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AncestryDNA Review 2021: The Most Advanced DNA Test?

Our score:
9.9
User score:
9.9

Expert opinion:

AncestryDNA is the DNA testing arm of the popular Ancestry genealogy service. Submitting a DNA sample allows you to add DNA-matched relatives to your family tree and can tell you about 30+ physical traits determined by your DNA. Sign up now to discover your ethnic makeup and uncover your heritage, but beware of the additional subscription fee to build your family tree.
Written by Gemma Davison
Last updated on October 6, 2021
  • Ancestry
  • Family Tree
Written by Gemma Davison on October 6, 2021
  • Ancestry
  • Family Tree

What Will You Discover About Your Ancestry?

AncestryDNA claims to be able to unveil your ethnic and geographic origins by analyzing your autosomal DNA that’s extracted from a simple saliva sample.

How does it work?

Your DNA is analyzed at 700,000 genetic markers and compared to 43 ethnicities and over 1,000 reference populations to predict your genetic ethnicity going back multiple generations.

To find out if AncestryDNA could live up to its promises, I took the test myself. I thoroughly evaluated the ancestry report, as well as looked at extra features, customer support, pricing, and more.

Overall, AncestryDNA is a great test for discovering your heritage. You get a detailed ethnic estimate with a percentage breakdown, plus some information on your subregional ancestry.

You’ll also get DNA matches from the Ancestry DNA database, as well as an online family tree builder, which you can test out for free. Access to historical records does require a paid subscription, but a 14-day free trial will help you decide if it’s worth the investment.

However, AncestryDNA is missing a few things, including mtDNA and Y-DNA analysis.

Order AncestryDNA Today!

One DNA Kit Offering Many Possibilities

Ancestry has just one DNA test – and ancestry DNA test, which I tested myself for the purpose of this review.

AncestryDNA ships to four continents and to 34 countries throughout the globe, including the US, United Kingdom, Canada, and numerous European countries.

One DNA Kit Offering Many Possibilities

AncestryDNA can tell you about your ethnic and geographical origins of your ancestors as well as connect you to potential relatives through DNA matching.

The DNA test from Ancestry includes:

  • Ethnicity Estimate – Learn the origins of your ancestors with a percentage breakdown of your ethnicities.
  • Sub-regional Ancestry – With Genetic Communities unearth the specific regions of your recent ancestors.
  • DNA Matches – Discover potential relatives through shared DNA from Ancestry’s database of over 18 million users.
  • Genealogy Software – Try out a family tree builder for free and access more than 27 billion historical records to further your genealogy journey, with a subscription.

See AncestryDNA Deals!

A Saliva Sample is all it Takes

So you know what to expect from the at-home ancestry DNA test, I ordered the kit to take myself and it arrived after just a couple of days.

The DNA kit contains all you need to collect your sample including a saliva collection tube, stabilizing fluid, a bag with a cotton pad to store your samples, prepaid return packaging, and an instruction pamphlet.

AncestryDNA Kit Contents

Before you take the test, your advised to register your kit, which requires you to create an account with Ancestry and enter your DNA test’s unique code. It’s important not to skip this step as it enables the lab to determine who the test belongs to.

In your account, you can keep track of the status of your kit, with updates on the lab receiving your sample, through DNA extraction, to completion. You’ll get email updates, too.

The instruction pamphlet features concise directions, which thankfully are very easy to follow, making it easy to provide your samples. You’re told not to eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum for 30 minutes before providing your saliva sample to prevent contamination.

Spitting over and over into a tube may not be for everyone, and I personally didn’t find it to be the most pleasant experience, but I produced the required amount of saliva in less than five minutes.

Once I had stabilized my sample with the fluid provided, I was ready to send it back to the lab in the prepaid packaging. All I had to do was to pop it in my nearest postbox and wait.

Order AncestryDNA Today!

5 Standout Features of AncestryDNA – Who Are You and Who Are You Related To

Ethnicity Estimate

The ancestry results report from AncestryDNA includes an Ethnicity Estimate, which is a percentage breakdown of your heritage.

Your ethnicity estimate is calculated by comparing your DNA to a DNA reference panel made up of samples from thousands of people representing the 70 groups. The people that make up the reference panel have deep family histories from specific parts of the world, with their heritage verified through Ancestry family trees.

AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimate Map

My Ethnicity Estimate from AncestryDNA shows that my DNA is 100% European, with a percentage breakdown of each country, helpfully color-coded on an interactive map.

As you can see, the majority of my heritage is Scottish (46%) and Welsh (31%), with English, Northwestern European, and Scandinavian ancestry making up about 25% of my DNA.

