Blog » AncestryDNA The official blog of Tue, 22 Jul 2014 14:31:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Reunions: Don’t Forget Your Camera — and a DNA Kit Tue, 15 Jul 2014 15:46:15 +0000 Anna Swayne Read more ]]> Summer is the time for reunions. School reunions, get-togethers with old friends, work parties with co-workers’ families we don’t often see, and, of course, family reunions. All of these bring people together to reminisce about the old days, reestablish relationships, and laugh about the embarrassing things that we did (or maybe didn’t do).

Reunion season this summer will be extra busy for my family. We just returned from a family reunion that we hold every year, (see picture below with just the grandkids). This year also has two milestone high school reunions: my Dad’s 50th and my brother’s 20th. Same high school, in fact. Family reunions are an especially good time to catch up on what’s happened in everyone’s lives and tell our favorite stories. I always learn something new when we have these gatherings.

18 grandkiddos

A couple of weeks ago at our reunion we had the 18 grandkids ask my parents questions. I rallied the kids ahead of time and had them write down two questions they wanted to ask Grammy and Papa. We sat in a circle while each kid read their questions and my parents answered. It was a riot to hear the questions the kids wanted answered. We wanted their full engagement, so we let them ask any questions they wanted. We filmed it and now we will forever cherish that time spent and the spontaneity of the questions and the responses. Then my dad asked each of the aunts and uncles (my siblings) to share a story we want our kids to know and pass along about us. That surprised me, because I hadn’t heard some of the stories that my siblings were sharing—and again, we now have it all recorded. I’m so glad that we took the opportunity as we were all together to share and preserve what we know today so the next generation can have it in our own words.

Not only are reunions a great time to exchange stories, relive old memories, and create new ones, but they’re a great time to get those hard-to-catch family members to take a DNA test. I have been trying to get my brother and his wife to take an AncestryDNA test, but they’re busy. Understanding this, I decided to bring them each a kit so I could help them. The hardest part was finding 30 minutes where we weren’t eating to take the test. Even though my sister-in-law doesn’t share DNA with me (that we know of yet), she is half of my cute little nieces and their history is important to me.

Have a reunion coming up? Don’t forget to get a DNA test for that grandparent, cousin, aunt, or uncle you haven’t been able to send one to. I learned from one of my mentors many years ago that it’s a missed opportunity if you don’t bring at least one DNA kit along. I’m glad I did.

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Today is World Population Day. How Diverse Are You? Fri, 11 Jul 2014 12:37:52 +0000 Anna Swayne Read more ]]> Today is World Population Day. Did you know that there are more than 7.2 billion people living today? The five most-populous countries are:

  • China, 1.39 billion
  • India, 1.27 billion
  • United States, 333 million
  • Indonesia, 253 million
  • Brazil, 202 million

So how did all these people end up living where they live? Population geneticists are researching this very thing. Think of your own personal migration. I currently live in the United States. How did I end up where I am today? Where were my people before? I can trace back from Idaho (where I was born) to my ancestors who were born across the U.S. — Missouri, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.  But those ancestors came from somewhere. I can follow certain lines back to England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. So those are populations that I will be celebrating this year. But that’s only what the written record says.

What does the record of my DNA say? In addition to those populations/countries I already know from written records, my DNA indicates that I also have Scandinavian roots. What does that mean? It means that if we go back 500+ years, I probably had ancestors living in Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Denmark) or people from the region came into the British Isles and mixed with the population there.

It doesn’t necessarily surprise me that I have Scandinavian roots, but it is something I didn’t know before. As I learn more about this particular population, I can turn to history (which I can find on my AncestryDNA ethnicity results page after clicking the region of Scandinavia) to learn more about the many voyages of the Vikings. The map below charts Viking travels and territories between 793 A.D. and 1066 A.D.

scandinavia viking routes

This gives me some perspective into a migration and a population in my personal history that I didn’t know much about until my DNA discovery. Scandinavia, Ireland, and Great Britain all show up in my results, but there are other populations that come up in my parents’ DNA results that didn’t show in mine, including Russia, Western Europe, and Italy/Greece.  Most individuals who get tested will have three or four different ethnicity regions represented in their DNA results, depending on their background and which DNA was passed down. (You can read more about how you inherit from each parent in this blog post.)

This map shows the 26 different ethnicity regions in the AncestryDNA database:


To celebrate World Population Day this year, take another look at your own DNA ethnicity results. Click on the ethnicity region and read more about the history of the people who you share DNA with. If you have Scandinavian DNA like me, read about the history of the Vikings. After I learned about my Scandinavian ancestry, I shared some of what I read with a few of my nieces and nephews. My 8-year-old nephew decided, “Well, that must be the reason I am very good at navigating on the water.” (He was referring to his paddle-boarding and canoeing skills.) Must be in his DNA because he think he is ready for his own voyage across the waters.

