MyHeritage DNA vs AncestryDNA
This article is jam-packed with information comparing AncestryDNA to MyHeritage. Before we dive into the nitty gritty, let’s take a quick look at how the two companies stack up side by side.
Quick look: AncestryDNA vs MyHeritage
Best for... (our verdict)
Most Geographic Regions
View Shared Matches w/o Subscription
Ease of Sample Collection
Where to buy
Yes (350+ regions)
Yes (42 regions)
Yes but shared matches require subscription
AncestryDNA is the oldest and best-established company for genealogical DNA testing, and comes with the support of the very impressive Ancestry website.
MyHeritage DNA is a relative newcomer to the stage, but by no means should it be taken lightly.
The quick comparison above shows that they are very similar in many areas, and makes it clear that both have their strong points.
Before we jump into the core features, let's now look at the Pros and Cons of each test.
Now let's get into the heart of this comparison article.
With every passing year, genealogical DNA testing continues to grow in popularity, and there are more options out there now than ever (see our complete guide to DNA testing here). That can make it tough to pick the best testing company for you.
Two of the leaders in the field of genealogical DNA testing are AncestryDNA and MyHeritage DNA. Both offer some great features, and either one could make a good choice for you. But chances are one or other is going to have just the right features to make it your best choice.
Both companies offer autosomal DNA testing only. That means that if you are looking for YDNA testing or mtDNA testing, neither one is going to work for you.
Still, autosomal DNA is exactly what many genealogists and family historians want and use most often.
Your autosomal DNA is the DNA that you inherit from all of your ancestors, not just a single direct line.
That means it gets mixed with every generation. You get about half of your autosomal DNA from your mother and half from your father.
They each get about half from each of their parents, and so on.
Because of that mixing, autosomal DNA can’t tell you much about individual ancestors back more than six or seven generations, but it can still be used to get a good sense of what parts of the world your ancestors came from (ethnicity estimates).
It can also help you connect with living relatives.
Winner: It’s a tie
One major result from any autosomal DNA testing is an ethnicity estimate.
Your results will give you a good idea of the major regions of the world where your ancestors lived.
Depending on the company, how detailed they are, how many regions they use, and how they break up those regions, your results are going to vary.
Ethnicity estimates are created by comparing your DNA to that of others who live in certain regions, and whose families have lived in those regions for a long time.
The closer your DNA matches those of the native population, the more likely it is that that is where your ancestors lived.
MyHeritage DNA breaks the world down into 42 ethnic regions, which is actually quite good compared to most companies. In fact, until very recently it was even better than AncestryDNA.
However, AncestryDNA has used the DNA from the millions of people they have tested and compared that to available online family trees to generate as accurate a map of world ethnicities as they can.
As a result, they now separate your DNA results into a whopping 150 ethnic regions.
Both companies continue to refine their estimates over time, fixing problems (such as AncestryDNA’s problem a few years ago of overestimating Scandinavian ancestry) and further refining their regions.
They also both continually update your personal estimates based on their latest algorithms.
Bear in mind though that despite all of the science and the very large and growing pool of data, in the end, they are still only estimates.
As research continues and more results are added, they will continue to get better, but may never be perfect.
Ethnicity estimates are great for helping you decide where to concentrate your family history searches, but they are no replacement for research.
One of the most important reasons to have autosomal DNA testing done is to be able to locate and connect with your family to compare family trees and expand our research.
While many of us know our close family, including first cousins and maybe second cousins, we’ve never met anyone more distantly related.
We probably don’t even know their names. We may not even know they exist.
But with DNA testing, your results can be compared with those of others to determine just how close you are related.
Both AncestryDNA and MyHeritage DNA offer ways to find and contact your living relatives.
Naturally, there are limits.
You can only find someone if they have been tested as well, and if they have agreed to let people contact them.
However, anyone who gets genealogical DNA testing done is probably open to meeting distant relatives.
As of this writing, MyHeritage DNA has over one million DNA results in their database, offering an excellent chance that you will locate some family members.
AncestryDNA, however, boasts more than six million results.
For both companies, you have the option of whether people can search for and contact you.
But if you’re researching your family history, why wouldn’t you?
This is your chance to hook up with people exploring the same family lines and to share research.
That can give your family history search a giant boost forward with very little risk.
As an added bonus, both AncestryDNA and MyHeritage DNA have ways that you can link your DNA results to your online family tree.
This is especially helpful if other members of your family have been tested. It makes it clear exactly which parts of your DNA come from which branches (paid subscriptions are required to view family trees of your matches with both companies).
That improves the ability to determine just exactly how you and that third cousin you just met are related.
The other thing I really like about Ancestry is that you can view your shared matches without needing a paid subscription. MyHeritage has this same feature, however a subscription is required.
The shared match feature is one of my favorites because it allows you to filter your matches by who matches you AND one other person.
This works especially well for when you have a match that you know exactly where they fall on your tree.
For example if I had a first cousin match on my mother's side, I could see all the people who match BOTH of us. So I can start to narrow down where these folks might fall on my ancestral lines.
