AncestryDNA® - Frequently Asked Questions

About AncestryDNA®

Interpreting my results

AncestryDNA® Privacy

Downloading your AncestryDNA® DNA Data

AncestryDNA® Research Project

  1. What is the AncestryDNA® Research Project?
  2. What information is collected for the Research Project?
  3. How will the information be used?
  4. How will the information be protected?
  5. How can you withdraw from the Research Project?

About AncestryDNA®

  1. What is AncestryDNA®?

    AncestryDNA®, part of the Ancestry® family of companies, provides a DNA testing service that utilizes some of the latest autosomal testing technology to revolutionize the way you discover your family history. This service utilises advanced DNA science to predict your genetic ethnicity and help you find new family connections. It maps ethnicity going back multiple generations and provides insight into such possibilities as: what region of Europe are my ancestors from, or am I likely to have East Asian heritage? AncestryDNA® can also help identify relationships with unknown relatives through a dynamic list of possible DNA member matches.

  2. What do my results tell me?

    Your AncestryDNA® results include information about your genetic ethnicity estimates and, if you’ve chosen to see your matches and be listed as a match, identifies potential DNA matches, linking you to others who have taken the AncestryDNA® test. Your results are a great starting point for more family history research, and it can also be a way to dig even deeper into the research you've already done.

  3. What technology is behind this service?

    The AncestryDNA® test uses microarray-based autosomal DNA testing, which surveys a person's entire genome at over 700,000 locations, all with a simple saliva sample. Additionally, the online interface integrates state-of-the art tools for you to utilize your DNA results for family history research.

  4. 4. How is this DNA test going to help me with my research?

    Your DNA may hold information to help make new discoveries about your family's past, your ancestral roots, as well as confirm information in your family tree. Using your DNA test in combination with an Ancestry® subscription can give you hints that can guide your investigations and connect you with new relatives. These new relatives that you discover may have additional information, a piece of your family story to tell or photos to share.

  5. How does the AncestryDNA® test differ from other DNA tests?

    • It's more comprehensive.

       Unlike the Y-chromosome or mitochondrial DNA test, AncestryDNA® uses an autosomal DNA test that surveys a person's entire genome at over 700,000 locations. It covers both the maternal and paternal sides of the family tree, so it covers all lineages. The Y-DNA test only reflects the direct father-to-son path in your family tree, and the mtDNA test only reflects the direct mother-to-child path in your family tree. Learn more about the differences between the DNA tests here.
    • The test is gender neutral.

       Both men and women can take the AncestryDNA® test and are tested in the same way for the same number of markers providing the same level of detail in the results.
    • It predicts your recent genetic ethnicity.

       Thanks to advances in DNA technology we're able to compare your DNA to samples from around the world, to find out more about your family's background and ethnic history—not just ancient history, but the people and places that matter to you.
    • Enhanced DNA matching.

       Unlike the Y-chromosome or mitochondrial DNA tests, the AncestryDNA® autosomal test looks at a much broader range of your DNA, which helps identify matches throughout your entire family tree—along both your paternal and maternal sides.
    • The information is more relevant and recent

      —targeting your family history a few hundred or even a thousand years ago, as compared to the Y and mtDNA tests, which have a 10,000 to 50,000 year time focus.
  6. When can I expect to get my kit and results?

    Your AncestryDNA® kit will be delivered within approximately 7-10 business days. AncestryDNA® test results will normally take about 6-8 weeks to process from the time that the lab receives your DNA sample. Please note that you must also activate your DNA kit online in order to begin processing.

    If you have not received your AncestryDNA® results after 8 weeks, please contact Ancestry Support.

  7. How do I see my results?

    When your AncestryDNA® results are ready, you will receive an email from AncestryDNA® notifying you, with a link to view your results. Your results will also be available online in your password-protected Ancestry® account.

  8. What does "autosomal" DNA testing mean?

    Autosomal DNA testing includes the other 22 pairs of chromosomes that aren't the X or Y chromosome that determine your biological sex. Autosomal testing allows you to find family across all lines in your family tree. That means both men and women can take the test, and the results are not limited to just the direct maternal or paternal lines.

    Your autosomal chromosomes carry genetic information from both your parents that's passed down through the generations.