What have you learned from your DNA results? Share with us on Facebook or in the comments below.

Don’t have results yet? Don’t wait. Find out which populations you connect with through your DNA. #wpd2014

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Cousin Connection: AncestryDNA Connects Melyssa With Family Members in Pennsylvania Thu, 03 Jul 2014 17:14:57 +0000 Anna Swayne Read more ]]> July 24 is Cousins Day, and to celebrate we’re sharing some real-life cousin stories courtesy of AncestryDNA. These are folks who met cousins they never knew after contacting a match that appeared in their AncestryDNA results. An AncestryDNA match is determined by how much DNA you share with another individual.

Names can change, but DNA doesn’t

For Melyssa, it started with a question: “Who were my father’s people?” Melyssa had been researching for more than 30 years after she learned that her mother had been married before, and that she and her younger brother had joined her current family when she was three years old.

Initially, Melyssa’s mother explained that she had indeed been married before, then divorced. But, she said, her first husband had subsequently died and had no living relatives. After a few months of contemplating this, Melyssa decided that wasn’t enough, and she set out to find out who her birth father had been and his ancestors.

Eventually, hours of researching left Melyssa convinced that her father might be alive. More researching and phone calls left her with leads on two possible fathers: one in Florida and one in Pennsylvania. A visit with the Florida candidate provided a few more pieces to the story and eliminated him as her possible father. That left her lead in Pennsylvania, who didn’t want to pursue a possible connection. She tried several times over the years but got nowhere. Finally, two years ago she turned to DNA testing on her own to see what she could find out.

“My results clearly showed I am Norwegian, a region I never in a million years would have expected. My mother’s side is Irish,” Melyssa explained after viewing her ethnicity results. Then she turned to her cousin matches, focusing on the area where the man she thought might be her father had lived when she had contacted him last. Sure enough, by searching around New Castle, Pennsylvania, she found Claudia, a 4th-cousin DNA match, who used to be a Richards, her suspected father’s surname. She immediately contacted Claudia, explained a little about what she knew, and asked if she knew a David Richards. Claudia said she did and that she and David were cousins and had gone to high school together but didn’t know each other well.


Claudia shared her own research on the Richards family and helped Melyssa get into contact with a possible half-brother.

When they all met in Pennsylvania last summer at Claudia’s mother’s 85 birthday party, Melyssa’s potential sibling took the AncestryDNA test, which confirmed that he was in fact Melyssa’s half-brother.

Her father never did seem interested or wasn’t ready to meet. By time he found out that DNA had confirmed the relationship, he was very old and sick. He died just a few weeks ago.

“While I never got to see my birth father face to face, I have been able to meet my brother and other relatives, including my grandmother Richards, who passed away just months after us meeting,” Melyssa explains.  “I received information on grandparents and great-grandparents and have successfully taken my ancestry back to Norway — with photos!”

Melyssa attributes a lot of her success to Claudia, the cousin she met through AncestryDNA. The one who was able to hold her hand, help answer her questions about the missing links in her family — and ultimately change her life.

Power of DNA: helping cousins connect to their past. 

Interested in taking the AncestryDNA test, order now!


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Top 5 Reasons to Take a DNA Test Wed, 02 Jul 2014 23:33:50 +0000 Anna Swayne Read more ]]> There are many reasons to take an AncestryDNA test  - below are top five reasons, in no particular order:

1. Learning Your Ethnicity

ethnicity estimateA question that each of us ask ourselves at least once in our life is, “Where did I come from?” Are you really Irish? Or are you Italian?

Anyone can discover what their ethnic origins are going back 500-1,000 years or more by taking an AncestryDNA test.

How can we do this? We take your DNA and then compare it to the DNA from the 26 different regions around the world.

After the comparison is made we then give you an estimate of which region your DNA matches up with. This estimate is based on research we have done today and may change as time goes on and more research is done as science and technology are advancing to help us discover more about ourselves. Read a recent story shared with us about how Lexi found a connection to one of her ethnic groups. What is your unique mix?

2. Breaking Through a Brick Wall

We are combining two powerful things — DNA and family trees — to provide a tool that can help us answer the questions we have about our story. Since we inherit DNA in a unique way (50% from mom and 50% from dad) the results are unique to each person and even a sibling wouldn’t have the exact same set of results that you would.

