There’s nothing quite like digging into your ancestral past; diving deep into the history of your family tree can bring forth a wellspring of useful and interesting information. If you’ve been considering acquiring your own AncestryDNA testing kit but aren’t sure if this method of testing will provide you with the information you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place.
Below, I will take the time to go over in-depth how DNA testing actually works, what the ethnic sorting process looks like, how AncestryDNA testing kits differ from other similar kits (23andMe vs AncestryDNA), what you can expect to learn from a kit like this, and more. Let’s begin!
In recent years, DNA testing has become less expensive and more readily available to the general public. Following the growing demand for quick and easy DNA and genealogy test results, ancestry.com created its own DNA testing program and made it available to certain subscribers in 2013. Later, they launched AncestryDNA, a DNA testing service that essentially anyone willing to make the financial investment could access.
Ancestry.com LLC is a privately owned online genealogy company that is operated out of Utah. The website launched in 2009, though originally founded by Brigham Young University graduates Dan Taggart and Paul Brent Allen in 1990 and called Infobases. Ancestry.com is currently the largest for-profit genealogy company in the world and utilizes specialized search engine technology to quickly access various historical records and other publically available documentation. These records and information are then brought together in one place so that ancestry.com subscribers can easily search for information on their family history, family tree, genealogy, and more. The company boasts access to 10 verified billion historical records and over 3 million subscribers.
DNA Home Testing
DNA testing became popular in the mainstream by promoting health testing as its main focus. DNA tests were generally used to help individuals identify possible disease patterns, genetic markers for cancer, and more.
Ancestry DNA testing combines collective information on your genetic features to give you an in-depth look at your family’s history. In general, after purchasing a test kit, you’ll send a saliva sample back to a testing company via mail. Then, the testing company will review your sample and use a database to find information on your individual genetic makeup. This is done through a splitting process that involves digitizing the spit sample and splitting it into a string of T’s, G’s, A’s, and C’s. These are the letters in which genetic information is written. While these letters, or, nucleobases of DNA, don’t explain your ethnicity directly, they can show what your unique genetic makeup is and help you identify where your ancestors are from. This is done by running each sample through a series of computer algorithms that are kept privately by each individual genetic testing company.
Genetic researching technology has been around for a long time. Researchers are able to track paternal ancestry by taking a look at the Y chromosome, which is passed to children through their fathers. In a similar fashion, maternal ancestry can be tracked through mitochondrial DNA data. By comparing the 22 non-sex chromosomes against the massive libraries of data, everything comes together to give scientists a fairly clear picture of an individual’s genetic makeup, and thus, their ethnic history.
DNA Matching and Accuracy
So exactly how accurate is this kind of DNA decoding and ethnicity estimation? Can we rely on DNA markers to help us identify where we come from and match us with groups who share similar ancestral heritage? While the DNA identification and algorithmic processes are vastly complicated, the easy answer is, generally yes.
Identifying and Sorting Ethnicity Breakdown
Various ethnic groups are identified and added to vast digital DNA databases based on their genetic code, self-reports, independent research, public data, and more. Websites like Ancestry.com have direct access to these libraries and also have their own database. So, if you were to take an AncestryDNA test that said you were 25% German, that would mean that 25% of your DNA matched the DNA profiles of other Germanic people which are available in the DNA databases accessed by Ancestry.com.
However, you may be wondering just how accurate this information really is. Well, by using complex algorithms and reference samples, each group is labeled according to historical and individual data. Let’s say 10,000 people with specific DNA markers were proven to be German, and your DNA sample matched you to that specific group of German people. Ancestry.com would likely identify your ethnicity with this same group accordingly. This turns out to be a fairly accurate process, and as more people utilize DNA testing, the grouping and labeling of these DNA samples are increasingly accurate.
It’s important to keep in mind that the more samples and reference populations that are available, the more accurate the information on those samples tends to be. This means that individuals with, say, European heritage are generally able to get more accurate genetic testing results than individuals with, say, South African ancestry. This is because Europeans are among a sample group that is larger and more readily utilized than most South African sample groups generally are. For this reason, while the overall algorithms, tools, and methods used are accurate, there are definitely limits to the quality of broad ancestry information and data.
Using an Ancestry DNA Test Kit
AncestryDNA kits utilize autosomal DNA testing to provide you with ethnicity estimates from over 40.000 DNA samples and 60 regions around the world. With one of the largest available database, these kits are great for in-depth ancestral research. You simply order your kit online and it will arrive in the mail to the address you provide. You then take the test, send it back, and review your results.
Receiving Your Kit
To use an AncestryDNA kit, you’ll first want to create a profile on ancestry.com. You can then order your DNA kit. With a standard AncestryDNA kit, you’ll be sent a small box in the mail with tools and instructions on how to take and send back your saliva sample.
You’ll receive a box containing:
• 1 Saliva collection tube
• 1 Small plastic bag for sealing the collection tube safely
• 1 Set of in-depth instructions for taking your saliva sample
• 1 return box for mailing your sample back
Taking and Sending Your Sample
In your testing kit, you’ll be able to read instructions on how to collect a saliva sample. Ancestry.com LLC will review this sample and use the information to determine information on your ancestral heritage. It’s important to follow these instructions exactly and remember to generate enough saliva for an accurate sample. You’ll then prepare your sample to ship with a special lid, place it into the small watertight plastic bag, and return it via the included shipping box to Utah.
What to Expect From Ancestry DNA Results
It usually takes around 3-6 weeks to get your AncestryDNA results back with any DNA kit. These results will appear on your ancestry.com profile. When you read your results, you’ll learn about your individual:
• Ethnicity Estimates
You’ll be able to see a map that shows your ethnic history, the origins of your likely ancestors, and their migration patterns. It will also give you the percentages of each ethnic group marked in your DNA test.
• DNA Matches
One unique thing about the AncestryDNA test is its unique ability to match you with ancestors and living relatives who share the same genetic markers as you do. You may discover that you’re related to famous historical figures like Abraham Lincoln or Marylin Monroe, or find out that your entire ancestral line is essentially anonymous. Also, you can find relatives and even close family connections.
• Genetic Traits
You will also have the option to add a genetic traits report when you purchase your AncestryDNA Health test. This will give you information on how your genetic traits influence you and family members.
The AncestryDNA Health Test
The AncestryDNA Health DNA Test is a separate test from the standard AncestryDNA test.
It will come in a different package and gives you information on genetic conditions you may already have or may develop in the future based on your saliva sample. This is not a diagnostic tool and should not be relied on as any kind of accurate medical diagnosis. That being said, this kit does provide you with information that is interesting and may be useful to have on-hand.
AncestryDNA in a Nutshell
If you’re looking for a detailed report on your genetic traits, ancestral lineage, and links to ancient history, AncestryDNA test kit may be right for you. It offers the most in-depth DNA testing available on the mainstream market and excellent customer service.
Ancestral history and ethnic identification can be fascinating and complex. Home DNA testing kits are one way to discover more about your past and genetic makeup. The AncestryDNA test is one of the best DNA test kits, with three main advantages: it helps you discover who you may be genetically related to and offers one of the largest ethnic databases; its accuracy is the best on the market (check my: best DNA test kit article). It also offers a health testing option that some people may find helpful and interesting.