Ancestry Destroys Irreplaceable DNA Database


In spite of petitions and letters and pleas, from their customers, from the genealogy community and from the leaders in genetic genealogy, Ancestry did exactly what they said they would do – they deleted the Y and mtDNA data bases and in effect, destroyed the contents – tens of thousands of irreplaceable records, gone, forever.

In other words, they burned the courthouse of the County DNA.

Worse yet, several years ago, in 2007, Ancestry had acquired the DNA results of the customers of Relative Genetics and incorporated them into their Y and mtDNA database.   So the results of testing at two companies from the earliest days of genetic genealogy are gone – poof – up in smoke – not available for comparison or searching – the lynchpin of genetic genealogy.

It’s simply beyond me how a company that makes their living from rare historic records, like the census, for example, could be the one lighting the torch on something so valuable as a searchable database containing irreplaceable genetic data.  Many of the early testers are deceased now but through their DNA tests that identified their lineage, their legacy could live on and benefit all genealogists.  Some of those people were the end of their line.

I still can’t believe Ancestry did this.  It’s unfathomable.  Unthinkable.  Unbelievable.

But they did.

I won’t even begin on the topics of responsibility, stewardship and ethics.  It’s pointless.

Ancestry announced their intention to do so in early June, giving people in essence three months to retrieve their data or search the data base.  A few days later, Ancestry suffered a denial of service attack which broke the search function of the data base.  They never repaired that function, so, in essence, other than retrieving your own results, the data base had been non-functional since mid-June.  They extended the deadline to the end of September, but that mattered little since the data base wasn’t operational.

Today, October 1, I checked to see if the data base was in fact, gone, and it is.  We had held out hope to the very end that Ancestry could be persuaded to reconsider, or sell, or combine their results with the Sorenson data base they also maintain (as a function of their Sorenson purchase contract) – something – anything to salvage the resource – but no dice.

Ancestry did do one thing however.  If you tested your Y or mtDNA or hand entered results previously, you can still download or print your own data.  Any matching or other capabilities are gone and in their place, an ad, of course, for their autosomal DNA test….

ancestry download y2



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103 thoughts on “Ancestry Destroys Irreplaceable DNA Database

    • I guess I am totally confused about destroying our DNA stored in ancestry. Does this mean that Ancestry is starting over with DNA testing and all our DNA stuff will be gone. I just went to my DNA page and see no difference. Am I missing something here? Can someone explain exactly what DNA Ancestry destroyed/burned????

      • Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA results. They stopped selling those tests a few months ago and have been focused on their autosomal testing, so they destroyed the earlier results instead of keeping the data base intact.

      • Yeah, what IS going on? Will I lose the tree I already built? I am adopted and am very excited to find how I came to be. OR am I missing the point ?

      • Businesses make moral and ethical decisions vs. the bottom line every day. Safety and well-being of the employees vs. the bottom line. Environmental concerns vs. the bottom line. Quality control vs. the bottom line. Some companies make better decisions than others. IMHO

  1. I’m gradually becoming less enthusiastic and optimistic about the genetic genealogy companies in general, but Ancestry is working hard to earn a special place in the Hall of Shame. I think the best and brightest in the genetic genealogy community should think seriously about starting another company to compete with the rest.

    • Ancestry is NOT a genetic testing company. The only real labs left in the US continue to be FTDNA and 23andMe. Ancestry has dabbled in genetic testing at a distance since the beginning. I don’t see how anyone can be shocked by this move. My revulsion at their presence in the DNA marketplace in any shape or form is buoyed by this move. Maybe folks who are serious about testing will migrate to FTDNA or 23andMe.

  2. This is ancestry and dna….not reliable. I think what you got was a scam but probably legal….grrrrrrrr

    Sent from my iPad


  3. Who is this “they”?? Do “they” have names? It is “they” whose names must be brought out into the light, it seems to me. Do we think that $$$$ had something to do with this decision?

    • I don’t every think there is a question mark here. This is obviously a money decision on their part. In a podcast, I heard a discussion about this topic, and supposedly what Ancestry is claiming is that it would be much too hard to locate all of the next of kin of dead relatives, and also the legalities are much too difficult and expensive. They are taking what is (for them) the easy way out, and just destroying the information.

