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1 User Review
LAST UPDATED: November 5th, 2019

Founded in 2000, FamilyTreeDNA (ftDNA) is a leader in the DNA testing industry, being the first company to deliver direct-to-consumer genetic testing for genealogy. FtDNA is owned by parent company Gene by Gene, Ltd., and is based in Houston, Texas. The testing company offers autosomal DNA testing, as well as mitochondrial and Y chromosome DNA testing, and has its own in-house lab. 

FamilyTreeDNA kits can be ordered online. DNA kits include a cheek swab to collect your sample. It actually includes two vials, one for a sample from each cheek, and a prepaid mailer to return it to the lab (for domestic orders). In four to eight weeks, when your results are ready, you get an email notification to help access your digital results. 

More than two million people have taken a DNA test from ftDNA. 

Keep reading for pros and cons of using this DNA testing service, plus FamilyTreeDNA reviews from consumers. 

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The Good

  • Certified and Accredited In-House Lab
  • Advanced DNA Testing Services
  • Upgrades and Add-Ons
  • Quick DNA Results
  • Raw Data Options
  • Cheek Swab Sample

Certified and Accredited In-House Lab

Rather than sending your DNA sample to a third-party lab, FamilyTreeDNA has its own in-house lab where it manages your DNA samples and results without outside assistance. FamilyTreeDNA’s lab is CLIA certified and CAP-accredited.

Advanced DNA Testing Services

Unlike other DNA testing companies, FamilyTreeDNA offers multiple types of DNA testing for genetic ancestry. On its website, FamilyTreeDNA notes that it has the world’s most comprehensive DNA matching database.

FamilyTreeDNA has three types of testing kits available: Family Ancestry, Paternal Ancestry, and Maternal Ancestry. Here are more details for each of the company's DNA testing kits. 

Family Finder ($79) Ancestry Testing

This autosomal DNA test provides information about your ancestors from up to 500 years ago. Results take two to four weeks and include the following:

  • myOrigins: Discover your ethnic and geographic origins, broken down by percentages, showing what you have inherited from mom and dad, combined. 
  • ancientOrigins: Compare your DNA to samples found at European archeological digs for similarities with neolithic hunter-gatherers, bronze age invaders, and early farmers. 
  • Family Matching: Find unknown DNA relatives with relationship estimates. View, sort, and compare your DNA match results by connecting a family tree with several generations. You can sort through matches to see confirmed maternal and paternal DNA matches, and identify a common ancestor, and use the platform to contact matches and collaborate on shared branches of your family trees. 

The Family Finder autosomal test is good for family genealogists that have hit a brick wall in their family history research. 

Paternal Ancestry — 4 Y-DNA Test Options

With Y-DNA ancestral testing, FamilyTreeDNA shows your heritage on the paternal line, going back thousands of years. Results take three to six weeks and you can also trace the history of your surname as well as your direct and distant paternal lineage. There are four options to choose from with the Paternal Ancestry test:

  • Y-37 ($169) — Examines 37 markers of short tandem repeats (STR) on the Y chromosome and makes you familiar with Y-DNA results.
  • Y-67 ($268) — Examines 67 genetic markers of short tandem repeats (STRs) on the Y chromosome and lets you learn more about your paternal line through matching and participating in free group projects held by FamilyTreeDNA.
  • Y-111 ($359) — Examines 111 short tandem repeats (STRs) on the Y chromosome and is best for people looking to confirm y-chromosome matching at the highest level between two living men.
  • Big Y-700 ($649) — Examines 700 short tandem repeats and 100,000 SNPs on the Y chromosome and is best for expert users. However, the results do not provide more refined matching.

Very few, if any, consumer testing companies offer this many options beyond a basic Y-DNA test. 

Maternal Ancestry — 2 mtDNA Test Options

With the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) ancestry test, FamilyTreeDNA shows your heritage on your maternal line, going back thousands of years. You can explore direct maternal lines and geographic ancestral origins as well as trace your female ancestors’ ancient migration paths. Results take about six to eight weeks for this type of genealogical DNA testing. 

  • mtDNA Plus ($89) — Examines two regions of mitochondrial DNA (HVR1 and HVR2) and identifies basic maternal haplogroup and migration paths.
  • mtFull Sequence ($199) — Examines all regions of mitochondrial DNA and identifies basic haplogroup and migration paths with more refined results.

Upgrades and Add-Ons

Once you have submitted a DNA sample to ftDNA for one of its genealogical testing services, through your account, you can upgrade to add additional genetic data results without submitting a new sample. This cuts down on the time it can take to get additional results. Some DNA companies require consumers to submit an additional sample to perform a different type of testing. 