    Using autosomal testing, AncestryDNA® surveys over 700,000 locations in your DNA, all with a simple saliva sample.

  9. If I received a bone marrow transplant, should I use AncestryDNA®?

    We recommend that recipients of bone marrow transplants do not take an AncestryDNA® test. Instead, we recommend that a close relative, such as a parent or sibling, be tested.

    We test the DNA collected in a customer’s saliva sample, which contains cells from multiple sources, often including blood cells created by bone marrow. If you received a bone marrow transplant, your saliva will probably include your own DNA and the DNA of your bone marrow donor. This combination of DNA can cause your results to be inconclusive or even possibly report the results of your donor. As a result, Ancestry does not recommend the AncestryDNA® kit to bone marrow recipients. However, there is no impact to your results if you are a bone marrow donor.

    If you have any further questions, please contact Ancestry Support.

  10. If I received a stem cell transplant from someone else, should I use AncestryDNA®?

    We recommend that recipients of stem cell transplants do not take an AncestryDNA® test. Instead, we recommend that a close relative, such as a parent or sibling, be tested.

    We test the DNA collected in a customer’s saliva sample, which contains cells from multiple sources, including often blood cells created by stem cells. If you received a stem cell transplant, your saliva will probably include your own DNA and the DNA of your stem cell donor. This combination of DNA can cause your results to be inconclusive or even possibly report the results of your donor. As a result, Ancestry does not recommend the AncestryDNA® kit to stem cell recipients. However, there is no impact to your results if you are a stem cell donor.

    If you have any further questions, please contact Ancestry Support.

  11. Where is the AncestryDNA® test available for purchase?

    The AncestryDNA® test is available or purchase online for residents of over 30 countries around the world, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Please visit this page to see the list of countries where AncestryDNA® is available.

  12. Who offers AncestryDNA®?

    AncestryDNA® is offered internationally by Ancestry International DNA, LLC, a member of the Ancestry® family of companies, the world's largest online resource for family history.

Interpreting my results

  1. How do I interpret the ethnicity map on my results page?

    The ethnicity map is a quick and easy way for you to visualize and interact with your DNA results. It shows places in the world where high concentrations of this ethnicity are typically found. The map is interactive, so be sure to click around and zoom in to see more details..

  2. When reviewing a DNA match, how do I interpret the 'Map and Locations' map?

    If you are an Ancestry® subscriber, and you and your DNA match both have family trees linked to DNA results, you will have access to a "Map and Locations" map that may contain different colored pins that indicate the birth locations of the ancestors in your tree (up to about 10 generations of direct line ancestors), the birth locations of ancestors in your DNA match's tree, and overlapping birth locations that appear in both family trees. If a pin has a number on it, that means there is more than one person at that location.

  3. How do I link my DNA results to my family tree?

    You can link your Ancestry® family tree to your DNA results on your personal status page. Just click on Settings and then scroll down to 'Family Tree Linking' to link your DNA results to a family tree. Currently, you can only link one tree to your DNA results.

  4. My genetic ethnicity results don't seem to match what I would have expected. Why is that?

    Your family tree may go back hundreds of years, but there could be more to your family's story that's just out of reach of paper documents and conventional research. AncestryDNA® can reach back hundreds, maybe even a thousand years, to tell you things that aren't in historical records—things you might have never known otherwise.

    Although our ethnicity algorithms and prediction models will continue to improve over time, there are a few reasons why your ethnicity estimate may not be exactly what you expected: 1. Your genetic ethnicity may go back further than your family tree. 2. While your ancestors lived in a certain country, there may have been genetic influence from other places. 3. You don't necessarily share common DNA with all of your ancestors. Click here for more information.

  5. Will the ethnicity results tell what information is specific to my maternal or paternal line?

    The type of DNA that is being tested looks at ethnicity across both maternal and paternal lines. It does not currently isolate ethnicity results to only your maternal or paternal line.

  6. How accurate is the test?

    AncestryDNA® uses advanced scientific techniques to produce your results. We measure and analyze a person's entire genome at over 700,000 locations. During the testing process, each DNA sample is held to a quality standard of at least a 98% call rate. Any results that don't meet that standard may require a new DNA sample to be collected.