      • There is a difference between the actual DNA itself and the data base. I understand about the DNA itself, even if I don’t necessarily buy the argument. But that has absolutely nothing to do with the data base of results that they could have maintained ad infinitum. They are confusing the issue, probably on purpose.

  4. FACT: I will NEVER recommend to anyone, the use of for DNA research or study. The company is about as useful as a cement block is to a drowning man.

  5. Precisely why I never got involved with Ancestry—they were never about your genealogy, they were only about money! And if they can’t have it and make money off it, ain’t NOBODY gonna have it!!!

    • Ditto! I have been so disgusted so many times doing searching—come up with so many crazy results. Recently, I did a search on my 4th great grandfather: Ishmael Vineyard. Result—his spouse was “James Henderson.” We already knew that his spouse was Jeanette or Jane Henderson. Must keep a sense of humor ; )

  6. I think, increasingly, Ancestry is demonstrating that they have no interest in being responsive to the “serious” genetic genealogy community. They are more interested in selling tests to the general public who are casually interested in their ancestral makeup and don’t really care whether what they are getting is the truth or not – it’s all just fodder for cocktail party chit chat. If Ancestry can sell some DNA tests to the serious folks all the better – but they won’t make as much money in that market segment. This is obvious from the way their television ads are designed – “You don’t need to know anything or do any work – Just click on the shaky leaf and you can copy someone else’s tree (whether or not they are actually related to you)!” And the fact that they are advertising on TV at all indicates they are going after a broader market. The point is, they don’t care what we think because we don’t represent the core of their customer base. Money talks, unfortunately…

    • I have been an Ancestry paid subscriber for over 20 years and like access to records that I had to travel miles to use and read microfilm. When I searched for a DNA company 6 years ago, it was obvious to me that ftdna was the serious contender in the market. It is a shame that Ancestry has dropped its quality control so far..their cover sheets for census records have lots of errors as stated here and always check to see the actual record and then compare it to other records. I have contacted them on several occasions to point out their errors and was informed that they have a team who reviews these reports. Oh YEAH! As far as people copying your tree info…..disgusting. It continues to happen to me as soon as I post phots, documents or new people to my online trees they are gobbled up by persons who claim my ancestry and actually have no relation. Again some kind of quality control is needed.

      • Mary Jo,

        I have had issues with transcription errors and having my tree downloaded by someone claiming a relationship to me, too. No amount of discussion resolved either.

      • I never had any issues with people downloading, using, etc…. anything from my tree when it was private. It was my choice to make it public, but I can also change it back to private if/when I choose. is in it for the money, they don’t try to hide that fact. That being said, I could never afford to go and visit all the archives, courthouses, etc… to see all the records that they offer. One year of US only is less than the plane ticket to go to Massachusetts. People “taking your family for their own” that isn’t’s fault. That is the fault of poorly educated people not knowing how to do their research correctly.
        If you are really against, go help transcribe for Make them stronger and more of a contender to
        Issues with transcription errors – hey when you are trying to transcribe hand written letters of a language you don’t know – pretty difficult. I have issues sometimes understanding what is written. I’ve never had any problems (as a paid member) getting the information changed. It takes a while, and they don’t change the original, but they add the updated/corrected in parentheses and it comes up in a search with the corrected name. I’ve done transcription work, for a local archive, in my native language, and have issues once in a while. It isn’t easy all the time.

  7. My stomach hurts at the destruction of these irreplaceable records. Some decisions have such amazing repurcussions in the genealogy community, and this one is incomprehensible – to me.

  8. The DNA study revealed that their early founders were incorrect about the Native American tribes being descendants of Israel. In their case science and religion could not find a resolve. Mike

    • Your argument is compelling. I thought that there might be a DNA/Religion reason for destroying the evidence. I didn’t know they believed Native Americans were descended from Israel. Very interesting.

