Frequently Asked Questions


DNA Testing


Privacy Policy


General DNA Questions


DNA Groups


DNA Terminology


DNA Results Analysis


Contact Ancestry's DNA Service



DNA Testing

Which DNA test is the right one for me?

Paternal Lineage Test

If your goal is to try to expand your family tree, the Paternal Lineage tests provide the DNA results necessary to help find other participants who might be genetically related to you. The Paternal Lineage test analyzes specific segments of the Y-chromosome which is only found in males. And because the Y-chromosome is passed largely unchanged from father to son, DNA results from a male participant today can be used to represent the paternal lineage dozens of generations into the past.

If you are female, you can recruit a brother, father, or paternally related Uncle or Cousin to provide the DNA sample to use as if it were your own.

In addition to helping to expand your family tree, the Paternal Lineage test also provides insights into your Ancient Ancestry stretching back many thousands of years. Learn about where your ancient ancestors migrated and settled as humans spread throughout the continents.


Maternal Lineage Test

Available to both males and females, the Maternal Lineage test traces your ancient ancestry from your Mother's side. As the earliest humans migrated out of Africa, they adapted to their new surroundings and became distinct populations from one another which can be detected by analyzing DNA. The Maternal Lineage test differs from the Paternal test in that it cannot validate a family relationship -- so even if your maternal DNA is an identical match with another participant it can only prove that you may have been related thousands of years ago. On the other hand, if your results differ in any way, the results prove that your are definitively not related.

How do you collect a DNA sample?
Collecting a DNA sample is easy and painless. Simply swab the inside of your mouth to collect cheek cells and return the swabs to Ancestry.com DNA. Within a few weeks, your results will be ready.
How will I know if I match against someone else who has been tested?
Ancestry.com DNA will automatically notify you of new database matches. An opportunity to collaborate with your new genetic cousin depends on the level of participation you choose. You may elect to share only your contact name with others or simply to be anonymous. These preferences are available under "My Account".
If I choose to have my DNA tested, will my DNA information be safe from medical insurance companies, the government, etc?
Ancestry.com will not share your testing results with other organizations without your consent. In addition, as with all user submitted content Ancestry.com gives you control over your privacy settings that determine whether your information is public or anonymous.
Will having my DNA tested reveal anything about my medical conditions or susceptibility to diseases?
DNA testing conducted for genealogical purposes reveals family relatedness and currently does not provide definitive conclusions regarding a propensity toward disease or other medical conditions. In addition, as with all user submitted content Ancestry.com gives you control over your privacy settings that determine whether your information is public or anonymous.
What will you do with my DNA after it has been tested?
Ancestry.com will provide complimentary storage of samples submitted for DNA testing; however, Ancestry.com will not offer a guaranteed banking service of your DNA at this time.
What if I already had my DNA tested with another DNA company?
Ancestry.com will support DNA results provided by other DNA testing companies. While other companies may not test the exact same markers, you can add your results and compare them with others in the Ancestry.com DNA database.
Will I have to become a paying Ancestry.com subscriber to view my DNA Results?
No. Access to Ancestry.com's DNA database is free and available to registered users of Ancestry.com. As a registered user, you have access to not only to your DNA results but also to the wealth of free resources and tools available on Ancestry.com. Should you decide to become a paid subscriber, you will enjoy access to Ancestry.com's vast database of documents and records.
Will Ancestry.com DNA's testing tell me my ethnic tribe or what percentage of Native American ancestry I have?
Ancestry.com DNA provides a complimentary prediction of one's haplogroup with your test results. As our ancient ancestors migrated from Africa tens of thousands of years ago, spread through out the world and adapted to new environments, their DNA diversified into distinct groups and subgroups. These ancient ancestral groupings are known as haplogroups. Ancestry.com DNA predicts which haplogroup your paternal- or maternal-line ancestors belonged to and presents you with a map showing the migration routes these ancestors took out of Africa into other parts of the world.
Neither your haplogroup prediction nor your DNA test result will reveal the percentage of a given ancestral ethnicity nor the precise tribe from which you may descend.
What DNA test choices do you provide?
  • Paternal Lineage Test: This Y-DNA test analyzes 33 markers of a man's Y-DNA as well as predicts the haplogroup of the paternal line. Cost: $149.
  • Advanced Paternal Lineage Test: This Y-DNA looks at 13 additional markers, for a total of 46 markers, providing a more precise comparison with other participants who have also taken the advanced test. Cost: $179.
  • Maternal Lineage Test: The mtDNA test predicts the haplogroup of your ancient maternal-line ancestors. Cost: $179.
What markers are you testing?
Ancestry.com DNA utilizes the state of the art laboratory, Sorenson Genomics, for its DNA testing services. Our test results are consistent with the nomenclature standards adhered to by Sorenson Genomics and the industry at large.
For a table listing the markers for Paternal Lineage Tests and the Maternal Lineage Test. Click Here
Is it always better to purchase the highest marker test?
The more markers two individuals can compare, the more precisely they can determine whether they could be related-based on a tighter Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) result. Conversely, matching too few markers will not result in a genealogically relevant time frame.
For example, Mark and William matched exactly on the Y-DNA12 tests. Their 12 out of 12 comparison resulted in an MRCA of 14 generations, but unfortunately, neither had genealogies that far back. They decided to upgrade to the Y-DNA 33 to try to get a more precise result. The new results were a 32/33 match with an MRCA of 9 generations but they were still unable to determine any shared genealogy. Finally, they both upgraded to the Y-DNA 46 test and discovered a 45/46 match and the MRCA had been reduced to 7 generations. They compared their family trees and found that they both had had ancestors in the same county in bordering land plots for 20 years before Mark's family had moved to a different area!
It's not as simple as "more markers equal better results." After 45 - 50 markers, you would need a test consisting of 100 markers or more to significantly narrow the MRCA range.
Please also note that most European lines are of the haplogroup R1b. Therefore, if your haplogroup is R1b you may have many markers in common with another individual. Receiving a full Y-DNA 46 marker test will increase the likelihood that you don't have a false positive with this other person.
Is there valid information that can be learned from a 12-marker Y-chromosome test?
While comparing 12-marker tests does not provide enough information to be genealogically relevant, 12 marker Y-chromosome tests can predict one's paternal ancient ancestry or haplogroup. For family history purposes, comparing participants with a 12-marker test cannot sufficiently narrow the range of generations for estimating their Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA.) The closest range a perfect 12 out of 12 match yields is 14 generations at a 50% probability.
A 12-marker test can, however, be effective in predicting your Paternal Haplogroup. And for some haplogroups, even predict a sub-group (sub-clade) such as a "J2" or "R1b".
Can I compare my Ancestry.com DNA test results with results returned by other testing companies?
One of the challenges with this new industry is the lack of a consistent standard followed by all testing companies. First of all, not all testing companies test the same marker sets. Second, various testing companies have adopted different nomenclature callings on some markers, requiring adjustments to the allele values prior to a straight comparison.
For most third-party results, Ancestry.com DNA has implemented a complimentary normalization procedure that adjusts results from third parties, such as FTDNA, into the nomenclature language used by Ancestry.com DNA. Ancestry.com DNA's results are consistent with the nomenclature standards adhered to by Sorenson Genomics and the industry at large.
For a full listing of the markers used by Ancestry.com DNA for its DNA testing. Click Here
I live outside the U.S., can I order the test?
Currently, the DNA tests are not available outside the United States. We are working on this situation and will let you know as soon as the tests are available in other countries.

