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FamilyTree DNA Testing Kit review

FamilyTree DNA offers gender-specific DNA testing that focuses exclusively on the paternal or maternal ancestral line.

FamilyTree DNA Testing Kit review
(Image: © Family Tree)

Our Verdict

Though not as detailed as other DNA testing services, FamilyTree’s reports and information make it fun to learn who you are with options to explore only one parental line or both.

For

  • Single parent history available
  • Detailed colorful reports
  • Small sample needed

Against

  • DNA shared with law enforcement
  • Limited ancestry tools
  • Quirky registration and sample gathering process.

FamilyTree DNA is one of the best DNA testing kits, especially if you're looking for paternity testing thanks to their options to let you explore either one or both parent lines.

As with most of the DNA kits we tested, FamilyTree DNA has you collect your sample using a couple of swabs. The kit itself comes in a ziplock-type bag with everything kind of tossed inside. The swabs are a little smaller compared to other tests, but do the job of collecting your DNA well enough.

After swabbing your cheek, the swabs are placed in a couple of containers with liquid in them then sent to the FamilyTree laboratory. One neat feature of FamilyTree is it has its own, onsite lab used for testing, so your sample never leaves its facility once it's received. The turnaround time for when you receive your results depends on how many kits are coming into the lab at once and the type of kit you’ve used. For the basic Family Finder kit, you can expect results within two to four weeks. For the Paternal and Maternal Ancestry tests, you should expect to wait up to six and eight weeks, respectively. Most of our testers received their results in about 18 days.

As part of the test and registration process, FamilyTree DNA sends you a registration code and password to create your online account and register your kit. This is quite different to other companies that allow you to create your own account with your own password. FamilyTree also requires you to fill out a form and return it with your DNA test kit. Overall, there are more steps than we feel necessary to get your results from this company and the full registration process is quirky.

If you need any help with your DNA test, you can find a lot of answers in the FamilyTree DNA learning center. But you can also reach out to customer service reps by filling out the online email form, using the live chat feature or calling them directly. We learned that direct contact is the way to go for any help. We didn’t get any real help when we reached out via email.

FamilyTree DNA review: Test results

  • Web interface isn’t as refined as other DNA testing services
  • FamilyTree only splits the world into 24 geographic regions
  • There is a wellness check available for a small fee

FamilyTree’s web interface isn’t as refined as other DNA testing services. It has the same information as the best tests: an ancestry map, DNA relative matches, and family tree building. However, these are not as specific as other companies offer. For example, our testers received results for a broad area, such as Northeast Asia or Europe, but didn’t hone down to more specific regions. Part of this is because FamilyTree only splits the world into 24 geographic regions, unlike 23andMe that has over 1600. While we feel the tests are generally accurate, they just aren’t as specific as we have hoped or expected.

FamilyTreeDNA gives you a few reports in addition to your ancestry map. You can view your ancient European origins, which splits your DNA into four groups of people who populated Europe throughout history: Metal Age invaders, farmers, hunter-gatherers and non-European.

There is a wellness check available for a small fee. Using your already collected DNA, FamilyTree will give you exercise, supplement and nutrition hints, and recommendations. These aren’t as in-depth as the health analysis offered by 23andMe, but still good information to have.

FamilyTree DNA review: Beyond the test results

  • FamilyTree lets you connect with other members of your family
  • Can add raw DNA data from other DNA testing services
  • Your results are not kept confidential

As with most DNA testing companies, FamilyTree lets you connect with other members of your family that have taken the test and agree to connect through the services online portal. However, this process isn’t as streamlined as others. For instance, you can’t message matches within the site itself. Instead, you need to email family connections directly.

FamilyTree does allow you to add raw DNA data from other DNA testing services to its own database. From this data, you can see and compare data alongside your FamilyTree DNA test results.

An important note to make about FamilyTree DNA is your results are not kept confidential. FamilyTree has agreed to give the FBI limited access to its DNA database, which has close to a million samples. This database consists mainly of consumer-level insights, like matches with other members of the FamilyTree DNA community who have enabled family matching; by law, however, more in-depth investigations require a subpoena. FamilyTree has one of the strongest partnerships with law enforcement agencies and has worked alongside many of them to help crack cold cases. However, this company does promise to never sell or give you DNA information to another company.

FamilyTree DNA review: Is it worth the cost?

The kits offered by FamilyTree DNA are some of the cheapest we tested. While the price makes getting a DNA report much more cost-effective, you won’t get the same in-depth results offered by more expensive kits. If you’re on a budget, then FamilyTree DNA is good enough. However if you can swing the extra cost, we recommend taking a test like Living DNA that doesn’t cost as much as our top pick but will give you a much more detailed ancestry analysis compared to FamilyTree.

Should you use FamilyTree DNA?

Overall, FamilyTreeDNA is simply less specific and polished than services like AncestryDNA or 23andMe, and its clunkiness puts a slight damper on the whole experience. Still, it’s a decent test with similar features to our top picks. Plus, if you’ve taken other DNA tests, you can upload your raw DNA file to the FamilyTree DNA database for free. Just know that this information won’t be as secure as with other testing companies since FamilyTree regularly partners with law enforcement agencies, and provides DNA information and samples to help during investigations.

FamilyTree DNA is the only testing service we reviewed that has specific DNA kits that only look at your maternal or paternal side of the family, plus the traditional Family Finder that looks at both sides. In every case, you are given a good look at your haplogroups along with a geographical breakdown of where your ancestors have come from. 

While FamilyTree DNA isn’t as in-depth as other kits we tested and does offer additional insights, like health analysis, we still feel FamilyTree DNA is a decent option to consider.