Updated on: May 22, 2020

If you’re looking for a DNA test with a massive database that’ll give you the best possible odds of locating any lost potential relatives or to help you learn more about your family history, then look no further than AncestryDNA! With the biggest database, AncestryDNA has more DNA samples on file than its competitors — with 23andMe coming in second.

However, the two testing companies are vastly different, with entirely separate missions and goals. Where 23andMe has a strong focus on health and disease, AncestryDNA puts more of an emphasis on ancestry tests.

Their DNA results look into your family tree, focusing on your deceased and living relatives. This is done by comparing your DNA sample to their 20 billion historical records, reference populations, and data points. Therefore, AncestryDNA tests are perfect for any amateur genealogists who are anxious to delve into their family histories or find any lost family connections!

In this Ancestry.com DNA test kit review, we’ll explore the positives and negatives of this popular DNA testing service. We’ll get to the bottom line, and answer once and for all if the Ancestry DNA test kit is worth your hard-earned cash.

If you are looking for ancestry test results that can help you to find lost potential relatives or that include handy family tree tools, AncestryDNA is the way to go. The testing service started long before it was feasible to do DNA testing at home, and has been building up its connections and its databases since Ancestry Publishing was first founded in 1983.

In this Ancestry.com DNA review, we’ll give you a brief overview of their DNA testing kits, which they offer both in one-time and subscriber models. Additionally, we’ll answer some core and popular questions about Ancestry DNA test kits, and give the verdict on whether or not they’re worth your time and money.


We took every DNA test so you don't have to. Read our 2020 review of the best DNA tests.


Ancestry.com:

  • Is the largest for-profit genealogy company in the world
  • Provides access to 20 billion historical records
  • Has 3 million paying subscribers
  • 16 million sequenced genomes in their database — largest in the world
  • Has sold more than 14 million DNA testing kits to customers

Quick facts:


Ancestry DNA Kit Review - updated with Ancestry Health Review? 1
Sample Collection: Spit tube
Ancestry DNA Kit Review - updated with Ancestry Health Review? 2
DNA Testing Type: Autosomal
Ancestry DNA Kit Review - updated with Ancestry Health Review? 3
Speed: 6-8 weeks (mine took 16 days)
Ancestry DNA Kit Review - updated with Ancestry Health Review? 4
Privacy Protection: Strong

How much does Ancestry.com’s DNA kit cost?

  • Genetic Ethnicity Test- $99
  • United States Discovery (access United States records) - $24.99/month or $99/six-month
  • World Explorer (access world records) - $39.99/month or $149/six-month
  • All Access (both of the above + newspaper records) - $49.99/month or $199/6-month

AncestryDNA’s testing kits will help you find any direct DNA matches you may have, your genetic information, and your ethnicity estimates, all at an affordable price. To access their stores of DNA data and build expansive family trees, you will have to subscribe to their monthly service. However, there are discounted prices for 6-month memberships if you don’t mind paying bi-annually. 

What is in the box?

The Ancestry DNA test kit contains the following:

  • DNA collection tube for a saliva sample
  • Stabilizing fluid
  • Instruction booklet
  • Collection Bag
  • Prepaid return package

As with all DNA test kits, you are not supposed to eat or drink anything for 30 minutes before spitting into the tube.

Send in steps

How to Send AncestryDNA kit in

  1. Activate your kit – you must go to the Ancestry website (https://www.ancestry.com/dna/activate), create an Ancestry account, and enter your 15 digit activation code.

  2. Fill the tube up with saliva. This looks intimidating at first, but your saliva sample will end up being less than 1/4 of a teaspoon.

  3. Take off the funnel and replace it with the cap full of stabilizing fluid.

  4. Tighten the cap to release the stabilizing fluid into the spit sample.

  5. Shake the tube for at least 5 seconds – this is to make sure the sample mixes with the stabilizing fluid well

  6. Place the tube in the collection bag and mail the completed DNA test to AncestryDNA. Hold onto the card to retain your activation code.

  7. Wait for 6 to 8 weeks to receive your DNA results

Ancestry will email you updates as your sample is processed:

Email ancestry.com sends showing they received your sample for DNA kit review.

How is my privacy protected on Ancestry.com?

There are some minor risks when sending something as private as a DNA sample to a testing company. Although these risks are ultimately a matter of the level of government regulation and your trust in the actions and choices of the company.

