Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Uploading DNA to FTDNA from 23andMe

When I decided to get my DNA tested, I had to decide where to send it. 23andme.com offers a $99 full DNA test, but their service is geared toward medical testing and offers relative finding as a secondary offering. Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) charges $289 for their full test but their database is better suited for genealogy. Ancestry DNA charges $99 as well.

Both 23andMe and FTDNA allow you to download your raw DNA results for upload at other sites.  It turns out that you can get a good deal by using both. Since 23andMe data is compatible with FTDNA, you can get tested at 23andMe and uploaded the raw data to FTDNA for only $89.  So, for only $188 you can actually get both 23andMe and FTDNA. That’s less than the cost of a full test at FTDNA alone.  So, that’s what I did.
23andme_logoBack in February I posted my results from my test at 23andMe and I just uploaded my data to FTDNA.  Since it isn’t obvious how the process works, I thought I’d show it.  It’s actually quite painless. If you have had your DNA tested at 23andMe here’s how to download the raw data and how to upload it to FTDNA.

Downloading Your Genome from 23andMe

The first thing you need to do is get the raw data from 23andMe.  On the site, you can find your data by clicking under account and choosing “Browse Raw Data”.


This takes you to a page that offers tools for looking at the individual SNPs in the test.  At the top of the page is a link to “Download Raw Data”.  This allows you to save a file of your raw data.


This downloads a zipped text file to your computer.  My file was about 8MB in size.  Once you download it, you need to unzip it since FTDNA needs an unzipped text file to work with.  The unzipped file is about 3 times larger than the zipped file was, so it can take a while if you have a slow internet connection. 

This is what you should see:


Now that you have your data on your computer, it’s time to upload it to FTDNA.


Uploading to FTDNA

The first thing you need to do is to get an account and order the analysis.  On the FTDNA Products page they list all the tests they perform.  You can order a whole new test from here if you like.

Transferring the genome to FTDNA is much cheaper than having them perform the test.  A full Family Finder test costs $289.00, but deeper in their list of products they will accept third party tests.


I chose the “Transfer Relative Finder” for $89.  After filling out the information and supplying my credit card info, I got a welcome email with a “Kit Number” and a password.  After logging in I clicked the button to upload my raw data.  Make sure you upload the unzipped .txt file, and not the zip file.  Since it mine was 24MB it can take a while.  After a few minutes I got this confirmation:


The message says that my file was recognized and compatible with the FTDNA database.  Surprisingly it says it will be processed in 6-10 weeks.  I would have thought that an uploaded dataset would be faster than sending a DNA sample. 

imageBack on the Home Page

On my home page was a link that actually offers a better explanation for this delay. I clicked the Waiting for Results icon to get more Info.  Apparently they have recently upgraded their tests and are batch processing a lot of tests.  I’m apparently in Batch 2.  Oh, well, hopefully it means that my test results will benefit from the upgrade.


Sign the Release Form

Back on the home page, I saw an interesting icon to sign a Release Form.  When you click it it takes you to a release that allows FTDNA to provide your email contact information to people who match your genetic profile.  Here is the agreement:
imageI give permission to Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) to make my information available to a genetic match.
This will be done according to guidelines set forth in the section entitled "Legal" on the Privacy Policy page that I have read and understand.
If another party’s genetic DNA is a relevant match to my DNA, I want FTDNA to release to them my e-mail address or my mailing address if the e-mail address is not supplied.
Unless I sign this Release Form, my personal information will not be shared with anyone who may match my DNA markers in any form, now or in the future.
In the event I sign this document, I understand that FTDNA will share only my e-mail address with another person who shares my personal family genetic marker, and I hold FTDNA harmless for all consequences of sharing this information with that other individual(s).
While some people might not want to give out their contact information, I figure that the main reason to use a genealogy-focused DNA testing service like FTDNA is to make contacts with potential relatives.  That would be rather difficult if we couldn’t contact each other, so I went ahead and signed the release.

Now the Waiting Starts

Well, that’s all there is to it.  I’ve opened my account, submitted my data, paid my fee, and now I’ll just have to wait until they get through their batches.  While I expect my overall results to be similar to 23andMe, I am hoping to find a few more relatives in their database.  I came up pretty dry on 23andMe.

So, if you’re just getting into DNA as I am, this two-site method gets you a lot of bang for the buck.


  1. Arnold van Beverhoudt Jr.April 9, 2013 at 9:44 AM

    Thanks for the info, David. My $$'s are going to pay income taxes today, but I do intend to have the DNA screening done soon.


  2. David,
    I sent my sample to 23andme on March 2, and I am waiting. I will save up for the other test.
    My family seemed to have vanished, hoping this will unearth them.

  3. Is there some benefit to FTDNA over just GEDMATCH, which is free?

    1. Yes, there will be some people who tested at FTDNA who have NOT uploaded their data to gedmatch, thus they would only be seen at FTDNA.

  4. To be honest, I wasn't aware of GEDMATCH. It's down for maintenance right now, but I will definitely check it out. It seems to have some interesting tools and a great price tag. As for advantages, I think the goal isn't to find the "best" site, but rather to use a many as possible. Matches involve comparing ones DNA to others' in the database, so the larger the database the better. FTDNA has the largest database right now. Since all the databases are separate, you need to search them all. I'm definitely going to upload my results there as well. I'll let you know what I find.

    Thanks for the pointer!

  5. Ancestry.com also offers DNA testing with the ability to download the DNA RAW Data:

  6. Can you reverse the process and upload your FTDNA raw data to 23and Me? Checking out various genetic related DNA forums I was impressed with how 23and Me seemed to be much more specific when disclosing ethnic origins to their patrons.

  7. Hi, I tried to upload raw data but it keeps giving me an error message.

    1. 23andme has upgraded their format to V4 from V3. FTDNA supports only upto V3. You can try to upload your raw files to GEDmatch.Com, it will tell you 23andme raw format number. I don't know any other way to check the version/format of 23andme data.

  8. I had my test done at Ancestry and the composition was NOT as reported by my family. Specifically I AM SURE that my great great grandmother on my mother's side was of Irish ancestry and equally AS SURE that my father's father is a Cherokee! Well when I got my results from ancestry I was reported as less than 1 percent native american, and none of my european ancestry was Irish!

    Not convinced of Ancestry.com accuracy I did the free upload and free 1st 20 matches from Family Tree DNA and VIOLA one of my first two matches is of total Irish ancestry, and a few down show North Carolina/Virginia area which is traditionally Cherokee Nation. Whilst DNA is DNA ancestry.com racial break down information was ALL WRONG for me!

    You can transfer your raw data to FTDNA using this link for free https://www.familytreedna.com/autosomalTransfer?atdna=mGuGbpp1PgJxZC6kBS9UEg%3d%3d

    Please do tell if the ancestry information is more accurate with FTDNA that with Ancestry.com

  9. Thanks a lot for your help on this. I look forward for more information about uploading my DNA Data.
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  10. Thanks for the info, David. My $$'s are going to pay income taxes today, but I do intend to have the DNA screening done soon.
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