Quick Facts:

  • Pricing: $59
  • Tests: AncestryDNA
  • Wait Time: 6-8 weeks
  • Database size: 15 million
  • Collection Method: Saliva

One of the leading sources of in-home DNA testing services is AncestryDNA. This company is related to the long-running genealogical site Ancestry.com, and it offers DNA testing that provides users with a greater understanding of who they are and where their ancestors originally came from. With the more advanced testing, it’s possible to trace back to the earliest paternal and maternal ancestors who were given the names Adam and Eve on the site’s migration maps.

Ancestry DNA can look into autosomal DNA to ascertain where a given person’s ancestors came from. Additionally, users are able to access information that can allow them to learn about living relatives they might not know about. This requires both relatives to agree to access the additional service. Previously, AncestryDNA allowed customers to access maternal and paternal DNA testing through the Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA. These services have been discontinued, and at present, there is no plan to restart them. Access to older Y-DNA and mtDNA tests ended in 2014.

AncestryDNA offers one additional service for its customers. The site also provides additional testing that allows customers to learn about certain genetic traits they might exhibit. These traits are related to physical attributes and are not really related to health markers. This AncestryDNA Traits testing is available for a relatively small fee in excess of the basic DNA test.

Pricing/Cost of AncestryDNA Services

The cost of AncestryDNA’s basic service that looks into a person’s origins and family relations runs $99. This service does not claim to be as robust as that of 23andMe, but it should allow users to come closer to filling out a family genealogy through the ability users have to find relatives. This service provides an estimate as to what percentage of a person’s background comes from each of around 500 different locations in addition to ascertaining general ethnic groups. One example provided on the AncestryDNA website shows that people with Irish ancestry could further narrow down their origins to Munster, Ireland, or the Cork Headlands. In some instances, it’s possible to trace ancestry to a single city.

For an additional $20, customers can have an additional 26 appearance, sensory and other personal traits analyzed. AncestryDNA notes that these prices do not include taxes and shipping charges. Additionally, there is a note that indicates users may gain access to additional traits in the future for an additional cost. This additional cost is not yet stated. Those who are looking for a simple DNA test that looks at their ancestry and these physical traits would do well to check into AncestryDNA because of its attractive price point when compared with some of the other DNA testing companies currently on the market.

Refund Policy

AncestryDNA has a refund policy for those who order a kit and decide not to go through with the DNA testing. US-based customers can cancel their orders within 30 days and receive a refund as long as they have not yet accessed their DNA test results. If they have accessed these results, they will not receive any refund. Those seeking a refund will need to provide the information they provided when they ordered the kit and the unique activation code that comes with the instruction card provided by AncestryDNA. Those who ask for a refund before they submit a sample will have all but $25 of their purchase price refunded. Those who have already submitted a saliva sample will receive a refund that’s equal to one-half of the original purchase price. Taxes and shipping costs do not figure into the refund amount. Therefore, users will be liable for these regardless of when they request a refund.

Those who reside outside the United States have different requirements for receiving a refund. They must call and request a refund within 14 days of receiving their order. This right of cancellation ends after the 14-day period, and customers will receive no refund after that point.

Why Use AncestryDNA?

AncestryDNA is a part of Ancestry.com, a major player in the genealogical research field. This site has its origins in LDS genealogical records and dates to 1990. Therefore, it’s been in operation longer than many other companies in the individual DNA testing industry. Despite its age, Ancestry entered the DNA testing sphere a bit later than some of its competitors.

There is a limited geographic access to Ancestry’s DNA tests. Those who live outside the US, the UK and Ireland are not currently able to access AncestryDNA tests. Therefore, those outside of the specified countries would want to opt for another option when it comes to in-home individual DNA testing.

AncestryDNA claims that its results will work for both men and women because the test utilizes autosomal DNA rather than merely the Y-chromosome DNA or mitochondrial DNA that tracks male or female ancestors. This test looks at a prospective customer’s entire genome. The testing comes from the 22 pairs of chromosomes that include everything but a person’s biological sex.

Ancestry provides services in addition to the DNA testing for those who are working on developing their genealogies. The company provides access to ProGenealogists, a group of professionals with in-depth knowledge of the practice of genealogy. This benefit also has access to many resources that can help fill out a family genealogy. Additionally, Ancestry offers Ancestry Academy, which is a library of online videos that helps to educate users who want to learn how to build an extensive genealogy.

Because AncestryDNA is primarily focused on helping people learn about their ancestry, there are no tests that search various markers that are tied to genetic characteristics. Those who are concerned with finding out whether they carry certain markers that indicate they might develop certain genetic illnesses would probably be better served with the more robust testing offered by 23andMe or through a doctor’s office that offers genetic testing. For those who are only concerned with learning about their ancestors, AncestryDNA is a good option for finding this information.

AncestryDNA Collection Process

The collection of a sample for an AncestryDNA test is not a difficult endeavor. After you order the test, the company’s website indicates that you should receive your kit within “a matter of days.” This is not as specific as some of the other options on the market, but it would indicate that shipment occurs fairly quickly after an order is placed. The kit includes a tube for collecting a saliva sample. This is fairly standard for in-home DNA kits. After spitting into the tube and sealing it to avoid contamination, customers would then mail the kit back in a postage-paid envelope that’s provided as a part of the AncestryDNA kit.

Waiting Period

AncestryDNA claims that customers should expect to get their results within about six to eight weeks after sending them in. Those who order a test through AncestryDNA will also have to take the additional step of activating the DNA kit online before they’ll be able to get their results. Users are instructed to contact customer serve if they haven’t received their results within eight weeks. Once the results of the test are in, AncestryDNA will send an email to inform a customer that he or she can access the results online. The email will include a link that allows people to access their results. This account is protected with a password in the interest of customer privacy.

Results

As noted above, the results of a DNA test from AncestryDNA should be available online within eight weeks. The specific results an individual receives will be impacted based which package he or she chooses to purchase. If you decide to opt for the basic DNA testing, you’ll get information on:

  • Percentage of ethnicity estimate
  • Locations and details from 500 regions, sometimes to the city level
  • Timeline of historical changes for some regions
  • Possible information on why ancestors might have moved
  • DNA matches
  • Sorting, grouping and viewing DNA matches

As noted above, those who decide to pay $20 to upgrade their package can access additional genetic testing that will give information on 26 genetic traits. As of the writing of this review, the AncestryDNA Traits option will look into a few personal traits that are influenced by a user’s genetics. The 26 traits that are currently covered are:

  • Birth weight
  • Facial hair thickness
  • Omega-3
  • Photic sneeze reflex
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Wisdom Teeth
  • Asparagus metabolite detection
  • Bitter sensitivity
  • Cilantro aversion
  • Cleft chin
  • Earlobe type
  • Earwax type
  • Eye color
  • Finger length
  • Freckles
  • Hair color
  • Hair strand thickness
  • Hair type
  • Iris patterns
  • Male hair loss
  • Savory (umami) sensitivity
  • Skin pigmentation
  • Sweet sensitivity
  • Unibrow

This list is not as robust as that offered by 23andMe, and it does not offer genetic testing that assesses a person’s risk for certain genetic diseases. However, it does provide more information regarding physical traits than that offered by FamilyTreeDNA, which is another popular in-home DNA testing provider. FamilyTreeDNA does not really get into any of the additional testing that inquires into anything other than tracing a person’s origins. The AncestryDNA site indicates that the company is continuously working to add more traits to the list. The additional traits will be available to existing customers for an additional cost, which is not currently stated on the website.

Features

The primary features that AncestryDNA offers its customers have been noted above. The first is the basic DNA test that provides users an ability to learn where their ancestors came from. Ancestry links its users to any of more than 500 specific regions of the world. Additionally, there is the add-on feature that can track a growing number of genetic traits that figure prominently in the physical features a person might exhibit. The company’s site also notes that a DNA test through AncestryDNA will allow users to see whether they have Native American ancestry although the company is quick to note that this will not suffice for legal purposes.

The DNA tests offered by AncestryDNA are primarily intended to give users an estimate of their genetic ethnicity and the percentages that each ethnicity might have in their individual backgrounds. Additionally, the test can help people identify some potential DNA matches that indicate they are related to other users. Because AncestryDNA is a subsidiary of Ancestry.com, this focus on helping people learn more about their ancestry and genealogy should not be surprising. The service branches out slightly into the physical features through the $20 add-on, but the main features that are available through AncestryDNA are tied to helping people learn about their ancestry.

AncestryDNA also provides access to its genealogical services that are not necessarily tied to DNA testing. The company’s website allows users to search public records like census returns and birth and marriage certificates. These records can be used in coordination with DNA results to fill in a more accurate genealogy.

Accuracy of Ancestry DNA

When it comes to assessing the accuracy of AncestryDNA’s tests, there can be a concern for people who believe their ancestors came from one part of the world getting results that challenge their assumptions. There are reasons why this might be the case. The most obvious explanation is a gap in the genealogical record. Additionally, with the prevalence of adoption, people might have an ethnicity in their background that is unexpected.

AncestryDNA claims to “measure and analyze a person’s entire genome at over 700,000 locations.” The service requires results to have a 98% quality standard. Any sample that fails to reach this level of accuracy can require a customer to provide another sample. The company does recommend that people who have had a bone marrow transplant avoid using the AncestryDNA testing service. The reason for this is the fact that bone marrow creates blood cells that will show up in the saliva sample. The results would therefore include DNA from the person providing the saliva sample and the person who provided the bone marrow transplant. Results could be inconclusive, or the report might actually be the results of the bone marrow donor. Therefore, a person who has received a bone marrow transplant should have another close relative provide the DNA sample to trace ancestry more accurately. Ideally, the close relative would be a parent or a sibling to get the most accurate results on the test.

Additionally, those who have been recipients of a stem cell transplant might want to avoid DNA testing. The stem cells could corrupt the results much like a blood marrow transplant would. The stem cells from a donor can create blood cells that could show up on a DNA test and corrupt the results. Again, in this instance, a close blood relative like a parent or sibling would be a better choice for a test. Both bone marrow and stem cell donors would be able to get accurate DNA testing results because the DNA would be theirs, not that of the recipient of their donation.

AncestryDNA notes on its website that the most recent results have increased in relation to their accuracy. The site notes two different reasons for this. First, there are 13,000 additional reference samples when compared to earlier comparisons. The more samples the company uses, the greater its ability to identify a genetic signature from a particular region within a person’s DNA. Second, the company has added a new algorithm that will analyze longer segments of genetic information. This is added to the increased number of reference samples to provide more accurate results. The latest ethnicity estimates now include more regions from Asia and Europe.

Unexpected Ethnicity Results

AncestryDNA discusses the possibility of unexpected results, and it does so more clearly than the other major companies that offer home-based, individualized DNA testing. For example, a family might tell a person he or she had primarily Irish ancestry while a DNA test like AncestryDNA tells them that their ancestry is primarily German. The company gives three major reasons why a person might receive unexpected results. First, the DNA a person inherits from ancestors is random. Second, the maximum DNA a person receives from a given ancestor is 50%. Third, when the test looks at ancestry beyond grandparents, it only gives an average of the DNA a person got from an ancestor.

Therefore, there is the possibility that a person received no DNA whatsoever from a given ancestor. The further back in history the testing goes, the more likely this is the case. Even as recently as seven generations back, it’s likely that a person receives only 1% of his or her DNA from a given ancestor. In general, while DNA testing can provide very accurate results, it is not yet an exact science. Therefore, there can be discrepancies that show up on the reports offered by AncestryDNA and other similar home-based DNA testing companies. These errors are more likely the further back in history the test purports to examine.

AncestryDNA’s Privacy Policy

Like other home-based DNA testing companies, AncestryDNA requires new users to agree to its terms and conditions. In order to set up an account, a user will have to provide his or her name, email address and a password. To access more of the tools and the DNA testing, more personal information is required. For example, the company will need to have access to a credit or debit card number and a street address to actually process an order for a DNA testing kit. In order to actually activate the DNA testing kit, AncestryDNA will need to know the test kit code, a customer’s biological sex and his or her year of birth. AncestryDNA does not consider information about a dead person as personal information. Therefore, it would not fall under the Privacy Statement.

AncestryDNA utilizes a personal DNA sample in providing its genetic results. This is carried out by a partner lab, and the DNA is converted into a machine-readable code. This information can be utilized to provide information related to ethnicity estimates and the level of relation to other users in the company’s DNA database. The DNA and saliva samples are retained by AncestryDNA for future testing that might become available at a future date. Users have the option to decline to be included in any future testing on their biological samples. Ancestry makes it clear to its customers that the company is not covered under HIPAA. Therefore, any user information that’s provided by a customer is not protected by this law.

Ancestry takes information from a customer’s use of the service. This is related to web browsing history. For example, AncestryDNA looks at the websites a customer visited immediately before and after accessing the site. The service looks at a customer’s IP address as well as the computer’s operating system, web browser, mobile device identifier and the name of the mobile carrier or internet service provider. AncestryDNA uses cookies on its website although customers can opt-out of the use of tracking cookies. Those who choose not to allow Ancestry to use cookies may have a limited user experience.

AncestryDNA promises not to share a user’s personal information without that user’s consent. Customers can opt-in to allow other users of Ancestry’s service to access their personal information. This would usually be necessary to access any DNA matches that a person might have on the service. Certain service providers could also obtain access to a user’s personal information. This would include, but would not be limited to, shipping companies and facilities, payment processors and biological sample storage facilities. Those who give consent to AncestryDNA to provide their samples to research partners may have their information shared for research purposes.

When it comes to dealing with law enforcement agencies, Ancestry notes that it does not voluntarily cooperate with these agencies. There might be occasions in which AncestryDNA might have to share a person’s DNA or personal information with a law enforcement agency. The company would require government agencies to follow due process requirements, and before disclosing any personal information, Ancestry would attempt to contact the customer whose information must be disclosed unless that disclosure is prohibited by law. Personal Information might be disclosed to protect Ancestry, its security or integrity or to comply with a legal warrant or subpoena.

Ancestry reserves the right to include a person’s data as a part of an aggregation of many people’s data. These aggregations might be used in marketing the service or in research publications. The company’s website gives the example of showing how many people in a given locality have ancestry from a given region. Should AncestryDNA get acquired by another entity or be transferred to another entity, the receiving or acquiring entity would gain access to the personal information regarding Ancestry’s users. However, the promises from AncestryDNA’s Privacy Statement would continue to apply under the new business.

Users can delete their personal information by changing their account settings. However, those who have shared their DNA Results with others will not be able to delete that information if it’s been retained by another user. If any information has been shared to another person’s family tree, it would be necessary for a user to ask the other people to delete the information. If you’ve provided a DNA sample, you can request that AncestryDNA delete all genetic data that has come from the sample. Ancestry will delete this information within 30 days of receiving the request.

Additionally, users can contact Member Services to request their biological samples be destroyed. If a customer granted consent for his or her genetic data to be used in research projects, it cannot be removed from research that has already been completed, but it will not be used in any future research. Customers should note that the deletion of personal information or DNA samples may not be instantaneous as there may be legal reasons to maintain these items for a limited period of time.

Regarding security, AncestryDNA does not make the promise that a data breach will never occur. However, it promises to “use reasonable efforts to prevent this.” The site uses secure server software, and its purpose is to encrypt personal and genetic information. Ancestry only partners with third-party companies that currently meet and commit to continue meeting these security standards. Ancestry also notes the importance of its users in protecting personal data through keeping unauthorized users from their computers and through the use of strong passwords that limit hackers. Furthermore, AncestryDNA has provided certification to the US Department of Commerce that it follows the Privacy Shield Principles and complies with the Privacy Shield Frameworks between the EU and the US and the US and Switzerland.

Like other individual DNA testing companies and most other companies in other industries, AncestryDNA reserves the right to change its Privacy Statement “at any time.” Users will have access to any material changes through an email or a posted notice so that they can choose whether to continue to use AncestryDNA. Those who have a problem with the changes can delete their accounts rather than agree to any modifications to the Privacy Statement.

Conclusions

AncestryDNA is a very good option for those who are looking to trace their ancestry and fill in their genealogy. It provides testing for those who are looking to learn about where their ancestors came from and the specific ethnic groups that contributed to who they are. The tests offered by AncestryDNA rely only on autosomal DNA and do not look at DNA related to the Y-Chromosome provided by male ancestors or the mitochondrial DNA provided by female ancestors.

The cost of the main test provided by AncestryDNA is very similar to that of the basic tests provided by other testing companies. At only $99, the cost should not prohibit most people from accessing information related to their genetic and ethnic backgrounds. AncestryDNA provides additional testing that analyzes certain physical traits that are common among people with similar DNA. However, the number of physical conditions is not nearly as extensive as those provided by 23andMe. AncestryDNA does not provide tests that analyze various genetic conditions that a person might carry. Those who want to learn about these genetic markers might check with a medical provider or another DNA testing company that does provide such extensive testing.

AncestryDNA is related to the popular genealogy site Ancestry.com. This could benefit users of the service who are looking to use it to fill out their genealogies and learn about their ancestors. AncestryDNA has a robust program that allows users to opt-in to locate possible relatives. This is a facet of the service that potential users might want to keep in mind when choosing their home-based DNA testing service.