Click any of the regions on the interactive map to learn more about it, such as how far it spreads across the world, some cultural information, and its influence on local languages.

AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimate Region Info

While you do learn your ethnic and geographical origins by analyzing just your autosomal DNA, you don’t get any information on your maternal and paternal ancestry, which is determined by mtDNA and Y-DNA analysis.

The extra analysis would give you your maternal and paternal haplogroups which can predict the migrational patterns of your family lines, dating back thousands of years.

If you want to discover your maternal and paternal ancestry and migration patterns, you may want to try FamilyTreeDNA or 23andMe instead.

Sub-Regional Ancestry

The AncestryDNA test delves deeper into your ancestry with Genetic Communities, which indicates your sub-regional ancestry from over 1,000 groups.

Genetic Communities are groups of AncestryDNA members who are connected through DNA most probably because they descend from a population of common ancestors.

For example, some communities were isolated geographically, others migrated together, or typically married others in the same religion or ethnic group. This results in these communities sharing a significant amount of DNA, which is reflected in their modern-day descendants.

Ancestry identifies Genetic Communities by looking at a network of DNA connections using the data of millions of AncestryDNA users with billions of DNA relationships. The more DNA connections between people in the network the more likely they are to be from a shared community.

AncestryDNA Genetic Communities

There are no percentages when it comes to Genetic Communities – you’re either part of a community or you’re not.

My results indicated I’m part of several British Genetic Communities and I could learn more about each one by selecting them on the interactive map. You’ll learn a history of the community going back 300 years and some DNA matches who share this community.

You’ll also get an idea of how your Genetic Communities migrated over time with a timeline feature that highlights significant periods and how they influenced the movements of your community around the world. These migrations may not tell your ancestor’s exact story, but your DNA indicates you’re connected to the historical journey.

DNA Matches

Along with your ancestry results, you’ll also get an extensive list of DNA matches to other AncestryDNA users from a database of over 18 million samples. You’ll learn how many matches you have, the percentage of DNA you share with each match, and an estimate of how closely related you are.

AncestryDNA DNA Matches

My online dashboard revealed that I had a whopping 23,909 DNA matches, 339 of which are 4th cousins or closer.

For each match, you’ll discover how much DNA you share across how many segments and the longest section of shared DNA, their ethnicity estimate, as well as if you have any shared matches and ancestors, plus links to their family trees. If you want to view the full family trees of your DNA matches you need an Ancestry subscription.

Family Tree Builder & Historical Records

If you’re interested in mapping out your recent family history, Ancestry has an easy-to-use family tree builder, which you can use for free. With a free account you can also:

  • Access Ancestry’s free record databases
  • Share your family trees with friends and family
  • Respond to messages from other Ancestry users.

Ancestry Family Tree Record Hints

I found the online family tree builder easy-to-use, with no software download required, an intuitive input method, and automatic hints to matches to historical records.

You get to see a snippet of matching historical records but to review the full details, you need to pay for a subscription or take advantage of a 14-day free trial. The Worldwide plan gives you access to Ancestry’s complete database of an impressive 27+ billion historical records.

ThruLines

The ThruLines feature from Ancestry makes it easy to make new discoveries, such as common ancestors with your DNA matches and if the relationship to your matches corresponds with what you know about your family history.

AncestryDNA ThruLines

Using the family tree linked to your AncestryDNA, automatic matches are found to people both in your tree and other Ancestry members’ trees, to illustrate how you may be related to your DNA matches via common ancestors. You’ll also be alerted to potential ancestors, who appear in the family trees of other Ancestry members.

ThruLines also allows you to evaluate the relationships with your DNA matches, by labeling them in your tree with how much DNA you share and the relationships that are possible between you.

As of yet, ThruLines has not identified any potential ancestors for me, but it does update automatically regularly. Plus, if I extend my family tree further, I’m more likely to receive new discoveries via ThruLines.

Reading Your Results – Unveil a Wealth of Ancestry Information

AncestryDNA advises that it can take between 6-8 weeks to receive your results. I received updates throughout the testing process and an email 4 weeks after sending off my sample, that my DNA was being extracted. Two weeks later my results were ready to view in my secure online account.

The online dashboard has a user-friendly interface and makes use of colorful infographics to help you understand a summary of your results at a glance.

AncestryDNA REsults Summary

By clicking on your DNA Story, I’m taken to my full ethnicity estimate, where I can see a percentage breakdown of my ethnicities which are shown on an interactive map, along with which Genetic Communities I’m a part of.