Privacy Policy

How will Ancestry.com use my DNA results?
All information that is received, used, or disclosed in connection with your obtaining services from Ancestry.com and which involves a test for DNA analysis shall not be used by Ancestry.com for any purpose except to provide the services and information you request through Ancestry.com, and shall only be made available to those persons or entities you designate, as well as those personnel of Ancestry.com and third parties who are hired or retained by Ancestry.com to perform the services and provide the information you request. All Ancestry.com and third party personnel shall be required to hold all this type of information in the strictest of confidence and to not use or disclose it except to fulfill the service we hired or retained them to perform.
How will Ancestry.com store my DNA specimen and test results?
Specimens: Our standard operating procedure requires that a barcode label and identification number be assigned to your biological specimen. All laboratory processing and storage is conducted under this tracking number. At no time during laboratory processing is your identity associated with the work being conducted. At the conclusion of laboratory processing, the identification number is linked back to your name to provide test results and/or post the results to your secured web page. This web page is accessible only via your unique user name and password.
For family group projects, if participants and their project coordinator so choose, the project coordinator can assume the responsibility of matching the tracking numbers with the results. In this case, the results by tracking number would be sent to the project coordinator who would then disseminate the results to the specific customer.
The destruction and/or storage of your DNA is determined first by you or the project coordinator and secondarily by the specific product or service selected. You can choose that your DNA be destroyed after laboratory processing.