    Then we compare your DNA to one of the most comprehensive and unique collections of DNA samples from people around the world, to identify DNA similarities. As our database of DNA samples continues to grow, you could receive updates with new information.

  7. What does the "confidence percentage" mean for DNA matches?

    Our DNA matching confidence percentage is a number from 0-100% and is meant to help you identify which matches to focus on—the higher the confidence the more likely that they are more closely related to you. Our confidence levels are determined by the amount of common DNA two people share with one another. To do this, we measure over 700,000 markers in the DNA to analyze the number and length of continuous strands that align. Over time, as we continue to understand more about different populations, these confidence levels will improve.

  8. How do I access my Y-DNA or mitochondrial DNA test results?

    Results for Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA test results are no longer available.

  9. Will the test tell me if I have Aboriginal or Maori ethnicity?

    The current AncestryDNA® genetic ethnicity estimate does not provide a direct estimate of Aboriginal Australian Ethnicity. Should someone with Aboriginal Australian ancestry take an AncestryDNA® test, the resulting genetic ethnicity estimate is most likely to include South East Asia and Oceania.

    Because the AncestryDNA® genetic ethnicity estimates do not currently break down Polynesia into smaller populations, we would expect people with Maori ancestry to have an estimate of Polynesian genetic ethnicity.

AncestryDNA® Privacy

  1. Where are the DNA samples tested?

    DNA samples are tested in a secure third-party testing lab in the United States. Becoming a customer of AncestryDNA® and having your DNA tested as a part of this service results in your personal and genetic information being shipped, stored and processed in accordance with the provisions of the Ancestry® Terms and Conditions and Privacy Statement.

  2. Can other users see my results?

    As the DNA sample owner, you control who can see your results. If you are a minor, your test must be activated by your parent or legal guardian who becomes the account manager. The account manager controls who can see your results.

    2a. How do I share my ethnicity results with other Ancestry® users?

    To share your ethnicity results with other Ancestry® users, click the “share” button (which looks like an arrow) on your results page and select the information you want to share. Then you can share your results via Twitter or download your results and share them via other methods.

    2b. Can I give other Ancestry® users permission to see my results and edit account information? If so, what can they do?

    Yes, you can invite other Ancestry® users to become viewers, collaborators or a manager on your account.

    A viewer can view your ethnicity estimate; learn about communities connected to you through common ancestors; see who shares your DNA, and find out who is related to you through a specific ancestor.

    A collaborator has the same permissions as a viewer, but can also delete or highlight people who share DNA with you, and link your test results to family trees.

    An account manager has the same permissions as a collaborator, but can also change your test display preferences; invite others to access your test results; assign and change account roles; modify, add data, or permanently delete test results, and send and respond to messages from your account.

    For more information on how to give other Ancestry users access to your DNA results, please click here.

  3. How do I assign account roles for my DNA test results?

    Go to the “DNA Test Results Access” section on your test settings page to send an invitation for an account role. As the owner, you do not lose any account rights when you assign account roles. You can remove or reassign roles at any time.

  4. What is the difference in account roles between viewer, collaborator, and manager?

    The following chart outlines the permissions for each account role:

    This table describes the authorized tasks associated with the roles Manager, Collaborator, and Viewer.
    Task Viewer Collaborator Manager
    View DNA matches Yes. Yes.
    View Ethnicity Estimate Yes. Yes.
    View Genetic Communities Yes. Yes.
    View notes about a DNA Match Yes. Yes.
    View DNA Circles Yes. Yes.
    View removed DNA matches Yes. Yes.
    Link test results to Family Trees Yes.
    Edit DNA Matches Yes.
    Add and edit DNA Match notes Yes.
    Edit test participant details Yes.
    Change ethnicity display preferences Yes.
    Invite others to access results Yes.
    Assign and change account roles Yes.
    Permanently delete DNA test results Yes.
    Download DNA Data Yes.
    Send and respond to messages from the test owner's account Yes.
    The owner has all of the above permissions, and may add or remove a manager at any time.
  5. How do I manage my privacy settings?

