Overview: Dive Deep Into Your Ancestry
Among many DNA test kits available, AncestryDNA stands out as a popular choice for its wide user base and comprehensive genealogical data. Despite its popularity, you may have some concerns or questions about its accuracy, privacy policies, and ease of use.
To offer you a detailed, unbiased review, I put AncestryDNA to the test. I evaluated it on multiple factors, including the depth of ancestral information, user interface, sample collection process, privacy standards, and overall value for money. This process helped me to discern the highlights and drawbacks of AncestryDNA.
In my experience, AncestryDNA impresses with its wide-reaching database, offering connections to potential relatives across the globe. It provides a detailed snapshot of your heritage, offering insights that can be traced back several generations. You can even get started immediately with a 14-day free trial and start building your family tree. Keep reading to find out more about why AncestryDNA may be the best tool to unravel the mysteries of your ancestry.
Products and Services
AncestryDNA offers a range of DNA tests that allow you to delve into your family’s past and uncover fascinating insights about your origins and heritage. With their convenient and user-friendly kits, you can embark on an exciting journey of self-discovery from the comfort of your own living room. Let’s explore the different options available:
AncestryDNA’s main test provides an in-depth look into your ancestral background and ethnicity. The test identifies the geographical regions and populations linked to your ancestry and gives you a detailed understanding of your heritage. Additionally, AncestryDNA helps you connect with people who have similar DNA segments, possibly leading to the identification of distant relatives.
AncestryDNA + Family Tree Package
For those seeking a deeper exploration of their family history, the AncestryDNA + Family Tree Package is an ideal choice. In addition to the Origins + Ethnicity and DNA Matches features, this package includes a World Explorer Membership, granting you access to an extensive collection of U.S. and international records on Ancestry. This valuable resource allows you to build an in-depth family tree and uncover the stories of your ancestors.
AncestryDNA Traits + All Access Package
For a more comprehensive understanding of yourself and your heritage, the AncestryDNA Traits + All Access Package is a fantastic option. In addition to all the features provided by AncestryDNA, this package also offers insights into over 35 personal traits based on your DNA. From physical characteristics to behavioral tendencies, these traits provide a glimpse into the fascinating aspects of your genetic makeup. Moreover, this package grants you access to all U.S. and international records on Ancestry, military records on Fold3, and a Newspapers.com, Publisher Extra subscription. These resources enable you to dig even deeper into your family’s history and explore the stories behind your ancestors’ lives.
If you don’t want a DNA test, but instead just to explore records and build your family tree, Ancestry offers three subscription plans (and gives you a free trial!):
- U.S. Discovery: Access to all U.S. records on Ancestry®.
- World Explorer: Access to all U.S. and international records on Ancestry®.
- All Access: Access to all U.S. and international records on Ancestry®, military records on Fold3®, and a Newspapers.com™ Publisher Extra® subscription.
These subscription plans provide varying levels of access to Ancestry’s vast collection of historical records, allowing you to explore your family history across different regions and time periods.
|DNA Test or Subscription Plan||Included Features|
|AncestryDNA + Family Tree Package||
|AncestryDNA Traits + All Access Package||
|U.S. Discovery Subscription Plan||
|World Explorer Subscription Plan||
|All Access Subscription Plan||
AncestryDNA ships to four continents and to 34 countries throughout the globe, including the US, United Kingdom, Canada, and numerous European countries.
AncestryDNA can tell you about the ethnic and geographical origins of your ancestors as well as connect you to potential relatives through DNA matching.
The DNA tests 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.
How AncestryDNA Works
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.
Before you jump into the test, they suggest you register your kit. This means setting up an account with Ancestry and popping in the unique code from your DNA test. It might seem like a small thing, but it’s a big deal. This step helps the lab figure out that the test is yours.
Once you’re in your account, you can follow how things are going with your kit. They’ll let you know when the lab gets your sample, when they’re doing the DNA extraction, and when everything’s done. They’ll even send you emails to keep you posted. It’s a handy way to stay in the loop.
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.
5 Standout Features of AncestryDNA
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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.
Value-for-Money Ancestry, Above Average Subscriptions
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. 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.