Understanding AncestryDNA’s New Subscription Plan

by | Sep 3, 2023

Categories: News


Ancestry has introduced a new subscription plan to monetize the new DNA features that they’ve been rolling out lately.  This new tier fits between the existing one-time DNA purchase and the existing subscriptions they offer for access to documentary records. While many DNA features will remain available without a subscription, the advances that they’ve made in SideView (described below) now require a membership.

My Opinion, For What it’s Worth

I’ve been wondering how long Ancestry was going to be able to hold back on monetizing their new SideView DNA features.  If you haven’t seen it yet, Sideview allows most people to figure out whether their DNA matches are related to them on their mom’s side or on their dad’s side.  This is one of the biggest advances in genetic genealogy in the past few years.  I appreciate that their investment in Sideview is likely significant and that the Ancestry accountants must be appeased.  Ancestry has a great overview of SideView.

The net result is that they’ve added a new subscription tier between the existing “buy a DNA plan and get all DNA features forever” tier and their existing “buy access to documentary records” tiers.

It seems like a solid business decision to try to get more value from the large group of people who purchased AncestryDNA kits for a one-time charge.  Especially considering that the new subscription tier is marketed towards avid researchers who don’t currently have an interest in stepping up to one of the more expensive memberships they already offer.

Although, this is the first time that Ancestry has dipped a toe into the “DNA subscription plans” pool.    So, I’ll wager that there are going to be a few people storming, or at least yelling, at the gates over this one.

AncestryDNA Features Are Included in Existing Subscriptions

The most important thing to realize about the new AncestryDNA membership is that the DNA-related membership features are included in their existing subscription plans. Their existing membership plans give access to records related to:

  • One country
  • One country and some key global records
  • Everything on Ancestry.

In other words, if you already have one of Ancestry’s records-related memberships, you can relax.  You’re already covered.

However, if you’ve only paid for an AncestryDNA kit, and you don’t have a membership of any type, then things have changed.  The SideView-related features that have rolled out in the past year have been moved into the new AncestryDNA Plus membership, which is an annual subscription product.

Key Features Available With an AncestryDNA Plus subscription

In a Nutshell: The new subscription plan is all about SideView-related features.

  • Genetically-related traits, and the side of the family that you inherited those traits from.  This is included even if you didn’t purchase the “traits” DNA kit option from Ancestry.
  • The side of your family that you got your ethnicity from
  • The side of the family your matches are related to you through
  • DNA Chromosome Painter, which shows you which regions of your chromosomes carry your ethnicity

Key Features Available Without an AncestryDNA Plus Subscription

Several key AncestryDNA features are still accessible without purchasing the new subscription, most notably:

  • Ethnicity Information
  • AncestryDNA Matches
  • Contact Your Matches
  • Shared Matches
  • DNA Matches found using Thrulines

Do You Need to Subscribe?

If you don’t have a subscription to one of Ancestry’s records-related subscriptions already, you should consider an AncestryDNA membership, especially if you are an avid DNA researcher.  It will give you access to the new technology that Ancestry is developing for identifying which side of your family you inherited your DNA from.  This is very likely where Ancestry is going invest its AncestryDNA dollars for the next few years.

However, if you’re only interested in looking at your high-level ethnicity results, and seeing who your close DNA matches are, you can probably pass on this one.

What do you think?

Is this a good business decision on Ancestry’s part, or do you think that they’ll alienate existing users by moving features into the subscription tier?  Let me know by sharing your thoughts in the comments.



  1. Steve Martin

    Thank you for posting. Valuable info for me since I’m heavily invested in my Ancestry subscription.

    • Mark

      You’re very welcome Steve. I’ve been a long time subscriber as well, so I was very interested in learning more when this came out.


      • Dee

        Does the subscription apply to all of the DNA Kits you manage including all the kits shared with you?

        • Mark


          Thankfully, it does! In other words, similar to the existing subscription plans, anything that you can do with your own DNA kit, you can do with with a kit that you manage. I personally hope they never decide to cross this line.


          • Doranne

            I’m not sure that is true anymore. I can see the new “traits” feature for my DNA kit but I can’t for the 2 other kits I manage.

          • Mark

            It is possible that this is because they are in the middle of the rollout of the changes across their systems. It’s very difficult to roll out changes across a website as large as Ancestry’s without some hiccups. We’ll probably all have to wait a few days (or a week) before the dust settles on the rollout of these features. I’ve also seen some mention that some of the features are begin released on different schedules in different countries, with some countries not getting them until early 2014. This could possibly be for regulatory reasons, as different countries have different rules for disclosing medical-related info like that found in Traits.

        • Jenifer

          Alienation is the wave of the future for Ancestry and many other companies. I am aware that they are trying to make back the $4.7b or so that was spent to purchase the company, but long-term investments should come with long-term gains, not vast, short-term ones. Running off the customer base will not assist with the long goal.

  2. Catherine

    I think it’s a fair move, but they could have warned people in advance to reduce the outcry as people realise they’ve ‘lost’ features that they assumed would remain free.
    Ancetry could also highlight the benefits still available with a free membership, with or without a DNA test; the tree builder is excellent, and completely free, and they will host all your trees for free. The features available for free with a DNA test are also excellent – (though the colour dots could be extended or at least made more distinctive).

