Some of the best genetic genealogy companies offer free DNA testing. By following my testing strategy described below you can take advantage of these offers to maximize your results while minimizing your costs.
The most popular tests today are autosomal DNA tests. Both men and women can take them and discover living relatives. Your matches can share common ancestors with you from ANY branch of your family tree.
Each test also provides an estimated breakdown of your overall ethnic ancestry.
These tests help genealogists extend family trees and help adoptees and others identify biological families and find lost relatives.
But each test has a separate database of testers. If you only do one test, you will not be compared with the millions of people in the other databases. Experts agree that you need to “fish in all the ponds” to maximize your results. But ordering all the tests is expensive.
Fortunately, three of these tests are currently accepting FREE transfers of data from other tests. That suggests a free DNA testing strategy.
Start by ordering the AncestryDNA test. Since it has the largest database, it’s a good place to start anyway. Plus, all versions of this test are in an acceptable format for free transfers.
Once your results are ready, here’s how you download your raw data:
Log into your AncestryDNA account and choose Your DNA Results Summary from the DNA dropdown menu. Then click Settings near the upper right corner. Then scroll down the page and click Download Your Raw DNA Data. Save the file to your computer.
MyHeritage is the most popular family history and DNA service in Europe and now many Americans use it too. My family and I have found a lot of matches there. Plus, it accepts free uploads from several other companies. Use this MyHeritage Upload link. Look for Upload DNA Data and click Start. Create your free account and follow directions.
Once the upload is processed, you will be able to see your genetic matches and contact them for free. Some additional features, like a chromosome browser and the ethnic ancestry breakdown require a small, one-time unlock fee. This is optional.
NOTE: Like Ancestry, MyHeritage has a huge collection of genealogical records. Access to those records requires a subscription. But you do NOT need the subscription to view and contact your DNA matches.
Family Finder is the autosomal DNA test at Family Tree DNA (FTDNA). This is the company that started the genetic genealogy business and the only company that offers a full suite of autosomal, Y-DNA, and mitochondrial DNA tests.
The Family Finder test has many great tools for working with your matches. Fortunately, you can get free DNA testing on Family Finder through an upload of acceptable raw data. If you wish to access to all the tools with a transfer, you can pay a small, one-time fee. But that is optional.
The AncestryDNA test is one of the acceptable tests. If you follow my advice and order that test, you will be able to upload your data file into Family Finder for free.
Go to Family Tree DNA and point your cursor to the top of the page at UPLOAD DNA DATA. Click Autosomal DNA and then create a free account and follow directions.
NOTE: FTDNA is more conservative than MyHeritage about using interpolation for data that checks different locations. A transfer will not produce as many distant matches as you would get if you paid to do the Family Finder test and submitted your own sample. But you will see all close matches and be certain that all the cousin matches you do see are real.
GEDmatch does not do DNA testing. It's an independent site where you can upload data from the major DNA tests and your family tree for automatic comparison with others. A free account includes several free tools with some added tools available by subscription.
NOTE: GEDmatch is the site that is also used by CeCe Moore in the Genetic Detective television series to solve major crimes. If you would like to help in this worthy cause, be sure to opt-in to Law Enforcement Matching in your account settings. Otherwise, your DNA will not be used for that purpose.
If you follow my Free DNA Testing strategy, your DNA will be in most of the databases for the price of one test. To complete the set you will need to order the final test directly. That’s 23andMe. All you need for genealogy and ethnicity purposes is their least expensive option. If you are also interested in genetic health reports, you may wish to spend more.