Ancestry V1 vs V2 Test Comparison

In May, Ancestry changed the chip that they use for autosomal DNA processing and comparison. They removed roughly 300,000 of their roughly 682,000 locations and replaced them with medical SNPs. That means that people who tested before the middle of May, 2016 are only being compared to a little more than half of the SNPs on the chip of the people who tested on the V2 chip after the middle of May, 2016.

Clearly there are going to be some differences in matches reported. Ancestry said they should be minimal, but I must have some Missouri blood someplace, because I wanted to see for myself. I ordered a V2 test to see just how the V1 and the V2 tests compare.

I am specifically interested in ethnicity percentages and match numbers. But first, let’s step through the order process.

Ordering at Ancestry

Ordering a second kit was amazingly simple – done just by clicking on my current account “Order a new kit.” They keep my credit card information on file, so literally it was a one or two click process. Unfortunately, what they didn’t do was to have me read all of the Terms and Conditions and small print when I ordered, so by the time the kit arrived, and I was already financially invested, there was little I could do about the Ts&Cs if I didn’t like them. I strongly suspect most people don’t read the fine print, because at that point, it doesn’t matter since they’ve already paid for the kit and made the purchase decision.  And let’s face it, you’re excited about the kit arriving and want to take the test.

After my kit arrived, I had to activate the test, and of course, I got to do some clicking and answer some questions. Let’s walk through that process, because it has changed since I ordered my original kit several years ago.

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When you click the box that says “I have read the Terms and Conditions,” actually read the Terms and Conditions. It’s unfortunate that you don’t see the Terms and Conditions until AFTER you’re purchased this product – because the contents of the Terms and Conditions might well affect your decision about whether to purchase this DNA test or not. Maybe that’s why it’s here and doesn’t appear during the purchase process!

Here’s a link to the Terms and Conditions.

Please take note specifically of the following paragraph from the Terms and Conditions document:

By submitting DNA to AncestryDNA, you grant AncestryDNA and the Ancestry Group Companies a perpetual, royalty-free, world-wide, transferable license to use your DNA, and any DNA you submit for any person from whom you obtained legal authorization as described in this Agreement, and to use, host, sublicense and distribute the resulting analysis to the extent and in the form or context we deem appropriate on or through any media or medium and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed or discovered. You hereby release AncestryDNA from any and all claims, liens, demands, actions or suits in connection with the DNA sample, the test or results thereof, including, without limitation, errors, omissions, claims for defamation, invasion of privacy, right of publicity, emotional distress or economic loss. This license continues even if you stop using the Website or the Service.

Note that the Terms and Conditions then links to the Ancestry Privacy Statement, which by implication is part of the Terms and Conditions, so read that too. And that statement is different from the AncestryDNA Privacy Statement, so you’ll want to read that as well.

Please note specifically in the Ancestry DNA privacy statement, the following paragraph, 6-i:

Non-Personal Information also includes personal information that has been aggregated in a manner such that the end-product does not personally identify you…

Because Non-Personal Information does not personally identify you, we may use Non-Personal Information for any purpose, including sharing that information with the Ancestry Group Companies and with other third parties. In some instances, we may combine Non-Personal Information with personal information (such as combining your name with your geographical location). If we do combine any Non-Personal Information with personal information, the combined information will be treated by us as personal information, as long as it is combined, and its use by us will be subject to this Privacy Statement.

Ancestry then asks you about Research Project Participation, which is a specific authorization for third party research projects that is different from the above.

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You can read the entire Informed Consent document here.

How many people do you think actually read, and understand, all 4 documents hot linked above? If you do, that makes 2 or 3 people that I know of.  If you have insomnia, these documents will cure it, guaranteed:)

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I’m glad to see Ancestry encouraging people to link to trees.  Now if testers would just make those trees public instead of private.

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I did link to my tree during the activation process, but when my results came back, my tree was not linked. Be sure to check…otherwise you won’t have any Circles or Shared Ancestor Hint leaf matches which means your DNA matches and you share a common ancestor in your trees.

A couple of steps didn’t work correctly, but I was still able to register the kit.

Another item, which I think is important and I don’t believe was reflected in the Terms and Conditions verbiage is that Ancestry kits are now being processed by an outside lab, Quest Diagnostics.

A few weeks later, my V2 results were returned, so let’s take a look at how they compare to V1.

V1 versus V2 Match Results

It took one day short of a month, after my test reached Ancestry, for my results to be returned.

Given the rather dramatic change in the number of genealogy SNPs on the Ancestry chip between V1 and V2, and given that only about half of the locations are the same between the V1 and V2 chips, I expected significantly fewer matches on the V2 chip than on the V1 chip.  In other words, I didn’t expect that the V2 chip would be nearly as effective in matching the V1 test takers, because those two chips only shared about half of their locations.

There were more V1 matches, but not nearly as many as I expected.

v2-vs-v1-matches

*Leaf matches are Shared Ancestor Hints that mean you match someone’s DNA who also has a common ancestor listed in their tree. This is by far the most useful DNA tool at Ancestry.

