Is History Repeating Itself at Ancestry?

Is history repeating itself at Ancestry?

I’ve been thinking about whether or not I should publish this posting.  As I write and rewrite it, I still haven’t made up my mind.  It’s one of those sticky wickets, as they are called.  One of the reasons I hesitate is that I have far more questions than answers.

One of the reasons I feel like I should publish it is because we, as a community, have far more questions than answers.  I’m concerned that we’re being exploited, manipulated and deceived. I feel like we’re already on the way down a slippery slope, and I fear a flush is at the bottom.  If that is true, we’re entirely powerless if we don’t know about it.

Since you are reading this, I obviously decided to publish it, so I’ll let you decide for yourself.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been getting this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as Ancestry’s most recent DNA testing mess has unfolded like the leaves on the beautifully deceptive skunk plant.  Yes, the skunk plant is named that for the reason you think…things just aren’t what they seem at first glance…and they smell….really smell.  And by the time you figure out that you’ve made an error in judgment, you’re in the middle of a smelly mess.

This isn’t the first time that Ancestry has had some really significant problems with DNA testing and quality.  However, this second time is more complex and includes ethics issues.  I’m not sure where the problem lies, and maybe the answer isn’t in just one place, but multiple problems in multiple places.

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  Let’s take a look.

Ancestry and Sorenson

In 2002 Ancestry introduced DNA testing for their customers by partnering with Relative Genetics, an arm of Sorenson, which had just been formed.  Of course, this was not autosomal testing, but Yline and mitochondrial DNA.   To say this was unsuccessful is an understatement and being kind.  Ancestry lost kits, having to eventually give refunds, “predicted” haplogroups dramatically incorrectly (paternal cousins in haplogroups R and G, respectively), and generally made a  mess of DNA testing.  Thankfully, they didn’t last long and one day – poof….gone.  No more DNA testing.  The lab?  Sorenson.  What or where was the problem or problems?  I have no idea.  Just like the young girl who went away to live with “Auntie” and had a baby, it was never publicly discussed.

Let’s take a look at Sorenson.

Sorenson and GeneTree

Sorenson,, was founded as a nonprofit research organization in 1999 by Mormon philanthropist, James Sorenson (deceased in 2008) in order to study the relationship between DNA and genealogy.  Unlike other testing companies, initially there was no charge to submit your DNA, but you were required to include a 4 generation pedigree chart.  You did not receive personal results.  Your results were, in time, added with your pedigree to their data base.  Their project to acquire DNA samples and pedigree charts came to an end in June 2009, and free testing was no longer available.  They began selling DNA testing services through GeneTree.

In 2007, in a somewhat controversial move, since Sorenson was supposed to be nonprofit and research only, they reconfigured and “launched” GeneTree, a DNA paternity testing company that they had acquired in 2001.

In 2009, they began to offer a resource for people to be able to obtain their Sorenson results and matches for a fee.  I was excited about being able to “unlock” my Sorenson matches as they advertised.  I ordered this “unlock” for $39 the very first day it was available, and sure enough, I had several matches, BUT, none of them were unlocked, so I couldn’t “see” them. I was encouraged to contact my matches through an internal message system and ask them to also pay the $39 to unlock their results so we could “see each other.”  I clearly didn’t understand the nature of ‘unlock”, or really, half-unlocked, when I spent my $39.  However, I figured if I just waited, eventually, others would unlock theirs too.  After all, it was the first day.

I didn’t have a good feeling about how this unfolded.  I felt like they were just using their customers to recruit other customers AFTER they had paid their unlock fee.  Kind of a mini dna pyramid scheme.

I checked back periodically, and one day, I could no longer access my results.  I contacted GeneTree and was told I had never ordered the “unlock.”  I sent them screen shots of my matches, which I had taken on the first day, but to no avail.  I could either try to find my original receipt and use that as my next form of argument, or simply give up.  I decided that since very few people were unlocking results, and none, of course, were full sequence, it was pretty much futile anyway and I didn’t spend any more time fighting with them.  They obviously had no motivation to find my records and make it right.  I went from feeling somewhat used by Sorenson/GeneTree to disgusted.

Ancestry’s ComeBack with Relative Genetics

After Ancestry’s first entrance and exit from the genetic genealogy playing field, they linked search-result surnames to Family Tree DNA’s projects.  One day in 2006, we noticed the link was gone and suspected that they were preparing to reenter the DNA testing space, and indeed they did in 2007 by purchasing Relative Genetics, their earlier partner.

I never tested at Relative Genetics, but I do understand that their clients were notified and there was an opportunity to opt out of that transfer.  Many people felt this should have been handled the other way – that you should have had to “opt-in” instead of opting out.

The Relative Genetics results were transferred into an Ancestry data base.  Ancestry simultaneously began their own testing program, and allowed people who tested at other labs to manually enter their data as well.  This increased Ancestry’s data base so that people who tested through Ancestry had results to compare to.

Ancestry still has issues with haplogroups because they don’t test SNPS.  Until they do, they will never be able to correctly assign haplogroups.

Their mitochondrial DNA matching is chronically wrong.  I have no idea how they do that, but anyone could do better with a simple spreadsheet, or even visually looking at the list.  Quality controls are apparently absent, in this, the most simple of tasks, and it surely calls into question the level of quality control in place for more complex tasks and matching where we can’t see all of the data.  This continual problem engenders no confidence at all, and the worst part is that it has been like this now for years and they have never fixed the issues.  Either their quality control is sorely lacking, or they simply don’t care.

As far as I was concerned, I was thoroughly disgusted by this point.  It had become apparent that adding people to their data base, in spite of clerically introduced mutations (typos), and generating revenue was a much higher priority than providing correct data on the back end.  But then again, Ancestry, in their other businesses, has never been known for accuracy or quality – only for barely-acceptable levels of mediocrity.

Of course, Ancestry has been on a shopping spree – buying up anything that smells like competition.

Ancestry Buys Sorenson and Genetree

In May of 2012, Ancestry purchased GeneTree and the genealogical and anthropological  assets of Sorenson, including their DNA data base.  Those of us who had contributed our DNA to Sorenson for research purposes felt betrayed and exploited.  Never did we imagine, in our wildest dreams, that our DNA would wind up with a commercial entity that would use our data, that was never “released” to us, to profit.  Nor were we notified.  If you managed to hear about this through the genealogy grapevine, there is apparently an “opt out” option if you contact  I could not find a link, but calling their support number should do it.  It’s unclear whether Ancestry actually bought the Sorenson lab.  Sorenson still does Forensic work and the management team at Sorenson Forensics is different than the Ancestry team.

Ancestry and Autosomal DNA Testing

In 2012, concurrent with the Sorenson/GeneTree purchase, Ancestry began to offer autosomal DNA testing, presumably using Sorenson’s lab, although I have been unable to verify that and Ancestry themselves are very tight lipped about the topic.  Given the history of quality and confidence issues, many old-timers in this field were skeptical.  We had hoped that perhaps Ancestry had spent enough time and investment up front that they would “get it right” this time.  CeCe Moore’s first posting was exciting, and we hoped that once again, one of the companies would set a new standard for everyone to leapfrog to.  It didn’t take long to discover that wasn’t the case.

If you haven’t already seen the series of blogs about Ancestry’s quality issues with autosomal testing, take a look at CeCe Moore’s blog postings about Scandinavian admixture and more recently, the horribly discouraging adoption sibling match mixup.

To me, the worst part of this mixup issue isn’t that a mistake was made.  It has happened before at other labs, but the difference is that in the other case, the company, 23andMe, stepped right up to the plate, took responsibility, and fixed the issue along with the underlying problem.  They didn’t try to make it someone else’s issue or pass the buck…and they were truthful.

In this case, when Ancestry was notified by the customer that an issue existed, apparently Ancestry did not take significant notice of the situation.  If there is a link or escalation procedure between the support department and the lab, it apparently wasn’t initiated or didn’t work.  After the customers persisted, Ancestry said they would send them a new kit, but it would be about 2 months or so before they got results.  Clearly, Ancestry wasn’t concerned that they had an issue within their system someplace…or that 2 months would have shrunk into overnighting kits and an immediate lab run.

