I have been asked several times by family and friends, now that I have done the Ancestry DNA test, if I think it is worth it.
I have been working on my family tree since I was 13 years old and let me tell you, that was a lot of years ago. I have searched for my ancestors in all of the traditional ways, waded through records, and interviewed quite a few family members.
When genealogical DNA came about, I was skeptical. In a way, I still am. I don’t think I will ever 100% trust DNA results, not because the blood or spit may lie, but because the labs that processes that DNA can make mistakes. I only trust the information that I can personally back up with a paper trail.
There is also the misconception that taking a genealogical DNA test will do all of the work for you.
Did this DNA kit make my family tree for me? No. Did the test tell me exactly how cousin Marge is my cousin? No. But it did give me some valuable information and leads. Even though this test will tell you who you share DNA with, it will not do the work for you.
How Ancestry DNA testing works
If you purchase your DNA kit online, you should receive it by mail in just a few days. Once you receive it, you will need to go online to Ancestry.com and register your test so that they know that test is linked to you. If you follow the instructions in the box, it really is an easy process.
Next you need to take the test itself. You are not allowed to eat or drink, or basically put anything in your mouth for 30 minutes prior to taking the test. (I found that the hardest part as I walk around with something to drink in hand constantly.) If you are afraid you will mindlessly drink something or put a mint in your mouth, set a timer and move all food items away from you.
Once you have survived the 30 minutes, follow the directions in the testing kit to finish the test. When you have finished spitting and have your DNA sample back in the postage paid mailer package, drop it in the mailbox and be prepared to wait.
I received my results by email in about 3 weeks from the time I mailed my sample, but the wait time varies. One if my sons received his results in about 2 and a half weeks, but for my husband, it was closer to 4 weeks.
What Ancestry DNA tells you
When you receive your results from your DNA test, you will notice it is broken down between your DNA Story (your ethnicity estimates), DNA Matches (people you share DNA with), and ThruLines (how you might be related to someone through DNA matches).
Your DNA Story is broken down into percentages of your ethnic background. For example, according to my results I am made up of 71% England, Wales & Northwestern Europe, 19% Ireland & Scotland, 6% Norway, and 4% Sweden. But don’t get to stuck on these numbers. Data changes as new regions and blood lines are discovered. If Ancestry updates their databases and change which regions are clustered together or what regions need to be separated, your numbers could rise or fall accordingly.
The DNA Matches on Ancestry.com will show you a list of people who have taken the Ancestry DNA test who have DNA in common with you. Unless both of your parents have been tested also, your results will not tell you if the person is related to you on your mom’s side or on your dad’s, however a little bit of investigative work can usually tell you how they are related to you. Look for surnames you have in common with the person in their family tree. If they do not have a public family tree, send them a message and ask if you can view it. You will be surprised how much fun the search can be.
The ThruLines section of your DNA results uses the family tree you have created on their site, and the family trees of your DNA matches to put together a list of “Possible” ancestors. It breaks down the list by generation, for example, parent, then grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on. When it reaches a blank spot it your tree, like a missing great- great- grandmother, it tries to fill that gap with possibilities from your DNA matches. Just remember not to take it as fact until you prove it. I have had several of these possibilities pop up in my ThruLines that I know for a fact do not belong in my tree. It can however give you lots of leads to look into, so search through them wisely.
Can Ancestry DNA results be wrong?
As I covered in a previous post , your ethnicity estimates are just that, estimates. With Ancestry.com’s DNA results, a lot of regions are clumped together such as England, Wales & Northwestern Europe. I have documents showing that one whole branch of my family is German. Even though my ethnicity results did not say “Germany”, portions of Germany fall into the above category based on the map view of my results. So, before you say, “But I have German heritage so my results must be wrong!”, make sure what counties these clusters of regions are made up of. Could it be wrong? Possibly. But it also could be right.
Can Ancestry DNA find my father?
First let me start by saying this, Ancestry is not going to go out and search for your missing parent. However, if this missing parent has taken a DNA test, the kit was from Ancestry.com, and you have DNA in common with them, they will show up on your match list as a parent.
Your list of DNA matches includes anyone who has DNA that matches your DNA. This list does not know if your matching relative is someone you want to find, or someone you would rather not find. What it can tell you is if your DNA matches that person and by how much. The greater the match, the closer the relation.
Whatever you reason for taking a DNA test, you really need to first ask yourself, “Can I handle whatever results are given to me?”. If the answer is no, don’t take the test. If your answer is yes, take the test and sit back and enjoy the ride. It is guaranteed to be an adventure.
Can Ancestry results be different for siblings?
The short answer for this is Yes. Unless you are the product of an identical multiple birth, such as twins or triplets, there is a good chance your DNA results will be different from your siblings.
Think of it this way, you have a sister and a brother. Your sister looks just like your mother, but your brother looks just like your father, and you look like an aunt. Sister Sally may have gotten more German, but Brother Bobby may have gotten more Irish. You may have not gotten any German at all, but more Irish than both siblings.
The DNA we receive from our parents can be in different amounts for each sibling. Just because your father has trace amounts of Native American, does not always mean that will be passed to you from his DNA. It may have gone to Brother Bobby instead.
Can Ancestry DNA identify half siblings?
I have one son that has a different father than his brothers. All of my sons took the DNA test through Ancestry, however when the results were in, it listed my oldest son as “Close Family–1st Cousin” to my younger sons. This is because the amount of DNA that they share from me, is the same amount that falls in the range for a Grandparent, Grandchild, Half sibling, Aunt/uncle, or Niece/nephew. Even though it listed him as close family through 1st cousin, there are other relation possibilities that can fall within that range.
This does not make my oldest son any less of a brother to his younger siblings, he just doesn’t share all of the same DNA and ethnicities that they have.
So, when you are looking at how close a relation is, click the little i for more information about what relationships fall within that DNA range. You may think you are looking at a match as a cousin, when it really could be your aunt.
I hope this has answered some of your questions about Ancestry DNA. It really has been a fun adventure and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
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