Ancestry review – Is it still the best ancestry test?

Rating based on our Ancestry review

7 facts from our Ancestry review

  1. Ancestry location: Lehi, Utah, United States
  2. Products: DNA-based genealogy test and diagnostic test (a recent addition)
  3. Reporting: ethnicity estimates, finding relatives, health and wellness reports
  4. Data download: available in Ancestry data format
  5. Privacy: control over data sharing and public availability
  6. Costs: $99 for an ancestry DNA test, $149 for the diagnostic DNA test
  7. Alternatives: Nebula Genomics (whole genome sequencing for deep ancestry analysis for $299; free upload of AncestryDNA data), 23andMe ($99 – $499), MyHeritage ($79-$199).

Introduction

This is a review of Ancestry, a company that began as a family history magazine and book publisher in 1983. Over a decade later, it launched Ancestry.com to collect genealogy data like military records and track family histories with historical documents. 

In 2002, Ancestry partnered with Relative Genetics to offer direct-to-consumer DNA testing. Thus, becoming one of the first testing companies to enter the growing home DNA testing market. 

By 2012, a DNA test, AncestryDNA, became the company’s flagship service – combining genetic and family history data. Today, Ancestry is the “global leader in family history and consumer genomics.” The company has provided genetic testing to over 16 million people in 30 countries.

Taking the Ancestry DNA test

Both of Ancestry’s main services, AncestryDNA and AncestryHealth, rely on analyzing DNA in your saliva. After purchasing one of the products, the company sends a package that includes a saliva collection tube and a return label.

Users must then:

  1. Activate the kit. This involves creating an account on the Ancestry website and registering the unique DNA kit activation code.
  2. Fill the tube with their saliva.
  3. Send it back to Ancestry using the provided return package.

Ancestry’s testing laboratory will analyze the saliva sample and process the results within 8 weeks of receiving it. The results are then posted on the user’s account, with an email notifying users of that they are available.

Review of Ancestry Products

Review of AncestryDNA ($99)

The AncestryDNA test kit is Ancestry’s flagship product. It is an autosomal testing service that samples 700,000 markers in the human genome to analyze a user’s genetic makeup. This provides insight into the user’s ethnicity and information on where their ancestors lived. 

The company also touts extensive family trees and historical records that can be linked to your DNA analysis results. This includes a large DNA database of genetic matches and potential common ancestors linking your family together.

Ethnicity estimates in the Ancestry report.
Ethnicity estimates in the Ancestry report. 

Ethnicity Estimate

A user’s genomic markers are assigned to one of over 1,000 regions around the globe. These regions are determined by Ancestry using a reference population panel of over 40,000 DNA samples. This panel divides the world into 60 regions, like the Middle East. Users can use this world explorer to better understand the origins of their family connections.

Each ethnicity estimate includes an approximate range. This gives users a better idea of how confident Ancestry is that a person descended from a certain region. The results also include migration patterns for the user’s ancestors. 

AncestryDNA Matches

AncestryDNA matches users to identify relatives based on shared genomic regions. To see a match’s full family tree, users need a membership. Matches can include close family members like parents and siblings, or as distant as fourth cousins.

DNA matches in Ancestry.
DNA matches in Ancestry. 

Ancestry allows users to make the most out of their match results. First, by linking test results to a public family tree, you increase the chance of finding common ancestors and more matches. Users can also check shared matches, which fills out the sides of the family each match is from.

Beyond looking for more family trees to explore, users can also communicate with their matches. This can provide more understanding of how each match is connected to their family tree.

An Ancestry membership allows users to view family records on Ancestry.com, including over 100 million family trees made by other Ancestry users. Ancestry membership is $24.99/month for access to U.S. records and $39.99/month to also include international records.

AncestryDNA ThruLines

This feature enables Ancestry users to see common ancestors that connect them to their matches. The results are based on information in family trees. Specifically, how much overlap your family tree might have with a match’s family tree (e.g. common great grandparents).

To access ThruLines on Ancestry, a user must:

  • Opt to see and be seen by their DNA matches. This allows matches to see your ethnicity estimates and shared genetic data. 
  • Link your family tree to your Ancestry DNA test and ensure it is searchable.
  • Building a family tree back at least four generations.

AncestryDNA Traits (+ $20)

This is an add-on service that lets users learn how their raw DNA impacts various traits. It focuses on traits related to health and wellness, like Omega-3 deficiency and male hair loss. The report also includes less serious traits like earwax type and aversion to cilantro. The company notes that more traits may be available in the future at an additional cost.

Some of the traits currently included in Ancestry’s reports.
Some of the traits currently included in Ancestry’s reports.

Review of AncestryHealth ($149)

The new AncestryHealth test kit includes all of the above features of the AncestryDNA kit. Additionally, the health DNA testing kit includes reporting for genetic health. For eligible participants, a physician will order relevant tests to assess your predisposition to certain health conditions. If eligible, testing results include actionable health reports and access to genetic counseling resources.

