Saturday, July 12, 2014

My AncestryDNA Review: A Cautionary Tale

[UPDATE: Please be advised that this review is almost two years old. In that time, there have been several changes to AncestryDNA's product. Because those features have greatly impacted the AncestryDNA test and its usefulness, I have given a second review of those additional features. Thank you for your continued interest. I wish all of you the best success in your efforts with DNA testing for genealogical pursuits. -Heather, 28 Jan 2016]

As some of you know, I took the AncestryDNA test back in February of this year. I got my results back a long time ago, and even though I posted them on Twitter I never blogged about them. I made a video about my immediate reaction, but never shared it. I wanted to give myself time to see, from start to finish, the impact their DNA test would have on my research. That's what makes a DNA test successful, in my book. What impact did it have on my research?

But first, let me share my results:


My AncestryDNA results


As you can see, I'm one of the most diverse people, genetically speaking, that you could ever hope to find. What I have to discover in terms of international research and connections to people across the globe cannot be understated. It has never been more apparent to me than it is now how much I need to make solid DNA connections with other people. It may be the only way I'll ever know some of my heritage.

As a matter of disclosure, both of my grandmothers were illegitimate children. So a significant amount of this genetic material represents people who are unknown to me.

What impact has the AncestryDNA ethnicity estimates had on your research?

Absolutely none. These genetic percentages have not had any impact on my research whatsoever. Not in terms of people I know about already, nor those I have yet to discover. How could they? The African heritage was of no surprise to me. I didn't need a test to confirm this to me. The biggest surprise to me were the amounts of Jewish heritage I possess. But again, what am I supposed to do with this information? How am I supposed to use that to find the people to whom I'm related? How is this of any genealogical benefit to me at all?

Paying for information I cannot use puts me into the exact same position I was in before I ever knew the information. In fact, I was better off BEFORE I took the AncestryDNA test in this respect because then at least I would still have $99 and could take a test from a different company.




My Suggestion: If AncestryDNA wants the ethnicity estimates to have greater value and overall impact on someone's research, this needs to play out in the cousin matches. Instead of telling me what the match's genetic breakdown was like, and leaving me wondering which part of their breakdown applies to me--tell me which one applies to me.

I won't pretend to understand what Ancestry's beef is with a chromosome browser, but in terms of privacy this feature I'm suggesting doesn't have to be complicated or threatening in any way. Even if you highlight, italicize, or bold the Region I share with my match, this is better than what this system currently does--which is nothing. Preferably, I would like it if they would at least show me the chromosomes that apply to this match. But if you can't/won't do that, give me something--anything--that I can work with.

Final grade for the AncestryDNA ethnicity estimates: D+
It has potential. They have demonstrated to me that they have the ability to deal with a complicated genetic sample like mine. But this feature is so under-developed, I'm glad it was never my real motivation for taking the test. Because if it were, I'd be even more disappointed.

What impact has the AncestryDNA cousin matching had on your research?

None. Worse than none. If I could give a negative score for this, I would.

This feature was the reason I took the AncestryDNA test. Believe it or not, I did my research on this test before I took it. I already knew the ethnicity results weren't going to impress me much. But I figured I would more than make up for that via the cousin matches. And to be honest, this didn't happen.

How can two little strands cause so much drama?
When I open my cousin matches, I have 188 pages of matches. At 50 matches per page, that may seem like a lot of people. But everything after page 3 are what they called "Distant Cousins." That means that they're 5th cousins or even more distant than that. The ancestor we share is so far removed from both of us that our chances of tracing them accurately on paper will be difficult. So in AncestryDNA's best interest, they don't count. Since AncestryDNA hasn't given me the tools I need to analyze these cousins more carefully, they've really given me no choice but to decide these distant cousins don't count.

Which leaves me with pages 1 through 3. And I honestly wish I had better things to say about the experience I'm having there. Because I paid $99 for these three pages of cousin matches, and it was the only money I had to spend on a DNA test. I want in my soul for it to have been worth it because I don't get a do-over with someone else. This is it, at least for the foreseeable future.

They've matched me with 2 second cousins, 6 third cousins, and 96 fourth cousins. Let me break down my real results for you by group:
  • One second cousin I already know. We have all of the same information. The other has a private tree and hasn't responded to my messages to find out who she is. 
  • Of my third cousin matches: 2 have private trees, 2 have public trees with no matches to anyone in my tree, and 2 have no tree. None of them have responded to my messages to collaborate
  • Of the 4th cousin matches: 17 have private trees. One of them has allowed me to see hers so far. Our connection could not be determined. 24 of my matches either had trees unavailable or no trees at all. That leaves me with 55 matches I can explore right now, none of which match anyone in my tree.
    (Three people have responded to my messages, but only to ask me for help. I was very grateful for their cooperation, please don't misunderstand. But when no relationship between us could be determined, how was that experience supposed to be anything but disappointing for all of us involved?)
  • The only matches I have where Ancestry could determine our shared ancestor--based on our matching trees and NOT DNA--were from the Distant Cousins category. And one of them I know for a fact is wrong because we both descend from step-children of the same ancestor. We have him in our trees as a father to his non-biological step children, but at least in mine I have marked him as a non-biological parent to Laura Griffin Clark. Not that this translates over to AncestryDNA at all, which is a stupid error on their part. (I'm sorry. I've tried to refrain from using the word "stupid" in this review because it's terribly non-constructive. But that's what that is. Not implementing the biological/adoption information from the Ancestry trees is stupid!)

It wasn't until I saw what other testing companies could offer me, and I discovered what a chromosome browser is, that I realized how short-changed I was. And apparently, this has been an ongoing battle with Ancestry.com. Customers of genealogical DNA testing from other companies have been asking for better DNA analysis tools. Ancestry.com refuses to supply them, their rational being concerns of "privacy," and the idea that they want their product to be more "simple."

Let's talk about that word for a second. Simple. If something is simple, that means it is without significant barriers to the ends and objectives it was meant to achieve. It also means it should be approachable to all users, of any experience level, who choose to use it. True simplicity means I can achieve results without struggle, and anyone who comes before or after me should be able to do the same thing.

