We often hear the questions, “How does AncestryDNA work?” or “How do you take my spit and create these awesome results?” There are many ways to answer that question. There is a highly technical response with copious amounts of scientific data on the technology, the math and calculations, the reference populations, etc…
Many times, people just want to know the process. How do you take that tiny bit of saliva and turn it into a detailed story about my personal family history and amazing aha moments? Today, let’s try to answer that.
Of course, a personalized view into your ancestry starts with you. After you order your AncestryDNA test online, you will receive an AncestryDNA kit in the mail.
When your DNA arrives at the lab, it is scanned and put into a 6-8 week testing process. Each DNA sample goes through a complex lab procedure that could take 2 semesters of biochemistry to really understand, so we’ll give you the cliff notes.
- DNA extraction - Your saliva isn’t ready to test when it comes into the lab. So, the first process is to extract your DNA from the saliva. The best part about this: a robot is involved.
Now that the test is complete and we have your genetic code, the real magic happens. While the DNA test itself is a technological breakthrough in its own right, taking that data and providing meaningful information is the next frontier of innovation. This is where AncestryDNA provides the unique value to you. There are two main components of the analysis that we will just scratch the surface on here.
To determine your ethnicity, we compare your DNA to the DNA of people from all over the world who have been selected as a reference set of DNA. To be a part of the reference set, there is a very rigorous set of criteria, but basically, someone needs to have a long family history from a specific country or region. The diagram below gives an overview of the process.
Here are some key points about AncestryDNA ethnicity:
The other extremely powerful result from the AncestryDNA test is DNA matching. This is where we compare your DNA to the DNA of all the other people who have taken the AncestryDNA test in order to find people you are related to, which means you share an ancestor.
Here are some key points about DNA matching:
- Always updated – When you get your results, you will get a full list of people you may be related to. This will be updated continually as more people take the DNA test.
- Connected to family trees – It can’t be a DNA test for family history if it isn’t connected to the powerful family tree tools available on the largest online family history resource, Ancestry.com. We currently have over 20 million people in the family trees connected to DNA results.
- Hints, hints and more hints – When you get a DNA match, we automatically look within the family trees connected to the results to find who is your shared ancestor, the people that make you related. Sometimes it’s a great-grandparent, sometimes a great-great-great-great grandparent. If we find one, we will show you the familiar shaky leaf to give you the hint. We currently have over 3 million hints out to DNA customers.
Once the analysis is complete, your DNA results are posted to your Ancestry.com account and you will get an email to let you know they are available. This is when the anticipation ends and the aha moments begin.
To learn more about using your DNA results, check out this blog post from Crista Cowan, one of our resident experts in genealogy who also knows a thing or two about DNA.