Julie and Susan had always thought they were 2nd cousins until recent rumors surfaced that perhaps their great-grandmother hadn’t provided all the details of who fathered her first born child (Julie’s grandfather). They wanted to know if DNA could help answer the question. Yes, it can, and we identified who else needed to take the test to provide a higher “confirmation” to their question. They took the test and the results were conclusive-yes, they shared the same great-grandfather and, yes, they were really 2nd cousins. They put that rumor to rest.

3. Leaving a Legacy

What is that one thing you wish you had from your grandfather or your great-grandmother? Or from any of your ancestors? Samantha J. from Florida said, “I wish I had their family photo album or the journal of my grandmother who emigrated in the early 1800s. I have now preserved those things for my kids and I believe for my descendants they are going to be asking if DNA testing was done on me. So, I took the test to preserve what I got. I don’t know everything they will find out, but I don’t want anyone shaking their fists up at me in heaven and saying, if only grandma would have spit into a tube so we knew what her DNA was telling us.”

chairWhen Samantha shared that with me, it got me thinking. I recently inherited a beautiful dining room table from my great-grandmother. She needle-stitched the chairs to have a matching set. When my mom called to ask me if I wanted it, she told me that she remembers having many special meals at that table. I was excited. Not only did I need a table, but it was something from family — it came with the stories. I also received the chair that she sat in to make the needlepoint. If only the table and chairs could talk — I would be rich with information.

DNA wasn’t available to be tested back then, but I agree with Samantha. I believe it’s one of those things if we don’t take advantage of it now someone will most likely be asking for it later and regretting that they don’t have it.

4. Connecting to a Cousin

Who has the wedding photo of your great-grandparents? Do you have all the information on all of your family lines? DNA testing is being used to connect with others who are working on the same family lines to network with each other, verify research that has already been done, and share stories and photos. Each of us has part of the story and it’s our job to share it with others. It’s an opportunity to use other tools that search other records — the genetic records inside us and then comparing ourselves to others. My AncestryDNA test lead me to a wonderful family treasure.

5. Making New Discoveries

dif recordsNo records available? If written records aren’t around to answer our questions, what is our next step? DNA is another record that is inside us, ready to tell us something unique about ourselves, and this genetic record can be tested to unlock a piece of our story. Each record has a purpose in providing us information and no other record, marriage, census or pension records can do what DNA can do.

The best part is that DNA is the record that keeps on giving. Once you take the test, your results are updated when AncestryDNA makes updates to the tools.



Why did you take the AncestryDNA test? If you haven’t taken it yet, why do you want to take an AncestryDNA test? Share with us in the comments below.


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Welcome to the Islands—Connecting to a Culture with AncestryDNA Wed, 25 Jun 2014 16:02:56 +0000 Anna Swayne Read more ]]> Lexi HawaiiDeep inside each of us is the story of our past. Lexi from California found out how her past and present connect through the AncestryDNA test. Lexi fell in love with the Hawaiian Islands years ago and visits annually.

“When I go to Hawaii, it feels like home.” She didn’t understand how deep that connection really was until recently—after she got her AncestryDNA results back and she saw that she had Polynesian in her ethnicity estimate. Lexi explains, “My dad was Chinese but he must have been more mixed than I thought, since Polynesian showed up in me and not my mom.”

Each time she visits Hawaii she is frequently asked if she is a local and this past trip, she was proud to say, “Yes, I am Polynesian.”  A connection only DNA could reveal.

“Now, knowing what I know, little things have caught my eye about the history of this culture and a region I now connect with in more than one way. Thank you, AncestryDNA—it’s so fascinating.”

We love hearing the stories of how AncestryDNA has helped you discover something you wouldn’t have known without it. Share your story with us here.

Want to learn about how DNA can help you discover more about your story? Visit the AncestryDNA homepage.

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Comments on Y-DNA and mtDNA Tests Thu, 12 Jun 2014 23:08:58 +0000 Ken Chahine Read more ]]> DNA_BlueTube-2


As many of you know, we announced last week that we’re retiring our Y-DNA and mtDNA tests.

Unfortunately, we didn’t explain clearly our rationale for our decision, which has led to confusion. We’d like to take this opportunity to share the thinking that went into our decision making process.


First, we’d like to clarify that we are not retiring our autosomal AncestryDNA test that we launched in May 2012. We are only retiring the Y-DNA and mtDNA tests* that we launched in 2007. While the Y-DNA and mtDNA tests launched genetic genealogy and led to many great discoveries, the autosomal test has opened even more possibilities for family history research. Therefore, our decision to retire the Y-DNA and mtDNA tests is a deliberate attempt to focus our resources on providing powerful family history research tools that use autosomal testing.

