Ancestry.com has a database of more than 22 million people. That’s not a mistake – 22 million. Many have taken the Ancestry DNA test for a few different reasons, primarily to find biological relatives or to get their ethnicity mix. Ancestry offers a lot of additional features that most won’t know about unless they accidentally stumble upon them or are looking for them. Here’s an overview of some really cool things you can find once your DNA results are posted.

1: Review Your Ethnicity Estimate

Ancestry.com compares your DNA to its entire database of users to provide your estimate, using more than 1800 regions from around the globe. Ancestry has a huge database to compare to, but that’s no guarantee. In fact, the company is regularly tinkering with these results and provides periodic updates as they learn more. Our personal experience is that it’s pretty accurate.

Ancestry provides you with a percentage breakdown by region (for example, Scotland, Wales, Baltics, Indigenous Americans-North, Senegal, Southern China, etc.). Each region is displayed on a color-coded map and includes a description of the region. You can also compare your estimates with your DNA matches, one on one.

DNA communities is another way Ancestry slices and dices your information. Communities are groups of people who had ancestors who lived in the same place at the same time, from 50 to 300 years ago. Descriptions of any communities you are part of are available along with a color-coded map display, and the option to compare these with your DNA matches.

An Ethnicity inheritance chart displays which ethnicities you got from each of your parents. It offers several views of this and includes a chromosome painter, which shows which ethnicity regions appear on each of your chromosomes.

2: Review Your DNA Matches

Ancestry’s DNA Matches function is full of insights and features. It offers four primary views for all of your matches: All matches, By parent, By ancestor, and By location. All matches is a list of just that – all of your DNA matches in the Ancestry database.

The default sort on the All matches tab is from closest matches (those that share the most DNA with you, or your closest relatives) to furthest. It breaks this list up into several groups, if you have matches that fall into that group: Parent/Child,Close Family, Extended Family, and Distant Family. Ancestry shows you how you match, how many centimorgans (cMs) you share, and what percentage of DNA you share.

In the Close Family group, it will show you the same information and guess how you are related. There are limited ways you can be related at this level of matching, but Ancestry does get it wrong sometimes. It may initially suggest “Close Family – 1st Cousin” which can mean a few different things. If you know the match and know for sure how you are related, you can update the label to how you are related, such as half-sister.

The By parent tab splits your matches into four groups: Parent 1, Parent 2, Both sides (yes, this is possible!), and Unassigned (meaning Ancestry doesn’t yet know which side). If Ancestry figures out one of your parental sides (you can label matches, for example), it will change Parent 1 and Parent 2 to Paternal (father’s side) and Maternal (mother’s side).

The By ancestor tab allows you to choose one of your parents, grandparents, or great grandparents (multiple generations of grandparents if they have been identified) and review all your DNA matches that descend from that person. (Side note: This could be a useful tool for planning a family reunion!)

The By location tab is really fun! It displays a world map and shows you every location you have DNA matches in (if the match has provided their location). You can filter by all your matches, 2nd cousins, 3rd cousins, or 4th cousins. Zoom in on the map to see how many matches you have in specific areas and who they are. If the green location pin has a face in it, that’s your match. If it has a number in it, you have multiple matches in that area – zoom in to see more or click on any green pin to get a popup list of the match(es) there.

3: Compare Individual DNA Matches

Click on any individual DNA match to get more information. You can perform several functions on each match:

  • connect the DNA match to a family tree you’re building
  • edit the relationship (for example, changing “Close Family – 1st Cousin” to “Half-Sister” has described above)
  • message the match
  • add them to a group (for example, by surname, for sorting purposes)
  • add a note (“this is my mother’s mother’s sister’s son,” for example)
  • review the ancestors you have in common
  • view your match’s family tree, if they have one
  • review all the surnames you and your match share along with how many for each appear in both family trees and see shared ancestor birth locations.

Click on Shared Matches and you will see all the DNA matches you have in common with the match. You can filter these in a variety of ways as well.

When viewing and comparing an individual DNA match, you can view how your ethnicity estimates line up. Like your individual ethnicity estimate profile, you can view by percentage and on a map. You can also view shared communities.

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This is an overview of the key features of Ancestry.com’s DNA results. It’s a stunning amount of information considering it comes from just a tube full of spit! It can also be life altering. DNA testing can confirm – or refute – what you thought you knew about yourself and your family. Be prepared for some surprises if you decide to test.

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