Family Tree DNA Review
Family Tree DNA is one of the leading DNA testing companies. It was founded in 1999 as a division of Gene by Gene. At that moment, its parent company already had over 5 million DNA tests performed for countless organizations and individuals. Its headquarters is located in Houston, Texas.
The idea for Family Tree DNA was born when its founder Bennett Greenspan hit a roadblock trying to research his mother’s lineage. He was additionally inspired by the fact that genealogy tests weren’t commercially available at the time.
The concept of correlating ancestry and genetics came from two previously executed studies, one done at the University of Arizona and the second showing the Y-chromosome match between US president Thomas Jefferson’s male descendants and the male descendants of his former slave Sally Hemings.
The concept of supplementing traditional genealogical research with genetics was already there, it just needed to be polished and made generally available. Read this objective Family Tree DNA review to learn more about this impressive company.
How Family Tree DNA Works
Like with every direct-to-consumer DNA testing provider, the process starts with your online order. You will first be prompted to choose your test(s) and payment method(s). Family Tree DNA receives payments through credit cards (MasterCard, Visa, American Express) or Paypal. Compensation is also possible via US money, US checks, and bank transfers for international customers. Family Tree DNA conducts numerous volunteer-based group projects, which offer discounted Y-DNA tests. Your order will be acknowledged via a confirmation e-mail.
The test kit, which is designed for one person, contains:
- 2 swabs
- 2 tubes
- 1 comprehensive instruction manual
- 1 release form (paperback, not online)
The tubes come filled with antibacterial fluid, which guarantees the safety of your sample, no matter the weather conditions. The collected sample will stay intact and fresh for several months.
After you return your sample to Family Tree DNA, the average waiting period is:
- Family Finder – 4-6 weeks
- Big Y – 8-10 weeks
- Other tests – 6-8 weeks
Once available, you will be able to inspect your results online and print a copy for free.
Why Choose Family Tree DNA
First of all, Family Tree DNA is widely known for its top-notch facilities, which many other companies use to outsource their genetic testing. This indicates the level of technology and professionalism within the company.
Aside from its impressive testing facilities, Family Tree DNA offers the following perks:
- 3 different tests; several varieties and bundles offered
- Cutting-edge technology and facilities
- Daughter company of an industry giant
- Rich help center and knowledge database
- Free autosomal transfer available from 23andMe and Ancestry DNA
- Biggest DNA database on the market
- Jewish heritage exploration
- Worldwide shipping
- Volunteer groups you can join
- Frequent webinars
- Personalized user support
The one downside, however, is the absence of any medical/health info in the results.
This is the segment where Family Tree DNA truly shines. The basic offer is divided into 3 tests, encompassing a number of separate variations. The company also has various bundle options.
The 4 main tests are:
- Family Ancestry (79$) – The test finds your DNA matches, determines family connections, and traces your ancestral lineage through history. It also uncovers your ethnic percentages dating back to ancient times. “Family Ancestry” is just the chosen nomenclature for the autosomal DNA test, ergo the one testing 22 pairs of autosomal chromosomes (excluding the sex chromosomes, XX and XY).
- Paternal Ancestry or Y-DNA test – This test is reserved for males only since females lack the Y chromosome. It ranges up to 340,000 years in the past and will tell you everything about your direct paternal genetic heritage.
- Maternal Ancestry or mtDNA test (mitochondrial) – Mitochondrial DNA passes down from mothers to children unchanged, which enables this test to reach 180,000 years in the past and reveal your direct maternal lineage. Mitochondria are not chromosomes, they’re organelles located outside of our cell’s nucleus, containing a small amount of DNA (but not genes).
- Family Ancestry + myDNA Wellness ($119) – This powerful combo test includes both the Family Ancestry test and special Family Tree DNA MyDNA Wellness test. You will get comperhensive results offering more than 30 insights into your health and wellness. Plus you get special access to MyDNA Unlocked app for your phone. The 30-day free membership offers DNA-powered meal and workout plans just for you.
The Family Finder group, besides its namesake test, also includes the following bundles:
- Family Finder + Y37 (248
- Family Finder + Y67 (347
- Family Finder + mtFull Sequence (278$)
- Family Finder + Y-67 + mtFull Sequence (546$)
The first two options differ only in the number of markers checked. The third bundle includes a full sequence mitochondrial test. The fourth option is the best bundle Family Tree has to offer.
