Analyzing Jewish ancestry isn’t easy. Many ethnic Jews are misidentified as being from their countries of birth without ever discovering that they’re Jewish.
First, a bit of background. Over time, global Jewish ancestry has branched into three primary ancestral lines: Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and Mizrahi. There are no definitive dividing lines, but roughly, Ashkenazi Jews (about 75% of the Jewish population) originate in Central and Eastern Europe, Sephardic Jews (about 20%) come from Spain and Portugal, and Mizrahi Jews (about 5%) originate in the Middle East.
Knowing that my father is an Ashkenazi Jew, I wanted to know how far back my Ashkenazi ancestry goes and to learn about the genetic predispositions to disease that come courtesy of my Jewish DNA.
To do so, I spent weeks researching dozens of DNA tests to find the best ancestry DNA tests for Ashkenazi Jewish heritage. Read on to learn more.
Short on Time? Here are our top DNA tests for Ashkenazi Jewish heritage
What I Looked For in the Best Ashkenazi Jewish Heritage Tests
The determine the best DNA tests for Ashkenazi Jewish heritage, we looked at several important criteria:
- Geography accuracy – I ensured that each test performed DNA analysis of family lines and geographical regions known to be populated by Ashkenazi Jews. Plus, a comparison of DNA to a large reference population for increased accuracy improved ranking.
- Robust testing methods – Did the tests complement default Autosomal DNA testing with Y-DNA and mtDNA testing to trace paternal and maternal lineages?
- Clarity – I looked for reports that while presenting extensive conclusions, did so in accessible language.
- Time to results – Are they delivered quickly to a secure online account?
- Price – Are you getting reports and services that are worth the cost of the DNA test kit? Vendors that provided the best value-for-money ranked higher than those with a more basic offering.
Our Best DNA Tests for Ashkenazi Jewish Ancestry
- Largest global database of users
- Strong focus on mapping Jewish heritage
- More than 1,000 global regions covered
- Access 20 billion historical records with a subscription
More people have taken an ancestry DNA test with AncestryDNA than any other provider. This increases the probability of getting matches in Ancestry’s DNA database to new potential Ashkenazi relatives.
Different testing companies present their results slightly differently. In the AncestryDNA report, my ancestry came back as 53% European Jewish. AncestryDNA has a large database to draw from, so it can claim up to 99% accuracy when detecting Jewish ancestry.
AncestryDNA has a strong commitment to accuracy and providing a wealth of information to its users. On the company’s blog, you’ll find a lot of information about how best to identify specific Ashkenazi roots once your results are in, such as public family tree mapping and searching specific historical documents. For an additional subscription fee, you can build an extensive family tree and access 20 billion historical records.
- Autosomal, mtDNA, and Y-DNA analysis
- Large Jewish comparative databases
- Discover the migration path of your paternal lineage
- Upload raw DNA data for free DNA matches
Although Jewish identity traditionally follows the maternal line, Jewish ethnicity, heritage, and health predispositions follow both parental lineages. As my mother is not Jewish, I was, therefore, more interested in Family Tree DNA’s large Y-DNA database that details the paternal line.
Bear in mind, Y-DNA tests can only be taken by those with Y chromosomes. However, if you’re interested in your paternal heritage, you can get a biological male relative to take the test for you and discover your Jewish ancestry from your father’s ancestry that way. Results from Y-DNA testing typically take between five and seven weeks.
Family Tree DNA also offers mt-DNA testing – which can be taken by both males and females – to determine your maternal ancestry. Plus, there is also the Familial Ancestry test which can tell you your ethnic and geographic origins from over 60 reference populations, as well as identifying DNA matches.
The Jewish Ancestry result should be pretty close to that of AncestryDNA, give or take a percentage or two for Ashkenazi heritage. The in-depth results include a map graphic of the migration patterns of your ancestors, going back hundreds of years.
