If you’re looking to find relatives you’ve never heard of, AncestryDNA is your best bet. That’s because the company has the largest DNA database out there. Since launching AncestryDNA in 2013, Ancestry has tested the DNA of more than 10 million people, which is more than half of the estimated 18 million people who’ve taken DNA tests worldwide, according to the International Society of Genetic Geneology.

Ancestry has been around long before it got into the DNA business. The Utah-based company got its start in 1996 building a network of genealogical data from historical records. Along with your DNA results, you can use these records to find relatives and discover your genealogy (for an additional fee, of course).

AncestryDNA is an autosomal DNA test, which is by far the most common test in the industry. Your autosomal chromosomes are the 22 of your 23 chromosomal pairs that are numbered by size and are shared with relatives on both sides of your parents’ family. Genetic genealogists say autosomal chromosomes are only accurate for relatives within seven generations or roughly 210 years from your birth.

chromosome colors wikimedia commons Wikimedia Commons

Your 23 pairs of chromosomes.

By testing these chromosomes, AncestryDNA determines your genetic cousins and child-parent relationships, and is 90-plus percent accurate when finding first and second cousins, but loses accuracy as the genetic relationship grows more distant. Some tests, such as Living DNA and 23andMe, look at the DNA from your mother, mtDNA, and from your father, yDNA, to pinpoint your lineage’s ancient migration pattern.

But if you’re like me and mostly interested in seeing your ethnic origins, AncestryDNA will do nicely. The test estimates your ethnicity by checking your DNA against people from more than 700,000 locations to see how much DNA you share. In other words, people you match with from regions across the globe are your very distant cousins. Ancestry even claims your ethnic results will only grow more accurate and detailed as they collect more data and DNA samples.

ancestry dna box Ancestry

The AncestryDNA box.

DNA Collection

Instead of taking a cheek swab, AncestryDNA’s kit collects your saliva so you can send it off for testing. Here’s what’s in the kit:

  • Saliva collection tube
  • Funnel
  • Cap with DNA stabilizing solution
  • Collection bag
  • Prepaid return mailer box
  • Instructions
ancestrydna kit box open Ancestry

What you first see when unboxing the AncestryDNA kit.

Collecting and sending off your DNA is pretty straightforward. Probably the most annoying part of the whole test is having to spit over and over again into the tube until it’s filled to the line. I personally prefer DNA tests that take a mouth swab over saliva, but this a small price to pay and way better than drawing blood. Also: Make sure you don’t drink, eat, or smoke anything for 30 minutes before spitting in the tube. (I waited an hour just to be extra careful.)

After it’s filled, remove the funnel and tightly screw on the DNA solution cap. This releases a solution that’ll preserve the DNA during its journey to the lab. Now, shake the tube for at least five seconds to even out the solution. Then seal it in the collection bag, stick it in the prepaid mailer box, and send it off.





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