An unboxing and review of’s DNA kit and what my brother’s Malort face looks like. 

Whenever I bring up my mission to find my grandfather to my fellow genealogists, they always end up singing the praises of AncestryDNA.

Their reason: the site lets you to link your family tree to your DNA results, thereby allowing relatives to find you and access your tree without the awkward back-and-forth messaging process that comes with 23andMe.

It links me directly to other people’s family trees? I don’t have to send an awkward get-to-know-you email to cousins I’ve never met? Sign me up!

It was over Christmas of 2016, then, that I ordered the kit and had my mom take the test. So cast your mind back to a simpler time, when lights were on every house, James Franco and Bryan Cranston were charming the world in the hit comedy Why Him?, and there was one less petulant Cheeto leading our nation.

The box

White box from AncestryDNA kit containing DNA test.

I ordered the kit on December 14th and it arrived around the 20th. So in all it took about a week for it to arrive. Nice and speedy for impatient genealogists such as I.

The box itself is pretty minimal as seen above. No frills. Just a nice sleek white box with a neat family-tree-harkening design on the front. Steve Jobs would be proud.

The back looks like this if anyone was wondering—except less blurry.


What’s in the box!?

No, it’s not Gwyneth Paltrow’s head.

It’s this!

The contents of an AncestryDNA test kit including a test tube for saliva, a collection bag, a pre-addressed box, and set of instructions.

A list of the contents:

  • 1 test tube for saliva sample
  • 1 collection bag
  • 1 pre-addressed box with postage paid
  • 1 set of instructions

As with 23andMe, each kit comes with a serial number—on both the test tube and in the instructions—you have to register before sending it off to the lab. I highly suggest you do this as soon as you open the box as to avoid losing it for any reason.

I ended up taking way too many precautionary measures with mine, writing the serial number down in three different places as well as taking a picture of it on my phone.

Taking the test

Mom taking the AncestryDNA test while cooking us dinner.
Master of the multi-task

As with 23andMe, mom refrained from eating or drinking anything for 30 minutes before providing her sample, which came at an inopportune moment as she was also preparing dinner at the time.

Luckily for her, I was more than happy to help taste test the food for her.

Also, during this time, my brother and I did shots of Jeppson’s Malört as he had never tasted it before and I had brought a bottle home from Chicago.

And now he’ll never taste anything again.

My brother's face after he had a shot of Jeppson's Malört.
My brother’s beautiful Malört face.

Ahhhh, I remember my first shot of Malört. Here’s actually a video of it on YouTube.

Warning: Gross vial of spit ahead

Once my mom got done providing her sample, we screwed a special cap on the tube that released a blueish chemical mixture into the saliva. From what I understand, the mixture is there to keep the sample good for sequencing.

After screwing it on, it didn’t look like any of it was trickling down into the sample. But after screwing the cap a little bit tighter, it started to mix and eventually worked out.

The cap then detaches from the tube, which looks like this when you’re done.



After that, it was into the box and sent off for testing.

Since we did this around the holidays, it’s going to take a bit longer to process than if we did it literally any other time. AncestryDNA is good about keeping me up-to-date with e-mails though, so I’m not too concerned.

Their DNA processing tracker leaves a lot to be desired though, especially when compared to 23andMe’s, which was incredibly helpful at telling you exactly where your DNA sample was in the process.

AncestryDNA kit tracker
AncestryDNA’s unhelpful processing tracker.


All in all, the AncestryDNA kit provided for a simple and intuitive process. The instructions were straightforward, and the two-step process was broken down pretty well (I mean, it’s two steps for Pete’s sake).

My only complaints would come from three things:

  1. The cap with the chemical solution was a little difficult to screw on and mix with the sample. This is where 23andMe has one over on AncestryDNA as there’s was easy as popping the cap on the sample and having it mix instantly.
  2. The DNA tracker could be more in-depth in telling you where you DNA is in the process. This would especially be helpful for genealogists like me who like to obsess over these things in their free time.
  3. This one isn’t so much a complaint as much as it is a suggestion: one thing I really liked about 23andMe was that you could send the sample to the lab in the same box it came in. It just really simplified the process and I had less trash to deal with.

Overall, I’d tentatively recommend this to others—though I’d have to wait until our results come in to be sure. Until then . . .

Next up . . .

  • School’s In Session: A lesson in the basics of genetic genealogy.
  • History of the Boat People: brief overview on the Vietnamese diaspora following the Fall of Saigon and where my family fits in it all.


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