Simplicity does NOT mean that you deliver an inferior product, on purpose, at full market price to customers who don't know any better. That is not true simplicity. It's dishonesty. And the ways in which this test is inferior is not allowing people to achieve results, or oftentimes leading them to false conclusions. Not only is this bad for genealogical research, it goes against the Genealogical Proof Standards that professional genealogists know they're supposed to uphold.

And because AncestryDNA delivers such a sub-par product, it doesn't end up being simpler to the users in the end. It ends up being much more difficult for all of us to draw meaningful conclusions from our tests. So they need to come up with a better justification than this. Because that is a royal load of nonsense.

Potluck Mentality: Let me show up
but not bring anything!
My Suggestions: Make full participation in the cousin matching mandatory. If you're concerned about privacy and not getting your feelings hurt by what you find in a DNA test, then DNA testing is not for you. I shouldn't have to beat down someone else's door asking them to come play. We pay the same amount of money for our tests. They get to see my results, and I don't get to see theirs? This compromises my results, and means that Ancestry.com has to deliver an inferior product to me because of someone else's potluck mentality.

DNA for genealogy HAS to be collaborative, or it does not work. By definition, it CANNOT work. You can't have a service that relies on comparative science, and isolate it down to services provided for a single user. But that's what AncestryDNA tries to do, and that's what users with privacy settings do. Privacy settings eliminate interactions between users. And it's an inappropriate way to approach DNA testing for genealogy.

Also, chromosome browser! Either buy one or build one! Or come up with something even better. Give me the analysis tools I need. I would say, "Or I'm going somewhere else." But that's already a foregone conclusion. I AM going somewhere else, anywhere else, that can do a better job with "cousin matching" than AncestryDNA.

Final grade for the AncestryDNA cousin matches: F
My disappointment with the service I have received is so complete, I have nothing good to say.

Final grade for the AncestryDNA test as a whole: D-

I trust Ancestry.com as a company, they've always given me the best results in terms of genealogy related products. I am exactly the type of customer they should be trying to make happy. I'm not only fiercely loyal to their products, but I have consistently recommended them as the only place for my friends to go when they are serious about their genealogy research. Not only that, but I'm 24--I am their future. I am the market they most need to worry about reaching. They have a very real vested interest in keeping me happy for a long time.

While I still feel that in terms of record access, database quality, and mobile platforms they have no real rival in my eyes, I expected the same caliber of service from my DNA test. And I didn't get what I paid for.

I took this particular DNA test because I truly believed that Ancestry.com had ambitions to be the market leader of DNA research--as they are in every other facet of what they do. I trust them to be around a long time with my information. I felt secure in that guarantee.

But seeing as they've decided to discontinue their Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA services, I don't see how they could ever be top-dog in the market now. Especially not after destroying irreplaceable DNA samples and removing access to the results from their website.


Until I see some momentum on their part in terms of change, I will not purchase another DNA test from them. I will not encourage anyone else to take an AncestryDNA test. In fact, I will join a growing vocal portion of the genealogical community that discourages people from taking AncestryDNA tests.

I feel ya! Same thing happened to me. What should I do now?

I wish I had a better answer. You can export your DNA results from AncestryDNA for free, but what to do with them at that point is a mystery to me. If you have $69 you can upload them to Family Tree DNA. They have way more analysis tools and they come highly recommended from a lot of people I've been listening to so far. You can buy a test from them too, but honestly they seem a little expensive to me.

23andMe is another option, and in terms of what I've seen of their interface via this Google Hangout, it looks pretty awesome. Wish I had $99 for another test.

Your other option is to wait for GedMatch.com to come back online (like I am right now) and upload your AncestryDNA results there for free. They'll provide you with more analysis tools so you can see exactly what is going on with your DNA results. You know, so you can actually USE them for something. Here's to hoping that turns out better, but no word on their site about how long they're going to be MIA.


Maybe you'll get lucky and find some money in the street somewhere...

85 comments:

  1. In 2007 I kept on wondering how useful is DNA for me? By 2010 or so I slowly started to read a little about it and more so ending of 2012, definitely by early 2013 I found a site that compared the different DNA companies. So I was certain I knew what I was getting for my hundred bucks.

    I would think someone who writes a blog is computer savvy, which means the research would've done about these companies. Unlike you Heather, I WILL refrain from using the word "stupid."

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    1. I did a significant amount of research before I took my DNA test, enough to know that Y-dna and mitochondrial dna were not going to answer the questions I have. My father's paternal lines and my mother's maternal lines are of the most well documented lines I have. But my research questions were in relation to my father's maternal line. And since my father has no sisters, and my grandmother would never agree to take a DNA test, that left me with an autosomal test as my only option.

      At the time I was choosing my DNA tests, the two largest competitors to AncestryDNA had come under significant public scrutiny regarding their privacy policy and test validity.

      Family Tree DNA had/has a class action lawsuit against them in the state of Alaska because they were publishing user information without user permission. Because Alaska has strict laws with respect to privacy and DNA testing, their users in that state took legal action. As I read the details about the case, I was disturbed by much of what I read and decided to stay away from them. I didn't need to research their analysis tools to know I wouldn't be testing with them, so I never did. And I still stand by that decision.

      23andMe came under similar, but less severe scrutiny with respect to the validity of their health testing. They claim their tests can trace hereditary health issues, but they received a lot of bad press saying this was false advertising. At the time I was under the impression that this was the core of the service they provided. Since I didn't require that kind of service, I didn't research their test. And even if I had, I would have seriously questioned the validity of their results.

      Which led me to the AncestryDNA autosomal test. At the time I was choosing my test, privacy concerns were my most important criteria. I wanted the guarantee that my sample would remain secure. I read a significant portion of the privacy policy, and was satisfied by what I was reading with regards to how AncestryDNA handles the samples.