I need to confess here that the matches I’m actually the most interested in are those “Shared Ancestry Hints” matches, with a leaf, because the common ancestor is identified for the matching pair of people, unless one of the two has a private tree.  Then the non-private tree user cannot see the private tree’s ancestors, which means that you cannot determine the common ancestor with someone who has a private tree.

v2-hints

The 19 Circles are the same Circles for both kits, which is what I expected. This also tells me that the missing matches weren’t that critical match that made the difference between a Circle being formed, and not.

Unfortunately, there is no good way to print or download your list of matches, at least that I have been able to discover. I used (ctrl+P) to print all 7 pages of leaf hint match, which was 12 printed pages for each match page, in case you’re so inclined. I then compared the V1 to the V2 matches manually. Yes, this was a huge pain, spread across 84 pages.  However, I really wanted to see if the V1 kit leaf matches were the same as the V2 leaf matches. These should be a good representative sample of the rest of the matches, and I’m not about to manually compare 15,000 matches.

Of the old V1 kit matches, 7 matches were present on the V1 list and absent on the V2 list, including my last two “lowest confidence” matches who were obviously teetering on the threshold – and some of those missing SNPs were just enough to push us below the threshold, so we are not considered a match on the V2 chip.

For the new V2 kit, only one match was present on the V2 list and absent on the V1 list. Apparently that one kit’s critical matches were in the area of the medical SNPs and the genealogical SNPs alone (if there were matches in that area) did not cause the kit to rise above Ancestry’s matching threshold. Unfortunately, without a chromosome browser, we can’t see anything about the locations of the matches on our chromosomes.

About 2.5% of the matches were absent in the V2 test when compared to the V1 test. However, the net difference of 5 was not reflective of the matches being the same. A total of 8 were absent from the other test, in total.

Other than these 8 kits, the rest were the same matches in both kits. I would suspect that the matching percentage of about 97.5% would hold for the total matches as well.

Of the highest confidence matches, all of the matches were present. The match order was often significantly different, indicating that the reduced SNP count did matter in terms of how well they matched, but did not reduce the match enough to cause them to drop off the match list – except for those 7 of course. As expected, the V1 kit did out-perform the V2 kit, but not by a lot.

NADs are New Ancestor Discoveries, which are inappropriately named.

It’s interesting that the new V2 kit has no New Ancestor Discoveries. I checked several times over two or three weeks, thinking that some might appear. That’s actually fine with me, because, as I’ve written before, NADs have proven to be entirely useless. Still, if I were a V2 test taker, especially an adoptee or someone with unknown parentage, I would want every hint I could get. In the past few days/weeks, the same NADs on the V1 account have been coming…and going…and coming…and going. If you don’t have NADs, and you want NADs, give Ancestry’s customer support a call and ask them to kick the tires for you. Lack of NADs could be a bug.

**The day I did the initial comparison between the V1 and V2 kits, I had 3 NADs on the older V1 kit. Two days after I did the initial comparison on the V1 kit, I had 7 NADs (which remain 3 weeks later) and still zero on the newer V2 kit. Today, the NAD total is 8 on the old V1 kit and still zero on the new V2 kit.

V1 versus V2 Ethnicity

The V1 versus V2 Ethnicity is really nothing to write home about. There was a very slight difference between two categories, by 1% each. Scandinavia, where I have no documented lines, moved from 10 to 11% and Great Britain, where I have multiple lines, moved from 4% to 3%. Go figure.

v2-ethnicity

It’s somehow ironic that my trace regions include 3% in Great Britain and 2% in Ireland, where I have multiple documented lines, and the same amount, 2% in Italy and Greece combined where I have absolutely no connection at all.

As I’ve said before, about all of the testing companies, these ethnicity tests tend to be relatively reliable between continents, meaning Europe, Asia, Africa and Native American – and much less reliable within continents. Don’t be trading in your kilt (or anything else) based on these kinds of tests.

Summary

I was really quite pleasantly surprised that the matching difference wasn’t greater between chips. And truthfully, the matches I’m the most interested in are my closest matches, because they are the matches with whom I’m most likely to be able to identify a common ancestor – and my Shared Ancestor Hints leaf matches, because a common ancestor is already identified. All of my close matches were present in both kits – probably because losing some matching segments didn’t affect the fact that we do match.  Most of my Shared Ancestor Hints were retained too.  The matches that were lost tended to be the lower matches, based on Ancestry’s highest to lowest matching order.

Losing just under 2% of more than 15,000 matches isn’t anything I’m going to lose any sleep over. Losing 2.5% of my leaf matches isn’t anything I’m going to lose sleep over either, although those certainly do hold more promise than non-leaf matches. I would like those additional 8 leaf matches not present in the other kit, but again, I wouldn’t lose sleep over those either.

The net-net of this is that if you have already taken the V1 test, before May of 2016, you don’t need to order the V2 test. The V2 test is slightly less productive, but all in all, it’s still of the same approximate quality as the V1 test – except for those NADs.

If I had already tested on the V1 kit, I certainly would not pay an additional $99 for 1 additional Shared Ancestor Hint leaf match that I’d have to manually compare with the other kit to find – and I would have to maintain that duplicate comparison into the future. I went through that process for this article, but had I been doing this just for myself and known the outcome in advance, I truthfully wouldn’t have bothered. It’s a lot of work for very little return.

