There is no set number for the accuracy of an Ancestry DNA test because it’s a multi-step process. However, the accuracy for each of these steps can be determined independently. Keep reading to learn more about the different phases of Ancestry DNA matches (and their accuracy).
Phase 1: Reading the DNA
This is the first step of the Ancestry DNA test in which the system reads your DNA. The accuracy of this phase is very high (more than 99%) as Ancestry can efficiently analyze hundreds of thousands of markers in DNA.
Phase 2: Ethnicity Estimate
This phase of Ancestry DNA matches talks about the location and communities of an individual’s ancestors. Hence, this estimate can be divided into two parts, regions, and communities.
Regions in Ethnicity Estimate
This percentage refers to the locations where your ancestors lived hundreds of years ago. Ancestry uses a 2-step mechanism to figure out this part of the ethnicity estimate. The first step deals with the collection of DNA of people whose families have been living in an area for a very long time. Right now, Ancestry covers 43 different regions in the world that are grouped together to form the ‘Reference Panel’.
In the second step, your DNA is thoroughly compared to the DNA of the people of those 43 different areas. This allows Ancestry to figure out the region that is genetically most similar to your DNA. For example, if 12% of your DNA looks like the DNA of Australian people, Ancestry will assign 12% of your ethnicity estimate to Australia.
Ancestry uses several techniques to measure the accuracy of this procedure. One of the most effective ones is to predict the ethnicity estimate of people from the reference panel. In this way, the actual ethnicity is known, and the extent of accuracy can be determined.
The accuracy of Ancestry for regions in ethnicity estimate is quite high if the predictions are being made at a continental level. However, it tends to drop when the results are narrowed down to specific areas (or countries).
Communities in Ethnicity Estimate
The Genetic Communities technology of Ancestry allows it to find the communities of your ancestors. It is a patented tech that uses the advanced database of Ancestry to tell where your ancestors lived in recent times. It can also figure out the people in communities who may have moved around the globe in a given time.
Ancestry analyzes the data of every user and informs them about the possibility of estimating their community. You can check that on your account by following the given steps.
- Go to the ‘Community’ section.
- Click on the ‘i’ for getting information.
- It will show one of the three results, Very Likely, Likely, or Possible.
If you get a ‘Possible’ label, the estimate of Ancestry about your community can be wrong.
Phase 3: DNA Matching
In this feature, Ancestry suggests the people that could be related to you (alongside their relationships). The system uses a very effective method (sharing long segments of DNA) for finding your relatives. Hence, Ancestry can assign a parent/child or a sibling relationship with a lot of accuracy.
A special algorithm, called TIMBER, also boosts the accuracy of Ancestry. It filters out the larger pieces of identical DNA that are shared without a recent common ancestor. This is the reason why Ancestry has an extremely high level of accuracy even if two people are related at the 3rd or 4th cousin level.
However, some relationships can be difficult to determine because they share the same amount of DNA. For example, grandparent/grandchild and double first cousin are hard to tell apart. In these cases, Ancestry will return “Close Family” rather than suggesting the exact relationship.
How to Reach Out to DNA Matches?
Finding unknown relatives is probably the most enticing aspect of using Ancestry. However, it’s very important to control your excitement and follow the basics of good communication while connecting with your DNA matches. The following are some techniques that increase your chances of getting a response.
- Update your Ancestry profile and make sure to include a profile picture. It will show that you are honest and trustworthy.
- Send the message from your Ancestry match page. This will remove all the confusion and guesswork in the recipient’s mind.
- Use better subject lines to intrigue the recipient. For example, “DNA Match, shared great-grandfather on Smith side” or “Ancestry DNA Match – 4th Cousins”.
- Explain who you are and what you are seeking.
- Be specific and use Ancestry names and identifiers to remove all the ambiguities for the recipient.
- Communicate in a balanced way that is neither too urgent nor too patient.
- Leave multiple ways (phone, email, etc.) for them to reach back.
On the other hand, there are certain mistakes that you should always avoid while reaching out to DNA matches.
- Vague messages in which useful information is difficult to find.
- Long first messages are a big NO because they can overwhelm the recipient. Keep things concise and to the point.
- Communicating without keeping the space and privacy of the recipient in mind.
Sample Message for Reaching Out to DNA Matches
I am Anna. AncestryDNA shows that we have an extremely high chance of being 1st to 2nd cousins, and we share the surnames Dalton, Langan, and Gibbons. I’ve been researching my Gibbons line for several years and have not yet identified a death date for John Gibbons, my third-great-grandfather, who was born in 1785 in County Waterford, Ireland. If you’ve found good sources for this information, I would love to hear from you.
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