      The bulk of my commentary in this post is with respect to analysis tools for the Dna results, and the blatant fact that AncestryDNA doesn't have any. This is something fixable, and that many genealogists were under the impression that AncestryDNA would "get around" to fixing. That was the sentiment in the genealogical community at the time I took my test. I saw many people discussing this online but didn't entirely understand what they were talking about. I had no way to understand, and would never understand until I had taken a DNA test.

      Apparently it was at Rootstech that representatives from AncestryDNA said they didn't see a purpose for further DNA analysis tools and had them as a very low item on their priority list. That fact did not come to light until after I had already taken the test. Same thing with the decision to discontinue and destroy their Y-DNA and mtDNA tests. All of these are recent developments which have come to light, in the weeks and months AFTER I took my test.

      So how do we make a choice between a competent test, a privacy policy, or effective analysis tools? Because that's the decision, according to my experience, that I was making when I was choosing my DNA test.

      I may have been many things when I was choosing my DNA tests, but stupid was not one of them.

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    2. I know this is an old post, but...your father can take an mtDNA test to get his mother's haplogroup. Personally, I tested at 23andme as well as AncestryDNA and it has been a worthwhile investment of my money. Yes, AncestryDNA leaves a lot to be desired wrt tools, but the response rate is poor across the board with all three companies. I wish I had more matches at FTDNA as all the data excepting trees is right there.

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    3. Hi I was wondering what company you would recommend to use to help figure out who your related to? I was adopted at 5 and it was a closed adoption so I have no information about biological parents and I would like to find out about them. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!!

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    4. The family trees on FTDNA are not easy to read. I can't see the first 4 or 5 generations in one glance. Ancestry's charts are much easier to read. I can't figure out how I am related to the matches on FTDNA because I cannot follow their family tree.

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  2. I have had DNA tests at Family Tree DNA, Ancestry and 23&Me, in that order. I started a few years ago with FTDNA and had upgraded it twice by the time Ancestry offered a test. I was among the last of those at 23&Me to get my test while it still included some medical info which was more understandable to me. Most of my Matches are with people who have chosen not to share their information. Their Trees at Ancestry are locked. My best and closest matches are to people who aren't sharing anything. I did have a very good match to a close cousin who I have known about but never met. It was a relief to at least know I have matched a close relative. None of the test, though interesting, have helped me in any way to advance my research into my ancestry. maybe it will be useful later.

    One question may have been answered. My Grt-Grandmother is said to have been at least part Cherokee. I have a very tiny bit of Native American DNA which may "prove" that this Family Tradition is correct.

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    1. Which test proved your Native American ancestry?

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  3. UPDATE: GEDmatch.com is back online, and taking uploads of AncestryDNA raw data. I'm in the process of uploading mine right now.

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  4. Thank you for an excellent, honest review. I chose Ancestry because at the time it only cost $79 and the other tests were 2 to 3 times that much. I am retired on a tight budget. The tests were very new and I banked on the fact that Ancestry would improve. As soon as they offered the Raw data, I transferred to FTDNA and uploaded to GedMatch. I am still waiting for the improvements.

    I only use the results now to match-up trees and results with cousins who have also transferred to FTDNA or uploaded to GedMatch.

    At this last weekends Genetic Genealogy Conference, the Ancestry rep said chromosome browsing tools are their number one requested improvement, so we need to keep yelling!

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  5. As a newbie to DNA research I found your blog most informative, but tell me--what were the indicators of your supposed Jewish heritage? Thanks-

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    1. So if you took an mtDNA test and found a high EJ percentage in your results would you be Jewish with certainty?

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    2. Two percent is insignificant number. It is like two cents to a dollar. It is for reference, since then you know most likely you do not need to look there. Most of the genes that matter come then elsewhere.

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    3. Mike, I think the answer to your question can be found in the link below under "Testing and Validation":

      https://www.23andme.com/ancestry_composition_guide/

      I hope this information is helpful to you.

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  6. Does AncestryDNA share data with the LDS Church?

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  7. I had a very different experience than what you did buying the Ancestry DNA test kit. I mainly bought it just for the purpose that I wanted to know my ethnic background, especially that there were "rumors" I had Native American in either sides of my family. This test pretty much confirmed that. When I bought the kit, I don't think I was fully aware of the capabilities of being able to contact "Cousins' and share information, I mostly just cared about knowing my ethnic background. Luckily I bought the kit when it was on sale for $79. I believe it was the best money I had ever spent period. A huge unknown in my family tree was regarding my Mexican great grandfather, I knew when he was born, died and his name, but nothing about his family from Mexico. I was able to find one of these cousins (and I also found another one) who luckily responded to me and shared a huge wealth of information about that side of my family. Instantly that blank part of my tree was filled. If it wasn't for this test, I would have never found my Mexican cousin. Also a part missing is my great grandma's side of the family (she was married to my Mexican Great Grandfather), she was adopted, so therefore know only who mother POSSIBLY IS and know ZILCH about her father. Supposedly it was an affair, and the child was born out of wedlock... So I found several cousins who share this particular part of a tree, of which this tree branch were of people from the same location as my great grandmother, and knowing that these people were cousins of my mother and cousins of her cousin as well, I knew it was related through my great grandmother. I was able to get a hold of one of my cousins, but I think they found it too controversial that there was possibly an affair and an adoption involved, so she didn't respond back to me....And also, I was able to upload this raw DNA data to Gedmatch which has all kinds of tools to use, and also Nutramatch which if you are interested in what genetic mutations you have that could show your risk for certain health issues...

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    1. Every article I've read concerning Europeans being related to Native Americans claim ancestry through a female. It's interesting the Jews claim their ancestry DNA through the female as well. What has happened to the "Seed-line" of the father?

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    2. Native American women held a lot of power in their village or community. So, they would marry the male europeans for peace issues, believing this would help. The also married for trade issues. White european males would marry the native american women because they knew they held a lot of power and they wanted to be able to trade goods, so they could receive things useful to surviving in the "New World" and also gain knowledge of of all they new about the land.

