AncestryDNA Review

AncestryDNA is a subsidiary of the well-established genealogy company, Ancestry LLC, which has over 16 billion historical records and over 2 million paying subscribers. Our internal experts took the tests and have done all the homework, so you don’t have to. Skim our high-level recommendation if you are short on time. Or dig down deeper into our thorough review.

Review Summary

Pros

  • Perhaps the best test for those looking to do serious ancestry research and building out your family tree.
  • AncestryDNA’s database contains over 7 million people who have taken the test and includes millions of family trees and over 20 billion historical records.
  • AncestryDNA uses 150 ethnicity regions for their autosomal test—nearly best in class when it comes to what you can learn about your ethnic heritage

Cons

  • AncestryDNA’s test only focus on, well, ancestry. Those hoping to learn about health traits should look at 23andMe’s test or perhaps TeloYears.
  • In order to have access to many of the most powerful research features, you must pay additional fees for a subscription.
  • AncestryDNA doesn’t offer the yDNA or mtDNA ancestry tests.

Bottom Line

If this is your first DNA Test, and you are looking for an easy, one-stop shop test that includes health-related reports, we think you would be happier with 23andMe’s test. However, if you intend to do some hardcore ancestry research or if your primary goal is to find long-lost relatives, other tests, such as those from AncestryDNA, might be a better option for you.

AncestryDNA Rating by

4 stars (4.5 stars if you are a serious genealogist)

Reviewed on

Pricing and Options

AncestryDNA’s autosomal DNA Test retails for $99, which does not include shipping and handling (an additional $9.95). Subscriptions to Ancestry.com’s research service starts at $19.99/month (after free trial).

Discounts

As the competition to analyze your DNA heats up, we are seeing more and more discounts. $30 off or buy 4 tests, get 1 free (a good option for families or gifts) is often available.

Submitting your DNA

AncestryDNA’s submittal process, like those of similar DNA tests, is fast, easy, and painless. Once you place your order, your saliva collection kit should arrive in 3 to 5 business days. After you receive it, you just activate your kit online and send the kit back in the prepaid package. It takes approximately 6-8 weeks after sending for your reports to become available online (mine took about 7 weeks).

Reports and Features

Once your results come in, you will have access to 3 reports:

1

Genetic Ancestry

This report is further broken down into two sub-reports.

  • Ethnicity Estimate: Using its over 150 district worldwide regions, this report attempt to breakdown your ethnicity by percentage. Here is an example of mine: TBD
  • Genetic Communities: You’ll be assigned to one or more “genetic communities” and given information about how those committees migrated across the world over time. While this is fascinating and educational, it is important to keep in mind that migration patterns shown here are for your genetic communities and not you specifically.

2

DNA Matches

This section is designed to show potential living relatives that you have who also have used the service. Relatives can range from you 4th cousin to one of your parents. You have the ability to contact them if they have opted in. You also have an amazing ability to see how you relatives relate to you visually via family trees. However, this costs extra.

3

DNA Circles

In order to take advantage of this cool feature, you need to make your Ancestry.com family tree public and link it to your DNA results. Once you do that, Ancestry.com builds upon your “DNA Matches” results and may be able to form a “DNA Circle” around one of your ancestors. What does this circle mean? A DNA Circle only forms if the following conditions can be met:

  • AncestryDNA found at least two DNA Matches to you t the 2nd cousin level or closer
  • Those two matches are DNA Matches to each other as well (again, at the 2nd cousin level or closer)
  • Those two matches made their family trees public and linked them to their DNA results
  • Ancestry.com sees that you all have a common ancestor in your family trees

If that happens, you’ll see a DNA Circle named for that shared ancestor. From there, Ancestry.com will continue adding people to the DNA Circle if they qualify.

You may notice that the information about this ancestor in the DNA Circle doesn’t match the information you’ve gathered about him or her; that’s not a mistake, but rather a result of the fact that this information is gathered from the family trees of all of you within the circle. It could be a great icebreaker!