AncestryDNA has publicly stated that they won’t cooperate with law enforcement requests unless legally required to. However, they did collaborate with law enforcement in 2017 on the murder of Jane Britton, a cold-case from 1969.

Ancestry.com has its privacy philosophy posted to its site.

AncestryDNA:

  • Stores your DNA test results in a secure database
  • Doesn’t allow the lab processing your DNA results to know who you are
  • Stores the DNA sample securely
  • Doesn’t share your DNA data unless compelled by law enforcement
  • Allows you to delete all of your AncestryDNA test data

There are a few more points regarding this service that will help you to make an informed decision before deciding to do your genetic testing with AncestryDNA.

  • The testing company is incredibly popular among donor-conceived individuals. It is something to consider if you have ever donated genetic material (sperm/egg)
  • AncestryDNA outsources their DNA sequencing to Quest Diagnostics, while many other genetic testing companies use in-house solutions
  • The testing service is in an active partnership with Calico, a subsidiary of Google, to drive longevity research through data-sharing and collaboration

While it is by no means a final judgment on the company, AncestryDNA won a 2019 German Big Brother Award. This is the kind of award that companies try to avoid, as it recognizes “...government and private sector organizations...which have done the most to threaten personal privacy.” 

While all at-home DNA testing companies face similar ethical concerns, AncestryDNA was particularly noted, “for exploiting an interest in genealogy to entice people into submitting saliva samples...to pile up a treasure trove of genome data for commercial research, because that is their actual business model.”

The competition

The main competitors for AncestryDNA are 23andMe, LivingDNA, Family Tree DNA, and MyHeritage. AncestryDNA is perfect for both experienced and amateur genealogists, occupying the "look at your genealogy and connect with living relatives and distant family members" niche.

AncestryDNA has a large database to help you to connect with other family members or to fill in any blank spots on your family tree. In fact, when it comes to DNA data and historical records, it’s hard to beat this company. 

LivingDNA and MyHeritage both don’t give nearly as much ancestry information. On the other hand, 23andMe differentiates itself by being FDA approved and giving you health information as well (but, to be fair, AncestryDNA gives you some health info now in their health test).

The DNA results

Behind the scenes, AncestryDNA uses its advanced autosomal test and microarray technology to analyze thousands of DNA markers and genes. They highlight, organize, and map them for you to quickly reference in your test results. 

Unlike 23andMe, which runs an autosomal test, a Y-chromosome test and checks your mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA); Ancestry only gives you an autosomal test. This limits the detection of certain traits and ancestry information. 

The Y-chromosome is only found in men and is passed through the paternal line. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is present in all cells, but can only be passed through the maternal line. These differences are apparent when downloading your raw genetic data, as some critical genes and locations will not be included.

Ancestry.com sends you an email with your reports:

Email Ancestry sends to show that your DNA results are completed, DNA kit review guide.

Once inside, there are a few places to go; your menu looks like this:

Screenshot of the navigation bar

Trees

As a subscriber, you can immediately look at your family tree. Ancestry populates your family tree with your family members using public records and the trees created by other users that have public access. However, this is a subscription service and isn’t included with the Genetic Ethnicity or Health tests.

Ancestry.com dna kit review pricing chart.

The service is not cheap, at $25 to $50 every month – depending on the extent of the databases you’d like to access.

Search

A screenshot that shows different ways to search ancestry.com's premium database.

Search allows you to check public records for people, no using genetic information here! You can start searching for known ancestors and pull public records telling you where they got married, their children, etc. However, once again this is all hidden behind the subscription-based ‘Tree’ paywall.

Your DNA

The other main portion of AncestryDNA is the ability to access your DNA ethnicity estimate results and genetic connections. You see a pie graph with an ethnicity quote and the number of DNA matches with other AncestryDNA members. 

You may also learn more about each ethnicity match and state, see how you compare to the aboriginal population, and read about their genetic diversity and population history.

Pie chart of the author's DNA results.

Viewing the full results provides a map of where your ancestors lived, and lets you see more detailed information about your ethnic matches. In addition, you can also watch videos and read more about how Ancestry.com calculates the data from your DNA results and what they signify. Ancestry has some cool features that will show you the steps your DNA took to get to where it is now.

There are also many resources to assist you in learning more about each ethnicity match and state. An additional focus is on how you compare to aboriginal and Native American populations, with supplemental reading on their genetic diversity and population histories.