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    3. (not young, not DNA savvy, but experienced researcher especially genealogy). I have an elderly friend from Cornwall who ?jokingly" said that no one from Cornwall did genealogy research because everyone knew their mother & the biological father was irrelevant - he was always at sea, fishing. I have always assumed matriarchal tribes had somewhat the same thought. RE DNA: just on a lark, I had AncestryByDNA done for my mom and my dad's last remaining sibling/sister. We had always been told that there was a photo of g'grandma's family member in Native American dress: my aunt's dna indicated nothing but European; the number of generations since the advent of Photography was not enough to completely eradicate the genes. My mom's family had always indicated that her likely grandfather was part Native American or possibly black and her grandmother was part black: the genes proved that her grandfather was Native American and her grandmother was part Sub-Saharan African - and the percentages were exactly what we expected. No real research value but very interesting knowledge. I'm still playing with the idea of DNA testing for myself and my husband - just for the knowledge; not for the research. (All of my Ancestry.com trees are private.)

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    4. Rainyday - A lot of ancestry is shared through the female bloodline due to rape. You also see this in the African American population in the USA. Marrying for trade and power is mostly revisionist history. White males were not marrying NA and Black women in large numbers 1-3 centuries ago for trade and power couple relationships... Many of these children were the product of rape and conquest.

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  8. I'm adopted & it will cost $200 for child services to ask my birth mother if she is OK with me contacting her. If she says no, I'm out $200. I'm thinking about buying this test as a Christmas present for myself.
    I thank you for posting your review. I mainly wanted to know if I was going to be scammed out of $99. It looks like it's legitimate, & although it didn't answer your questions, if it can get me in touch with one genetic cousin, I think it will be worth it for me.

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    1. they asked you for 200 bucks?!?! my daughters step mother and her sisters were adopted and child services gave them their files about a year ago and they gave them to them for free

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    2. Our adoption agency charged $100 just for the "non-identifying information" from the files. For the "search," which would mean they would try to contact the birth mother from the files, it was $900, and there was no guarantee that it would be successful.

      We got the non-identifying information, which had some vague clues. We also were able to get the "original birth certificate," I am glad that we didn't waste the $900, as it would have been useless - I eventually concluded that she used a fake name on the birth certificate (apparently not uncommon in the 1950s, when an out of wedlock birth was the deepest shame).

      However, ancestry.com saved the day. I found a 3rd cousin match on ancestry.com. I used that 3rd cousin match to research her tree up to her 2nd great grandparents and then down again through all branches. Fortunately, the birth mother's side of the family was all US born in that time span, so I was able to get the information I needed to completely work through the tree and then eliminate anyone who couldn't possibly be a birth mother (ancestry had given me enough clues that I knew I was looking at maternal). I found the birth mother, she was alive, and we contacted her and have corresponded. So, yes, ancestry can be fantastic for finding these matches. I am working on the paternal side now and believe I have found the birth father, but that's a little trickier as his close relatives are uncomfortable with the suggestion that he may have fathered a child other than the ones they know about, and so are unwilling to do a test.

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  9. Can someone pls advise which DNA testing site would be the best for finding out ethnicity? My father was adopted and sadly passed away when I was 13 and he was trying to find out before he passed. Unfort my grandmother will not give up any info.

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  10. If I can find relatives to him as well that would be awesome! Thanks in advance!

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  11. I realize this was written a while ago, but the review was interesting and worth a read so I thought I'd add my 2 cents... with my terrible grammar and punctuation :-)

    A little about me:

    My name is Joel, I'm 31 and I'm an engineer. Although I may not be the youngest kid on the block, I'm sure you and I know the hobby(or in some cases career) of genealogy is dominated by people in their 50 or 60's. While I'm not as young as either of you ladies, I started investigating my genealogy back in 2005 at the age of 21. I'm savvy with technology and have a good grasp on genealogical research. In other words, that lengthy blog name you chose actually worked to draw me here.

    As far as my level of expertise goes in the land of genealogy, I consider myself intermediate. I just traveled a few hours to a couple of cemeteries in order to find some relatives. I've also ordered some microfilm because the documents I need have not yet been digitized. I have about 900 people in my tree and fact checking, checking and checking again to make sure someone is actually related to me is important. Some weeks I invest 40hours and other weeks I'll invest zero. This is a hobby to me and I'd wager you ladies and a lot of other readers are more knowledgeable than myself. Now that I've establish my credibility or lack thereof, onto my feelings about the test.

    Just like you, I did my research on Ancestry DNA before buying and knew not to expect too much. There a couple of specific reason I had for getting this test though.

    1.) I have a ancestor who appears to be Italian. Prior to a short time ago I had never heard of anyone in my family coming from Italy, however, it is from a part of my lineage that my family seems to know little or nothing about and the documentation I've been able to find is highly suggestive that it's true. I'm excited to see if my test comes back with Italian and if it does come back 3 to 6% then I'll be completely confident in the matches I've found.

    2.) I have multiple contacts on ancestry.com that believe they're part of my family that have taken or plan on taking the DNA test. These are people not proven to be in my family, but basically have information passed on from their parents/grandparent that suggests they are. A match as a 3rd cousin would affirm those suspicions and actually provide me with another route by which to research.

    In the grand scheme of things you have a valid point, that ancestry DNA gives you little information for your $100 and therefore for a DNA service is completely underwhelming. That being said -and I'm not defending ancestry.com here- I would wager that a lot of the people buying this test have the cash to waste and simply don't care what they're actually getting for that value; the novelty of telling their family/friends that they're 5% Polynesian may be enough to make it worth it for them.

    To sum everything up, I completely comprehend the capability of the DNA test and I'm truly using it to fill in and validate very small links in my research; the cash was not an issue for me. If you're not in a situation nearly identical to mine, then the test will be a complete letdown and waste of money unless some vast improvements happen in the future.