By selecting one of my ethnicities, I’m directed to a page with more information on the ethnicity. However, I feel the information was a little basic, with just a few historical and cultural facts. For example, when I selected my Welsh ethnicity, there was some general information about the landscape and Welsh traditions.

I would have appreciated some more in-depth information associated with my ethnicities, such as where it may have originated, how it has spread throughout the world, and any linked traits or predispositions.

However, other ethnicities – like my Norwegian heritage – had a lot more information, including a complex history as well as how they migrated throughout the world. It was interesting to see that the Vikings colonized Northern England 1,000 years ago, considering I have a long family history in the region. It is fascinating to think that genetic markers from so long ago may be present in my DNA.

Overall, my ancestry results seemed to fit in with what I know about my family history. I know my Mother’s side of the family has Welsh heritage and my surname originated in Scotland – the two ethnicities that make up the majority of my Ethnicity Estimate.

I discovered more about my recent ancestry with Genetic Communities, which assigned me to a number of sub-regions.

AncestryDNA Genetic Communities Timeline

The interactive timeline is a really nice feature of Genetic Communities. By selecting a time period, you get to learn about significant historical events that affected the community and how they influenced movements throughout the country and migrations further afield.

Returning to the homepage, you’ll see a summary of your DNA matches. Selecting ‘View All DNA Matches’ will take you to a full list of your matches, organized from most to least DNA shared. I was shocked to discover I had 23,909 DNA matches (339 of which are 4th cousins or closer), but as Ancestry’s DNA database contains over 18 million users, this is perhaps not so surprising. Listed with each DNA match is:

  • The percentage of DNA you share
  • The length of your shared DNA
  • Your estimated relationship e.g second cousin
  • If your match has a family tree.

Ancestry DNA Matches Map

I really liked the map feature, which lets you see where your DNA matches are located throughout the world. You can click on any of the hotspots to zoom in to individual matches and pick ones that you’d like to investigate further. I found it so interesting to find out that I had DNA matches as far away as Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii.

By reviewing individual matches, you’ll get some additional information, including how your Ethnicity Estimates compare, shared DNA matches, shared DNA communities, and if you share any common ancestors, shared surnames, and same ancestor birthplaces.

Ancestry DNA Match Information

You’ll also get to view a snippet of their family tree, but if you want to review it in its entirety, you’ll need to purchase an ancestry subscription. However, you can contact your matches without a subscription if you want to make new family connections.

That’s about it for my results from AncestryDNA. On the whole, I’m impressed with the wealth of information I received, and there were a few features that I really appreciated, including Genetic Communities and the map of DNA matches.

The only thing that I was missing was more information on the migrational patterns of my maternal and paternal ancestors, which comes from the analysis of mtDNA and Y-DNA (only male samples). However, at the moment, Ancestry DNA only analyzes autosomal DNA. If you want mtDNA and Y-DNA analysis, 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNAare great options.

If you’re interested in genealogy, Ancestry is a great choice. The family tree builder is simple to use and can be easily linked to your AncestryDNA test. With 18 million users in the Ancestry database and ThruLines technology, you’re possibly more likely than with other providers to expand your extended family tree.

To further your research, you’ll probably benefit from accessing Ancestry’s 27 billion+ historical records, which require a paid subscription. However, you can see if you feel a subscription is worth the investment with a 14-day free trial.

Try out AncestryDNA Today!

Value-for-Money Ancestry, Above Average Subscriptions

The base price for AncestryDNA is comparable with MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA’s Family Finder Test, also providing a similar amount of information.

For me, I found AncestryDNA to be good-value-for money, providing ancestry information including sub-regional ancestry, DNA matches, and excellent family tree software that you can test out for free. But, if you want to extend your family tree, you’re likely to need an Ancestry subscription.

You will pay a slightly higher price for subscriptions than you would with MyHeritage or Findmypast. However, with access to 27+ billion historical records from over 80 countries of origin, 13+ billion ancestral profiles, 100 million searchable family trees, and a DNA database of more than 18 million users, you’re likely to find information to further your genealogy research.

The good news is that you can try out an Ancestry subscription without making a commitment with a 14-day free trial.

For a small fee, you can purchase a traits add-on that analyzes your DNA for a total of 30 traits including eye color, earlobe shape, savory taste perception, lactose tolerance, and more. It’s worth knowing that the ancestry DNA test from 23andMe doesn’t charge extra for traits.

Ancestry accepts all standard credit and debit cards including Visa, MasterCard, and American Express, as well as PayPal and Apple Pay as forms of payment.