Health and Wellness Reports

Each report first looks at your genetic connections to a particular condition. An example of this could be having a higher chance of developing cancer or being a carrier for cystic fibrosis. The company then summarizes your key takeaways for this result. This includes a breakdown of ways that might help catch a condition early or mitigate its effects.

Some of the medical conditions that are included in the AncestryHealth reports.
Some of the medical conditions that are included in the AncestryHealth reports. 

The reports are intended to be clear and easy to understand. This includes an explainer on what your DNA results mean statistically. The results also explain how the conditions could be passed through your family line. 

Users can also download their health and wellness reports to share with their physicians. 

Genetic Counseling Resources

Ancestry partner PWNHealth determines eligibility for the AncestryHealth test and orders them when appropriate. PWNHealth’s goal is to connect people to safe diagnostic and genetic testing options.

As part of the AncestryHealth results, PWNHealth offers access to educational resources and genetic counseling. These options can help users better understand, interpret, and learn from their results. 

Family Health History Tool. 

Ancestry’s health test also includes a tool to securely create, save, and share family health history with healthcare providers. This, in turn, can help physicians better understand their patients. 

Review of Ancestry Privacy

Ancestry sends DNA samples to third-party labs in the United States. The only thing that tracks the user is a unique activation code. User identity and DNA testing results are separated during the testing process. Results are stored in the Ancestry database, which uses various safeguards to prevent user information from being shared.

Once a user has received their results, they have a handful of options to share their data. Some basic options include displaying the user’s full name and allowing matches to access ethnicity results. 

Users can also share DNA results and download their raw DNA testing data. Ancestry also gives the option to delete DNA test results from the database, destroy user samples, and permanently delete Ancestry accounts.

A user can opt into the Ancestry Human Diversity Project. This project includes research done by Ancestry and as well as third-party researchers. If a user agrees to participate, Ancestry may share anonymized data as well as biological samples.

In the news

Being an industry leader in the DNA testing space, Ancestry is constantly referenced in the news. This includes articles about a recent slowdown in the DNA testing market, as reported in outlets like CBS News and Vox. Many articles about Ancestry also touch on privacy concerns. For example, articles in USA Today and the New York Times.

Ancestry Reviews

There are plenty of positive reviews of the Ancestry service. These include Ancestry reviews like a 4.5/5 star review from PCMag and a 4.5/5 star review from TopTenReviews

However, when focusing on Ancestry reviews in the consumer DNA testing market, the picture changes somewhat. Ancestry has a “Poor” rating on Trustpilot, with a 2/5 average rating. This contrasts with mostly positive reviews on Amazon. There, the AncestryDNA kit averages 4.2 out of 5 stars and the AncestryHealth kit averages 4.4 stars out of 5.

Ancestry Pros/Cons

Pros
– Extensive genealogy exploration tools, including DNA matches and family trees.
– Large user base, including over 3 million paying subscribers.
– Diagnostic testing option with reports on health conditions.
– Options to link to Ancestry.com’s historical records.
Cons
– Outdated genetic testing technology that leaves much of a user’s DNA unexplored.
– Privacy concerns when sharing information with DNA matches.

Nebula Genomics

In this final part of our Ancestry review, we will compare it to Nebula Genomics. 

Your privacy is central

While learning about your genetic code can be invaluable, there are clear privacy risks that we address at Nebula Genomics. In fact, we are building the first privacy-focused personal genomics service. We eliminate the middlemen so that you can be compensated if you choose to share your data. You can read more about the importance of DNA privacy to us here.

Nebula Expand

Raw DNA files from AncestryDNA can be uploaded to our site to discover more about your genome with our expanded report. We use statistical models called imputation to fill in the blanks in your AncestryDNA raw data. This enables extensive reports that contain hundreds of traits based on curated research studies

Whole Genome Sequencing

With our new 30x Whole-Genome Sequencing service, we can read 100% of your DNA. This is our way of empowering our customers to go beyond outdated testing technologies that are offered by services like Ancestry and 23andMe. Our DNA test generates 10,000 times more data than AncestryDNA, providing you with a complete picture of your DNA.

Nebula has also partnered with FamilyTreeDNA to offer advanced genetic ancestry analysis. With our DNA tests, you will get access to the world’s largest Y-DNA and mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA testing) databases. This enables a full breakdown of the maternal and paternal line to power your genealogical research.

 Here is how it compares with the AncestryDNA test kit:


AncestryDNANebula Genomics
DNA Testing MethodMicroarray-based genotypingWhole-Genome Sequencing (30x coverage)
Produced data~ 0.01% of your DNA~ 100% of your DNA
Weekly updates based on the latest discoveriesNoYes (learn more)
Data upload optionsNoYes (learn more)
Ancestry reportingYesDeep ancestry reporting with full Y chromosome and mtDNA sequencing in collaboration with FTDNA.
Data accessYes (Ancestry format file)Yes (FASTQ, BAM and VCF files)
Privacy-FocusedNoYes (learn more)
Cost$99 or $149$0 – $299

Ancestry vs Nebula Genomics

If you are interested in ancestry, you should also consider 23andMe, MyHeritage, and MyTrueAncestry.

Did you like our Ancestry review? You can find more reviews here.

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