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    1. I was wanting to get my DNA tested to confirm a few things on my ancestry.com tree. As you have quite a history of knowledge about this, would you be able to give a good direction to go with regards to choosing a good DNA testing company? I am male and hope to find basically a verification of all the places my lineage came from. As my research has shown, I am linked to almost all of the European countries including a possible linkage to royalty. If I can find DNA confirmation to these countries I can willingly continue with my research. I have heard about the Geno 2.0 and was curious if you had any experience with regards to them. Any helpful information is greatly appreciated.

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  12. I have tested with 23andMe and FTDNA. The best test is FTDNA as you can compare chromosomes. I have heard a lot of complaints about ancestry.com DNA test.

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  13. I'm researching DNA testing companies. I just did a review search for FTDNA, and it seems that at hundreds of dollars per kit, all it results in is extremely unhappy customers, long wait times, and incomplete results. The search continues.

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  14. I give Ancestry.com DNA a D minus. What a waste of $100. I am close to 80% Central European--is it Belgian, French, German, Dutch, Swiss, Austrian or what? Then 15% Italian/Greek...Which is it? Then the last 5% or so is a mix of Scandinavian (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, ???) Eastern European--WHERE?!?!?! And 1% Jewish. That was the most specific one........

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    1. They could match you to eg. Belgium, if people in Belgium would just stay put and never go anywhere. Unfortunately, people cross borders, marry, have kids, and even move to a third country. Therefore it is not possible to say more than Central Europe. I live in Northern Europe, so that is how I know this. So, the test is not like talking to The Almighty!

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    3. Elam: I think you're misinformed about DNA's capabilities.

      National borders are fluid and permeable. People cross back and forth. DNA does not obey national borders just as humans don't. It would be like being mad because your DNA profile failed to tell you whether you came from Brussels or not :)

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  15. Why do they have Judaism as an ethnicity?

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    1. Because Jews originated in the middle east [Levant], and are an ethic population, as well as a religion. *See the following: Nebel Almut, Filon Dvora, Brinkmann Bernd, Majumder Partha P., Faerman Marina, Oppenheim Ariella (2001). "The Y Chromosome Pool of Jews as Part of the Genetic Landscape of the Middle East". The American Journal of Human Genetics 69 (5): 1095–112. doi:10.1086/324070. PMC 1274378. PMID 11573163.

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    2. You can be an ethnic (food/language/traditions), genetic (descendant from the people who inhabited Judea/Israel), and/or a religious (believers of Jewish mythology/religion: Judaism) Jew.

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    3. https://www.familytreedna.com/PDF/Spring2008Page011Greenspan.pdf

      "People often ask, “Can DNA tell me if I am Jewish?”
      The answer, of course, is “no,” since DNA shows genetic
      history while religion refers to one’s current belief
      system. If, however, the question is reframed as, “Can DNA
      reveal if someone has Jewish ancestry?” then the answer is
      “yes”—under some circumstances, each involving the
      analysis outlined below. "

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    4. The Jews (and most other people) also knew and acknowledged that the parentage of a child is only proven on the female side - by it being born to a particular known female. On the other hand, the true paternity could (in many different circumstances) be much less certain and un-proven. That is why DNA testing is the only sure way of determining the genetic father.

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  16. Hi I was wondering what company you would recommend to use to help figure out who your related to? I was adopted at 5 and it was a closed adoption so I have no information about biological parents and I would like to find out about them. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!!

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    1. There is a comment above that will help by:

      f036fcea-8b1b-11e4-8a36-8fa931c9ad27January 12, 2015 at 7:31 AM
      Our adoption agency charged $100 just for the "non-identifying information" from the files. For the "search," which would mean they would try to contact the birth mother from the files, it was $900, and there was no guarantee that it would be successful.

      We got the non-identifying information, which had some vague clues. We also were able to get the "original birth certificate," I am glad that we didn't waste the $900, as it would have been useless - I eventually concluded that she used a fake name on the birth certificate (apparently not uncommon in the 1950s, when an out of wedlock birth was the deepest shame).

      However, ancestry.com saved the day. I found a 3rd cousin match on ancestry.com. I used that 3rd cousin match to research her tree up to her 2nd great grandparents and then down again through all branches. Fortunately, the birth mother's side of the family was all US born in that time span, so I was able to get the information I needed to completely work through the tree and then eliminate anyone who couldn't possibly be a birth mother (ancestry had given me enough clues that I knew I was looking at maternal). I found the birth mother, she was alive, and we contacted her and have corresponded. So, yes, ancestry can be fantastic for finding these matches. I am working on the paternal side now and believe I have found the birth father, but that's a little trickier as his close relatives are uncomfortable with the suggestion that he may have fathered a child other than the ones they know about, and so are unwilling to do a test.

      That is the most impressive story for these DNA testing in my personal opinion. Thank you for sharing your story.

      Delete
  17. My biggest question is storage of information and "Big Brother". Anyone else wonder about that...and potential uses down the road as "terms and conditions" change all the time?

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  18. At one time, the Ancestry.com DNA test did not classify people as "European Jew". Anyone with a DNA percentage of Eastern Russia is now classified as "European Jew" for convenience, according to Ancestry.com. Previous DNA test that were classified as a percentage of Eastern Russia has now been updated throughout the database. So if by chance anyone printed their DNA test before the update, they should hang on to it.
    Future generations will not know the European Jew is actually a percentage of Eastern Russia. I've also been keeping up with the news articles and reports in the media. Recently, there were several articles regarding ancestry DNA research and the "Special Genes" European Jews possess. The "Endogamy" genes. The articles I've read concerning the "European Jew" claim their Jewish DNA was inherited through a female that practiced a religion, culture or heritage. DNA science, research, media and forums are endless with different opinions. "It's a new science" and so everyone is expected to go with the new changes and new classifications of people. Science, much like Feminism has rendered the Male/Father seed line as insignificant. I'm waiting for the One People, One World classification to hit the news any day now. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_studies_of_Jewish_origins
    http://forward.com/culture/155742/jews-are-a-race-genes-reveal/
    http://www.insideireland.com/sample19.htm
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/sep/26/india-genetics-genes-science
    Keep researching. You will get the Big Picture. :)

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  19. Just received my Ancestry DNA results a couple of weeks ago. To say that I am disappointed with the results is an understatement & I have a growing doubt about the validity of the results. My father's ancestor was born in Germani June 27, 1835, as C. Kley. He was German yet the DNA test results show zero connection to Germany. My father's side of the family was heavily German. How can this be? Who, where, & how can I question this with Ancestry DNA? It seems like they have gone out of their way to make contact with Ancestry obscured.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I know some people can live in countries and not actually be connected DNA wise, thats the one thing I learned when I started my search, thats how I found out my family were really British decent compared to what we were always told (we were told we were part Swiss). Could be your family lived in Germany from a certain date to a certain date but were originally not from there and may not have known it.

