MyHeritage DNA vs AncestryDNA

AncestryDNA has been a dominant force in the direct-to-client DNA test market, but similar competitor MyHeritage has a few notable positive differences that shouldn’t be overlooked. We’ve taken a deep dive into both tests to help you decide which one is right for you and your family; first, though, let’s compare the basics.

Side by Side Comparison

AncestryDNA

Strengths

  • One of the top DNA testing kits in terms of geographic regions
  • Has a family tree building tool that links with results
  • Users can interact with matches sans subscription

Downsides

  • Their huge records database requires a subscription
  • Raw data upload from other sites isn’t accepted

Where to Buy: Ancestry.com

Number of Ethnicity Regions: 1000+

Types of Testing Available

  • AncestryDNA. Autosomal test with ethnicity results, family matching
  • AncestryHealth. Contents of Ancestry test as well as health and wellness insights

Family Matching: Yes, with a database of over 16 million

Health Screening: Yes

Price: See latest price

Learn more: Read our complete review of AncestryDNA

MyHeritage

Strengths

  • The 92 million+ genetic matching database makes it easy to find matches
  • Raw data from other sites can be uploaded to save money on testing
  • The 3 – 4 week results turnaround time beats every other test on the market

Downsides

  • Rather small collection of ethnic regions at only 42
  • A subscription is required to send messages to matches

Where to Buy: MyHeritage.com

Number of Ethnicity Regions: 42

Types of Testing Available

  • MyHeritage DNA: Autosomal test with ethnicity results, family matching

Family Matching: Yes, 92 million+ in database

Health Screening: No

Price: See latest price

Learn more: Read our complete review of My Heritage DNA

Both MyHeritage and Ancestry aren’t new to the genealogy scene, having been around over a decade and both having amassed databases with multiple millions of people. While both services are ultimately subscription-driven, they also both offer a list of genetic matches and ethnicity results as part of the cost of a base test.

While these services have many features in common, it’s small details that can make or break a test’s ultimate usefulness to the consumer — likewise, those same details can be a deciding factor in whether a test is right for you. See more with our complete guide to DNA testing here.

Let’s take a closer look.

The Results Compared

Ethnicity Estimates

Finding out detailed information about ethnicity through genetics has been enough to prompt many people into trying a DNA test kit. Some tests offer results that are more illuminating than others when it comes to specific regional ethnicity testing — there’s a pretty big juxtaposition between AncestryDNA, which has over 1,000 geographic regions, and MyHeritage, which tops out at only 42.

Both MyHeritage and AncestryDNA are autosomal DNA tests. You receive half of your autosomal DNA from each of your parents, as they did from theirs, and an autosomal DNA test can measure genetic ethnicity and relation within five generations. In order to offer ethnicity estimates, your genetic data is tested against samples from world regions in order to identify chromosomal similarities.

The two companies differ a bit in how they present your ethnicity results. MyHeritage adds a bit of show to the process, presenting a launch page with an interactive spinning globe showing your countries of origin as well as a color-coded key with easy-to-read percentages.

Your ethnicity can also be viewed on a non-animated interactive flat map, where you can see your global ethnicity measured by depth of color according to the key. You can also click on each area of origin to learn more about the history of its inhabitants and their migratory paths. If you’re a subscriber and have created a family tree, events of note like births, deaths, and marriages will have visual notices in the area of the world where they occurred.

The Ancestry test chooses a method of DNA results presentation that eschews the animated flair in favor of immediate detail, showing a color-coded bar graph and accompanying interactive map of world regions tied to your global ethnicity. Like MyHeritage, clicking on each region will allow you to view some historical details about the area’s inhabitants. You’ll also see each of your ethnicity regions in a color gradient, with the darkest areas showing the area of the region in which your ancestors most likely lived.

While AncestryDNA seems to strive to continually add new regions to their results, MyHeritage has held strong with 42 for some time. Their dynamic DNA results presentation is interesting, but it doesn’t top the level of detail that Ancestry can offer consumers.

Family Matching

Finding long-lost or unknown family members is another factor that makes DNA testing appealing to some, though it can surely come with unintended consequences. Both DNA services offer this popular feature, but in both cases, there’s a bit of a catch.
Neither site struggles to provide a wealth of possible matches — Ancestry has a database of over 16 million, and MyHeritage tops it it handily with 92 million. Despite the Ancestry test having the smaller database, it arguably has more features available to non-subscribers.

For the price of the base test, AncestryDNA allows you to view a list of your matches, see your projected relationship, compare your ethnicity results against individual matches, and even send messages to your matches. However, features like viewing family trees made by your matches are reserved for Ancestry subscribers, which can make it hard to see where a match may fit into your family history if they aren’t sure.