The differences in terms of matches, ethnicity and circles are minimal, and the V2 test received slightly fewer matches in total, slightly fewer leaf matches and no NADs – so there would be absolutely no benefit in retesting on V2 if you’ve already tested on V1 – aside from 1 match that you’ll have to manually compare to find. I’m glad I took the original V1 test, because it does fare somewhat better overall, but not enough to make a lot of difference.

I have been pretty unhappy with some of Ancestry’s past choices and changes, to put it mildly, but this time, Ancestry seems to have done this right. I wish Ancestry hadn’t changed chips at all, because their motivations are entirely self-serving and the chip change doesn’t benefit the genealogist at all.  However, in terms of how Ancestry handled this chip conversion, and compared to 23andMe’s disaster, Ancestry hit a home run.  The change may not benefit Ancestry’s customers, but it also doesn’t damage them (much) or impact their ability to utilize the testing and matching for genealogy – which is why they purchased the test in the first place.

Ancestry was correct when they said that the V2 chip wouldn’t affect matching much with the V1 chip customers, and that there was no need for V1 customers to purchase a new V2 test.

Now, if Ancestry would just implement a chromosome browser so we can see how and where we match people – we would all be really happy campers!!!  Yes, I know, Hades has not yet frozen over…but hey…winter’s coming and hope springs eternal.

How Much DNA Do We Share? It Depends

I was curious how testing the same two people at the 3 different vendors, then uploading the results from those different vendors to GedMatch and repeating the matching process there would affect the amount of DNA reported as matching.

I have a third cousin who has tested at all 3 labs independently, meaning they did not upload a file from either 23andMe or Ancestry to Family Tree DNA. Furthermore, they downloaded their 23andMe and Family Tree DNA files to GedMatch. They have not downloaded their Ancestry results to GedMatch, so I can’t do the Ancestry to Ancestry comparison, unfortunately.

So, we have one pair of third cousins, 3 individual vendor tests (each) and 8 independent answers to the question, “How much DNA do we share?”.

First, the theoretical expected average (as reported on the ISOGG wiki page) is 53 cM for third cousins. Blaine Bettinger’s actual findings through the shared cM project indicate an average of 79 cM for third cousins, and the actual range found is 0-198 cM, after removing outliers. This isn’t the first time in genetic genealogy that we’ve found that the theoretical or expected results aren’t what really happens as we learn more about how DNA actually works.

Let’s see how reality stacks up for our third cousin pair.

Vendor Threshold Total cM Total Segments Largest Segment Est Relationship
Theoretical 3C Average, Actual Average and Actual Range 53 ISOGG, 79 Actual, Range(0-198)
At Vendors
FTDNA 7cM/500 SNPs 149*** 22 33.52 2nd-3rd cousin
23andMe 7cM/700 SNPs 134 6 40.8 2nd-3rd cousin
Ancestry V1 5cM after Timber** 132 8 Not provided 3rd-4th cousin
At GedMatch
GedMatch 1* (23andMe V3 to 23andMe V3) 7cM/700 SNP 147 6 43.7 3.3 gen to MRCA****
GedMatch 2* (FTDNA to FTDNA) 7cM/700 SNP 136 6 43.7 3.4 gen to MRCA****
GedMatch 3* (23andMe V3 to FTDNA) 7cM/700 SNP 136 6 43.7 3.4 gen to MRCA****
GedMatch 4* (Ancestry V1 to 23andMe V3) 7cM/700 SNPs 147.5 6 43.7 3.3 gen to MRCA****
GedMatch 5* (Ancestry V1 to FTDNA) 7cM/700 SNPs 147.5 6 43.7 3.3 gen to MRCA****

Total cM is rounded except for 147.5, which doesn’t round in either direction.

*GedMatch at default setting which is currently 7cM and 700 SNPs.

**Unknown if SNPs are being utilized at Ancestry as a threshold parameter, and if so, the threshold is unknown.

***Total cM at Family Tree DNA includes small segments if you match. At 23andMe and GedMatch, total segments means only the total number of segments over the match threshold. The number at Family Tree DNA would be 112 cM if only counting segments greater than 5cM and 107 if only counting cM greater than 7. Of note, in my comparison, there no matching segments between 5.48 and 11.09, so this may be an unusual circumstance.

****The actual generations to a common recent ancestor (MRCA) is 4, counting our parents as generation 1.  It is unclear whether GedMatch counts you as generation 1 or your parents as generation 1.

Results like this are a perfect illustration of why relationship ranges based on DNA are ranges, not absolutes. I know, unquestionably that my cousin is my third cousin. However, were I to utilize ONLY the averages, I would be looking at either a 2nd cousin utilizing the theoretical numbers or a 2nd cousin once removed utilizing the real average, neither of which are accurate in this case.  Averages are made up of everyone in the range, smallest to largest – and in this case, the results fall into the larger than average category.

All of the Total cM numbers are two to three times the theoretical expected Total cM, but all of the Total cMs are still within the observed and reported range for third cousins.

For more on relationship ranges, theoretical expected versus actual and ranges as reported from crowd sourced information see here and here and here.

