Posted by Anne Gillespie Mitchell on April 3, 2015 in AncestryDNA, Ask Ancestry Anne

fan chart with DNA hints

We get a lot of questions about DNA.  Here are 5 of the most common and the answers:

1. Is it true that only men can take the test?

AncestryDNA is an autosomal DNA test that tests 22 pairs of Autosomal testing allows you to find family across all lines in your family tree. That means both men and women can take the test, and the results are not limited to just the direct maternal or paternal lines.

2. I’ve done my DNA test and I’ve seen my ethnic breakdown.  Now what?

Check out the information on the history of these regions by clicking on each ethnic region and explore the history of the people your DNA matches. Remember these results can go back 500-1000 years ago.

Start building your tree. And build it wide.  If you work on only one branch you may be missing cousin hints from all those other branches.  And be patient.  You never know when that cousin you need to make a breakthrough will take the test and show up in your hint list!

3. I’ve been told where my ancestors come from, but AncestryDNA tells me something different. How do I know what to believe?

Your family tree stretches back hundreds of years, and AncestryDNA can reach back hundreds, maybe even a thousand years, to tell you things that aren’t in historical records—things you might never have known otherwise.  And if you’ve been told that you were Irish or German or some other background, it may be so far back that those markers didn’t make their way to your DNA.

4. My sister and I have different ethnic percentages. How can that be?

This is actually very common.  You get about 50% of your DNA from your mom and 50% from your dad. But which segments of DNA make up that 50% are completely random, so the odds are actually against you and your sibling getting exactly the same segments of DNA from each parent.  You’ll match as being a very close family connection, but your ethnic breakdowns can, and will, be different.  And you may also connect to different people with DNA hints.  That’s why testing more people is always a good idea!

5. I’ve always been told that I am Native American.  But your DNA test says I’m not.  What gives?

There are a few possibilities.  First, maybe that is simply a family myth. Second, it is possible that your Native American ancestry is far enough back that not enough of it was passed down to you for the test to detect.  If your parent didn’t receive any Native American markers in the 50% of the DNA that came from his parent, then you can’t have it either.  Third, you may come from a Native American ancestry that isn’t being identified by our tests.  Don’t ignore good old-fashioned research.  There is always more than one way to get to an answer.

Happy Searching!

Anne Gillespie Mitchell

Anne Gillespie Mitchell is a Senior Product Manager at Ancestry.com. She is an active blogger on Ancestry.com and writes the Ancestry Anne column. She has been chasing her ancestors through Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina for many years. Anne holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook and Finding Forgotten Stories.

78 Comments

  1. Dee Grimsrud

    Hi Anne, I have a totally different Native American DNA problem: My sister’s test results say that she has less than 1% Native American ancestry, which is just not possible. All of our ancestors are European, and all emigrated to the U.S. after 1840; primary source research verifies this. What could explain this test result? Did someone in the lab sneeze on her sample?! 😉

  2. Eleanor Vanover Best

    I have been working on my ancestry tree and had my DNA done. It states I have no Native American but my paternal grandmother was to have been 100% Cherokee. Is this at all possible? This is a great site but get frustrated when I find information put it in my tree and find it may be wrong. I feel my tree is totally messed up. Can anyone help me?

  3. George F. Lee

    My Grandmother has well established link to English Royalty back to the late 15th century. Will the DNA testing prove with any certainty that this is true ?

  4. I want to hire someone to find out were my family lived and i am almost sure they left money,land and i was told railroad bonds were left for me and my family. Some people are trying to keep me from finding out. They have a lot of resources at there disposal please help me the last 3 years have been total hell for me and my family and no one will help me

  5. Timothy Day

    I still haven’t realized that my tree goes back to Roman times. A friend said “Every body is related to those Kings & Queens”, but there had to be surfs, and other people that took care of the Kings & Queens.

