Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ancestry.com Launches AncestryDNA

imageLast week Ancestry.com announced the release of AncestryDNA. Ancestry said “the new DNA test analyzes a person’s genome at over 700,000 marker locations, cross referencing an extensive worldwide DNA database with the aim of providing…insights into their ethnic backgrounds.”

Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation simultaneously announced that Ancestry had acquired GeneTree and the DNA related assets from the non-profit Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation(SMGF). According to GeneTree, SMGF “has collected more than 100,000 DNA samples…from volunteers in more than 150 countries around the world.”

As a contributor to the SMGF DNA database, I must confess that when I donated a DNA sample, I never envisioned my DNA would be sold to a large commercial enterprise like Ancestry. The number of ways in which a DNA sample can be misused makes this an ominous announcement for anyone contemplating submission of a DNA sample to any organization. For information about some of the ethical issues of DNA testing, watch “Cracking Your Genetic Code,” a recent episode of the PBS TV series, Nova.

Will I participate in AncestryDNA? I declined participation in the beta. Will I now? Probably. But first I’ll have to carefully read “AncestryDNA Terms and Conditions,” “AncestryDNA Consent Agreement,” and “AncestryDNA Privacy Statement.”

The new service will cost $99. The announcement did not say if previous DNA contributors to Ancestry or SMGF will be given a discount in recognition of the value Ancestry is taking from their previous contributions.


To read the entire Ancestry.com announcement, visit http://corporate.ancestry.com/press/press-releases/2012/05/ancestry.com-dna-launches/.

To read the brief announcement from the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, visit www.genetree.com/ or www.smgf.org/.

To read more about Ancestry’s historical dealings with SMGF, read my July 2007 article, “Remember Ancestry.com’s 1st DNA Project?

Access the service itself at www.ancestrydna.com.


  1. I am not so certain that the cost will be just $99 when testing is "opened to the public." Ancestry has greatly expanded the range of testing beyond that of an mtDNA or Y-chromosome test. Certainly the cost beyond that of their extension to those in Beta will be much greater.

    They have been sending invitations to their designated "Ancestry Aces" at that price and giving them four days to respond. Further the email states: "Hurry, this offer expires on May xx, 2012 at 11:59 p.m. (MT) or while supplies last." The "xx" being a day-date. The "while supplies last" seems to indicate that the invitations at $99 are limited and that the following the "Beta" period the price may rise. Either that or they are using an old advertising ploy to get you to sign up with the service. Or it could be both.

    But $99 seems like too low a price for the service they claim to offer. As they claim to go well beyond the two services they offer now for just $325 or so.

    1. Lynn - You are right, and Ancestry has not made it any secret that the $99 price tag is for paid members only and that each group of people invited will have s limited time to take advantage of it. I wasn't aware that the invitations were being selectively sent to Ancestry Aces, and I am one. I haven't gotten am invitation nor do I want one.
      This test is an autosomal DNA test and is a completely different test with completely different implications than the other two tests: the Y and the mt DNA .
      The Y DNA test is specific to males and it has been used in my family to try to link my Davenport line, which came to the US from British Colonial Barbados in the seventeenth century to any of the Davenports in Britain today and/or to other Davenports in the US. This was unsuccessful on both counts but it was an appropriate use of the test. Mt DNA is similarly female specific and lends itself well to answering specific questions of descendency.

  2. My background is in anthropology including population genetics and I share Ancestry insider's concern about this test and the databases it will eventually enter.
    I also feel it has very limited use in genealogy and will be subject to misuse within the genealogical community. You can see this in questions asked on the Ancestry.com Facebook page which often involve issues of illegitimacy and/ or finding birth parents. It sounds so impressive, testing in excess of 900,000 loci; genealogically its use is limited to racial/ ethic origin like the Nat Geo test hyped several years ago, and to chance encounters with very distant "relatives" who share DNA sequences suggesting some vague past ancestor centuries ago and this relative must have been tested by Ancestry/ Sorenson Labs and chosen to have their DNA profile included in the public database or been "drafted" into the database by virtue of being a member of a third world tribe or other ethic group tested voluntarily, and without the tools to understand the test or it's implications, which are lacking even in the presumably educated genealogically community who frequent Ancestry.Com.
    I might be tempted to have this test at a much lower price.to determine if I have, in my distant ancestry, a surprising ethnic heritage, but I see this as curiosity, not family history- and like Ancestry Insider I have serious privacy concerns about the database itself, so I won't be shelling out that $99 when my invitation comes. But plenty of people will, and generally with the goal of finding lost parents or cousins who will give them a clue to some gap on their personal family history ( I wish !! ),
    and the test is patently inappropriate for either of these uses. The fact that people are having it to determine parentage or issues of illegitimacy is beyond frightening and I would like Ancestry to be much more forthcoming about it's usefulness or lack thereof in this context.

