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How to Do Genetic Genealogy on the Cheap

This post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure page for more information.

I know I just wrote about DNA (I'm trying to save you some money while kits are on sale!) but I just found an even cheaper way to get into genetic genealogy and it doesn't involve products that fell off the back of a van or selling vital organs. It's totally legit.

This is the cheapest way I 've found to get a DNA test, consistently. You might find a better deal from a Groupon or through GiltCity (or similar sites) but this is an option any time you suddenly NEED to jump into genetic genealogy.
DNA tests get expensive when you want to test every cousin. Save on the kits so you can test more relatives!

Cheap DNA Tests for Genealogy


A while back I noticed you could get DNA tests on Amazon. Well guess what, they run the same sales (which I wasn't sure about because I haven't seen this advertised)!

The big advantage of buying from Amazon is free shipping. You can even get free one-day shipping (per the normal Amazon restrictions). That means you can get a test ASAP when you find out you're going to see a relative.

Stick with the Big Three Four

If you search for DNA on Amazon you'll get all sorts of results including a number of other test kits. If you want to take a DNA test (or have a relative take one) for the purpose of genealogy---and you are not well versed in genetic genealogy---stick with one of the big four.

That's FamilyTreeDNA (also known as FTDNA), AncestryDNA (from Ancestry.com), 23andMe, and now MyHeritage DNA. I've provided links below which take you directly to the products I'm discussing.

MyHeritage DNA is also a solid choice but at this time, I don't see their kit available on Amazon and that's what I'm focusing on in this post.

[Note: The AncestryDNA holiday 2017 sale has recently ended as I write this and I've noticed the price on Amazon still shows a discount but the price is more than via Ancestry.com. I think it is still cheaper via Amazon (by a few dollars) if you're paying shipping at Ancestry.com.

I recommend price-comparing tests as shipping is often at least $10, sometimes per test and sometimes per order. Your situation may make the testing companies site cheaper or Amazon.com cheaper. You also may want to order an extra kit or two in some situations or just stick with buying exactly what you need.]

[DNA Day 2018 Sale Update: The DNA Day sales launched today and the prices on Amazon.com show the sale price for 23andMe and MyHeritageDNA but the AncestryDNA kits are still full price. Since I previously noticed those prices lower after a sale ended, this might change. So really, you need to price compare.]


AncestryDNA (Ancestry.com)

The AncestryDNA kit is available right now (early August 2017) for the sale price of $69, that's the same as the advertised sale if you go to Ancestry.com. That sale is supposed to run through August 15th. If you've missed the sale, kits do go on sale several times a year so keep your eyes peeled.

[DNA Day 2018---advertised price is $59, showing $99 (i.e. full price) on Amazon initially. I can get free one-day shipping which this morning mean same day delivery---this afternoon, I can get it tomorrow---perfect for a last minute trip to see a relative. One day shipping depends on where you live.]

If you buy from the Ancestry.com/DNA website, you'll have to pay shipping. On Amazon, this is a product "sold by AncestryDNA Official and Fulfilled by Amazon." That means you get the speed of Amazon and the free shipping but it really is the same as buying it "direct," otherwise.

23andMe

DNA Day 2018 sale price (on-site or at Amazon.com) $69.

You have the same choice with 23andMe for the "Ancestry" version (not to be confused with "Ancestry.com" they mean heritage/genealogy/family history) or the "Health + Ancestry" version. The $100 difference between these two versions is the health testing. If you only want the genealogy related testing, get the cheaper ("Ancestry") version.

Update:

MyHeritage DNA

DNA Day 2018 Sale price (on site or at Amazon.com) $69.

I've been reminded to update this post because MyHeritage DNA has made some updates in the last few days. This includes rolling out a chromosome browser (April 2018 update---this has expanded into even more segment-based tools---you should really check it out!).

I haven't had a chance to look into the details of all the updates they made, but... At the moment, MyHeritage DNA is my favorite for results (I still love FTDNA, see below, because they offer all three test types). Why has MyHeritage DNA suddenly made the top of my list? It's like the best of AncestryDNA and FTDNA rolled into one.

You'll still want to use other tools, in particular GEDmatch, but MyHeritage is very strong with family trees, which is really the only thing that has made me like AncestryDNA [note: I have heard people malign the testing from AncestryDNA, there is no difference in the testing process between these four companies, it's their presentation of the results and the tools they provide that make a difference].

Now that MyHeritage DNA has a chromosome browser, I can very quickly and easily see if two people who have a tree match to me, also match on the same segment. Before I had to go to GEDmatch and hope the person had uploaded there (and sometimes deduce if they were the same person, it wasn't quick and easy).

MyHeritage DNA is really pushing to take over in the DNA market. This is good news for you. They are offering competitive pricing and now have improved tools. Take advantage of this new competition!

FamilyTreeDNA

DNA Day 2018 sale price (Family Finder---other test types also on sale) $59!

That brings me to FTDNA which is my top recommendation for a testing company. For one reason, they offer two more types of testing. However, this kit is sold by another company and I have no idea why (the reviews are good but mixed, if you have any concerns, you can simply buy from FTDNA but you will have to pay shipping).

Update: I've seen some bad reviews that are relevant so for FTDNA, I highly recommend you read the Amazon reviews or just buy direct from FTDNA. A lot of the reviews on Amazon will be negative about the tests in general (regardless of where you purchase that company's kit) but a lot of these are the same complaints I hear generally.

In most cases, the person is accusing a company of something that is a normal part of genetic genealogy, they just don't understand that facet of the process. In particular, your ethnicity/test results aren't wrong. You don't understand what they are telling you (there is some misleading information in advertising which is why so many people think their results are wrong but there's no difference from one company to another as far as which is "better").

So, in general I don't recommend using the Amazon reviews to decide where to purchase a DNA test kit. The exception is related to the FTDNA kits being sold by a third party, not FTDNA or Amazon.

You will only find one kind of FTDNA test on Amazon. That's the FamilyFinder. Although the product on Amazon may not have this listed in its name, that's what it is (autosomal DNA---the equivalent of the AncestryDNA/23andMe/MyHeritageDNA test type).

FTDNA stores your sample so you can have other types added later. That means you've still saved the shipping because they will use the sample you sent with your original test.

I've found paying shipping on FTDNA tests is always what drives my cost up. The shipping cost is the same PER TEST no matter how many you order at once. Getting free shipping is a big savings when you combine it with a sale.

Get Started Now

If you want to try out genetic genealogy (using DNA for family history), ordering a kit from Amazon that's on sale (and getting free shipping) is the way to go. If you aren't getting free shipping, it might be cheaper to order direct from the testing company's website.

Finally, I recommend checking out my other posts on DNA if you are new, especially my last post which includes information on some of the differences in how you take the tests.
Is DNA the "Magic Bullet" for Occasional Genealogists?
Do I Need a Family Tree If I Take a DNA Test?
The FREE DNA Tool You Need to Know
Simple DNA Project Tracking Form for Evernote
Did you know you have a "digital estate" and why genealogists care (this isn't just DNA but an important item to think about once you or your relatives have a DNA test done)

Today's post is about saving money when you buy a test. You won't be saving money if you order a test kit only to discover you (or the person you're testing) can't produce enough saliva to take the test. My previous post discusses that issue.

Do you have questions about getting started in genetic genealogy? Leave a comment.




Curious to try using DNA to discover your family history? Maximize your savings with this suggestion. | The Occasional Genealogist
Get started exploring your family history with DNA. | The Occasional Genealogist

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