What DNA ancestry tests can — and can’t — tell you

  • Published: 16 April 2019
  • I took a DNA ancestry test. It didn’t tell me where my ancestors came from…

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    At-home DNA ancestry tests have become hugely popular in recent years. More than 26 million have taken one of these tests. If their marketing is to be believed, they can help you learn where your DNA comes from, and even where your ancestors lived.

    But the information that can be inferred from your DNA is actually much more limited than testing companies are letting on. And that has lead consumers to misinterpret their results — which is having negative consequences.

    Further reading:

    The limits of ancestry DNA tests, explained

    Was I part British, part Dutch, a little bit Jewish? The oddness of DNA tests.

    White nationalists are flocking to genetic ancestry tests — with surprising results

    Direct-to-consumer racial admixture tests and beliefs about essential racial differences

    The human genome diversity panel browser

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Comments • 1 802

  • Vox
    Vox   2 months back

    We did our first collaboration with our friends at Verge Science to explore how at-home DNA tests are putting everyone at risk. Check out their video here: https://youtu.be/7q8Oa97a04g

    • supernovasuper Plays
      supernovasuper Plays  5 days back

      Is that why when I was 10 years old I was 150 tall is that what DNA does

      • Aurtisan Miner
        Aurtisan Miner  1 weeks back

        I could really not care less what my roots are.

        • Owen Tuleja
          Owen Tuleja  1 weeks back

          Wants to know what a DNA test "can and can't" tell him... interviews a sociologist.

          • Dora Wang
            Dora Wang  1 weeks back

            that's why I had 2% Native American show up on my result. It didn't make any sense to me.

            • Nikki Jackson
              Nikki Jackson  1 weeks back

              If you from Iran you should promote social justice for the Persians and denounce the Iran government!

              • Cornelius Dines
                Cornelius Dines  1 weeks back

                That kilt part made me lol

                • Ambrose-adventure
                  Ambrose-adventure  2 weeks back

                  Interesting. Its DNA... You know like the rest of the human population....

                  • Kratos1609
                    Kratos1609  2 weeks back

                    I took the test and it came back N/A because I'm native American and my peoples were nearly wiped out lol jk

                    • Sere15
                      Sere15  2 weeks back

                      Listen let's all take the test so it's actually accurate

                      • H.R. Pufnstuf
                        H.R. Pufnstuf  2 weeks back

                        Yall should know they sell your dna data to the government.

                        • legobarbarian
                          legobarbarian  6 days back

                          @H.R. Pufnstuf
                          I heard about that, thanks for the reminder.

                        • H.R. Pufnstuf
                          H.R. Pufnstuf  2 weeks back

                          @legobarbarian A murder that was like 80 something was traced through one of his family members dna that used the ancestry service. I assumed it went to a government data base.

                        • legobarbarian
                          legobarbarian  2 weeks back

                          They sell it to the highest bidder. Corporations are worse than the government.

                      • T H O N K I N G I N T E N S I F I E S

                        No yoda I don’t care if your 0.1% black you can’t say the N word

                        • Tiara Kiler
                          Tiara Kiler  2 weeks back

                          Cough woah vicky cough

                          • James Caplin
                            James Caplin  3 weeks back

                            I thought they compared your snps to gwas studies

                            • fiveoheye
                              fiveoheye  3 weeks back

                              There ARE biological differences between the races. (((Intellectuals))) want to tell you that races don't exist.

                              • Anthony Valdez
                                Anthony Valdez  3 weeks back

                                Why would a sociologist be referred to as a authority on genetics?

                                • Charlotte Zackery
                                  Charlotte Zackery  3 weeks back


                                  • Sleeeppyyy
                                    Sleeeppyyy  3 weeks back

                                    What if they make a clone with you DNA now...

                                    • Jeremy Cothran
                                      Jeremy Cothran  3 weeks back

                                      I'm more curious how things will/won't change when we can write our genes as well as read them.

                                      • Oran Shabat Cohen
                                        Oran Shabat Cohen  3 weeks back

                                        how can you make DNA raciest?