Because Ancestry does not allow people to access or download their actual raw data, as does Family Tree DNA and 23andMe, the participants were unable to verify or dispute the findings and had to rely solely on Ancestry’s fatally flawed comparison.

Out of sheer frustration, and a sense of ethics since she had initially encouraged autosomal testing through Ancestry, CeCe Moore then reported what happened on her blog.  It took Ancestry another 3 full days to “discover” her post, call her and finally offer an explanation that was, in fact, significantly different than that given to the actual client whom CeCe is working with.  Had Ancestry paid attention, it would never have gotten to this point.  Had they listened to the customer, it would never have gotten to this point. If they allowed people access to their own data, we would have tools to help these people and it would probably never have gotten to this point.  Looks like we don’t have to wonder anymore about Ancestry’s quality controls.

However, we’re not done yet.  To add insult to injury, Ancestry then claimed that they discovered this error themselves, through their “quality control procedures.”  Really?  When did CeCe’s blog become part of Ancestry’s quality control procedure?

Here is their reply on CeCe’s blog.

“AncestryDNA, and the laboratories we work with, take the quality and accuracy of our DNA test very seriously.  Through our quality control procedures, we recently discovered that a small number of customers had a problem with their DNA results due to a laboratory error. In the rare case where there is an error, we work directly with our members to correct the results, which in some cases requires a new DNA sample. We have contacted all the individuals affected by this error and are in the process of correcting it. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience and confusion that can be a result of an error and are working hard to make this right for our members in a timely manner. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we continue to fine-tune this exciting new product.”

Compare the above statement about how important quality is to Ancestry to the following section from their mandatory release that everyone has to sign when they activate the AncestryDNA autosomal DNA kit.

“In addition, we do not make any representations as to the accuracy, comprehensiveness, completeness, quality, currency, error-free nature, compatibility, security or fitness for purpose of the AncestryDNA Website, Content or Service.”

Instead of stepping up to the plate, thanking CeCe for discovering THEIR problem, apologizing and accepting responsibility, Ancestry tried to make this uncomfortable situation CeCe’s fault, saying CeCe should have called them personally instead of blogging, and then misrepresented what happened to cover the ugly truth.

CeCe discusses this phone call in a second blog about this topic.  Be sure to read the comments.  She is obviously not making any friends at Ancestry, but bless her for being our advocate!  David staring up into the face of Goliath.

Consent and Release

In the midst of all of this, we also discovered that, according to Ancestry’s release and consent forms for autosomal DNA testing, that they can aggregate and sell our data.  So they can sell our data, including our medical data, but they won’t provide the same raw data to us so we can provide at least a minimal check on their “quality control.”  All of a sudden, the low price for the kit and their focus on amassing large amounts of data start to make a little more sense.  Who are the customers for purchasing our data?  What do they want to do with it?

Ancestry obtains consent by what could be construed as a “shady” practice of positioning the research consent and testing release agreements adjacent, not stating that the research consent is optional and inferring by industry standards that one must click to proceed.  The release to sell our data is not optional. And none of this consenting happens when ordering, or prior to ordering, the kit. It happens later, after you’ve paid and received your kit, and there is a $25 charge at that point to cancel the order.  Ah yes, the slippery slope.

If you’d like to hear what Dr. Ken Chahine has to say, you can see him testify before the Presidents Commission for the Study of BioEthical Issues.  A transcript is here.  Dr. Chahine is the senior vice president of and general manager for Ancestry DNA where he leads the development and commercialization of population genetics.   He is also professor of law at the University of Utah and has held various positions in the biotechnology industry including president and CEO of Avigen.  He holds a PhD in Biochemistry along with a law degree.  In this testimony, he says that Ancestry’s customers own their own data, but then he says the following:

“My thing — what’s interesting from a commercial standpoint is we — a lot of customers get data from either us or from other services.  And what I see that’s a little disturbing sometimes is that they upload their data to sites that quite frankly I can’t even have — I try to research who these individuals are that are doing additional research on people’s data.  And I’m not even sure who they are or how they’re qualified and if the data that they’re getting back are even, you know, valid, right?  So the point is that I think that we are moving in a direction where consumers feel comfortable, rightly or through ignorance, uploading their data to other sites.  So I do think that restricting sort of the end I think is important just to be able to take care of that issue.”

Ironic, given Ancestry’s current adoption sibling mixup, that Ken is concerned about “the data they’re getting back are even, you know, valid, right” from other resources, when the information from Ancestry itself isn’t.  So apparently Ancestry is being the benevolent parent to all of us, restricting us from having access to our own data, that they say we own, while they retain the right to sell it to others.  Hmmm….I smell a rat…or maybe it’s that skunk plant. Ancestry is afraid we might do something “bad” with our data, like, for example, catch their errors.

The True Cost Isn’t $99

And there is more too.  It also appears that if your Ancestry subscription expires, that you no longer receive matches that you can contact.  If in fact this is accurate, and there is really no way for any of us to test this right now, that was never made apparent when purchasing the kit.  Apparently, you will receive the match, but you cannot contact your match unless you subscribe minimally to “Ancestry Connections” which allows limited access to family trees, photos and DNA results for $4.95 per month which equates to $59.40 per year.

So the real cost of the AncestryDNA test isn’t $99, but $99 plus either an Ancestry subscription for $155 per year for the US or $299 for the world or alternately, the cost of Ancestry Connections, $59.40 per year.  It’s unclear whether or not if you only subscribe to the US Ancestry package if you only get US matches.

In any event, this subscription requirement was not made apparent up front and it dramatically changes the landscape of the cheap $99 test.  It adds strings that weren’t evident up front and if you no longer maintain your subscription in some way, you lose the benefit of your DNA test and any other DNA tests you’ve paid for and are associated with your account.  Ouch.  How many people would have tested if they knew their results would be held hostage for the price of a subscription?  And what happens to those results when you can no longer maintain your subscription?  Are they just gone to you forever, but still available for Ancestry to sell and for others to see?  Can someone else “adopt” them under their subscription so they can still be available for family members?

In my opinion, this is very ugly and the only benefit to anyone is to Ancestry to be able to extort subscriptions from people who want to maintain access to their DNA results, something they didn’t know they had to do when they purchased the autosomal DNA kits initially.  After all, that’s not the way the Yline and mitochondrial results worked, and there was no reason to suspect that autosomal testing would work any differently.  This amounts to genetic entrapment.

This is a very different model than at Family Tree DNA where results are available forever with no additional cost, and in perpetuity for the family through either private arrangements (account number and password sharing) or the Beneficiary Assignment on your personal page.

As we unearth the truth, morsel my morsel, I’m sure more information will be forthcoming as people discover what does and does not work, and under what circumstances.  But isn’t it sad that we have to do this at all.  Whatever happened to being forthright and upfront?  I think that is called integrity isn’t it??

How Many Strikes Til You’re OUT???

By now, I’ve lost count of how many strikes Ancestry has.  Where is the umpire?

Everyone and every company makes mistakes.  But the difference is in how (and if) they handle those errors when they do occur.

Given that Sorenson and Ancestry had the original debacle that ended Ancestry’s early DNA testing foray, and they, together, are having another very similar-feeling debacle in 2012, I have to wonder if history is repeating itself.  This difference is that this time, Ancestry is now publicly held and has invested so much money, just considering their initial give-away of 10,000 autosomal kits (about $250-300 market price each, a total of 2.5 to 3 million dollars) to build their database, that they are unlikely to exit.  The DNA testing marketplace has too much potential and they have a captive audience of about 2 million subscribers.  If every subscriber orders just one test of some type for about $100, that equals 200 million dollars.  And corporate profit is about expending as little as possible for as much revenue as possible.  Better yet, for Ancestry, DNA is a permanent hook to keep people from letting their subscriptions lapse.  The percentage of people who abandon their subscriptions has declined in the past year from from 4 to 3.4%.  Perhaps that is part of the reason why they are willing to sell their AncestryDNA product for $99, less than their cost of processing this test, that their two competitors sell for $289 ( and $299 (, respectively.  The other reason, of course, could be that they plan to sell aggregated DNA data.

