOrigins – a mapping tool providing specific ethnic data and geographic breakdown of regions where your ancestors came from
- ancientOrigins – this tool specifies the amount of autosomal DNA you carry from ancient European civilizations.
- Family Matching – an enhanced aspect that allows you to organize confirmed DNA matches according to maternal and paternal bloodlines
- Chromosome Browser – a tool for comparing matching bits of DNA (segments) with your genetic matches
Matching With Relatives
To be able to use the Family Matching System, you need to link the accounts of other family members that have taken the Family Finder test with FamilyTreeDNA.
It is possible to link Parents, Grandparents, Great Grandparents, first, second and third Cousins, and a variety of other distant relatives. Adding more of them will assign more matches to your Maternal/Paternal lists.
This all means that the more family members who have joined the site and provided a DNA sample, the more you will find out about your relatives now and in the past. It's a good idea to encourage others to use the service once you have found it useful.
Over time you will hopefully see more and more information being added to your account as you delve further into your family tree.
How FamilyTree DNA Protects Your Privacy
FamilyTree DNA has an excellent data protection record. They allow you to choose how your genetic information is used and what can be shared with others. All data is stored under industry-standard security practices: your DNA sample, your DNA results, and other personal details that are required to open an account with them. As well, samples and results are stored with a specific system that is not readily identifiable, i.e., no names on your vials.
No information is shared with third parties unless it's required by a valid subpoena, a court order, or your explicit consent. Family Tree DNA does allow law enforcement to search its database in very limited situations. You can, however, opt-out of all Law Enforcement Matching in your Account Settings. The Privacy Statement is available on the company’s website for further review.
If you select FamilyTree DNA to research your history, you won't need to worry at all about your privacy. It is well secured, and you can rest at ease knowing this.
FamilyTree DNA Prices and Details
As mentioned above, the company offers affordable prices and seasonal discounts. With regular prices starting at just $79 it's an excellent value for money. The company frequently provides deals depending on seasons where you can take advantage of getting a better price. Let’s delve into the details of each package now.
The Family Finder testis usually priced at $79, but it may sometimes be sale-priced for less. Let’s take a look at what that price gets you:
- Percentage breakdown of your genetic origins
- Match with your DNA relatives and have the chance to connect with them
- Understand your potential connection with ancient European groups
- Comparison of your DNA with analysis of segments matching with others
This pack is ideal for those who seek knowledge about their history and genetic makeup, and could also give you the chance to find long lost family members.
This test is only available for men with three options available.
The first test is named Y-37 and costs $119. This test looks at 37 STR's, as we mentioned earlier. It's the perfect choice for those wanting a reasonable amount of detail in their results.
If you're looking to dig deeper, you can go for the Y-111 package, which is priced at $249.This option looks at 111 STR's, and the results are much more detailed. An upgrade to Y-111 is especially useful for men who get a large number of matches at 37 markers. Testing additional markers makes your matching more precise and can tell you which of your matches are really the closest.
The expert level provides you with the most detail and is for people who are serious about knowing everything they can about their paternal line ancestry. Big Y-700 looks at 700 STR's and 200,000 SNPs (Single nucleotide polymorphisms). It's priced at $449, which for the detail provided, is a fantastic value.
- An in-depth look at your paternal lineage
- The only Y-DNA tests that compare your Y-DNA with that of other testers to find paternal relatives
- Access to male ancestors migration paths
- Find out where your surname comes from and trace your family tree to the routes
- Big Y-700 - analyzes 700 STR's and 200k SNP's
- Y-111 - analyzes 111 STR's
- Y-37 - analyzes 37 STR's
These options are for those seeking a better understanding of their male family history through the paternal line. It can give you new connections and a deep understanding of your roots. Depending on the option you choose, you can learn everything you need to know about your paternal DNA history.
The maternal ancestry test is priced at $199. It’s the only mtDNA test that checks 100% of your mitochondrial DNA and provides you with the following insights:
- The only mtDNA test that compares your mitochondrial DNA with that of other testers to find maternal relatives
- A more precise determination of your maternal haplogroup than other tests
- Full understanding of maternal family members migration paths
- Personalized mtDNA explanation video with each test
This option gives you the most detail about the maternal side of your family history. It’s perfect for those who want a full understanding of their maternal line and genetic history.
Note: Some autosomal DNA tests, such as 23andMe, also check a small amount of mitochondrial DNA and (for males) a small amount of Y-DNA. This is enough to define your base haplogroups for ancient ancestry purposes. But Family Tree DNA mitochondrial and Y-DNA tests check a lot more of these DNA types. Their tests define your haplogroups more precisely and these are the only tests that specifically compare such DNA data with others to give you genetic matches directly on your paternal and maternal lines.
FamilyTree DNA is the oldest company in the industry. Having their high tech lab and taking good care of your data privacy, it is a great option to get your ancestry tests underway. Their experts guarantee accurate results that you can match with other family members who have taken the tests.
Furthermore, the possibility to add-on or upgrade your account allows you to start on a smaller investment and build upon it later on. When you order your first test, they will freeze part of your sample and attempt to save it for up to 25 years. That makes it possible to order future tests without submitting a new sample. Besides saving time, it can be a critically important consideration, especially for your older relatives.
FamilyTree DNA is a great option to begin building the history of your family from generations back and save it for future generations, as part of your family heritage.