      Delete
    2. I agree. I recently received my results where it says I'm 81% African and 19% Irish. My mom's sided is African, German and Chinese from the 1900 construction of the Kingman, Arizona Railroad. Many of them "passed' for white but identified as Black even thou they had Asiatic features and very faired skinned, all 12 of them except the last son who became a Washington State senator. They were all pioneers in their fields. My dad was very faired skinned and his mom had green eyes with long hair down her back. They looked African and Native American. The 100% African came from both my grandparents spouses but not my parents. It looks like they tossed my DNA in with the majority instead of testing it? And to top that off, my blood type 'RH Factor' is NEGATIVE which means your blood type is either (ABO-) instead of (ABO+). Africans and Asians only make up 1% ABO- "NEGATIVE" yet i'm 81% African? And only 15% of the entire planet is ABO- like me which comes from Europe, 85% is ABO+. I'm proud to be African but you wouldn't think I was if you saw me. My money wasn't well spent here.

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    3. No sweetie, you DO look of African descent.

      Delete
    4. Skin colour, physical features, and even blood grouping are not a reliable way of determining your genetic background. The reliability of the tests can always be suspect.

      There have been many cases where a child is born who has a completely different appearance from all known ancestors. In years past, this could cause marriage and family breakdowns. Science (DNA and other tests)can now be used to clear up the doubts and accusations - as long as the testing is done in a completely reliable way with no possible accidental or deliberate contamination or manipulation.

      Delete
  20. I now most of my family's DNA except one, my grandfather on my fathers side, no one seems to know cause he never talked about it at all, (which also makes tracing back his family very hard) I used Ancestry.com and learned that my father's mother's side is from England (aside the other places we knew of) which was news to all her still living family, but would you think for tracing the DNA to find out where my grandfather is from at least worth it? like I said I have tried every site to find his side and nothing so I am at the point where I know I would find his family heritage but I would at least like to know whats in our DNA, are we really American Indian (which he never resembled) or maybe theres something else we will find out like how it happened on my grandmothers side. yay or nay?

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  21. For Ancestry to sell DNA test without a Chromosome Browser is akin to Starbucks selling a cup of coffee without a cup!

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  22. For Ancestry to sell DNA test without a Chromosome Browser is akin to Starbucks selling a cup of coffee without a cup!

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  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  24. No one in my family (father or mother's side) has taken a DNA test yet. However, we are interested but get frustrated trying to figure out which one(s) to take. Like most people, we would like to know ethnicity and descendant matches for geneological lineage information. Any suggestions? I also found this article; perhaps it will be of some use: http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/2014/04/06/2014-most-bang-for-dna-bucks/

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  25. I don't think it would be smart at all for Ancestry to incorporate adoptions (because they have no genetic relation) or "family trees" made by users as they are scientifically unreliable. What users put in their family trees will often reflect accurately in relation to their immediate family only. Any family member who may have moved away or been outcast from the family will often be missing or at least their children will be if they never met the person making the "family tree". I am in a unique position to see this best because many of the women before me had kids with multiple men, had affairs, and lied about paternity etc. For someone in my shoes, it would only hurt me to get results based on people's personal opinion, which is what the family trees are. I don't want my results to be as inclusive as possible, I want them to be as accurate as possible. I want to know who I'm really related to, not who I'm told I'm related to.

    It is an easy miss for someone who comes from a good family to take this kind of thing for granted but I don't think you considered this option when you said ancestry should incorporate the user-made family trees in with DNA results.

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  26. Thank you for give very nice info What a cool site.
    Medigene DNA

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  27. I found this cool post here and enjoyed reading your articles, thank you. This is really a helpful post on dna testing

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  28. I too have found the results fairly useless, having encountered the same problems as you. As my parents are both deceased I asked my Uncle to take a DNA test with National Genographic, I actually found this more useful that the Ancestry one.

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  29. I am brand new to this. I am curious about rumors of Sioux and Chippewa Native American on my Father's side. I don't recall if it was his maternal lineage or his paternal. Maybe even both. The story goes that my 5th great grandfather was a French Fur Trader, and made a trade for one of Sitting Bull's daughters. I would love to know if there is ANY truth to the story or if it is just a family fable. Are you saying that this test doesn't look at your Father's Maternal side of things?

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  30. I am adopted. Which means my ancestry is basically null. Would this help me find any of my relatives? Heck even finding a Second cousin would be great.

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    Replies
    1. Hi. I too am adopted. I am almost quite certain of my ancestry, I would just like to confirm.

      Delete
  31. Nothing against Ancestry's service. Its great for someone who needs a wizard walk-through to find basic info, accepting that-- like WIKI-- "data" is largely user contributed. For me, familysearch.org is the only way to go. Not only is it free, but its simply an archive of actual documents/records/images & data. In dealing with actual images and records of immigration, marriage, death, birth, military filings, and so much more, its easier to make legitimate connections on my own. Obviously there is the margin of human error, typos, and folks who falsified the info they gave census takers...but overall its just so much easier. End result, I have the names (including middle initials and variant spellings) to search findagrave and see the actual tombstones, in which I seriously doubt the engraver made a typo on dates. I can then go back to familysearch with more specific dates and surname spellings and find a wealth of info. **Thank you so much for posting your experience of the DNA test offered. I've wanted to do one myself and the price is cheap compared to other things I've seen. I wonder how truly accurate the test is though (if you have an opinion?) Its not like anyone would know the difference or regulate any cross-contamination during testing, like the theme of every other CSI, haha :-)

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  32. Do you know what I find interesting about the Ancestry.com? There is no place on their website to donate information. My hobby is collecting old pictures and documents from auctions. I have information and pictures from a hundred years ago. So if Ancestry.com doesn't accept this information where are they getting it from (besides public records which anybody can do) and how are these pictures being posted?

