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What Can I Learn From an Ancestry DNA Test?

Updated on October 9, 2017

What Will I Learn?

You'll learn your ethnicity, and how much, regions of the world your ancestors came from and who your cousins are. That's right! Ancestry matches your DNA with the DNA of others who have taken the test.

How to Take the Test

Once you place an order with Ancestry, you should receive a kit in the mail in about a week. This kit has a tube that you will spit into. It's not hard, just about two teaspoons of saliva. This tube will have a code number labeled on it. This is your code for your sample. You will use this code to register your sample on and set up an account if you don't have one yet. Once this is done, you mail off your sample in a postage paid box that came in your kit.

Waiting For Your Results

Your DNA results can take up to six weeks to receive but generally take about three weeks. While you wait for your results there is a couple of things you can do. Ancestry has tools and resources you can use to start searching and documenting your family tree. Set up an account with Ancestry and link your family tree to your DNA account. All you have to do is enter any info you know about your family and Ancestry will give you hints to corresponding documents. By doing this you'll be able to match your tree to your cousin matches when you receive your DNA results.
Another thing you can do is download the Ancestry DNA app on your smart phone. This will give you another tool to use when your results come in and you can keep a close eye on what part of the process your DNA sample is at. It will tell you if they received your sample or if it's in the lab and the projected day the results will be ready.

Family Tree

Ancestry DNA App

When the Results Are In

There are three ways to find out when your results are ready.
1. Check your email.
2. Your Ancestry DNA online account.
3. Your Ancestry DNA app on your phone.

World Map of Your Genetic Ancestry

The first thing you'll see is a map with shaded regions. These are your major ethnicity regions, where most of your ancestors originate. You'll also see areas that are just circled. These are low confidence regions in your DNA, the one percent or less regions that show up.

Ethnicity Map

Ethnicity Estimates

Along with your map, you'll have a chart or list that show your Ethnicity Estimate percentages. This is where you find the most surprises. For example, it might show you only have 4% Irish in you when you thought you might have much more. Also keep in mind that over time your percentages and results may change slightly as more people take the DNA test. Your test is compared to others and the algorithm evolves and may change slightly because more information is available.

Ethnic Percentages

Genetic Communities

Genetic communities are groups of ancestors that migrated from one area to another. There are over 300 of these communities in 16 regions. Ancestry will compare your DNA with the DNA of others to find out what community your ancestors fit in. There are common surnames in these communities also. For example, if your ancestors were in the Early Settlers of Georgia and Florida community, you probably have some Strickland, Padgett or Mathis surnames in your Family tree among others. If your ancestors were Settlers of Colonial New England, you can find out where they migrated from, where they migrated to and maybe the reasons why they migrated.

Genetic Communities

Cousin Matches

The best thing about getting your DNA results are finding your cousins. You'll receive a list with everybody who you are related to who have taken an Ancestry DNA test. You will have thousands of matches! Along with these matches it will show you your probable relationship and how much DNA you have in common. You'll be able to contact your matches and communicate with them if you choose. If they have a a family tree that is public for viewing you can check if you have common people and surnames. This is why you should enter in your family tree while waiting for your results, to make it easy for your cousin matches to compare their tree to yours.

Cousin Matches

My Own Experience

I have had nothing but a wonderful experience with Ancestry DNA. I've been in contact and made friends with a cousin whose 2x great grandparents are my great grandparents. We've exchanged family pictures and info we would never had gotten any other way. I've found another cousin whom I have not seen since I was real young. We've connected and caught up with each other. I was also contacted by a close cousin that was adopted out when he was a baby and has no idea who his blood relatives are. I've made it my mission to find out how we are related.
My Father passed away when I was young, but my Mother is still alive and she has taken the test. Any cousin matches we share are on my Mother's side. The cousin matches that we don't have in common are on my Father's side. As you can see this helps narrow it down.
If you want to find out who you are, this is a good way to get started. You'll have fun, you'll have some surprises, and you might even find some skeletons buried in your closet if you look hard enough!


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