The thing I find interesting is that at least one individual was at Relative Genetics, at Sorenson/Genetree and is also now at Ancestry.  Initially I thought this was a good thing, bringing Ancestry some much needed experience.  Now, I’m not so sure.  Like I said initially, I don’t really know where there problems lie….I just know they exist and have at some level chronically.  On top of this, it seems that things are just never exactly what they seem.

The part of this that I find the most distressing is the positioning – Ancestry experienced a lab error which “they discovered and notified the people”.  Not true, at least not in the adoptee’s case.  Ancestry couldn’t be bothered to pay attention until CeCe blogged and embarrassed them, and then they distorted the facts.  And then they had the audacity to be upset with CeCe.  What is wrong with this picture?

Ancestry has positioned themselves to absorb as many DNA results as possible by purchasing other companies and nonprofits, and from the general public entering results into their data base, with little focus on accuracy, and a lot of focus on building their data base and selling kits.  They are presuming that most of their customers, being DNA novices, won’t know the difference.

Ancestry has also positioned themselves to sell our results, aggregated, including those we contributed to Sorenson, a nonprofit at that time, but will not release those results to us.  I’m referring here to both the Sorenson results and autosomal raw data from the AncestryDNA test.

And whatever happened to all those Genetree people who paid the $39 unlock fee?  What about the records they paid to unlock and see?  Maybe they just lost all the records and it’s no longer a problem.

This behavior has gone from disheartening to discouraging to disgusting to shady to reprehensible.  This is the kind of behavior that eventually will cause this industry to be federally regulated, which will literally drive it out of business.  Who would visit a physician to obtain a prescription for genetic genealogy testing?  In order to avoid this, it’s important to self-regulate ourselves by bringing pressure for unacceptable behavior to stop.

Call to Action

So, what can we do?

  1. Communicate with Ancestry that their behavior regarding these issues is not acceptable. Neither is their paternalistic attitude on one hand while exploiting their customers on the other.  It’s one thing, and bad enough, when dealing with submitted genealogy trees and substandard offshore records translations, but DNA testing must be held to the highest of standards.  It is the sacred gift of our ancestors, the ultimate truth.  As you are probably aware, Ancestry is encouraging everyone to connect their genealogy trees to their DNA results so they can be populated up the trees.  It’s only a matter of time, on the present course, until they have a mess that can’t be unraveled.
  2. If you have taken the AncestryDNA autosomal test, request your raw data results from Ancestry.  They think CeCe is a lone renegade voice.  She is not.  We’re a community.  Call them at 800-262-3787 (regular support) 800-958-9124 (DNA support) or click on the “Beta Send Feedback” button at the top right of your DNA page.  They have stated that feedback through these avenues, especially the Beta Feedback button, is how they are prioritizing their next steps for DNA.  This data is yours and you have a right to have it. Furthermore, you can never verify the accuracy of what they report without it.
  3. Vote with your money and buy either at Family Tree DNA or 23andMe.  While both have their advantages and disadvantage, neither the ethics or quality of either of those companies is being called into question.  Neither requires a subscription.  Family Tree DNA never has.
  4. Tell your friends, family and project members to do the same.  Those 2 million subscribers that will potentially order DNA tests are all related to someone.

If Ancestry can’t get it right, then they shouldn’t pollute this industry for the rest of us.  I hope they get it right and recover their credibility.  I hope I’m wrong about the slippery slope and the flush.  But I know I’m not wrong about the skunk-plant.

In the mean-time, I leave you with the saying that’s been on the wall for years at  Baskin-Robbins:

“There is hardly anything in the world that someone cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price alone are that person’s lawful prey.”



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118 thoughts on “Is History Repeating Itself at Ancestry?

  1. Roberta, wow….this is very disturbing. I had such high hopes for the new Ancestry autosomal DNA test, especially since I have new matches appearing almost daily. However I have been extremely frustrated by the fact that I cannot work with my own DNA data like I can with my results at 23andMe and FTDNA. I will be sure to send my feedback to Ancestry. CeCe has been a wonderful advocate and she is NOT the only voice out there. We agree with her, and support her recommendations. I am a member of 4 different adoptee/birth family search, support and reunion groups with thousands of members, and I am frequently asked questions regarding who are the best companies to test with. I will discontinue any favorable recommendations concerning autosomal DNA testing with until they address ALL the issues you described.

    Keep doing your excellent work advocating for ethics and the needs of all of us.

  2. Horay for your comments. I tested with FTDNA, but I did transfer my results to Ancestry. As I am a customer and have my “tree” also with them, I trusted their judgement, now I wonder…..

    • what i hate is that you donate info on your family they don’t have, then they make you buy a subscription to see anything someone else may have contributed. i refuse to do this. i have went to a free site. if they make me pay, then they should delete what i sent them if i request it (but we know how that goes).

      we are giving them the data to build their business.

  3. I would have a problem with anyone that has built their faith around an assumption that the Native Americans are the 10 lost tribes of Israel and then prove themselves wrong with DNA testing. Someone needs to explain this to me. Isn’t that whats happened? I would like to see someone that knows DNA and do a comparison between Jewish and Native American DNA. If I am out of the loop please let me know.

  4. I’ve termed “Engulf and Devour” for nearly twelve years. My negative experiences with them are numerous, and I’ve discovered their huge lack of ethics many times in my dealings with them. I pray for no contact at all with them; however, it seems every time I focus on a good free or at least inexpensive site, it’s suddenly lapped up by Ancestry. It seems that more and more people are wising up to the experience and are staying away from them.

    As there is a sinister aspect to the Mormon religion, I find a sinister aspect to They claim not to be connected with the LDS, but I have found no proof that they’re not. And believe me, I’ve searched. As the Mormons collect “souls”, Ancestry collects people/names and now DNA of those people (?)… The Mormons baptized my gggg grandfather, a Baptist minister, in absentia by proxy and claim he is now a member of the Mormon church. I protested; I was told “Oh, but he could have refused”. He was DEAD a couple of hundred years when he was baptized by the Mormons.

    I’m doing my part by telling everybody I can not to mess with If there’s ever a class action lawsuit against them, however, I definitely would participate.

    Brownie MacKie

    • The Mormons also baptized my gggg grandmother who husband was a Baptist minister. He would be turning over in his grave if he could.

      Jim Allee

    • I am not a Mormon, but I know a lot about their church, whether the church is true or not, it IS true that if a person is baptized by proxy, the belief is that they can CHOOSE to accept it in the “afterlife”. They aren’t automatically made Mormon. Mormons are good people, trying to do the right thing, as they believe it to be true, no need to be mean.

      • Jules Lyne, I admire your understanding of Mormons. And I thank you for your comment. However, we are no longer living in the dark ages. Baptizing dead people by proxy is just silly, and I don’t think it’s harmless, because it is arrogant and negates the religion of the person whom they chose to baptize. For example: my Baptist Minister GGG grandfather. People should let “dead dogs lie”. It’s an intrusion of my faith as well as yours.

      • ules Lyne, I admire your understanding of Mormons. And I thank you for your comment. However, we are no longer living in the dark ages. Baptizing dead people by proxy is just silly, and I don’t think it’s harmless, because it is arrogant and negates the religion of the person whom they chose to baptize. For example: my Baptist Minister GGG grandfather. People should let “dead dogs lie”. It’s an intrusion of my faith as well as yours.

    • I am with you on the class action! GeneTree once they recieved payment did not fufill the agreement in completing all of the tests before shutting down. I had extinuatin circumstances and was notified at the last minute (2 days) at which time I couldn’t find the results even then to download them. I contacted both GeneTree and with nothing but a runaround. I am open to suing either or both!!!

      • I have the same problem with Vancouver general hospital lab, they falsified reports for paternity, then refused to release any material for review. Then I tried going to calgary childrens hospital, Turns out the director of VGH opened the lab at calgary childrens, when he closed the VGH lab, he took all the dna samples with him to calgary. When I went through a full freedom of information inquiry to obtain THAT file, it has no consents, no identities, and no chain of custody. They refuse to say where they got their samples. This is a very small industry, they cover up for each other, and without a regulatory body, or any verifiable standards, who can prove anything, What is really shocking, is how this crap got into court without these checks and balances in place!!
        Sandra Olson

    • I’ve a member of Ancestry for about 2 months. I have received my DNA results and they are a sham. It says 92% Eastern European 8% British Isles. Well, that includes all Eastern Europeans and many Americans. I couldn’t believe when I saw it!. Just looking at the family tree can created that statistic. Or going to wikipedia and Searching for a certain Eastern European Nation like Baserabian or Moldavian. I will find a way to complain and advise everybody I know against attempting to get this DNA test done here. I will post my coments to all relevant sites about this so people don’t get ripped off! Either you need to rectify this by being specific or issue a refund!. I am very unhappy.