  9. I don’t think they’re telling the whole truth about the database. If there was a “denial of service attack” right AFTER their announcemnt, it leads me to believe something happened to the database BEFORE their announcement. I begged and pleaded with my brother to take the test since my grandfather lied about everything in his life, including his name and birthdate. My brother was my only hope of finding our heritage. has denied us of that. They are a business only. They act as if they care. They don’t.

  10. First of all I wouldn’t be giving anyone, anything, related to my DNA. People can learn too much already about individuals just by doing a Google search yet alone giving them access to even more information about you. You have my website, that is all you need to know. Now they are going to give my email to everyone…lol.

  11. I guess their reason might be to start a brand new DNA base so that people have to pay them for the dna analysis.

    There is so much about that I absolutely like, but there are some things that are VERY bad too.

  12. A few years back, I found an Englishman on Ancestry who had the very rare marker of my very small haplogroup. Fortunately, I was able to locate him and get him to do more extensive testing. As a result, he became my closest match outside the U. S. Afterwards, however, Ancestry changed their computers to show only fairly close matches, which ended any chance I had to find any others in the U. K. with my rare marker. When I talked to them about it on two different occasions, both times they said they would pass my complaint along. But I never heard from them. Apparently, they weren’t interested in anything I had to say.

    In my case, and for many others in a similar situation, there was data available at Ancestry that could have provided a wealth of information that couldn’t be found any place else. What a loss! And how very unprofessional!

  13. Below is the formal rationale. I had two Y’s and two mt’s on the site and downloaded them. I never had a connection from any of the four so they (especially the mt’s) no longer being there seems irrelevant. I moved my personal autosomal and Y to FTDNA. The latter required a new test so I tend to agree that the samples maybe be exhausted.

    Second, 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. On the one hand, we understand the value of these samples to many of you. On the other hand, 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 – See more at:

  14. I fully understand the sentiments of those who say they would neither recommend nor use . But I have to say that I worry that Ancestry will fail in their autosomal DNA endeavor. To say I am angry and dismayed at their destruction of the Y and mtDNA database is quite the understatement. However, their autosomal test was able to give me something that neither 23andMe nor FtDNA did: several people identified as solid 2nd cousins. For this daughter of an adopted woman with no info whatsoever about her birth family this was HUGE. My half Ashkenazi ancestry via my dad pushed out any meaningful matches to my mother over at 23andMe. And apparently none of my 2nd cousins tested at FtDNA. A couple of those 2nd cousins at Ancestry have extensive trees that contain enough information to make me pretty certain that I see both my paternal and maternal birth grandparents. Comparing the results at Gedmatch has proven my closest match to be a very high level match – between 1st and 2nd cousin. That’s why Ancestry’s recent action has instilled a very deep fear in me that there could potentially be worse to come. And that’s also why I fear they will suffer a shrinking population of new autosomal DNA customers.

    • I recently did the Ancestry Autosomal. Had a few excellent results, but never got any new matches as promised. Left a message regarding this, awaiting an answer.

  15. When you first notified us of this action in your blog I wondered what they’ll do one day with the SMGF records they purchased which include mine and my first wife’s DNA. I was able to have my DNA retested through Family Tree DNA but my first wife died of cancer in 2003. Now my children will never have her DNA record unless one of her siblings chooses to be tested. SMGF no longer communicates with those whose records they maintained. has repeatedly told me my deceased wife’s records are no longer available. I tried searching SMGFs database but to no avail. Thanks I guess my SMGF records are next on your list to be destroyed.

    • I also tested (donated) with SMGF. I got partial results. So I asked my brother to donate for the Y test and also my grandson. Those results were never given to me, and when I asked about them, SMGF said those tests were never run..
      They also said all of their samples went to Ancestry. When I asked Ancestry about the samples and if they planned to test them, the denied knowledge of any DNA samples coming to them from SMGF. So, it stands to reason that those samples were also destroyed, either my SMGF or by Ancestry.

  16. As Ms Ballard, the first poster, said there must be something more to this story that they are not telling, and knowing Ancestry, it must have something to do with money.