Blaine Bettinger provides a free download of his latest Shared cM Project results, which includes a great chart on the last page that provides a minimum, average and max cM shown for each relationship type. Thanks Blaine, for this very useful tool!

Family Tree DNA Father’s Day Sale

2016 Father's Day Sale

We knew it was coming, and it’s here. I just received this announcement from Family Tree DNA.

The Father’s Day Sale is Upon Us!

Beginning at midnight tonight (Wednesday, 6-15, Houston, TX, USA time) and running until 11:59 pm (CST) on Monday, June 20th, our Father’s Day Sale will be in effect, bringing discounts on upgrade pricing as promised, as well as some select testing bundles! Invoiced orders during the sale will also receive the sale pricing as long as the balance is paid by the end of the sale period.

2016 FD Sale prices

Upgrades to existing kits are available at the following sale prices, in green, including mitochondrial DNA:

2016 FD upgrades

Click here to order beginning on Thursday, very first thing in the morning, right after midnight, at 12:01!!!

Ancestry Autosomal Transfer Update

As you probably know Ancestry recently changed their file format for their autosomal raw data files, and the new format of these files is currently not compatible with our system. We are working to adjust to make our system compatible with these files as soon as possible. We have this placed at a high priority so that those Ancestry testers who have tested under their new chip may transfer to our database.

Please note that this issue only affects those who have recently tested with Ancestry – people who have tested with Ancestry prior to the recent change in their testing chip are still able to transfer.

If you tested at Ancestry prior to about the middle of May, 2016, you tested on their old V1 chip and you can transfer your Ancestry autosomal data file to Family Tree DNA for “free,” but pay $39 to unlock the file for matching. And $39 is a whole lot less than $99 to retest.  It’s a great value and Family Tree DNA has a chromosome browser and other tools for you to utilize.  If you’d like to see more about the features and tools available to Family Tree DNA customers as well as transfer kits, click here.

Click here to upload your Ancestry or 23andMe V3 results to Family Tree DNA.

Trying to Make Ancestors Out of NADs

Ok, so color me dense, but I’m trying to figure out exactly HOW one would go about making an ancestor out of one of Ancestry’s New Ancestor Discoveries (NADs).

Bear with me while I work through this, and maybe you will have some ideas, because frankly, I can’t figure it out. I’ve had absolutely no luck with this.

If there was a chromosome browser, and given that I’m mapping my DNA segments to ancestral families, I would be able to see where these folks fall – and identify a family group by where they match. But since Ancestry has no chromosome browser, I’m in the dark about how to turn an NAD into an ancestor.

Like probably everyone else, my NADs have varied over time. Some have come and gone, and come, and gone. I have been pretty vocal about the relative uselessness of NADs, but with the recent new more refined NAD algorithm, I thought, perhaps, just perhaps, I might find something resembling a hint that I can use.

Keep in mind that yes, I am a 35 year plus genealogist, so my tree is already fairly robust. That’s one way I know for sure many of the NADs couldn’t possibly BE ancestors, because all of the slots in that timeframe are already full and proven.  At one point, someone asked me how I knew, so I wrote about how I had proven each generation in my tree, by paper. Many have been subsequently proven genetically as well utilizing triangulation.

After Ancestry’s recent revision, I’m graced with four NADs. Three are entirely new, and one remained from before the update.

New NADs

So let’s take a look at these NADs, but first, let’s look at Ancestry’s revised NAD creation criteria.

Ancestry’s New NAD Criteria

Ancestry’s new criteria for NADs is:

Previously, you needed to match at least 2 members of a known DNA Circle to be given a New Ancestor Discovery. Now, users must match at least 3 members of a small (15 members or less) DNA Circle to be given a New Ancestor Discovery. For larger DNA Circles (16+ members), users must match 20% of that Circle to be given a New Ancestor Discovery. For example, if there is a DNA Circle of 10 people, you will need to match at least 3 people to get a New Ancestor Discovery. And if there is a DNA Circle of 30 people you will now need to match 6 people instead of 2.

Now, let’s look at each NAD and see what we can determine.

NAD 1 – Robert Shiflet

Unfortunately, one of my NADs is still Robert Shiflet. The reason I have so many matches in common with him is because his wife is the sister of my ancestor, and several descendants have tested.  I wrote about this here.

Shiflet NAD chart

In the case of the Robert Shiflet Circle, I match 4 of 6, so clearly he is NAD material, even though he is absolutely positively NOT my ancestor.

NADs 2 and 3 – William Sullivan and Hariet Nickels

Let’s move on to William Sullivan and Hariet Nickels, which, according to a compilation of 355 Ancestry trees, were married to each other. (I’m sorry, but that ‘compilation of 355 trees’ makes me shudder.)

NAD Sullivan

This couple is from South Carolina and Georgia, locations where I don’t have any ancestors, but their offspring made their way to Tennessee, where I do have ancestors, but no dead ends in that timeframe.

The William Sullivan DNA Circle includes 14 people other than me, and I match 5 of those individuals.

