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Over the holidays, I did something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: starting tracing my ancestry. Because both AncestryDNA and 23andMe had DNA tests on sale for Cyber Monday, I decided to get both – and compare.
For the basics, they’re pretty much the same – with an edge to AncestryDNA because of its bigger database.
But the health reports addition to 23andMe blew me away. And it’s worth spending the extra money to unlock a huge amount of personal information you might not even be aware of yet. That’s scary and exhilarating – and makes you consider how much you really want to know.
Dang it, I already let it slip which one I like more. #fairandbalanced 🤷🏻♂️
In This Post
AncestryDNA Vs 23andMe Review
AncestryDNA and 23andMe are mostly similar in how they work: you order a kit, fill a tube with saliva, and send them back in a prepaid box. A few weeks later, your results arrive and tell you, based on your chromosomes, where your bloodline originated.
It’s interesting, the science is incredible, and some of the results might shock you. Both services let you opt-in to DNA matches – peeps from around the world who might be your relatives based on DNA matching.
And both services want more money to give you more information.
And 23andMe is the only service that shows you health information based on your genetics, like how likely you are to go bald, get Parkinson’s, or carry weak gene variations. It’s stuff you have to want to know – because some of it is negative and potentially damaging.
Basically, AncestryDNA is about where you’re from and who came before you and 23andMe focuses on what’s inside of you and what you’ll live with. Which of these you prefer decides which test is better for you.
- Link: AncestryDNA
- Link: Ancestry Family Tree subscription information
- Link: See the latest price for this kit
AncestryDNA pegged my lineage as being from Western Europe, and mostly from the UK and Ireland. What’s cool is they show you where your ancestors settled.
And yep, I’m definitely a Southern boy. My ancestors got off the boat in Massachusetts. Then settled for several generations in Harlan County, Kentucky (hence my name).
They stayed there until my grandfather (dad’s dad) went to Mississippi and met my grandmother (who was from there). My mom’s side is much more iffy. I traced most of it back to England and Scotland. But records weren’t as good a few generations ago. So the information is a patchwork at best.
I know all that because I used the monthly subscription option for a month. You can see real scanned records on your computer. At a certain point, it’s hypothetical because you have to make educated guesses. But most of the information corroborates the story and you kinda just have to go with it.
You’ll see lots of names – siblings, cousins, aunts, and all the rest. Your family tree expands far beyond the “major players.” And AncestryDNA shows you DNA matches – peeps who might be your 3rd or 4th cousins, where they are, and what ancestors you have in common.
That really brings the family tree into modern-day focus. It’s fascinating to trace these things from your homeland and beyond up to the present.
The website has a learning curve and parts aren’t intuitive. But if you poke around, you’ll get a feel for it.
Who should use this service?
This one’s better if you want to dig into your origins, lineage, build out your family tree, and see potential DNA relatives. It’s not so much about you as where you came from.
Don’t pay to subscribe right away!
Though you can subscribe from the get-go, I got an emailed offer for a free month after I ordered a kit.
I started the free month, then added a calendar alert to cancel 29 days later (in Todoist). A month was all I needed. I didn’t pay a cent to complete my family tree.
I recommend activating the free month when you have a chunk of time to devote to this project. It’s absorbing, intense work – the kind where you look up and realize hours have passed. So use the free month when you’re ready to go on a journey.
If you want to work longer, or just need more time, get your free month and then subscribe. Assembling your family tree adds a huge layer of context to the results.
- Link: 23andMe
- Link: See the latest price for 23andMe Ancestry service
- Link: See the latest price for 23andMe Health + Ancestry service
23andMe is all about you: what’s inside you, what you carry, what you’re predisposed to – that’s if you go with the pricier Health + Ancestry service.
But let’s back up and talk about the ancestry service by itself.
They also placed me in the UK and Ireland. But whereas AncestryDNA said I was from “Western Europe,” 23andMe said I was from “Northwestern Europe.” So a little more specific with the regions.
