How Often Does Ancestry Update DNA Matches? (Statistics in 2021)

If you’re hoping for that one new match that could tear down a brick wall, you’re probably wondering how often does Ancestry update your DNA matches.

Ancestry provides an instant count of your total matches, but it doesn’t show you a history of how your numbers have grown. To figure out how often your DNA matches are updated, you’d have to keep checking the count to see if it has changed.

This would be very tedious, but don’t worry. I’ve done it for you! Read on for the details.

How Often Are Ancestry DNA Matches Updated?

To answer this question, I tracked the number of DNA matches for ten unrelated DNA kits over four days in January 2021.

This is a summary of my observations:

Ancestry updates DNA matches at least daily. Ancestry members with high total matches will see over 40 new matches every day. DNA kits with smaller totals should gain at least four matches. These are most likely to be distant relatives at lower centimorgans.

Source of the data

I manage or advise plenty of DNA kits. So I could pick and choose a selection of kits with low, medium, and a high number of total DNA matches. This sampling also ensured a broad mix of ethnicities.

We know that some communities had historically higher rates of endogamy. If you’re a descendant of such a community, you’re probably not wistfully wondering if you’ll ever get more matches! To avoid an outlier, I excluded a kit with a very high “European Jewish” ethnicity estimate.

This is not a scientific study. But most folk only have one kit to work with. Ten gives a better idea than one!

A Note About The Totals Displayed In This Article

I want you to be able to compare your own match total to the ten kits I show in the next section. Bue you should know that I have adjusted the numbers to be the count of matches at 8 cM and above.

The reason is that Ancestry changed the threshold for displaying DNA matches last year. It used to be 6 cM, but now it’s 8 cM. They also gave existing customers the option to “save” the low matches from disappearing from our match lists. That option no longer exists, but if you’re interested in the history – I wrote an article about it at the time.

If you joined Ancestry after September 2020 or you didn’t preserve your low matches, then the numbers I display below are based on the same centimorgan range used to calculate your own total. You can skip the rest of this section, and jump to the next!

If you took steps to preserve your low matches, then you should adjust your total to find the kits closest to your own. That is easy to do if you added the low centimorgan matches to a group (or starred them). When you expand the groups filter, each group shows its total count in parentheses.

How Many New Ancestry DNA Matches Per Day?

Let’s first take a broad look at the average rates of update. This table shows the total match count for each kit at about 10 AM (GMT) on the 25th, 27th, and 29th of January 2021.

Two kits had under ten thousand DNA matches each in the Ancestry database. That is low by Ancestry standards. But even these testers can expect a handful of DNA matches trickling in.

Kit #10 got a whopping average of 87 new matches across four days. The other high-volume kit averaged about 50. I conservatively summarize this as representing over 40 new matches for these customers.

Then there are the mid-range kits which squeak into double-digit numbers.

You’ll notice that I’m not checking successive days. So, the numbers above represent total gains every second day. So, why am I confident that Ancestry updates the match database daily?

Because I chose one of these kits to watch at more frequent intervals.

Monitoring One Kit Over 36 Hours

I didn’t use my own kit because I have a much smaller number of matches. In other words, I’m statistically less likely to be related to a random new customer. Even if Ancestry were adding DNA kits to the database every second, it wouldn’t be visible with my own kit.

So, a high volume kit is my best chance of catching how frequently Ancestry updates DNA matches. I chose Kit #5, which has over 90 thousand DNA matches.

I took a count for this guy every two hours over a 36 hour period – with a break during the night. The table shows both the total count and the count of “close” matches. The latter is Ancestry’s definition i.e. 20-3,490 centimorgans.

Evidence Of Daily Updates

Interestingly, our guy dropped a match on the first day. How did this happen? I’ve got an article on why Ancestry DNA matches disappear. Sometimes it’s your own mistake, which you can rectify.

 Then between 10 PM and 2 AM, he gained two more. And ten hours later, 28 new matches appeared (one was a “close” match).

These numbers are why I say that Ancestry updates DNA matches at least once daily (or within 24 hours).

Counting Ancestry DNA Matches

Ancestry doesn’t make the “count” feature very obvious. But they do provide a total count with a further breakdown of “close” versus “distant”.

This article shows you how to count your Ancestry matches.

And this article is about the average number of DNA matches for Ancestry customers.

When Does Ancestry Update DNA Matches?

We’ve said that updates happen daily. But is there a set time where thousands of new kits enter the database in a single batch?

Or does each new DNA kit get matched individually – and appears on your list in “real-time”?

Believe it or not, I wasn’t prepared to spend a few days refreshing the count every minute. But I was curious at 28 matches appearing in the hour between 21:05 and 22:05. Was this a “batch update” time?

I checked those times the following day but didn’t see any sign that it was a regular update slot.

I’ll stick my neck out and speculate that Ancestry updates DNA matches frequently throughout the day.

How frequently? At least hourly.

What About Ethnicity?

We’ve looked in depth at DNA matches, but what about your ethnicity breakdown? Does that get updated?

Yes, but far less frequently. Over the last few years, your ethnicity estimates have updated at least once a year. This is a massive database update, and gets rolled out over several months.

We have an article that reviews in depth the frequency at which Ancestry updates ethnicity estimates. The article also tracks updates to genetic communities.

More Articles And Tutorials?

If you’re not sure what to do with all those DNA matches, check out our guide on how to use them. We also have a YouTube channel with an Ancestry DNA playlist.

And sign up to get notified of new articles.

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Margaret O'Brien
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