If you’re passionate about delving into your family history, building an elaborate family tree, and connecting with your relatives around the world, there are a few companies that can powerfully help you achieve your goals through a combination of DNA ancestry testing and genealogy services.
Among such companies, MyHeritage and AncestryDNA are the leaders by far.
Each company has a huge database of genealogy information to help you build a vast and detailed family tree. By matching your gene sample to the DNA of other people in their databases, both AncestryDNA and MyHeritage can find even more likely relatives for you.
So how are you supposed to choose between these two great options?
For some, it may come down to price and speed. All other things being equal, MyHeritage is the cheaper ancestry test, both for the test itself and for a genealogy subscription. However, all other things may not be equal. Each company has some specific advantages and disadvantages that may affect your decision.
Keep in mind that each company offers a range of services. But, for the purpose of this review, I’ll just be looking at their ancestry and genealogy offerings. If you want more information, you can read my in-depth reviews of AncestryDNA and MyHeritage.
I’m going to compare the two vendors in detail, based on my first-hand experience taking their DNA tests as well as my own independent research. I’ll talk you through everything from their sample submission process to the content and quality of their ancestry reports, their pricing, their reputations, and their customer support.
What’s in the Boxes, and How It All Works
Both DNA testing kits contain everything you need to collect and send in your sample: instructions, sample collection tubes, and related paraphernalia, and return envelopes or boxes.
How to Get Your DNA Tested (Through Either Company)
- Register Online. After you buy your test kit, you’ll need to go online and create an account. In addition to your email address and other information, you’ll need to provide the unique code that’s printed on your test kit (either on the box or somewhere inside). This is so they can match your sample to your account.
- Supply Your Sample. You’ll need to wait at least 30 minutes after eating or drinking anything. Then, follow the instructions on your test kit for collecting your DNA and mailing it in.
- Wait for Results, Grow Your Tree. They’ll email you right away to let you know when they’ve received your sample. After that, it takes a few weeks for them to sequence your DNA, interpret their findings, and prepare a report for you.
In the meantime, you can start building your family tree on their website or mobile app, including subscribing to their genealogy service if you haven’t done so already. (If you don’t subscribe, your ability to build a family tree is pretty limited.)
Once you’ve input the names, birth dates, and birthplaces of your nearest relatives, these genealogy companies will start suggesting relatives for you to add, based on matches in their genealogy databases. (You can’t actually add them unless you subscribe, though.)
- Receive Your Report. When your report is ready, the companies will notify you via email. To view your results, just log into their website or mobile app. Your report will spell out everything they’ve discovered about your ancestry and your likely relatives around the world.
Where the Process Differs
- Sample Collection Type. With AncestryDNA, you collect your DNA sample by spitting into a tube. It’s pretty quick and easy – just be careful not to overfill! There’s some liquid in the cap that’s intended to stabilize your DNA while it’s in transit. MyHeritage, on the other hand, asks you to rub a swab against the inside of each cheek for 30-60 seconds. It’s a little more trouble than a saliva sample, but it’s not that big of a deal.
- Postage. AncestryDNA has prepaid the postage for mailing in your sample. MyHeritage makes you pay for the return postage. This means an inconvenient trip to the post office, plus an added cost.
- Wait Time. MyHeritage promises you’ll get your results within three to four weeks of receiving your sample. AncestryDNA says it takes them more like four to six weeks to analyze your DNA and prepare your report. In my case, I got results from both companies in around two weeks. So there may not be as much of a difference as their websites would suggest.
- Volume of Emails. While you’re waiting for your report – as well as after you receive it – both companies will send you lots of emails saying they’ve found new likely relatives for you in their database.
If you’ve subscribed to their genealogy services, this is great. You can just click on the emails, review the matches they’ve found, and add them to your tree.
If not, these emails are nothing but frustrating, because you can’t add these relatives to your tree without a subscription. You’ll also get separate emails encouraging you to subscribe.
I’ve received 45 emails from MyHeritage in the past two months, versus 24 emails from AncestryDNA.
True, I could opt out if I wanted to. But I’ve chosen not to, dear reader, so I can let you know what’s in store for you!
These are the differences I experienced when it came to submitting my sample and waiting for my report. Next, let’s take a look at the reports themselves.
5 Biggest Differences Between MyHeritage and AncestryDNA
#1: Size of DNA Database
AncestryDNA has collected DNA from 15 million people. MyHeritage has collected samples from around two million.
