Whether you’re hoping to find long lost family or discover your ethnic roots, Ancestry DNA can serve as a suitable starting point. This DNA testing kit is one of the five most prominent choices on the market, letting users collect samples and study their genealogy and ancestry from the comfort of home.
Offering their kit at a competitive price, Ancestry DNA can help you discover more about your ethnicity, your family, and the historical and geographical history of your lineage.
Of course, it’s not the perfect kit and it might be limited if you’re looking to trace our ancestry to the deepest details. But for the purpose family matching and discovering recent, living relatives, Ancestry DNA makes a reliable choice.
Thinking about buying the Ancestry DNA kit? We’ve put together a comprehensive review to help you make the right decision to further your genealogical research.
|4.0 / 5.0||Lots of potential DNA matches with a rich resource of historical information for genealogical mapping and ancestral tracing||Limited to recent ethnic history, doesn’t offer Y-DNA or mtDNA testing, results take a while||People hoping to reconnect with long lost relatives||Starts at $99|
The Company Behind Ancestry DNA
Ancestry DNA is a subsidiary of Ancestry.com a private, for-profit genealogy company with its headquarters in Lehi, Utah. The company started out 1983 as a publishing house specializing in genealogical and ancestry research materials.
Many of their publications focused on family history, and they offered over 40 different titles to help amateur genealogists with their personal research. In 1990, the wave of new technology pushed Ancestry to adapt family history software. Their publications were soon made available on floppy disk.
In 1996, the company launched Ancestry.com and a year later, they started offering CDs with information on family history to better support people towards tracing their genealogy.
Throughout the 2000s, Ancestry continued to expand its database and resources, completing censuses from eras as far back as 1930 to give more relevance to research in present times. Their kits were released in 2002, and were available in autosomal, Y-DNA, and mtDNA testing methods.
Since 2014, the company has ceased the distribution and sale of both the Y-DNA and mtDNA kits, focusing solely on their autosomal DNA kits which are considered by many as the best in the market.
All DNA samples returned to the company are processed and analyzed through their partner lab, Quest Diagnostics. Today, the company boasts the largest DNA profile database the world over, with 15 million individuals enrolled in their system.
Ancestry DNA’s Testing Kit
For a while, Ancestry DNA offered all three types of testing kits – autosomal, Y-DNA, and mtDNA. But as of 2014, the company has maintained its focus on just the autosomal kits, cutting both other types of kits from their selection.
The autosomal DNA testing kit takes information from 22 pairs of chromosomes excluding the 23rd sex-linked pair. This is how the Ancestry DNA testing kit provides you ample information on living family members in their database as well as your most prominent genetic traits.
For these reasons, we’ve found the Ancestry DNA kit to be ideal if you’re in search of distant relatives or if you hope to unravel more about your personal genetic predispositions. On the other hand, the Ancestry DNA kit does have some limitations.
Autosomal DNA tests can only reliably provide information as far back as 3-4 generations, and may provide you speculative results up to 8 generations. That said, if you were hoping to trace your ancestry, the test can only supply information up to 8 generations back.
That said, Ancestry DNA tests might not be as reliable if you were hoping to uncover detailed ethnic and ancestral histories.
What’s in The Kit?
The Ancestry DNA testing kit is performed via the collection of a saliva sample. Included in the kit is a saliva collection tube, complete instructions to guide you through the process, and a pre-paid return mailer to send your sample back to the lab.
Once you finish collecting your sample and send it back to the lab, the company could take anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks to return your results. While that might seem like a long time to wait, it pays to know that most autosomal DNA tests from other providers take about the same amount of time.
How Much Does It Cost?
Presently, Ancestry DNA offers two different packages – the Ancestry DNA kit and the Ancestry DNA + Traits kit. The first kit comes in at $99 USD while the more advanced kit costing just $20 USD more, putting it at $119 USD. Do note that these prices are exclusive of taxes and shipping fees, however the company does shave off the shipping costs if you’re buying two or more kits.
Basically, they offer the same essential results, but the more expensive kit comes with a few extra features that might be more beneficial for some users. Here’s a quick comparison of the two packages:
|Ancestry DNA||Ancestry DNA + Traits|
|Origins & ethnicity||✔||✔|
|Historical and geographical insight||✔||✔|
|Invite DNA matches||✘||✔|
If you’re not quite sold on the idea of buying a kit just yet, Ancestry DNA also offers a limited free 14-day trial. This trial gives you access to the Ancestry DNA historical database so you can start tracing your family tree and learning more about your possible ethnic and ancestral background.
Tools and Resources from Ancestry DNA
What really sets DNA testing kits apart is the tools that they provide to help you trace your genealogy and ancestry. Different providers develop a range of different tools that you can access online once you’ve received your results.
