Posted by Anna Swayne on April 25, 2016 in AncestryDNA

Today is DNA Day. Every year it gives us the opportunity to reflect on the advancements in genetics and celebrate science. This year we want to honor this day by sharing a video with you about how AncestryDNA is using the scientific method to advance DNA matching. We asked Dr. Catherine Ball, VP Genomics & Bioinformatics at AncestryDNA, to give you a behind the scenes look at how the science team processes and finds matches for AncestryDNA customers.

Have you ever wondered how AncestryDNA determines that two people are cousins and how closely they are related? Are they 1st cousins or 5th cousins? What is the science team at AncestryDNA doing to help you make new discoveries and improve the results for everyone who takes a DNA test? Watch to receive answers to these questions and more.

Click on the green banner in the video or click here to view the full (free) course at Ancestry Academy. Classes include everything from the ongoing science behind your DNA results to improving IBD estimation to testing and evaluating new methods. You won’t want to miss the level of detail in this course. Take time this, DNA Day, to learn a little bit more about how DNA can help you discover more about your family story. 

Haven’t taken a DNA test? Or want to buy one for a family member? Take advantage of the DNA Day Discount, 20% off AncestryDNA kits thru Tuesday, April 26th, 2016 (Offer for U.S. customers-only). To learn more and purchase an AncestryDNA kit click here.

Anna Swayne

Anna Swayne has 9 years of experience in the DNA genealogy world. At Ancestry, she leads efforts in developing education to help our community maximize their experience with AncestryDNA. She believes there is real power behind DNA and the story it can unlock for each of us. When she is not talking DNA you can find her hiking or cycling in the mountains or cooking at home.


  1. Jason Lee

    Want new DNA discoveries and improved results for everyone who takes a DNA test? A chromosome browser would help!

  2. sonofsoren

    Will original DNA customers be updated continuously as though they were new customers, or will there be update charges?

  3. joyce

    I also found that ny 2 x GGF had a name change when he went to work as an apprentice and took the name of the man he was apprenticed to. To make matter worse, his father was given the last name of GLAD due to being a soldier in the military. Had it not been for a 3rd cousin who knew of this history, we would have never figured out the ancestry of my Swedish lines. Swedish records can be very good but when you get thrown a curve ball like that it is not as easy. Patrynomic names can also be a nightmare

  4. Linda

    The ability to search DNA results by surname is not working! All searches return ‘no matches’

  5. Joyce

    One thing that concerns me is that they did not discuss the effect of endogamy and how an endogamous ancestral history will give you many more distant cousins than one would expect –and I have noticed they often show up as more closely related than they actually are. It concerned me when they said they were comparing some folks with LOTS of matches to their trees wherein many people may not have gotten “Over the hump” that allows them to find their cousins affected by endogamy.

    I mention this as i have one line that goes back to the Pilgrims and the very earliest settlers in this country…I have actually been able to help several people break down their brick walls by spotting one name in their tree that allowed me to see that they also were related to this same group of people.

    I also have another endogamous line in my tree, where we see the same families marrying into each other for several generations.

    My own great grandparents were cousins…reportedly 5th cousins, BUT I suspect that relationship was actually closer based on Italian research I have done on these lines.

    I DO hope when you analyzed these “spikes” that you took endogamy into account. I have TONS of DNA matches that go back to the early settlers of this country BUT the trees I see from these matches do not always show that they have gotten “over their brick wall” to be able to discover these endogamous ancestors.

    I suspect 2 other lines I have of a certain amount of endogamy, although I am at a brick wall with those two lines, BUT I see from various written histories of those last names that those folks also go back to the very early days of the US…and I have noted that marriage of cousins in those lines were not uncommon either.

    I DO hope your scientists DO take endogamy into account when they are getting rid of all the matches they suspect are “by state” rather than a common ancestor–as those of us who come from endogamous ancestors always have tons of matches even though we might not have been able to break through the walls.

    I DO wish you had at least brought up the subject of endogamy so that DNA participants would understand that the “predicted relationship”can be quite a bit off due to endogamy.

    I have run into this a few times, but will cite one specific example of a cousin who showed up as 3rd-4th cousin, yet we both had VERY good trees going quite a way back in these lines, and when we followed both of our trees up, we found we were NOT 3-4th cousins at all–we were 8th cousins.

    This is a subject that should always be considered and also discussed in any discussion about DNA so that people can understand that just because a match says 3-4th cousin, that is not necessarily so—the common ancestor can be much further back…

    MANY people in the US may come from endogamous populations “back in the old country”as that is how society was back then.

    It was quite common, especially in smaller towns, to marry into the same families for several generations—and this DNA from intermarrying becomes more long lived due to this, thus giving false representations of the relationships between cousins.

    SO many people I talk to about DNA are not aware of the effects endogamy has on their results, and when you have more than the “average” number of results, endogamy is always a possibility that should be explored.

    Personally I find DNA more useful to confirm a “paper trail” than to find new cousins…but I have had some luck with that as well.

    It disturbs me though when I see video’s such as this that go to great lengths to explain DNA but does not even touch on the endogamy factor, which I suspect is prevalent in many people’s results due to the way society was in the not “too” distant past.

    Many folks have lines where they may have gotten the same DNA passed on a few different times, which affects the “estimated relationship”

    SO if you find someone who is supposed to be a 3rd or 4th cousin, and you cannot figure out how, the potential for endogamy affecting the chromosome matches should be considered.

    It is probably not always the case, but i suspect in many cases it does show up. Many people have just not gotten far enough back in their trees to “spot” those endogamous ancestors.

    It would be NICE if the issue of endogamy was discussed–and it seems the DNA results page might be a GOOD way to have a short blurb explaining HOW to interpret results and bring to people’s attention that this does exist and does affect the “predicted relationship” quite often IF you come from endogamous ancestry.

    It is common with early settlers in this country and also common with Italian families due to cultural practices.

    I am not sure of other segments of populations wherein this exists, but I am sure there are many.

  6. Joyce

    While you are tweeking, it would be nice if we had options to find out matches and then further sort them by location and also be able to search a location AND a last name at the time.

    It would also be useful to be able to mark each match as having been reviewed after we have looked at it–I find myself going through the same matches over and over. As I said above I have an endogomous line and many people that show up as close matches show up as MUCH more closely related than they are…I find MOST of my matches go back to these folks so it would be nice to be able to have a symbol to mark rather than JUST a note system, so we can readily see which matches we have already reviewed.

    It would ALSO be nice to know what the current symbols MEAN—I have some stars in different colors and also some circles but NO clue what that means.

    A short blurb at the top of the page explaining these would be really helpful. I have some circles marked, some stars in different colors but NO clue what that means.

    We should not have to go digging in your area for questions for a simple guide that should be at the top of the page.

    MOST the time when you search for answers to questions on your forums you cannot even find the right answer on the pages.

    The DNA page SHOULD have some simple, succinct info at the top of the page explaining all these things

  7. Ani

    Joyce, all you need to do in order to see only new matches, (rather than those you have already reviewed) is click on small blue circle and all you’ll see are only new matches. Thank you for your comments on endogomy DNA, eye opening, and probably explains something I’ve noticed with several of my matches.

  8. Kristina

    We can’t learn anything more about our new matches until those test results (that have completed processing) are released. It has been over 2 weeks. Please either release these results using the current system or give us some SPECIFIC info on how long this delay will be. Referral to “terms and services” and previous Ancestry Blogs that have NO specifics are not of any help.

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