How it works: Choosing between ancestry family tree and DNA kits

As ancestry companies expand their databases and grow, testing one's DNA and unlocking the past has become relatively quick and easy to do.

So, what's the process for sending in DNA for an ancestry check? Which company should you use? We looked into your options.

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The companies

This was probably the first company that came to your mind. has been running for longer than many of the other ancestry companies (founded in 1983) , and therefore it has built up a reputation for having variety of services, and a relatively large genealogical database. offers several services, two of which are their most popular. These include the family tree option and the AncestryDNA option.

Family tree: Begin a 14 day free trial. After that, pay $19.99 per month or $99 for six months for access to U.S. records on ancestry. You can also pay $34.99 a month or $149 for six months for access to U.S. & international records. The last option is an all-access plan for $44.99 a month or $199 for six months.

Ultimately, these packs allow you to build a family tree, using data that has acquired from U.S. and international records. This is different from AncestryDNA.

AncestryDNA:For $99 (plus an additional $9.95 for shipping expenses), you can order a DNA test kit, which is shipped to your door. In the kit, there will be a vial for saliva collection, instructions, and a return label.

Follow the instructions for collecting your saliva in the vial, package the vial, stick the return label on the box, and drop the package off at your local USPS office. will take 6-8 weeks to process your saliva, and once it's complete, you will been notified via email. Then you can view your DNA results. This feature allows you to pinpoint regions in the world where you come from.


23andMe is a newer ancestry service, but they are growing fast. The company was founded in 2006.

While they may not have a data pool quite as large as (for family member searching/geographic regions for ethnicity), 23andMe has a more focused approach on health screening.

In other words, they check what illnesses you are prone to getting (based on your DNA), how your DNA influences your taste, smell and other traits, and how your genes play a role in your well-being and lifestyle choices.

23andMe offers two main services, one of which is solely an ancestry service and the other of which is a combined health and ancestry service.

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23andMe ancestry services function very similarity to's. The first step is choosing whether you want just an ancestry kit, or a health and ancestry kit.

The ancestry kit, as evident in the name, only deals with ancestry. This includes a breakdown of your global ancestry by percentages and connecting you with DNA relatives. This package is $99, not including $10 in shipping expenses. You can pay this fee online and the kit will be shipped to you.

Alternatively, you can buy a physical 23andMe kit in most Walgreens, Walmart and Target stores for $30. Then you register the kit online and pay either $69 for the ancestry screening or $169 for the ancestry and health screening.

The rest is very similar to Follow the instructions, spit in the vial, ship the vial off. In 2-4 weeks, you'll have your results.

Family Tree DNA

Founded in 1999, Family Tree DNA takes a somewhat different approach to ancestry.

First and foremost, it lets you share your genealogical and genetic info with a project, where you can then reveal the shared lineage of families. It can also test up to three different parts of your DNA, depending on which versions of the test you pay for.

Family Tree DNA can also test more than just your autosomes (22 of your 23 chromosomes containing DNA that you share with people on both sides of your family). If you pay the extra fees, Family Tree DNA can test your mtDNA and yDNA (if you're a man).

The mtDNA comes from your mother and the yDNA comes from your father. These DNA types can supposedly reveal migration patterns of your ancient ancestors.

As with the previous companies, Family Tree DNA offers several services, each of which can be viewed here.

The base prices for the yDNA, the autosomal DNA, and the mtDNA are $169, $79, and $199, respectively. Doing all three will set you back about $447. The combined shipping charge for each kit is $12.95.

Once you receive your kit, follow the instructions in the box, swab the inside of your cheek, enclose the sample, stick on your return label, and mail the package.

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