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How Long Does Ancestry DNA Take?

If you've been considering an AncestryDNA test and want to know how long it takes to take the test and get your results, this article will cover exactly what you need to know.

I remember the anxious and exciting wait to get my AncestryDNA ethnicity estimate results several years ago now although exactly how long it took eludes me. I know it felt like forever at the time and once I got those results I was too happy to really care anymore.

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Those who have recently received and returned their test kit or are considering taking the test, however, will likely want to know a few things. This may include how accurate the results will be and of course how long you may have to wait.

Well in terms of accuracy I can assure you the results you are waiting on will be more accurate than they were when I first got mine. Almost annually AncestryDNA improves their results with updates so barring any issues with the test you should get a good representation of your ethnic makeup.

How long will it take? Well, this is going to depend on a number of variables. We may have a notion from crime procedural dramas that DNA testing is extremely quick, so how could this take a long time? Real-life is different than the cop shows, however, and in truth, it takes a little while to get your AncestryDNA results.

Receiving and Taking the Test

The first phase of the process involves AncestryDNA mailing you a test kit. This can take a few days or up to a couple of weeks depending on your location and the efficiency of your local mail services. This time frame is really outside of the company's control but if your test does not show up after a couple of weeks you may need to call the company in case it was lost in the mail.

Taking the Test

You will receive the kit in a returnable box so make sure to open this carefully as instructed. Inside will be a plastic vial with instructions as to how to perform the test. Make sure to follow these instructions, especially the ones about not eating or drinking prior to providing your sample (You don’t want to find out you're 14% bratwurst, after all.)

This phase of the process is entirely in your hands, if you take the test straight away and mail it back this can be done in less than 24hrs. If, however, you wait a while then this is really up to you. I know I did my test the same day I received it and walked it down to the mailbox straight away.

It’s Back with the Mail

This next phase can again take just a few days or a couple of weeks depending on your local mail services. You will likely be given instructions as to how to set up notifications for when Ancestry receives your test sample. It is wise to make use of this so that you can trace the progress of your sample.

It’s Now at the Lab

Once AncestryDNA receives the test the whole process starts with getting your sample logged into the system. Once this is done the testing process can begin and this will likely be the longest part of the whole thing. AncestryDNA suggests that most people's test results will take 6 – 8 weeks to arrive once they have received your sample.

What we have to remember is that a lot of people are taking these tests so as the lab works on a first-come-first-serve your test may be waiting in line for a while. The DNA has to be analyzed and compared to the company's base DNA regions and algorithms have to be used to create your results. This all takes time.

How Accurate Are the Results?

Once you have your estimate you may find some surprises in your Ethnic DNA or be stunned to find you do not have DNA from certain regions. This will obviously have you wondering if you got the right test back or if there are mistakes.

We first have to remember these results are just estimates and are not definitive percentages of the DNA we possess. They are largely accurate with the higher percentages but with lower estimates, they can be less so.

When I first received my test several years ago it suggested I had 1% Native American DNA. As I was born and raised in England so naturally I was bewildered as to how this could be the case. After a couple of updates, this disappeared. It was a small amount and it was discovered as the tests improved in accuracy that that DNA was not actually Native American.

The results we receive are generally an accurate insight into the past couple of centuries regarding our family tree. With regards to my personal results they match almost perfectly to the paper trail that I have been able to trace back to 1799.

Another thing we need to be aware of is that beyond our great-great-grandparents we start to reach generations of ancestors from which we might not inherit any DNA. Due to DNA inheritance, it is possible that a Norwegian great-great-great grandparent would not show up in our own DNA. So although we have Scandinavian ancestors we may not find the proof in our ethnicity estimate.

The DNA test can only find what is in our DNA. For the rest, we have to do the research and follow the paper trail as far as we can.

Can You Trace Ancestors with AncestryDNA?

The answer to this question happily is yes, in fact, other than the ethnicity estimate, this research ability is the next biggest selling point of the test. With a complicated family situation of my own, I struggled in my early research to make headway with my own tree.

With the help of the DNA test, I was able to find close and distant cousins whose trees helped me discover a great deal regarding my own family. The various tools available with the DNA test on itself can be very enlightening.

The cousin match function can be very helpful and may even put you in contact with people who have new information regarding your ancestors. I was even able to establish contact with a first cousin who I didn't previously know, who like myself was born in England but moved to the United States. Through her, I found pictures of my great grandparents.

The Thrulines tool is also an interesting feature of AncestryDNA. It is not highly regarded for its accuracy due to its reliance on the information in the trees of other users. Obviously, if a user has information wrong in their tree then the Thruline connection may not be accurate.

This is still an interesting tool though, in that as long as you do a little bit of research to check the validity of all the family connections it can really help you make headway in your own research. I myself have managed on several occasions to locate the errors in some Thruline connections and find the correct ones.


The AncestryDNA test is a fun and often helpful tool in your family tree research. It can take a long time to complete the process depending on a number of factors. If you consider mailing and testing time the whole process may take between 7 – 12 weeks, start to finish.

There are sites that can get your results faster but it should be noted their databases are smaller and they have fewer users in general. This does have an impact on your estimates and if you were to test with both you might get similar but not exactly the same results.

Neil Edwards

Neil Edwards

Genealogist and family-tree research specialist

Neil was born in Shropshire, England surrounded by centuries of living history. His interest in the past has been a lifelong passion leading to undergraduate degrees in both Economic History & Geography and History & Politics.

This interest in history quickly translated to family history when he moved to the U.S. in 2010. It was here that he began working on his own family tree as well as that of his American wife. That research allowed him to gain a wealth of experience working with both U.S. and European genealogical documents and studying their best uses in researching family history.

Following 9 years of honing his genealogical research skills, Neil was proud to have earned a certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University in late 2019. Neil also took part in the research process for a Duke University study into the families of 19th Century UK Members of Parliament.

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