Thursday, February 21, 2008

Genealogical DNA

After an extended discussion with my grandparents about genealogical DNA testing and the genealogical benefits that can be realized, they have agreed to participate. Getting them on-board was the first step. The next step is figuring out which company to utilize. To compare and contrast the genealogical DNA companies the following criteria will be utilized:

  • Number of participants. The larger the participant pool the greater the chance of finding a match.
  • Cost/Number of markers. Cost has to factor in at some point although we are willing to spend a fair amount of money to ensure the right test is performed with the right company. In addition, tests that offer fewer than 30 markers will not be considered due to
  • Ability to transfer results to/from other genealogical DNA sites. Many genealogical DNA companies will accept results from other sites so careful planning can yield coverage at multiple sites.
  • Costs to transfer results. If a company is willing to accept the results from other companies is there a fee involved? Some companies do if for free while others do charge a substantial fee.
  • Results and reports. The ability to match others is the primary reasons we are conducting these tests. The ability to easily and effectively navigate the site and investigate possible matches is of importance. Additionally, the reports themselves are also of importance. If they are not easy to read or understand then they will likely become a hindrance instead of a benefit. Finally, notifications of possible matches as they become available are important.
  • Existing, related DNA participants. Obviously, we are looking to find family connections and if the site is void of Wakefield or associated family participants then that company will likely be eliminated from consideration.
For the sake of the analysis the following companies were selected as possible companies to be included in the analysis:

  • Ancestry
  • DNA Heritage
  • EthnoAncestry
  • FamilyTreeDNA
  • GeneBase
  • GeneTree
  • iGENEA
  • National Geographic Genographic Project
  • Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation is a leading genealogical site that has recently extended their service offerings to include genealogical DNA services. They are a leader in the industry and there venture into genealogical DNA services will surely be a success. At this time they have less than 50,000 participants but I anticipate that will increase substantially over the next year or two. Also impressive is there reporting features. I found their interfaces and reporting features to be the best of all companies reviewed. Ancestry offers a 46 marker paternal like test for just $219. Here are a few screen shots of their reports:

DNA Heritage

DNA Heritage offers testers the ability to select which markers, of the 43 available, to include in their test. All 43 markers can be tested for just $199. Results could be shared with others sites with DNA Heritage promoting their public DNA sharing site, Ybase. The Ybase site has over 9000 surnames.


EthnoAncestry offers a 45 marker test for $349. The costs were high compared to competing sites and the website was not very well structured or well organized. Due to the inability to effectively navigate the site and look up other participants and surnames and their inability to take the results of the test and present the results in effective, meaningful reports and analysis for the testers I am ruling this company out.


FamilyTreeDNA is the leader in genealogical DNA analysis. Their database has over 4600 surname groups, nearly 120,000 Y-DNA (male) test records, and over 61,000 mtDNA (female) records. The company offers three Y-DNA tests although we would only consider two of the tests, 37 markers and 67 markers, due to the number of markers offered.

When considered purchasing a test from FamilyTreeDNA be sure to locate your surname or a reasonable close associated family so that the costs of test will be less. If you belong to a surname group the cost of the 67 marker test is reduced by 23% to just $269. You can always join other surname groups after the initial test results have been completed.

They do charge material fees (in excess of $150) for the integration of DNA from other companies.


GeneBase offers a 44 marker test for $199. Currently there are just over 36,000 participants in the database. After reviewing the site, I got the impression that there was a lot of flash but no substance. Information was not easily found which is a issue for me.


GeneTree a very young company that is just getting started. They have the backing of Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, a leading genetic-genealogy company, but due to their lack of longevity and participants they are ruled out from further analysis.


iGENEA is a subsidiary of the same company that FamilyTreeDNA is a member. It appears that iGENEA is the European version of the FamilyTreeDNA site so for our analysis and consideration iGENEA will be ruled out from further analysis since FamilyTreeDNA represents the company for our purposes.

National Geographic Genographic Project

The National Geographic Genographic Project is a project designed to provide insight into one's deep ancestral roots. It is not meant to be a source of finding common ancestors among the participants but a research project to analyze migration and evolutionary of people throughout the world. A noble and worthwhile project that is worthy of joining at a later date.

Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation

Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation has over 70,000 records in their database but only 23,000 of those are paternal tests. There is a partnership with the Latter Day Saints' site that marries the information from the DNA results with family records on There were two Wakefield entries found in the database.


In reviewing the companies offering genealogical DNA services it became evident that the number of participants and whether or not surname, or family, participants were already apart of the program were going to weigh heavily in the analysis. Additionally, leveraging the generosity of the various sites to accept the result from competing sites was also going to be a key factor in choosing the company.

In comparing the companies, the list of possible companies was quickly pared down to just four companies: Ancestry, DNA Heritage, FamilyTreeDNA, and GeneBase. DNA Heritage should only be used if a test was the only thing that was needed. That is not our goal at this time so they will be removed from consideration. Compared to Ancestry and FamilyTreeDNA, Genebase did not have nearly as many participants, especially participants we would be interested in, and the site was not easy to navigate. As a result, the top two companies were Ancestry and FamilyTreeDNA. Ancestry, in the long-term may become the leader due to their already significant number of users of their many services but for now and the immediate future the leader is FamilyTreeDNA. If we could do both that would be great but the costs would be doubled. Or would they?

After reviewing the various genealogical DNA companies I have decided to have my grandpa, Willard D. Wakefield, submit his DNA to FamilyTreeDNA. The large number of participants, the Wakefield and associated families like the Shirleys that are already in the database, the ability to take a more thorough test at a reasonable cost, and the ability to transfer the results to other sites at little or no cost were the leading reasons why FamilyTreeDNA was selected.

For my grandpa’s Wakefield line, we are going to take the 67 marker test offered for paternal relationship analysis. Once we have the results we will share those results with the Ybase database,, and any other site that will accept the results from FamilyTreeDNA. By taking the most thorough test possible more matches and more accurate matches will be made, sharing with others site should be feasible since most markers would be covered by the 67 marker test, and we will be better positioned for future test that may include the same or more markers in their analysis. By going with FTDNA we are able to leverage the industry's leading company to our advantage and get the benefits of multiple company sites with only a small of money being spent. By far the best plan I could come up with to get the biggest bang for the buck. Hope this brief review and advise helps you in your DNA considerations.

Recommended steps for Wakefield Genealogical DNA Participants:

  1. Go to Wakefield Surname group on FamilyTreeDNA and select 37 or 67 marker test. Absolutely do it through the surname group as there is a substantial discount for doing so.
  2. Once results have been completed upload those results to the YBase. At this time there is no Wakefield group on their site so it will need to be created. There is no charge.
  3. Once results have been completed upload those results to the There is no charge.
  4. On FamilyTreeDNA review and join associated families that are in your line such as the Shirley, Davis, or Burgess.

Add your DNA results to other sites as you see fit.


Chris Hart said...

In addition to my grandpa getting testing, my grandma, Phyllis Ruth (Stage) Wakefield is getting tested. She has signed up for the White surname since there was no Stage group present on White is the maiden name of her mother.

DNA David said...

FTDNA claims large numbers in their database. However, these numbers are referred to their internal customer-based databases and not to the online searchable records (available at Ysearch and mtDNA). Therefore, comparing the number of genetic profiles from FTDNA with those of SMGF is not correct, as you are comparing data not available to the public with a searchable open source database.

Another fact that is often overlooked is the combined number of genetic profiles provided by and available at + GeneTree + DNAHeritage + SMGF. All of this companies use Sorenson Genomics as their lab provider and therefore, for the most part, it is easier to compare DNA results among these companies than it is with FTDNA.

There was no mention that although the final choice was to go with FTDNA, there was nothing to prevent submitting the DNA to SMGF as well. It would increase the chances to find matches at no additional cost.

Chris Hart said...


For the person who is going to purchase the DNA test wouldn't the records in their internal customer-based databases be exactly the ones we would have access to? My analysis was meant to try and uncover the total number of participants a person would be joining for possible matches.

As far as the open source database such as, Ybase, SMGF, and others, the very reason I selected FTDNA is that the other companies will accept the results from FTDNA and, as you and I have both stated, you can expand your dataset and uncover more matches for no additional cost (see the section title "Recommended steps for Wakefield Genealogical DNA Participants."


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