Ten Things to Look for in Your Ancestry DNA Results

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In this post, I am going to tell you ten things to look for in your Ancestry DNA results.  Once you’ve read through this list, you’ll have a good idea of what to do next.

Did you just receive your Ancestry DNA results?  Many people “do their DNA” looking for some insight into their family’s ethnic heritage, and are satisfied after a glance at their ethnicity estimate. 

If that’s all you wanted from the experience, that is totally cool.  Many people find themselves curious about their results, and wonder what their Ancestry DNA report is really telling them. 

If you want to get the most from your results, however, keep reading this post!

Have you attached a family tree to your results?

If you attach a family tree (even a small one) to your DNA results, you can get access to extra features. For example, if your tree is attached, you will be able to see Shared Ancestor Hints (more on this below) and surnames in common in your tree when you view a DNA match.

Read my post: How to attach a family tree to your Ancestry DNA Results for more info.

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Do you know how to access your test settings on Ancestry?

One of the first things you should know about your Ancestry DNA results is that there are many settings that you can change on your account.  In the image below, you can see where you need to click on your screen (from the DNA Insights page) to access your test settings:

how to access DNA test settings on Ancestry

Did you know your test results came with DNA matches, too?

You would be surprised at how many people have no idea that their Ancestry DNA test results come with a huge list of DNA matches.  A list of actual living, breathing, relatives

They are listed in the order of closest relatives to most distant.  You should definitely consider taking a peek at your list, you never know who you might find.

I first realized that people don’t always know that they have DNA matches on their DNA results when I was talking to a friend who mentioned that there is a family rumor that her dad had had a daughter when he was stationed overseas. 

She asked me if she would need to do another DNA test in order to start looking for her, and was so happy and surprised to know that all she would have to do was click on a different button on her Ancestry DNA results.

Who are your closest matches on Ancestry DNA?

Your DNA matches are organized into categories.  The top category is a Parent/Child match, then Immediate Family, where siblings are usually placed.  The following categories are Close Family, 1st, 2nd and 3rd Cousins.  The next category is 4th Cousin, and the last is Distant.

How much DNA do you share with your DNA match on Ancestry?

You can actually see a lot of information about your DNA matches on Ancestry.  Just click on any given DNA match – maybe your top match – and check out their match profile.  You’ll see a list of their ethnicities (on the top right of the screen), the estimated relationship that you have with them, and whether or not they have a family tree.

You can even see how much DNA you share – read this post to find out how to see the number of shared centimorgans and number of DNA segments.  You can use this information, along with the other information on their profile to see how you might be related.

Did you know you will get new DNA matches?

When I first wrote this post, I had only 94 DNA matches that were likely related to me at a 4th cousin level or closer. As of today (Feb 2019), I have 510!

There is a lot that I can learn from my matches, and so I am glad to get new matches on an almost weekly basis. Make sure you check your results every once in a while to see if you have new matches, too!

Do you have any Shared Ancestor Hints?

Shared Ancestor Hints are really useful tools used for comparing your family tree with that of your DNA matches.  First, your tree has to be attached to your DNA results, and then within a few days, you will know whether or not you have DNA matches that have the same ancestors in their tree. 

If you do, you will get “Shared Ancestor Hints”, and when you click on the hint, Ancestry DNA will tell you your exact relationship to your match.

What does a shared ancestor hint look like?

What’s that I hear?  You haven’t built a family tree yet?  You definitely aren’t alone, there are many people who have tested their DNA that don’t have a family tree, or who have not attached it to their results. 

Building a family tree is a really amazing experience, however, and you will get so much more from your DNA results if you decide to give it a shot.

Are you in any DNA Circles?

One of the other great benefits of having a family tree built on Ancestry is that you might get placed into DNA Circles with your DNA matches and other relatives who are descended from the same ancestor.  You have to have a public family tree, and there is no guarantee that you’ll get a DNA Circle, but it’s still neat to check to see if you do have one (or several).

Did you know you can view your DNA matches from a Genetic Community or migration?

There are some nice ways to filter and organize your DNA matches.  One thing you can do is filter your results so that way you can see only DNA matches that share a region or migration with you.  This can help you only see matches that match you on a certain line of your family. 

This is especially useful if your family is like mine, where I have immigrants from different parts of the world, along with colonial roots.  If I search for Northeastern States Settlers, I am likely to get matches that are from my paternal grandmother’s side of the family. 

If I choose the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Lithuania, I will likely get DNA matches from my mother’s Slovak or Polish lines.

To see how to do this, see the image below:

How to filter DNA matches by region or migration

Have you tried a surname search in your DNA match list?

Another really helpful tool to try to figure out how your DNA matches are related to you is to do a surname search in your Ancestry DNA match list.  The surname search looks for people who have the surname that you enter in their family tree (not people who currently have that surname as their own). 

This feature works best if you have a relatively uncommon name.  Obviously,  if you are looking for Smiths, there is a good chance that there are hundreds of people who have the Smith surname in their tree, but they are not your Smiths (some of them will be, but it will take some work to figure out which ones are and which ones aren’t!).

How to search DNA matches on Ancestry


I hope that this post helped orient you with your DNA results and gave you some ideas about what to look for in your own unique DNA. 

If you have anything to add, or would like to share your own experience with your Ancestry DNA test, I would love to hear from you in the comments.

Thanks for stopping by!

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Ten Things to Look for in Your Ancestry DNA Results
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Ten Things to Look for in Your Ancestry DNA Results
Many people find themselves curious about their results, and wonder what their Ancestry DNA report is really telling them. In this post, I am going to tell you ten things to look for in your Ancestry DNA results. Once you've read through this list, you'll have a good idea of what to do next.
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Who Are You Made Of
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