So if you’re looking for your DNA testing company to help you find relatives through DNA matches, those relatives are mathematically more likely to be in AncestryDNA’s database.
#2: Size of Genealogy Database
MyHeritage states that they have about 104 million subscribers and more than ten billion historical records. This is compared to AncestryDNA’s three million subscribers and 20 billion records. So, DNA matches aside, both can offer you a lot when it comes to your family history.
I’d bet you’d be really happy with the family tree suggestions you’d get from either company. But I haven’t subscribed to either of their genealogy services, so I can’t tell you how they compare from a personal standpoint on this variable.
#3: Number of Regions Included in Ethnicity Estimate
Both MyHeritage and AncestryDNA will give you a breakdown of your ancestors’ ethnicities. They’ll tell you where those ancestors lived, and what percentage of your heredity each ethnicity represents.
But here’s the thing: AncestryDNA has broken the world down into more than 500 different regions. MyHeritage, on the other hand, only splits the world into 42 geographical regions.
What does this mean? Well, when calculating your ethnicity estimate, AncestryDNA may be able to more precisely pinpoint where your ancestors came from.
#4: Cost of Services
AncestryDNA’s DNA test costs more than MyHeritage’s test equivalent. And the monthly subscription fees for AncestryDNA’s genealogy service are also higher than MyHeritage’s fees. So, if money is a factor in your decision making, MyHeritage is much more affordable.
#5: Substance and Features of Reports
While the ancestry reports you receive from AncestryDNA and MyHeritage share many common elements, they have their differences.
AncestryDNA offers a feature called ThruLines, which traces your ancestry back to a number of specific forebears. This feature shows how you’re related to your DNA matches (i.e., through which specific family line).
MyHeritage DNA has some unique tools such as their Chromosome Browser, AutoClusters, and Ethnicities Map, as well as a pictorial overview of your DNA matches, which I’ll walk you through in the next section. To me, MyHeritage DNA’s report feels a little more substantial.
What Comes with Your Ancestry Report? What Does It Look Like?
When the big day comes and you find out your report is ready, you’ll run to your computer and eagerly log onto the testing company’s website (or pull out your phone to check their app). What will you see?
The ancestry reports from MyHeritage DNA and AncestryDNA contain many of the same elements. I’ll show you examples of my reports side by side so you can see how they compare. Then I’ll present some unique features from each.
- Ethnicity Estimate. This feature tells you what percentage of your ancestors came from specific areas around the world.
Here’s my ethnicity estimate from MyHeritage DNA:
And here’s AncestryDNA’s version:
As you can see, both reports have color-coated blobs that represent the regions from which my forebears originated. There’s a lot of overlap between the two ethnicity estimates.
However, AncestryDNA picked up on my Southeast Asian ancestry, whereas MyHeritage DNA did not. That’s not to say that MyHeritage doesn’t look for such ancestry. They just didn’t find it for me.
For each ethnicity or region, both companies will give you a bit more context or historical/geographical detail.
They’re very similar in terms of content. It’s just the presentation that’s different. Personally, I prefer MyHeritage DNA’s brightly colored maps to the dark and gloomy ones that AncestryDNA uses.
- DNA Matches. Both companies will give you a list of people who are likely to be your relatives, based on commonalities in your DNA. I’ll show how my lists compare. I’ve redacted my relatives’ names for their privacy.
MyHeritage DNA’s list for me includes more than 11,000 people. (I wonder, can I really have that many living relatives who have taken their DNA test?!)
I don’t know how many DNA matches are in my AncestryDNA list. It doesn’t give you a number. You just scroll and scroll and scroll…
Anyways, on either company’s list, you’ll find each likely relative’s name, how you appear to be related, what percentage of DNA you have in common, and how many DNA segments you share.
If you click on a relative’s name, you can get more information about them, including shared family surnames. You can also attempt to contact them through the company. And if you subscribe to the company’s genealogy service, you can easily add them to your family tree.
- Family Tree. Even if you don’t subscribe to MyHeritage or AncestryDNA’s genealogy services, buying one of their test kits entitles you to build a small family tree online – by manually adding all the relatives you know about. My family trees are below.
AncestryDNA (again, with the gloomy color scheme):
As you can see, they’re not very big…because I’m not a subscriber. If I were, they’d be much larger and more detailed.
Both companies (especially MyHeritage) frequently dangle relative matches that they’ve found for me in front of my face. If I would only subscribe, I could add these relatives to my tree. Alas.