Map of DNA's migration from Europe to North America.

Unfortunately, the subscription paywall hides many of the cooler features, and you won’t be able to access them without paying a fairly stiff monthly fee. However, considering the static nature of your DNA, many traits and results reported by Ancestry will not change and often do not require a second look.

Since most at-home DNA testing companies have a health focus, Ancestry has recently added Traits to their results options (as well as a new Ancestry Health test). While 23andMe’s Health section has definitely inspired these details, it is nowhere near as exciting or comprehensive as the offering from 23andMe. From novelty to actionable, you can look at things like:

  • Nutrition Traits
    • Baseline Omega-3 levels
    • Variations in Vitamin C, D, and E requirements
  • Appearance Traits
    • Estimated Facial Hair Thickness
    • Impact of retained Wisdom Teeth
    • Chance of having a Cleft Chin
    • Estimated Finger length
  • Sensory Traits
    • Bitter Sensitivity
    • Cilantro Aversion
    • Sweet Sensitivity
    • Asparagus Metabolite Detection (‘Asparagus Pee’)

While this might seem like a bizarre and specific list, these particular traits are reliably called or estimated from DNA alone. Ancestry looks at markers that play a role in determining some of our traits. When reviewing mine, I confirmed (where I could) that at least half of them are accurate. Also, you can answer questionnaires to provide AncestryDNA more data about your traits.

Ancestry Health

Ancestry recently released a product – AncestryHealth. This can come as an add-on to the Ancestry Genealogy package, meaning you don't have to resubmit your DNA sample to receive the health results. It can also come as its own separate DNA testing kit if you haven’t taken their Genetic Ethnicity Test yet. 

When you purchase the Ancestry Health addon, you'll get an email like this:

Welcome Email for Ancestry Health

How long does it take to get Ancestry Health Results?

It takes about 6-8 weeks after purchasing the Ancestry Health package to get results. A strange thing for me - I purchased the Ancestry Health addon, and then never got an email telling me the data was ready. However, when I went to the site, I was able to activate the health portion.

Getting the health results requires you to give some family history, but be warned, as this process can be very slow going. When your results are activated, you’ll get an email to let you know:

Update email about Ancestry Health

Then one final email telling you to access your results:

Email letting you know your ancestry health results are ready

The Health Results

Ancestry Health New Results Screenshot

Once you’re in the Health section of Ancestry.com, you’ll be able to see any of your notable results.

Screenshot of notable health results for Ancestry Health

Read what to do if you test higher for a health item.

The most interesting part is the "reports" tab. These show:

  • Cancer Risk
  • Carrier Status
  • Heart and Blood Health
  • Wellness Reports

Cancer Risk

This is a BRCA1/BRCA2 test that shows if you have genes linked to hereditary breast/ovarian cancer (HBOC) syndrome. One of the things I really liked about their health section is all of the action steps:

Screenshot of Ancestry Health Action Steps for Cancer

These are cited recommendations (probably most common knowledge) of items to reduce your risk of cancer.

Carrier Status

This gives you carrier status on the following conditions:

  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Sickle Cell Anemia
  • Tay-Sachs Disease

Read how to interpret carrier status.

Heart & Blood Health

This gives you information on how your DNA affects your heart/blood. The reports in this section are:

  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Familial Hypercholesterolemia
  • Hereditary Hemochromatosis
  • Hereditary Thrombophilia

Each of the reports breaks the terms down in easy to understand language, as well as gives graphics of the condition and lifestyle changes you can make.

graphic showing heart interior for cardiomyopathy

Wellness Reports

There are several wellness reports. They are:

  • Beta-Carotene
  • Caffeine Consumption
  • Lactose Intolerance
  • Omega-3
  • Vitamine B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E

These, of course, are the most fun and interesting reports. Though they don't always seem to be 100% accurate (mine says I consume less caffeine than average, which is not true), these are the fun reports to share with friends and family.

Accuracy/Usefulness

The idea that DNA companies can give you results with anywhere near 99% accuracy is false. The results are not perfect but can give you a very good idea of where your ancestors lived. For most, this information is for fun, and some degree of error isn’t a big deal. However, if you are looking to 100% understand where your ancestors are, you are going to be disappointed taking these.

For example, they are accurate enough to accomplish 99% of people’s goals, including mine.

The addition of AncestryHealth makes this a slightly more useful kit, at least one to compare more favorably to 23andMe.