    • I am LDS and I do not agree with on any level. The LDS volunteer to index and extract data for free. The LDS church never charges for this informatiom.

  5. Thank you for your comments and review. I am currently on my 3rd kit for Ancestry due to “lack of DNA for testing in the sample” per the lab. Now I am not sure if it is worth the effort of yet another attempt to collect DNA.

  6. Thanks for your bold posting! I am SO happy that I chose FamilyTree DNA a couple of days ago over Ancestry’s tempting [read:cheap] offer. My subscription had just expired a few days earlier and I decided to look around. It’s no surprise that their quality control is poor – just look at the enormous amount of wishful thinking going on in the family trees there! I received quite a number of so-called “matches” to people that we know for sure are either mythical or have been completely disproven genetically by other sources, but the matches persist. Now I’m really relieved that I didn’t give them our family’s DNA!

  7. Hi Roberta

    I am positively shocked by what is doing!!!! I have subscribed to Ancestry for years.

    I took the DNA testing with Sorenson. I paid to unlock my results but don’t know what became of them. I recently paid for one of the Ancestry DNA kits, but based on what you have said in this blog and a little bit of what I have heard elsewhere about Ancestry and DNA, I am not going to sign their forms or send in my kit. I would rather lose my $99 than have my results released or sold to others not of my choosing. For at least the time being I will keep my ancestry subscription and pray that they don’t take over other genealogy data bases to which I subscribe.

    I won’t give up on DNA testing other than at I have tested with a number of companies and will continue to do so when it looks advantageous from the perspective of getting more information about my ancestors,

    Thank you for pointing out the problems at in a clear way so that we can make informed decisions about how to proceed in our DNA research efforts.


  8. I feel you have the right to be honest and support your experiences. However, I have had a difficult time getting some family and friends to test. If they doubt one company they will doubt all and you are feeding their doubt.

    I have had negative experience with Sorenson in that after two tests they still could not get DNA results for me. I heard about FTdna and decided to try them. I recommend them, but my husband and I entered his FTdna results to SMGF and got an identical match for his results. That actually gave me a feeling that testing DNA must have some validity. I was a doubter.

    I tested the autosomal with Ancestry’s “free” offer as I have had a subscription for years. I have traveled all over the U S to ancestor homes and while not everything by any means is online, having access to census records and other records in one place is wonderful and a bargain for the $299 a year I pay.

    I am matching some of the same matches I have with FTdna. I like being able to access more information about the families than only names, dates and places which are very limited on FTdna including mine because I cannot update as easily as I can on Ancestry.

    I have had the experience of matching FTdna matches on SMGF and contacting the match and asking if the pedigree is theirs because it looks like it. Yes, it has been and in some cases they forgot about testing there because it had been so long ago. Another “proof” that DNA for proving ancestor relationships is possible. To doubters this is very important.

    I have asked Ancestry for my raw data and haven’t heard from them. I just wanted you to know I did ask how to get it as I have been able to get it from FTdna. I recently had a note on FTdna that there was a problem with Chromosome 9 results and some of our matches may change.

    When the illumina chip was used I lost a match with a common ancestor. One son picked him up as a match. Another cousin picked up his Grandson. Funny things happen in comparing DNA.

    I am not Mormon, but I do appreciate the help they have been with their library and online Ancestry. They always treat me with courtesy and helped get my two male cousins results transferred from GeneTree to Ancestry. Was I completely happy with unlocking my cousins results for $50 each just for the Y dna? No. They only were able to extract 17 and 22 instead of a full sequence. There answer was they try twice and stop. Well it isn’t 37, 67, or 111 markers, but one cousin is deceased and the other won’t test again and gave no reason. Even if I paid for it he wouldn’t test.

    My husband was sent a free test from 23andMe because he agreed to participate in a Sarcoma cancer study. He just completed a Clinical Trial at OHSU a Research Hospital in Oregon. The Dr is familiar with the 23andMe research for cancer.

    One big disappointment with 23andMe is the number of people who are afraid to post any information about themselves. I think if anyone follows the blogs by you and others a lot more will be anonymous making it futile to try to find cousins and break brick walls.

    Yes, we need to be educated, but if I had read all of this before I ever tested, I probably would choose not to test with any company. It has been very frustrating to find matches even with FTdna. I have lots of angry matches because they are not able to make meaningful connections.


    • Your concern about people being fearful about testing is one of the reasons I weighed on the side of not posting this blog. But if we ignore this, we do everyone a disservice by pretending this isn’t happening when it is. I hope that people see that when something goes wrong in this industry that it has the ability to straighten things out and self-right. Unfortunately, sometimes we all pay for the sins of others. I hope this isn’t the case.

    • Beverly, I have been volunteering with FTDNA almost since its inception. And have been with 23&Me for a long time as a testee. Both companies are on the up and up, and I feel confident in recommending them both. I’ve had a problem with Ancestry for many, many years.

      ( From Beverly: “I tested the autosomal with Ancestry’s “free” offer as I have had a subscription for years. I have traveled all over the U S to ancestor homes and while not everything by any means is online, having access to census records and other records in one place is wonderful and a bargain for the $299 a year I pay.” )

      Actually Ancestry at $299 a year is NOT a bargain. I’ve been researching on the internet free of charge for a long time. I can pull up original census records
      from two sources, my local library online, and (the LDS site).
      All free. Use Google to search for people. Works every time.

      🙂 Brownie MacKie

      • I work with people all the time that does not have any luck the way you have with google. I have been able to do it and I have used FamilySearch and government sites. I have found some information using USGenWeb.

        Each is entitled to their own way to do research and all of you are more expert than I am. I appreciate your trying to help all the angry FTdna testees. They feel they have been ripped off.

        I have pointed out the brick walls I have been able to break, but for a novice like me it has been a frustrating experience as it is for others.

        I am not challenging FTdna’s honesty and integrity, but I can understand why many decide after testing that it just isn’t easy to find common ancestors and they spent all that money for nothing.

        I hoped to be able to help my husband with his Horttor family and FTdna says he just doesn’t have any mtdna matches. It has been at least 2 years since we tested…just can’t find the exact date, but before the illumina chip. The Y matches haven’t been any help at all. We have about 15 years missing of John Horttor’s life (b 1845).

  9. I have avoided Ancestry like the plaque. I have found their lack of ethics to be a black mark on genealogy. Bravo for pointing this new problem out.

    • Ditto! Which is why I opted out – not an easy process, BTW – via Sorenson, GeneTree AND Ancestry when I learned of the sale. If any of my mtDNA data ends up there, I will be one ticked off lady, let me tell you.


      • I’ve had information I researched land on Ancestry a couple of times and proclaimed to them loudly that I did not give them permission to use that information. It fell on deaf ears. They don’t care!

  10. Roberta, well said, continue to shine your light upon their poor record. In a honest effort to be transparent everyone should know I despise Ancestry from their transgression years ago. Too bad there are some creditable, nationally known genealogists employed by Ancestry.

  11. This is a great article. I have nothing but respect for CeCe Moore and greatly appreciate her contributions to Genetic Genealogy. I have great respect for 23andMe and Family Tree DNA, having been associated with the latter since 2002.

    I knew there were problems with’s forays into DNA testing but I didn’t know the full extent until just now. Thank you for this article!

