I surveyed over forty people to estimate the average number of DNA matches on Ancestry. The company hasn’t published recent statistics, and I was curious about what the numbers would look like in 2021.
The total counts range from five thousand matches to over 150 thousand. But the very low and very high numbers aren’t typical of most Ancestry customers. So, I calculated some alternative averages by adjusting to exclude the extremes.
The article goes into the full details so you can judge how your number of Ancestry matches compares to everyone else.
Ancestry Reduced DNA Matches In 2020
Before I give an answer on the average, I want to discuss some adjustments I made to peoples’ total counts of DNA matches.
Wait, what? I’m massaging the numbers? Well, I have to allow for the great Ancestry purge of 2020.
Ancestry drastically reduced the number of DNA matches for customers in September 2020. They did this by raising the threshold of shared DNA from 6 centimorgans to 8 centimorgans. You no longer see new DNA matches below 8 cM.
Existing customers were given the chance to retain their low DNA matches. And some of the people I surveyed took that option.
But the choice isn’t there for customers who test after that date. So to get a meaningful average, I calculated the totals for everyone using the new threshold i.e. DNA matches at 8 cM and above.
What Is The Average Number Of DNA Matches On Ancestry?
My estimate is based on a survey of 38 Ancestry DNA customers in January 2021. The average number of DNA matches on Ancestry is about 34 thousand.
The count ranges from 9.5 thousand to 91 thousand matches, with a median of 22.5 thousand.
This is a scatter plot of the total numbers across the 38 kits.
I actually had a lot more DNA kits to work with, but I knew that some people were closely related to each other. Once I’d removed the related kits, =I was left with 43 kits including my own.
I then examined the extreme lows and highs and decided to eliminate two kits at both ends.
One of the kits I booted out was my own. Because one of my parents is from a developing country, I have hardly any DNA matches from half my heritage. The other tiny kit was a similar scenario.
In contrast, two kits had above 100K matches at the 8 cM threshold. They also had an unusually high percentage of close matches (i.e. above 20 cM). Both confirmed that they were descended from communities with a high rate of intermarriage. So, I did not include their kits.
That still left several kits approaching the 100K mark, and a few hovering around the 10K level. Can we figure out if there are specific factors that contribute to low or high numbers? Let’s take a closer look at the kit profiles.
How Ethnicity Estimates Influence Your Total DNA Matches
I mentioned that I excluded two big kits whose heritage is predominantly in communities with higher rates of endogamy (intermarriage).
High volume of matches
Even so, nine DNA kits in my sample had over fifty thousand DNA matches. I took a look at the top two regions in the ethnicity estimates of the DNA kits. You can see that it’s pretty consistent.
Ancestry’s categories of “England & NWE” and “Scotland” are predominant. “Ireland” is sprinkled in there too.
Ancestry updated their ethnicity estimates in 2020, with many customers reporting a higher increase in “Scotland” percentages. I suspect I’d have seen a higher dominance of “England & NEW” before that.
Low volume of matches
At the other end of the spectrum, I excluded my own kit and one other. Each of us has one parent who was born and stayed in a country where consumer DNA testing is not a hobby.
But there are plenty of low volume kits in my sample. Here are the top two regions in the ethnicities of the kits that are below 15 thousand DNA matches.
You can see that there is a far higher spread of regions than we saw with the top kits.
I thought it was interesting to see the combo of England/Scotland represented with low numbers. This combination is also prevalent in my list of kits with high volume.
Clearly, there are other factors involved than ethnicity. One of these is your family history.
How Your Family Tree Influences Your Total DNA Matches
Many of the people in my sample are adopted adults or have unknown parentage. So, I can’t speak to the family trees of many of the kits.
However, I can tell you that all of the top kits who can identify their great-grandparents have one thing in common. All their 8 great-grandparents were born in the United States.
And what about the kits with low volume? Where family history is known, most of their great-grandparents were born and died in Europe.
Ancestry’s customer base skews North American. So, if all your great-grandparents were born in the United States, your 5th to 8th cousins are statistically more likely to take a consumer DNA test with Ancestry.com.
Misleading Older Info About The Average Number Of Ancestry Matches
If you do an internet search on this topic, you’ll probably see a nice round number of fifty thousand appear. This is based on outdated information.
The problem is that Ancestry published this figure in an announcement in May 2019.
Other websites picked up the number and also mention it in articles.
But as I mentioned before, the company greatly reduced the number of DNA matches they show to their customers. This was over a year after the announcement.
My estimated average in early 2021 is 34 thousand, which is well below the figure quoted in 2019. However, Ancestry is adding customers every day. Hence, your total number of Ancestry matches is growing every day.
How Fast Do You Get More Ancestry DNA Matches?
Here’s a link to another article in which I measured how fast you can expect to get more Ancestry DNA matches.
Even if you have a lower total number, you can expect a handful of new DNA matches to arrive on a daily basis. Statistically, these will be at the lower end of centimorgans.
By the way, if you haven’t figured out how to count your Ancestry DNA matches, don’t feel bad. It’s not obvious but that link will show you how.
How Can You Get More DNA Matches?
Although the upload is free, there may be premium features that require payment.
I have step-by-step articles and walkthrough videos for all these sites.
The first step is to download your raw Ancestry DNA to your local machine.
Here are step-by-step articles for uploading your DNA:
And these are video walkthroughs on uploading to several sites:
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