NAD Sullivan Circle

There are three Ancestry tools to utilize for each person in the Circle:

  • Pedigree and Surnames (matching trees)
  • Shared Surnames
  • Shared Matches

Each of these tools are available by clicking on the link to the matching individual in the Circle.

NAD tools

I checked each of these three tools for all of the matches, and in one case, I found a common family surname. By looking at that link, I know that we do indeed share a common ancestor in the Dodson line.

A second person seems to also be related to the Dodson family through one of the wives lines, Durham.

A third person descends from the same Dodson line as the first person. He obviously does not have his Dodson line far enough back in time, but having worked with this family for decades, rest assured, it’s the same line.  Thomas Dodson born in 1681 in my line is the grandfather of “Second Fork” Thomas in my matches line and the common ancestor of both lines.

NAD Dodson

I utilized all three tools and could find no discernable link to the other two individuals that I match in the tree.

You can also look at the trees for the people in the Circle whose DNA you don’t match, but who match someone else in the Circle. This didn’t produce anything relevant either.

My strongest match in the NAD Circle is to the individual who also descends from the Dodson line. I checked shared matches with him first, hoping that he and I would both match someone with a leaf tree link in my match list, but unfortunately, there were no matches to anyone with a leaf tree link to me, which would have, of course, told me immediately at least the identity of one common ancestor.  Three of 5 matches have no tree and a fourth has just a minimal tree, so there is no help here at all.

NAD no shared match

Unfortunately, the best I can do with these two married NADs is to say that the only commonality I can find with some of the group is a link to the same Dodson/Durham family.

NAD 4 – Henry Garrett

Nad 4 is to Henry Garrett who was married to Nancy Farris, according to Ancestry and 179 compiled trees.

NAD Garrett

My Faires line, also sometimes spelled Farris, was from Washington County, VA, as was Henry Garrett’s wife, Nancy Farris, according to Ancestry.

So, my first thought is that we connect through the Faires/Farris family line, and that may be true. But I’m glad I didn’t stop there.

NAD Garrett Circle

In the Henry Garrett Circle, there are a total of 8 individuals plus me. Of those, two of the groups of family members connect to me through the Andrew McKee Circle where we are all members.  The third individual that I match had the Faires/Farris connection  also matches my McKee cousins.

I was confused, until I looked at the common surnames with the third person, and look what I found:

NAD McKee

Yep, a McKee ancestor who also lived in the same location. I don’t know how Mary McKee connects, but it’s likely that she does, given his matches to me and all of my McKee cousins.  It just so happens that some of my McKee cousins also descend from Henry Garrett.

Since all three of my matches in the Henry Garrett Circle also have McKees in their trees, two of those proven to my line, and the third from the same location – I’m guessing here that my Henry Garrett NAD is really a McKee connection, perhaps with some Faires/Farris thrown in for good measure. 

NAD Summary

So, in summary, none of the NADs are my actual ancestors, but are connected in some other way.

Name of NAD Common Line
NAD1 Robert Shiflet His wife is my ancestor’s sister.
NAD2 William Sullivan Married to NAD 3, three of 5 matches have common Dodson line.
NAD3 Hariet Nickels Married to NAD 2, three of 5 matches have common Dodson line.
NAD4 Henry Garrett 3 matches of which 2 are two family groups of individuals who are in my Andrew McKee Circle. The third match also had a McKee ancestor in the same location. Henry Garrett also married a Farris who may be related to the Faires family from the same location and who are my ancestors as well.

The Question

So I’m still back to the same question I started with. How would I actually work any of these back to prove they are an actual ancestor?  So far, none of the NADs are ancestors, and these all seem to be connected via a spur of some sort, or “spuradically.”  I know, bad pun.

Let’s look at my actual Circles of proven ancestors to see which ones of those would qualify to be NADs, if I didn’t have them listed in my tree as ancestors.

Circles – Proven Ancestors

I created a Circle Chart to see which of my confirmed ancestor Circles qualify to become NADs.

Of my 21 DNA Circles, only one has 16 or more members if you count family groups as 1 and not the family group members individually. Two have more than 16 if you count individuals in family groups separately.  Family groups consist of people that are closely related, such as siblings. In the chart below, I have counted groups as “1.”

Generations Ago means counting me as generation 1, how far back in time does this ancestor occur in my tree.

My Matches – Total Circle shows the number of matches I have to circle members, and the size of the circle, counting family groups as only 1.  In the first example of Jane Dobkins, there are two total in the group, and I match 1 which is a family group, not an individual.

NAD Qualifications shows whether this Circle should qualify to be a NAD if I didn’t have this ancestor is my tree.

NAD Created shows whether a NAD was actually created for this Circle when I replaced my current tree with a very small tree that only included my parents and grandparents.