  12. I don’t know how to thank you enough! I had a phone conversation with one of my cousins last night. We are thinking we should have our elderly aunt tested but he had many questions about which labs or organizations could be trusted. You addressed many of the financial and ethics issues that he and I both have. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  13. Roberta, Thanks for confirming my gut feeling about getting into the DNA business. I thought long and hard about testing and I wanted to go with a company that I could trust. I first tested through the National Geographic Genographic Project, and I have been very pleased with that experience. Since Genographic was aligned with Family Tree DNA, I felt comfortable transferring my results there, and have been very satisfied with subsequent testing. When I read about Ancestry’s DNA testing, I checked it out because if I were ever to try it, I’d like to do it during a sale. After reading their marketing pitch, I did not have a good feeling. It came across like a shady used car salesman, just too good to be true. Perhaps if I hadn’t already tested, I might have been sucked in. I decided to wait awhile and see what shakes out, and now I’m really glad I did. I get the feeling now that the powers-that-be at AncestryDNA are not the types that really want to correct the situation. They’re just interested in the generating revenue. It’s a black mark on a company that I have used for a number of years, and this will definitely influence whether I continue my subscription with them.

  14. Thank you Roberta for telling it like it is. I have been extremely dissatisfied with the lack of any type of chromosome browser to see where I match someone. And the lack of being able to download your raw data is inexcusable.

    I have also found other issues relating to the linking and matching on family trees that are just plain wrong. Their program does not seem to be picking up some relevant information.

    I have been an customer for over 12 years and the recent issues with their DNA product are most discouraging. I have written to them a number of times even sending screenshots to show where the errors are. I have only gotten one response and it was totally unrelated to my question.

    The recent issue with the so called “lab error” relating to an adoptee and potential parent has put many of us in a position that questions their reliability and procedures. As an adoptee myself and someone who works with adoptees to better help them understand what they can do with their DNA results in attempting to find their birth families, this has been really upsetting. The whole issue of this lab error would have been easily resolved within minutes if the raw data was available.

    Sell my data? To who? What for? So that some idiot criminal can stick that data in his pocket the next time he goes to rob a bank? Come on….anybody who knows anything about DNA knows that’s irrelevant (except maybe the uniformed criminal). Even if he had a true sample, DNA upon exposure to oxygen and moisture deteriorates extremely quickly. And to have my DNA data used for any purpose other than research….is a law suit waiting to happen.

    I have made a only one family connection on AncestryDNA but the whole website is clumsy and extremely time consuming. My recommendation to any Newbie interested in having their DNA tested is to go with FTDNA or 23andme. AncestryDNA is useless for an adoptee, IMHO.

    I truly appreciate what you and Cece Moore do for the DNA community. I’ve known Cece for over 12 years and she has been my backbone in my own search for my birth family, with a successful find just 3 months ago.

    I will continue to write to Ancestry and post feedback until they get tired of hearing from me or exit from the DNA market and do what they do best in providing records to the genealogical community.

    Thanks again….your post should be a “whoa” moment to AncestryDNA and you provided much needed information.

    Best regards,
    Karin Corbeil

    • I think they are not selling your actual DNA itself, but the results of the sequencing that include your medically relevant information. That is what companies would want.

    • Karin…Ancestry is also providing inaccurate records. If I made up a family tree and sent it to them (under an assumed name) they’d publish it.

      Brownie MacKie

      • I agree with you on the bad family tree info being sold to subscribers. One reason why I’d never publish a family tree is that I know the info on it is wrong; and the accurate info will never be found. I know that some of my ancestors changed their names and birth dates numerous times; and given that they were born in the 1800s in the rural South, there is no way to prove any facts as they had no birth certificates, baptismal records, etc.Some of these ancestors used various names and birth dates that varied from document to document; including Census records, SSN applications, draft registrations,marriage licenses and even on their death certificates and tombstones ( the info is only as good as what the informant knows or was told ).
        And having managed the collection of Census data for a few areas some years ago; I know that the data can come from unreliable informants such as neighbors or even the guy who ran the rural town’s general store.

        I’m not blaming for errors in Census records–except for some of the bad transcriptions done during their indexing process– but believe that they should give subscribers full disclosure as to the possibility of serious errors in many kinds of “official” and unofficial records like family tree entries.. It seems that subscribers to place a lot of trust in its services–some that I know exhibit a scary devotion to it, frankly; and shout down any criticism of it–and such trust seems to merit a certain level of responsibility that appears loath to assume.

  15. Hello Roberta! sent them seven kits because they said it was free simply by sending only after family tree done all that said I would have to unlock the GeneTree paying a fee after receiving all my kits trees and said they are working more with that, I found unfortunate, now I wonder what they will do with the dna that I sent?

  16. Roberta, Excellent article and right on point. This latest debacle at Ancestry and how they handled the “lab error” was typical Ancestry and how they handle things. I am glad you decided to publish this article as it needs to be said. Ancestry needs to get their act together!!!

  17. Roberta,

    Thank you for his well written, factual and articulated article. Those of us involved in the DNA testing are seeking through and connection. It is such a sad experience when we do not receive what we expect and are entitled too based on acting in good faith with a ompny like ancestry. I was so disappointed with my broher’s results from the YDNA testing I would never use their service again.


  18. Wow! I tested through Ancestry quite some time ago. During that time they were partnered with 23andme lab as I received a link to subscribe to their service too. I did the Global Deluxe Subscription in hopes of making global connections faster. I tested the 36 marker and after a year of no new matches, decided to transfer my information to FTDNA. To tell you the truth I have made very few connections over the past year and remain unhappy. It seems the DNA project that I am involved in through FTDNA is not very forthcoming with information. Our group is lumped in with two other Haplogroups of the same surname. There is virtually no communication between groups in order to help separate and find answers. Much is at steak with our group because it deals with a Baronial line that stretches all the way back to Normandy, France. I am upset with the whole process to tell you the truth. We pay money for a service through Ancestry that is in turn holding your DNA information hostage for a subscription fee and then selling that information for their own gain. PISSED! FTDNA has us testing and upgrading slowly and bleeding your for SNP tests only for National Geographic to come out with a chip that blows everything out of the water we’ve been doing. I am a bit apprehensive about testing any further. I am hurt, frustrated and confused because I want to move on with my testing do to health issues.
    Unhappy Consumer

    • As an admin and co-admin of several projects with FTDNA, and, yet, still what is called a newbie after about twelve years of researching my husband’s ancestry I can feel your pain with belonging to a group that is not active. What you must do is become involved and make the group that you are interested in a project that works. How do you do this? Volunteer to admin the group. There is NO other way. I cried and griped and wrote letters to the Help for over two years with not one positive result. One of the guru posters on RootsWeb Genealogy-DNA
      offered the sage advice that I become a volunteer in so many words. It was great advice and I think more people should consider that.

      Roberta’s post here is dead on right and I think I have personally experienced every single situation she has discussed in her blog here that should win an
      AWARD. This is well done and well said and needed to be said. Thanks for
      being brave and speaking out for all of us. Linda McKee

  19. My subscription ran out a few days ago. I’m not yet sure if I’m going to keep getting new matches, but I guess I’ll know soon. I am still able to send messages to my matches and see their trees on the match pages.

      • I have a new 4th cousin match and it looks like some more distant ones as well. I can see their trees on the match page, but the link to “View Full Tree” takes me to a subscription screen. From my end, it looks like I was able to send messages.

    • Different kind of DNA testing, Tony. I’m sure they use full sequence in court cases. Whereas right now we’d have to pay around $5,000 for a full sequence test.

      Brownie MacKie

  20. My Ancestry account ended a couple of weeks ago. I still receive new AncestryDNA matches but cannot contact those matches unless I resubscribe. I’ve also tried contacting Ancestry via their AncestryDNA “Contact” button but have never received a reply to any comment, question or suggestion I have sent. As far as I know it simply goes into a digital trash compactor never to be seen from again. Fortunately I was one of the Beta testers so I am not out much $$.

      • Looks like Roberta has struck a nerve with many. Not long after I had spent considerable time entering my my pedigree with Ancestry so that others could see it, I had regrets. I soon noticed many mistakes in other family trees that seemed to be propagated. When it came time to renew the subscription I chanced to talk to one of those advocates. I renewed my subscription in spite of my feeling that my info was being held hostage because I had still not figured out how or where to transfer the info. I have not been entering any more of my info and have only used the account to access public information which I could no doubt find other places if I took the time to search. Even then, some of the best info that we have found has just been by google. I want to share info and Ancestry seemed like a good place for that, but I certainly don’t think I would want anything to do with the DNA tests they are offering. It also crossed my mind, as some with of the others who who commented, that important issues need to be addressed. I also wonder about the accuracy of tests when it comes to court cases, adoptions, and medical issues. I have also experienced frustrations with FTDNA but it seems to have more to do with my own lack of knowledge and not so much of an ethical or financial nature.