Features Unique to MyHeritage DNA
- Chromosome Browser. This feature lets you choose one or more specific relatives from among your DNA matches and see exactly which DNA segments you have in common on each of your chromosomes.
They’re color coded so you can see which segments you share with whom. I guess this is kind of interesting, but it’s not very meaningful to me as a non-geneticist, and I could just as easily live without it. (Although, from reading the reviews, I know some people find this feature super interesting – to each their own!)
- DNA Match Overview. This is a nice touch. In addition to giving you a huge list of people who seem to be related to you based on shared DNA, MyHeritage DNA offers you a high-level snapshot that categorizes these matches as either close family, extended family, or distant relatives. Here’s mine.
- Auto Clusters. If you’re a MyHeritage subscriber, this feature will show you how you and your DNA matches are descended from common ancestors. Since I’m not a subscriber, here’s an example from their website.
Again – it’s kind of cool. Although, I’m not really sure what I’d do with this info if I had access to it.
- Ethnicities Around the World. This interactive map shows you which ethnicities are most common in any given part of the world. (And, by the way, anyone can use this feature – even if you haven’t taken a test or subscribed.)
You can narrow this down to the level of a specific country or region, or search by ethnicity:
This feature is interesting to explore, in my opinion. I think we usually tend to think of other countries as being pretty homogenous, especially if they’re countries we have no personal connection to. But, in reality, every country is a melting pot in its own way, as this feature reveals.
Features Unique to AncestryDNA
- ThruLines. This is a similar idea to MyHeritage DNA’s AutoClusters. It shows you which ancestors you may have in common with your DNA matches. Here’s the example from AncestryDNA’s website:
And here’s mine. It’s not as colorful. I guess AncestryDNA doesn’t have photos for any of them (or I need to have a subscription).
Most of these potential ancestors (based on my DNA) are ones that I don’t share with any other people in AncestryDNA’s DNA database. But here’s an exception (unredacted because they’re deceased):
If you’re like me, and have trouble visualizing how you’re related to distant family members, this is a pretty useful feature. Okay, I’ve walked you through how these two companies’ reports compare. But how accurate are these reports? How satisfying are they overall?
How Accurate are the DNA Test Kits?
In trying to determine where your ancestors came from, MyHeritage DNA divides the world into 42 different regions. AncestryDNA divides it into more than 500. Why such a big difference? I don’t know, but it seems to me that a greater number of regions should translate into more geographically precise reports.
In my case, AncestryDNA was able to identify some Southeast Asian ancestry that MyHeritage DNA didn’t detect at all. I’m pretty sure one of my ancestors was Javanese, and both AncestryDNA and 23andMe picked up on this. (Want to learn more about 23andMe? Read my in-depth review here.)
Did MyHeritage DNA miss that because of the limited number of regions it considers? Maybe. All I know is that I found my ethnicities estimate from MyHeritage DNA a bit lacking.
I must point out that millions of customers have used both MyHeritage DNA and AncestryDNA. For each company, a certain percentage of customers feel their results are inaccurate, whereas most are satisfied with the accuracy of their results. So my own experience is by no means representative.
Cost Is a Major Difference Between These Two DNA Kits
If you’re on the fence about which ancestry test you’d like to buy. Consider this: Purely from a cost standpoint, MyHeritage DNA is a much better deal than AncestryDNA.
- While both companies occasionally discount the price of their test kits, the price of a MyHeritage DNA kit usually hovers around 40% less than the cost of an AncestryDNA test kit.
- If you factor in the cost of a genealogy subscription, there’s an even greater price difference.
Each company offers a three-tiered price plan. And while the features included in each tier may vary, a MyHeritage subscription generally costs about half as much per month as the equivalent tier of AncestryDNA – and that’s without a significant MyHeritage’s discount.
If you include a discount, each MyHeritage tier is about a third of the price of each AncestryDNA tier!
- AncestryDNA does give you a lower rate if you pay for six months at a time. But even with that lower rate, you’d still pay a lot more for AncestryDNA in a year than you would for MyHeritage.
Now, all this assumes that you’re getting the exact same thing from each subscription. That’s clearly not the case.
In terms of access to information, it’s hard to figure out exactly what features come with each tier of a MyHeritage subscription. AncestryDNA is a lot more transparent.
It’s possible that AncestryDNA gives you so much value with its subscription features that it’s totally worth the higher cost. Personally, I couldn’t tell you.
