I started using the DNA services of Ancestry.com and MyHeritage in 2017. Since then, both companies have continued to innovate with new DNA tools and features.
But if you can only buy one DNA kit from these two providers, which should you go for?
DNA Testing With Ancestry Versus MyHeritage – Which Is Best?
This review is a head-to-head comparison of what you get from MyHeritage versus Ancestry based on these categories:
- Researching your family history through DNA relatives
- Building your family tree
- Ethnicity reports
- Finding birth family
I’ll give you the winner (and the reasons why) in each category.
You may only be interested in two or three of these categories. Just tot up which gets best marks with your areas of interest.
|DNA relatives||Ancestry||More relatives on Ancestry.com|
|Building your family tree||Even||Both have advantages and disadvantages|
|Ethnicity reports||Even||Ancestry is slightly better|
|Finding birth family||Ancestry||Use both if you can afford it|
Read on for comparisons and examples.
Ancestry Versus MyHeritage: Price Comparison
Both companies run sales and special offers throughout the year, usually around national holidays.
This table shows the standard pricing at the time of writing.
|DNA test with relatives||$99||$79|
|DNA test with relatives + Traits||$119 (U.S. only||N/A|
|Genealogy services||Pricing varies||Pricing varies|
Traits and health reports
Both companies have recently discontinued services that offered health analysis. You can read about what happened to Ancestry Health here.
Ancestry offers an add-on of traits reports to U.S. customers that cost an extra twenty bucks. These provide predictions of traits like:
- Ability to smell asparagus
- Likelihood of freckles
- Likelihood of a unibrow
- Lactose intolerance
As I’m outside the United States, I can’t give first-hand experience. However, they look very similar to the reports I have with my 23andMe DNA kit purchase.
I occasionally glance at my 23andMe traits, but I wouldn’t miss them if they disappeared. They certainly don’t provide any help with genealogy research. So, let’s move quickly on!
Transferring DNA results
MyHeritage accepts DNA transfers from other major testing companies. In contrast, Ancestry.com does not.
You can transfer your Ancestry DNA results to MyHeritage for free and see DNA relatives on the site. You’ll need to pay about 30 dollars to get all the ethnicity and DNA festures.
Researching Family History Through DNA Relatives
You will see many genetic matches that also have a family tree on the website.
This combination of DNA matches with family trees is what makes the services so powerful for researching family history.
It’s easy to understand that the more relatives with trees that you get, the better. So, how do the companies measure up?
|DNA database size||Ancestry.com|
|DNA tools for sophisticated research||MyHeritage|
|Collaboration with relatives||Draw|
Who has the bigger DNA database?
If you’re interested, here’s a full round-up of the size of the DNA databases amongst the major competitors. But let’s focus here on the head-to-head.
Ancestry.com has the largest DNA database in the consumer DNA market. They come in at about 20+ million customers at the time of writing.
MyHeritage has less than half that number, with about 5+ million customers.
But that doesn’t tell the full story about how many DNA relatives you’ll find on each site.
Ancestry’s headquarters are in Utah, while MyHeritage is headquartered in Israel. The smaller company has sales in parts of Europe that Ancestry doesn’t seem to match.
If your family lines go back to the 19th century within the United States, Ancestry.com is probably the better choice.
If you have lines that immigrated from Europe through the 20th century, then MyHeritage may unlock closed doors for you.
And what if you’ve got a mix of both? That’s why I use both services!
But if I only had a choice of one? Well, I have twice the number of DNA relatives on Ancestry than I have on MyHeritage. That’s why I’ve put Ancestry as the overall winner of this category.
But let’s take a look at some other aspects. You may be surprised by how they measure up on DNA tools.
Who has the best DNA tools for research?
For reasons that I don’t understand, Ancestry.com offers the most limited set of DNA tools of the major DNA testing companies.
In contrast, the extra tools on MyHeritage allow better research and better chances to identify unknown relatives.
Both companies show you how much DNA you share with each relative on your list.
But MyHeritage lets you dig down to the chromosome level and see exactly where you share this DNA. These tools are called Chromosome Browsers and they put a lot of extra research power into your hands.
Collaborating with DNA relatives
Both companies have a messaging system that lets you send requests to your DNA relatives for information and collaboration.
Unfortunately, the response rate to messages isn’t great.
It’s worth remembering that many people buy an Ancestry DNA kit solely for ethnicity reports. They may have no interest in replying to unknown relatives.
MyHeritage also has ethnicity reports but they don’t market this as much as their Utah counterpart! My guess is that a higher percentage of their customers are there to build their family tree.
But it’s not all tumbleweed and crickets. Some people will respond with enthusiasm.
I’ve had great success with messaging on both sites. I tend to be more careful about choosing Ancestry targets (e.g. they have a family tree on the site). But I’ll rate both sites as being even on this measure.
Which Is Better For Building Your Family Tree?
Both companies started out as genealogy websites before they got into DNA services.
It should be no surprise that the two rivals are strong on family tree features and record archives.
