In 2006 a friend told me about Family Tree DNA (FTDNA). Looking into it, I decided a Y-DNA test might help my adoption search. My hunch was right. Comparing my results with the huge FTDNA database revealed the surname of my biological father.
My personal success inspired me to create this web site. I joined the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) and began to participate in DNA discussion groups. I also took over the DNA surname project for my biological surname and met other project administrators.
My insider’s access confirmed a strong and widespread preference for Family Tree DNA. The company notes that 90% of genealogists choose FTDNA. But I find it even more significant that FTDNA is the lab of choice for so many DNA and genealogy experts.
Like you, I’m investing my own dollars when I order a DNA test. So I have repeatedly chosen Family Tree DNA for additional testing. Therefore, I am adding this review page to express my positive opinion of the company.
Here are my top 10 reasons for choosing Family Tree DNA.
Family Tree DNA originated the concept of DNA testing for genetic genealogy. In addition to being the world’s largest DNA company, they are the technological and scientific leader in the field. Many leading scientists are on staff or part of their scientific advisory board. The company is also a leader in setting new standards and developing new DNA markers.
FTDNA offers the most extensive set of DNA tests in the field of genetic genealogy. They offer Y-DNA tests from 12 to 111 markers. Their mtDNA offering includes a full sequence of all 16,568 markers in the mitochondria.
Their Family Finder test is my preferred choice for autosomal DNA testing.
They also offer a growing list of deep clade tests to refine your haplogroup assignment. Plus, they can test the traditional autosomal markers and the X-chromosome for those interested in DNA Kinship Testing.
The FTDNA user interface includes several innovative tools to help you interpret your results. For example, you can compare yourself and any Y-DNA genetic match with their FTDNATiP™ program. It calculates your likelihood of sharing a common ancestor within various numbers of generations.
Their mapping tool lets you enter the geographic coordinates of your earliest known ancestor. Then you can view maps to compare your ancestor’s location with the ancestors of people you match. Users also have the option of uploading GEDCOM files for viewing by people they match.
Family Finder does an excellent job of managing a growing list of autosomal DNA matches. It includes several tools of particular use to genealogists.
Family Finder also includes a Population Finder report that is the most ambitious and scientifically valid ethnic DNA test available today.
With more than 330,000 records, FTDNA has the largest databases of Y-DNA and mtDNA test results. These huge databases increase your chance of finding genetic matches. And FTDNA provides you with the names and email addresses of your matches.
IMPORTANT. As additional people test, FTDNA will notify you of new matches by email. And there’s no subscription cost for this ongoing service.
FTDNA has global affiliates: iGENEA in Europe, DNA Ancestry & Family Origin in the Middle East, and African DNA. Customers of those companies are included in the FTDNA database. In addition, FTDNA promotes genetic genealogy internationally through exhibits at shows like <i>“Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE”</i> in the UK.
Furthermore, FTDNA is the only DNA testing service affiliated with National Geographic's Genographic Project. By collecting DNA samples from indigenous peoples and others around the world, that project is expanding our knowledge of human migration. You can add your FTDNA results to the Genographic Project for a small transfer fee. Likewise, Genographic Project participants can transfer their results to Family Tree DNA.
The global reach and ethnic diversity of the FTDNA database increases your chance of finding DNA matches outside your home country. International matches can help identify your ethnic origins and even reconnect families separated generations ago by emigration.
With just a few mouse clicks, you can export your DNA results to the public DNA databases ySearch and Mitosearch, two web sites that Family Tree DNA created and supports as a public service. Then you can compare yourself with people who tested elsewhere. Those people can manually upload their results to ySearch and Mitosearch. But they miss the thousands of people who are ONLY in the FTDNA databases.
Family Tree DNA hosts more than 5,000 DNA projects for surnames, geographic areas, and haplogroups. You can join any that interest you at no additional cost. If desired, you can choose to compare yourself only to people within your projects instead of the entire database. And you can leave any project at any time.
They also provide project administrators with an excellent set of online tools to collect, compile, and analyze project data.
You can only confirm your haplogroup through SNP testing. But Y-DNA testing only checks STRs. These STR results can sometimes predict your haplogroup quite accurately. But if they cannot estimate your haplogroup to a certain depth with 100% certainty, FTDNA will SNP test your sample for free. Companies who don’t do this have been known to make the wrong haplogroup assignments.
The staff at Family Tree DNA is knowledgeable and helpful. I’ve found that real people respond promptly to email and phone inquiries. They even received an Award of Excellence from the Better Business Bureau for superior customer service.
Many DNA companies offer little real support and some don’t even publish a phone number. FTDNA can help you order the best test for your needs and then help you interpret the results.
FTDNA will retain your initial DNA sample for 25 years at no extra cost to you. That way you can order additional tests and upgrades at any time using the original sample. Since they are affiliated with the highly respected University of Arizona Research Labs, you can be sure that samples are stored properly.
NOTE: I recommend testing older members of your family now. They are the least likely to be around when new, more powerful tests are developed in the future.
For more information and product pricing, check out the Family Tree DNA web site. Ordering through a project will ensure you get the best prices currently available.
Beware of DNA testing companies that sell primarily on price. You will find them to be deficient in most, if not all, of the ten areas noted above.
I agree with genetic genealogist, Emily Aulicino, who relates DNA testing to the quote displayed in every Baskin Robbins ice cream store:
"There is hardly anything in the world that someone cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price alone are that person's lawful prey."