Father’s line presents 3 different Y tests, which differ only in the number of markers explored. These include:
- Y37 (169$)
- Y67 (268$)
- Y111 (359$)
- Big Y (799$)
All of the tests reach 340,000 years into the past.
Mother’s line renders 2 mitochondrial tests:
- MtDNA+ (89$) – It explores human hypervariable regions (HVR1 and HVR2). These are the mitochondrial control sections. They don’t contain any genes and are called “hypervariable” due to their quicker change rate compared to the “coded” mitochondrial parts.
- MtFull Sequence (199$) – Also called “The Mega Test,” it will cover every mitochondrial region, including HVR1/2 and the coding region. It is the highest form of mitochondrial DNA testing available in the world.
This group of tests goes 180,000 years into the past.
Understanding The Results
Here are the sectors within the autosomal test:
- Your personal profile and the ability to share it with all potential DNA matches. You can fully customize the extent of visible personal information.
- Up to 16 generations of DNA relatives.
- The estimated degree of relationships with newly-found relatives in the database.
- “MyOrigins” app, which breaks down the percentage of your biogeographical ancestry.
- “Chromosome Browser,” where you can simultaneously compare actual chromosome matches with up to five people.
An added benefit of using Family Tree DNA is the option of transferring your autosomal DNA test results from other companies by uploading your raw DNA data. This particular test is compatible with 23andMe (V3 and V4) and Ancestry DNA (V1 and V2).
You can do this absolutely free and receive the list of matches from Family Tree’s database. There is also a paid option (19$), where you unlock all of the Family Finder Features (MyOrigins, Chromosome Browser, and AncientOrigins).
There are benefits in both doing the test with the Family Tree DNA and transferring the results. Transferring results means up to a single week of waiting since there’s no need for processing your sample and extracting raw data. There will also be no lab delays or potential test failures. On the other hand, you won’t be able to do additional tests with Family tree DNA or receive updates on your results.
Y-Chromosome DNA Test
Also known as the “Fatherline Test” due to its focus on the “male” chromosome, it paints an accurate picture of your direct paternal lineage throughout history.
This test is usually done because of surname studies. If your surname is Johnson, for example, and you choose to see whether you’re related to some other Johnsons, this is the right tool to go about it. Alternatively, you can simply identify who you’re connected to, following the paternal ancestry line.
Besides surname studies and paternal matches with disparate surnames, the Y test results also offer:
- Y-DNA haplogroups – A story of your deep ancestral origins, geographical ancestry, and potential migrations of your paternal DNA relatives.
- A list of matches – Relatives sharing common paternal lineage within 25 generations.
The results are viewed on your MyFTDNA page. In the top menu bar, just click Y-DNA and you’ll see a menu of 10 different result segments.
The Y-test taken with Family Tree DNA also provides additional benefits:
- Free unlimited access to group projects and lineage experts
- Automated result updates
- Free webinars held by a genetic genealogist
- Personalized user support
Mitochondrial test (mtDNA)
Also known as the “Motherline Test,” it focuses on mitochondria and provides insight into direct maternal lineage and ancestry. Simply put, it’s the same process as with the Y-test, only on the mother’s side of the family tree.
So, apart from direct maternal relatives, the mtDNA test results will basically include all of the result segments found in the Y-chromosome tests like deep ancestry (only maternal), geographical areas of relevance, migration maps, and more.
The differences between the two offered test varieties include:
- MtDNA+ – HRV1 match has a 50% likelihood of the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) living within 52 generations (approx. 1300-1500 years); HRV2 match lowers the number of generations to 28 (approx. 700-900 years).
- mtFull Sequence – 90% likelihood of the MRCA living within 16 generations (400-500 years).
The additional benefits apply to these tests as well.
Family Tree DNA currently doesn’t endorse this option. Due to popular demand, though, it is working with NCBI GenBank and population genetics to make this request a reality.
Privacy And Security
Your privacy is taken very seriously by the company. You will get your personal ID with the test kit, which is used to connect you with your results. It is also a part of the log-in info for your myFTDNA page. The ID is nonsequential and completely random, doesn’t contain any personal info, and cannot be recovered from Family Tree DNA if lost.
Furthermore, Family Tree DNA is a follower of The European Commission’s Directive on Data Protection, the so-called “U.S.-E.U. Safe Harbor program. None of your personal info will be stored or shared with third parties. You can choose to disclose some information for easier communication with your newly-found relatives, but you can also choose to remain anonymous, even after you’ve received your results.