    You can manage the following privacy settings on the DNA Settings page, which you can access by going to the AncestryDNA® status page and clicking the Settings link:

    • DNA Matches:

       You can choose to view your DNA matches and be listed as a match, or to have this feature turned off. To change your setting, click on the “Change” button below “DNA Matches”.

    • Email notifications for DNA matches:

       If you would like to be notified about possible DNA matches, you can choose to be notified weekly or monthly under "Email Settings for [Name]". If you do not wish to be notified about matches, you can set this email notification to "Off."

    • Display Name:

       You can choose to display your real name or your Ancestry username to other Ancestry users. To make your selection, simply click on the "Edit" button below "Participant Display Name" and choose your preferred display name.

    • Results (ethnicity) settings:

       You can choose to share your full ethnicity with other matches or only the ethnicity elements that are shared by potential matches. Under "Ethnicity Profile Display" preference, you can check or uncheck the box next to "Show your complete ethnicity profile to DNA matches"; if it is unchecked only your partial ethnicity will be shown. The default setting is a checked box, meaning your full ethnicity will be shown if you do not choose otherwise. You can also choose to share your full ethnicity will other Ancestry users, not just your matches in your Public Profile Settings. If you have ordered a DNA Test for another person, then these default settings will apply to their results, but they will be able to change these in the event they take over as the Administrator of their DNA Test. If you do not want others to see your results at all, then you can choose not to see your matches or be listed as a match, or delete your results by clicking “Delete this test” button on the right under “Delete this test from AncestryDNA®.” However, if you do so, you will then not be able to benefit from the Service, including seeing the results of others.

    • Family tree linking:

       You can link your DNA Test or any other DNA Test if you are the Account Manager to family trees that you have created. This will help determine how you may be related to any DNA matches found by AncestryDNA®. If you link the DNA Test to an Ancestry family tree, any potential matches who are Ancestry subscribers will be able to see your tree (excluding living people in your tree) as part of their results, unless your tree is designated as "Private" (please see "Family Tree Settings" below for more information). If you are an Ancestry subscriber, you will also be able to see any public family trees linked to the DNA Tests of your potential DNA matches. To link the DNA test to a tree, please click "Link to tree" under "Family Tree Linking" on the Settings page, select the applicable family tree(s), locate the DNA test-taker in the fillable box, and then click "Link to DNA Results." To unlink a DNA test from a tree, click on the "Edit" button under "Family Tree Linking" on the Settings page, and press the blue 'X' next to the applicable tree. Currently, you can only link one tree to your DNA results, but from the 'Family Tree Linking' page, you can choose a different family tree to link to your DNA Test.

    • Sharing DNA results:

       If you are the Account Manager of a DNA Test, you can invite others to access your DNA results as a “Viewer”, “Collaborator”, or “Manager” by inviting them through the “DNA Test Results Access” section of the test settings page. All Users given access in this way will be able to see both your ethnicity estimate and the possible relative matches that AncestryDNA® has identified for you. Any Collaborator you share your DNA results with will also be able to change information that you have identified with the DNA Test. You are under no obligation to invite others to access your DNA results with anyone, but you may choose to do so in order to share your discoveries with others. On your DNA Settings page, you can see all of the people you have invited to access your DNA results. To revoke access to your DNA results, simply click the "Remove" link next to the email address or username of the person you want to revoke rights for.

      There can only be one Manager per DNA Test, so if you are the current Manager and invite another person to become Manager, you will no longer have those rights and will instead be classified as a Collaborator of that test. Please note that once you have transferred your Manager rights to another person, you cannot undo that decision unless the new Manager decides to return those rights to you. The new Manager will also have the right to revoke your access to the DNA Test.

    • Manage ethnicity results shared links:

       On your DNA Settings page, you can see any links to your ethnicity estimates that you have shared and, if you wish, delete any such links by clicking the "Remove shared link" button next to the applicable email addresses(es). Once you remove that link, the person you shared your ethnicity estimates with will no longer be able to access that information via the link they originally received from you unless you re-share it with them.

    • Download your DNA Data:

       To download your DNA Data, please go to the Settings page and click on the 'Download' button to the right of "Download DNA Data." Please note that once you receive the downloaded DNA Data, that downloaded copy will not be protected by our security measures. Please see the section of these FAQs entitled "Downloading your AncestryDNA® DNA Data" below for more information.