    1. Small correction. 23andMe's latest autosomal test tests for over 900,000 loci; Ancestry/Sorenson labs' test tests only 700,000 loci.

  3. Initially, I was excited about DNA on Ancestry. But I'm not excited any more. I've already done testing on 23andMe and transferred the autosomal testing to Family Tree DNA. Except for people I already knew were cousins, so far I've only been able to identify the common ancestor for one other person. I'm not willing to pay Ancestry for a full new test. Will I be able to transfer my existing data to Ancestry?

  4. 23andMe is not affiliated with Ancestry, and the data bases are separate, you will not be able to transfer data.
    You actually found more potentially useful information than most people will.

  5. I've since received word from a representative at Ancestry.com Support that although third-party raw data currently can't be uploaded to AncestryDNA, he'll make sure that the site developers understand that there's a demand for it. Anyone who's gone through autosomal testing elsewhere might also provide input there if interested.

    23andMe uses a customized Illumina chip that incorporates various SNPs it thinks may be of interest (including health) to customers. Uploads of the resulting raw data to the FTDNA FF product allow the SNPs that overlap between the chips used by the two companies to be used to identify relative matches. The same could very possibly be done via AncestryDNA depending on chip used.

  6. Ancestry.com is still quite vague about what it will provide to its autosomal-DNA testing customers. I have read that some customers who received results from early beta tests have had their Ancestry Member Trees marked in a way suggesting that the test confirmed descent from them and that there were other trees with matches. This is very flawed methodology; DNA can tell you about probable relationships with persons who also are tested, but can not identify specific non-tested ancestors.

  7. What do you all think of this use for DNA testing?
    DNA links 1991 killing to Colonial-era family

    1. Wow. That's a powerful story. Thanks for sharing.

      -- The Insider

  8. In regards to serious Genetic Genealogy customers and prospective customers, one of the problem with 23andme / FTDNA / Ancestry.com and their use of Illumina chips on Autosomal tests is that they are not keeping up with newly discovered Y-DNA SNPs such as R-L371 .... rs17165864 which denotes Welsh ancestry.

    R-L371 is a a Terminal SNP ... meaning there is no known / discovered SNPs under it.

    R-L371 is just one example ... there are hundreds of them ... and this is a BIG DEAL!

    23andme and their Illumina chip is about 3 years out of date as they are still following 2009 ISOGG conventions. This is significant when doing Genetic Genealogy research on a Paternal Family History using Autosomal as well as traditional Y-DNA STR tests.

    So, the big question I hope you can ask companies (as well as your readers) such as Ancestry.com and Illumina ... when are you going to fix this?

    Also, it appears that Ancestry.com is outsourcing their Autosomal DNA lab workflow to unknown 3rd parties. Are we 100% sure that Ancestry.com Autosomal tests include no known Medical / Health SNPs. Is there a regulatory or government agency certifying this? Or, do we just blindly trust them? I think not.

    Are these Ancestry.com 3rd parties offshore and do they fully comply with GINA / Privacy / Confidentiality concerns? Which Government agency is monitoring them?

  9. Well, I did do the Ancestry.com DNA test and to be quite honest, thought it was a waste of money. I've learned nothing new and the matches that they've found are 4th-6th cousin at a 96% confidence level. Sounds like Kevin Bacon's six degrees. They definitely hyped it more than my returns, but I'm not as well versed at DNA testing as many of the posts I've read here. Save your money.............

  10. DNA the basic structure that proves your individuality can also be useful to take possible precautions in case of hereditary diseases. In this regard DNA testing is no doubt very important. Thank you.


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