We’re approaching the end of the year, time for cold weather and hot chocolate in the northern hemisphere, summer and ice cream in the southern, and family and gifts all around. Some of those gifts will be DNA tests purchased during the recent sales and mailed back to the labs early in the new year. As in previous years, we might expect the deluge of incoming kits to cause backlogs in the labs that process our DNA samples, with increased wait times to get our results.
How Bad Has It Been in the Past?
Genealogy DNA testing really took off in 2017, and the labs were caught unawares in early 2018 when the holiday gift kits were shipped back all at once. In the first the months of 2018, AncestryDNA’s average processing time increased 1.7 fold (from 21 days to 37) compared to the last three months of 2017, 23andMe’s increased 2.5 fold (from 21 days to 52), MyHeritage increased 1.4 fold (from 26 to 37), and Family Tree DNA’s was flat (from 40 days to 42). The exception was Living DNA, which had been steadily decreasing their processing times since their founding a little over a year before. However, they hit a bump soon after.
The situation was somewhat better in early 2019. AncestryDNA actually decreased their average processing time slightly from October–December 2018 (29 days versus 25), and Living DNA’s times dropped by nearly half, from 45 days to 26 in the January–March 2019 period. On the other hand, 23andMe’s times were up 2.1 fold (11 days versus 24) and Family Tree DNA’s times were up 1.4 fold (25 days versus 35). Missing data prevented a comparison for MyHeritage, but they use Family Tree DNA’s lab, so their processing times were probably similarly affected.
All times are from the day the completed test was mailed back to the lab to the day results were available.
Other Factors Affect Processing Times
Over the years, we’ve seen other factors not related to the holiday rush increase processing times. Living DNA’s growing pains caused a slow-down in the first half of 2018, 23andMe’s software upgrades in mid-2018 caused a massive delay, and the change-over to the GSA microarray chip, the lab equipment used to analyze the data, increased processing times for MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA in the first half of 2019.
What Can We Expect This Year?
If 2018 is any guide, we can expect AncestryDNA’s processing times to be largely unaffected and the times at the other companies to increase by a week or two, on average. According to the most recent data from the ongoing DNA Processing Times Survey, AncestryDNA is averaging 16 days from mailing to results and 23andMe is averaging 13 days. The survey does not have enough data from the other companies to calculate averages. You can contribute your own processing times here.