    I don't have an account with Ancestry.com because I'm not interested, but when commercials on TV state that people thought all their lives they had been from one country and "Ancestry.com" showed them they were actually from a different country altogether, it really makes me believe Ancestry.com even less.

    Just my opinion of course and I am not trying to discourage anyone from using this service, but I do wonder just where and who is providing the information they give out.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. You need an account to add scanned photos and documents, simple as that. As far as I know, it's usually done by someone from that family since they are most likely to possess such things. Ancestry.com is not its own collection of records, it merely houses a large collection of public records and family trees that serve as tools to aid in genealogical research. It's not there to do all the work for you, it just makes combing through information and sharing what you've found with others a million times easier.

      So yeah, if you want to share what you've found you'll actually have to care enough to either join the site and just do it or contact interested parties who will do it for you (family, genealogists, etc.)

      As for the commercials you're referring to, they do not literally mean "I was born and raised in Germany but they said I'm not!". It's more of a case of family word of mouth gone awry, faulty family record keeping, previously unknown immigration/adoption/illegitimate children/name changes/assimilation, etc. Think more "My mother always told me that our third great-uncle was German because that's what her late auntie always said!" as being debunked by real records from the area and time.

      A free trial or quick research would clear up a lot of your misconceptions and explain even more about how the site actually works.

      Delete
  33. Do you know what I find interesting about the Ancestry.com? There is no place on their website to donate information. My hobby is collecting old pictures and documents from auctions. I have information and pictures from a hundred years ago. So if Ancestry.com doesn't accept this information where are they getting it from (besides public records which anybody can do) and how are these pictures being posted?

    I don't have an account with Ancestry.com because I'm not interested, but when commercials on TV state that people thought all their lives they had been from one country and "Ancestry.com" showed them they were actually from a different country altogether, it really makes me believe Ancestry.com even less.

    Just my opinion of course and I am not trying to discourage anyone from using this service, but I do wonder just where and who is providing the information they give out.

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  34. Do you know what I find interesting about the Ancestry.com? There is no place on their website to donate information. My hobby is collecting old pictures and documents from auctions. I have information and pictures from a hundred years ago. So if Ancestry.com doesn't accept this information where are they getting it from (besides public records which anybody can do) and how are these pictures being posted?

    I don't have an account with Ancestry.com because I'm not interested, but when commercials on TV state that people thought all their lives they had been from one country and "Ancestry.com" showed them they were actually from a different country altogether, it really makes me believe Ancestry.com even less.

    Just my opinion of course and I am not trying to discourage anyone from using this service, but I do wonder just where and who is providing the information they give out.

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  35. Know this is over a year old, just started looking into doing this. Just wanted to thank you for taking the time to blog on this.

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  36. I also want to make one point. Ancestry.com's old test (5 yrs) is no longer available for matching purposes. They now offer a "better" test, but those of us that paid for tests already no longer can match with other users. We also are only provided a .csv file, so we cannot upload the data to either the Ancestry profile of the person OR GEDmatch. They can't promise they won't do this again, so your $99 may only have a short life span if you are trying to match with people on their website.

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  37. Why all the interest in cousin matching? I can do that with phone calls.As far as the ancestry part goes it would be impossible to not have some African in the DNA so, unless Ancestry is going to further analyze this it is wasted space. I think if I am going to spend money on a DNA test I would be better off to spend more and get more.

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    1. It's impressive that you have an open, honest, reliable family tree and can give honest complete answers with phone calls... but for the other 99% of us that have family secrets, adoptions, affairs, ignorant ancient racial secrets etc... pinning down a 3rd or 4th cousin that doesn't fit anywhere on the known tree is the only way to unlock a secret branch.

      Up until several decades ago kidnapping native children (from several 'white' countries) and placing them in good 'white' homes was the widespread governmental thing to do. These people have no history, no racial identity, no family history and any lead to who they really are is better than the 'nothing' they have.

      Delete
  38. Sad to say, but, my 67-marker test was also a waste of money. I even joined a Ross DNA Project only to be told I don't match to anyone and asked if there was an early adoption somewhere in the Ross line back in Pennsylvania. Well, since Ohio and Pennsylvania don't like sharing any actual documents or they have been destroyed, I am no farther ahead without actually planning a trip to these states to research further. I sure am not paying $2300 for some Pro to look for documentation, not find any, and take my money. Guarantee results or I don't pay. Good luck everyone if you choose to go this route, but, for me it was a waste of money. I am Scotch and Irish, but, the results were vague with 97% Great Britain.....last time I checked Ireland and Scotland are free nations separate from English Rule!

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    1. RU4Dubuque - you are Scots - not Scotch. Scotch relates to things (like Whisky) - not people.

      Unfortunately, "Great Britain" covers a lot of territory and a lot of genetic mingling. The Scots, Irish, Welsh, Cornish, and English have all at times mingled and at times been under English rule. Even English is a vague description - as the British Isles have been invaded at various times by Scandinavians, Normans/French, Romans, and others. The Romans were not all Italian. They were from all over the Roman Empire which covered parts of Africa, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, England, Scotland, Eastern and Western Europe. After the Norman conquest in 1066, the rulers and "Ruling Class" were mainly of (and continue to be) Norman descendants. The "Lower Classes" tend to be descended from the defeated earlier inhabitants.

      The Republic of Ireland is a fairly recent political creation (now an independent nation), whilst Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom and is more heavily ethnically and politically British. Many Irish had early links with Scotland, England, Wales, France, and England. Scotland has been part of the UK for hundreds of years due to conquest, and has recently had a vote to become totally independent (which was rejected by the Scottish people - mainly due to its close financial and defence requirements).

