A Russian-American’s inside view of the new AncestryDNA test

About two years ago, Ancestry.com sent me an offer to be part of the beta group for the new autosomal DNA test, which searches for matches from my mother and father’s families. So far, I have 3,485 matches and have yet to find a close match with a common surname.

My family came to the USA in 1950-1951 so maybe the lack of strong matches could be explained by the short time my family has lived here. Ancestry.com does not send its DNA test abroad due to custom issues.

I hope the question and answer format will be useful in explaining how AncestryDNA has worked for me and what those with Russian and Ukrainian roots could expect from AncestryDNA.

Do you need an Ancestry.com membership to buy the DNA test?

No. Anyone can order the test. However if you do not have an ancestry.com membership, you will not be able to view family trees of matches.

What type of information is provided on matches?

Customers see the following information on each match: the Ancestry.com username or username administering the DNA test results, user’s location (sometimes), time length of being an Ancestry.com customer, date of last login, predicted relationship and the confidence of accuracy, ethnicity regions and trace regions,  list with up to 10 generations of ancestors’ surnames and their information from a family tree, mapped locations of your ancestors’ birthplaces and the match’s ancestors’ birthplaces, leaves on a map for common ancestors’ birthplaces and a link to a public family tree.

How does AncestryDNA predict chances of being related?

The website gives categories of very low, low and moderate probabilities for being related to distant cousins (5th to 8th cousins) and then high probability of being related by being fourth, third, second and first cousins.

How often do you get matches?

In the past 7 days, I’ve received 60 matches. These matches come daily or several times a week.

How many of your matches have ancestors from Russia or Ukraine?

I have 97 matches with ancestors from Russia. Several of them do not have birth towns or regions for their ancestors. The filter could not find matches with ancestors from Ukraine but there are a few.

How close are your matches?

The vast majority of my matches are 5th to 8th cousins with very low or low probabilities that we are related. Ancestry.com gives me this warning about these matches “‘Distant cousin’ matches (5th cousins or greater) have a lower degree of certainty compared to 3rd and 4th cousins. Even though there is a 50% (or less) chance that you are related, these matches are still good leads.”

I have two 4th to 6th cousin matches who are predicted with 95-96% certainty that we are related. We do not have common surnames in our family trees even though my matches have trees with more than 1,000 people. One match has relatives from the same area as a great-grandmother but we cannot connect our families yet.

I have 49 matches of 5th to 8th cousins who have moderate probabilities of being related to me.  None of them have common surnames or towns/villages and 16 have not posted family trees or have family trees smaller than 50 people.

How friendly are matches in giving information?

I estimate half of my matches have not posted family trees, locked their family trees or have family trees with less than 50 people. Most of the matches to whom I have sent messages through the Ancestry.com site have answered my messages. Some people with locked trees will send me invitations to privately view their trees.

What tools does Ancestry.com offer in searching, sorting, filtering and noting matches?

All your matches can be searched by ancestor surnames and/or locations. Also, you can add stars next to matches in your list and later search for starred matches. Notes can be added to any match’s page. Matches can be sorted by closeness in relationship or date matches arrived. Matches are automatically listed by date- last 7 days, one week ago, two weeks ago, three weeks ago, two months ago, three months ago and more than three months ago.

The site has three filters- new matches, those with hints from family trees and those you have starred.

Does Ancestry.com have forums to help figure out the DNA test and its results?

Ancestry.com members have access to this forum and anyone can view posts on DNA genealogy here. Ancestry.com offers a free membership (but very limited) for posting on its forums.

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