african-ancestry-review

African Ancestry review – Is it the best ancestry test for people with African ancestry?

Rating based on our African Ancestry review

7 facts from our African Ancestry review

  1. African Ancestry Location: Washington D.C.
  2. Products: ancestry testing for the African country of origin/ethnic tribe
  3. Reports: African country of origin/ethnic tribe for maternal or paternal lineage
  4. Result delivery: reports are delivered through the mail and not available online
  5. Data availability: data download is not available
  6. Cost: $210-$679
  7. Alternatives: Nebula Genomics (whole genome sequencing for $299 that includes full mtDNA and Y chromosome sequencing), AncestryDNA ($99-$149, not limited to African countries of origin), 23andMe ($99, not limited to African countries of origin)

Introduction

African Ancestry is a genetic testing company founded in 2003 by Dr. Rick Kittles and Gina Paige. Its offices are located in Washington, D.C. The company maintains a database of over 30,000 indigenous African DNA samples. These samples are used as a reference dataset to determine the country of origin and the ethnic tribe of the African Ancestry customers. Over the years, African Ancestry has provided ancestry information to over 750,000 people of African descent. The company aims to give African Americans a better understanding of their family history. African Ancestry provides opportunities to its customers to visit their countries of origin through the African American Family Reunion (AAFR) initiative. These trips include airfare from Washington D.C. to the location of choice (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone). Lodging, meals, ground transportation, and scheduled activities are also included. Read more in our African Ancestry review!

Review of African Ancestry DNA tests

African Ancestry markets two main products: the maternal DNA test and the paternal DNA test, both priced at $299. The DNA tests determine the country of origin within Africa and tribe (ethnic group). The test can trace back to 500-2000 years. 

Instructions for cheek swab sample submission are provided inside the kit, which is then mailed back to African Ancestry. The company maintains an African Lineages Database consisting of samples from over 30 countries and 400 ethnic groups. The database is used as a reference to match individuals with their African country of origin/ethnic tribe.

Results are sent back 8-10 weeks after the sample reception. 

African Ancestry does not analyze autosomal DNA. The only genetic material used for analysis is mtDNA and Y chromosomal DNA. 

Individuals also have the option to upload DNA data from other DNA testing providers to African Ancestry. The data must be a mitochondrial DNA sequence or a Y chromosome DNA sequence. This service costs $210 per lineage. The requirements are found here.

The results provided by African Ancestry include a letter that lists percentages of DNA from each area of Africa. The results also include countries of origin and ethnic tribes.

African Ancestry also returns a list of tested genetic variants. However, this does not include the complete mtDNA or Y chromosome sequence. Instead, African Ancestry decodes only small regions containing genetic variants specific to certain African countries of origin/ethnic tribe. 

African Ancestry customers also receive a certificate of ancestry, a migration map, and a general explanation of results. There is also a digital copy of the African Ancestry guide to African history and cultures. 

All reports are mailed to the individual in the results package. No results are available online or elsewhere. 

Membership to the African Ancestry online community is included in the purchase price.

Sample results confirming African ancestry.
 Sample results confirming African ancestry.
Migration Map provided by African Ancestry.
Migration Map provided by African Ancestry.
Sample African Ancestry certificate.
Sample African Ancestry certificate.

Now let’s review the African Ancestry DNA tests in more detail.

Review of African Ancestry MatriClan Test Kit ($299)

The MatriClan test kit can be used by both men and women. The test analyzes mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which is inherited exclusively through the mother. mtDNA remains the same through the maternal lineage (grandmother, great-grandmother, etc). Therefore, these results can be shared with family members without the need of taking additional tests.

According to the African Ancestry website, for 92% of customers the MatriClan ancestry test identifies African heritage. The results also include HVS1, HVS2, or HVS3 designations and mitochondrial haplogroups. HVS are hypervariable segments in mtDNA that are used to determine haplogroup. Mitochondrial haplogroups are defined by differences in mtDNA that represent branch points in the mitochondrial phylogenetic tree and matrilineal inheritance. Certain HVR designations correspond to haplogroups specific to countries of Africa and ethnic tribes.

If the results are Non-African, the company can only determine a broad area of origin. In these cases, European, Asian, Middle Eastern, or Indigenous American origin can be determined. 

Review of African Ancestry PatriClan Test Kit ($299)

The PatriClan test kit can only be used by men. The DNA test analyzes the Y chromosome, which men inherit from their fathers. Certain Y chromosome markers are specific to African countries and ethnic tribes, which allows for ancestral determination. 