  6. I paid for 4 DNA tests but my son threw the paper away with the numbers on them, Is there any way they can still be run. It was DNA on my son, grandson, granddaughter, and daughter-in-law

  7. I took the dna test and it did not reveal my native American ancestry im part creek indian john flower was 1/2 creek indian it in the dawes rolls also why did my dna not show this

  8. How does DNA interact with our ansesters? Even tho we don’t have that same last name well not all the time but sometimes what does it have to de with

  9. How does DNA interact with our ansesters? Even tho we don’t have that same last name well not all the time but sometimes what does it have to deal with

  10. Joyce Robbins

    My parents are native American indian. Lenape tribe of DE ( my father). my mother maybe Nanticoke., and her grandmother is native American indian. I don’t know what my % is. Can you help. Thanks

  11. Hi, my ancestry has been traced back by my cousin in Tennessee. It seems that on my Grannys side through my mother our ancestry is traced through The last name of Puckett to Sam Houston of Texas to I am not sure if it is Louis or Clark but through an Indian Princess. Could you give me her name and does this sound possible.

  12. Cynthia B. Williams

    Why do my DNA test result do not show my real blood line history. My family bloodlines are not from Africa but we are from a European country and the results do not show do not my Native American blood lines when there is more then 50% Native Indian and 45% of Caucasian and but my DNA test did not show this. Did the person do the test right . I don’t trust your process of testing.

  13. Vivian chamberlain

    Which test is best for the Male Y results? I paid for 4 tests and got mostly the female branch.

  14. ceedee

    My grandmother was on a reservation and was half Indian but I don’t show anything in my DNA results. I have no faith in your test.

  15. Jan Gates

    Does Anne provide any follow-up to these articles. I don’t recall her ever responding to the comments. If that’s the case then maybe turn off the comments because it looks like people are asking questions they would really like help on.

  16. suzan martell

    My dna also didn’t show my Indian heritage, or my first cousins. Very dissatisfied. I want my money back.

  17. Dan Martino

    I have always had my doubts about the accuracy of DNA testing and the above comments SURE reinforce my doubts.

  18. Russell

    @Eleanor Vanover Best,

    “This is a great site but get frustrated when I find information put it in my tree and find it may be wrong. I feel my tree is totally messed up. Can anyone help me?”

    If you are simply importing information from other “trees” and not actually verifying what others have put into their trees, then things can get really messed up. I have found that much of what others put in their “trees” can be quite messed up. This seems to propagate itself the more people do it. My rule is this: If I cannot verify what someone has put into their “tree” then I do not put it into mine. I have found all sorts of errors in others’ “trees.” Look for documents, census data, court records, wills, family history, books, LDS database, county clerk records. Look for the sources of data in others’ “trees” and if the sources can verify what is in a “tree,” then import it. If not be cautious about importing into your tree.

  19. rockboy47

    Well, I have to say that I have been very happy with the testing (and no, I’m not a hired plant here for positive comments). Maybe I was lucky some, but I had also done lots of research for 10-15 years before the testing. Remember that you have 8 great grandparents, 16 great greats, 32 3rd greats, and so on. I have found that I match up very well with certain branches of those 32 lines, and not particularly well with others because as stated in the article above, some of that DNA gets squeezed out thru the generations. You may know a lot about one or two of your 32 lines, but your DNA profile could be telling you that you get more of your actual DNA from one of the lines you know nothing about. I also get a bunch of matches to “mystery ancestors” I don’t have in my tree, but after much further digging I sometimes find them living very close to ancestors I have “confirmed” from actual records. Maybe there’s a first wife I don’t know about that I descend from rather the wife that shows up in later records. I do know one thing…just this week I had a new 4th cousin match (turned out to be a 3rd cousin, BTW) that I checked into. They had one name and a location that matched up with me I thought. They knew very little about that branch of their family, even back 2 generations. I had everything they needed (from the good old fashioned research) to match them to a sibling of my great grandfather and open them up to info back several hundred years to colonial times. So there’s that – you may find thru your matches, that someone else out there holds the key to unlock your mysteries.