General DNA Questions

Can a Maternal Lineage DNA Test Show Me Anything Besides My Ancient Ancestry?
Yes. It can be used to find maternal genetic cousins. It's true that maternal lineage tests-taken using a sample of your mitochondrial DNA (or mtDNA)-show your ancient ancestry (as does the Y-DNA, or paternal lineage, test). Scientists believe that our ancient ancestors migrated out of Africa about 170,000 years ago. Some went to Europe. Some went to Asia. Some went to South America. And so on. Over time, mutations showed up in their DNA. It diversified. Different groups of people developed different genetic imprints-known as haplogroups.
Your DNA test results will tell you your haplogroup. And your haplogroup identifies the general area where your ancestors migrated tens of thousands of years ago.
Results displaying Haplogroup U map of migration pattern.
Your maternal lineage tests will give you more than just your ancient ancestry. As with your paternal lineage tests, you will also get back a DNA profile. You will also get a list of other users in the database who have a matching profile, as well as those who don't.
If I've Had My DNA Tests Performed Elsewhere, Can I Post It On Ancestry?
Yes. If you've tested with Family Tree DNA or the National Geographic Genographic Project, you can add your DNA information to our databases right now. Simply go to dna.ancestry.com and click the link that says, "Enter your Y results or mtDNA results from Family Tree DNA and others."
You will be able to add results from other companies in the near future. Keep checking back. There are also other public databases you can check to find more DNA matches: www.ybase.org, www.ysearch.org, and www.smgf.org.
Can I Use a Lock of Hair?
No. An Ancestry DNA Kit uses swabs you rub on the inside of your mouth to collect cheek cells. We don't use blood or hair for DNA testing. There are forensic DNA labs that can test hair; however, it is much more expensive.
Can I Have a Nephew Take the Paternal Lineage DNA Test for Me?
Only if he's the son of your brother-not your sister.
Y-DNA passes from male to male in a family. To test your paternal lineage you need someone on your male line to take the test. Normally we say your father, a brother, or a paternal grandfather. But you could also get a male cousin or nephew to take it-so long as they were descended from your brother or a paternal uncle.
What About Adopted Children Who Want to Perform the Test?
Depends on what you're trying to accomplish.
If you're adopted, taking the test can tell you your ancient ancestry haplogroup and hopefully connect you with genetic cousins. Unfortunately, if you're female you won't be able to test your paternal lineage without a biological male relative.
If you're trying to figure out whether or not you're related paternally or maternally to someone in particular, you could both take either the Y-DNA test or the mtDNA test. If your Y-DNA results do not match closely or your mtDNA results don't match exactly, you're not closely related. If your results are identical, this is fairly good evidence that you are closely related. Keep in mind that a Ancestry.com DNA test cannot be used for legal proof.

DNA Groups

What are DNA Groups?
DNA Groups provide you with a private destination where your can share family history through pictures, stories, videos, and discussion, as well as compare your genetic profile with other members' DNA. And because only members of the group are allowed access to the group's content and DNA comparisons, your privacy is protected.
How do DNA Groups help with Genealogy?
Imagine your group consists of members throughout your extended family -- each with their own DNA results. Descendents of one branch of the family tree should all have nearly identical DNA results. Descendents of a another branch, while sharing many characteristics with the first branch, should differ enough to be a distinct subgroup. By organizing your group's members into sub-groups of relatives that share similar genetic profiles, you can use DNA to construct or verify the branches of your family tree.
Who manages DNA Groups?
Each group will have at least one Administrator who provides the moderation and organization for the group. Admins review membership requests and can either accept or refuse admittance to the group. Admins can also organize the group's DNA comparisons to reflect the unique composition of the group. Only administrators can invite new members to the group.
How do you find interesting groups?
There are several ways to discover groups that might be of interest to join. You can search for a group simply by entering a last name, geographic location, ethnic origin, or period of time. You can review the descriptions of the groups that match your search critera and submit a request to join the group. Another way to discover relevant groups is through matching with other participants. If your genetic profile closely matches another participant, and they belong to a group, chances are you might find that group of interest as well.
Do I need DNA results to join a group?
No. You can join a group as long as a you have an Ancestry.com username and password. As a member, you can contribute your knowledge of the shared family history through photos, videos, stories, and more. You can also view the Group's DNA comparisons - though you would benefit the most with DNA results of your own so that you can compare your profile with others in the group.
Do my DNA results have to be from Ancestry.com to join a group?
No. You can always enter your 3rd party DNA results into the DNA system, free of charge. Your DNA results will be distinguished from Ancestry.com's DNA results by an asterisk to indicate the results have been manually entered. But for the purposes of comparing DNA either as a group or with other participants, all DNA results are treated equally.
Will I be able to import my Famly Tree DNA group into Ancestry.com?
At this time, we do not support the automatic transfer of groups from Family Tree DNA or other vendors.
What types of DNA Groups does Ancestry.com offer?
Most DNA-oriented groups on the Web focus on one DNA test or the other (Y-chromosome or mitochondrial DNA.) These groups focus their functionality almost exclusively on displaying the groups DNA data and offer very little flexibility.
Ancestry.com's DNA Groups should be thought of foremost, as a collection of members who can actively participate in the activities of the group. DNA Group members are encouraged, but not required, to have their own DNA results and are free to contribute family history information in the form of pictures, video, discussions, and more.
Surname Projects, Mitochondrial groups, and Ancestral Location/Geographic groups, are the traditional names for DNA-based groups supported by Ancestry.com.
How can I view Mitochondrial DNA for my Group?
We are currently working on the views necessary to display mitochondrial DNA results. Check back in the coming weeks and we'll indicate when these feature are available.
How is Group Privacy protected?
Only the members of the group can view the content (photos, message boards, videos, etc.), see the group's roster of members, and review the group's DNA results. Gaining membership to the group is controlled by the Administrator(s) who must approve each request. The only public information is the Group's Profile which contains the description of the group and useful search terms to help make the group easier for prospective members to find.
Who is "My Family" and how are they related to Ancestry.com DNA Groups?
The My Family service, along with Ancestry.com, is part of The Generations Network. DNA Groups combines features from MyFamily.com with those from Ancestry.com to provide a full-featured social group where members can exchange family history information in the form of pictures, videos, audio, stories, and discussion, as well as organize, review, and analyze the group's DNA.