    • Deleting your DNA tests:

       If for some reason you decide you want to permanently delete your DNA Test from the AncestryDNA® Website, you can click on "Delete this test" on the right side of the Settings page. Once you delete the test, your DNA test will not be recoverable and this action CANNOT be undone, so you must enter the password for your Ancestry account to confirm that you want to proceed with the deletion. Please note: in the event that you or we delete results, copies of that information may remain viewable elsewhere to the extent any such copy has been shared with others and copied and stored. Additionally, we may retain certain information to prevent identity theft and other misconduct even if deletion has been requested. Information that is removed or deleted may also persist in backup copies for a reasonable time for our internal business purposes but will not be available to you or others.

    • Ancestry® Website Settings:

       Please click here to view and manage the below privacy settings on the Ancestry® website:

      • Site / Community Preferences:
         this allows you to control the information that others in the Ancestry Community see about you, as well as the settings for hints that you want to receive from us.
      • Email Settings:
         this allows you to control what newsletters, updates, and marketing emails we send to you. You may opt out to receive emails at all times.
      • Alerts:
         this allows you to control the email alerts that are sent to you.
      • Family Tree Settings:
         this allows you to control how others can view, access and/or edit any family trees you may create. Please click here for more info about tree settings.
  6. Where can I go to learn more about my privacy?

    Your privacy is very important to us and we are committed to protecting your DNA. For more information on privacy at AncestryDNA®, please review the Ancestry® Privacy Statement. For a more general discussion of privacy on the Ancestry® family of websites and mobile apps, see the Ancestry Privacy Center.

Downloading your DNA Data

  1. What is ‘DNA Data’

    DNA Data (or machine readable biometric data) is simply the data generated from your DNA sample in partner labs from AncestryDNA® and AncestryHealth® tests. This data is used to calculate your DNA ethnicity estimates results, match you to your genetic relatives and predict your traits. The number of DNA data points available for you to download depends on the DNA testing technology used to generate this information.

    There may be two types of DNA Data files available for download depending which technology was used to analyze your DNA:

    Standard DNA Data file included with your purchase (available to all customers regardless of the DNA testing technology used).

    Variant call format (VCF) file if DNA was analyzed with next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology.

  2. Why would somebody want to download their DNA Data?

    This information may be interesting to scientists and genetic genealogists who would like to extend their genealogy research. The downloaded DNA data should not be used with third party databases as outlined in the Ancestry® Terms and Conditions.

  3. How do I download my DNA Data?

    If you'd like to download a copy of your DNA Data, here are the steps to follow once you are on the AncestryDNA® site:

    1. From the AncestryDNA® status page click the link 'Settings'.

    2. In the 'Test Management' section click the 'Download' button to the right of 'Download DNA Data'.

    3. Enter your password. This will trigger an email that will be sent to your email account on file, which will include a link to confirm download of the DNA data.

    4. Open the email and click the 'Confirm data download' button in the email.

    5. On this download page click the button "Download DNA Data".

    6. The file will then download to your computer.

    Important Security Information:

     Once you receive the downloaded DNA Data that downloaded copy will not be protected by our security measures. For more information read Ancestry® Terms and Conditions and Ancestry® Privacy Statement.
  4. What is the file format of the DNA Data download?

    The DNA Data is formatted as a text file with hundreds of thousands of rows of information. Because the file is very large, we compress it prior to the download. The file you download is a .zip file, which can be viewed on your computer.

    How to unzip a file using Windows:

    Do one of the following:

    • To extract the entire contents of the compressed folder, right-click the folder, click 'Extract All', and then follow the instructions.

    • Double click the compressed folder to open it. Then, drag the file or folder from the compressed folder to a new location.

    How to unzip a file using Mac:

    • Double click the file to unzip it.

  5. How do I read my DNA Data?

    If you choose to download your DNA Data and want to understand more about how to read it, the following information about the standard DNA Data file available at no additional cost, may be helpful.