Second, as part of the decision to retire Y-DNA and mtDNA tests we were faced with another difficult decision of what to do with the customer samples. On the one hand, we understand the value of these samples to many of you. On the other hand, we take customer privacy seriously and, regrettably, the legal framework used to collect these samples does not allow us to retest or transfer those samples. Practically speaking, many of these samples are also no longer useable. For example, many of the swabs were exhausted of genetic material during our testing or the sample may be past its shelf life. In the end we made the difficult decision to destroy the samples and are committed to trying to find solutions to these roadblocks for future products 

We understand that many of you have spent years using the Y-DNA and mtDNA products for genealogy and no amount of justification will offer you comfort in our decision. It is our hope that our future products will convince you that the autosomal test is a powerful and useful tool for family history.


*The genetic results from these tests are available for customers to download until September 5, 2014.


UPDATE JULY 1, 2014: Due to recent site issues, we will be extending the period that MyFamily, MyCanvas,, Mundia, and the Y-DNA and mtDNA websites will be available. These sites will now retire on September 30, 2014. An email will be sent to all customers accordingly.


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Honoring the Dads in Your Family with AncestryDNA Thu, 05 Jun 2014 23:32:29 +0000 Anna Swayne Read more ]]> gwillym_charles_vaughan1912

This is a picture of my great grandfather, Gwillym Vaughan. Handsome…right? In honoring him this Father’s Day I want to do more research on him and those who came before him. Since I have had a DNA test done I can use AncestryDNA matching and search to find others who may share a common ancestor and extend my knowledge of that side of the family. DNA testing is just another tool in my bag to do research and discover more about my family.

How does it work?

Your DNA has been passed down from generation to generation to create you. Your DNA contains a unique record that has been passed down to you. We extract your DNA from the saliva and test over 700,000 markers. The DNA we are testing is called autosomal DNA and is inherited from your two parents (50% from Mom and 50% from Dad). To read more about inheritances of this type of DNA click here.

Using AncestryDNA has help me discover more about the Dads in my tree. I have connected to cousin, shared stories, pictures and have added more to my own story. It has changed the way I view my own history. Click here to read about one of my DNA stories.

Because you have inherited DNA from your ancestors, we can test your DNA and find something out about the ancestors who came before you. DNA is a record inside you that we can test so you can leave your legacy. Have yourself tested and other members of your family tested to find out more about your story. If you can have as many individuals in your family tested-the more you will find out.

Learn how to use DNA to search for the different surnames in your tree.

Buy a test for yourself or another family member.

Want the kit in time for Father’s Day? Buy before June 11th and choose expedited shipping.



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Got My DNA Results. Didn’t Know I Had… Wed, 04 Jun 2014 22:02:47 +0000 Anna Swayne Read more ]]> Every now and then we will find AncestryDNA users posting their experience of discovering their DNA results. We love seeing the stories on Facebook, videos and blogs going up online and sharing the AncestryDNA experience.  We saw one such video online from Matt S. and thought it would be a good idea to respond to him with a video from us. Watch below his live reaction to him looking at his result for the first time, and then watch my video response to his questions.

It’s fun to learn about each other and how the AncestryDNA test can impact our lives as we continue to discover more about our own story.

Now it’s your turn. Share your story with us here. Haven’t taken a DNA test? Learn more about AncestryDNA.

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6 Steps for Success in Working with Your AncestryDNA Matches Wed, 28 May 2014 19:14:40 +0000 Crista Cowan Read more ]]> I’ve been working with my AncestryDNA results for a couple of years now with great success.  Here are six steps you can use to find success with your AncestryDNA matches as well.

1.  Make sure your test is attached to a tree.

SettingsAncestryDNA reveals cousin matches whether you have a family tree attached or not.  However, in order to understand more about those cousin matches and encourage them to work with you to uncover your common ancestors, you need to have a public tree on and that tree needs to be attached to your AncestryDNA test. Check to make sure your test is attached to the correct person in your family tree by clicking on the SETTINGS button on “Your DNA Home Page.”

Are you looking for biological family members?  Create a tree with a “Biological Father” and “Biological Mother” listed as such so that others know that you are looking for biological family and not just that you don’t have a family tree online.

2.  Use the Hint feature to see those cousins with whom you have an identified shared ancestor.

HintsOnce your tree is attached to your AncestryDNA test, goes to work trying to identify common ancestors in your tree and the trees of your matches.  Use the Hints filter to discover where a shared ancestor has been identified in your trees. Review your tree and theirs to ensure that the research is solid. If you notice any discrepancies, contact your new-found cousin and invite them to work together to figure it out.

