Family Tree DNA Review: Is It Really Worth the Price in 2024?

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Expert opinion:

FamilyTreeDNA was among the earliest companies, if not the very first, to offer DNA testing directly to consumers for tracing ancestry. They have been in this business for 20 years and claim to be the best in the industry. However, it is important to be aware that their turnaround time for processing results can be slow, and their customer support may also be slow.
Written by Joseph Levy
  • Ancestry
Written by Joseph Levy on February 19, 2024
  • Ancestry

The First Company To Offer DNA Testing For Ancestry

FamilyTreeDNA stands out in the crowded field of DNA testing kits with its detailed ancestry assessments. If you’re curious about its testing techniques, the depth of insights it provides, or its approach to privacy and data security, I’ve conducted a hands-on review to address these questions.

In my personal evaluation of FamilyTreeDNA, I focused on several key aspects: the comprehensiveness and detail of the ancestry data provided, user-friendliness, the simplicity of the sample collection process, commitment to user privacy, and overall value for the price. This in-depth analysis has highlighted the strengths of FamilyTreeDNA and identified areas for improvement.

In my hands-on experience, FamilyTreeDNA truly distinguishes itself with its robust offerings in Y-DNA and mtDNA testing, which provide unique insights into your paternal and maternal lineage respectively. While the company excels in its testing capabilities and prioritizes user privacy and data security, it does fall a bit short in terms of user interface, which could be more intuitive. Read on to learn more about my experience testing FamilyTreeDNA. 

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A Detailed Look at the “Family Finder” Ancestry Test

For this review, I took the Family Finder autosomal ancestry test, and I can tell you up front that it took longer than I expected to get from ordering my test to receiving my results.

Taking the Test

It took about three weeks for the test kit to get here, but using it was straightforward. Inside the box were two cheek swabs and vials, a bag for the vials, a return envelope, instruction booklet, and a registration form.

FamilyTreeDNA Review

To complete the test, simply follow these steps:

  1. Swab your cheeks as per the provided instructions.
  2. Place the swabs into the vials.
  3. Seal the vials inside the provided bag.
  4. Post the sealed bag back in the provided envelope.

You can easily track the status of your test on the FamilyTreeDNA website. This includes confirmation of sample receipt, the ongoing analysis process, and the availability of your results.

The overall duration of the process exceeded two months. However, it’s important to note that some of this delay could be attributed to the postal service, which can be notoriously slow – hence the term “snail mail.”

Reading Your FamilyTreeDNA Results

When the link to my results finally arrived, I could click the “myOrigins” section to see my ethnic breakdown presented on an interactive map:

FamilyTreeDNA Review

According to these results, my ethnic makeup is 66% African, 22% European (centered on Spain), and 9% from the New World (i.e., the Americas). I could dig down to see more details about my African, European, and New World origins:

FamilyTreeDNA Review

Most of this makes sense since my father is Jamaican (where many people went from West Africa), and my mother was born in the Dominican Republic (to where many Sephardic Jews were exiled from Spain in the 15th century). So FamilyTreeDNA has finally helped me solve the family mystery of my father always telling me that I had Jewish heritage.

Value Added Features

  • Accurate percentage breakdowns of your ethnic makeup
  • Additional historical background information about the regions your relatives came from
  • A long list of possible living relatives
  • Especially precise assessment of your probable ancient European heritage
  • The ability to compare matching segments of your DNA with genetic matches

Other FamilyTreeDNA Test Kits Available

Although I took FamilyTreeDNA’s autosomal test, two others are available:

  1. The Y-DNA test (for men only) analyses the DNA on the Y chromosome that is only passed down from fathers to sons. It allows you to trace the migration patterns of your male ancestors throughout history.
  2. The mtDNA test (for either sex) analyses your mitochondrial DNA. This allows you to trace the migration patterns of your female ancestors throughout history.

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Similar Tests to Consider

  • MyHeritage – probably the most comprehensive ancestry DNA tests available
  • AncestryDNA - an autosomal test with the benefit of having the largest DNA reference database on the market
  • 23andMe - reports that cover more than 1,500 geographic regions

Separate Prices, Some Discounts, and Free DNA Data Upload

FamilyTreeDNA features a straightforward pricing model, with specific rates for various DNA testing options. These include the Family Finder autosomal DNA test, the more expensive Paternal Ancestry Y-DNA test, and the Maternal Ancestry mtDNA test.

Although offering a bundled price for all three tests might seem advantageous, it’s not practical for women, who cannot take the Y-DNA test. Additionally, the listed price for the Y-DNA test is just the starting point. There are two other levels of Y-DNA testing available, which are more detailed and, as a result, carry higher price tags.

