What is This DNA Test from Ancestry.com that Raven Symoné was Talking About?

That's So Stupid, uh, I mean, Raven.

It was the gaffe heard around the world: Raven Symoné’s now-infamous interview on E! where she claimed she was from “every continent in Africa, except for one” and “every continent in Europe, except for one.”


How did she get those, ahem, miraculous results? Symoné claims she used a DNA test from Ancestry.com. Up until her interview, I had never heard that the popular genealogy website offered their own DNA testing services, so I had to check it out.

Much to my surprise, Raven isn’t making the testing part up: Ancestry.com does offer ethnicity and genealogical DNA testing via a $99 kit. The AncestryDNA people will send out a “a saliva collection tube and a pre-paid return mailer (so you don’t have additional costs to return your DNA).” From there, users will be notified via email in 6-8 weeks when their results are available for viewing via a secure online portal. The test uses “microarray-based autosomal DNA testing, which surveys a person’s entire genome at over 700,000 locations, all with a simple saliva sample.”

But how accurate is this test tube of saliva? The AncestryDNA folks give a bit of a song-and-dance answer on their website:

“AncestryDNA uses advanced scientific techniques to produce your results. We measure and analyze a person’s entire genome at over 700,000 locations. During the testing process, each DNA sample is held to a quality standard of at least a 98% call rate. Any results that don’t meet that standard may require a new DNA sample to be collected. Then we compare your DNA to one of the most comprehensive and unique collections of DNA samples from people around the world, to identify overlap. As our database of DNA samples continues to grow, you could receive updates with new information.”

Also, the AncestryDNA folks also make clear on several locations on their website that that “your AncestryDNA ethnicity results cannot be used as a substitute for legal documentation.” Take that for what it is worth.

I also wanted to see how the cost of a $99 AncestryDNA test compared to others on the market (although, let’s be frank: I’m sure Ms. Symoné got hers for free, which is even more of a reason to be disgusted that a person with such a public platform can misspeak in such insensitive ways and think nobody is going to take notice). National Geographic offers a similar product called Geno 2.0 – Genographic Project Participation and DNA Ancestry Kit that retails for $199.95. Amazon.com stocks a kit from DNA Spectrum for $89. One more seemingly reputable kit produced by 23andMe runs for $99. In short, the AncestryDNA price appears to be in-line with similar products.

The bottom line: It looks like if you’ve got $99 to spare, the AncestryDNA kit might be worth checking out, but I highly doubt that you’ll get the same amazing results that Symoné bragged about during her interview.  If I were the AncestryDNA folks, I’d be distancing myself as far away from Raven as I possibly could. Perhaps they could go to all the continents in Asia that Raven does not have DNA from.