Circle Name Generations Ago My Matches -Total Circle NAD Qualifications NAD Created
Jane “Jenny’ Dobkins 6 1 group of 2 matches total No No
Daniel Miller 6 3 of 5 total Yes No
Elizabeth Ulrich 6 2 of 5 total No No
Jacob Lentz 5 2 of 5 total No No
Fredericka Moselman 5 2 of 5 total No No
Fairwick Claxton 5 2 groups of 3 total No No
Agnes Muncy 5 1 group of 2 total No No
Andrew McKee 6 3 of 4 total, of those 3, 2 are groups Yes No
William Harrell 5 1 group of 2 total No No
Mary McDowell 5 1 group of 2 total No No
David Miller 5 1 group of 2 total No No
Rachel Levina Hill 4 3 of 3 total, one of which is a family group Yes No
Jotham Brown 6 1 group of 6 total No No
John Hill 6 1 of 2 total No No
John R. Estes 5 2 groups of 3 total No No
Nancy Ann Moore 5 2 groups of 2 total No No
Henry Bolton 5 3 of 11 total Yes No
Nancy Mann 5 6 of 17 Yes Yes
Joseph Preston Bolton 4 3 of 7 Yes No
Joel Vannoy 4 4 of 4 Yes No
Phebe Crumley 4 4 of 4 Yes No

These Circles are all confirmed to be my ancestors. It’s unclear how Ancestry would “count” individuals in family groups relative to creating NADs.  In the chart above, I counted a family group as “1” because that’s how it’s shown, but I suspect that even through Ancestry groups the family group together, they are counting the group members separately.  The reason I think this is that some circles only have two members total, plus me.  I don’t match both other individuals, but in every case, I do match the family group, which consists of at least three people.

NAD Jenny Dobkins

On the main Ancestry DNA page, this Circle is shown with 5 members, which counts the family group members individually.

NAD Jenny Dobkins main page

I decided to do an experiment and I linked my DNA results to a much smaller tree consisting of me, my parents and grandparents, to see how many of my Circles would actually become NADs.  This is where a lot of newbies begin, so let’s see what the newbie experience would be, relative to NADs and which NADs really could be turned into ancestors with enough research. 

Reverting to a Newbie

By connecting a very abbreviated tree, I have put myself in the same position as a new person who just knows their grandparents names – or that of an adoptee, except adoptees don’t even have that much information. They are truly flying blind.

Let’s see what the newbie experience is like. After giving Ancestry enough time to cycle through the process, about three days, just to be sure, my Circles disappeared, of course, which I fully expected and is appropriate because there is no one in my tree beyond two generations.  Because there is no common ancestor in a tree, Circles can’t form, but NADs can form, and should, from some of those Circles.

So what happened?

The same 4 NADs remained, which is exactly what should have happened of course. I expected that too.

However, what I very clearly didn’t expect was for only one new NAD to appear, out of my 21 total Circles and 8 Circles that clearly met the NAD qualifications.  Only one Circle became a NAD – Nancy Mann.

NAD 5 NADs

I fully expected at least A FEW of my previous Circles to become NADs. Eight Circles appeared to be qualified based on Ancestry’s stated NAD criteria, but only one actually turned into a NAD.  Even the 100% group, Joel Vannoy and Phebe Crumley, where all 4 people in the Circle matched each other for some reason didn’t become NADs.

Of the 5 NADs granted by Ancestry, we know that the original 4 are incorrect, and we know that the one NAD created from Circles that I had with my robust tree is accurate.  This is what a newbie would see.

How would a newbie ever go about telling the difference, except by beginning to work the genealogy backwards in time from their grandparents. And in this case, they will only be able to “hit” one of 5 NADs, because only one is an actual ancestor – 4 are false positives, red herrings or maybe hints, but only hints if you have a robust ancestry to figure out WHERE that hint resides – an advantage a newbie wouldn’t have.  And frankly, none of those hints were one bit helpful.

Given this situation, where 4 of 5 NADs are wrong, are NADs useful at all or are they exciting distractions leading people down dead-end paths?  I feel particularly bad for adoptees who have no information to utilize to try to build backwards to connect with their NADs.

Adoptees

In the case of an adoptee, they can’t build backwards from any known family, so they would have to contact a group like www.dnaadoption.com and utilize special methodologies developed by the adoption groups that match groups of people with common ancestors in their trees.

During one of our conference calls, one of the Ancestry folks talked about how excited adoptees are to see a list of NADs. For many, that would be their first clue as to their family history or genealogy, and their first connect to their family, ever.  I’m sure it would seem like a gift from above.  Of course, adoptees wouldn’t have any Circles, because they are hunting for their ancestors and they don’t yet have trees.

I couldn’t help but wonder when the Ancestry representative made that comment how many of those NADs are accurate – and if that adoptee is embracing people as ancestors who are somehow connected to them, but not their actual ancestors.

Not being an adoptee, I know how hard it is to saw branches off of your family tree when you’ve proven your own work to be incorrect, or the work of another in whom you had confidence (or if you’re a newbie, that tree you copied) and I’d hate to be the one to have to take that NAD (or 4/5ths of their NADs) away from an adoptee, because it’s not really an ancestor.

The sad part is that while I have enough information to determine that 4 of 5 NADs are incorrect – the newbie or adoptee doesn’t.  They just have to go on faith.

Common Segments

It’s common knowledge that Ancestry does not give us a chromosome browser. I routinely use segments to prove a common ancestor, or at least an ancestral line.

In one case, we had oral history that Marcus Younger’s wife was a Hart.  Sure enough part of the Younger group matched individuals from the Hart family dead center in the middle of a Hart triangulated segment.

