There are dozens of DNA testing websites and products out there these days. If you are gest getting into genealogy, it can be difficult trying to determine what products are best for your purposes. I have tried out a lot of them in an effort to find the best solutions. The results of my findings are included on ReviewStore. In this review, I put Family Tree DNA under the microscope.
Based in Houston, Texas, Family Tree DNA is a division of a commercial genetic testing company called Gene by Gene. For genealogical purposes, Family Tree DNA provides analysis of Y-DNA, mitochondrial DNA, and autosomal DNA.
Bennett Greenspan, a lifelong genealogy enthusiast and entrepreneur, is the brains behind Family Tree DNA. He was in semi-retirement in 1999 and was working on his family history. He started with work on his mother’s lineage. He recalled two cases of genetics being used to prove ancestry that had recently been covered by news outlets when he was faced with a roadblock in his work.
There were studies out that showed that male descendants of Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings shared the same Y-Chromosome and recent ancestry. When Greenspan wanted to conduct tests within his family, he found that there was no such option available to the public. This led to the 2000 launch of Family Tree DNA.
Family Tree DNA originally just offered tests of mitochondrial DNA and Y-Chromosome STR, like those used in the published academic studies at the time. Their Y-Chromosome tests allowed them to disprove or affirm a genealogical connection on the direct paternal line. In other words, it served as the test Maury Povich needed to further his career.
With the 2006 buyout of DNA-Fingerprint, a German paternity testing company, Family Tree DNA opened the Genomics Research Center in Houston, and they soon moved their headquarters there after originally working in the University of Arizona lab.
In recent years, Family Tree DNA has forged several new partnerships to allow them to expand their services to the worldwide market. Some of these organizations include iGENEA, African DNA, DNA Ancestry & Family Origin, and MyHeritage.
Top Products of FamilyTreeDNA.com
Family Tree DNA offers a broad range of products. One of their top products is the Family Finder. It allows you to figure out where your family is from and who your relatives are. It does this by using an autosomal DNA test that automatically finds your relatives within five generations. Family Tree DNA has a massive database of DNA. They compare your DNA to that of other users.
For men, there is the Y-chromosome series of products that can tell you your paternal ancestry. The Y-DNA Ancestry Tests help you connect on your direct father’s line and uncover your paternal heritage. You can also trace the history of your surname, join free surname research project, and find your genetic matches in the largest Y-DNA database on the planet.
There are three types of Y-DNA Ancestry Tests: Y37, Y67, and Y111. The number in the name refers to the number of marker matches in the test. More markers mean more confidence in the results. The Y-DNA tests are checking the Y chromosome for specific markers. 37 markers can confirm close relationships and is a good place to start. For even greater confidence, choose 67 or 111.
The mtDNA Ancestry Tests work for both men and women by tracing your heritage on your mother’s line. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is padded down to children from their mother with almost no changes. Thus, using the largest mtDNA database in the world you can trace your maternal ancestry. This allows you to disprove or validate siblingship as well.
If you have already tested your Y-DNA with another company, you can transfer the information to Family Tree DNA as long as they used the Sorenson 33 or 460marker test. This includes results from GeneTree, Sorenson’s SMGF, and Ancestry.com. This is a smart move because it allows you to communicate with experts, network with people who share your interests, and join projects.
There are several other transfer options as well. With the autosomal transfer, you can transfer data from AncestryDNA or 23andMe to find new matches in the Family Tree DNA database. Or, you can get additional insight on your ancestral origins and find your relatives by transferring your National Geographic’s Genographic Project information for free.
There are several different pricing points for the above projects. I’ll try to cover as many of them as I can here:
- Family Finder – $99 – This product is best for finding family history, ancestry, and genealogy. It helps with ethnic percentages and family finder matches.
- Y37 – $169 – All of the Y-DNA Ancestry Tests are excellent for learning your ancestry, genealogy, and history. This particular item uses 37 Y-chromosome markers to confirm paternal ancestry.
- Y67 – $268 – This product uses 67 Y-chromosome markers to analyze your direct father’s line. With this, you can connect to matches, get free access to group projects and experts on your lineage, and much more.
- Y111 – $359 – This is the most powerful Y-DNA test using 111 markers. In addition, you get automated updates to your results, free webinars with a professional genetic genealogist, customized customer service, and more.
- mtDNA+ – $69 – This is the mtDNA test of your maternal ancestry. It is best for finding maternal history. With this, you can discover up to 180,000 years of your ancestry.
- mtFull Sequence – $199 – Again, this follows the mother’s line and is good for history as well as genealogy.
- Family Finder + Y67 – $367 – This is billed as “male testing with all the bells and whistles.”
- Family Finder + mtFull – $298
- Family Finder + Y37 – $268
- Comprehensive Genome – $566 – This includes a male specific Y-chromosome test, a full mitochondrial sequence, and family finder. The results identify the geographic and ethnic origin of your paternal and maternal lines.
In addition, there are a number of packages for the transfer of DNA results from other sources. They are priced as follows:
- Transfer Y-DNA33: $19
- Transfer Y-DNA46: $19
- Transfer Y-DNA33 with Y-DNA25 Upgrade: $58
- Transfer Y-DNA46 WITH Y-DNA37 Upgrade: $58
Compared to other sites, all of the above test results are reasonably priced.
Criticism of FamilyTreeDNA.com
I purchased the Comprehensive Genome to get a good idea of all that Family Tree DNA had to offer. I found the buying process to be quite straightforward and simple.
When I got my DNA test results, it was somewhat complicated, and I was not sure what most of the information meant. Fortunately, they do have a personal customer support member who helped me through the results.
Overall, I did not find much of anything to complain about. So, I went to the internet to see what others had to say about Family Tree DNA. I found that the speed of the DNA test result delivery was too slow for some users. You should be prepared to wait since the system is not always quick. If you are in a hurry, you can contact the sales team to see if your results can be fast tracked.
Another criticism is that despite the name of the site, Family Tree DNA does not have the tools to build an actual family tree. Yet, you can do it on your own using the information you learn from the site.
Family Tree DNA has an exemplary suite of customer support options. There is an FAQ that offers information on how to order, the testing process, how to pick a DNA test, and more. The discussion forums are in regular use with daily exchanges and new messages. You can talk about specific site-relevant problems as well as general interest topics like genealogy for beginners.
The site also has outlines of some of the project available and blogs. They include an online glossary for those who are new to genealogical research.
In addition, they have a number of ways you can contact their customer service representatives. You can call during normal business hours (Central Standard Time) Monday to Thursday and 9 am to noon on Friday. Or, you can open up an online help desk ticket.
I decided to try out their phone services. I called at a little before noon on a Friday with the goal of catching them ducking out early. Instead, I was greeted by a friendly rep who was more than willing to answer my questions. Also, they emailed me documentation that answered my questions in even more depth.
If you are not at all concerned about possibly waiting awhile, Family Tree DNA is one of the best options out there if you are looking for an affordable solution. They have the largest database of DNA in the world, and they have a broad range of pricing points to meet any budget. Plus, they go above and beyond with their customer service. I strongly recommend you check out Family Tree DNA.