What is Ancestry DNA?
AncestryDNA is a company that offers genealogy testing. They test their customers’ DNA and use the results from this to provide information about their genealogy.
A person’s genealogy is their ancestral history, essentially, who and where they are descended from. Many people want to know this information for their personal interest, especially if they don’t have much information about their family history.
There are many companies that offer DNA testing and genealogy services. However, Ancestry DNA is the largest and most successful of these companies, claiming to have over 2 million customers.
How does it work?
Ancestry DNA operates online through its website. After ordering a genealogy test, customers will be sent a kit that includes a saliva tube.
The customer must then fill this tube with their saliva. It is from this that the DNA used in the test will be sourced. The cap of the tube contains a chemical that preserves the saliva, so it doesn’t degrade whilst being sent back to Ancestry DNA.
The tube must be filled so that there is plenty of it, which allows retesting if a mistake is made in the first test.
This prevents delays from having to send another kit to the customer. The saliva tube must then be returned to Ancestry DNA, which is done by post. It is then taken to the lab for DNA testing to take place.
Once the saliva tube reaches the lab, it is DNA tested. This process is very simple and is the same across all genealogy testing companies. It involves detecting specific DNA markers in the DNA, which are associated with people from a particular area.
The information from these markers can be combined to build up a picture of which parts of the world a person’s ancestors came from, and hence where they are descended from.
There are three types of DNA that can be used in genealogy testing:
- autosomal DNA
- mitochondrial DNA
- Y chromosome DNA.
Ancestry DNA uses autosomal DNA in its tests.
What information is provided?
The results of the genealogy test will provide a percentage of different ethnicities that the customer is descended from. AncestryDNA test for 26 different ethnicities. These are:
- Native American
- Europe East
- Europe West
- European Jewish
- Finland/Northwest Russia
- Great Britain
- Iberian Peninsula
- Africa North
- Africa South-Central
- Africa Southeastern Bantu
- Ivory Coast/Ghana
- Middle East
- Asia Central
- Asia East
- Asia South
The result will be a combination of some of the ethnicities. Also, the customer will be informed about any potential relatives who have also taken the genealogy test.
AncestryDNA suggests that the results of the test will provide a good starting point for customers who wish to further research their family history and that it may help to increase the understanding of family history already gained from previous research.
The results of the genealogy test will be available between 6 and 8 weeks after the lab receives the saliva tube. When the genealogy test is complete, the customer will be emailed to inform them, and they can then view the results on the Ancestry DNA website.
These results are password-protected so that they remain confidential.
AncestryDNA also allows its customers to build family trees using the software on the website. This then allows them to discover ancestors that they may not have known about.
This can happen when they are matched with any potential relatives who have taken the genealogy test and have also created their family tree.
This can allow customers to discover relatives that they may not have known about, as well as to see their relationship to the relatives who built the family tree, by tracing along the branches of the tree. There are 70 million family trees on Ancestry DNA, so there is a good chance that customers will have some relatives, however distant, in some of those trees.
There is also an option to provide information for each family member in the family tree. AncestryDNA also allows customers to search through databases such as birth records, death records, census data, immigration records, and military records.
This allows customers to learn more about their relatives whilst they create their family tree. This information is then available to other customers who are matched with that person, so they can see all the information about their ancestors and relatives.
How accurate is it?
The genealogy test runs on the DNA by AncestryDNA uses over 700,000 locations within the genome. However, the results are still an estimate. They cannot be said to be 100% certain, but they are statistically significant, which just means that there is a very high probability that they are correct.
For this reason, the results produced by AncestryDNA may be slightly different from the results given by another genealogy testing company. Other companies might perform the genealogy test slightly differently, maybe using different types of DNA – mitochondrial DNA or Y chromosome DNA.
They also might use different data on the markers that are used to detect different ethnicities. This can lead to different genealogy tests from different companies giving slightly different percentages of each ethnicity, but they should all produce fairly similar results.
Some other genealogy tests, such as 23andMe, allow the customer to change the confidence levels of their results. All this means is that they can change how confident they want the results to be, allowing them to view results that are more likely to be correct, as well as more speculative results. These speculative results may be correct but there is a lower likelihood of this. However, AncestryDNA does not currently have this function.
The future of Ancestry DNA
Of course, as time progresses and AncestryDNA attracts more and more customers, the amount of DNA in their database will increase. This will increase the chances of customers being matched to potential relatives based on their DNA. It will also increase the number of potential relatives that they are likely to be matched to.
It is therefore likely that AncestryDNA will become more and more successful as time goes on and they gain more customers.
Also, the number of customer-created family trees on AncestryDNA will increase as they gain more customers, who will all create their family tree. This will allow customers a greater chance of finding their ancestors after being matched will potential relatives. It will also increase the number of ancestors that customers are likely to be matched to.
AncestryDNA has also announced that they have intentions to begin testing customers’ DNA with regards to health. It is unknown exactly what form this test and its associated results may take, but they may be similar to the tests currently performed by many companies, which provide information about how customer’s genes affect their health and nutrition.
This is a newly emerging field of science, which is called nutrigenomics. The principle behind this is that people’s health is affected by their genes as well as their nutrition. Both nutrition and genes interact to produce a net effect on health. Therefore, certain lifestyle factors will affect different people’s health differently.
For example, a certain type of food may have a neutral effect on one person’s health, but a negative effect on a different person’s health. The same food may even have a beneficial effect on someone else’s health. AncestryDNA is currently in discussions with the FDA about the possibility of conducting these tests.
In the meantime, AncestryDNA allows its customers to provide information on the history of their family’s health. Customers are able to add health conditions, chosen from a list of common medical conditions to all the relatives that make up their family tree. This may allow customers who are matched to potential relatives to gain information about the health conditions that they may be at risk from.