Like the MatriClan test kit, results from the PatriClan test are the same for any member within the paternal lineage. Women can also determine also their paternal lineage. This happens by having a male relative from their father’s side take the African Ancestry PatriClan test. 

According to the African Ancestry website, for 65% of customers the PatriClan ancestry test identifies African heritage. Like the MatriClan test kit, non-African ancestries are also included in the reporting. Y chromosome haplogroups are not provided. 

Other African Ancestry Products

African Ancestry also provides bundled genetic testing packages. One of these is the Family Celebration Package (contains both the MatriClan and PatriClan tests for $679). There is also the African Ancestry Keepsake Box ($359, choose either test, bundled with a soft-cover journal for documentation). 

Review of African Ancestry Privacy Policy

Customer DNA samples are labeled with a bar code that keeps individual identity confidential. After processing, the DNA samples are destroyed at the lab. 

African Ancestry does not biobank genetic material from consumers. The database that is used to analyze individuals’ results is not built using customer samples but in collaboration with research projects. 

Inconclusive results may occur where the country of origin/ethnic tribe cannot be determined. Inconclusive results that denote an African ancestry will be kept for up to a year for additional testing. However, this is optional, and the samples can be destroyed upon request.

African Ancestry will keep information from the individual’s order form, such as contact information and financial information.

African Ancestry will not share customer information unless required by law for a judicial proceeding. The terms and conditions for African Ancestry can be found here

African Ancestry in the News

African Ancestry has been featured by several news outlets. In 2019, African Ancestry launched a new initiative called African Ancestry Family Reunion. This initiative has the goal of culturally immersing African Americans in their African countries of origin. The service is marketed as inclusive, curated homeland journeys aiming to promote global diasporic connections. 

African Ancestry also runs Influence Magazine, African Ancestry Radio, and maintains an African Ancestry Get Rooted Book List

African Ancestry Reviews

The company has been widely publicized through several prominent African Americans (Oprah Winfrey, Morgan Freeman, Spike Lee, Maya Angelou, etc). Some reviews on African Ancestry’s website can be found here

African Ancestry Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Provides deep ancestry information for both maternal and paternal lineages
  • Offers information about the country and the ethnic tribe of origin in Africa
  • A large online community is available where users can receive support
  • Samples are destroyed after genetic testing

Cons

  • Expensive compared to 23andMe and AncestryDNA
  • Results are not available online for the user to download
  • Limited reporting on ancestral lineages outside of Africa
  • Only looks at mtDNA and Y chromosome DNA

Nebula Genomics

We finish our African Ancestry review with a comparison to Nebula Genomics and other DNA testing companies.

African Ancestry only provides testing kits for maternal and paternal lineages (mtDNA and Y chromosome DNA), and only looks at ancestry. Detailed information is provided only if an individual has an ancestral lineage in Africa. 

Nebula Genomics offers a single genetic test – whole genome sequencing. This gives the consumer 100% of their genetic information including mtDNA and Y chromosome data. 

Like African Ancestry, Nebula Genomics also provides ancestral tracing based on mtDNA and Y chromosome sequencing. Through our collaboration with FTDNA, we have access to the world’s largest Y chromosome DNA and mtDNA database. This lets us trace your maternal and paternal lineages. Like African Ancestry, Nebula Genomics allows the upload of DNA data.


23andMeAncestryDNANebula GenomicsAfrican Ancestry
DNA Testing MethodMicroarray-based genotypingMicroarray-based genotypingWhole Genome Sequencing (30x coverage)Unknown
Information AvailableAncestry, traits, healthAncestry, traits, healthWeekly reports based on the latest research, data exploration tools, deep ancestry.African ancestry (country of origin and tribe) on the either maternal or paternal side.
Weekly updates based on the latest researchNoNoYesNo
Able to upload raw DNA dataNoNoYesYes
Tools to explore dataLimitedLimitedYes (learn more)Limited information on the history of the African diaspora is provided. Information about tribes is not provided.
Data AccessYes (23andMe format file)Yes (AncestryDNA format file)Yes (FASTQ, BAM, VCF)Results letter containing country of origin/ethnic tribe is provided. Printed DNA sequence showing genetic markers.  
Cost$99-$499$99-$149$0-$299$299 for one lineage kit

23andMe vs. AncestryDNA vs. Nebula Genomics vs. African Ancestry

Another company that provides mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome sequencing is Family Tree DNA (FTDNA). Did you like our African Ancestry review? You can find more reviews here!

Share this post
Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on print
Share on email