Ancestry
kit
AncestryDNA
  • Read interesting details regarding your geographic history
  • Get insight into your regional origins and genealogy
  • Learn personality traits hidden within your DNA’s code

Plenty of Support Options

If you’re signed in to your account, when you visit Ancestry’s Support Center, you’ll get personalized help, with a list of suggested FAQ topics.

The Support Center is pretty extensive, but you can narrow down your inquiry by typing your question into the search bar. Plus, if you’re interested in genealogy, you’re sure to find the Ancestry Blog interesting, with lots of articles helping you to discover your heritage, understanding historical records, and much more.

AncestryDNA Support Center

I found most of my questions were answered by the information in the Support Center but for additional queries and more hands-on support, there is a live chat option. You will first have to go through a ‘virtual assistant’ i.e. chatbot, but it’s quick enough to get connected to a live customer support agent.

Ancestry Live Chat Support

I asked why my AncesstryDNA results may differ from an ancestry test from another provider, and I received a reply immediately. The support agent was knowledgeable and friendly and I felt satisfied with the response she provided.

To speak to a customer support agent in person, telephone support is available in numerous countries. In the UK  – where I am based – the phone lines are open 9 am-9 pm on weekdays, and 9 am to 5.30 pm on the weekend.

When I called, I was connected to an agent in less than 10 minutes, and they were very helpful when I inquired about Ancestry’s genealogy subscriptions and buying ancestry DNA tests for family members.

Finally, there is an email option if you have any inquiries that aren’t particularly urgent. I fired off a question about the Ancestry family tree builder and while it was two days before I received a response, the answer was thorough and very helpful.

Overall, I was impressed with Ancestry’s customer support. There were plenty of options for seeking help and with each one, I received answers to the questions I had in a timely manner.

Substantial Ancestry Report for a Low Price

If you’re interested in finding out where you come from, AncestryDNA can tell you a lot about your ethnic and geographical origins.

You’ll get a breakdown of your ethnicity, as well as learn which Genetic Communities you belong to, which can provide insights into the movements of your recent ancestors.

Plus, you can make connections with potential relatives with DNA matches, by discovering which users in Ancestry’s DNA database, you share segments of DNA with.

Those interested in exploring their family history will benefit from Ancestry’s intuitive genealogy software, which you can use for free.

However, to access the database of over 27 billion historical records and additional premium features requires a paid subscription. Ancestry’s subscription plans tend to be more expensive than its competitors, but you can see if it’s worth the investment with a 14-day free trial.

There isn’t much missing from AncestryDNA but as the test only analyzes your autosomal DNA, you don’t get to learn the migration patterns of your maternal and paternal lines. If this is an important factor for you, the ancestry test from 23andMemay be a better choice for you.

Overall, AncestryDNA is one of the best tests you can buy to learn about your heritage. You’ll get to find out about your ancestry, unearth potential relatives, and build an extensive family tree.

Discover Your Origins with AncestryDNA

FAQ

How do I take an AncestryDNA test?

You’ll need to provide a saliva sample, which involves spitting into a collection tube until it reaches the desired level. It is not as unpleasant or messy as it sounds. Not a lot of saliva is needed and the collection tube features a handy funnel to keep any mess to a minimum.

Remember not to each, drink, or chew gum for 30 minutes before collecting your sample to avoid potential contamination and your sample being unusable.

How accurate is AncestryDNA?

When reading your DNA, Ancestry analyzes your DNA at 700,000 genetic markers. With its advanced technology, AncestryDNA has – on average – over 99% accuracy for each marker tested.

The Ethnicity Estimate is just that an estimate, but Ancestry can do this with a high level of confidence thanks to large reference populations, which are used to identify DNA signatures that are unique to certain regions. The larger the region the more accurate the estimate, so as they drill down into more specific regions the accuracy tends to go down.

The accuracy of DNA matching is very accurate with other users that are 3rd or 4th cousins or closer relations, as they share long segments of DNA. This is only possible if two people share a recent common ancestor. To ensure accuracy, AncestryDNA uses a special algorithm, to filter out any large matching segments that may be shared for reasons other than a common ancestor.

Predicting the level of relationship between DNA matches is a little harder. Close family relationships are less problematic than extended family and distant relationships. This is because the amount of DNA they share can overlap. For example, your first cousin and third cousin can share a similar amount of DNA with you. The more distant the relationship the more there is overlap.

How long does it take to receive results from an AncestryDNA test?

Once Ancestry receives your DNA sample, you can expect your results in 6-8 weeks. This is slightly longer than some other providers, including 23andMe and MyHeritage, but you will receive updates so you know the status of your test.

I received my ancestry results a little over 6 weeks after sending off my sample, but your mileage may vary depending on how busy the lab is.