- Deep genetic ancestry of autosomal DNA, mt-DNA, and Y-DNA
- Affordable whole-genome sequencing
- Health and Ancestry insights
- Genome exploration tools
Unlike the other ancestry tests on this list, Nebula Genomics offers whole-genome sequencing, meaning they identify all genetic markers to fully reveal where you come from and what makes you, you.
Nebula Genomics provides a detailed ancestry breakdown based on your autosomal DNA. Plus, in partnership with Family Tree DNA, your given access to the world’s largest Y-DNA and mt-DNA databases. This enables you to trace your Jewish heritage on your maternal and paternal lines, as well as explore ancestral migration patterns, find potential relatives through DNA matching, and build your family tree.
Additionally, with whole-genome sequencing, you also get health risk reports for developing certain diseases, such as cancers, and your carrier status for congenital conditions. Unlike other DNA tests, whole-genome sequencing works equally well for people of all ethnicities, including Ashkenazi Jewish.
- Analysis of Jewish ancestry haplogroups
- Wide coverage of indigenous peoples
- Ancestry insights as far back as 100,000 years
- List of contactable living relatives
Of the tests I’ve examined, iGENEA is among the most expensive. However, the results seem accurate and are nicely laid out. The ancestry analysis includes Ashkenazi sub-haplogroups for a percentage breakdown of your Jewish heritage. Plus you get insights going back 100,000 years, depending on what test you choose.
You can also get a list of living relatives (DNA matches), whom you can contact by email if they have consented. In short, iGENEA ostensibly offers a premium genealogy experience, but at a high price point that might be off-putting for some potential customers, when cheaper options are available.
- mtDNA and Y-DNA analysis
- 2,000+ regions covered to determine ancestry down to 0.1%
- Large database of DNA samples and DNA matching
- 30+ trait reports
Although 23andMe’s ancestry DNA test compares your sample to a large database, it has no particular focus on the Jewish community. However, you do get an extensive and accurate ancestry estimate down to 0.1%, from across over 2,000 global locations.
It can take as little as just two weeks to receive your 23andMe results, and while you will get an estimate of your Ashkenazi Jewish heritage (which may be slightly higher than given by other providers), you don’t get any additional information about the countries in which your Jewish subtype originates.
However, you do get DNA matches and some extra insights such as your percentage of Neanderthal heritage and 30+ trait reports. With more than 80 reports in total generated from your DNA sample and an automatic family tree builder, 23andMe is a great choice for exploring your Jewish ancestry, and beyond.
- Different kinds of DNA testing available
- Offers combined Y-DNA and mtDNA testing
- Analyzes haplogroups associated with Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
- Includes detailed historical context
EasyDNA is one of the most customer-friendly testing services, but its Y-STR Paternal Lineage ancestry test – which is very informative for Ashkenazi Jewish migrations – is very expensive. Plus, the ancestry test compares your sample to fewer global gene pools compared to the other vendors on this list.
There are other ancestry tests available through EasyDNA, including a Duel Lineage test, that analyzes your mt-DNA and Y-DNA at the same time, so you can discover your Jewish heritage on both your family lines with a single test.
The autosomal GPS Origins Ancestry Test from EasyDNA is one of the most expensive on my list, and although the Ashkenazi heritage isn’t stated explicitly, you will get a geographic breakdown – such as 12.5% Southern Levant and 4.3% Northwestern Africa – along with some basic graphics and historical facts.
What’s in the Fine Print?
It’s fairly common for ancestry DNA tests to come with hidden costs, so it is important to know exactly what you’re paying for, so you’re not hit with any nasty surprises down the line.
EasyDNArequires you to pay to ship your DNA samples back to the lab, and while it doesn’t cost a lot, the majority of DNA testing companies, including AncestryDNA and 23andMe, include a pre-paid returns label.
AncestryDNA offers great family tree building software and an extensive database of historical records to further your genealogy research, However, this requires a separate subscription from your DNA test.
