Family Tree DNA Test: What you should know before ordering

Family Tree DNA
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With so many DNA tests on the market, it can be challenging to decide which one would be best for you. Family Tree DNA was one of the first companies on the market to provide at-home DNA tests to trace your ancestry, but there are many other competitors out there now vying for attention. In addition, family Tree DNA offers different from other companies’ in-depth mtDNA and Y-DNA heritage testing, and we will get into that in more detail later.

What about the company?

Family Tree DNA was founded in 2000 by Bennett Greenspan, an entrepreneur interested in genealogy. When he started researching his family tree, he spoke to some universities about the possibility of using his DNA to trace his ancestry, something that was an entirely new technique at the time. However, he soon discovered that this type of testing wasn’t available to the general public, which inspired him to create Family Tree DNA and his business partner.

The focus of Family Tree DNA, in the beginning, was on mtDNA and Y-DNA, which can individually test people’s maternal and paternal family lines since this was the standard testing done at that time. Later, My Family Tree DNA opened its testing laboratory, which is still today.

What about the tests?

While My Family DNA initially looked at mtDNA and Y-DNA exclusively, it does now also offer the autosomal DNA testing of other similar companies. This type of testing takes chunks of your DNA and compares them to other individuals to find common ancestors. Then, you can use this common heritage to find out about your ancestry and identify living relatives.

You have two options to get access to all of the DNA testing available from My Family DNA. First, if you have never done any DNA testing before with another company, My Family DNA will send out a testing kit to your home. The test kit involves using a cheek swab to get a sample of your saliva and then placing it into the included return pack. You will generally receive your results after 4-8 weeks.

If you have already had your DNA tested by another company and you have access to your raw DNA file, you can upload your DNA to My Family DNA to access their testing. In both cases, each of the tests is paid for separately.

Within My Family DNA, you can access group projects. These are projects created by users that allow different people to explore their heritage. For example, some projects focus on common surnames, others on geographical location, and some on ethnic heritage. If you are passionate about genealogical research, this can be a great way to connect with people looking into the same things as you.

If you opt for autosomal DNA testing, you can access the chromosome browser, which allows you to compare your DNA segments to your matched relatives. When you access this data, you will see your DNA matches with their estimated relationship to you, how many segments you and your match share, and more.

Paternal Ancestry – $119

This is the ancestry test that uses Y-DNA to discover your paternal line. Only biological males can take this test. Biological females don’t carry any Y-DNA. Through My Family Tree, you can connect with relatives on your paternal line in the Y-DNA database, and you can even look at the migration paths of your male ancestors. You can also trace your surname (if you are in a culture where the father passes on surnames) to build your surname family tree.

Maternal Ancestry – $159

This test looks at mtDNA to find out about your maternal line. Anyone can take this test because both biological males and biological females will carry mtDNA passed on from their mother. As with the Paternal Ancestry test, you can connect with relatives from your maternal heritage if they are in the mtDNA database. You can also track the migration path of your female ancestors, and you get a personalized mtDNA full sequence video.

Family Ancestry – $79

This is the later autosomal DNA addition to My Family DNA. It gives you a percentage breakdown of your origins, and you can view where each segment of your DNA comes from. You can also use the Family Finder database to connect with relatives who share a common ancestor, up to 5 generations back. You can see your connections with ancient European groups.

Sale
FamilyTree by FamilyTree DNA
  • FamilyTreeDNA's Family Finder test provides powerful interactive tools to help find your DNA...
  • Receive a percentage breakdown of your geographic origins
  • Find out the amount of autosomal DNA you still carry of the ancient European groups: Neolithic...
  • Connect with DNA relatives across the globe
  • Easy to use cheek swab, no saliva required

Family Ancestry+ myDNA Wellness – $119

DNA health and wellness testing is now also something that many DNA testing companies offer, and My Family DNA offers this service now too. It uses your DNA to give you over 30 health and wellness insights. These can be anything from your genes that place you at higher risk of certain conditions to how your genetics influence how your body reacts to exercise and even how it reacts to nutrition. With My Family DNA, you will get access to a myDNA Unlocked app, which will give you a personalized meal and workout plan based on your genetics.

Sale
FamilyTree by FamilyTree DNA
  • FamilyTreeDNA's Family Finder test provides powerful interactive tools to help find your DNA...
  • Receive a percentage breakdown of your geographic origins
  • Find out the amount of autosomal DNA you still carry of the ancient European groups: Neolithic...
  • Connect with DNA relatives across the globe
  • Easy to use cheek swab, no saliva required

Privacy

My Family DNA will never share your DNA with third-party buyers, and they implement stringent data privacy practices to keep your DNA data secure. They are, however, one of the few DNA testing companies that will freely share your DNA with law enforcement. Recently, there have been some high-profile cases where criminals have been caught using their relative’s DNA found on DNA genealogy sites. Still, not everyone is comfortable having their DNA data shared freely in this way.

What do customers think?

My Family DNA has a TrustPilot Score of 1.6 out of 5 (“bad”), but it has received an average of 4.2 stars out of 5 on Amazon. So let’s take a closer look at customers’ reasons behind these scores.

One of the common issues that customers brought up is that the My Family DNA autosomal database isn’t as big as those offered by other companies, which can mean that it can miss some heritage details. As a result, the results can be a little vague compared to others. In particular, it doesn’t have an extensive reference population for ethnic backgrounds other than European, including African, Asian, and Native American ancestry. So for users with these heritage backgrounds, the test may completely miss some of their ancestries. Other customers were frustrated with the vagueness of their family ancestry results, stating that the Family Tree DNA doesn’t give as detailed a breakdown as they were expecting.

Regarding customer service, some customers complained about their results never getting delivered or getting delivered late and not receiving a satisfactory response from customer service. In addition, some customers who uploaded their raw DNA file and ultimately decided not to go ahead with the service found it difficult to have their DNA file deleted by My Family DNA.

On the other hand, there are some things that My Family DNA does well. In particular, the Y-DNA and mt-DNA testing. This type of testing allows you to go much further back when you are exploring your family tree and can allow you to have a much deeper understanding of your paternal and maternal lines. Many customers are happy to have this option that isn’t available from other DNA-testing companies because it allows them to flesh out their family tree and lineage in much greater detail than would be possible using autosomal testing.

Customers are also happy with the lack of additional subscription fees to access other people’s family trees, the fact that My Family DNA keeps your data for 25 years to allow for further testing down the line, and the ability to use the Chromosome Browser. This browser allows you to check segments of your DNA that you share with your Family Finder autosomal matches and isn’t available from most other companies.

Pros and cons of My Family DNA

Pros

  • Y-DNA and mtDNA testing allows you to trace your lineage much further than standard autosomal testing
  • The opportunity to work on group projects with other users
  • The chromosome browser allows you to compare your DNA to your autosomal matches

Cons

  • The database for the autosomal DNA testing isn’t as big as other companies (especially for ethnic groups other than Europeans) so the results can be vague
  • Some customers report having delays with their results
  • It can be difficult to have your data deleted

To wrap up

My Family DNA was a trailblazer in the genealogical DNA testing world. While there are lots of other companies offering the same services now, My Family DNA is still renowned in particular for its Y-DNA and mt-DNA testing, which allows you to explore your lineage to a far greater number of generations than autosomal testing. Unfortunately, while it also offers this latter type of testing, its database is smaller than other companies, and the results can be less detailed, especially for people with non-European heritage.

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Last update on 2022-08-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API