BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front): My recommendations, in order, are:
- Ancestry.com - take their Autosomal DNA test
- Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) - take their Y DNA
- 23 and Me - take their Health DNA test
- Mitochondrial Probably not worth it for most people
Why do I think you might be interested in my opinion on this topic?
- First and foremost: I am not sponsored by any DNA testing company and I don't expect to be, ever. I am not afraid to provide my opinion, positive or negative.
- I administer many DNA tests (i.e. paid for) for family members and in-laws
- I've helped several friends sort through their DNA results.
Below is a list of tests I've ordered, managed, paid for, or consulted closely on:
Autosomal DNA - 14 Tests
- My father
- 4 siblings
- 3 brothers-in-law
- 5 Friends
Y DNA - 3 Tests
- In the early days of DNA testing, I had my father and husband take Y DNA tests at Ancestry.com.
- I had my husband take a Y test at Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) because he had zero matches at Ancestry.com
Mitochondrial DNA - 1 Test (and that's enough)
- 1 Friend looking for her mother's birth family
Most of the above tested on Ancestry.com but I have experience with Y, Autosomal, and MT DNA on FTDNA
BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front): My recommendations are:
- Autosomal DNA Ancestry.com
- Y DNA FTDNA
- Mitochondrial Probably not worth doing.
- Health 23 and Me
Here are the details:
Autosomal DNA is best used to identify cousins who may help you build your tree. It's good in identifing people who are 4th cousins or closer. You common ancestor may have been born in the 1700s. Ancestry.com has two advantages over its competitors:
- Volume. Over 3 million people have tested with Ancestry.com. It's difficult to get numbers from other test companies because they're not bragging. FTDNA has under a million.
- Ancestry.com is in the tree building business. DNA's great but you need a tree to sort out the details. While other sites, like FTDNA have a function to build a tree, there are no databases to support it. They're in the DNA business, not the tree building business. To add a tree, you have to build it elsewhere and import it or type it in. Ancestry.com (for all it's problems) had tons of trees.
- I helped a friend with her FTDNA results. Her mother was adopted and she's looking for the birth family. A higher volume of tests and trees would be very helpful at this point. We used Ancestry.com to build the tree and then put the basic information into FTDNA.
Y DNA is less attractive than it once was. Ancestry.com dropped their test because it wasn't a money maker. Once one male tested, none of his cousins with the same surname needed to test. End of the money trail. However for tracing a male line, it can be very exceptionally valuable in that matches provide a very narrow path for determining how you're related.
Health DNA - Right now, 23 and Me is the only game in town. Their test and reports are straight forward. I want to take this test but I keep using my disposable income to buy AVGAS and more autosomal tests.
Mitochondrial DNA Test: Probably not worth doing unless you have unlimited funds and are curious. There are limited scenarios where this test might help. To read one of those very limited scenarios, read Roberta Estes' blog that explains what she discovered using mtDNA: link. Results may vary!
Keep the blue side up