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23andMe vs Ancestry: Is There Another Alternative?

Written by Samantha Odake, BS (Mechanical Engineering) | Last updated:

23andMe and Ancestry are two of the most well-known DNA testing companies out there, but how do they compare? Is there another alternative you should consider? Read on to find out more.

23andMe vs Ancestry: Overview

  • 23andMe and Ancestry have 30 million users combined.
  • While both companies have ancestry testing, currently only 23andMe offers health reports.
  • Prices can range from $99 to $199 for a DNA test from these companies.
  • Both Ancestry and 23andMe offer subscription services.
  • There are some controversies regarding how 23andMe handles customer data.
  • Neither company allows you to upload a preexisting raw DNA file.

23andMe vs Ancestry: Background

23andMe

23andMe is a privately held company based in Sunnyvale, California, and was founded in 2006 by Anne Wojcicki and Linda Avey. Named after the number of chromosome pairs in humans, the company wants to help people better understand their genetics.

As one of the first companies to offer DNA testing directly to consumers, 23andMe has sold over 12 million DNA kits around the world.

Ancestry

Ancestry was founded years before 23andMe, in 1983, but started as an extensive collection of historical records and only later shifted to genetics in 2012. Despite the late start, Ancestry has now surpassed 23andMe, boasting over 15 million DNA customers.

The company’s headquarters is located in Provo, Utah, but they ship their DNA testing kits to many countries outside the United States.

23andMe vs Ancestry: How do they compare?

In this section, we’ll discuss the main differences and similarities between 23andMe and Ancestry.

DNA Test

Regarding DNA testing, the two companies don’t differ much. Ancestry and 23andMe offer a saliva DNA test, and both companies currently analyze over 600,000 SNPs. For 23andMe, it can take from 2 to 3 weeks for your results to be available on your account from the time their lab receives your sample.

If you get your DNA tested with Ancestry, however, it may take up to 8 weeks for your results to be ready. You’ll receive an email notification to let you know.

Ancestry Reports

23andMe

23andMe’s Ancestry + Traits reports analyze your ancestry across 45 global populations and over 1,500 ancestral locations. It also investigates your maternal and paternal lines and your Neanderthal ancestry.

23andMe allows you to find your relatives and see specific DNA segments you share, but you must opt into this feature. As a part of the 23andMe’s Ancestry reports, you’ll also get access to information about non-health-related traits such as physical appearance and food preferences.

Ancestry

The AncestryDNA report will give you a breakdown of your ethnicity, down to the country and regions within countries. Similar to 23andMe, AncestryDNA will match you with any potential relatives based on your DNA, if both parties consent to it.

Another common point between the two companies is that Ancestry will also give you reports about non-health traits. However, you’ll need to add this option to your purchase with Ancestry, while it’s already included with the 23andMe basic ancestry test.

Although their DNA test results and features are comparable, Ancestry and 23andMe differ in one thing: their historical records database. With Ancestry, you can get access to billions of historical records that have been digitized and made available on the platform. If you want to, you can even build your family tree for free!

Health Reports

23andMe

23andMe’s Health + Ancestry package will give you access to both your ethnicity breakdown discussed in the previous section and your health results. Reports include your health predisposition and genetic lifestyle risk factors.

The company also has a membership plan, 23andMe+. To become a member, you must also purchase a 23andMe Health + Ancestry test. One of the perks of a membership is that you’ll get access to all new reports and features they release in the future. Plus, some health reports are also only available to you if you’re a member.

23andMe released a recent feature that lets you input and track your family’s health history, which you can share with your medical provider if you want to.

While this sounds like a lot, 23andMe only tells you so much about your health. Without a membership, you get an analysis of a little over 10 health conditions, which is not near the amount of information that can be extracted from your raw DNA file. What’s more, they only analyze a handful of SNPs for each condition, leaving out many important ones that have been scientifically proven to have an impact on your health.

If you’re looking for actionable insights to help you improve your health, you might want to look elsewhere, as 23andMe doesn’t offer much guidance on what you can do to counteract your genetic risks.

Ancestry

Despite 23andMe’s shortcoming when it comes to your health, Ancestry doesn’t present a better option. In January 2021, they announced the discontinuation of AncestryHealth. If you are an AncestryHealth customer, you can access your reports through July 2021, but they are no longer accepting new purchases or upgrades.

Prices

23andMe

23andMe’s ancestry test costs $99, and you can purchase the Health + Ancestry test for $199. The 23andMe+ membership will cost you $29 per year, plus $169 for the DNA test.

For those who initially only purchased 23andMe’s ancestry test, they can upgrade to add the health features for $125.

Ancestry

Ancestry’s prices are very similar to 23andMe. The AncestryDNA test costs $99, with the option to include information on your common genetic traits for an additional fee of $20. The company offers three membership tiers, with prices varying from $25 to $50 per month.

Privacy

Not a lot of people take the time to read a privacy policy. Between the many lines that compose a privacy statement, companies sometimes can slide in some information they might not want to be noticed.

For example, within Ancestry’s Terms and Conditions, you can find the following statement:

(…) you grant AncestryDNA and the Ancestry Group Companies a royalty-free, worldwide, sublicensable, transferable license to host, transfer, process, analyze, distribute, and communicate your Genetic Information (…)

What this means is: you don’t have as much control over your data as you think with Ancestry.

As for 23andMe, they have notoriously partnered with the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline to develop drugs based on your DNA. Founder and CEO Anne Wojcicki recently appeared on a 60 Minutes segment to discuss privacy concerns. Here, she says that 80% of 23andMe customers choose to use their DNA to fuel the company’s research efforts (although, one can argue about if informed consent is really being given).

Another news article that has raised privacy concerns regarding 23andMe was their recent announcement of going public through a partnership with the Virgin Acquisition Group. Advocates for privacy and researchers question what will happen to the data from millions of customers that had their DNA tested with the company.

Raw Data

Both 23andMe and Ancestry allow you to access and download your raw DNA data. However, if you had your DNA tested with another company, you cannot upload these results to either company to get more information out of your genes.

Alternative

If your focus is on health, there is another option you should consider. SelfDecode can offer you a DNA kit that tests over 700,000 SNPs to make sure you don’t miss out on your core health SNPs.

Do you already have your raw DNA data? That’s ok! You can upload it to SelfDecode to get access to over 30 DNA Wellness Reports with prioritized diet, lifestyle, and supplement recommendations based on your genetics. Plus, you get other beneficial features like Lab Test Analyzer and the personalized genetics blog to help you optimize your health.

SelfDecode takes privacy very seriously and never sells your data or shares it with any third parties. With SelfDecode, you can explore your genetics without having to sacrifice your privacy.

Why SelfDecode?

SelfDecode

23andMe

Ancestry

Personalized & holistic health recommendations

Yes

No

No

Personalized genetics blog

Yes

No

No

Products

DNA testing, wellness reports, research-based personalized blog posts, health recommendations

DNA testing, traits, health reports, and ancestry

DNA testing and ancestry reporting

Raw data download

Yes

Yes

Yes

Raw data upload

Yes

No

No

Focuses on privacy

Yes

No

No

Cost

$97 – $398

$99 – $199

$99 – $119

Related

If you want to learn more about the companies discussed in this post, you can check out our comprehensive reviews:

About the Author

Samantha Odake

Samantha Odake

BS (Mechanical Engineering)
Samantha is an engineer turned writer with a passion for helping people.

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