Overall Review - How does the Ancestry Kit Stack up?

PROS

  • Easy-to-understand, continually updated results
  • Largest Database
  • Strong privacy protection
  • Ability to download raw DNA data
  • Free shipping

CONS

  • Health-related info isn’t always actionable
  • Some of the features are still in infancy and aren’t always useful
  • Lots of features hidden behind a paywall

Ancestry’s DNA test is great for learning more in-depth details about your heritage. But ultimately, with so many features hidden behind an expensive monthly payment, the service isn’t worth your time or continued investment. 23andMe does a much better job of presenting the data and giving you more actionable information.

Above all, AncestryDNA is a superb way to learn about your ancestry — surprising, I know. It is easy to use, with ample online tools, and it’s cost-efficient. Furthermore, If you’re already an Ancestry.com member, it's well worth it to add AncestryDNA, as it’s an excellent tool if you’re in charge of building and updating family trees.

The business is also continuously adding new features and updating your ethnicity results as they accumulate data, and their tools and insights improve. Finally, if family trees are not your primary concern, you should consider making 23andMe your first choice. 23andMe goes deeper into your ancestry and health, and even covers your Neanderthal DNA and other engaging, interactive capabilities.

Ancestry DNA Kit Review

Joel

Ancestry DNA Kit Review - updated with Ancestry Health Review? 5
Ease of Use
Health Information
Ancestry Information
Speed of Updates
Speed of Results

Summary

Ancestry now has health information, making it on par with 23andMe. However, it's dashboard puts it slightly behind 23andMe, yet worth a buy.

4.4

Frequently Asked Questions about Ancestry DNA

How accurate is Ancestry DNA?

Ancestry DNA offers one of the most accurate DNA tests on the market. According to Ancestry.com, of the hundreds of thousands of DNA markers (or positions) that the company tests, they average an accuracy level of 99% for each.

How much does Ancestry DNA cost?

Ancestry DNA offers 2 types of DNA tests with different price points. The main kit — their Genetic Ethnicity Test-® — will only set you back $99, with the option to addon a genetic trait test for an additional $20. Their second big offering is the AncestryHealth® kit, which will cost you $149. 

The testing service also offers 3 different subscription plans. The first, named US Discovery, is $24.99/month or $99 for 6-months. The World Explorer subscription plan will run you $39.99/month, or $149 every 6-months. For the All Access plan, Ancestry.com charges $49.99/month or $199 for 6-months.

Which is better - 23andMe or Ancestry DNA?

While each of these DNA testing companies has their advantages and their disadvantages, overall, 23andMe gives you more for your money. For example, AncestryDNA only offers an autosomal DNA test, while 23andMe tests your autosomal DNA, as well as your mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), and, for men, your Y-chromosome.

Where can you buy Ancestry DNA?

AncestryDNA test kits are available through the Ancestry website — Ancestry.com — as well as Amazon, Wal-Mart, and even on eBay.

Do Ancestry DNA kits expire?

While the DNA test kits do not have an exact expiration date, the website does say that you should activate it within one year after purchase. That being said, I have never heard of anyone running into any issues when activating their kit, even after a year had passed.

Who owns Ancestry DNA?

Ancestry.com was founded in 1996 by Paul Allen and Dan Taggart in Lehi Utah, United States.

What are Ancestry DNA Traits?

For an extra $20, Ancestry will check your DNA results for 26 different genetic traits. These include common traits like eye color, freckles, hair color, and hair loss. They also include some that are a bit more obscure, such as asparagus metabolite detection, earwax type, and photic sneeze reflex.

Does Ancestry DNA test for Native American ethnicity?

Yes, if Ancestry finds Native American genes in your DNA sample, then it will appear in your ethnicity results as the “Indigenous Americas region.”

When is the next Ancestry DNA update?

In April 2020 the testing company unveiled 75 new communities to help anyone with ties in Mexico, South America, Africa, Eastern Europe, and more. Ancestry is also updating its ethnicity estimates. Thanks to the loads of data the company has collected over the years, the company is currently updating its ability to provide information about your ancestors that’s even more accurate.

Can I upload my Ancestry DNA to 23andMe?

No, unfortunately for the time being 23andMe is not offering this service.

Can you do Ancestry DNA anonymously?

In order to create an Ancestry account, you’ll need to give your name, email address, and billing information.

Joel is a writer with a passion for the science of DNA and the power of its manipulation.

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