Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ancestry.com Not Dropping Autosomal DNA Test

Ancestry.com’s recent announcement that they were discontinuing some of their DNA tests confused some people. (See “Ancestry.com Announces Retirement of Several Websites.”) In the Ancestry.com blog AncestryDNA’s Ken Chahine clarified the announcement.

Autosomal DNA test results for the Ancestry Insider

“We are not retiring our autosomal AncestryDNA test that we launched in May 2012,” he wrote. “We are only retiring the Y-DNA and mtDNA tests that we launched in 2007.”

If your test results look like mine, above (I told you I’m a descendant of an Indian princess!), then you have the new autosomal test. Your results are not going away and your sample is not being destroyed.

Y-DNA test results for the Ancestry InsiderOn the other hand, if your results look like my Y-DNA test results, shown to the right or below, they are going away and the original sample will be destroyed.

“As part of the decision to retire Y-DNA and mtDNA tests, we were faced with another difficult decision of what to do with the customer samples,” wrote Chahine.

We take customer privacy seriously and, regrettably, the legal framework used to collect these samples does not allow us to retest or transfer those samples. Practically speaking, many of these samples are also no longer useable. For example, many of the swabs were exhausted of genetic material during our testing or the sample may be past its shelf life. In the end we made the difficult decision to destroy the samples and are committed to trying to find solutions to these roadblocks for future products.

Some of you may feel abandoned by this. You may recall I felt violated when Ancestry.com purchased Sorenson Genetic’s DNA samples. I was a Sorenson contributor. I’m glad to see that, perhaps, my Sorenson contributed DNA will no longer be exploited.

Y-DNA and mtDNA Tests

The Y-DNA test looks at the Y-chromosome carried by men. The Y-chromosome is passed from father to son, changing infrequently due to random mutation. The mtDNA test looks at the mitochondrial DNA passed from mothers to all their children, again, largely unchanged.

DNA comparison from Ouimette NGSQ articleAccompanied by conventional research, these tests can provide important evidence in proof arguments. For an example, see David Ouimette’s article in the September 2010 issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. It is titled, “Proving the Parentage of John Bettis: Immigrant Ancestor of Bettis Families in Vermont.” Indirect evidence indicated John Bettis was the son of Joseph Perrin. Ouimette obtained DNA samples from several descendants of each man. An exact match existed between a Bettis descendent and a Perrin descendent. Several more differed by just one marker, all in fast mutators. This Y-DNA test confirmed the possible relationship between two men that conventional evidence showed to be father and son.

Autosomal tests are not capable of such lineage-specific results. Today they provide generalized information, such as “you and he are related to such-and-such a degree” and “your ancestors had such-and-such ethnicity.” I don’t know if it will ever be possible to say, “here are the DNA markers associated with ancestor number 17 on your pedigree.”

Chahine wrote, “We understand that many of you have spent years using the Y-DNA and mtDNA products for genealogy and no amount of justification will offer you comfort in our decision. It is our hope that our future products will convince you that the autosomal test is a powerful and useful tool for family history.” (For the full text of his message, see “Comments on Y-DNA and mtDNA Tests.”)

It seems that Ancestry.com is conceding the Y-DNA/mtDNA market to other companies. Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) is promptly jumping on the opportunity. Just five days after the Ancestry.com announcement, I received an email from FTDNA inviting me to transfer my Y-DNA test results to them. (How did they get my e-mail address?) They offer various costing options, starting from $19. In any case, you must download your data from dna.ancestry.com before 5 September 2014.


  1. "Chromosome mapping is a technique used in autosomal DNA testing which allows the testee to determine which segments of DNA came from which ancestors." ISOGG Wiki; see also DNA-Explained: http://dna-explained.com/2013/12/09/chromosome-mapping-aka-ancestor-mapping/

  2. I am not really clear on the justification for removing the data from one's tree--especially as one paid Ancestry quite a bit for information that is just blithely being trashed. I would not mind if they offered an at-cost DNA test for everyone who was going to lose their data, but that is not the case. And moving the information to Family Tree seems kind of worthless to me. I feel very angry about this decision because I feel taken advantage of. If the test was worth so little, why were we all pushed to get it--and pay handsomely to boot? Why are we not even being offered a discount or some kind of compensation for paying for a test we cannot even keep on the tree? I recognize the value of Ancestry, but I also kind of hate it--the arrogance, the lack of communication, The unacknowledged emails and the general non-responsiveness, the tech helpers who often actually lie to you about issues people are having, or have had with the site--it is always something YOU are doing. It is like being in a lousy marriage but staying for the sake of the children--or in my case, the ancestors.

    1. I completely agree with your comments. And on top of your comments the information in the ancestry.com data base is so full of errors that in many cases it is useless.

    2. The reason for transferring data to FTDNA is because they have by far the largest Y and mtDNA databases. A 46 marker test from Ancestry can provide a 37 marker result which is considered the minimum for a accurate Y-DNA match. You can use the results to join one of their many surname or region or haplogroup projects. The 33 marker provides a 25 marker result which will unfortunately need to be upgraded (and a new sample provided) to be of much use.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.