Understanding the science and technology
behind our most advanced DNA test

Discover who your ancestors were, where they lived, and how you connect with their descendants today around the globe. Get insight into ethnicity. Determine your next research steps and more. AncestryDNA™ is the place where science meets your family history. Using some of the latest technology, an AncestryDNA test can connect you to people and places associated with your family like never before.

How It Works

Applying DNA science to family history

What you inherited

There’s only one YOU — you’re unique. Yet you share common connections to the family in your past. Those connections are found in your DNA.

Think of DNA as the internal set of blueprints that your body follows to make you who you are. Much like a fingerprint, each person’s particular combination of DNA is unique.

But, unlike that fingerprint, your DNA was passed down to you by your ancestors. And that makes it an unparalleled tool for family history research.

Why DNA runs in families

Here’s how it works: you get half of your DNA from your father and half from your mother. They, in turn, got their DNA from their parents, who got it from theirs, and so on. While the particular combination inherited from a single set of parents makes each person unique, the shared genetic details of family members are what link you back to people born throughout history.

Why AncestryDNA

AncestryDNA is new and more comprehensive

Autosomal DNA

AncestryDNA looks at autosomal DNA. Autosomal DNA tests, unlike Y- or mtDNA tests, survey a person’s entire genome at over 700,000 locations where genetic markers that identify an individual typically appear. Plus, autosomal DNA tests look at both maternal and paternal lines, meaning discoveries come from both sides of your family tree.

A DNA test for both men and women

AncestryDNA is gender neutral, so both men and women can take the test. They are tested in the same way for the same number of markers, and their tests provide the same level of detail.

The power of Ancestry.com

Consider the millions of Ancestry family trees. How valuable would it be to link to those trees via DNA? You’d be able to determine genetic connections and uncover new family lines, deep relationships, and insights like you never have before. Combining AncestryDNA with an Ancestry subscription helps you do all that. And more.

The limitations of older tests

Previously, DNA tests looked at only a few dozen DNA sequences on either the Y chromosome or mitochondrial DNA. Because only men carry the Y chromosome, only men could take a Y-DNA test. As a result, Y-DNA test results would follow just the males in a single paternal line — fathers and sons.

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) tests, on the other hand, could be taken by anyone. But the test results traced only an all-female line moving from mother to grandmother to great-grandmother, and so on. MtDNA tests could tell you more about your ancient ancestry, like where your family originated tens of thousands of years ago, but not who your cousins were.

What You Get

How AncestryDNA helps you make new discoveries

AncestryDNA isn’t just a test. It’s a key to unlocking deeply hidden answers in your family lines.

Ethnicity testing

When your ancestors moved around the world, they took their DNA with them. By looking at the DNA of people with long histories in a single place, we determine genetic signatures for people who came from particular regions. Your AncestryDNA test looks for those signatures in your DNA and uses them to help predict where your ancestors once lived.

DNA matches

The first thing we do with your AncestryDNA test results is compare them with other DNA samples in our database to look for family matches.

  • We compare the over 700,000 markers examined on your genome to every other person in our database.

  • In the comparison we look for overlap between two people. The more markers you share in common, the more likely you are to be related. The probable relationship between any two people is calculated based on the percentage of markers they have in common, as shown on this chart.

  • Next, we sort the matches by relationship and send you a list of your DNA family. Then it’s your turn. You can use the information to compare ancestors, contact matches through a private and secure message, share what you know, see exactly how you’re related and get new information about the family.

Get even more with an Ancestry subscription

Shared Ancestor Hints

You can also link your AncestryDNA test results to your Ancestry family tree. Once you do this, we compare your family tree to the family trees of your DNA matches and look for common ancestors. When we find one, we send you a hint so you can explore the connection.

Shared surnames

In addition to Shared Ancestor Hints, AncestryDNA generates a list of surnames that appear in both your family tree and a DNA match’s family tree, which may help you uncover your common ancestor even faster (note, however, that a shared surname isn’t always an indicator of the ancestor you share).

Both Shared Ancestor Hints and shared surnames go back up to 10 generations, depending on how extensively the family trees have been researched. How many chances to make a connection could that be? For reference, a family tree going back 10 generations could include more than 2,000 people.


DNA research doesn’t stop at names of people. Your AncestryDNA test can give you clues about where to look for relatives, too. Colored pins on the Locations Map indicate birth locations for ancestors in your tree, birth locations of ancestors in a DNA match’s tree, and overlapping birth locations that appear in both family trees. A high concentration of pins can point you to a city, county, or state to research.

One test, lots of answers

AncestryDNA is a single test you take. But the answers it provides continue long after you receive your initial results.

As more people take the AncestryDNA test, their results are also analyzed against yours. When new matches are found, we'll let you know. This means the discoveries you can make through your test results are constantly growing and expanding.


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own discoveries

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