On the flip side, MyHeritage offers a detailed list of matches that includes your percentage of shared DNA, the number of segments you share, and the longest shared segment as measured in centimorgans, which the site makes sure to clearly explain is a measure of genetic distance.

Clicking on a match can reveal shared DNA matches, ethnicity comparison, and common ancestral surnames, but you won’t be able to contact them without a subscription and a lot of the features listed in this section of the site are a lead-in to a paywall — this can be frustrating when you’ve already paid to take a test.

MyHeritage’s match results aren’t more informative than Ancestry’s, and they also put making content with matches behind a paywall. Their subscription price is also higher than AncestryDNA’s, making this even more frustrating and making Ancestry the superior company when it comes to family matching.

Tests Offered

There are three types of genetic testing typically performed in order to determine ethnicity and identify genetic relatives. They are as follows:

  • Autosomal. This DNA is received equally from your mother and father, as they received it from their parents, and so on. Autosomal DNA tests can accurately measure genetic relation and ethnicity within five generations.
  • mtDNA. Also known as mitochondrial DNA, this DNA is passed down from all mothers to all their children. It is used to identify motherline genetic ancestry and relatives, a maternal haplogroup which links you to a single ancient ancestor, and demonstrate the migration of your haplogroup. It’s almost always more expensive than autosomal testing, but offers more detailed DNA results that extend further back in time.
  • Y-DNA. Much like mtDNA, Y-DNA is passed down by fathers, but it can only be passed down to those with a Y chromosome. Men can take a Y-DNA test to discover their paternal relatives, ethnicity, haplogroup and migration, but women who want to know these details about their fatherline will need to have their father, brother, paternal uncle or paternal cousin use a test kit.

At this time, both DNA services only offer autosomal DNA testing. MyHeritage only has one basic test kit available. AncestryDNA recently expanded their offerings from one test to two, including:

  • AncestryDNA. Offers autosomal DNA testing, family matching, ethnicity results
  • Ancestry Health. Offers all included in AncestryDNA as well as health reports and wellness insights

Health Screening

Genetic testing can reveal a surprising amount about your health, a fact which some DNA testing companies have been eager to capitalize on. Of course, offering legitimate health reports requires jumping through quite a few FDA hoops, which has been a struggle for more than one top-tier company.

MyHeritage eschews the struggle entirely, choosing to provide only one very basic test which has no health reports and wellness components to its results. While this may simplify your purchasing decisions when shopping with the company, it also means they have no dog in this fight.

The same could’ve been said for Ancestry up until recently. Toward the end of 2019, the brand rose to industry demand, releasing their new AncestryHealth test. AncestryHealth includes a variety of health insights as well as tips on healthy choices to make based on results, information about overall wellness, carrier status reports on serious illnesses like breast cancer and others, and access to genetic counselors for assistance and questions. The test also includes a family health history tool, but this relies largely on details you’ll have to input yourself.

There’s one catch that separates Ancestry’s health test from others, which is that a “physician interview” is required in order to give you approval to take the test. This interview takes place online in the form of a series of questions, but doesn’t occur until after the test has been purchased. AncestryDNA doesn’t make clear what would happen in the event that you don’t qualify for the test, and there’s nothing discussed about it online, which means you can be fairly certain that disqualification is uncommon.

At a base price of $149, AncestryHealth is only 50% more expensive than its standard counterpart, which beats out competitor 23andMe’s health tests which are offered for twice the original price. The company also made sure not to exclude the millions of consumers who’ve already tested with them, offering the option of receiving the new test’s health reports via their existing sample for only $49 through AncestryHealth Core. Users vested in receiving long-term health updates and assessments also have the option of an AncestryHealth Plus membership, which costs $96 for the first six months and provides ongoing reports and new details as they become available.

The Services Compared

Test Kits

DNA testing kits designed for home use are very easy to use, which isn’t an accident. Companies know that creating a test kit with a low possibility of human error is a win-win for everyone, and as such, home testing relies on cells taken from your saliva or the inside of your cheek. There’s no need to draw blood or pluck hair, so the experience is totally painless.

While both Ancestry and MyHeritage have kits that are simple to use, they are different test styles. Ancestry uses a saliva sample to generate your results report, while MyHeritage relies on a simple cheek swab test. As both tests will note, it’s essential that you not drink, eat, smoke, chew gum, or brush your teeth for 30 – 60 minutes before performing either of these test types in order to to obtain the most accurate results.

In your AncestryDNA test kit, you’ll find a saliva collection tube with a funnel, a specimen bag, an activation code, a mailer for returning the kit, and instructions. In order to proceed with taking the test, you’ll register your sample online, creating an Ancestry account if you haven’t already. This ties your sample to you and ensures that you receive your results.

