World Families Network, Ysearch and Mitosearch Bite the Dust – Thanks So Much GDPR

It’s a sad month.

The core foundation of genetic genealogy is sharing.

GDPR is NOT about sharing easily, and the GDPR hoops are onerous, to be charitable. I wrote about GDPR in the articles GDPR – It’s a Train and It’s a Comin’ and Common Sense and GDPR.

One might say GDPR is at cross purposes with genealogy. It probably wasn’t intended that way, but so far, we’ve lost several resources due to GDPR, and it’s still not here yet.

Add to the death list World Families Network, Ysearch and Mitosearch.

The cost of GDPR compliance, necessary attorney fees along with with the risk of the horrific fines of up to 4 million Euro is just too much for a small business or a non-profit. Additionally, non-EU businesses are required to retain a European Representative company that agrees to absorb some level of the risk for non-compliance. Try finding a company to do that. Not to mention the pain-in-the-butt-factor of the hoops that they would have to jump through if so much as one person complained. Bottom line – not worth it.

Thanks so much GDPR.

World Families Network

Terry Barton, founder of World Families Network, a Y DNA project management company that consists primarily of Terry and his wife, sent an e-mail to the administrators of the projects they host saying that WFN is retiring and shutting down on May 23rd, two days before the GDPR date.

Here’s part of the e-mail to WFN administrators from Terry:

We will delete the project sections of the WorldFamilies site on May 23, 2018, so please copy any information that you wish to save. You may wish to make a copy of your Home, Results, Patriarch, Discussion or other project pages. We can provide an empty excel spread sheet with columns preset to copy/paste your results page on request. For the other pages, you may want to copy/paste your info into a Word document. (Note: we won’t be able to “rescue” you if you miss the deadline, so please don’t wait too long.)

The projects hosted at World Families Network (WFN) will revert to their project pages at Family Tree DNA, so all is not lost, BUT, the information on the Patriarch’s pages as well as some of the information on the actual DNA results pages at WFN does not come directly from Family Tree DNA. Some WFN sites are not fed from the Family Tree DNA project pages at all, so fields like “Earliest Ancestor” at WFN may be blank at Family Tree DNA. That, of course, can be remedied, but won’t happen automatically.

Many of the projects managed by WFN were abandoned, meaning they have no administrator. Some have administrators that preferred the WFN format to the Family Tree DNA format. One of the most popular features was the Patriarchs page where lineages of men with the project surname were listed. This feature was put in place before trees were available at Family Tree DNA – but the Patriarchs format serves as a one-glance resource and can be connected to the kit numbers on the DNA pages.

Please, please, please do two things:

  • Visit the WFN surname links here for projects and scan the projects shown with “project site,” meaning they are WFN hosted, to see if any include your ancestral surnames. If SO, visit that WFN project site by clicking the link and record any information relevant to your family.

  • Consider adopting projects relevant to your surname. Most of these projects will need to be spruced up at Family Tree DNA, meaning they will need to be grouped and the Patriarch’s page will need to be copied onto one of the several available project pages at Family Tree DNA. Many of these projects are small and you can easily preserve information. Terry provides a list of orphaned projects here, but I don’t know if it’s current. I would reach out to Family Tree DNA at groups@familytreedna.com about any project listed as having a project site at WFN. Some projects have an administrator listed, but they are no longer active.

For project administrators considering a private website, be aware per the GDPR requirements that you will constantly have to monitor the privacy settings at Family Tree DNA and assure that you are not displaying information for anyone who has selected, or changed their project setting from public to “project only.” Family Tree DNA automatically removes the project members data from a public display when they change settings or leave projects.

Ysearch and Mitosearch

On May 10th, on their Forum, a Family Tree DNA representative announced that Ysearch and Mitosearch will be shut down by month end. These databases were established in 2003 by Family Tree DNA for free, open sharing.

While this announcement doesn’t state that it’s because of GDPR, that correlation probably isn’t coincidence.

These two data bases have been on life support for some time now. They have been less immediately useful since other testing companies stopped Y and mitochondrial DNA testing, meaning that you could see all of your new matches at Family Tree DNA.

One of their biggest benefits, even for Family Tree DNA customers, was that these were the two databases where everyone could compare actual marker values, not just see if they matched and genetic distance.

Unfortunately, Ysearch and Mitosearch were the only locations left for people who uploaded from those now-defunct databases. Of the 219,410 records in the Ysearch database, 25,521 are from sources other than Family Tree DNA.

Originally, there were four public databases. The other two have been gone for some time, with these being the last two resources to go. This is truly a tragedy for the genetic genealogy community, because unlike the WFN departure where the projects are still available at Family Tree DNA – there is no alternative resource to Ysearch and Mitosearch. Gone is gone – especially for the 25,000+ results archived there from companies that are also gone meaning Relative Genetics, Oxford Ancestors, Ancestry’s now defunct Y DNA, Sorenson and others.