  21. is in the business primarily to make money. They apparently at one time had an interest in genealogy and assisted people with interest toward the same. Profits have gotten in the way of genealogical research. Ancestry has made some liaisons with other enterprises such as VitalChek and at least one Secretary of State’s Vital Statistics Agency. The price of Death Certificates has more than doubled and apparently you have to pay a premium to get a copy of one which has to be unnecessarily certified. I ordered one recently and was sent an unrequested copy. When i asked Ancestry to suggest to VitalChek that they should produce what was paid for, Ancestry stated that they had no connection whatsoever with VitalChek, yet VitalChek’s logo appears on many Ancestry webpages. Such attitudes towards customers I think is unforgivable. Additionally Ancestry was advised that a complete original1890 US Census Record for a southern US County was available to be microfilmed, but Ancestry has refused to microfilm it to offer it to their customers. I know this is a bit afield from DNA, but I think it important to illustrate the kinds of practices that are ongoing at Ancestry. I have been a continuous subscriber with them for nearly a decade.

  22. Many of the statements about the relationship between Ancestry and “Sorenson” didn’t jibe with my memories of the way things developed, so I contacted some of the former personnel of Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation (SMGF). Disclosure: I had a consulting arrangement with SMGF until it was disbanded earlier this year.

    Some of the confusion arises from the roles and names of the different entities. If you just say “Sorenson,” it’s not always clear what is meant. Sorenson GENOMICS is a commercial entity, which does contract testing for outside parties. These include genealogical companies such as African Ancestry, DNA Heritage (until it was disbanded) and Ancestry (for mtDNA and Y-STR ONLY). Sorenson Genomics supplies the raw data, while the display and interpretation comes from the contracting company. I do agree that Ancestry has done a poor job with mtDNA and Y interpretation, but the raw data is sound. FTDNA uses an additional layer of testing to assign haplogroups, which removes any ambiguity from predictions based on haplotypes.

    Sorenson Forensics is a division of Sorenson Genomics (SG), and has no involvement with the genealogical market. SG acquired GeneTree, a small paternity testing company, years ago. Later SG acquired Identigene and decided to use that brand name for paternity testing. The domain name was vacated, and ultimately acquired by SMGF. The goal was to see if GeneTree could generate enough income to make SMGF self-sustaining after the death of James LeVoy Sorenson, but that did not transpire.

    SMGF was a non-profit entity, funded entirely by James LeVoy Sorenson. The website is still supported by Ancestry, and it will be available for queries for the foreseeable future. It includes all the testing performed under the non-profit umbrella. The “unlock” procedure was a convenience (or a way of moving to the head of the queue for testing). It was not necessary if your DNA was actually tested and you are willing to work with the query engine. There are many places that explain how to do that. You could create a free account at GeneTree with results garnered from SMGF, or any company for that matter, and GeneTree would broker communications between matches. That’s no longer possible, of course.

    Sorenson Genomics is NOT doing any of the testing for Ancestry’s new autosomal test. Some of the SMGF personnel (Natalie Myres, Scott Woodward, and Norman Angerhofer) are now employees of Ancestry, part of the scientific team Ancestry recruited during the process of developing its autosomal test. Myres et al have published a number of technical articles based on research done while at SMGF, and I am hopeful that this can continue under the Ancestry umbrella. In my view, the fact that Ancestry recruited a scientific team is a strong point in its favor, so I see this as a clean slate, not history repeating itself. There’s a lot of potential in the dataset that Ancestry is positioned to put together, and I for one am willing to work with them to improve the product.

    • Ann, ithe problem is not confined to DNA and Sorensen. Ancestry continues unethical practices in every aspect of its operation including customer service. One has to look at the broader picture.

      Brownie MacKie

    • Ancestry themselves has changed their official name and gone public during this past decade as well. However, this group of companies, whatever their name-du-jour, and people, has a long history of association in one format or another, be it as sister-companies, contractual or by acquisition. The same people migrate from company to company, whether it’s for-profit or non-profit. The problems have been persistent, whatever their genesis, and need to be rectified, regardless of the current name on the door.

      • I keep getting this message when I search the census on

        “The original image is viewable at
        At you can view, print, and save the original image.
        (fees may apply) ”

        I resent that.


    • To Not Free: this is not a case of people wanting something for nothing. This is a case of shear customer service abuse on the part of a company that has no ethics. I have dealt off and on with for nearly 20 years. Have had more bad experiences with them than good. They published several things of mine without my permission. Also, the material they have is more often than not inaccurate and useless. Every time a new good company comes into being, Ancestry scoffs them up. Hence, my pet name for Ancestry….”Engulf and Devour DebDevour”.

  23. I read your blog way too late. I should have known better, but I thought, “well, it’s Beta testing, it will go up in price later”. So I did it, and I had not one speck of British Isles ancestry, and most of my ancestors are British. I had a very large Scandinavian and Central European and a small amount of Eastern European. I will call them on Monday and complain. I have already written. Unfortunately, you never hear from any Ancestry customer service person unless you are being sold some bill of goods. I even wondered if the connections had anything to do with DNA, or were they just picked up based on the family trees that we had all posted. (I’m pretty cynical. Let’s hope their criminal behavior does not go that far.) I should have just saved my pennies and gone with one of the better companies. Now,I’m out of luck for a while.

  24. I contacted Ancestry this morning. They are not going to send me my raw data. I spoke with a very pleasant young man, who was a helpful as he could be. He made another call regarding the Scandinavian problem. He said they were aware of it, and working on it. I asked him if I would be notified if they solved the problem, and he said no, that it would just appear on my DNA page at Ancestry. So, we shall see.

    • Ellen…That’s their standard repartee when confronted. “aware of it and working on it”. That’s just not right. You should be in control of your own DNA results.

  25. Thank you for the information. I’m quite apprehensive now about the results of the new DNA sample I recently sent to They haven’t posted/processed my $99 DNA test yet (takes a few weeks). I had a really difficult time to get enought “spit” into the vial. Did anyone else have that problem? I was expecting a cheek swab kit, not a “spit” kit. Do all the companies who processt this type of DNA test use a “spit” sample? A “cousin” of mine did a Y-DNA test through a few years ago. He/We wanted to know if he matched the Winslow’s who were relatives to the Winslow’s who came on the Mayflower and later. Now I am wondering how good his results really were? Maybe his results were shown on his maternal Irish side, instead of the father’s Winslow side? As it showed his closed relative to be Irish with a different surname than Winslow? As far as the genealogy information I have gotten from, it has been VERY GOOD. However, I did have a lot of information before I subscribed to ancestry. But I have found copies of handwritten baptismal records, marriage records, and death records of my ancestors from Quebec, which I would never have been able to find without GREAT difficulty. Also I have met many, many “cousins” on who have further helped in my search and also a LOT of good photo’s of great aunts and uncles, even 4X great grandparents. In fact just wonderful photo’s of many of my ancestors which I never would have seem had it not been for I have also helped many “cousins” on who were not aware of their 13 Mayflower ancestors and Revolutionary war Patriot ancestors. I have sent documentation for all of the 13 Mayflower ancestors to the Mayflower Society and they have all been approved. So I know I am not “guessing” about these ancestors. The same is true of the Revolutionary War Patirots which DAR has approved. So all-in-all the subscription been expensive, but I got some great information, and photos, also photo’s of gravestones and documentation. I also FOUND my grandfather’s “aunt Betty” who we knew nothing about, finding her descendants and knowing because of the photo’s and documents they had of her that she was truly my grandfather’s “Aunt Betty” was thrilling indeed. The only problem I have had with is that it seems like the “search” function could be much, much better. Sometimes, in order to find some things I have to do all kinds of “creative” things in order to find something that should just “pop up” in the search. Like many times a married woman’s information will come up. But not anything concerning her maiden name. I have also noticed that in the beginning, a few years ago, I could find MORE information about the ancestors. Now it seems that obituaries are not on in full like they used to be. I guess you have to “order” them now or something. So it does seem like a few years ago there was more “avaiable” information on All I can say it will be interesting to see what kind of matches I get. Yes, and I am quite upset that didn’t let us know about the requirement to keep a subscription in order to match the DNA results and the fact that there will be no raw data. Also the fact that there was a agreement we would have to agree to that they can sell the DNA information. Becky

  26. I appreciate all the comments here.I had my Autosomal done by DNATribes several years ago. At least they don’t try to tell you your specific ancestry but give you your top 20 matches in descending order. They aren’t saying you have ancestors from all those matches. You have to get a hang on their information. For instance I had no matches in the top 20 for the Republic of Ireland but had matches with Basque area of Spain. it has been found that the Indigenous Irish are basically Basque not Celtic through DNA.
    Ancestry.Com has lost my respect with their ads. Particularly when someone is pointing to a family tree. Oh if you read all their information they will tell you the trees are not verifieid, but they know a lot of people won’t do that. They have a lot of good original source records but family trees on their website or any website must never never be viewed as a record.