Terminology

What is the difference in a marker and an allele?
The particular region of the DNA that is analyzed is often referred to as a locus or marker. It can be thought of as the address on the chromosome for example, DYS 441. The value detected at the marker is the allele value . For example, a segment repeated 15 times at marker DYS441 is written as (marker) DYS441 (allele) 15.
When comparing multiple individuals to determine if a common ancestor is shared, the allele values of each of the markers tested are compared.
My test result only lists a single value for DYS19, but your input screen asks for DYS19a and DYS19b - where do I input my value?
If you have only one value at marker location DYS19, formerly known as DYS394, enter that value as the DYS19a value. Less than 5% of the population have two values at the DYS19 marker - a typical result is 10-12 (or 10,12). To accommodate for all of our users, we have provided space for both a double reading and a single reading at this marker. In the case of a 10-12, the user would enter the 10 into DYS19a and the 12 into DYS19b.
Follow this same instruction for entering DYS389I and DYS389II.

Results Analysis

I was told that my mtDNA results revealed heteroplasmy at one site, what are the medical implications of this observance?
There are no medical implications due to a heteroplasmic observation. Heterosplasmy (multiple peaks at a single site) are simply an extra tool in looking at maternal lineage comparisons.
I do not have any observable difference to the rCRS, can this test be accurate or useful?
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) was first sequenced in 1981 by Frederick Sanger in Cambridge, England and subsequently revised and published as the revised Cambridge Reference Sequence (rCRS). A group under Dr. Sanger sequenced the mitochondrial genome of one individual of European descent. The rCRS has become the reference standard against which all mtDNA sequences are compared. Having no differences from the rCRS is just as useful as having multiple differences. If the CRS had been created using a person of African or Asian descent, then your observable differences would be different. Having no differences from the rCRS helps narrow down maternal lineages and haplogroups.
How is the list for Paternal DNA Matches calculated?
The "Paternal DNA Matches" screen displays matches in a ranked order based on the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) between the user and the individual in the list. MRCA refers to a statistical calculation that determines the likely range of generations in which two individuals share a common ancestor. MRCA calculations are based on the number of markers tested, the number of matching values and the mutation rate of the markers (see chart below). Ancestry.com DNA uses marker-specific mutation rates, where available, in its MRCA calculation to provide a more precise analysis (as opposed to an average rate). This calculation does not take into account the surnames of the individuals involved. Therefore, it is possible that a 40/43 with a different surname will match more closely than a 42/43 with the same surname -- depending on the specific markers where the mismatch occurs.

Contact Ancestry's DNA Service

How do I contact Customer Service?
To contact us by e-mail, address your message to: dna@ancestry.com
You may also contact our DNA Customer Service Center
  • United States Monday - Friday, 8 am - 8 pm, Mountain Time 1-800-958-9124
  • Canada Monday - Friday, 8 am - 8 pm, Mountain Time 1-800-958-9073
  • UK Monday - Friday, 3 pm - 7 pm GMT 0-800-404-9723
  • Australia Monday - Friday, 7 am - 11 am AEST 1-800-251-838
  • New Zealand Monday - Friday, 7 am - 11 am AEST 0-800-442-100