Ancestry.com, hereto simply Ancestry, is a company based out of Utah which specializes in historical genealogical research. Initially only a website for family tree construction and research, the company first offered its AncestryDNA testing kit in 2012. Since that time, the platform has had over 6 million people use their testing kits, and many more still subscribe to their family tree service. Below is a full review of Ancestry, as well as insights into their different offerings and packages.
Ancestry overview and basic data
|Can be used for||Personal Ancestry Testing|
|DNA collection||Small amount of saliva|
|Number of SNPs tested||637,639.00|
|DNA sample stored||Indefinitely, until consent removed|
|Availability||United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and 29 more countries.|
|Price||$19.99 - $44.99 per month for subscription service
$99 for AncestryDNA test - Ethnicity
$109 for AncestryDNA – Ethnicity and Traits
|Platform matching for family||Yes, with the ability to contact matches|
|Geographical analysis of ancestry||Yes, using the Ethnicity Estimate tool|
|Special Features||Compare ancestry origins between family matches. Platform automatically identifies common ancestors, surnames and birth records based on your matched family trees.|
|Number of users||Over 10 Million|
|Ownership||Permira, an investment firm|
|Address||360 W 4800 N Provo, Utah 84604|
|Client Reviews||On Trustpilot, 4000+ Reviews give 3 of 5 stars
On Amazon, 4000 Reviews give 3.8 of 4 stars
Company background for Ancestry
Ancestry.com has a complicated history, going all the way back to the days of floppy discs. The company originated as a culmination between the publishers of Ancestry magazine and Infobase, an early digital printing and marketing company. Over time, the company also acquired the sites MyFamily.com and FamilyHistory.com. The company became publicly traded in 2009, but was bought off the market by the private equity firm Permira Advisers LLP. Several other firms have bought equity shares of the company since the acquisition.
In 2012, Ancestry offered its first DNA test kit, which has gone through a number of revisions. The company dropped its testing of Y-DNA and mtDNA, to focus on more autosomal sites. The current version is competitive in scope and price with other genealogy tests.
Ancestry’s Offerings Review
In terms of their services, the company has been in the genealogy game for a long time and boasts a large collection of historical databases. Ancestry offers two basic services, with a tiered cost structure in each. With their AncestryDNA at-home genetic testing kit, you can access information about your ancestors. Their main service, a subscription-based family tree service, has a wide variety of options for documenting your family history.
This service from Ancestry includes a look into your DNA to see which people and groups you match in Ancestry’s database. After sending back a saliva sample for the laboratory to analyze, you will be given access to a variety of information about your genetics. The main feature is your Ethnicity Estimate, a pie chart and map which will show you what percentage of your genetics are attributable to which populations.
The regions on this map can be as detailed as a single city, and includes over 350 specific regions. Using this tool, you can explore a digital timeline of your family history. You can even track possible migrations your family members may have been a part of. Included in the kit is the ability to match your DNA to living family members. The platform will identify how related your matches are (e.g. first cousins), and allow you to connect via their messenger app.
A secondary feature gives users the ability to gain information on how their genetics are influencing their traits. While these traits are not medical in nature, they contain interesting physical features which are inherited. These are things like the presence of a cleft chin, male-pattern baldness, and aversion to certain tastes. Using this tool, the user can identify where these traits likely came from geographically. This feature is an additional $10 on top of the kit itself.
The kit can be purchased in a variety of locations, and can be activated through their website. The kit is typically $99, but is currently on-sale on their site for $59 (until December 24, 2018).
Ancestry Family Tree
Before the days of DNA testing kits, Ancestry.com was one of the go-to companies for genealogical research. Since the days of the internet, their ability to connect people to their heritage has expanded greatly. Their Family Tree service allows users to input data about their immediate family, and receive tips about information on their family history.
The service allows you to access a variety of public and private sources of information. With their subscription packages, you get access to newspapers, birth and death certificates, and census records. These can be saved to your family tree, as you build the story of your family’s journey.
If you use their AncestryDNA service, you can import the information for other people’s family trees to expand your own, based on your genetic relatedness. This could potentially make finding information about your family a breeze, if you have a strange third cousin who has already compiled the data. The platform typically only provides hints, it is up to you to decide which information to include in your tree.
The subscription packages start at $19.99 per month. This package, the U.S. Discovery, limits you to records coming from the United States. This includes a lot of information from government sources, like birth and marriage records. For $34.99 you can upgrade to the World Explorer package. This package gives you everything from the U.S., as well as access to 3 billion international records going back to the 16th century in Europe.
Their ultimate package is the All Access, which gives you everything above, and access to Fold3 (a military records site) and Newspapers.com (a historical news site). From these sources you can mine even more family records. Any of these packages can be purchases in six month terms, which will give you a discounted price.
What separates Ancestry from other companies in that regard?
Like a handful of other sites, Ancestry.com focuses on genealogy and personal family history. Their main offerings and source of revenue is their Family Tree database. Currently, their DNA tests only offer ancestry information. However, they are adding features to their platform (such as information on genetic traits), which suggests they may add other health-related features later.
Their genealogy testing appears to be thorough, and like other sites can estimate the composition of ethnicity using genetic data. As a benefit over some companies, AncestryDNA tests can be combined with their powerful family history tools to build both an immediate and ancestral family tree.
How it works, what will your kit include?
