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Meet the Author
I'm Jennifer, and I'm an Occasional Genealogist... sort of. For over ten years I've been a professional genealogist. I started researching my own family nearly 30 years ago. Like many of you, I started as an Occasional Genealogist. I had to squeeze research in while in school and while working full-time. Then I got my first genealogy job and for awhile, it was genealogy all the time. Now I have two kids. I do other people's genealogy constantly but my own? Coming up with ways to do great genealogy, despite all the interruptions, is now mandatory.

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Posts contain affiliate links. See my disclosures page for details.


Interested in DNA for genealogy?

I love using DNA for genealogy. That means I talk to a lot of people about DNA, whether they are "genealogists" or not. One thing I constantly tell people is DNA tests go on sale regularly. And right now (see update below for when is "now") is one of those sales. And this is a pretty big sale because all three types of tests are on sale at FamilyTreeDNA. (and yes, you are going to find affiliate links in this post!)

[UPDATE: This post is now updated for holiday 2017 sales. Tests do go on sale regularly so I'm leaving the bulk of the post here, as-is, for your reference.]
Do you know where to buy a DNA test for family history? That's a pretty basic first step. Here's my advice on getting started with a DNA test for genealogy. | The Occasional Genealogist

I personally recommend FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA) as my top recommendation because they offer all three types of DNA tests. This includes the current most popular type, autosomal DNA, called the "FamilyFinder" at FTDNA (this is the only type of test sold by AncestryDNA, MyHeritageDNA, and is the genealogical component of the tests from 23andMe).

FTDNA also offers YDNA and mtDNA tests. It gets expensive to do all three or even two BUT...

If you test with FTDNA, no matter what type of test, the sample is stored so you can upgrade or add a different type of test later. This can include test types we may not even have today. I had my dad take a YDNA test back in 2007 and when autosomal DNA became available, I simply added that type of test (they used his existing sample, no re-swabbing).

Confused by types of test or this whole concept? This is a great, easy to understand book that covers all the types currently available. Available in paperback or (for a lot less) Kindle.

Additionally, the FTDNA kits are a swab test, not a spit test. Some people can't produce enough saliva for the spit test, often including the elderly or even people on certain medications. Anyone can take a swab test, so FTDNA is a pretty safe bet.

Trust me, I've had two relatives that HAD to do a swab test and one I was sure her spit test was going to give me the DNA of her lipstick. I'm glad to have the latter test where it was but that would be a useful test to have at FTDNA since the test taker is now deceased and at some point I might like mtDNA for her (her mtDNA is different than mine or my dad's but I'm just out of luck since she was tested elsewhere).

FTDNA also offers good tools built in (including an improved experience to upload a family tree). You can also transfer your FTDNA results (for free) to GEDmatch. You can read my post about why use GEDmatch, here.

So what's on sale at FTDNA? Below is an image showing the prices advertised (note, these are the prices that were emailed to me, whatever is on the FTDNA website are the correct prices should there be a discrepancy). The sale prices are only good through 31 August 2017. If you're reading this after that date, you'll have to wait for another sale and the prices will likely be different.

Also, I know the test types aren't super clear in this image, this was designed for people already familiar with FTDNA. FMS is for mtDNA, anything starting with "Y" is a YDNA test, as I mentioned FamilyFinder is the autosomal test (that's the only test you can transfer to GEDmatch, it's abbreviated FF).
Click on the image to be taken to FTDNA to purchase a test or click here.

Remember, upgrades are upgrading from an existing test so don't think you can get in on that $35 price, that's if you've already had a Y25 test done.

As a note, you can absolutely store unused tests until you have a chance to test a relative. That includes buying a kit now for a Christmas present. [The following refers to the August sale timeframe] There will be a sale around Christmas but you may not get the actual kit in time to wrap it up. Even if you don't want a gift to wrap, you may see the relative you need test around the holidays. I like to have my kits in my hand (or more specifically, I have about four in a drawer until I can visit certain relatives).

For the holiday sale, one of the BIG advantages is there is also a weekly deal emailed out. I'm not sure how or if you can take advantage of that if you haven't purchased a test before (i.e. I don't know if there is just a free newsletter you can sign-up for, I'll have to look into that as it's only a "thing" for the holiday test).

I know this post doesn't give you a lot of specifics about using DNA or even choosing a test type. I've told a lot of people lately---from a genealogy society I was speaking to, to my hairdresser---that they can wait for DNA tests to go on sale. This post is really for all those people so I have a place to send them. But I didn't want to leave anyone else hanging with no additional information on why I was promoting FTDNA, specifically.

Is this the best price you're going to find? I have no idea. I've seen autosomal tests as low as $59 $49 but I can't tell you what the testing companies will do later. I will tell you this. If you have an older relative you want to test, just do it. Even if you want his YDNA, grab that $69 FamilyFinder if the $139 YDNA test is too much for your budget right now. Save up and you can purchase a YDNA test using the existing sample, later.

I have a follow-up post on saving even more (or saving on shipping when tests aren't on sale) that also mentions other test types. Learn how to save more on genetic genealogy in this post.

Here are my other posts specifically about DNA in case you are looking for other information.

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)

Do you have other DNA questions? Leave a comment to let me know what you need to learn more about.

FTDNA Sale Reference
August 2017

Discover your family history using DNA and genetic genealogy. Now is a great time to get started. | The Occasional Genealogist