      Check out the definitions and geographical descriptions of "British", "English", "United Kingdom", "Great Britain", "British Isles", "Irish Republic", "Ireland". The terms are not inter-changeable or inclusive. You can also check out recent historical and anthropological research - often using isotopes to determine where individuals grew up (by what they ate) which shows just how complex the ethnic backgrounds of "the English", "the British", "the Scots", and "the Irish" really are.

      P.S. I have proven ancestors from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, England, Scotland, Germany - and probably France. I do not expect that DNA (as provided by genealogy companies) will be able to sort out my detailed roots - but it might throw up a few unexpected "blow ins" or "red herrings". It is all fascinating - so "happy hunting".

      Delete



    2. PardelopeNovember 30, 2015 at 1:25 AM

      RU4Dubuque - you are Scots - not Scotch. Scotch relates to things (like Whisky) - not people.

      Unfortunately, "Great Britain" covers a lot of territory and a lot of genetic mingling. The Scots, Irish, Welsh, Cornish, and English have all at times mingled and at times been under English rule. Even English is a vague description - as the British Isles have been invaded at various times by Scandinavians, Normans/French, Romans, and others. The Romans were not all Italian. They were from all over the Roman Empire which covered parts of Africa, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, England, Scotland, Eastern and Western Europe. After the Norman conquest in 1066, the rulers and "Ruling Class" were mainly of (and continue to be) Norman descendants. The "Lower Classes" tend to be descended from the defeated earlier inhabitants.

      The Republic of Ireland is a fairly recent political creation (now an independent nation), whilst Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom and is more heavily ethnically and politically British. Many Irish had early links with Scotland, England, Wales, France, and England. Scotland has been part of the UK for hundreds of years due to conquest, and has recently had a vote to become totally independent (which was rejected by the Scottish people - mainly due to its close financial and defence requirements).

      Check out the definitions and geographical descriptions of "British", "English", "United Kingdom", "Great Britain", "British Isles", "Irish Republic", "Ireland". The terms are not inter-changeable or inclusive. You can also check out recent historical and anthropological research - often using isotopes to determine where individuals grew up (by what they ate) which shows just how complex the ethnic backgrounds of "the English", "the British", "the Scots", and "the Irish" really are.

      P.S. I have proven ancestors from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, England, Scotland, Germany - and probably France. I do not expect that DNA (as provided by genealogy companies) will be able to sort out my detailed roots - but it might throw up a few unexpected "blow ins" or "red herrings". It is all fascinating - so "happy hunting".

      Delete
    3. You also need to take into account intermingling. The popular viking weekend pastime seemed to be paddling across the channel and raping a few dozen women after killing their husbands... so even if you're sure you're 100% British aisles, it shouldn't rock your world too much if you come back with trace amounts of Scandinavian. The things our ancestors never talked about speaks the loudest about them.

      Delete
  39. My primary interests in DNA for genealogy at this particular moment are simply to HAVE some DNA test results for my 90-year old grandparents for use in the future. It would primarily be with the hope that this yields some fruit somewhere down the line-- I can be patient, especially since my paper-trail research is on the back burner. One thing I will never be able to get in the future is matches for my grandparents if I don't see if they will take the test. Since they are 2 generations closer to the potential common ancestors, I feel this will only help me in the future.
    a)does this line of thinking seem to make sense to other researchers?
    b) I have only read some article on the testing companies and others' experiences, short of doing actual research about privacy, usability, etc. If I test their DNA (ie via AncestryDNA), I imagine I will be able to upload the raw data to gedmatch.com for future use?

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    Replies
    1. Have you had your grandparents tested?

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    2. Have you had your grandparents tested?

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  40. Genealogy is only as good as the whole body of evidence. Test everyone possible to create the best filter at pinpointing ethnicity over the longest period of history for optimal results. Filling in the personal stories correlating to historical records of governments, countries etc. could paint a better picture of their thought patterns, concerns, survivor methodology, (Why many Europeans came to America), is a plus. Who knows what DNA advancements will be available in 2 or 5 years...

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  41. Thanks for the info. Looks like you saved me some money and time.

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  42. Do not be surprised if relatives (found by whatever means) are not as enthusiastic about tracing your - or their - genealogy. Especially older relatives may be quite angry or upset if you un-earth some (to you) interesting (to them horrifying or shameful) information.

    After many years of doing family history, I have learnt that people react strongly to (what I think are) innocuous and harmless "truths". They prefer to stick with the more acceptable "untruths" they have always believed in or deliberately promoted. They are quite likely to deliberately "lead you up the wrong garden paths", so do not accept anything unless it has been proved with evidence acceptable in a court of law. Also, make sure you have written approval from individuals - before you pass on or publish any of your work which might apply to them or their family.

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  43. Thank you for your article - I found it worthwhile. You covered off a lot of research that I now dont need to do. Some of those earlier comments are rather too heavy-handed.

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  44. In 2014 there were way too many DNA cousins to be useful but now that they have cut it down it is better. I'm finding AncestryDNA useful because they have a critical mass of people on it with extensive trees. I don't like to add ancestors from other trees that are unsourced and many trees have no sourcing. Instead of the strenuous effort to contact those trees owners to find sourcing I created a Test Tree and linked/added in all of the ancestors other ancestry trees suggested, regardless of sourcing, out to 8g-grandparents. You then follow the hints Ancestry now has to see which ones are corroborated (or not) and I marked them with an additional capital letter on the first names for any time there was a new link especially when they were through a different child. This is allowing me to focus on the tree branches where I am finding good DNA corroboration. It also makes me wonder/hesitate about the branches where there are large families/multiple tree links at the 5gg and above level. Of course this doesn't help much on branches I can't extend out far enough. Unfortunately I feel I have to keep this "DNA Test Tree" private because I don't trust everything on it but I try to respond quickly when people ask about it.

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