MyHeritage DNA and 23andMe are two of the most popular DNA testing companies for ancestry. Both can help you learn where your ancestors lived, connect with living relatives around the world, and discover what diseases you may be genetically prone to.
So, how do you decide?
I took both DNA test kits for a test drive, and it turns out that there are quite a few differences between the two. To help you make a good decision, I’ll compare the companies on five key factors. Read on to determine which one wins in the battle of the top two DNA testers.
Build an Extensive Family Tree with MyHeritage – At a Cost
If you are fascinated by building a family tree, and if you want to populate it with as many living and deceased relatives as you can, then MyHeritage DNA is the clear winner.
This is because MyHeritage DNA is part of the MyHeritage global genealogy company, which specializes in helping people build an online family tree from its database of 11 billion historical records. Here’s what the search engine looks like:
You can enter the details of the relatives you already know about, then MyHeritage will suggest other people. These individuals are either pulled from its historical records or from “DNA matches” that it discovers by comparing your DNA with other customers who’ve already taken its DNA test. You can contact and collaborate with those customers if they have provided permission.
You have to pay a monthly subscription fee for MyHeritage’s genealogy service, but this is true for pretty much any genealogy company.
Want to learn more about some of the other great family tree builders? We’ve compiled a list of the best. What about 23andMe? Well, it recently added a “beta” online family tree builder, which means it’s still being tested by customers like you. As with MyHeritage, you can add known relatives manually, and the software will try to find your DNA matches in 23andMe’s customer database. You can also contact those customers if they’ve given permission.
So, why doesn’t 23andMe stack up against MyHeritage DNA on this criterion? Because 23andMe doesn’t have a genealogy service that includes historical records. You get DNA matches, but that’s it. Although, to be fair, it’s free.
DNA Database Size Does Matter! And Both Vendors Have Something to Offer
Speaking of these companies’ databases, there are two key ways of seeing how they measure up:
- MyHeritage DNA boats an impressive 11 billion historical records, whereas 23andMe has none.
- 23andMe has more than ten million DNA-tested customers, whereas MyHeritage DNA only has around two million.
When it comes to genealogy, MyHeritage’s historical records may be more important, especially when it comes to finding relatives: MyHeritage DNA found 14,177 distant DNA matches for me, compared with 23andMe’s 1,239 DNA database matches.
However, to trace your ancient ancestors’ migrations, to assess your ancestry, and to compare your health-related genes with a wider population, 23andMe’s DNA database size could matter more.
Get More Ancestry Features and Detail with 23andMe
Like all companies that offer ancestry testing, MyHeritage DNA and 23andMe will both tell your ethnic composition and where your ancient ancestors lived. But there’s a big difference:
- MyHeritage DNA only tests your autosomal DNA, which you inherit equally from both parents.
- 23andMe also tests your mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA, which only comes from your mother, her mother, and so on) and your Y-chromosomal DNA (Y-DNA, which only comes from your father, his father, and so on).
This means that 23andMe can determine your maternal (mother’s side) and paternal (father’s side) haplogroups, which identify major populations of people who originated in – and migrated between – various parts of the world. One caveat is that only biological males can have their Y-DNA tested, so a female would have to ask her father or brother to take 23andMe’s test for the paternal haplogroup information.
Here’s a look at my maternal haplogroup results:
It’s not surprising that I found 23andMe’s ethnicity estimate to be more precise. 23andMe breaks the world into 1,500+ geographical regions compared to MyHeritage DNA’s breakdown of only 42 regions.
Looking further back, 23andMe’s report will tell you what percentage of your ancestry comes from Neanderthals (which were a separate hominid species that interbred with humans until about 40,000 years ago). MyHeritage DNA’s ancestry report doesn’t include this information.
Let’s cut to the chase. Although MyHeritage DNA has some plus points, 23andMe’s ancestry report is better value for the money since it includes more information at a greater level of detail.