You can purchase a kit through a number of sources, including Amazon and Ebay, but can also buy a kit directly from their website. You register the kit with their website, and set up your account. The kit will include a saliva collection tube, with instructions for collecting your sample. Follow the instructions precisely, and mail the sample back to the laboratory.
Once received by the laboratory, the sample will take 6-8 weeks to process. After that time, your results will be available to you by signing into your account at Ancestry.com. Your results will include a number of reports on your ethnic heritage, which you can explore. If you paid for the optional Traits package, you can also see these results.
Understanding the results
The Ethnicity Estimate has a number of features to understand your genetic past. The tool provides information of what percentage of each ethnicity you are related to, and a map of where those group originated. This information can in some instances be down to the city level, and the company claims to have twice as much geographic detail as their competitors. However, some users (Asian specifically) complained that the platform could not specify their ancestral heritage better than a continent.
The tool can also give you information on potential migrations your family underwent, by corroborating your genetic information to their database of records and history. If you opt into their subscription family tree service, this information can be used to research and build your family tree.
The platform will provide you with a list of living people (in their database), who you are also related to. The platform will allow you to compare features with these people, see how distant the relationship is, and even connect with other family members who use the service. Many adoptees have claimed this tool allowed them to reconnect with long-lost family, and discover their biological relationships.
The optional Traits Report allows you to see 18+ unique traits that are determined genetically. These traits, which are often based on a single gene, include things like finger length, ability to taste certain chemicals, and physical features like freckling. Using this tool, you can also compare your results in these tests to your genetic matches. The tool even allows you to track the traits, and discover which ethnic group they likely originated within.
Ancestry’s main business, before DNA testing, was family tree construction. If you buy into their subscription service, you will receive updates on tips helping you to construct a family tree. The platform requires that you first provide all the information you know about your immediate family. Based on this information, it will start to match you with resources. These are typically documents, such as birth records, death records, or other documentation of your family name.
Using these resources, it is up to you to fill in and complete your family tree. Ancestry has a database of billions of documents, so this might take you some time. When paired with the DNA test, you can import a family tree from your matches, which may expedite this process. Because the platform allows you to connect to your genetic relatives on their platform, this offers the ability to do family history research with other family members.
Will your data be shared?
According to their Privacy Statement, the company does not sell or distribute identifiably personal information to third parties. The data is stored and handled by some third-party companies, but never distributed or sold. The company uses non-personal aggregate data to conduct research and improve their services. At any time, you can contact the company to delete your account and destroy your DNA sample. Otherwise, it will be stored indefinitely.
Media coverage and user opinions
Ancestry.com made a splash in 2012, when it unveiled its first DNA testing kit. Already the largest genealogy and family history database, the company was aiming to leverage its position as a leader in the industry. The company has received a plethora of reviews, as well as a fair share of criticisms. Recently, media coverage on the company has focused on a number of issues.
Several articles concerned with DNA privacy raised questions with what Ancestry was doing with genetic information. Others criticize the company for providing information that is too general, inaccurate, or misleading. A recent partnership between the music company Spotify and Ancestry.com raised some flags, as the music company would produce a playlist based on your genetic heritage.
- New York Times – Sigrid Johnson Was Black. A DNA Test Said She Wasn’t
- CNN – This at-home DNA kit may make you rethink your family history
- USA Today – Took an ancestry DNA test? You might be a ‘genetic informant’ unleashing secrets about your relatives
- SPIN – Please Don’t Give Your Genetic Data to AncestryDNA as Part of Their Spotify Playlist Partnership
In general, Ancestry gets rated fairly well by its users. The company has millions of happy subscribers, hundreds of millions of family trees, and millions of people who have already used its DNA test kit. With almost 4 thousand reviews on Amazon, the DNA testing service received 4 of 5 stars. 64% of users gave the kit either a 4 or 5 star rating. However, around 21% of people gave Ancestry only 1 star.
Users who reviewed the platform on Trustpilot gave it 3 of 5 stars. 74% of these people found an excellent experience, only 8% had a “Bad” experience.
Users who are happy with Ancestry mentioned the following points:
- The AncestryDNA kit can help you find relatives, even if you didn’t know they existed!
- For those already using the Ancestry FamilyTree service, the DNA test can provide helpful insights.
- The company usually offers a quick turnaround time on results.
- The Ethnicity Estimate tool updates and changes with improvements to genetic knowledge.
- Over 350 different ethnic genetic regions have been uniquely identified.
- The company offers one of the world’s greatest family tree databases.
Users giving Ancestry a 1-star review mentioned the following worthy points:
- If your ancestors are from Eastern Asia, the results will be incredibly vague and generalized.
- The company does not test for disease or health-related conditions.
- While the company claims to offer details on Native American ancestry, these are likely inaccurate.
- Some complaints that the company lost their kit, or was never able to access it.
- To get access to premium features and information, you must purchase a membership.
- The information you get from a membership is not worth the price, for some users.
Bottom line conclusions for this Ancestry review
Ancestry.com has been, and will continue to be, a leader in genealogy testing and research. Their DNA test kit is only 6 years old. As time goes on, it will become more accurate and revealing. With one of the cheapest prices in the industry, the test is definitely worth it if you are interested in finding your family history. If you are more concerned about the health-related aspects of your genetics, there are better testing companies for you. However, with their powerful databases of ancestral documents, Ancestry provides a solid platform for genealogy research and family tree construction.