Here’s an example of what this kind of triangulation looks like.

NADs triangulation example

These particular segments are triangulated to the Hart family and triangulated to the Younger family as well, meaning that all of these people match each other on this segment, as well as me, so this is as much confirmation of Marcus Younger’s wife being a Hart as we will ever receive, short of a Bible turning up on E-Bay. The county records where this family lived no longer exist, so we were left with family rumors and later, DNA.

I keep waiting for a Hart NAD to appear. That’s one I could really embrace.  However, it’s quite far back in time, 8 generations.  Would a Circle or a NAD even be formed?

NADs are formed when you match multiple people in Circles who have a confirmed common ancestor. A Circle has to exist before NADs can be formed.  How are Circles formed?

NAD and Circle Formation

First of all, you have to have enough people matching each other to create a Circle or a NAD. That means it’s unlikely that you’re going to have Circles in the closest few generations – because there just aren’t enough descendants of your grandparents, or maybe even your great-grandparents to create a Circle, which is required before the creation of a NAD happens.  My closest Circles are my great-great-grandparents, the 4rd generation counting me as generation 1.  I do have leaf matches to the 9th generation, but only Circles to the 6th generation.

Second, leaf matching and Circles don’t go beyond 9 generations, so if the common ancestor is beyond that in your tree, you won’t get a matching leaf, a Circle won’t be created, and neither will a NAD. That’s really unfortunate, because I think a lot of us really do carry family DNA that is recognizable from that long ago.  We see it routinely elsewhere.

Third, Ancestry creates what they call confidence scores and Circles are created based on confidence scores. They don’t tell us exactly how these confidence scores are created, but in their white paper, they do tell us that more distant matches have lower confidence scores which is also confirmed by looking at the last page of my “leaf” match list. It appears that Ancestry does not display matches below the moderate confidence level.

NAD confidence level

Based on my Circles shown in the Circle Chart, the new person is only going to receive Circles or NADs for generations 4, 5 and 6.

I have matches through generation 9, and in some cases, 10-12 “leaf” matches in generations 7-9, but no Circle has been formed, which causes me to wonder if anyone has Circles between generations 7 and 9?

Being Alone and Right Means No Circle

This past week, I discovered that my ancestor whose name has been believed for years to be Fredericka Moselman was Fredericka Ruhle.  Actually, her baptized name was Hanna Fridrika Ruhle.  I now have her baptismal record, and her marriage record to Jacob Lentz, both confirming her surname.  I corrected her surname on Ancestry to Ruhle, and boom, I’m gone from the Circle.  And Fredericka has not shown up as a NAD.

So, now I’m left with a quandary.  The only way to see who else is in the Fredericka Moselman circle is to change her name back to the erroneous surname.  Or, in this case, to look at her husband’s Circle which is identical to hers.  However, if I correct his name too, I’ll be thrown out of that Circle as well.  If a former Circle doesn’t appear as a NAD, I have no way of viewing Circles that aren’t connected to me.

Sigh.

Back to the Question

I think we’ve come full circle (pardon the pun), and I still have my original question. How does one go from seeing a NAD to proving that NAD is an ancestor?  We can’t do it with DNA at Ancestry because we don’t have a chromosome browser.

If you have identified a NAD as a direct ancestor, or even used a NAD that was not an ancestor to find your way to a new ancestor, please tell me how.

And I hope, I really hope, it wasn’t just by copying someone else’s tree – because if it is – you’ve very likely just copied the cumulative errors of many – especially if they copied someone else’s tree, who copied someone else’s tree, etc. Tree copying is the equivalent of a genealogical social disease.

Did you simply use the NAD as a hint and pursue traditional genealogy to prove the connection? Was the ancestor the person actually listed as the NAD, or a different person?  Do you have proof in the form of documentation?  And by proof, I mean proof that the documentation is actually for this particular person.

I only mention this because I’ve seen so many conflated trees where someone took any documentation by the same name and added it to their tree as proof.  Let me give you an example.  A man who lived in North Carolina and from the census, was born in Virginia, was not naturalized in the state of New York, a location where he never lived.  Obviously a man born in Virginia had no need to be naturalized.  Same name does not mean same person.  Just saying.

If you turned a NAD into an ancestor, did you track from the NAD forward in time to you, or from one of your lines backward in time to the NAD? If so, how did you know which line to track backwards?  Did your match or matches from the NAD circle download their DNA to either Family Tree DNA or Gedmatch where you could utilize chromosome matching?

If you’ve had success turning NADs into ancestors, please let me know and explain how in the comments.

Ancestry Refines New Ancestor Discoveries (NADs)

Have you noticed a change in the number of your New Ancestor Discoveries (NADs) at Ancestry lately?

New NADs

Twice in the past month or so, there has been a pretty dramatic shift. When Ancestry implemented their new matching code, about May 3rd, my NADs increased significantly, from about 8 to 21 or 22.  None of these seemed to be relevant.  The two NADs that I could figure out were either a result of my ancestor’s sister being the wife of the NAD, or individuals that I match on other lines that just happened to also be descended from another common ancestor, who had nothing to do with me.