These tools are designed to help you better understand your results and perform genealogical research on your own. Through the Ancestry DNA platform, you’ll be given access to several tools, including:
- Initial Report – Once you receive your results, Ancestry DNA will contact you to inform you that the findings from your DNA sample have been uploaded to the site. While it might take up to 8 weeks, some users have reported receiving their results in as little as 2 weeks.
The initial report shows you a few key pieces of information to kick you off on your research. A pie chart that presents you with your ethnicity estimates, and the report also shows you possible DNA matches in their database.
If you’ve purchased the more expensive Ancestry DNA + Traits kit, then you have the option to reach out to these matches to establish connections with people you might be related to.
On the dashboard, Ancestry also provides you tons of resources to help you better understand how your results were calculated. Videos and articles that talk about Ancestry’s process should shed more light on why your results came out the way they are.
By clicking on each ethnicity presented on your dash, you can read more about the local community in that area and how their genetic diversity matches with yours. For instance, a typical Ireland native should be 95% Irish. This gives you a basis to put your own results into proper perspective.
- Match Listing – As on of the newer tools on the Ancestry platform, Match Listing is a tool that you have to opt-in to use. That means you won’t immediately see it on your dashboard.
Navigate to Extras and click Ancestry Lab to discover some beta features available on the site. You should find Improved DNA Matches as one of your options. This tool will essentially help you sort and organize all of your matches in any way that best suits your needs.
- Ancestry DNA Traits – Individuals who opt for the more expensive Ancestry package can have a closer look at 26 different traits and the reasons for these unique qualities.
More than that, Ancestry DNA Traits also lets you explore how your traits match up with other ethnicities and connections that are relevant to you.
The Compare Feature lets you see how your relatives match or differ from your own traits, and the Around the World Feature shows you how your traits compare to the rest of the regions where you’re likely to have roots.
- Trace Your Ancestor’s Journey – Although the autosomal DNA test can’t show you any information on your haplogroups, Ancestry can offer you some insight on the possible journey that your ancestors took to bring you to where you are now.
Ancestry uses information taken from historical records and cenuses dating back as early as 1930 to help you trace your ancestors’ migration. They use this information in tandem with known historical events like the Great Depression to figure out how and where a group might have likely moved to adapt.
There are lots of other tools on the Ancestry DNA platform. Their extras section also keep you updated on the latest beta features that you can try out to help them improve their service.
It’s also worth mentioning that Ancestry constantly updates their tools, resources, and software. So as time goes on, the initial information you’re provided can significantly improve and become even more detailed.
As more people join the platform, it’s also possible that you’ll discover even more connections and potential relatives. So your genealogical research will continue to evolve over time, which means it’s unlikely to end.
Ancestry DNA – Is It Accurate?
One of the biggest questions on the minds of those who go through personal genealogical research is whether or not the results they receive are truly accurate. What’s important to know is that none of the information you collect will be completely precise.
Even with the latest technology, there’s no way that Ancestry DNA – or any other DNA testing kit – can provide you with a precise account of your ancestral history or your actual ethnic mix. What they do provide you with is a very close estimate of what your ethnicity and ancestral background might be.
For instance, one user with a North American mother and a native Irish father submitted her sample for analysis. She found that she was said to be 98% Irish, despite locals in Ireland having Irish ethnicity of just 95%. So her results reflected that she was even more Irish than those who were natives of the area.
Although the percentages might be a little off, what this tells us is that the actual measures might not be too far off from what the test shows us. So essentially, what Ancestry actually provides us are raw, unrefined ballpark figures that we can fine-tune and correct with our own personal research.
Ancestry DNA uses the latest technology in genealogy to help you piece together your family history. And although they do indicate that their results are not to be taken as fact, they provide you with the tools and resources you need in order to unravel pieces of the truth.
So, can you trust the results from Ancestry DNA? Our answer would be yes. No DNA testing company can tell you that they provide 100% accurate results because there’s no such technology that allows that kind of precision. However, because the results that Ancestry DNA provide aren’t too far from the truth, they can be used as your basis for further research and learning.
Among the biggest concerns for some users is privacy. Needless to say, sharing such sensitive information on a platform of millions of users might seem like a daunting thing. And fortunately, Ancestry takes that concern into account.
Their platform lets you set your own privacy, keeping your information available for others to see, or hidden. If another person finds that your DNA matches, they have the option to request to see your information, such as your family tree.
If you opt to decline these requests, then they are not granted permission to vide your profile. However, it pays to keep in mind that refusing to share your information could hinder research on both your ends.
Genealogical research will often be something of a community effort, and the more willing you are to share your information, the more likely you’d be able to piece together your own past.
On the topic of confidentiality and privacy, it’s also important to know that Ancestry regularly conducts research in the areas of anthropology, genetics, genealogy, and health. Their Human Diversity Project helps further our knowledge of these subjects and are even partially used to improve their own system.
On their website, users have the option to view their document for informed consent that explains what you’re agreeing to by being part of their Project. Users have the option to back-out of the research at any given time while still using the tools and resources on the site.