While both companies provide great services in this area, AncestryDNA comes out ahead because of its larger database and it's ability to show shared matches without requiring a paid subscription.
Raw Data Download and Upload
When you receive your ethnicity estimate and other results, what you are seeing is a summary and analysis of your DNA test.
Your results tell you how you compare to other people. You don’t see the actual DNA test data itself.
Why not? Because the test actually looks at 690,000 (for MyHeritage DNA) or 700,000+ (for AncestryDNA) locations on your DNA strand, and returns a result for every single one of those points.
That means your raw data includes about 700,000 pieces of information!
Unless you have advanced degrees in genetics, that information probably won’t mean much to you on its own.
But if you do want to download it and take a look, both AncestryDNA and MyHeritage DNA allow you to do just that.
So why would you want to download your data if you can’t read it? Because once you have downloaded your raw data, you can then upload it to other sites.
That lets you take advantage of some incredible opportunities, such as using free resources at FamilyTreeDNA, or using the powerful tools at GEDmatch to connect with even more relatives, connect your family tree to others from multiple sites, or visually look at your chromosomes in 3D.
While AncestryDNA lets you download your raw data, MyHeritage DNA goes one step further.
It lets you upload your raw data from other testing companies, something that AncestryDNA does not currently allow.
Because of that feature, we have to call MyHeritage DNA the winner in this category.
Winner: MyHeritage DNA
Neither AncestryDNA nor MyHeritage DNA offers the option for genetic health screening.
In fact, the only genealogical DNA test on the market today that does comes from 23andMe. Read our 23andMe review here.
Winner: It’s a tie
There are two different methods used to actually take the DNA test.
AncestryDNA uses a saliva collection tube. In essence, you need to spit into the tube until it reaches the fill line.
In practice, it doesn’t actually take that much saliva, but it can make it more difficult for some folks to take the test.
Some people, the elderly in particular, may have a hard time producing enough saliva.
And if you want to test your infant, while they may produce plenty of drool, getting it into the collection vial can be a challenge.
MyHeritage DNA uses the second testing method, a cheek swab. All you have to do is gently rub the swab against the inside of your cheek for about 30 seconds, and then seal it up in the tube provided.
That makes it an easier test to take, especially for infants and the elderly.
Winner: MyHeritage DNA
Test Processing Time
According to their website, MyHeritage DNA’s test takes an average of three to four weeks to process your results after you mail it back in.
AncestryDNA estimates six to eight weeks. So if you’re in a hurry, MyHeritage DNA is the better pick.
Keep in mind, though, that these are just estimates. It could be shorter or longer depending on how busy the testing lab is.
Winner: MyHeritage DNA
Privacy and Security
Online privacy and security are major concern these days, and both AncestryDNA and MyHeritage DNA take your privacy seriously.
Your personal information is kept on secure servers and is never shared without your permission.
Keep in mind that in order for you to participate in cousin matching and contacting your living relatives, you do need to give them permission to share a few things, such as your email address.
But since that is only shared with people who are a genetic match to you, the risks are very minor. Your odds are much higher of connecting with a fellow family historian than a spammer.
The more important concern for many people has been how your non-personally identifying information is used.
Some DNA testing companies share anonymized data with their business partners, data that has had your personal information stripped away.
In theory, that should never be an issue, but there is the concern that major drug companies are benefiting from your DNA without you ever knowing it.
Until recently, there were some serious concerns in particular over how AncestryDNA handled your DNA information.
By using their service, you had to give them permission to share your results with their research partners by default, and it was not easy to opt out.
With this update, both companies are now tied in this area, but because of past concerns with AncestryDNA, we have to give it to MyHeritage DNA for now.
Winner: MyHeritage DNA
Both companies have a list price of $99 for their autosomal DNA test. Both companies often offer promotions or discounts that bring your price down to $69.
In both cases, there is also a shipping charge of around $10. That covers both shipping to you and then back to the testing lab.
Ancestry provides a prepaid return envelope to send your sample to the lab, while MyHeritage does not.
Even though it only costs a few dollars to mail, for me it was more about the hassle of figuring out just how many stamps to put on the return envelope.
Because the prices are always changing with different sales and promos, I’m going to say this is a tie.
Winner: It’s a tie
The Overall Winner
In the end, you’re not going to go wrong with either company.
Both offer the same test at a very reasonable price, have excellent online resources and customer support, extensive online communities, and many great features to recommend them.
For more cousin matches from around the world, MyHeritage is the better choice due to their large international customer database.
Their cheek swab test and 3-4 week turnaround make it a great option for those who just want to see their results. The ability to upload raw test results from other companies is also a nice feature.
But if you are after intensive genealogical research and connecting with as many cousins as possible, AncestryDNA has a larger database and is your better option.
Its ability to now identify 150 different ethnic regions is also incredibly impressive.
And with its connection to the Ancestry website, AncestryDNA also boasts many more online family trees and more traditional research databases to extend your search even further.