                                        • Noelia owo
                                          Noelia owo  3 weeks back

                                          I feel like if I did this it would be 89% Mexican and 9% American-

                                          • Rick Noyb
                                            Rick Noyb  3 weeks back

                                            This shows why we need national health care in the US. The more samples these companies generate and share, the more the health care INDUSTRY will discriminate. They won't be open about why they decline coverage, they'll invent some plausible excuse to discriminate, and even though you have some sickly, at-risk relatives you may never be sick a day in your life. Great for you, but say you're in an auto accident at fault by another driver and you have no coverage? Well, welcome yourself to the growing number of Americans being bankrupted by a greed based medical system. Expect all your insurance coverages to skyrocket as your credit ratings plummet (how my risk as a driver is suddenly compromised by my inability to pay medical bills is a head scratcher), you will never be able to buy another big ticket item again, even though car ownership is pretty much a given in most of the US in order to work and have a normal life. Goodbye to any thoughts of putting kids through college or hoping to leave any kind of inheritance and the injustice now becomes "generational". Single payor (good riddance to health insurance companies, hmo's, credit collection agencies, high six-figure salaried administrators and slews of middle men responsible for making US health care the most expensive in the world) health care is the only option (unless hospitals return to being charity based, non-profit entities they way used to be) to keep millions of Americans from becoming a hopeless underclass. To all those right wingnuts screaming foul to socialism and returning to the "good old days" (when that was someone might have to explain to me what made that elusive period so good), I can tell you this one truth, we are stronger as a nation and people when we had a healthy prosperous middle class with a few millionaires than we are today with a burgeoning hopeless army of the working poor and obscenely wealthy billionaires. This idea propogated by the one-percenters, that only the rich can provide the capital to create new jobs is ridiculous to the insane. America became great because enough people had enough time and spare money to tinker with an idea in their garage and pursue the American dream. People who will never, NEVER, see their situations improve have been duped into being the gnashing, snarling rotweillers that protects a policy that is systematically disassembling America's middle class. These are the very same people that still tenuously have the power to improve their lives and that power comes in the form of the vote.

                                            • Elmira Jackson
                                              Elmira Jackson  3 weeks back

                                              They know nothing about east Africans esspically Somalia Djibouti Ethiopia horn of Africa basically

                                              • Csaba H.
                                                Csaba H.  4 weeks back


                                                • Brandon Foster
                                                  Brandon Foster  4 weeks back

                                                  Bump that I am going to wear a kilt anyway

                                                  • Vanisha Karna
                                                    Vanisha Karna  4 weeks back

                                                    A DNA heritage ad played before this video XD

                                                    • Justin Rohrer
                                                      Justin Rohrer  4 weeks back

                                                      My parents have red skin my grandparents have red skin me red skin results? eastern european? My grandmother was born on a Navajo Indian reservation.

                                                      • Mert
                                                        Mert  4 weeks back

                                                        Asking a sociologist instead of a geneticist about DNA testing... Classic Vox focusing mostly on presentation rather than good journalism

                                                        • Daniel Martinez
                                                          Daniel Martinez  2 weeks back

                                                          @Clam Chowder well some geneticists on here on youtube and elsewhere have explaned opposite to what the sociologist and video have said on dna testing

                                                        • Clam Chowder
                                                          Clam Chowder  4 weeks back

                                                          so yes. good journalism vox, very cool.

                                                        • Clam Chowder
                                                          Clam Chowder  4 weeks back

                                                          a geneticist would have said the same thing. it's common knowledge that "races" by all means aren't real by genetic standards. it's a sociologists job to study and explain how social categories like these impact us

                                                      • Jeremy Stoll
                                                        Jeremy Stoll  1 months back

                                                        Cross reference this with the coverage vox gave to Elizabeth Warren

                                                        • Sajayan K S
                                                          Sajayan K S  1 months back

                                                          My DNA Test says that I am an Alien. I was not supposed to born here.

                                                        • MoonGrape Wilder
                                                          MoonGrape Wilder  1 months back

                                                          First, on "Shemites" and Semites- your DNA analysis might say you have jewish ancestry, which would most likely be descendants of Shem, before his descendant Eber, the first semite was born.  Your report might say you have west Africa ancestry, which may not clearly specify that it is Caucasian- Hamites, specifically... the Amber (Caucasian) Race originated farther south than the very white Caucasians; the Bible is a history of the Amber Adam/Eve lineage; the very white Adam/Eve were actually named Ask and Embla, from an Eden much further North.  There were five Edens.  My advice is don't get scientific DNA analysis- all the medical association wants to do (generally) is sterilize you; make you frigid, impotent, infertile... so that they can have Increase in their special elite ranks, while suppressing increase in yours!

                                                          • MoonGrape Wilder
                                                            MoonGrape Wilder  1 months back

                                                            And, you do not have any Neanderthal ancestry- most have a tiny birth imperfection, the result of a curse from Nature, aeons ago.

                                                        • Aaron Williams
                                                          Aaron Williams  1 months back

                                                          i love this video

                                                          • Tiny Giraffe
                                                            Tiny Giraffe  1 months back

                                                            7:20 ya that's not how privacy works. you need info on me to affect my privacy

                                                            • Lon Felts
                                                              Lon Felts  1 months back

                                                              Ancestry maybe selling your DNA for commercial use. Please read your contracts before signing.