If you decide to opt-out of the research, any information you have on the platform will be removed from the study. Everything from your personal information, to your family tree, ancestral and ethnic information, and all other details you’ve collected and saved will be completely confidential.
The Benefits of Ancestry DNA
So why should you choose Ancestry DNA rather than any other DNA testing kit available on the market today? As one of the leading choices in the industry, Ancestry offers a range of features and benefits that you might not be able to enjoy anywhere else.
- Largest online database – With over 15 million users on the website, Ancestry is unmatched by any other DNA testing service currently available. This means that you’ll have bigger chances of finding living relatives on their platform compared to any other testing service you can try.
- Accurate historical records and censuses – Ancestry makes it a part of their mission to ensure that you have the necessary tools and resources to expand your knowledge. So aside from the results of your test, they also have a range of other features to help you trace out your history.
Historical records and censuses are used to fine-tune the results you receive. Everything from world events to population demographics from earlier centuries are taken into account to help refine your results and create the best possible representation of your history.
- Multiple tools – Ancestry understands that not everyone can be a genealogical expert, but with the right tools, you can get pretty close. The website offers a range of intuitive tools that take out the guesswork and put you in control of your research.
But aside from all of their available tools, Ancestry also strives to update their features to improve your results along the way. So whatever results you receive today won’t be the final findings – Ancestry encourages you to continue your research as they improve their tools for countless years down the line.
- Strong online community – You’ll discover that genealogical research involves the participation of everyone linked to you. And without these vital interactions, it might be impossible to piece together your family tree.
Fortunately, the community at Ancestry is highly involved. Most of the members you’ll find and highly committed to their research. So it makes it a lot easier to find what you’re looking for.
The platform also makes it easy for you to connect and interact with potential DNA matches. All individuals who manifest a close link to your DNA will be immediately available on your dashboard. And if you subscribed to the Ancestry DNA + Traits kit, then you can reach out to them through the website.
- Over 500+ regions – Genealogical research sites divide the world up into regions to help you understand where you came from. The more regions there are, the more specific your results.
Ancestry has over 500 regions in their database, some of which are dialed down to the size of cities. This makes it easier to see the specifics of your origins, giving you a clear picture of where your family started and what they’re lives might have been like.
Areas for Improvement
There is no such thing as the perfect DNA testing and genealogical research platform. So despite being a pretty impressive service all together, there are a few kinks that Ancestry could improve to provide their clients an even better experience.
- Y-DNA and mtDNA testing – Perhaps one of the biggest downsides of the Ancestry service is that it doesn’t offer any DNA tests other than autosomal DNA testing. So individuals who want specific information on a particular branch of their lineage won’t be able to fine-tune the focus of their results.
- DNA and mtDNA testing can calibrate your results so that only a specific maternal or paternal line is considered for results. This can be especially helpful if you’re trying to learn more about the history of a parent who doesn’t have a lot of genealogical knowledge.
It’s also worth noting that both of these tests can be used in combination with an autosomal test to further improve the details of your research. So the fact that Ancestry no longer offers them might call for the need to visit other service providers.
- Recent genetic ethnicity limitation – While Ancestry provides you an overview of your genetic ethnicity, it’s likely to end its trail at the 8th generation before you. That means that you’re unlikely to discover your actual halplogroups or your in-depth ethnicity with their test.
For instance, if your earliest ancestors were African, and several intermarriages diluted their genes down the line, then the results might not be able to reflect this African heritage accurately because of the mixing with other ethnicities.
If you’re interested in finding an in-depth report of your ethnicity dating way back to centuries past, then consider a Y-DNA or an mtDNA test that can bring you as far back as your original haplogroup.
- Overwhelming tools – Although Ancestry tries to give you an intuitive experience, there are just some tools that prove to be overwhelming. Their matching tools can be slightly challenging to manage if there are too many connections in your profile.
While they do offer you the opportunity to sort things out and create unique categories with color coding, individuals with lots of DNA matches might spend a little too much time fiddling with the system.
The Bottom Line
Ancestry DNA offers a load of resources – probably more than any other brand – thanks to their history in the genealogical and anthropology sciences. Their database holds the most number of registered DNA tested users, making it a great place to reconnect with long-lost relatives.
Although there are a few missing pieces in the entire system, the platform can be a great choice if you’re interested in learning a little more about your ethnicity, and meeting DNA matches to piece together a comprehensive family tree.
So, is it worth it? Absolutely. With both kits at less than $200, Ancestry’s ever-evolving platfrom promises that the results you get today won’t be your last. So if you were hoping to engage in a long-term journey towards personal understanding, then Ancestry offers exactly what you need.
- Pulling Back the Curtain on DNA Ancestry Tests. Retrieved from https://now.tufts.edu/articles/pulling-back-curtain-dna-ancestry-tests on September 8, 2019