Let’s have a quick rundown of what’s available on both platforms.
|Online family tree software||Y||Y|
|Mobile family tree app||Y||Y|
|Free desktop tree software||Y||N|
|Filter relatives by ancestral location and surname||Y||Y|
|Speculative “built for you” tree||Y||Y|
Online, mobile, and desktop family tree software
Both companies have online family tree builders. You can work directly on the website with a nice big interface to enter new relatives and facts in your family tree.
Alternatively, they also both have mobile apps. But I find the cellphone screen too small for reasonable work.
The major advantage for MyHeritage is that they have desktop software available for free. It lets you work on your family tree on your home computer, and you can synchronize your online and local trees.
Ancestry used to own software called Family Tree Maker, which they later sold to an independent company. This software is well regarded, but it’s not free.
Filter DNA relatives by ancestor location and surname
Both companies let you filter your DNA relatives on ancestry details from their family trees on the sites.
This could be a specific surname or a place where your ancestors resided.
Speculative “built for you” trees
How great would it be if either company could search through your DNA relatives and build your tree while you’re snoozing?
Actually, both companies have a go at doing exactly this. They don’t charge in rudely to change your family tree. Instead, they offer suggestions for new branches and connections.
Sometimes these suggestions are simply incorrect. You have to remember that the suggestions are based on the family trees of others.
So, they are only as good or bad as the quality of the trees. It’s up to you to double-check what you’re offered.
But I’ve had some excellent suggestions from both sites that I verified to be correct.
Ancestry calls their feature “Thrulines”. I nearly awarded MyHeritage as the winner here with their rather wordy moniker of “Theories Of Family Relativity”.
Genealogical Record Archives
Winner: Depends on your family history
Both companies have archives of genealogical records such as historical birth, marriage, and death records.
Access requires a separate subscription to your DNA kit.
This article is primarily about the DNA offerings so I won’t do an in-depth comparison here. I have a full review of the different Ancestry subscription costs.
I subscribed to both record services in 2020 and 2021. I also subscribe to other record services.
Why? Because different archives have exclusive access to different collections around the world. Yes, it’s really annoying!
I can’t call a clear winner here because Ancestry may be better value for you if you are looking for records in the United States. While MyHeritage may have some hard-to-find collections of European records.
My best advice is to take out a free trial on both services. Instead of using the free period to do a deep dive into a single branch of your tree, try to evaluate the availability of records for all your lines.
Summary: Nearly even, Ancestry is marginally better for me
Both Ancestry.com and MyHeritage provide ethnicity estimates.
Here’s a quick summary of how I rate them:
|Accuracy at broad regional level||Ancestry|
|European breakdown (Irish)||Even (both are good)|
|Non-European breakdown (African)||Even (both are poor)|
Ancestry has released changes to their ethnicity estimates several times over the last several years.
For specifics, check out our article on how often Ancestry updates its ethnicity estimates.
Personally, I’ve seen significant improvement in my broad region estimate on Ancestry.
In contrast, MyHeritage is lagging behind at regional level. My results haven’t adjusted in several years, and I don’t think they’re as good as what Ancestry gives me.
However, MyHeritage rolled out a major new ethnicity feature at the end of 2020. This uses your DNA relatives to estimate very specific geographical origins.
They managed to pinpoint my Irish side to two small counties in a small country. I was very impressed!
I would have been even more impressed if Ancestry.com hadn’t provided the same feature several years earlier!
Let’s take a quick look. Here’s an excerpt of my Irish heritage on Ancestry.com that drills down to small areas within Ireland.
Here’s an excerpt from MyHeritage showing similar small areas in Ireland. Both sites match my family tree at this very detailed level. (However, MyHeritage throws in a significant 11.4% East European heritage, which is way off base).
Ancestry is slightly less poor for my non-European heritage
It’s fair to say that the ethnicity calculations from all the major DNA testing companies work best for European heritage.
Ancestry.com has improved my non-European breakdown over the past few years. I’ve seen some improvement on my African side, although it’s still not great. However, its still better than what I get on MyHeritage.
Which Is Best For Finding Unknown Birth Family?
Winner: Use both
If you are in this situation, check out our overview of all the major DNA tests that assess which is best for adopted adults and people researching birth family.
The review covers Ancestry, MyHeritage, MyHeritage, and FamilyTreeDNA.
We lay out a detailed strategy that combines some or all of these sites in a cost-effective way.
Here, I’ll summarize by recommending Ancestry.com as your starting point if you’re looking for birth family. This is simply down to the size of their customer database.
Then you can transfer your Ancestry DNA for free to MyHeritage to fish in more ponds for DNA relatives.
The point is that you can’t do this in reverse! You can’t test with MyHeritage, and upload your results to Ancestry.com.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is behind these companies?
Ancestry.com was purchased in 2020 by a massive investment firm. You can read more in our article on who owns Ancestry.
MyHeritage is still in private hands, although it has several investors. Read more in our article on who owns MyHeritage.
Is my privacy protected?
You can use a nickname or your initials on both websites when choosing what to display to your DNA relatives.
Both sites have a website messaging system and don’t reveal your contact details.
Are there alternative DNA testing companies?
23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, and Living DNA also offer DNA kits.
Check out our head-to-head comparisons: