Have you ever wondered about your family history and ancestry? Who were your ancestors? Where did they come from? What cultures and traditions shaped their lives? With the rise of at-home DNA test kits like Ancestry DNA kits, more and more people are uncovering answers to these burning questions.
In this comprehensive blog post, I’ll explore how the Ancestry DNA kit works, what you can learn from your results, and how to interpret them. You’ll also find tips for getting the most out of your test, from building family trees to connecting with DNA matches. If you’re considering taking the plunge into genetic genealogy, learn how AncestryDNA can unveil your unique family story.
How the AncestryDNA Test Works
Ancestry DNA examines your DNA to reveal your ethnic breakdown and identify potential relatives across Ancestry’s global network. Here’s an overview of how it works:
- Order Your Kit
Order an AncestryDNA kit online, which will ship to your door in a few days. The kit contains a saliva collection tube, funnel, and pre-paid return envelope.
- Provide Your Sample
Collect a saliva sample by spitting it into the tube until you reach the fill line (about 2 milliliters). Register your DNA kit online and mail it back with the pre-paid postage.
- DNA Analysis
Once Ancestry receives your sample, they will extract and analyze your DNA. The lab examines around 700,000 genetic markers scattered across your genome.
- Ethnicity Estimate
Ancestry compares your DNA to a reference panel of samples worldwide. Based on your unique genetic makeup, they estimate what percent of your origin comes from each region.
- DNA Matches
Ancestry scans its database of over 18 million customers to find people who share DNA with you. It can identify relatives across multiple generations.
- Results Ready in 6-8 Weeks
Within 1-2 months, your Ancestry DNA test results will be ready to view online. Ancestry will continue searching for new matches as its database expands.
Ancestry DNA Test Results: What You Can Learn
Your Ancestry DNA results provide a wealth of information about your genetic genealogy and ethnic mix. Here are some of the critical discoveries you can make:
- Ethnicity Estimate
The main feature of the AncestryDNA test is its breakdown of your ethnic origins. It categorises your ancestry into 150+ geographic regions across the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. This allows you to see what percentage of your DNA comes from different parts of the world.
For example, your ethnicity estimate maybe 40% British, 15% German, 25% Irish, 5% Scandinavian, 10% Iberian, and 5% West African. Ancestry provides historical details on each region in your DNA results.
- Migrations and Communities
In addition to percentage estimates, AncestryDNA maps how your ancestors moved around the world over time using migratory patterns and shared DNA clusters. This allows you to trace your ancestral journey.
- Genetic Communities
You may discover “genetic communities” you belong to based on ancestral populations who remained in one area for centuries. This feature connects you with ethnic and cultural traditions.
- Family Trees and Records
By linking your Ancestry DNA kit data to the billions of historical records on Ancestry.com, you can discover your ancestors’ lives: Census records, passenger lists, birth certificates, and more help you build your family tree.
- DNA Matches
You’ll get a list of people who share DNA with you, described by their relationship (i.e. fourth cousin). You can message matches and collaborate to uncover your shared ancestors and family history.
- Traits and Health Insights
Depending on the Ancestry membership you purchase, you may also get reports on how your DNA influences certain traits like taste, smell, and sleep habits. There are also optional health reports that can reveal your risk for conditions influenced by genetics.
Getting the Most from Your AncestryDNA Results
Here are some tips to help you extract as much helpful information as possible from your Ancestry DNA results:
- Build and Fill Out Your Family Tree
Connecting your DNA to an online family tree allows Ancestry to identify common ancestors with your matches. Filling in what you know about your family history provides more significant context.
- Respond to New Match Messages
Keep on top of notifications about new DNA matches, and reach out to start a conversation about your shared roots. Comparing family trees is critical.
- Join Ancestry Message Boards
You can search surnames and locations on community boards to find “genetic cousins” researching the same ancestors. This helps you break down brick walls.
- Confirm Relationships with Shared Matches
If you and a match share DNA with the same third person, you can feel more confident that you share a common ancestor somewhere down the line.
- Use Ancestry’s Hints and Search Tools
Ancestry generates hints about records that may mention your ancestors. Dig through census data, obituaries, marriage indexes, and more.
- Upload Your Raw DNA to Third-Party Sites
Uploading your AncestryDNA test data to FamilyTreeDNA or GEDmatch allows you to fish in an even bigger pond of matches and tools.
- Be Wary of Distant Cousins
That “eighth cousin” could just be statistical noise. First, focus on comparing family trees with close cousins to discern the real connections.
- Stay Organized with Spreadsheets
Use Google Sheets or Excel to catalog your matches, their shared ancestors, the amount of DNA you share, and other vital details.
Following these tips will ensure you extract maximum insight from your AncestryDNA results. But what exactly can you expect to discover? Let’s take a look at some actual customer stories…
Making Sense of Your Ethnicity Estimate
AncestryDNA is so popular because of its detailed breakdown of your genetic ethnicity and roots. But how do you make sense of your unique ancestry composition? Here are some keys to understanding your estimate:
- Remember, the Estimate is Just an Estimate
Your ethnicity estimate is AncestryDNA’s best guess based on their DNA database and methodology. It’s not an exact blueprint of your family tree going back centuries. Take it with a grain of salt.
- Narrow Regions are More Precise
Ancestry’s regional categories are divided across different time depths. More precise recent locations like Ghana are determined differently than broad categories like “West Africa.”
- Margin of Error Exists
DNA testing always has a margin of error, especially for small percentages. You may only have trace DNA from a particular region. Focus on the central areas that dominate your ethnic makeup.
- DNA Inheritance is Random
You don’t inherit precisely 25% of your DNA from each grandparent. So even full sisters can have slightly different ethnicity estimates since they inherit different combinations of parental DNA.
- Estimates Can Be Updated
As Ancestry’s DNA database grows, updates will make your ethnicity estimate more accurate. So don’t treat your initial results as set in stone.
- Confirm Hints with Research
Use your ethnicity estimate as a guide, but then confirm suggested regions with additional genealogy research into your family tree, documents, and records.
While your ethnicity estimate provides invaluable clues about your ancestry, it’s not a comprehensive snapshot of your entire family tree. It reflects the origins of your DNA, specifically, not all of your many ancestors over the centuries. By layering in historical records research, you can unlock the whole picture. Next, let’s look at how to navigate your DNA matches.
Making Contact with Your DNA Matches
One thrilling aspect of genetic genealogy is connecting with extended family members through your shared DNA. Here are tips for reaching out to your AncestryDNA matches:
- Review Your Match’s Family Tree
Do you see any surnames or ancestral locations that also show up in your family tree? Shared surnames suggest you may be related to that family line.
- Send a Polite Introduction
Message your match through the Ancestry platform to introduce yourself. Mention your top ancestral surnames and where your families lived. Avoid asking personal questions too soon.
- Compare Genetic Distance
The amount of shared DNA you have with a match offers clues about your possible relationship. Higher centimorgans suggest you share a more recent common ancestor.
- Look for Shared Ancestral Couples
You’ve likely solved the mystery if you and a match intersect at a specific ancestor couple! Now you can explore how exactly you connect to that ancestral line.
- Share Some Family Photos
Uploading some old family photos to your Ancestry account allows matches to spot any familiar faces that connect you more easily.
- Stay Organized with Spreadsheets
Use a spreadsheet to catalog your DNA matches, contact efforts, shared ancestors, and notes. This keeps things streamlined when your match list grows.
With a methodical system to analyze your matches, you can zero in on which ancestor couples connect you. This will lead to expanding your family tree with exciting new branches.
Conclusion: Your DNA Reveals an Inherited Story
Like a coded message, your DNA carries generations of stories within it – stories about ancestors and homelands worldwide, stories of complex lineages and blended cultures. AncestryDNA is the key to deciphering this genetic legacy.
As the databases grow, DNA testing can connect the dots between you and your extended family faster. Of course, there’s no substitute for fleshing history out through genealogical research. But your AncestryDNA results provide the perfect starting point to explore your place in an inherited narrative stretching back centuries.
So leap and order your Ancestry DNA kit today! You never know what exciting discoveries lie buried within your genes, just waiting to be found. One thing is for sure – once you unveil your DNA results, you’ll never look at your family story the same way again.