Now we’re moving from ancestry to health. It’s impossible to compare the offerings here, as MyHeritage no longer offer health reports. But we can look at what 23andMe offers.
23andMe offers health reports that explore your predispositions to genetic conditions and your risk of passing on genetic disease risks to your children by being a carrier of an adverse gene variant.
In terms of genetic predispositions, 23andMe tests for 13 health risks and offers polygenic reports for a number of conditions, which means several genetic markers are considered, rather than single genes.
When it comes to carrier status, 23andMe provides 44 carrier status checks. 23andMe may, therefore, be the one to choose if you’re concerned about passing genetic risks on to your children.
It’s not only about genetic disease risk and carrier status. 23andMe also explores certain physical traits (like body hair, eye color, and motion sickness) as well as how your DNA affects your body’s responses to diet, exercise, and sleep. It also includes a Health Action Plan and is generally more substantial.
Here’s a look at one of 23andMe’s Health Action Plan recommendations:
Get More On-Sale Deals with MyHeritage
It’s not easy to directly compare the cost of MyHeritage DNA vs. 23andMe on a like-for-like basis, because the similar-sounding offerings are not identical.
Both companies’ ancestry-only tests are the cheapest options and are very similarly priced. But these are not like-for-like tests because the 23andMe report includes maternal and paternal haplogroups and Neanderthal ancestry. Therefore, 23andMe gives you more for your money.
You have to pay an extra annual subscription for the MyHeritage DNA genealogy service, but with 23andMe you don’t even have this option.
It All Comes Down to You
Although 23andMe is the clear winner in many respects, it doesn’t matter if you’re interested in taking a DNA test for other reasons. It all depends on what you want.
Yes, 23andMe better pinpoints your ethnic origins (including maternal and paternal lines) and tells you more about your carrier status for genetic diseases.
But MyHeritage DNA gives you the ability to build a better family tree. And its tests are cheaper when they’re on offer.
Only you can decide which one wins for what you want, but you can’t really go wrong with either of these top two DNA testing companies.
How does MyHeritage and 23andMe stack up against fellow DNA testing powerhouse, AncestryDNA? Read our triple comparison here.
Which test is more accurate, 23andMe or MyHeritage?
In order to make give you an ethnicity estimate, MyHeritage compares your DNA samples to 42 different global populations. This doesn’t allow your ethnicity results to be as precise and accurate as the ones you get from 23andMe, which compares your samples to more than 1,000 global populations.
Which provides more value, 23andMe or MyHeritage?
“Value” is subjective. But while MyHeritage DNA’s test kits are usually more affordable (starting at $79.00) than the ones from 23andMe (starting at $99.00), the reports you receive from MyHeritage DNA include considerably less information and are less accurate than the ones available from 23andMe. Also, 23andMe updates your DNA results to reflect the company’s ongoing refinements to its ancestry and health testing, whereas MyHeritage charges an annual fee to do this.
Which vendor provides better health reports, 23andMe or MyHeritage?
It’s not clear if there’s any difference in the accuracy of the two company’s health results. But 23andMe tests your risk for more diseases, and your carrier status for more congenital disorders, than MyHeritage DNA does. And while a MyHeritage health test only addresses your disease risk and carrier status, 23andMe’s health test also includes additional information such as how your DNA may affect wellness traits like diet, exercise, and sleep, and physical traits like eye color and finger length. 23andMe also gives you a customized health action plan.
Which vendor provides better ancestry reports, 23andMe or MyHeritage?
MyHeritage DNA’s ancestry reports are limited to providing you with an ethnicity estimate and identifying your likely DNA relatives around the world. 23andMe also tells you about your maternal and paternal haplogroups and how much of your DNA came from Neanderthals. 23andMe’s ancestry reports are more detailed and substantive, and its ethnicity estimates are more accurate, than the ones from MyHeritage DNA.
How do 23andMe and MyHeritage compare on price?
MyHeritage’s DNA tests are usually less expensive in their list price than 23andMe’s tests, and are more likely to be on sale at any given time.