    DNA Data is provided in a tab delimited text file. This file contains a header describing the data and five columns of information. Each line corresponds to one single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) or indel. A SNP is a single site in the genome that is known to vary across individuals. An indel is either an insert or a deletion site. The possible observations are A for adenine, C for cytosine, G for guanine, T for thymine, I for insertion’ and ‘D for deletion, or 0 for missing data. Column one provides the identifier (including the #rsID where possible). Columns two and three contain the chromosome and basepair position of the variant using human reference genome GRCh37 coordinates. Columns four and five contain the two alleles observed at this variant (genotype). The specific letters present are called alleles and the pair of alleles observed at a variant is called the genotype. For example, if a variant contains either C (cytosine) or A (adenine), then the possible genotypes are C C, A A, or A C (allele order is irrelevant so C A is the same as A C). Each chromosome is composed of two complementary strands, often called forward and reverse, and alleles may be reported on either strand. For example, a SNP genotype that is G G on the forward strand will be C C on the reverse strand. Likewise G A on the forward strand is C T on the reverse strand. It is essential to know the strand on which your data is reported. For the AncestryDNA® product, we report data for the SNPs on the forward strand with respect to the human reference genome.

  6. Is my DNA Data protected after I download it?

    If you choose to download a copy of your DNA Data, you are responsible for protecting that downloaded copy. While we protect your information in our systems, once you receive the downloaded DNA Data, that copy will not be protected by our security measures.

  7. What are the privacy and security steps taken to protect my DNA Data?

    Ancestry maintains a comprehensive information security program designed to protect our customers’ Personal Information using administrative, physical, and technical safeguards. The specific security measures used are based on the sensitivity of the Personal Information collected. We have measures in place to protect against inappropriate access, loss, misuse, or alteration of Personal Information (including Genetic Information) under our control. The Ancestry Security Team regularly reviews our security and privacy practices and enhances them as necessary to help ensure the integrity of our systems and your Personal Information. We use secure server software to encrypt Personal Information (including Genetic Information), and we only partner with security companies that meet and commit to our security standards. While we cannot guarantee that loss, misuse or alteration of data will not occur, we use reasonable efforts to prevent this. It is also important for you to guard against unauthorized access to your Personal Information by maintaining strong passwords and protecting against the unauthorized use of your own computer or device.

  8. Do my DNA matches have access to my DNA Data?

    No, your DNA matches do NOT have access to your DNA Data. We have many protections in place to ensure your genetic data is secure. Only people with access to your test results can initiate the data download. You can learn more about these privacy settings here.

The AncestryDNA® Research Project

  1. What is the AncestryDNA® Research Project?

    The Ancestry Human Diversity Project (the "Research Project") is a voluntary research project that collects, preserves and analyzes genealogical pedigrees, historical records, surveys, family health data, medical and health records, genetic information, and other information from people all around the world in order to conduct research studies to better understand, among other things, human evolution and migration, population genetics, population health issues, ethnographic diversity and boundaries, genealogy, and the history of our species. You may participate by agreeing to the Informed Consent.

  2. What information is collected for the Research Project?

    The Research Project collects genealogical data, such as pedigree, ethnicity, family history, and other information about you and your family, genetic data, such as your AncestryDNA® genotype. For more information, review the Informed Consent.

  3. How will the information be used?

    The information provided to the Research Project will be used by researchers in the study of genealogy, anthropology, population genetics, population health issues, cultures, medicine (for example, to identify drug response, health risks, etc.), and other topics. For more information, review the Informed Consent.

  4. How will the information be protected?

    The information in the Research Project is protected using a variety of physical, technical, and administrative procedures. For example, we restrict access to our data center and databases and encrypt data when in transit. Additionally, when we collaborate with external third parties as part of the Project, these parties will only have access to pooled information from which information that traditionally permits identification of specific individuals, such as names and birth dates, has been removed. The Information used in the Project will be segregated from other information and only specifically authorized individuals will have access to this Information. For more information, review the Informed Consent.

  5. How can I withdraw from the Research Project?

    Participation in this Project is purely voluntary. You can decide not to be in this Project and, at any time, you may choose to withdraw some or all of the Information you provided by visiting the AncestryDNA settings page. There will be no penalty to you, and you will continue to be able to use our websites and services as before. For more information, review the Informed Consent.