If you want to access new trait reports, use the genome exploration tools, or have access to deep ancestry analysis from Nebula Genomics, you will have to subscribe to Nebula Explore Reporting. You can save on subscriptions by paying for a yearly or lifetime membership.
You should also be aware that your DNA can be used indefinitely by Family Tree DNA, you need to pay extra for a more detailed analysis from iGENEA, and some 23andMe customers have reported difficulties when receiving refunds.
How Do Our Top Picks Compete on Price?
For Y-DNA and mtDNA tests, FamilyTreeDNA was my top pick and offered the best value-for money.
The most expensive options are from Nebula Genomics, EasyDNA, and iGENEA. However, EasyDNA has extra testing, and iGENEA offers premium features, which could appeal to some customers.
The health-oriented tests are priced similar to the genealogy ones, with EasyDNA once again being among the most expensive.
Whole-genome sequencing from Nebula Genomicsis the most expensive service of them all – particularly if you add in the cost of membership – but you do get a lot of information for your money, in both ancestry and health.
|Collection Method||Autosomal||mtDNA & Y-DNA||Time to Results||Contact Genetic Matches?||Starting Price|
|Family Tree DNA||Cheek Swab||✔||✔||3 weeks (autosomal) / 5 weeks (Y-DNA)||✔||₪281.56|
|Nebula Genomics||Cheek Swab or Saliva Sample||✔||✔||8 weeks||✔||₪1,065.67|
|iGENEA||Cheek Swab||✔||✖||5 weeks||✔||₪755.59|
|EasyDNA||Cheek Swab||✔||✔||3 weeks||✖||₪602.33|
Discovering the role that your Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry has played in your genetic makeup can be an enlightening experience. I personally never thought that I would connect so deeply with my Jewish identity through a few simple DNA tests. I hope to have encouraged you to dig deeper into your own Jewish heritage, and I’ll leave you with a final few takeaways:
- For general genealogical testing, AncestryDNA, and 23andMe provide the most detailed reports about Ashkenazi heritage at the best prices.
- For Y-DNA and mtDNA testing, FamilyTreeDNA is your best option, especially compared with the health-oriented testers, like EasyDNA.
- For Ashkenazi genetic testing for health, Nebula Genomics offers the most detailed reports and regular updates.
What is Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry?
Jewish heritage is broken down into several different subgroups, based on the geographic locations where those cultures took root and flourished. The Ashkenazi subgroup is the term used for the Jewish population which consolidated in Eastern Europe after the Middle Ages.
What genetic diseases and health risks do Ashkenazi Jews face?
Due to the unique migratory and inbreeding patterns of the Ashkenazi Jewish culture, Ashkenazi DNA holders are particularly at risk for a variety of congenital diseases. The most common is Gaucher disease — a buildup of fat in various organs like the spleen and liver. Other diseases that commonly affect the Ashkenazi community are Cystic Fibrosis, Tay-Sachs disease, and Spinal Muscular Atrophy.
What are the main types of Jewish ancestry?
- Ashkenazi — Jews from Eastern Europe (Germany, Poland, Ukraine, etc.)
- Sephardic — Jews from the Iberian Peninsula (Spain, Portugal, North Africa, etc.)
- Mizhari — Jews from eastern Europe (Middle East, Turkey, Iran, etc.)
Which DNA test is best at analyzing Jewish heritage?
The best autosomal DNA tests for identifying Jewish heritage is AncestryDNA. It will give you accurate assessments of how much Jewish DNA you have. For Y-DNA (paternal lineage) or mtDNA (maternal lineage) testing, FamilyTreeDNA offers the best analysis for tracking and understanding the geography and migration of your Jewish lineage.
What are the benefits of discovering your Jewish ancestry?
Apart from learning about your heritage, understanding your Jewish ancestry can provide you with valuable medical insights to help prevent diseases that disproportionately affect those in the Ashkenazi community. And if you use a DNA service which also has a genealogical component — like AncestryDNA — you can find and connect with living relatives who are also part of your Jewish family.