You can also see where your mother’s and father’s lineage began, and your neanderthal ancestry. 23andMe will show you DNA relatives, but much fewer than what AncestryDNA shows. I suspect it’s because Ancestry’s service is more popular, so more people have taken it – thus why their database is bigger.
23andMe is all about the genetics. They show you weird and funny facts about your DNA relatives:
What the health service reveals
But where 23andMe shines is the health reports, which show you:
- Carrier status for genetic variants
- Your health risks
- Traits, for things like freckles, hair loss, and if you have a unibrow
- Wellness reports, for things like if you sleep deeply, muscle composition, and if you’re predisposed to be overweight
This stuff is all completely fascinating. But some of the information could be upsetting.
Would you wanna know if you’re likely to have Parkinson’s, get late-onset Alzheimer’s, or lose your vision to macular degeneration down the road? 23and me shows you if you carry any of these variants in your genes – and MANY more.
You’ll also see if you’re a carrier for conditions like cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, and other syndromes.This stuff can be triggering or fatalistic. 23andMe makes you agree to several disclaimers before they show you everything. It’s up to you if you want to see this stuff or not.
I say knowledge is power and forewarned is forearmed. But even if they say you carry something, there’s no guarantee anything will actually happen because of it. It’s just a big “if.” But for some people, even that’s too much.
Finally, you can see several other traits and how likely you are to have them.
Who should use this service?
Go with this one if you want to take a deep dive in your own chromosomes. Especially the health and wellness implications they contain.
I loved having all this “inside” information. And for that reason, liked 23andMe the most. Because I got to learn more about me.
Save with Amazon
- Link: AncestryDNA on Amazon
- Link: 23andMe ancestry service on Amazon
- Link: 23andMe health + ancestry service on Amazon
But, if you have Amazon Prime, you can get free 2-day shipping. That’s faster than ordering directly (which can take a week or more)!
If you don’t have Amazon Prime, it might be worth it to check if the shipping is cheaper there anyway. It’s ~$13 a month to try. So if you’re going to pay ~$10 for shipping, you might as well upgrade for a month and stream some free TV shows and music, and get free 2-day shipping on other items.
I’d also recommend checking the prices on the AncestryDNA and 23andMe sites AND on Amazon just to make sure you’re getting the best price and shipping options. Plus, Amazon has tons of reviews that can help you decide which is best for you.
There are lots of opinions on which service is better and why, based on factors like sample collection method, database size, and how deep each digs into certain areas. Here are a few more reviews to get you started:
- 23andMe vs Ancestry DNA – SmarterHobby
- Which Ancestry DNA Test is Best? 23AndMe vs. Ancestry vs. Family Tree DNA – My Family DNA
- Best DNA Test 2017: AncestryDNA VS 23andme Review – Life With Gremlins
Take an ancestry trip!
Finding out I’m basically a big ol’ Brit made me want to visit the UK again – particularly the area around the England/Scotland border. I’ve been to London a few times, but never ventured out. I guess I didn’t have a reason.
Now, I kinda wanna see what my family saw several generations ago. And I’ve always wanted to visit Scotland!
Having this added context is amazing. I wonder if England will feel different to me now.
Recently, I completed DNA testing with AncestryDNA and 23andMe, both popular services for tracing your genetic origins. Both gain huge layers of enhancement from paying more (the Family Tree subscription with AncestryDNA and the Health report from 23andMe).
I personally liked 23andMe with the Health report more. It’s a better option if you want to dig into who you are and what’s in your DNA. Go with AncestryDNA to learn where you’re from and build your family tree.
For example, I got an AncestryDNA kit for my grandmother because she wanted to learn more about her lineage as opposed to her own DNA. Definitely read some reviews before you decide. Or do what I did and get both. Maybe it’ll even inspire you to take a trip to your homeland. ⚓
Which test do you like better? Or what’s your deciding factor for which one to choose?
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