When you buy a DNA kit from this company, you submit two samples. The first is used for the test you ordered and the second is stored for any future tests you wish to order. If for any reason, your DNA sample stored in the lab is no longer viable, ftDNA will send a free testing kit in the mail to submit a new sample. 

Quick DNA Results

After you send in your completed test kit, FamilyTreeDNA will have your results available online within four to eight weeks. Timeframes depend on whether you are participating in autosomal, Y-DNA, or mtDNA testing, and which test variant you select. Different versions of the maternal and paternal tests come with differing timeframes. The more complex tests looking for additional genetic markers will take longer. Autosomal DNA tests have the shortest wait time, at two to four weeks. 

You will receive an email as soon as results are available. This is a rather quick turnaround time, as many DNA testing providers can take up to ten weeks to process the results.

Raw Data Options

If you have participated in autosomal testing with AncestryDNA, 23andMe (versions 3, 4, or 5), or MyHeritage DNA, you can upload your raw DNA data file to ftDNA's Family Finder for free. This lets you view and sort through genetic matches that you share DNA in common with. This way, if you are looking to connect with a long lost relative, you can use this company's database in homes of finding a match, in addition to your original testing company's DNA database of matches. 

If you wish, for $19, you can upgrade to have your uploaded DNA data put through the full Family Finder test algorithm analysis, giving you access to all of the features: ethnicity results, ancient origins, and the Chromosome Browser tool, all without having to order a new DNA test kit or submit a new genetic sample. 

Cheek Swab Sample

When you order a DNA testing kit from this testing service, it comes with an easy cheek swab sample kit. Many at-home DNA test users find this sample process much easier than the saliva sample used by the AncestryDNA and 23andMe DNA testing services.

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The Bad

  • Privacy Issues
  • Costly Genetic Tests
  • Digital Results
  • Retesting Policy
  • Refund Policy

Privacy Issues

On FamilyTreeDNA’s website, it claims it will not share or sell your DNA to third parties. However, in early 2019, the public learned of a change in the company’s Terms of Service that would allow law enforcement to receive information from FamilyTreeDNA’s lab. The company clarified in a press release that “...law enforcement can only receive information beyond that which is accessible to the standard user by providing FamilyTreeDNA with valid legal process, such as a subpoena or a search warrant.”

Be sure to read FamilyTreeDNA’s current Terms of Service to ensure you feel comfortable with the specified terms before committing to submit your DNA to the company.

Costly Genetic Tests

Although FamilyTreeDNA’s basic Family Ancestry DNA test is only $79, a competitive price within the industry, its paternal DNA tests are more expensive. The paternal tests range from $169 to $649. If you want the more elaborate paternal tests, you’ll need to invest quite a bit of money.

Digital Results

Like other leading DNA companies, ftDNA results are delivered digitally. This can be a drawback for family historians that aren't too computer-savvy or want to have a fully printed result sent in the actual mail. Shoppers should be aware of this before purchasing one of the company's genetic genealogy tests. 

Just remember that digital results especially benefit consumers that are interested in the Family Finder Test because as more and more people take the test or upload their raw data file, you will get more and more DNA matches to review. 

If you are interested in DNA companies that offer a conveniently printed result, sent in the mail, consider African Ancestry (if applicable), 24Genetics, or Living DNA

Retesting Policy

If the sample you submitted doesn't work the first time, the company will use your additional sample. If the sample isn't good enough, they will send you a new kit for collection. If those samples fail, the company will send you a new kit to collect samples, but there is a $50–$75 fee to be tested. 

Refund Policy

Customers can request a partial refund within sixty days of placing an order, as long as the kit hasn't been opened. The kit has to be returned within thirty days of a cancellation request. If returned, customers are eligible for a partial refund less a $25 cancellation fee. 

Not all testing companies even offer a refund. 

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The Bottom Line

FamilyTreeDNA is a leader in the genealogical DNA testing industry. It has its own in-house lab that is CLIA certified and CAP accredited. The company offers a variety of advanced tests, including a basic autosomal family ancestry test, as well as paternal and maternal DNA tests with advanced test options.

The basic Family Ancestry test includes ethnicity results and matching with living relatives. It is competitively priced at $79, but the paternal tests are a bit pricier, ranging from $169 to $649. DNA results are received between four to eight weeks regardless of which test you choose.

FamilyTreeDNA has been involved with privacy concerns after the public discovered law enforcement has access to its DNA samples. We suggest reading through the Terms and Service before committing to FamilyTreeDNA.

Have you used a genetic test from ftDNA to learn more about your origins or find living family? Let us know about your experience with a quick review below. 

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Madison Scott Pleasant Grove, UT

This testing was a bit too complicated to understand however, it did give me additional insights into my family that other DNA testings were unable to give.

2 years ago