When you’re ready to take the test, you’ll attach the funnel to the specimen tube, filling it to the indicated line with saliva. Then, you’ll close the tube, shake it to mix it with the specimen preservation liquid, put the specimen into its secure pouch, place the pouch into the postage-paid mailer, and send it off to await your results.

When opening your MyHeritage kit, you’ll find two cheek swabs, two vials, a specimen bag, an activation card, a return envelope, and instructions. Much like the Ancestry kit, the first step is to register online, tying the sample to the account you create.

To take the test, remove one swab from its cover, and swab the inside of your left cheek for one minute. Open a vial and break the swab stick off in the vial at the indicated line, leaving the swab specimen in the vial. Close the vial tightly and repeat the process with the other swab, this time collecting from your right cheek. It does not matter which swab goes in which vial, but it IS essential that one person complete both swabs — two people can’t test with this kit.

After the specimens have been obtained, they’ll go into the specimen bag followed by the postage-paid mailer; those who choose the test will be happy to know that MyHeritage users enjoy some of the quickest results-processing times, at 3 – 6 weeks.

Receiving Your Results

As noted, users who’ve chosen the MyHeritage DNA kit are likely to receive their results faster than those who’ve chosen Ancestry, which takes the average 6 to 8 weeks to process DNA samples. Both companies require users to sign up for an account using an email address, and in both cases, an email will be sent to the address on file when samples are received, being processed, and again when results are ready to be viewed.

When you receive your email from either company, the next step is to head to your computer and log onto their site via your browser to receive your results. The process is interchangeable between services, with the only difference being the rate of speed at which MyHeritage processes results.

Handling of DNA Data

Privacy concerns are top of mind when sharing sensitive information like DNA, a factor that reputable companies are quick to take into account. For this reason, both AncestryDNA and MyHeritage allow users who’ve tested or uploaded raw data to have their specimens destroyed and records deleted upon request.

With that in mind, Ancestry has previously offered those who’ve tested the opportunity to include their sample in genealogy research databases. Those who’ve opted in may face more hurdles in having their sample destroyed.

Another aspect of handling your DNA data is the ability to download a raw DNA file containing your results for use on other sites and with other testing services. Both AncestryDNA and MyHeritage allow you to export the data their tests create, which can be uploaded into GEDmatch, Family Tree DNA and other databases to expand your likelihood of identifying all possible living relatives.

MyHeritage also allows you to upload raw data sourced from other DNA tests, which they’ll process through their system for ethnicity and family matches for a lowered rate of $29. AncestryDNA does not allow for the uploading of raw data, making MyHeritage the stronger service in this area.

Safety and Security

As we’ve already established, DNA is sensitive information, which means it’s necessary for any reputable DNA testing service to establish itself as a defender of your privacy. This is an area where Ancestry struggled pre-2017, as registration with the site defaulted to an opt-in in which your test results were shared with their research partners, and finding the opt-out was difficult. They’ve changed their Privacy Policy and ToS since then to reflect the elimination of this problematic practice, but it’s definitely tainted their legacy a bit.

When it comes to the security of your identity, both DNA services make it clear that it’s not technically necessary for you to use your legal name in order to obtain your results. When you register an account, your sample is tied only to your email address and the number on the specimen bag. While some companies share anonymous DNA data with pharmaceutical companies, both Ancestry and MyHeritage assert that your information will never be shared with anyone.

Price

Competitive pricing can make a difference in which test a budget-savvy shopper ultimately chooses, and it’s part of what’s made MyHeritage a popular pick. There’s only one test to choose from, and the base price is $79, which is a decent few dollars lower than all of the other top DNA tests.

Although Ancestry doesn’t win out in a price point competition, it’s got a few more features that many consumers are willing to shell out for. Their price structure is as follows:

  • AncestryDNA: $99
  • AncestryHealth: $149

Both tests tend to go on sale throughout the year, particularly close to family-centric holidays like Christmas, which is a great time to stock up on the kits. They don’t expire, so keeping them on hand makes for exciting gifts to give down the line.

The Bottom Line

While MyHeritage has a large user database and a variety of features that are valuable for subscribers, in the end, AncestryDNA has the features and results that testers want to see included in the base price of a test kit. Find out more about AncestryDNA and why it’s now such a popular choice.

While both tests offer sophisticated results, Ancestry allows you to contact your matches without a subscription — MyHeritage doesn’t, and their subscription can be a bit costly. That said, their cheek swab test is one of the neatest and easiest out there, and the low cost and quick turnaround time do make it a great pick for people who are curious to learn a bit more about their genetic makeup.

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Hannah H.

Hannah H.

Hannah is both a parent and a freelance journalist and author. You go, girl! She is an impeccable wordsmith and her warm and witty outlook on life makes her pieces a joy to read.

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