  27. I tested with SMGF when it was a free service, later with Gene Tree, don’t remember if there was a charge with Gene Tree, if there was and the expectation was that it would always be available and now ancestry has purchased Gene Tree and beginning in 2013 one would have to pay to access his or her information, should not there be a class action lawsuit?

  28. Pingback: 2012 Top 10 Genetic Genealogy Happenings | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  29. Did the Ancestry test…. I have extensive verified relations throughout my 5-6-7 generations to Dutch and Germans relations yet Ancestry’s DNA test revealed ZERO connections/recognition to these relations. The Ancestry DNA test did claim that 33% of my DNA was connected to Southern and Eastern European relations and yet my research reveals ZERO relations among Southern and Eastern Europeans… I complained to Ancestry and got a “canned” email reply that ignored my specific complaint… In other words, Ancestry had nothing to say about the discrepancy between my verified research AND their DNA testing. What can be done?

    • Hi, I’ve been doing research for 20 years. I was a member of about three times. It’s not a pretty picture. They are unethical and not customer friendly. They have lapped up every free site there is and incorporated them into their system to never be seen again. Be leery and careful of them. They have no principles whatsoever.

      • WOW. You clearly have an ax to grind there Brownie. I have been a member of Ancestry continuously since 2002 and been doing genealogy for over 30 years.. Is it perfect? No. Are the software bugs sometimes frustrating? Yep. Do I feel like I have gotten my moneys worth? Definitely. Compared to the old days of ordering and pouring through microfilm and going to county halls, Ancestry has paid for itself many times over. Moreover, I have found dozens of cousin matches with Ancestry DNA. I have transferred my autosomal data to FTDNA Family Finder and done the Y-DNA test. So far It’s been a total waste of money. Not a single useful match. The sheer quantity of Ancestry DNA participants with trees on and the ease-of-use of the matching system, leaves Family Finder in the dust, I’m afraid. . Granted, the powerful chromosome browser tools are an FTDNA advantage, but if you have no good matches to triangulate, it’s kind of pointless…

  30. Is it possible to do DNA testing on a person that died in 1828 in order to trace family tree?

  31. Thank your for the information. I must say I found what Sorenson did is selling information and restricting access was ethically disturbing. These aren’t the kind of people I wish to give my business. Thanks again for taking the time to publish.

  32. Hi, I see this post is a year old, but I just came upon it. My wife just got some results from, and it’s pretty cool. It made me want to research where I’m from. Based off our surnames, I know my dad is half British and half german, and my mom is the same. But I would like to find specific regions in these countries, and see if I have any other ethnicities in me. Which one is the best one to do that? The Nat Geo test looks pretty cool, and I looked at the FamilyTreeDNA website too. The NatGeo one looks like it goes really far back, but does it cover more recent info (100-300 years), like the stuff I’m looking for? Does Nat Geo give me all the raw data, and does it give me the access to the FamilyTreeDNA website, since it has partnered with them? Thanks for any info.

    • Yes, Nat Geo allows you to download your raw data. You can transfer your yline and mtdna info to Family Tree DNA for free. This would be haplogroup for mtdna and SNPs for Yline. Many people use the two site together because they offer different type of DNA testing that fit together, so to speak.

      • Thanks for the fast response. I’m very new to this (geneology and DNA) so I don’t even know half do what you said, lol. I’m going to look up haplogroup, Medan and snp. I apologize for my ignorance on the subject. My wife is a bio major, so ill ask her.

        So if you could only choose one DNA test, on a limited budget, to get the info that i want, would you do the Nat geo one?

  33. I usually don’t miss a chance to bash, but I was able to download my raw data back in April of this year (2013) right there on the site with no problem. I haevn’t tried lately and I don’t even remember how I did it, but I think is where I found the instructions on how to do it.

    I am also surprised (distraught?) at what seems to be a disproportionate Scandinavian “diagnosis”, but my understanding is that the testing covers about two thousand years, of which 5-7 generations would only be a minor part of? So even if *all* of one’s more recent (read: within the past 500 years or so) relatives are from the UK, they could still originally have been from Denmark or who-knows-what; in that case Ancestry results would be functionally useless for people like me trying to figure out where their recent ancestors are from. I’ve also been researching what seems to be ‘false positives’ with these tests along the lines of the Scandinavian thing and while I don’t completely understand it, it seems that just like physical traits, ethnic traits can also skip generations? I am (obviously!) not a geneticist, but I’m no stranger to witnessing “throwbacks” (physical traits reappearing after a generation or two) so this makes sense to me. I’m not saying Ancestry is right or wrong with my results (honestly, I guess I have no way of knowing, which is why I’ve just been submitting my DNA everywhere to see if there’s any common ground), just that if one is only comparing 5-10 generations against their results they may not be seeing the big picture.

    Now. I know I’m asking at the wrong time since I’m due to expire in two days, but I don’t understand if after two days Ancestry just dumps my entire account along with all my possible matches, or if I simply just stop being able to contact them. Assuming it will take more than two days before someone sees this, let alone responds, I suppose I’ll just find out the hard way – because I definitely don’t want to give Ancestry any more money!

    For the record. I’ve also submitted dna to, but I wanted to (cheaply) hang on to Ancestry for the ability to go through member trees. I may be the only one on Earth, but when I try to peruse member trees on 23andme there seems to be some bug where it won’t let me go back within the tree. They also have it laid out really awkwardly so it’s impossible to find a common ancestor unless you pore through the entire tree looking at each one individually, whereas Ancestry has everyone itemized by surname (even though for some reason they don’t list everyone?).

    k well, thanks for having me.


    • From reports I’ve read, you maintain your DNA matches, your ability to contact them, and the truncated pedigree that displays on your results page. You lose the ability to click through to the more detailed pedigree, which might be more expansive and contain sources.

  34. So glad I came to this site before getting involved in DNA ancestry search. I did find FamilyTree on the internet and thought they would be better than the others I had researched.

  35. I initially had my own autosomal testing done through Ancestry. At first, the results were confusing-Central Europe, which was ok, Scandinavian, ok, but questionable and Eastern European. Most of my research has turned up British Isles, German and an immigrant Prussian Great Grandfather whose family seems to have been in Poland for a couple of hundred years which would certainly account for Eastern European. I had several close matches, some of whom were already in my family tree. Uh Huh.
    I complained as did many others. They obviously had a problem. I downloaded my raw data after a long wait and transferred it to Gedmatch. I found that I had a couple of fairly close matches there, but not much response to my e-mails.
    I had my nephew and a male cousin tested for YDNA with very little success, in fact none for my nephew, and yes I did contact the DNA surname groups.
    In the mean time, Ancestry re did the testing for all of us, and this time I was 84% British Isles, which made more sense, but I do have a good bit of German, and that Immigrant Prussian Polish Great Grandfather, so I would have thought that there would have been more than 1% Western Europe, as I do have other German Ancestors. I have 2% Irish, and 4%Scandinavian. With Gedmatch, I am mostly Northern European and Atlantic, with some other small matches.
    I just question Ancestry’s methods, especially, since you have to be member to access your data and your matches.
    I also had my husband tested, with FTDNA to prove that his father was who we thought he was-long story there-that worked out. But as for the others, unless there is someone who is closely related being tested, you will not have the results you want and you won’t knock down that brick wall. I’m not sorry that I did it, but I did spend a good bit of money.

