Unless you’re 100% Native American, you probably have some distant cousins living across the ocean. Maybe some of them have taken a DNA test, but you won’t find out unless you’re in the same database. If you’re looking to connect with people outside the U.S., it’s a good idea to find out if testing is even available in the country you’re searching.
Note: International laws may change and shipping policies are often vague. This post is based on the most current data available as of January 2019.
The top four DNA testing companies included in this comparison are AncestryDNA, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, and MyHeritage.
The largest of the top 4 personal genetic testing companies, AncestryDNA, has more than 10 million users in their database. They offer multilingual services and ship to 36 countries, as follows:
Albania, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Germany. Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, Vatican City1
AncestryDNA was launched in the U.S. in 2012.2 In 2015, the company began shipping to the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.3 The rest of the 36 countries weren’t added to the list until 2016. Although AncestryDNA’s popularity has steadily grown throughout Europe, international participants in the database are far outnumbered by American users.
It’s worth noting that AncestryDNA does not ship to France, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, or Spain, to name a few. There are ways for residents of these countries to obtain AncestryDNA kits, but the extra steps required would likely send potential customers to another testing company.
23andMe, with over 5 million users is the the 2nd-largest personal genetic testing company. They offer two different DNA test options:
Personal Genetic Service (heritage and DNA matches only) – available in many countries.
Personal Genetic Service + Health Reports – available in the United States and international markets where these tests are not prohibited.
23andMe ships to the following countries, but only offers health reports to those listed in bold:
Albania, American Samoa, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guam, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Mariana Island, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, Vatican City, Virgin Islands 4 5
Georgia and Turkey are the only countries Ancestry services that 23andMe does not. Also, 23andme’s lack of multilingual support deters many who don’t speak English. Some international customers have complained of prohibitively high shipping costs, which may be costlier than the test itself.
With about 1.5 million DNA samples, MyHeritage has a considerably smaller database of users than Ancestry or 23andMe. However, users from AncestryDNA and 23andMe may upload their raw DNA data and compare results. Like the top 2 companies, MyHeritage shows users a list of DNA matches but also generates matches based on uploads from other companies.
MyHeritage began offering DNA testing in 2016, the same year AncestryDNA expanded to reach 36 countries. MyHeritage, based in Israel, charges much lower shipping rates than AncestryDNA, making it an instant favorite among Europeans (Return shipping is included in the price of all DNA kits).
In June 2018, MyHeritage opened a distribution center in Tilburg, the Netherlands. This further lowered costs and expanded MyHeritage’s reach across Europe. The company’s blog explained:
MyHeritage DNA is offered in more languages than any other DNA service — and is sold in almost every country worldwide. MyHeritage is now known among family history enthusiasts as the leading DNA service in Europe and as the best choice for European DNA matching, enabling users to find relatives in Europe through shared DNA. It is the ideal DNA testing service for people seeking to find their relatives in Europe, and for people in the USA and the rest of the world whose ancestors originated from Europe.6
Although details on non-European countries aren’t very clear, it seems MyHeritage ships to every country in Europe except for Poland. They also cater to non English-speakers. MyHeritage won’t ship to Poland, but for a small fee, anyone can use a proxy shipping service in another country and still pay less than if they had purchased from 23andMe or Ancestry.
Why don’t they ship to Poland? Other than speculation on some message boards, I’ve found no reason why Poland is the only excluded country. While looking for answers, I found this video on Youtube.
Now I know 10 ways to say sad in Polish.
Common sense would suggest MyHeritage is a poor choice for those seeking Polish relatives, but experience has shown otherwise. I’ve encountered many Polish residents with DNA kits only on MyHeritage. Meaning, these are unique users who do not appear on Ancestry, 23andMe, or FamilyTreeDNA.
MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA each accept DNA uploads from the other three companies, but AncestryDNA and 23andMe do not accept DNA uploads at all.
With just over a million users, FamilyTreeDNA is the smallest of the top four companies. Like MyHeritage, FTDNA accepts data uploads from its three competitors (excluding 23andMe kits processed after August 2017, which, as of early 2019, are in an incompatible format).
Unlike the other companies, FamilyTreeDNA offers additional tests for paternal and maternal-line ancestry. It is also the home of many regional and surname-specific DNA projects, led by dedicated volunteer genealogists.
From the FamilyTreeDNA Learning Center:
We ship kits to most international locations … There are some countries where shipping requires special processing. These countries are Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. There are two countries, Sudan and Iran, whose customs restrictions prevent us from shipping to them. Due to the wide range of international postage costs, international shipments do not include return postage.
FamilyTreeDNA ships to every country in Europe, and many countries outside of Europe that Ancestry and 23andMe do not service. To sell kits in all of Europe, they must be fully compliant with each country’s regulations, including age restrictions. While the U.S. doesn’t currently impose age restrictions on DNA testing, American customers are subject to the same restrictions as international users. All participants between 13 and 17 years of age must have a parent or guardian sign a release form. FamilyTreeDNA will not process a test kit for anyone known to be under 13 years old.
Where Should I Test?
If you’re an adoptee or searching for someone of unknown parentage, I suggest testing with both AncestryDNA and 23andMe. Then, upload your raw data to MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA and GEDmatch. This will allow you to find matches from all the major testing companies. GEDMatch also accepts uploads from smaller companies like Geno 2.0, Wegene, and LivingDNA, which I plan to cover in future posts.
Below is a graphic comparing the top four DNA-testing companies and the countries they ship to. I’ve only included the countries specifically listed by Ancestry and 23andme. MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA ship to many other places outside of Europe that are not on this list.
What about privacy?
If you’re interested in genealogy and heritage, but worry about the security of your data, I recommend reading this article about DNA testing and privacy. Spoiler: 23andme is probably the safest choice among all the testing companies.
Meet thousands of distant cousins
If you have a few generations of ancestors born in America and want to meet a few hundred 3rd and 4th cousins, AncestryDNA and 23andme are good options. But, if you know your grandparents or great-grandparents were born in a particular country, you may find your closest matches on one of the smaller sites. Refer to the chart above to determine which company may best suit your needs.