How many generations does AncestryDNA’s reporting go?

The autosomal DNA test from Ancestry can trace your origins going back about 6 to 8 generations or around 150-200 years. By going back any further than that, you share less than 1% of DNA with any given ancestor. The margin of error simply gets too high when you go back any further.

How much does AncestryDNA cost?

AncestryDNA currently retails for €85.34, but throughout the year regular deals and discounts are available. Keep up to date with the latest deals on our dedicated Ancestry coupon page.

So Many Records, So Little Time

Family Tree by Ancestry Homepage

You’re all excited about the prospect of building your family tree online. You’re researching your options. And you discover, wow! Family Tree by Ancestry has 13+ billion historical records! Wow! It also has more DNA samples in its database than any other DNA testing company – over 16 million!

And you think: If I want to build a really accurate and detailed family tree, surely I can find more of the information I want through the Ancestry family tree builder than anywhere else.

But is the volume of data the only consideration? You should also ask yourself how easy or hard Family Tree by Ancestry is to use…and whether its advantages justify its hefty monthly subscription fees. And whether your family’s geographical origins are well represented within those many, many historical records.

I signed up for a trial subscription and tested it out myself. Here’s my story. I hope it will help you decide whether a Family Tree by Ancestry subscription would be worth your while (and money).

Check Out Family Tree by Ancestry Deals

Gift an Ancestry Subscription!
A Great Present for Genealogy Enthusiasts

Give the gift of family history with a non-renewing Ancestry subscription! Perfect for a birthday or Christmas gift, choose from the US Discovery, World Explorer, or All Access plans.

My Search for My Most Elusive Ancestors

My main curiosity about my ancestry involves some details from my maternal grandmother’s family line. I’m particularly interested in tracing my family roots back to our most famous supposed ancestor, Gerard van Swieten (1700-1772), who was the personal physician of the Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa. How exactly am I descended from him?

I also wanted to locate my rumored and much-discussed Indonesian ancestor on that same family line. Not only does she figure prominently in my family history, but several DNA tests that I’ve taken (including the one from AncestryDNA) have confirmed that I have some Indonesian or Filipino ancestry. But what was her name, how many generations back did she marry into my family, and when was she alive?

So, I set out to solve these two mysteries. This was the process:

amily Tree by Ancestry – Starting Your Family Tree Couldn't Be

The first step was to create an account on the Family Tree by Ancestry website, sign in on my computer and/or smartphone, go to “Trees,” and start building my family tree – beginning with myself.

Next, I added my mother, where she lived, what year she was born, and when she died. After that, I added my grandmother and grandfather. Then, I searched the company’s records for each of them. Here are some of the results I got for my grandfather.

Family Tree by Ancestry Search Results for My Grandfather

I checked out each of these records, and where they were clearly a match, I added them to my grandfather’s profile.

I’ve been able to do this research and access my family tree both on my computer (via web browser) and on my iPhone (via the proprietary mobile app).

Family Tree by Ancestry provides hints of people and/or historical records I could consider adding to my tree. Whenever I find a record that seems to match, I’m given the option to add it.

MyHeritage does this too. That company sends me frequent emails to tell me it has found likely relatives within its records. If I had a paid genealogy subscription, I’d be able to view these matches and add them to my tree. I like this proactive approach better than the one taken by the Ancestry family tree builder, where I have to be logged in to see if there are new ancestry hints for me.

The historical records I’ve seen on Family Tree by Ancestry include birth, death, and marriage certificates, immigration documents, and a lot more. Some of these documents are really cool – like the record from my grandmother’s emigration to the US.

Emigration Record from Family Tree by Ancestry's Database

Family Tree by Ancestry will also occasionally tell me they’ve found a potential ancestor for me to add.

Family Tree by Ancestry's Potential Ancestry Match

Over time, I’ve been able to uncover and add more and add records. This is how far I got over the course of about a week:

My Growing Family History on Family Tree by Ancestry

If I want, I can share my tree with other people – either via email, Family Tree by Ancestry’s username, or shareable link – and give them the ability to contribute to or edit my tree.

How to Share Your Tree on the Ancestry Family Tree Builder

And since my Family Tree by Ancestry account is linked to my AncestryDNA profile, theoretically the company can suggest potential relatives from among its millions of other customers based on our shared DNA.

But that hasn’t happened. I have yet to see one DNA match suggested as an addition to my tree.

I also searched for the family name that I’m particularly keen to explore – van Swieten – and while there are a number of Family Tree by Ancestry members with that family name, none of them has taken the company’s DNA test.