    • Ellen, I’ve been dealing with off and on for next to twenty years. I’ve discovered how to do research without them. They want your money. That’s all they want. Researching with them is like trying to find a needle in a haystack….they have all that information, and half of it is wrong. It’s a waste of my time and my money to deal with them further. I go straight to the source and doubt that I spend more than fifty dollars a year on research now. Just sayin’! 🙂

  36. Maybe the reason they get it wrong all the time is because that’s really not what their after or what they collect. Watch out for your souls. Just saying.

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  39. Based on your comments here, I used the FamilyTreeDNA kit. They received mid-December 2014, and to date I have NO results. They keep changing the “expected” dates on their website, and the BBB has been ineffectual. So apparently the whole ancestor DNA testing field is filled with charlatans and crooks.

    • These tests take about 6 weeks to process. If the test fails and they have to use a second vial, it taken another 6 weeks. They are not charletans nor crooks. Many people have used them for 15 years now.

    • Mick – I have been working with a number of kits that were in about the same time – most of them are back and posted however, my uncles had to be reprocessed and should be back soon. I have been with FTDNA and Ancestry for over 8 years and run a number of kits for 3 different projects – I have been extremely happy with FTDNA – since I work in a lab myself I clearly understand having to rerun a sample if the QA so indicates – good work is worth waiting for

  40. Roberta – i have only been one of your fans, since I transferred my raw Ancestry Autosomal file over to FTDNA and started following your long quest into your Native roots. I followed your link to this article about the unfortunate history of Ancestry DNA and was disappointed to read some of the hateful comments made about Ancestry by some of the replies made in this blog

    I am a 77 year old self-diagnosed Aspie, who, as a result has a tendency to chew on things and not let go, like a hound dog on bait. I am also LDS and have been working in Family History for the last twenty years. When I started with the old LDS Ancestral File and the old DOS version of Family Search, I knew absolutely nothing about my family, except that my father had a brother.

    Today, I have almost 4000 people in my Ancestry Family Tree and almost as many in my FamilySearch Family Tree. They are not all blood relatives, because years ago I learned to include as many siblings and peripheral families as I could reasonably find, instead of only following Y lines, as so many others do. This has helped me go around brick walls in several families.

    I agree that Ancestry customer service hasn’t always been the best it could be, but their customer service has improved tremendously over the past couple of years. I too had some misgivings, when their prices started to go through the roof. I completely stopped using Ancestry for a time and spent most of my time working with FamilySearch, both as a user and as a Family History consultant. I even spent three years as a Director of an LDS Family History center.

    When the 1940 census was released, FamilySearch jumped in and released the stops. Thousands of LDS volunteers worked to index those records in a very short time. FamilySearch and Ancestry started working together to index many of the millions of records that are now held only on microfilm. As a result of the cooperation, Ancestry now allows people with an LDS FamilySearch account to have an Ancestry account at no charge. Hopefully, this arrangement will last for a long time. I now see that both FamilySearch Family Tree and Ancestry Family Tree are improving every day and sharing records.

    I finally decided to jump into Genetic Genealogy, by sending a sample into Ancestry DNA in November 2013, because all four of my grandparents were born in Ireland and I’m sure you know what that Irish brick wall between 1750 and 1864 is like. my grandparents were all born before 1864. My results didn’t show until January 2014, because of the big $79 sale Ancestry had at that time.. Version 1 showed several thousand matches to me, but after the new algorithm was used in the spring of 2014 to reduce false positives, my matches were reduced to about 1500.

    My first two matches connect to my paper tree as 2nd cousins once removed. Some of the next few are held private by an administrator and some others have never replied to requests from me. A few have replied, but we have not been able to establish our link yet, because connections to third cousins will have to be made in Ireland.

    I had no trouble downloading my raw Ancestry file in January 2014, so I uploaded it to Gedmatch then. I found a couple of matches there, that are also on my Ancestry match list, but not enough information to be able to triangulate. Finally, I uploaded my file to FTDNA. Gedmatch shows about 1500 matches and FTDNA shows about 750 matches, but none are positive yet in FTDNA.

    I joined the FTDNA Daly Surname project in December 2014 and paid the fee for a Y-37 test then, along with the fee to use the FTDNA tools for Autosomal DNA. My expected date for my Y-37 test has passed and has been extended to March 11 -March 25 now, so I can only patiently wait for those results.

    In the meantime, my 87 year old sister’s son-in-law used an Ancestry kit that he bought last year during an Ancestry sale, and sent it to Ancestry in January. It was just released three days ago and he immediately downloaded it, uploaded it to FTDNA and sent me a copy, which I uploaded to Gedmatch two days ago. Now, my sister is my first match and I am her first match in Ancestry DNA. Our next two matches are the same and because I know that siblings don’t receive identical DNA, our third and fourth matches are reversed. She has some matches that I don’t have and I have some that she doesn’t have. I’m still waiting for the file to show in FTDNA, but I can use it for a one to one comparison in Gedmatch.

    My last point is about the hateful remarks made about the LDS church and Mormons in general. I understand the feeling of need to protect personal beliefs, but before one should denigrate another’s personal beliefs, some study is needed. Vicarius ordinances, like Baptisms performed for the dead in LDS Temples, are similar to Baptisms held in Catholic Churches around the world. No, the dead cannot speak for themselves, but neither can an infant, who is being baptized in a Catholic church. They both need a substitute to stand in for them. God Parents are substitutes for an infant in a Catholic Baptism and they speak for the infant. They listen to and answer questions asked by the Priest The child then decides, after reaching the age of reason, to accept, or reject promises made to God by God Parents in their behalf. An LDS church member, usually a youth, is fully submerged in Baptism, by an ordained Priest, while the Priest pronounces the standard Christian words of ” (Name) I baptism you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost in the name of Jesus Christ”. There are always two witnesses present to attest that everything is being done properly and in order. The deceased person in the spirit world has absolute agency to accept or reject the ordinance that was performed in his on her behalf. This is all done in love and the desire all LDS Church members have to be together again with family in the next chapter of our lives

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  42. And here it is, two years later and ancestry is still pulling the same crap. It’s just money. Period. Nothing else about it other than money. And since they’re trying to sell for 3 BILLION dollars, you can bet it will get worse. The average person has no idea what’s going on. The people who read blogs and the fine print at ancestry do. Imagine how many don’t read the fine print.

  43. Years ago I, like a myriad of others, took a “30-day free trial” at for their genealogical/family tree service. After finding that there were no quality control or oversight measures that resulted in my having radically wrong family tree info. on their system, I said “no thanks” and told them to forget about my extending my subscription for payment. I scratched as much of what I had entered for my family as I could and then asked them to please remove my credit card info. and other personal info. from their accounting system.

    That they could not do, they claimed. They had to keep my credit card info., address, etc. on file “…in the event that I should decide to re-open my membership”. I assured them that, based on what I’d seen in just a month, I wouldn’t be back. No matter. They refused to remove my information from their system, now claiming that they had no way to do so.

    This went on for a few weeks until I finally complained to the BBB/Utah. Supposedly, Ancestry saw the light, stopped making inane excuses and did finally purge me from their systems. But just in case they didn’t/haven’t, I’ve since cancelled my old credit card and gotten a new one!


  44. I have purchased 7 kits for family and friends and was about to get 4 more I am very upset that this is such a hoax!!

  45. I am stunned to find an ancestry related forum where such heresy is not immediatly shut down by the faithful. In most places to even question ancestry’s motives is to get a couple ‘really nice’ people questioning your motives, pointing out what a bargain their service is, and every other attempt to suppress contrary view of the company. Many of my ancestors were in Boston and areas near in very early 1600’s and I’ve learned most of them have been baptised as Mormons. It is horrible think one day most of us will have some descendant converting us. We all live/lived our religious choices and it is reprehensible for someone later to screw around with that. Ancestry does provide good product. But it is overpriced, subsidizing their religious efforts and providing free subscriptions to their LDS members. Hope to see a day when some competitor is there we can select and tell Ancestry where to go

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