How long does AncestryDNA take to process?

The latest processing times and what you can do while you wait
Marc McDermott

You’ve finally taken the plunge. You’re just about ready to order your DNA kit from Ancestry so you can link yourself to the genetic family tree. Now comes the hard part, waiting.

How long does AncestryDNA take in 2021? It’s going to take between six to eight weeks total to get your results. Why so long? What can you do while you’re waiting? And what happens when you do finally hear back? Read on, and we’ll break it down for you.

This article will talk about how long it takes to get your results and what you can do in the meantime. For more, read my complete AncestryDNA review.

Waiting on DNA

DNA is passed down from your parents, who get it from their parents, and so on. That’s why it’s useful when searching for ancestors and relatives: you share part of your DNA with every single ancestor. But scientists didn’t know that for sure until 1952. And DNA testing for genealogy is only 20 years old.

That means the technology is still fairly young, and is constantly changing and improving. Results are faster now, but there are still several factors that keep it slower than we’d like. Don’t believe those crime shows on TV – there’s no way you’re going to get DNA results back in a few hours.

Why does it take so long?

There are several steps in the process, and each one takes time:

  • waiting to receive the kit
  • spitting into the tube
  • returning the kit
  • decoding your DNA at the lab
  • getting your results

When you order your kit from AncestryDNA, you can choose standard or expedited shipping. For standard shipping, allow up to two weeks to receive your kit. Expedited shipping should have it to you in about three days.

It only takes a few minutes to collect your sample, but don’t rush it. Be sure to read and follow the instructions carefully. You don’t want to waste weeks waiting to find out they couldn’t use your sample. Once you seal up the kit and send it, you’ll have to wait for the processing lab to receive it (again, up to 14 days).

Decoding your DNA

There are four steps in decoding your DNA:

  1. Extraction: This separates out your DNA from everything else in your saliva sample.
  2. Quantitation: This is where the lab makes sure they’re dealing with human DNA and not the DNA of bacteria or anything else that slipped into the mix.
  3. Amplification: The lab makes copies of the extracted DNA so there’s enough to test.
  4. Genotyping: This sorts your DNA into readable and usable categories.

Even in the highest urgency criminal cases, these steps all take time. Unfortunately, one of the biggest delays at the processing lab is waiting for them to start on your sample. With so much genealogical DNA testing these days, it often takes a few weeks after your sample arrives before they processing it.

Getting your results

Ancestry DNA uses a secure third-party testing lab in the United States to handle your kit. All told, it normally takes six to eight weeks after the lab receives your kit to finish processing it. The good news is, once the lab is done, you get your results right away. Ancestry will send you an email telling you how to access your results online.

If it seems like it’s taking too long:

  • Make sure you registered your kit – they can’t send your results if they don’t know which kit is yours
  • Be sure to check your email’s spam folder
  • You can also check on the Ancestry website to see if your results are ready

Worried about privacy? The testing lab never sees your personal information – your kit is just a number to them. Your results are maintained on Ancestry’s secure servers, and can only be accessed with your personal ID and password. Unless you decide to share them, no one will see your results but you.

Don’t twiddle your thumbs

There is plenty you can do while you wait for your results. First and foremost, make sure you’ve registered your kit. That lets you get your results, and also lets you link them to your online family tree.

Don’t have your family tree on Ancestry yet? This is the perfect time to do it! You can either build it from scratch or use your family tree software to upload a GEDCOM file.

To get the most out of your DNA results, link your family tree to your DNA profile. That lets you see how everyone fits in once you start connecting with other genetic matches and finding new relatives.

The wait also gives you plenty of time to start researching. Use your Ancestry.com subscription to delve into billions of online records. Put in the research time now so you can be off and running once you get your results. More on what you can do with DNA results.

What will you learn?

AncestryDNA uses autosomal DNA testing, the DNA that is passed down from all of your ancestors. Because each generation receives about half its genes from each of their parents, the test is most accurate when it comes to ancestors in the past few hundred years.

That lets the test focus on where your ancestors lived in the last few centuries. It compares your DNA to millions of other results – about 18 million people have used AncestryDNA so far! The test checks common bits of DNA, called markers, and measures them against a huge database. By knowing which markers appear in your genes, Ancestry can tell you with high accuracy where your ancestors lived, and their ethnicities.

Just how accurate is it? According to Ancestry, “AncestryDNA® uses advanced scientific techniques to produce your results. We measure and analyze a person’s entire genome at over 700,000 locations. During the testing process, each DNA sample is held to a quality standard of at least a 98% call rate.”

The test also lets you connect with living relatives. By comparing your results to those of other AncestryDNA users, it can link you to third, fourth, and even fifth cousins who share the same ancestors and are researching the same families. This is a great way to share information and grow your family tree. This step is purely optional, and if you’re worried about who might find you, you don’t have to use it. But we highly recommend that you do. These are people who share your passion for genealogy. To get the most out of your test, be sure to opt in to this incredible service.

Worth the wait

How long will your AncestryDNA test take? Plan on two weeks for shipping (or three days with expedited shipping), the same to get your test to the lab, and six to eight weeks for the lab to process it. In all, that could be as much as twelve weeks.

Genealogical DNA testing through AncestryDNA can be an amazing tool in fleshing out your family tree. It connects you with relatives, both living and dead. It helps you find online family trees that others have shared. It breaks down those stubborn brick walls in your research. And it provides insights into who your ancestors were and where they lived.

Yes, it’s a wait. But it’s worth it. And the longer you delay, the longer it will take. Get started now by ordering your DNA kit from AncestryDNA today.

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