    • Mark


      I agree. I think that they lost an opportunity to engage their huge customer base with an “its free during the beta phase” pitch, and then move it to the paid membership plan. I wonder if this was always the plan, or if it evolved. It would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall in the boardroom while they were making the decision on this one. It’ll definitely be interesting to watch this one shake out.


  3. Line Kr. W.

    Thanks a lot for sorting this out! 🙂
    It’s been a lot of confusing “information” out there.
    As Norwegian with one Swedish g-g-granmother and one Hungarian/Austrian grandfather, Ancestry just got even less interesting. Most Scandinavians and continental Europeans test with/use MyHeritage, so that’s where all my matches of any value are (and 14 tests, whereof four uploaded from Ancestry, one from 23&Me).
    On Ancestry I/we have far fewer matches, and 99% are 5-8th. cousins descending from Norwegian and/or Swedish emigrants.

    Ancestry unfortuntly also lack valuable DNA-tools like Chromosome reader, triangulation tool, clustering, shared DNA-matches lower than 20cM.

    To me, Ancestry’s Chromosome painter is a joke. I’ve worked with DNA-Painters Chromosome mapper in combination with MH’s triangulation tool and know exactly which segments I share with my Hungarian/Austrian relatives (three 1c1r, one 2c, one 2c1r and several 3c-4c’s). Ancestry “made” the same chromosomes/segments 100% “Norwegian ethnicity”. No, there’s really no way (ftDNA’s suggests west-Slavic for the same segment/s, which is of course far more credible).

    BTW, “Norway/Norwegian” is not an ethnicity. Neither is Swedish/Danish. They’re nationalities and communities. Our common ethnicity is Scandinavian (also includes Icelandic and Faroese). It’s frustrating how Ancestry’s wording make many believe there’s specific “Norwegian DNA”, or Bulgarian or German DNA for that matter.

    And for the Side View and maternal/paternal matches… I tested my dad’s 1c long before they came up with the feature. We share 430cM. His DNA-test is linked to my tree along with his nephew/my 2c and his three children’s tests + that of one more of his g-nephews. All these tests are corretly assigned to my paternal side.
    Still, Ancestry has my dad’s 1c “unassigned”. I am also unassigned on his match list.

    Ancestry’s lack of historical/cultural “knowledge” generates a flow of annoing false hints/suggested corrections. E.g. the name of the Norwegian capital; Christiania (till 1877) vs Kristiania (1877-1924) vs Oslo (since 1925). Same goes for different spelling of names; ch/k, i/ie/, t/th, etc. Also mixing Norwegian and Danish patronymic -sen with Swedish -son. (I’m referring to Norwegian church records etc., not to “information” from people’s trees).

    And of course not Ancestry’s fault, but users descending from Norwegian/Swedish immigrants often just copy given names/surnames/names of places which is so misspelled/garbled it’s impossible to make any sense of them. Or they simply write “Norway” 😉

    I had paid World membership for 1,5 years, but it’s far too costly to be worth it. First of all due to Ancestry’s complete lack of valuable DNA-tools. Also considered one get more or less the same documentation/records for free on FamilySearch and/or public Norwegian/Scandinavian/continental Europan sites. It was also very disappointing to see even documentation collected from a relative’s tree, which she had collected outside of Ancestry, also “disappeared” when my membership ran out. That’s just too greedy.

    So thanks, but no thanks. Even Ancestry’s short time offer of US84 for six months World Explorer is ridiculous.
    I pay less than US55 for a full year Complete membership with MyHeritage and get so incredibly much more!
    I combine MH with DNA-Painter subscription of US50/year, – which an unbeatable combination. All in all US105 pr year, while Ancestry’s ordinary price for ‘next to nothing’ is US336.

    My point of view, – I do of course realize that Americans in general have other interests and thus better use of Ancestry’s services than I do 🙂

  4. Diana

    My only concern is, I have world subscription, is they roll out something new and then in a year or so it becomes an extra pay subscription. Many years ago the fold, and newspapers were part of World and all Access ,now you have to pay extra to search these. I’m afraid this will happen for DNA.

    • Mark


      That’s a good cautionary tale. I sure hope that they don’t go this route!


    • Patrice

      … And I was told by customer service several years ago that it isn’t possible to “downgrade” a subscription to delete the extra Fold and Newspapers features. I’d have to close and restart my 20-year-old subscription. Really?!

      What with pandemic-related and other issues I haven’t taken the time to thoroughly backup data enmeshed in their system, but meanwhile I’ve opened a MyHeritage account (and broken through one brick wall using its tools and database). The universe is expanding for researchers.

      All that said, I think their new DNA-tools charge is reasonable.



  1. This week's crème de la crème - September 9, 2023 - Genealogy à la carteGenealogy à la carte - […] Understanding AncestryDNA’s New Subscription Plan by Mark Thompson on Making Family History. […]
  2. Friday’s Family History Finds | Empty Branches on the Family Tree - […] Understanding AncestryDNA’s New Subscription Plan by Mark Thompson on Making Family History […]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share This