Shipping And Handling
With Family Tree DNA, the standard shipping method
is USPS first class shipping. The combined shipping/handling charge is 12.95$. You can also choose Federal Express. Next-day shipping for the US costs 35$ and 3-day shipping 25$. Saturday delivery costs 50$ for both options. International prices vary from country to country. Note that the expedited shipping price comes on top of the 12.95$ shipping/handling fee.
Family Tree DNA ships its tests to all international locations except Iran and Sudan. The return postage is not included for international shipments due to their sheer volume.
This Family Tree DNA review strived to give you a deeper insight into the inner workings of this top-of-the-line DNA-testing company. The DNA testing provider was developed upon the tried-and-true recipe of its parent corporation and has since made a stoic example for all other DNA testers to follow.
The testing technology is the final word of the genetic science and the results are thoroughly explained through the abundance of information available on its website. Connecting with your DNA matches is made easy through your personal profile on the site.
The autosomal transfer allows dipping into several unique databases, upping the chances of locating unknown relatives. Unlike most leading DNA companies, Family Tree DNA also ships worldwide, which goes to show the number of relevant and influential partnerships it has made over the years.
Not impressed and basically can’t believe a word of it. I took my Family Finder DNA test roughly 6 years ago. The results were heavily British Isles, with substantial results in Scandinavia and Western Europe (primarily France). When the metrics were updated a few years later, I had much lower results in Western Europe and Scandinavia, but with some much lower results in Italy and Poland. Okay, I could expect some fluctuation. Now they have upgraded again. I am now missing Western Europe and Scandinavia, as well as the small amounts in Italy and Poland, but I have picked up less than 1% in the Baltics, which I feel I can safely assume are false positives. Of course, my actual ancestors have not changed, but if I rely on this test to tell me where they came from, it can all change with the next upgrade.
I had my stepson Y-DNA tested at the same time. He got 16 matches, all of whom have different last names. This is just inconceivable! Surnames do not change very often. There may be the occasional adoption, or slight change to fit in with a new locale, but we’re talking 16 name changes!
My advice is , if you are considering this test to see where your ancestors came from, save your money, because the results can radically change in a few years.
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My maiden name is Jensen and since my family and I are about to move to Oslo, I’ve decide to see if I have any relatives in the Scandinavian region. The Fatherline Test was an excellent way for me to discover if I have any family in Norway and guess what I do. I already found and contacted one of my cousins and we’ve set up a get together as soon as we arrive.
I read on the Family Tree’s website that I can transfer my results from previous DNA testing and compare it with to its database to see if there are any potential matches. I’m an only child, my parents died young and I don’t have any family I’m aware of. This was the only way I could find out.
I had My mother my aunt and Me, I have found this site is very difficult to navigate and get any use ful information form the test we have done ( $+ 1,000.00) an constant up selling. of Which I would Neved use this sit again. There are Much better sites easy to use and with more information
I used Family Tree DNA because is the most reliable DNA research company out there. We knew that there was a probability that we are of Jewish descent so I did an mtDNA test to check the results from my mother’s side and we finally had proof that we have Jewish roots.
My boyfriend and I mailed in our Family Tree DNA results together on same day. My boyfriend rec’d notice from FT DNA about 1 week later that his kit was rec’d and he got his test results back in about 3 weeks. It took about 3 or 4 weeks for FTDNA just to send me notice that my kit was received and after two (2) months, I still have not gotten any results back. I had to contact them as I received no word or any explanation. I asked for a refund as I do not trust results at this point and I was told that my kit was just caught up in a “general delay” and they “don’t do refunds”. Why it took my boyfriend 3 weeks and here I am 9 weeks later… still waiting in SC.
I sent my DNA in which was received on Feb. 25, the timetable for my results was March, then their was a delay posting and they would not get to my DNA for processing until April 1-15. Now today, April 2, there is a posting that there is another delay with dates to get to my DNA for processing is April 15 – April 30. What is up with these delays? I tried their chat at 11:30am, and found them off line. I have never seen such run around for DNA testing, this is not my first time. With their chat off and these delays, I’m thinking I got taken to the cleaners with this one. No legit company comes up with such delays going out past 60 days and turns off their chat during listed business hours. So from my experience, don’t spend money for something that will just be delayed over and over. I am extremely disappointed. I have to list at least 1 star in order to post, otherwise, there would be minus stars.