3.  Make notes so you can review later.


When viewing a match page, use the Notes feature to make note of actual relationships, common ancestors or suspected connections.  Once you save these notes, you can view them from the Member Matches page without having to click through to each individual match’s page. After I make a note I then click on the star so I can quickly filter to a list of matches I’ve reviewed and made notations about.

4.  Search by surname and look for patterns.


Once you’ve identified a match or two with the same common ancestor, spend a little time researching that family. Have you identified all of their children? Who did their daughters and granddaughters marry?  Now, use the Surname Search to identify your AncestryDNA matches who have those same surnames in their family trees.

5.  Check back regularly and sort by date to see newest matches.

SortByDateEvery time someone else takes the AncestryDNA test, we compare their DNA to yours to see if you are related.  If they are, we add them to your list of cousin matches.  (I have 196 new matches in just the last seven days.)  As each of these new people build out their family trees, the possibilities of shared ancestor hints showing up increases. Check back regularly and sort your list by date to see the new matches at the top of the list. Be sure to go back to the Hints filter regularly to see what new hints have turned up as well.

6.  Collaborate!  Collaborate!  Collaborate!


On the profile page for every one of your matches you will find a big green “Send Message” button. Use this to communicate with your matches. Introduce yourself. Ask questions about their research. Offer to share what you know. Establish a relationship. Once those lines of communication are open, you can begin working together to share additional information about your matches, looking for overlapping matches, surnames and locations that will help you triangulate connections on your family trees.

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Linking AncestryDNA to Trees – Now Even to Shared Ones Wed, 14 May 2014 22:07:10 +0000 Anna Swayne Read more ]]> To get the most out of your AncestryDNA results, you’ll want to link your test results to a family tree. That’s how you combine the power of DNA science with more than 40 million trees on Here are a few tips—and one new feature—on linking your results to trees.

Link Your DNA Results to a Shared Tree—New Feature

You can link your AncestryDNA test results to only one tree, but it can be any tree that you are an editor on. If you would like to link your DNA results to a tree that someone has shared with you, you will need to be an editor on this tree. Ask the individual who shared the tree with you to change your role to editor. They can change your role by clicking on the tree and then clicking Tree pages > Tree Settings > Sharing:

link your dna to editor tree

You can make sure you have your DNA results linked to the right individual by going to your DNA page, then looking right under the test subject’s name to see who the test is linked to:

setting tree is linked

Do you see where I’ve put a red box around “Linked to Betty Lousie Heuck”? If Betty H.’s test wasn’t linked to a tree it would say “Link to tree” here. You want to make sure you link the right DNA results to the right person. This will help AncestryDNA help you find the right common ancestor. If you need more help linking your DNA results to a tree, click here.

All of your DNA matches are generated based on how much DNA you share with the match. Linking your DNA to your tree lets Ancestry go behind the scenes and try to identify who the ancestor is that you and your match share. Ancestry will also search your match’s tree for surnames and locations that you have in common and display them for you.

Link Your DNA Results to a Tree That Gives You Maximum Return

To find a common ancestor you share with a DNA match, you need both an AncestryDNA test and an online tree. But what if you have more than one tree? Which tree should you attach your results to?

The obvious answer is the tree that includes the most ancestors for the person who took the test. For example, if you have your mother tested, you probably want to link that test to a tree that starts with your mother. Or, say you have four different trees, one for each grandparent, and you take the DNA test yourself. Which tree do you link to? In this case, I’d suggest making a new tree that starts with you and includes all four grandparents. Otherwise, you’ll be missing out on making connections on the three grandparent’s trees you don’t connect to.

The DNA we are testing has been inherited from your 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, 16 2nd great-grandparents, 32 3rd great-grandparents and so on. If you link results to the wrong tree, link them to only one side of your tree, or don’t link them to a tree at all, you aren’t maximizing your DNA results.

Why Can You Link DNA Test Results to Only One Tree?

There are limitations and the system isn’t set up to make those massive calculations if you can link multiple trees to one test because of the inherited patterns of this DNA. The easiest way to get around this is to link to a tree that starts with you. And remember: even though you can link test results to only one tree, you can link as many test results to one tree as you want. For example, I have a tree that starts with me and goes back several generations. It includes my siblings, my parents, and an aunt I have had tested, and I have linked all their test results to this tree so we can take advantage of all our matches. If you would like to merge a couple of trees, click here.

Tips for Success

  • Link your DNA results to a family tree
  • Link the DNA results to the right person in the tree
  • Make your tree public to share with others the possible connection with you
  • Have multiple family members tested

Now it’s your turn. Link your test to your tree if you haven’t already and double check that your results are linked to the right person. We wish you the best!

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