The price of the basic autosomal test was discounted at the time of this review, making it a better value. I could have saved even more money by uploading my raw DNA data from a previous test with another provider such as AncestryDNA, 23andMe, or MyHeritage. Uploading for basic results is free, but you have to pay a small fee to unlock all the features.

Payments can be made by major credit cards, PayPal, or (after contacting customer service) by US check or money order. There are no ongoing subscription costs, as far as I know.

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My Experience Wasn’t as Bad as Customer Complaints Suggest

Some customers have complained that FamilyTreeDNA’s customer support is the worst, terrible, or extremely slow. Instead of just taking their words for it, I set out to see for myself.

For self-support resources, I found a comprehensive set of FAQs and a practically useless community forum.

When it came to communicating with an actual person, I never received an email response, but I enjoyed and informative conversation with a live chat agent:

FamilyTreeDNA Review

My assessment, therefore, is that FamilyTreeDNA’s support is inconsistent.

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Do One Thing, and Do It Well!

FamilyTreeDNA has earned a reputation as a pioneer in the direct-to-consumer DNA testing industry, particularly for ancestry research. With over two decades of experience, they are recognized as one of the leading companies in this sector. While their primary focus has been on ancestry testing, they have broadened their offerings to include a health test known as FamilyFinder + myDNA Wellness, which provides a wider array of testing options.

However, it’s important to be aware that FamilyTreeDNA may experience longer turnaround times for delivering results and may have slower customer support compared to other providers. Despite these potential drawbacks, the extensive ancestral insights and the chance to connect with DNA-matched relatives make FamilyTreeDNA a compelling option for those seeking to explore their family history.

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How accurate is FamilyTreeDNA?

FamilyTreeDNA has 20 years under its belt and claims to be the best in the industry. Being around for so long, it has one of the largest DNA reference databases in the industry and has a lot of experience in genetic testing. I took the test myself, and I can say based on personal experience that I found the results to be very accurate.

Can you upload FamilyTreeDNA to different vendors? (e.g., AncestryDNA)

If you’ve previously tested your autosomal DNA with AncestryDNA, 23andMe, or MyHeritage, you can upload that raw data to FamilyTreeDNA.

What is FamilyTreeDNA’s privacy policy?

FamilyTreeDNA says that your DNA belongs to you and you alone. Your genetic information will, according to FTDNA, NEVER be shared or sold to any third party without your consent. I’ve read the privacy policy myself; and while it’s pretty standard for the industry, it’s still pretty airtight.

How much does a FamilyTreeDNA test cost?

FamilyTreeDNA’s pricing is simple enough, with separate prices for the Family Finder autosomal DNA test ($79.00) and the (more expensive) Paternal Ancestry Y-DNA and Maternal Ancestry mtDNA tests. However, there are other tests that you can purchase, and the costs can quickly skyrocket to approximately $400 by the time you get to checkout. For example, the Y-DNA price is only a “starting price” and there are two more (much pricier) options.

Who should consider taking a FamilyTreeDNA test?

You should really consider this vendor if you want reliably accurate DNA test results for your European ancestry, including Jewish ancestry. However, you might want to look at other companies if you’re looking for insights into Asian or African Ancestry. It’s not that FTDNA doesn’t cover these broad regions in its analysis; it’s just that other vendors have a better (more specific) focus on these areas, such as MyHeritage and AncestryDNA.

What type of tests does FamilyTreeDNA offer?

FamilyTreeDNA offers a variety of tests including Y-DNA, mtDNA, and autosomal DNA tests (Family Finder). These tests can provide insights into both your direct paternal and maternal lineages as well as your broader ethnicity estimates and genetic matches.

How is the sample collected for FamilyTreeDNA?

FamilyTreeDNA uses a cheek swab for DNA collection. The process is simple, painless, and can be done at home. They provide all necessary instructions and materials with the test kit.

How long does it take to get results from FamilyTreeDNA?

Results from FamilyTreeDNA typically take between 4-8 weeks, depending on the specific test you’ve ordered.

We rank vendors based on rigorous testing and research, but also take into account your feedback and our commercial agreements with providers. This page contains affiliate links. Learn more.
Joseph Levy
Joseph Levy
Joseph Levy is a transplant from New York and currently living in Cyprus. After receiving his law degree and acquiring eight years of experience in the civil side of American law, he moved to the Mediterranean and shifted his focus from being an attorney to his first love: content writing. Joseph prioritizes not only honest accuracy, but also providing an informative and interesting perspective on whatever he puts his name to.

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