  20. rockboy47

    One more thing – I have also been told (and always heard from the relatives) that one line of my family was Cherokee and that someone 5 generations back was a Cherokee princess. I have never found any evidence of it in the actual historical records though. No Native American DNA shows up in my test either or others I have talked to who descend from that line. Like someone else above said – don’t accept it as fact until you have documentation. I can’t explain the folks above who say their parents were or grandparent was, but if the Native American story goes back 5 or so generations it could be a family myth.

  21. DONNALEE

    How can I find out just how much the DNA test costs? I need to know this in order to determine if I can afford to proceed with it.

  22. John Turner

    Anne,
    I thought that when getting my DNA test done, that I would get a marker set back which tells me where and to whom I am related. I guess this is not true and how do I get that? Do I pay to have it done all over again? All I get so far is what you tell me I am related to through everyone else’s inputs to their family tress,etc.
    John

  23. Roger Ann Craig

    Grandmother Sally Kirkwood Lee buried in Trinidad,Col. Dec.27,1887 what happened to Grandfather Thomas Lee

  24. Edward Boucher

    when I sent in my DNA I was excitd about what I would get back. I had 2 large Irish families that came over in the early1900″s. Lots of grand paren, aunts and uncles.
    I was totally disappointed when I got back one third generation relative… what happened to all the first and secone generation aunts, uncles, cousins that I had expected to receive.. they do exist but your DNA results were very poor in discovering any of them Why bother with your “supposedly” excellent retrieval of evidence that never comes?????

  25. ferdinand

    To all the anglos who are not happy when their DNA comes back and reveals they have no Native American DNA, it’s because you do not have any. DNA tells a story some people do not want to hear.

  26. Deb Townsend

    Several years back, when DNA testing was in its much earlier stages I sent in my brother’s DNA for testing, and while the results for the male line didn’t help much her on Ancestry it did put me in contact with a member of The Townsend Society in Cape May, NJ. When I sent the result to them we were able to trace and confirm my immigrant ancestor as the youngest of 3 brothers who settled in Cape May in the 1600s. But I was always disappointed in the maternal test which really told me nothing back then. Would it be worthwhile for me to pay and run a DNA test on myself? I would luv to see the nationality information – at this point I am fairly certain that I am close to one quarter Swedish from my maternal grandfather’s side, but the other 3 quarters are quite a hodge-podge. Is there anything else a test might tell me to make another one worthwhile?

  27. Jackie

    I want to respond to the folks who say there is no evidence of their American Indian ancestry. The way I understand DNA testing is there has to be a history of that DNA by others before the line can show up on your personal test. DNA data bases are missing some lines of DNA samples: for example, Cherokee bloodlines. I read an article that said the tribe had taken a position to not have blood lines tested and put into data bases. With that being the case, it will not show up because the data base doesn’t have a ” pool” to match you to.
    My sister had her DNA done and it showed a % of Anashinabe DNA. I think that the proper name for a tribe, possibly Dakota. If you don’t know that you may sees it on your results and not know what it is.
    Before I read today’s article my sister and I thought our results would be the same, but since we each get50% of our personal DNA from each parent, our percentages could in fact be different.

  28. Jack Schippers

    I was wondering what i have to do to get my DNA tested and where i would have to go to get it done im from Big Rapids, Michigan and would like to get this done. Also what is the price?

  29. Annie

    DNA is just the start of your search for family history, members, info. Don’t be mislead into thinking it’s the answer. DNA is a guide, from which you can begin researching, connecting, exploring. The work remains with you to gather all you can to learn more about “Who Do You Think You Are”. It can be both fun and frustrating at the same time. Just be patient and try to work through it. Stories, truth, unfolds slowly, but it’s worth it if you really need or want to know. Happy Researching!

