AncestryDNA Review | 5 things to know before buying
The editors here at Genomelink think it is important that you select the right DNA testing company for your needs. Below is our review of AncestryDNA, in a comparable format to our other review articles so you can easily compare all the companies you are interested in!
Owned By: Blackstone Group (Private Equity Fund)
Location: Provo, Utah
Employees: 500-1000 (Crunchbase)
Monthly Visits: 49+ Million (SimilarWeb)
Number of DNA Kit Users: 18+ Million (DNAGeek)
Ancestry (Ancestry.com) has been in the genealogy game for a long time. Back in the day, they produced Ancestry Magazine and were one of the first companies to computerize family history. Based out of Provo, Utah, the company has ties to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon Church), based in Salt Lake City (a veritable bastion of genealogy). Through the church's own genealogy website FamilySearch, members of the church are given free access to Ancestry's powerful array of genealogical tools - tools and records which normally cost hundreds of dollars a year to access.
Though ownership of Ancestry has changed several times throughout the decades it has existed, Ancestry was most recently purchased by the Blackstone Group, a private equity fund which paid nearly $5 billion for the Ancestry DNA testing service and the 18+ million user DNA database it has accumulated. Since Ancestry effectively owns your genetic data after you get a test, this data is worth a pretty penny for those looking to sell it to pharmaceutical companies, researchers, and private interests.
In 2012, Ancestry rolled out its first DNA test kit. The DNA kit is tied directly to their family tree service and is a powerful tool for finding your long-lost relatives. Plus, with by-far the most users of any DNA testing company, Ancestry can offer some of the most specific ancestry and ethnicity reports. They can also connect you with the highest number of living relatives and can give you detailed information about dead relatives through their records database - a treasure-trove of documents that goes all the way back to the census records of 1790!
The AncestryDNA kit is one of the most comprehensive DNA ancestry tests around, and the company has started expanding into health-related DNA traits. Though they have a long way to go before they can catch up to 23andMe's health kits, the company is rapidly conducting research and expanding their offerings every day.
Like all DNA testing companies, Ancestry DNA testing kits have several pros and cons.
- By far the largest user base - this means more specific results!
- A long and devoted company history of helping customers build a family tree
- Use real historical records to build out your family tree
- Download your Raw DNA Data for use with other sites
- Over 1,000 global ethnic regions your DNA can be matched with
- Find DNA matches to living relatives using the Match List
- AncestryDNA results do not include access to historical records; this costs extra
- Subscription packages to the historical records service are not cheap!
- Health testing is much lest robust compared to other companies
- Users looking for Health testing can find better options elsewhere
What to Expect from AncestryDNA
AncestryDNA offers two basic DNA testing kits. The standard AncestryDNA package includes only ancestry results, while the more expensive AncestryHealth kit includes several health traits in addition to your ancestry results.
Kit Ordering And DNA Collection
When you order a DNA kit from the Ancestry website, Amazon, or a similar source, you will receive a package in the mail containing a saliva sample collection tube. Fill the tube with spit, and send the testing kit back to the company in the prepaid envelope. Cells within your saliva sample contain your DNA sample, which the lab workers will extract, analyze, and compare to reference populations around the globe. This autosomal DNA test does not appear to look at the DNA science of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA tests for your maternal line), the X chromosome, or Y-chromosome (Y-DNA tests for your paternal line).
After sending in your saliva sample, the company will analyze your DNA test kit. Your AncestryDNA results will be a breakdown of where your genes came from, by region. In addition, you can opt into their subscription service, which curates possible matches to your family tree and gives you access to their large collection of historical records. Further, the service can connect you to your DNA matches, to help you find family members who are also using the service. If you opted for the AncestryHealth kit, your health results will be available in a different section on your results home page.
Expected Ancestry Results
Below, you can see what to expect from your ancestry DNA results with AncestryDNA.
- Ethnicity Estimates of populations you are most related to
- Pie chart of your biggest matches
- Detailed ancestry matching with over 1,000 regions
- Includes common regions like Europe, Ireland, Africa, Scotland, New York, and others!
- Timeline of historical changes related to your DNA curated from an expert team of historians
- Potential migration paths your family may have taken with historical Communities
- Family connections to your potential relatives on the platform through DNA matching!
- Non-medical traits like eye color, cilantro aversion, and birth weight
After an average 6 week processing time, you will receive a report from Ancestry.com, available through their online platform. The test results will contain an Ethnicity Estimate, which approximates where your genes came from based on your matches with reference populations. Maybe your relatives were from England, Scotland, and Ireland. Or, you could be East Asian, Scandinavian, and Native American. Every person is different and has a different genetic heritage, so these estimates can vary widely even between siblings. Your personal pie chart will be specific to the genes you inherited from your parents.
In general, Ancestry has the most data from the United States and Western Europe. These larger regions are broken into many smaller regions that get very specific. For instance, you may be related to the "Southwest Mississippi & Baton Rouge African Americans." You can check out a full list of regions that Ancestry can match you with on this Ancestry Support page. This genetic ethnicity is only a snapshot of your family's history, but combined with their research tools this ethnicity test can become the basis of your genetic genealogy research. You can literally become your family's genealogist.
Besides the ethnicity estimate, you will have a number of other tools available to you on Ancestry’s platform. Below is a sample page, showing a specific ethnicity that has been focused on. You will notice that not only is your percentage available, but the company provides background information on the region your ancestors were from. Further, you can explore a timeline of events that includes possible migration routes your family may have taken and communities they were a part of. This tool is very cool because it can help you determine where parts of your family lived during different time periods. Check it out!
Using the platform, you can also perform a number of other actions from your DNA results. Looking for distant cousins? No problem! The Match List found in the platform details all of the AncestryDNA users who are related to you. It can include close relatives, second cousins, and even a common ancestor that you share with other living relatives. Who knows? Maybe you are related to Winston Churchill or Alexander the Great.
If you decide to purchase the optional subscription packages, you will also get access to Ancestry’s massive historical records database. Then, you can build out a family tree from the ground up, finding connections with both living DNA relatives and relatives recorded in the historical documents database. With these two incredible tools, Ancestry really only competes with MyHeritage in the family tree realm. Plus, with their massive user database, Ancestry can analyze many more regions and likely gives the most accurate ancestry results of any company.
Expected Health Results
Below, you can see what to expect from your ancestry DNA results with AncestryDNA.
- Reports related to your genetic health, carrier status, and wellness traits
- Carrier Status reports on 3 common genetic diseases (Cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell Anemia, and Tay-Sachs Disease)
- Cancer Risks correlated to genetic variants you carry (Breast, Ovarian, and Colon Cancers)
- Connective Tissue Disorders (Several conditions covered)
- Heart and Blood Health - including heart disease and high cholesterol
- Wellness Traits - alcohol flush, caffeine metabolism, exercise, nutrients, and more!
If you purchase the more expensive AncestryHealth package, you will get all of the ancestry results described above, plus insights into several different health areas including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, heart health, and 3 carrier status reports. While this is a decent look at well-researched genetic variants, the test misses many of the health conditions reported by other companies and is in no way a diagnostic test.
For example, 23andMe provides over 40 different carrier status reports, as well as a number of other conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Crohn’s disease. None of these health conditions are covered by the AncestryHealth tests. Until these tests are updated and expanded, it seems unwise to purchase the AncestryHealth tests. These AncestryHealth tests will cost you an additional $50, but you could easily find all of this health information on Promethease for only $12, simply using your raw DNA data. Companies like 23andMe and MyHeritage offer a greater diversity of health traits, but their ancestry results are not quite as robust.
That being said, Ancestry has started a partnership with PWNHealth and can give you access to genetic counselors that can help you understand your results. The company does use next-generation sequencing to search for a wide variety of variants related to these conditions, and also considers your family health history. Still, if you really want to know about the medical implications your DNA may have on your health, you should consider one of the health companies we recommend in our Best DNA Kits article.
AncestryDNA Privacy Statement
Ancestry makes it very clear on their Privacy page that you maintain ownership of your DNA data and personal information. When you opt-in to their optional programs to find relatives and create a family tree, you are allowing Ancestry to use your DNA data to find the matches and help build your tree. However, you can delete your DNA data at any time simply by notifying the company of your choice. This action will permanently delete your data from their database.
AncestryDNA has thousands of reviews, on several different sites. Check them out for yourself!
- 3.1 of 5 stars on Trustpilot, with over 5,700 reviews
- 4.3 of 5 stars on Amazon, with over 20,780 reviews
See more results and what people are saying on the Ancestry Reddit page
In general, customers were satisfied with the AncestryDNA test and corresponding results. However, many customers took issue with the price of the subscription service, which is essentially necessary to maximize your results on the platform. These subscriptions can be hundreds of dollars a year and are apparently very hard to cancel. Further, many 1 star reviews focused on the poor customer service provided by the company, which is never a good thing. Many customers have been very satisfied with their ancestry results from the company, and nearly 73% of the 20,000+ reviews on Amazon were 5/5 stars.
The AncestryDNA report is $99. However, you can also subscribe to their Family Tree service, ranging from $19 to $45 per month. With these subscription packages, you get access to various historical records and the ability to construct and add to a family tree on the platform. The most basic package gives you access to all the US records available. The higher packages give you access to international records, historic newspapers, as well as access to Fold3, a military records site.
For the AncestryHealth kit, you will have to pay $179. This is slightly cheaper than a comparable package from 23andMe, but it includes far fewer health traits and only slightly better ancestry results. Plus, if you want the full suite of genealogical tools, you'll have to pay several hundred dollars a year!
AncestryDNA is not alone in offering an ancestry test based on DNA. Other companies, such as MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, 23andMe, and LivingDNA all allow users the ability to get an ethnicity estimate. Some of them provide access to historical records, such as MyHeritage, while others are simply meant to show you where your genes comes from. A couple of big advantages AncestryDNA has is that it allows you to download your raw data for use on other platforms, and it has one of the world’s largest repositories for historical documents.
With Ancestry’s historical records service and the ability to construct and develop a family tree, Ancestry really only competes with MyHeritage. Plus, it's not much of a competition because Ancestry has 18+ million users, while MyHeritage recently broke the 1 million mark. Both companies offer DNA ancestry testing and the ability to build and research a family tree, though statistically, you are more likely to find thorough results with Ancestry - especially if your family has roots in Western Europe or the Americas.
For health-related DNA traits, Ancestry is probably not your best option. 23andMe offers far more health-related traits, at a very similar price. Plus, with over 10 million users, 23andMe's database is almost as big as Ancestry's. Since 23andMe was founded on the idea of personalizing health through DNA testing, they have a massive head-start in getting the FDA approvals required to offer DNA tests for specific diseases and conditions.
The Bottom Line
Ancestry.com was one of the first companies in the ancestry testing game, and remain at the forefront of DNA ancestry testing. While the basic test will get you information on your ancestors, be prepared to pay much more than the sticker price of the test to get your full range of results and access to the powerful historical records database. While Ancestry has also expanded into the DNA health testing realm, their results are much less comprehensive than other companies.
On the bright side, Ancestry does allow you to download your raw data, which can be used for free on a number of other sites to get additional insights into your DNA, including Genomelink!