    We pay our subscription fees to find documents online. Getting a shaky leaf does not mean the information they are linking has anything to do with your family member, and more and more, if the link is real, they are asking us to purchase the document found.

  17. Cousin Roberta, I did find out in time, that my SMGF DNA was transferred to ancestry. I did, in time, send out inquiries to those who had matched me, an inquiry. I have just now, been getting responses to those I sent a generic: Hi, we we were matched through Ancestry as a DNA match, Please contact me at They have been trickling in . I sent them, when I found out that Ancestry was going to destroy the Sorenson Data Base. I feel like we have all been raped. We have all entrusted our basic life force to a science lab, who, at the the end of their research grant, have decided to burn our information. Thankfully, through your blog. I found out in time. And I sent “spam” emails to all of my matches at Ancestry, which are ALL of my Sornenson matches. As I have not. and will not test with Ancestry. Thank You for all of your “Heads Up” blog posts!

  18. I am also a disgruntled member. I DID migrate my sites to HopefullY!!!! I have saved 20 years of research to the new site, and have not LOST ALL!!!

  19. As a former subscriber of many years, I have only to say “Buyer Be Ware.” Anyone new to their service should check out the new contract additions VERY CAREFULLY!

  20. I tried many times since June to download the Y-DNA specifics for the elderly relative (and last male of his surname line that I know of) but each time received a message saying something like “We are experiencing a problem. Please try again later.” I never succeeded. 🙁

  21. The sooner that we recognize that Ancestry is now being run by someone who understands business models and doesn’t mind taking risks (ExpertConnect) and nixing what is not successful for the sake of the bottom line (both Expert Connect and the Y- and mt-DNA databases), the better off the genealogical community will be. There will be thousands of people that discover their deceased relative’s DNA test results are gone forever. People that did not get the notification because of email changes, etc. People that will hate Ancestry somewhere down the road when they make this discovery. More than just a bummer. However, as a business owner, I understand that slashing expenditures and focusing on what makes money keeps the bottom line healthy. You have to look at the bigger picture. They removed this, but secured Find A Grave. What do they give you versus what have they taken away. Plus the fact that they are the only game in town. Ancestry is actually a healthy company making good business decisions. They are not responsible for members not printing out their results. They are also not responsible for your information in that public tree you built being around forever. Take care of your end. They’re taking care of theirs.

  22. Ask yourself, is is a non profit operation? You may be sure there was a cost associated with the eliminated functions. If is not a non profit, then actions of this type are usually taken because the eliminated functions are not making their share of the profit.

  23. We must always remember that Ancestry is being run by venture capitalists rather than genealogists. Their bottom line will always be about making more money, NOT taking care of the genealogy community or doing the ethical thing with their DNA databases. Please, how much can it cost to maintain a small database in the corner of your server? I’ve worked in IT and know it’s not much unless you are all about the bottom line. Having a few underpaid off-shore programers restore a damaged database is not much, unless you are all about the bottom line

    And Don, I hope that your are right about their being satisfied with the uneducated user who just tests for the ethnic predictions, never adds a tree and never buys an Ancestry subscription. I know about half of my new “matches” seem to fit that description. If the income stream from new testers and subscribers slows down, ATDNA may well be the next casualty.

    • Today they are testing autosomal DNA, not Yline or mitochondrial. Your kit should process just fine unless you had purchased one of those services before they obsoleted them. If that’s the case, then I don’t know.

  24. Its very sad that Ancestry did not at least transfer their mt and Y-DNA results to Family Tree or 23 and me. How sad that Ancestry tries to make everyone think they care about genealogy and helping people when they don’t. As you mentioned, they did an unthinkable act and its hurt genetic research. Some of the folks I match up with on Family Tree are dead so I can’t talk to them. Wish I could.

    • Give some thought to this question. Download Gedcom to your own computer from any trees you own on Ancestry, and make sure that you can load it into some desktop database periodically. They didn’t recover from their problems in June very promptly, and I never heard why. Are they doing backups? Are they maintaining their/your data with concern for the long run?

  25. ANCESTRY also destroyed all the DNA samples donated to SMGF. After SMGF gave them to Ancestry, I attempted to the get the results for

    my bother and grandson from Ancestry and they denied knowledge of any DNA that they received from SMGF.