What I can tell you is how I feel about just the ancestry tests by themselves. In my opinion, MyHeritage DNA gave me a few more cool features than AncestryDNA, plus it costs a lot less.
How Well Does Each Company Respond to Your Questions or Problems?
Most of the time, commercial DNA testing goes smoothly. But when it doesn’t, how hard is it to resolve the issue? And if you have questions, how hard is it to get answers?
Both MyHeritage DNA and AncestryDNA have support pages that try to answer the questions customers ask most frequently.
For whatever it’s worth, the MyHeritage DNA Help Center seems to contain a lot more FAQs than the AncestryDNA Help Center. That may (or may not) mean you’re more likely to find answers to your questions.
Support Request Forms, Live Chats, and Phone Support
Most DNA testing companies have a form you can fill out on their website to request support via email. When I took my DNA tests from MyHeritage DNA and AncestryDNA two months ago, both offered this support option.
But now, it looks like MyHeritage DNA no longer has an email support request form. Their only personal support channel is via phone. My hunch is, they discontinued their email support because it was deeply broken. I still haven’t received an answer to a question I submitted two months ago.
On the plus side, MyHeritage DNA offers 24/7 phone support, at least in English-speaking countries (including the US, UK, Canada, Australia, etc.).
AncestryDNA, on the other hand, offers support via live chat, email, and telephone. Although, the service hours are not clear.
My Personal Experience
I didn’t have any problems with my DNA tests, so I don’t know how well MyHeritage or AncestryDNA would have responded if I had. But I did ask them both questions about their services, via phone and email (back when MyHeritage still offered email support).
- In both cases, my phone support went very smoothly. The wait was short, the customer service representatives were friendly and knowledgeable, and I was satisfied with the answers I received.
- The same was true for my email response from AncestryDNA. MyHeritage, as I said, never responded (it’s probably for the best they no longer offer this service).
Have Others Experienced Any Issues?
From my research, I’ve seen a lot of complaints involving MyHeritage’s free one-month genealogy trial subscription. These customers said their free trial got converted into a full one-year subscription without any notification or their consent. They were just suddenly charged for it. When they tried to get their money back, they failed. That’s pretty appalling, and something to watch out for.
For AncestryDNA, customer complaints are a bit more varied.
- Some had a similar issue with a free trial that got converted to a paid subscription without consent.
- Some complained that their DNA results were blatantly inaccurate for various reasons.
- Some customers never got their results – and couldn’t even get a refund!
No company is perfect, and you can find customer complaints about pretty much any product or service. That being said, based on my experience, I believe most MyHeritage DNA and AncestryDNA customers probably don’t run into any problems (I certainly didn’t).
But when problems do occur, both companies have had some well-documented trouble giving their customers satisfaction. It doesn’t seem that either company is better than the other in this respect.
Between These Two Options, You Can’t Make a Bad Decision
- Both have a very similar benefit: the powerful combination of a DNA ancestry test and a world-class genealogy service.
- Both have huge numbers of DNA and genealogy customers, as well as enormous troves of family heritage data. Either option can help you learn a lot about your ancestry and build your family tree.
- Both have very similar ancestry reports, though MyHeritage DNA has a few more features.
- MyHeritage DNA is less expensive, both in the cost of its DNA test and the price of its monthly genealogy subscription. So it’s definitely the better deal.
- AncestryDNA has a larger DNA customer database, which may mean that they can connect you with more relatives based on your shared DNA. (That said, MyHeritage DNA found more than 11,000 potential relatives for me…and I think that’s plenty!)
So if you’re looking for an ancestry report combined with a powerful genealogy service, you should do just fine with either company. The choice is yours!
Which vendor is less expensive: MyHeritage or AncestryDNA?
Who should choose MyHeritage over AncestryDNA?
MyHeritage offers you basic information about your ancestry at a lower cost than AncestryDNA. MyHeritage’s genealogy subscriptions are also considerably less expensive. Therefore, MyHeritage is a better choice when cost is a key consideration. If you want to learn more about the best Ancestry DNA tests, click here.
Who should chose AncestryDNA over MyHeritage?
AncestryDNA’s ancestry reports are more detailed and accurate than MyHeritage’s ancestry reports. And AncestryDNA also has the largest DNA database as well as the largest database of historical records in the world, which should allow you to find more relatives and discover more about your family’s past. If cost is no object, you’re more likely to be happy with the ancestry information you get from AncestryDNA.