Recently, Family Tree DNA fixed the captcha issue, but the sites are still not fully functional. I tried to retrieve information by searching by surname at Ysearch, and the search failed with an error. I don’t know if the problem now is the actual data base or the fact that the site is overwhelmed by people trying to do exactly what I was trying to do.

As someone in the Family Tree DNA forum thread said:
GDPR: The gift from Europe that just keeps on giving.

Thank You

As sad as I am to see both of these resources go, I want to publicly thank Terry and Marilyn Barton for their 14 years of service to the genetic genealogy community and wish them well in their retirement. Hopefully they will have time to solve their own genealogy mysteries now.

I also want to thank Family Tree DNA for establishing both Ysearch and Mitosearch, and maintaining these sites as long as they have. Few companies would have established a platform for their customers to compare results with their competitors’ products which speaks to their early and ongoing commitment to genealogy.

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37 thoughts on “World Families Network, Ysearch and Mitosearch Bite the Dust – Thanks So Much GDPR

  1. Thanks for all you do to keep us informed…..what will happen to Gedmatch??? It seems like they will be in the same boat so to speak. Betty Jean  

  2. Roberta,

    While some of what you said is true that we are losing several important resources, but I disagree about Ysearch. It hasn’t been on life support for a while, it’s had one foot in the grave for years. Once FTDNA stopped actively supporting it, it should have been sold or shut down. While I may have gotten my information into Ysearch, without help, I have never been able to search it. I remember one time in particular. I tried 4 different computers and two operating systems and I got the same error messages each time. For something to properly work, it has to work all the time and for everyone. It did not. IMO, it should have been shut down years ago. I really wished it had worked. I really liked its objectives.

  3. We have become a nation of wimps I’m embarrassed to say! does anyone really think that anybody in Europe with kowtow to our laws?! Let me assure you they would not! I fear the overreaction by companies in this country has nailed the lid on the coffins of their own livelihood. Guess I’ll now have the funds for that Viking cruise next year…thanks!!!

    • Just as one counterpoint, most European banks have “kowtowed” to the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), with similar examples of blanket reactions (e.g., some denying bank accounts to all U.S. citizens, even those residing permanently in the same European country). Like for FATCA, companies and individuals holding personal data on living individuals can manage GDPR requirements on a case-by-case basis, but many do not consider it cost-effective or simply do not have the time or energy to do so.

      • There are other examples. The view from outside a major power is that they certainly tend to exert their power. And when they make agreements they find ways around them if that suits their purposes.
        On the other hand I do know people who have to deal with possible threats from others by disappearing from some online places and GDPR will enable them to do that.
        The real tragedy in all of this is that some people behave badly towards others and force them out of activities they would like to participate in.
        In my country women fought for the vote partly to deal with similar situations in the nineteenth century.

  4. Visit the WFN surname links here

    The link for Ward takes me to the FTDNA home page. No mention about finding anything about Ward.

  5. It’s the pleasure police at work again anything good and useful that you might just get some pleasure or useful support from must be removed at all costs.

  6. As you mentioned, the World Families site contained not just FTDNA results. In the projects I have there, there are results from Ancestry, DNA Heritage, and other companies from when they still did y-DNA testing. There are results I gathered from Sorenson before that site disappeared. Some of those testers are now deceased. In some cases it is those results from the other companies when compared with those from FTDNA that show the really significant findings. Now, all that information will be lost forever. I hate seeing information destroyed and lost to future generations.

  7. My husband (hahaha his DNA and genealogical data, not him) is in one of those surname group projects on FTDNA which has historically been connected with WorldFamilies.net. So yes, there are a good many pedigrees that were posted in that project beginning in 2010. That’s valuable, and I’m sorry it’s going away! Not that they’re ALL necessarily well researched really far back, but they’re out there now, and soon they won’t be. Sad face.

  8. Got my brother to test at Family Tree DNA & he is listed there in a project. Is that info still going to be available?

  9. I have 6 DNA kits I manage . I have them on Wiki and found out that they no longer can stay part of my tree without each owner giving their permission and signing up for Wiki???? To many hoops to jump through for sure. Who started this mess anyway.?

  10. Roberta,

    There’s another casualty. Richard Hill is shutting down his newsletter. He specifically cites GDPR. I will miss his newsletter. Thanks, Europe! Thanks a lot! Another reason why not to be like Europe.