Anyway, if I keep going with this project, over time my family tree could become extremely elaborate and awe-inspiring. I’d be building an extremely rich history of my family that would be very meaningful to me and all my living relatives as well as to future generations.

Check Out Family Tree by Ancestry Deals

5 Standout Features of Family Tree by Ancestry

1. World’s largest genealogy database – 13 billion records

No other genealogy company has nearly this many records in it. For instance, MyHeritage only has around nine billion records. So you’re mathematically more likely to find relevant information on Family Tree by Ancestry than on MyHeritage. However, not all areas of the world are represented the same; there are more records from Europe than South America, for example.

2. World’s largest DNA database – 16 million people tested

16 million people have gotten their DNA tested through AncestryDNA – again, more than any other commercial genetic testing company can boast. (MyHeritage has 2.5 million, by way of comparison.) Again, you should, therefore, be more likely to locate relatives through this company than competitor testing companies.

However, as mentioned earlier, this only helps you if your relatives have actually taken the test. Personally, I wasn’t able to locate any matches for the people on the branch of my family tree that I was investigating. But you might have better luck.

3. Add DNA matches and historical records to your tree

You can search Family Tree by Ancestry’s historical and DNA records for certain names, and you can incorporate the results that you find into your tree, making it more rich and visual. For a particular family member, you can often find quite a number of historical documents and records – and these, in turn, can help you discover even more new people who’re related to that family member.

4. Receive hints about records and people you can add

Family Tree by Ancestry’s algorithms will search through the company’s records and then give you hints to help you find and add new people to your family tree. This can help you grow your tree much more quickly than if you had to uncover those people on your own.

Personally, I received many hints while doing my ancestry research, most of which were extremely helpful in helping me grow my family tree.

5. Exchange family tree information with other members

In the course of your research, you will sometimes discover that members of your family also exist on another Family Tree by Ancestry member’s family tree. You can then benefit from the family connections that those other members have already put together. This saves you from having to “reinvent the wheel” when building your tree!

In fact, I just found out that one of my relatives has a HUGE van Swieten family tree on the Ancestry family tree builder. I’ve asked him to share his tree with me, and I expect this will answer quite a few of my questions about my family history.

Check Out Family Tree by Ancestry Deals

I Had a Lot of Growing Pains!

Using Family Tree by Ancestry is strangely addictive. In fact, it can turn into a massive time suck! I’ve been sitting here for days on end, looking up names, following hints, and adding people and historical documents to my tree! There are many time-consuming holes for me to get sucked into. (Please send help!)

At the same time, it can be very frustrating. The results I get for my name searches aren’t always very “smart,” and include too many people who didn’t live within the right time span to be the relatives I’m looking for. And when I’ve accepted the wrong record match by mistake, it led to a lot of wasted time and effort chasing after the wrong people, and got me very confused.

I made mistakes and then found it hard to fix them. Maybe I was a bit sloppy accepting suggested matching records. Maybe there were simply too many people in the Netherlands named Pieter van Swieten, Cornelis van Swieten, or Willem van Swieten.

But somehow I added several individuals to my tree who were in the wrong generation, or who mistakenly seemed to be their own parents. Or who appeared to be polygamously married to two separate women that were actually the same person with two slightly different names. Once I discovered these errors, they were bafflingly hard to fix without undoing hours of work.

Once I was about ready to scream, I chatted with a Family Tree by Ancestry support person and got past some of these stumbling blocks – see “Support,” below.

Still, while I’m starting to get the hang of it, I still find the user interface annoying and counterintuitive at times. It was hard for me to figure out how to navigate either the website or the mobile app in the first place. And obviously I had trouble discerning when two seemingly separate people with the same name were actually the same person.

And then there was the upsell issue. I started out with a basic membership. But in researching my mother’s family – all of whom lived in Europe – I ran into limitations on what kinds of records I could access. To get to anything useful, I had to upgrade to a more expensive membership level.

Check Out Family Tree by Ancestry Deals

Some Mysteries Remain

I’ve now spent at least ten hours trying to find my Javanese ancestor, or establish how (or whether) I’m actually descended from Gerard van Swieten. No luck so far. But I feel like I’m getting closer, and if I could just spend another hour – and then another – and then another…

I have a distant relative in Canada who has a huge van Swieten family tree on the Ancestry family tree builder and has offered to share it with me. I showed him what I had uncovered so far, and he pointed out several errors that I had made.

He wasn’t able to identify my Indonesian ancestor, but he was able to explain how I’m related to Gerardus van Swieten. This begs the question:

If one of my relatives has already worked out all of these familial relationships before me, why couldn’t Family Tree by Ancestry basically have handed me my entire van Swieten family tree in one fell swoop? Why did I spend hours and hours trying to figure out who was whose father and mother, etc., when all this is well known and documented?

