Pros / AncestryDNA has the largest DNA database of any service we tested, with over 10 million users.
Cons / Results vary widely in depth and detail, depending on where your ancestors lived.
Verdict / Ancestry’s focus on genealogy makes its DNA service an amazing tool for people wanting to match their genes to the family tree.
Ancestry is one of the biggest names both in genealogy research and ancestry DNA testing. It has over 10 million users and the largest sample database of any service we tested. The more samples in the database, the more accurate and specific results are, so it’s an important distinction. Recently, Ancestry has updated its results to reflect its growing database, and our testers saw how the update changed their reports. Overall, our results honed in on more specific areas and eliminated some false matches that were present pre-update.
AncestryDNA’s sample collection kit includes a marked test tube with a funnel attachment. You spit into the tube up to the marked line, cap it off and send your sample back to the lab according to the simple provided instructions. It took 35 days from the date sent to the date we received results from Ancestry, which is only a few days longer than 23andMe’s turnaround time. Along the way, we also received notifications when our samples were processed.
Logging in to view your AncestryDNA results, you first arrive at your DNA dashboard, which shows a preview of your Ethnicity Estimate, DNA Matches and DNA circles. The Ethnicity Estimate matches your DNA to the service’s more than 350 regions, 296 of which are in Europe. This is great for people with European heritage, as it allows for a great deal of specificity. It’s possible to match with a specific county in Ireland, for example. The European focus does, however, make for some inconsistency in report specificity and detail for non-European lineage. This is due to less information about these populations, both in the DNA database and Ancestry’s family trees, as the service uses information gleaned from both to create its detailed reports. Of course, as more information becomes available, the results improve. I took an AncestryDNA test in 2016, and my own results improved a little in the latest update, though they are still a great deal less interesting and detailed than other testers’ results.
Other testers’ ancestry reports included an interactive DNA Story, which shows the movements and migrations of your genetic ancestors through time. This is extremely fascinating, as it shows where your ancestors came from in Europe and where they immigrated to the U.S. Most testers could trace their family’s movement west across the country and point out where their known relatives stopped along the way.
In addition to ancestry mapping, AncestryDNA gives you the option to interact with your present-day relatives as well. The interface tells you your DNA match’s screen name, estimated relationship, confidence of the match, and whether the person has filled out a family tree. It’s simple to navigate through your matches, send messages, and request to share data. If you’re in one of Ancestry’s family trees, the service also gives you hints to possible family tree matches in your DNA matches.
Ancestry focuses on the family history and genealogy aspect of DNA testing more than self-discovery, which makes it a better fit for genealogy enthusiasts than something like the National Geographic’s Geno 2.0 test, but it does have a somewhat narrower scope. Ancestry only examines your autosomal DNA, which you inherit as a mix from both of your parents, while many other tests also give you haplogroup results based on your mitochondrial or Y-DNA. To get the most out of AncestryDNA’s service, it definitely feels like you need to fill out a family tree and do some of the leg work yourself, but if you’re willing to put in a little effort, the service offers unmatched recent history detail.