  11. I guess you’re not like me even though your hair is grayer than mine. I HATE all these initialized names. Let’s start at the beginning WHAT IS GDPR? Thanks

  12. I’m interested in your take. I’ve run a Y-DNA project for 15 years with an external project site, because back then, FTDNA wasn’t the only game in town and it enabled people who tested across the various companies to be able to compare results. Under GDPR, I’m guessing I will need to:
    — delete the results for anyone tested at the other companies, to be on the safe side, unless I can contact them and get new permission to share their results.
    — and I have to do whatever “Action: If you have an externally-hosted site, you need to update the Y-DNA and mtDNA results right away to reflect all changes, and regularly do so thereafter” means. Too bad “all changes” isn’t specified in the email. We don’t display kit numbers, names, or emails, just lineage info and marker results, and the public display of results is discussed with each person when they join the project. I don’t know if what’s being done is sufficient, or if FTDNAa is expecting that all results be scrubbed from external sites,

    It’s enough to make an old admin want to throw in the towel.

    • Yes, to number one. To the second question, if you have an external site – you need to monitor who changes their privacy settings at FTDNA from public to “project only.” Then you need to remove those results from your site. If you have recorded anything else about that person’s DNA or lineage and they every ask, you should remove that too. I would say it’s good practice to remove all of it at the same time. I know how frustrating this is. I’m glad my sites are AT FTDNA, because they take care of removing the DNA results of anyone who leaves the project or who downgrades from public to “project only.”

      • Like Larry, I’ve run a Y-DNA project for years (14, now) with an external web site and used the site to show results from several testing labs simultaneously. I explicitly asked for permission from each participant in the external project before displaying his results on the external website.
        Since the external DNA project is separate from that set up by any testing lab, and participants have given me permission to display them externally, my default expectation would be that a participant would contact me if he wants me to remove his information from the external website.
        FTDNA and I are two different “holders” (processors/controllers) of personal DNA information, in the same way that Yahoo and Facebook are two different holders of my personal phone number. If I’ve given each of them explicit permission to keep my phone number but then decide that I don’t want Facebook to show it publicly, I don’t expect Yahoo to stop showing my phone number, too.
        I would expect that DNA project administrator with an external website need only monitor a participant’s privacy settings at FTDNA if the permission to display externally is implicit (i.e. predicated upon the permission given to FTDNA). If the permission to display externally is explicit, then it seems to me to be the individual’s responsibility to contact the data holder of the external website to have the information removed. Is this a special case, or am I just grossly misinterpreting the GDPR in this situation? If so, I’d like to know.

        • First, I’m not an attorney, and this is not advice. It’s my opinion. Having said that, my belief would be that if they gave you EXPLICIT permission, then you are probably in the clear. Note the words opinion, explicit, belief and probably:) Most administrators post results as a result of a members joining a project with a public setting. To be extra careful, I would send people a notice that if they want their information removed, they need to contact you directly since they provided you with consent directly. GDPR also does not apply to people outside the EU/UK, but in my projects, I’m just treating everyone the same so I don’t have to worry about where they live.

          • Thanks for your interpretation/opinion, Roberta. I’ll begin with the handful of project participants who live in the EU (including myself) and then extend it to all participants.

    • Larry,
      Before you scrub your data in a panic, I would advise you to take a breather.

      1. Are you located in the United States? Do you have any assets or do any business in Europe? Is this project a private hobby? Whether or not GDPR “applies” by its terms to you it may not be enforceable in the slightest and you may be protected from it by US law. If you are American consider showing some patriotism and use your rights as a citizen by not complying with GDPR. I really doubt the EU is going to start nailing individual hobbyists providing free services without warning, nor that they would succeed against those in USA.

      2. GDPR is one concern. Contractual obligations are another. Was the information you collected submitted by your users, or did you collect it from other sources? If you collected it, was it from the public domain or from a private website where you agreed to a contract? e.g. if you are a FTDNA administrator you might have agreed to restrictions on the use of data obtained from FTDNA and that contractual obligation could be enforceable under US law,

      I’m not a lawyer much less your lawyer so proceed at your own risk, but I would encourage everyone in the community to show some spine and preserve the invaluable knowledge that the community has gathered for posterity!

  13. But Michael, we can’t do that. FTDNA says project admins must remove everyone who doesn’t have their sharing set to “public,” or risk having the project taken away. I’ve got about half a dozen people to contact, and a decision to make about those who tested with now defunct companies. (Doesn’t the customer have any ownership rights over their results, and thereby the right to have them publicly posted if he so chooses?) I’m probably going to take my public results offline until everyone has been contacted, rather than removing the whole batch and updating the page multiple times as the members respond.

    • The policy means that IF someone does not want their DNA results shown publicly by selecting “group only” at Family Tree DNA, or if they change from public to private, meaning project or group only, you must remove them from a secondary site as well, if you are displaying their DNA results there. If you have separate permission, then clearly the customer DOES have control over their DNA results. But you would need written permission from the customer if their wishes conflict with their privacy setting at Family Tree DNA. Family Tree DNA doesn’t care about the testers from other places, but they do care that people believe that if they change their privacy setting at FTDNA, that the change reflects what is shown in the projects – and FTDNA clearly can’t control sites located elsewhere.

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