  30. David Smith

    For all those who wondered the DNA test was $99 plus roughly $15 S&H. There are deals around holidays like $20 off. As far as I know the tests are very accurate and having an advanced degree in science I believe what they say because science means it has to be re-testable and have the same results. I’m old American from early 1700’s on my Dad’s side. First settler of Kentucky and grave sites to prove it. My Wife is Ecuadorean. By doing simple Google searches you can find a lot. I spent hours doing my Smith Research and within an hour found my wife’s entire history by the Ecuadorean Genealogy Society. Of course I had to translate it. More interesting was I thought I might be English. Wrong, I’m Irish and fits into my tree from G..G..Gma etc. You might get washed out but again you have to look at history and understand it. It helped me make a leap to understand I’m an Ulster Scot because of religion and verifying texts. In my opinion LDS have the same records as Ancestry. My Mother’s family is from Alsace Lorraine, Hungary, Austria then Yugoslavia. Try searching that. I found some really good sites but unless you were rich or a land owner good luck. Even then so many wars destroyed a lot of records. I appreciated the Ecuadorean Genealogy Society for preserving my wife’s ancestry because they always had church records. Point is the DNA Tests are real and as a scientist I at least understand the genetics

  31. Karen Davis

    Hi. I’ve had my DNA tested. I’ve now purchased 3 more tests for 3 of my siblings to do. I belong to Ancestry.com. They do not. Each test has a certain number generated for it. I have to inset “Participant Name”. Will I enter my name because I’m the participant? I need these results to come back to me for building the family tree.

  32. Ruth Knapman

    My uncle and I both had our DNA done by another company before Ancestry started doing DNA testing. I was told by the other company that American Indian will show up as’asian’. My male cousin and I show a % of asian in our Ancestry DNA testing. Does that mean there is Am. Indian blood in our line? I can’t believe DNA sampling can show which tribe however!

  33. David Smith

    By the way I also endorse those who want to only copy I like many other explore branches by putting in names to see the results. My experience is a lot of people don’t back up claim. We are all related to George Washington who had no children.

  34. David Smith

    My wife has a lot of pride and didn’t want to be Indian which goes against this thread of BS. She’s 34%

  35. David Smith

    Karen Davis if you buy the test log the test the test is yours. I’ve done the same thing

  36. David Smith

    Karen Davis, after rereading your post I see you are confused by this post which is really about an ancestry hired person. I suggest you go back to the main ancestry page. I did the same thing as you. If you buy a test for others means you want the results. Therefor you log the number etc. If they want to see it the have to set up an account which is free.. But you will always have the info you search for.

  37. Susan

    I haven’t seen any question answered-what is the value of this comment area?? I did the DNA test with you but never had anything closer than 4th + cousin and never with a matching surname at all for any line. Also, first was told I was W. European and British Isles-makes sense. Then Ancestry DNA changed how they look at results and the results make no sense now. So far, haven’t found a single help with this test and had it done 2+ years ago. Can not recommend this test if my experience is at all typical.