Maybe some people just enjoy the research for its own sake. But I would rather have been spared the agony of chasing down so many leads, only to discover dead ends. Or at the very least, I would rather just have received one accurate hint after another, which would have allowed me to complete this family tree in a quarter of the time.

All in all, you can use Family Tree by Ancestry to construct your family’s genealogy and populate it with a ton of fascinating historical documents. But if you’re like me, be prepared to invest a huge amount of time, and run into a lot of frustrations along the way.

But How Good is Family Tree by Ancestry If You’re Not of European Descent?

A lot of genealogy companies have significantly more records of European populations than on other populations around the globe. How does Family Tree by Ancestry stack up? The answer is, “it depends.”

You can specify what regions you want to include in any records search, and the website tells you how many historical records are available for that region.

North America does pretty well in that regard, although it depends on the country; there are more than 900,000 records available for the US, vs. only 608 for Mexico.

Similarly, in Europe, the UK has more than 999,999 records; Germany has over 10,000; and Spain has 33.

Family Tree by Ancestry's Historical Record Database for North America and Europe

There are (fortunately!) more records for Africa than I would have expected: more than 999,999 for South Africa, for example, and several hundred each for Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda, Zambia, and Sierra Leone.

South America is not so fortunate. Family Tree by Ancestry has the most records for Brazil (3,400), but only eight for Columbia! That’s eight records as in eight people.

Family Tree by Ancestry's Historical Record Database for Africa and South America

Oceania is even more scant. There are more than 30,000 records for Australia, but only two (!) for Samoa. And only 30 for Indonesia…so what are the chances I could ever find my Javanese ancestor here?

Surprisingly, Asia is the least well-represented region of them all. 2,187 records for China – the most populated country in the world! And only 67 for India, 12 for North Korea, etc.

I don’t know if other genealogy companies do a better job of covering these areas, but I wouldn’t recommend Family Tree by Ancestry for people of Asian, Oceanian, or South American descent.

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The Potentially High Cost of Your Voyage of Discovery

Family Tree by Ancestry has three different tiers of membership depending on what kinds of records you’d like to access: US Discovery, World Explorer, and All Access. You can pay for each by the month, or get a discount when you pay for six months at a time.

If you’re like me, and are trying to get to a lot of historical records from Europe or elsewhere, chances are that a basic (“US Discovery”) subscription isn’t going to do it. Family Tree by Ancestry will dangle a tempting piece of information in front of you, and then whoops! To access it, you have to upgrade.

Family Tree by Ancestry's Tiered Package Options

It’s nice that you get a break if you pay for six months at a time: you can save around $50, $90, or $100 over the monthly price, depending on the tier level. But if you do the math, an annual subscription will still end up costing you hundreds of dollars per year.

In comparison, Family Tree by Ancestry’s biggest rival – MyHeritage – will also cost hundreds of dollars a year. Now, granted, the Ancestry family tree builder possesses more historical records than MyHeritage (13 billion vs. 8.8 billion). But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’d be any more satisfied with the process of Family Tree by Ancestry.

Is Family Tree by Ancestry worth it? Only you can decide whether the ability to build a detailed family tree over time, full of historical records, and conduct your own genealogy research is worth the amount of money you’d pay. But you might find this reassuring:

If you cancel your subscription, you can still access your Family Tree by Ancestry. You can…

  • View and continue building your family tree. Mind you, you won’t be able to access most of Family Tree by Ancestry’s historical records, but if you learn about new ancestors some other way, you can add them manually.
  • Respond to messages from other Family Tree by Ancestry members.
  • Initiate messages with your AncestryDNA matches, if you’ve taken the company’s DNA test.
  • See that there are new Family Tree by Ancestry hints (but not read them or add them to your tree).
  • Search Family Tree by Ancestry’s database and access certain free indexes, even without a paid membership.

So, theoretically, you could spend a month, or a few months, doing whatever intensive research you want to do and then cancel your subscription – while continuing to be able to access your family tree forever.

Family Tree by Ancestry accepts PayPal, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover.

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Gift an Ancestry Subscription!
A Great Present for Genealogy Enthusiasts

Give the gift of family history with a non-renewing Ancestry subscription! Perfect for a birthday or Christmas gift, choose from the US Discovery, World Explorer, or All Access plans.

A Pretty Productive Chat

As I said earlier, I was getting very frustrated working on my family tree – especially since I’d added a number of known relatives and then couldn’t find them anywhere!