                                                              • APgeneticgenealogylover
                                                                APgeneticgenealogylover  1 months back

                                                                @Lon Felts https://www.acsh.org/news/2016/03/11/why-23andme-is-smoke-and-mirrors is just the author with some apprehension about the test of 23andme. I'l look at the next few links later.

                                                              • APgeneticgenealogylover
                                                                APgeneticgenealogylover  1 months back

                                                                @Lon Felts Steve Colbert himself did an ancestry test did an ancestry test too. I guess they're selling his DNA all over the place to try to clone more funny people...

                                                              • Lon Felts
                                                                Lon Felts  1 months back

                                                                @APgeneticgenealogylover I'm not going to go back and forth or try to write more comments to create a distraction. Please visit the below sites, there are hundreds of them but I just listed a few. At least it would get one started to think before you sign. For you folks who like late-nite shows, check out Steve Colbert and John Oliver under this subject. AP, you are doing a lot of commenting for someone who claims they know what they are talking about. If you know so much, you don't have to try to beat it in, just allow the people to learn on their own.

                                                                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvS2gjMMXBQ ,





                                                              • APgeneticgenealogylover
                                                                APgeneticgenealogylover  1 months back

                                                                @Lon Felts "The real goal is to inform people what's in the contract " you don't do "contracts" with the companies. You view terms of service. Apparently not only have fear mongering folks like yourself never done an ancestry test, but you also apparently don't know anyone who has. In other words, more proof that you all don't know what you are talking about.

                                                              • APgeneticgenealogylover
                                                                APgeneticgenealogylover  1 months back

                                                                @Lon Felts "In case you didn't know the feds are already on top of it Sissy!
                                                                " On top of what? I already gave you examples of prominent people involved in the government who have done these ancestry tests themselves.

                                                            • Axel Dang
                                                              Axel Dang  1 months back

                                                              well that's just disappointing

                                                              • rashaunny
                                                                rashaunny  1 months back

                                                                Useful, thx. Would suggest more editing like making it 4 min in the future

                                                                • Scene Sniper
                                                                  Scene Sniper  1 months back

                                                                  Is bad don’t do

                                                                  • Communism is great, Capitalism is evil

                                                                    I am a proud Brazilian and no genetic tests can change that

                                                                    • Kevin Luo
                                                                      Kevin Luo  1 months back

                                                                      I got a DNA ancestry test ad before this.

                                                                      • 90blin
                                                                        90blin  1 months back

                                                                        Ha! I never believed it anyways

                                                                        • stuna210
                                                                          stuna210  1 months back

                                                                          No Central or South America with the Lego models?? Another reason why I will never do this. There's a smaller database for us and I'm not going to contribute to their data for free. They should be paying EVERYONE to do this for them.

                                                                          • Kira Anastasia Andersen
                                                                            Kira Anastasia Andersen  1 months back

                                                                            Mine said 99.9% scandinavian. So i guess im in-bread??? what

                                                                            • ben dover
                                                                              ben dover  2 weeks back

                                                                              Kira Anastasia Andersen whites/europeans are one of the least inbred group in the world... if you want to see inbred look towards the middle east like saudi arabia or pakistan

                                                                          • Anon Ymous
                                                                            Anon Ymous  1 months back

                                                                            I hope Vox reimbursed you for the test.

                                                                            • Walrus Bellhop
                                                                              Walrus Bellhop  1 months back

                                                                              When I glanced at your 90% (vague) results, for a moment I thought it said you were 100% "Danish". I'm a nitwit (97%)
                                                                              @,:¬ o- huh??

                                                                              • Robert Rafil
                                                                                Robert Rafil  1 months back

                                                                                What the hell why does my test say I don’t have similar genes to my parents

                                                                                • infamous_
                                                                                  infamous_  1 months back

                                                                                  Yeah I totally would send my DNA to some company on the internet to get results that might be true

                                                                                  • APgeneticgenealogylover
                                                                                    APgeneticgenealogylover  1 months back

                                                                                    tell that to the people who share their stories on the news of finding lost close biological family they didn't know they had with these tests.

                                                                                • 5%LowBattery
                                                                                  5%LowBattery  1 months back

                                                                                  The rule in the Old South was a drop of African blood makes you African,”. But now that the drops can be measured, “it sort of made race seem a lot more arbitrary.
                                                                                  Still, those drops have had a potent effect on people’s identities. For some whites, even a smidgen of African ancestry was commonly referred to as “the taint,” said Harvard University African and African American studies professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. “That said it all: that it was something to be ashamed of, something dark and dirty.”

                                                                                • Noah Aubrey Linus Sorensen


                                                                                  do they want independence?