  38. Becky Todd

    People expecting AMERICAN Indian DNA should realize if rely one one ancestor. many tribes took slaves and adoptees.Much as those which make up what is considered Cherokee. In the Virginia and west Virginia and adjacent kentucky mountains I found hollers property which still have No land deed possession transfered only by last name and that only given to the males whereas the female children maintained their mothers last name. To assure the land stayed with family name. Land procured by scots ,English ,German ancestors taking a native american bride to obtain the land. I assume this practice was perpetuated even through Carolina, Tenn and Alabama since at one point one avoided relocation by WHITE or the presumption of WHITE blood. I was given the knowledge that where I am many wealthy socialites I shall call them in the day back then if one had a darker skinned child that child went to an auntie to raise along with the gardener or other outside servants whom were actually cousins.Thus if a lighter skinned child appeared amount the darker skinned outside working relatives that child was sent to an auntie to raise for inside servant or luck out as playmate cousin and step up into society with the actual parents withheld especially if this is a darker sister or brother the child comes from. To appear white was at a time their way to be accepted and retain land or not to be dragged west for american Indian blood. Those wealthy proud of pocohontus blood heritige were not going to lose their homes for blood they were proud of blood that bought them their homes.Many his with the Native Americans also after capture and enslavement or adoption refuse to leave after being freed.Consideration must be given as in those. Scotts Etc.. hiding and immigrating as English and Dutch etc.. These scenarios are what these DNA tests can reveal.
    I still would like to know more about these DNA testing . My fathers father was at least half Of native american. I had found true tales my fathers paternal half brother told me about he live with his g and ggmother whom spoke native tongue and told him things only recently have things come together his gmother was almost totally blind light hurt her eyes she only came outside on cloudy or moonless night. I assume she had macular degeneration my father also had that. He told me of picture of her and Alexander who was fromSaponi Reno He was Oconeeche hi families had migrated south then fled to canadian tribes returned and settled at natural bridge arch virginia from there left his tribal family group took his wife and family was cotracted worked as pathfinder for to take trappers to trap tan and bring furs back along ohio river to return safe passage furs to Transylvania fur Co. He brought women and the settlers pushing carts(Norman)tagged along with what he was employed to grant french canadians come down with safe passage through the daniel boone trail to trap and he Took his family with him he bought and tanned furs guaranteed safe passage of rhe furs back with the military inway they dressed gmother wore her hair braided as a large brim hat.Smithsonian had poitraits of them. I saw published in green edition funk and wagnals encylopedic Lucretia had a white fur stole around her shoulders turned to one side exhibiting her imaculate hair long reaching down probably past her waist with a twist on the end I believe her left side. It was an old encyclopedic in the 1960s I believe maybe a 30s-40s edition found 2nd hand when I was young. I her picture online I lost Samsung galaxy I saved location on her picture was among a group of photographs entitled Cherokee Indians unknown there was a note asking if anyone was recognized. I recognized several other pics formerly that had subtitle names. The name at the base of her pic use to be Lucretia. She died in 1908 Mobile Al. I found frequent misspellings even Luqcia in census records.

  39. Nancy B

    My personal response to comments, just a user: The only cousins that you get info on were those with enough $ to pay for their own DNA test! My family is tightwads so I was surprised to find one who was also building a tree on ancestry.com. If you want more cousins to show up on the list, bother them to take it. Maybe they’ll show up with the Native American genes, you might just need data from more of your family. Don’t believe the ancestry.com DNA results? There are other companies, try one or two of them, see if they agree or differ. Don’t like ancestry.com? I think there are some other genealogy sites.
    BTW, Ancestry Anne, does our on-line AncestryDNA update as more people take the test, and if so how often?

  40. David Penrod

    You fooled me once, I bought the DNA test, pitiful results, which Ancestry has now thrown away and says pay again and get our new improved test. Sorry, but I will wait until DNA tests and people involved get good enough and big enough to provide decent results. Then maybe I will have saved up enough money to try again. At the moment I just feel ripped off.

  41. Ted Rood

    I have no ancestors from previous generations, that have ever taken DNA tests. How. Is it possible to look in to my genealogy, using your DNA test, if this is the case?

  42. A Tatum

    My grandson’s great grandfather said that his mom was half Native American. However, when I had my grandson’s DNA tested, it did not show any Native American results. I trust that the great grandfather was truthful and am disappointed in these results.

  43. Hank Garner

    Hi Anne, Ancestry DNA helped me cross 2 huge chasms that have been dogging me since 1973. But I see nowhere to share my excitement. You should setup a “DNA successes” blog. Hank

  44. Sam

    Hello Ann what if I have already a DNA test with Ancestry do I have to take another test? or could they ues my same test.

  45. stanley shack

    What does a dna test cost and how long would it take to get some basic results/ Mr pete Rosen traced my father ancestry back to 1785. My mother I traced miself to 1870. What do you need for a DNA test, would hair do, sliver?Blood, spit? Coould my dna be traced back to Jesus tribe. I have been told I am a direct desendent of the same two tribes that jesus came from, Ben,joseph house of david. Jesus had four brother, and three sisters . I may be related to James the chief rabbi in Jerusulem Jesus brother . Can that be established through DNA TESTing/

  46. Lorraine

    I really question the accuracy of the DNA test. I now live in the states, I was born in the UK to ENGLISH parents, I am ENGLISH, and my information states: “How Lorraine compares to the typical person native to the Great Britain region 37% to a typical native 60%. I am a ‘typical native’ !!! I just moved here to the US a short while ago. How can you explain these stats???