So, I used the Family Tree by Ancestry chat feature to try to get some help. And, after waiting for a while, I got through to a very nice customer service person named Fiona.

Family Tree by Ancestry's Customer Support Experience

Fiona introduced me to a feature I hadn’t noticed called a “Tree Search,” which lets me view all the people I’ve added to my tree – including the ones I couldn’t see on my tree yet because I hadn’t established how they were related to the people I could see.

When I did this, I found out that there were a lot of duplicate people on my list. Most of these I was able to merge. The more connections I was able to make between the various individuals, the more the pieces started to come together.

Anyway, my point is that if you get stuck somehow while using the Family Tree by Ancestry builder, a knowledgeable helping hand is just an online chat away.

A Powerful Genealogy Research Tool, If You Have the Time and Money for It

If you’re passionate about your family history, Family Tree by Ancestry is definitely a very good option (depending on where your family is from)! Particularly if you’re of European descent, you will almost certainly be able to explore your family tree going back quite a few generations and spreading laterally in all directions.

Just bear in mind that all this research takes time. Lots of it. And if you’re planning on doing this research ongoingly for months and years to come, the costs can add up too.

Alternatively, you might want to look into MyHeritage’s tree builder. The company still has impressive genealogy and DNA databases, but I found the suggestions to be more helpful than Family Tree by Ancestry, not to mention there is a free plan option – meaning, you could save both time and money.

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FAQ

Can I import my AncestryDNA results into Family Tree by Ancestry?

If you’ve taken AncestryDNA’s DNA test, you can view a long list of “DNA Matches,” i.e., people who appear to be related to you based on your DNA. Some of them may even be 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th cousins. You can then contact these people and get their permission to view their family trees, and even merge their family trees with yours.

How is Family Tree by Ancestry different from the one offered by MyHeritage?

The main difference between these two family tree builders is database size. Family Tree by Ancestry’s database contains more than 13 billion historical records; MyHeritage’s database contains around 8.8 billion. Both of which are impressive. 

That may mean you’re mathematically more likely to find someone in Family Tree by Ancestry’s database than in MyHeritage’s database. But that difference might be completely unnoticeable to a lot of people.

Aside from database size, the differences between the two family tree builders are somewhat minimal. For instance, if you don’t have a paid subscription, you can only create a 250-member family tree on MyHeritage, whereas Family Tree by Ancestry has no such limitation.

And then, of course, there’s the matter of monthly subscription costs. MyHeritage is consistently less expensive than Family Tree by Ancestry, and even offers a free version.

Do I need to take the AncestryDNA test to be able to use Family Tree by Ancestry?

No, you absolutely do not. To use Family Tree by Ancestry, all you need to do is create an account. Then you can build your online family tree, starting with yourself, and manually add all the relatives you know about.

If you want to be able to search through the company’s historical records and use them to add members to your family tree, you’ll need a paid subscription – although the first month is free.

If you do take the AncestryDNA test, you could theoretically leverage the relatives you discover via that test in building your family tree.

How much does Family Tree by Ancestry cost? 

You can manually build your own family tree on Family Tree by Ancestry, just by creating a free account. However, if you want to be able to search through the historical records and add the people you find to your tree – with all the historical documents that are associated with those people – you need a paid monthly subscription. (The first month is free.)

Depending on how many collections of historical records you want to be able to access, you will pay anywhere from about $25-50 per month, or from a hundred to a couple hundred dollars for six months at a time.

By way of comparison, a subscription to MyHeritage is less expensive. There is a free option or, depending on the tier you choose, you can pay up to about $10-25 a month for a full year.

Gemma Davison
Gemma Davison
Gemma is an Applied Biology graduate who has always had an interest in DNA, spending a few years after her degree researching epigenetics. She always keeps up to date with the latest advancements in DNA technology and has even DNA-tested her puppy.

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Ancestry User Reviews

2 User Reviews
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Wayne Brown
Wayne Brown
AUAustralia
Sep. 23, 2021
Go with the experts
Sep. 23, 2021
I tested DNA with Ancestry first, as recommended to me on the site Using DNA for Genealogy Australia and NZ, and then uploaded those results to My Heritage, FTDNA and the others. BINGO ! It worked brilliantly for me, and I connect...Show More
Gaye
Gaye
CACanada
Sep. 23, 2021
Takes a while
Sep. 23, 2021
I mailed my sample from Canada and it took almost 3 months for them to receive it because I picked the Irish search option. So anybody who is in that position, just be patient. Now they're saying it could be another 6 to 8 weeks for processing. I'll score it again when I get my results.

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