    So……..more were destroyed other than their own samples.

    Lannie Hartman

    Tucson AZ.

  26. The Data Ancestry threw away , donated by their clients who shelled out money to have their YDNA and mtDNA tested, was ordered with the inference that it would be retained and available for the foreseeable future. So much for believing that firm has any interest in archiving anything.

    To be clear, if Ancestry decided to exit the genealogy database field, and go into commercial paper shredding, there is nothing that could stop them. It causes one to reconsider whether there is value in a subscription to their other services, or permanence to anything else they offer the buying public.

  27. This is the first time I have seen information confirming that they are indeed, maintaining the Sorenson Data base. I have called twice to inquire and could not be given any information.

  28. Why in the world would anyone trust an on-line business to be able to preserve and protect any of their client’s information, let alone their personal information. What in the world were you people thinking who uploaded your GED(s) to Ancestry, and let them do your DNA testing when what you find in their main-line document retrieval business is so full of avoidable crap mistakes? In addition to the marginally competent business like Ancestry, the Internet is full of outright thieves and frauds waiting for anything you put on-line to make their scams work. Steal a picture from you, use knowledge of your ancestry to impersonate you, track down your birthplace, find your birth certificate, order it for themselves, and on and on and on. What were you people THINKING? FTDNA is the most stable and serious minded of the genetic testing companies and the only one I will use, but there is no guarantee that their business will remain robust enough into the future that they won’t someday face the same financial necessity of abandoning their database and certain testing lines. Use them while they work but don’t put all your eggs in one place with no back-up. Blowing and going with no back-up plan for the kinds of stunts Ancestry pulled is just plain stupid. And I’ll bet you are the same folks who don’t give uploading all your data and back-ups to a cloud bank, one minute of worry. Sheep lining up to be shorn. I find your blind trust in Ancestry and subsequent outrage at their shortcomings a sad commentary on your own unrealistic expectations. I couldn’t care less what Ancestry or FTDNA does down the road. I have my own back-up of everything I care about that they have. They are just tools for the moment. When a tool breaks you go find a better one. You don’t cry foul because YOU picked a substandard tool and got so vested in it working perfectly forever that you had no plan for when it broke! Any harm done is on you folks just as much as Ancestry so quit your belly-aching and get on with a new plan.

    • Micky – how do you reconcile saying you will only test with FTDNA and your advice to not put all your eggs in one basket? 🙂

      The issue for me was that, at the time I tested a now-deceased relative at Ancestry for Y-DNA, I didn’t know FTDNA existed. And, in any case, I didn’t see the value in re-testing Y-DNA with FTDNA when I already had done so at Ancestry and had the STR markers. The problem I have now is that FTDNA won’t take those markers into their database without a retest – and I have nobody to retest.

      That said, I have the markers and can manually compare them to anyone in FTDNA’s Y projects – so, oh well… but I’m still entitled to feel like Ancestry could have handled this better. Just one more mark against them in my mind and I will be just a little more reluctant to give them any of my business in the future if there are any decent alternatives.

      • I tested at FTDNA, 23andMe, and Ancestry. Hey, … I like a belt, suspenders, … and stapling my pants to my butt, … what can I say? I have files from all three for the data collected, and uploaded them to GEDMatch, … and have all the files for myself. Same for three cousins as well, … though not on all three. Corporations are like people, … they can die in a heartbeat. But differently than people, they can turn like snakes, deny access, trash assets and deny any liability, … perhaps. Ancestry has done what they have done, but may have caused harm to their clients by doing it. That remains to be seen, of course. If email is indelible, certainly yDNA and mtDNA results should be as well. Did Ancestry or Sorenson have backups? Certainly! Contracts are quirky things. Their obligations cut both ways.

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  33. I am glad to report that my Y-DNA and mtDNA results are still visible from my tree on when viewing my own profile in the tree (to which the results are attached), as well as when viewing any of my direct paternal and maternal ancestors (for whom the results appear as “Inferred DNA”).

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