  47. rickey stephens

    I have taken the DNA test and after 8 months I have 32 DNA Circles and about 186 DNA matches out of a family tree of 2400 people. All these matches have been from my mothers side of the family. I have not found any Stephens DNA links from my tree. Other folks have said they have Stephens DNA results with some of the same names in both trees. ????????

  48. My father’s mother was one half Cherokee, so we children should have shown up with some markers of Native American. But from my DNA, test none was shown. Went to the Oklahoma Cherokee museum and found 63 people with our last name listed on those rolls from the Trail of Tears march. Something does not sound true.

  49. Joanne

    Seems like a lot of people have unrealistic expectations from DNA testing and need to study up on how it works. And as pointed out, if few in your extended family have taken the test your results will be limited. Seems like everyone blames ancestry for that. And while DNA testing might help you build your tree you can’t expect a DNA test to do it for you. Genealogy can be hard work.

  50. Is this for asking a question? My paternal grandfather had 4 kids, siblings, who are deceased. Each of those kids has 2 to 5 living children. How much better would it be to get a DNA test from two children of each sibling instead of from one child from each sibling? Diminishing return?

  51. David Dressel

    I have locks of hair from two deceased family members, can Ancestry/DNA use hair samples in lieu of saliva samples?

  52. wendy

    I was told my DNA shows 98% European Jewish
    How is this determined?…how does this differ from DNA
    from same regions (Germay/west -to Russia/east)not
    “jewish”…

  53. Brenda

    My family history says that I should have a great-great grandmother who was Cherokee. I haven’t found anything in the census records that supports that claim and my DNA test didn’t show up any Native American genes (it was all European). However, I have had several dental molds over the the years and they show that I have shovel-shaped incisors. According to my Physical Anthropology class (a really long time ago), shovel-shaped incisors are indicative of Native American heritage. Doing a search online these days shows that those can be East Asian or Native American. A recessive trait that doesn’t necessarily show up in a DNA test, maybe?

  54. Billie

    was wondering if Ancestry has been trying to or has thoughts about finding DNA from specific tribes? is there any chance we can get pure tribal DNA at this point?

  55. Ruby CollinsEisenring

    I have been collecting research on my Collins’ side of the family for several years. I recently did my DNA only to find that my grandfather Jack Collins was not my biological grandfather. Frustrating not being able to find who my fathers’ father was. Now my tree is off the wall as all the cousins’ that I grew up with are not my DNA cousins. Can you give me pointers on how to find my DNA grandfather etc.

  56. Rose

    How accurate are the test? How do I know they are not lying? How much is the shipping cost and tax cost and the total amount?Thanks, in advance

  57. Rose

    Also I was wondering how do I get my own record of it if I got it? I would want my own copy and would want to be able to access it at any time.

  58. Steve Tomporowski

    There is a rumor in my family that my maternal grandmother (who disappeared before I was born) was Jewish. Should the DNA test have picked this up? I was analyzed as 96% Eastern European and 3% Scandinavian.

  59. How do I get the DNA results with the Haplog (sp?) information and since I have my Ancestry.com done, can the same sample be used or do I need another sample?

  60. Dale Lay

    My wife has been tracing the DNA sample I submitted. Her membership email is jjockasu@gmail.com. One complete branch of my family is missing. Specifically the link between my Grandfather William Robert Lay and any other Lay member of the family. What could be happening?

  61. Jessica Murray

    Dale, I had to hide your message because we have a strict policy that does not allow personal/account information to be shared on our blog. I asked our member services team to look into your account but they were unable to find an account under your wife’s email address. Please contact member services at 1-800-262-3787, if you’re in the U.S. If you’re located outside the U.S. you can find our list of contact numbers here: http://c.ancestry.com/Affiliate/Knowledgebase/contact/contact.html.

  62. Debbie De Long

    I sent in my sample after following the instructions exactly waited anxiously for 8 weeks then got an e mail that said ” After several attempts we could not process your sample” very disappointing what does that even mean?

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