Other Considerations

Privacy

AncestryDNA has in place a robust system in place to protect your privacy. Customers are only identified using an anonymous ID number and test lab technicians never have access to your name. Only you get to decide whether or not you want to share any of your information (usually in order to make yourself findable by other potential relatives). They commit to never selling or leasing your individual-level information to any third party without your explicit consent.

Database Size

AncestryDNA exceeded 7 million users in March of 2018. This metric is especially important to testers who hope to find relatives, as the larger the database, the more relatives you are likely to find. As mentioned earlier, this company offers the largest, most robust database available.

Data Exportability

The company allows you to easily download your results data. This is important as some other services that allow data uploads can tell you even more information. Data exportability is important because… It is interesting to note that AncestryDNA does not allow you to upload your data from other services at this time.

Regional Granularity

In late 2017, Ancestry.com announced that their DNA ethnicity regions (what they use to deliver ethnicity reports in their autosomal tests) grew an enormous amount. They now have 150 regions in total, which is second only to 23andMe in terms of the granularity of regions. This is a very good thing for those who are interested in learning about their ethnic heritage and tracing the migration patterns of their ancestors.

Comparing AncestryDNA to Competitors

So how does AncestryDNA compare to rival test companies?

AncestryDNA vs. Family Tree DNA

Both companies are strictly interested in ancestry, as opposed to health, so it’s kind of a good apples-to-apples comparison. But there are quite a few differences when it comes to these two companies.

Available Tests

FTDNA offers more kinds of DNA test than AncestryDNA. At FTDNA, you can take a yDNA test, an mtDNA test and/or an autosomal test. FTDNA lets you pick and choose individually. By contrast, AncestryDNA only offers the autosomal test. However, they do it with greater gusto than FTDNA does theirs, because of the whopping 150 regions that AncestryDNA sports, compared to the relatively modest number at FTDNA.

Price

You may be less surprised by the price of FTDNA, because AncestryDNA eventually charges you a monthly fee to continue accessing your DNA data through their interface.

Community

Because they offer the yDNA and mtDNA tests, FTDNA’s communities are robust when it comes to helping you explore and understand particular haplogroups. However, AncestryDNA has the largest database around and a much larger community in general.

Bottom Line

If your goal is scholarly ancestral study and you want the deepest-reaching vision of your ancestry, you’re arguably better off with FTDNA (and you can learn more at our full FTDNA review). But if your goal is to find living relatives, build a family tree and get the most detailed picture of your ethnic heritage, AncestryDNA should be your choice.

AncestryDNA vs. 23andMe

This comparison is a whole different kettle of fish; it really boils down to your goals.

Is your goal to learn about health or ancestry?

If your goal has anything to do with learning health-related information through DNA testing, then 23andMe is the clear choice of the two; Ancestry.com doesn’t offer any DNA health testing.

If your goal is learning about ancestry…

If you know that you’d like to take all three ancestry DNA tests—the autosomal, yDNA and mtDNA—then you can do it most cheaply through 23andMe. Indeed, 23andMe doesn’t even sell those tests separately; they come in a bundle. But the bundle is a real bargain compared to the price of a comparable bundle or the three tests sold separately from any other provider. So you’ll save money if your goal is all three tests. And again, AncestryDNA only offers the autosomal. But where 23andMe really doesn’t size up to AncestryDNA is in their community and database. True, the 23andMe database has grown a lot, allowing for it to offer basically the same number of regions as AncestryDNA in their autosomal test results (actually one more than AncestryDNA). But they don’t have much of a genealogical community to tap into when you’re ready to explore your test results. You’ll have to take that data elsewhere in order to access good community support.

Bottom Line

Choose 23andMe if you want health reporting in addition to ancestry. Choose AncestryDNA if you are OK foregoing the yDNA and mtDNA test and your goal is either ethnicity research or building a family tree, or both. Choose 23andMe if you want the cheapest all-of-the-above approach to DNA ancestry testing and plan to upload your data to a third party to learn more. Visit our 23andMe review to learn more about what they have to offer.

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