You may see reviews for various DNA kits from different companies telling you about the benefits and costs of each. The TV commercials make them all look very interesting and they may have sales or coupons to try to get you to buy. There's a variety of options out there now including: Ancestry, 23 and Me, MyHeritage, Family Tree DNA, and others. Go ahead and read those reviews if you'd like. Or, let me make this simple for you...
Why? Several reasons. First, more people have done Ancestry DNA than other kits. In fact, it is estimated that over thirty-five million people have done these kits and more than twenty million are on Ancestry. Those numbers are changing rapidly and could be much higher. Why is this important? Because, Ancestry will likely give you more DNA matches since they have the largest database of users. You will have more family members to connect with. Next, I have used other DNA kits and Ancestry is the easiest to use. With that being said, it's still very complex for most people. And finally, you get an enormous amount of additional information that you can search for on the site including: Census records, military records, birth, marriage and death records, immigration documents and more. Most importantly, I find Ancestry is simply the most fun.
What do the other sites offer? The other sites do have something Ancestry doesn't, a chromosome browser. This allows you to see data from each of your chromosomes. You can compare your DNA matches chromosome data to yours and see what segments match up to determine relationships. This is very difficult and best left to the experts. The average person is not going to do this. From my experience, the average person has a hard time even figuring out Ancestry. Stick with the site that has the most users and is the easiest to use. That's Ancestry!
There are some good reasons to purchase other DNA kits. Companies like 23 and Me are marketing geniuses. They managed to convince millions of people to purchase a product that's not as good for more money. Since there are already millions of people on that site, you will likely get additional DNA matches there. So, if you can't find what you're looking for from Ancestry, purchasing 23 and Me would make sense, but only if Ancestry doesn't solve your mystery. For example, if you're desperately looking for a family member, and there's no connections to that person on Ancestry, then 23 and Me or another site might be worth it for you. Maybe a relative submitted their DNA on another site, but not to Ancestry. You could end up finding a close match. I've also heard that MyHeritage is quite popular in Europe. If you're in Europe, or looking for a European relative, you might have some luck on that site. 23 and Me also includes health related DNA information that Ancestry doesn't. If that interests you, that's another reason to consider it. Trust me on this, if you're making your first DNA kit purchase, ANCESTRY is the way to go.
What does it cost to buy a DNA kit? Many of these companies have sales throughout the year, and some companies offer different prices based on the length of your membership or specific features they may offer. So, depending on when and what you buy, the cost will vary. On average, you're probably going to pay $100 to $200 to get started. That will get your DNA done and may give you a monthly, semi-annual, or annual subscription to the website. I'm not familiar with all the sites, but I know that on Ancestry.com, even if you let your subscription expire, you can still log into your account and view new DNA matches. You won't have access to research material or family trees, but it's still useful even if you just do a one-time payment. You can also reactivate your subscription anytime if needed. If money is an issue for you, I have heard that MyHeritage is a cheaper option. Again, Ancestry has the biggest database of users. In my opinion, that is the most important selling point. More users means more possible DNA matches for you.
UPDATE: Be sure to check out my blog post called, Get More DNA Matches For Free. After you've done Ancestry, 23 and Me, or another DNA kit, you can upload your DNA file to other sites, like GEDmatch, and possibly find more people who share DNA with you. I highly recommend this, especially if you don't want to spend money purchasing kits from multiple companies. The more matches you have, the better your chances are of finding what you're looking for. And yes, it really is 100% free to upload data and view matches. You will NOT need to submit credit card information or anything like that.
In my next post, I'll tell you about the many people who still don't understand what DNA can do.