Let’s talk for a minute about how NADs are created.

When you match someone genetically, and you also share a common ancestor in your tree, a Circle is formed of all of the people who match other people who also share that same ancestor.

circle henry bolton matches2

This example of my Henry Bolton Circle shows the people in the Circle that I match with the strong tan lines. Each of these people match others in the circle as well. The people I don’t match are greyed out.  In this case, there are 14 total individuals who match someone else genetically who also has Henry Bolton in their tree.  I match 5 of those individuals.

Now, let’s say that a new person who does NOT have Henry Bolton in their tree matches some number of the people in the Henry Bolton Circle. If the new person matches enough people, Henry Bolton will be assigned to them as a NAD.  Keep in mind that if two of Henry’s children married someone from the same family line – the new person could be matching because of those secondary family lines, and not because of Henry.  Because they all match genetically, and the matches share Henry in their tree which includes them into the Henry Bolton Circle, Henry Bolton is assigned to the new person as a NAD.

So in essence if you match multiple people in a Circle, and the Circle ancestor is not in your tree, you will have that “ancestor” assigned as a NAD.

  • Genetic match with multiple people in Circle but no tree match = NAD (within Ancestry’s parameters, which just changed)

With the number of new testers and the recent code change, many people saw their number of NADs double or triple recently.

Thankfully, Ancestry has refined their code to be “tighter” relative to NADs.

Ancestry provided information to the bloggers group yesterday about how they have refined their code in the past few days following feedback from the user community.

In order to determine New Ancestor Discoveries, we created an algorithm with criteria that connects people to DNA Circles based on their DNA matches. This algorithm was created last year when we launched New Ancestor Discoveries and with the rapid growth of the DNA database, we are finding it needs to be updated. As DNA Circles get larger and more DNA matches are delivered, more people are connecting into the DNA Circles, which results in more New Ancestor Discoveries, but with a decrease in accuracy. So, we are updating the criteria to make it more conservative and increase the accuracy of New Ancestor Discoveries. So, you’ll need more connections into a DNA Circle to get a New Ancestor Discovery. These updates will result in a significant decrease in the number New Ancestor Discoveries, but with an increase in accuracy. Some populations may experience larger decreases. We will continue to monitor and adjust this as necessary to ensure these provide meaningful discoveries for our members.

You will likely see your NADs be reduced as a result. Mine went from 22 to 4 yesterday.

The good news is with the tighter requirements, those 4 NADs are more likely to be relevant to me…well…except for Robert Shiflet who is the husband of my ancestor’s sister.

Even though this bad NAD is frustrating, I do know how and why the Robert Shiflet NAD has occurred – and it’s a great example. It’s a matter of names, both first names and surnames.  Robert Shiflet’s wife was Sarah Clarkson, or Claxton.  How one spells that surname has been questionable for more than 150 years.  One of the Claxton/Clarkson men’s widows had to apply twice for his military pension application because the name was “sometimes spelled Clarkson.”

In one tree, the person shows Robert Shiflet’s wife’s name as Sarha Clarkson Shiflet (yes Sarha, not Sarah), with Shiflet as her last name. Another tree shows her as Sallie Clarkson, her nickname.  Another as Sarah “Sallie” Clarkson.  Another as Sarah A. Claxton.  Furthermore, in several trees, there are no parents shown for Sarah, Sallie or Sarha, so while Ancestry clearly shows the DNA matching, it’s impossible for them to connect the dots between Sarah and my tree without accurate, consistent and complete information.  Ancestry can’t help what is, or isn’t, in people’s trees.  I wrote about how to optimize your tree to obtain the best matches in this article.

The good news is that now the NADs shown on our account should be easier to figure out, because our connection to that group of people will be stronger than in the past. Just remember that those people are not necessarily ancestors, despite the name “New Ancestor Discoveries,” but you are connected to individuals in that group in one way or another – and possibly through multiple or different ancestors or relationships.

For example, I’m not related to Robert Shiflet by blood, but I am related to his children genetically through his wife, the sister of my ancestor.  Convoluted?  Yes, but there is a genealogy hint in there someplace and now you stand a better chance of finding it!!!

Beware The Sale of Your DNA – Just Because You Can Upload Doesn’t Mean You Should

You know something is coming of age when you begin to see knockoffs, opportunists – or ads on late night TV. As soon as someone figures out they can make money from something, rest assured, they will.

In the past few weeks, we’re beginning to see additional “opportunities” for places to upload your DNA files. Each of them has something to “give” you in return.  You can view this as genuine, or you can view this as bait – or maybe some of each.

So far, each of them also seems to have an agenda that is NOT serving us or our DNA – but serving only or primarily them. I’m not saying this is good or bad – that depends on your perspective – but I am saying that we need to be quite aware of a variety of factors before we participate or upload our autosomal DNA results.

Some sites are more straightforward than others.

I have already covered the fact that both 23andMe and Ancestry sell your DNA to whomever for whatever they see fit.

Truthfully, I always knew that 23andMe was focused on health, but I mistakenly presumed it was on the study of diseases like Parkinson’s. My mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, so I had a personal stake in that game.  When their very first patent was for “designer babies,” I felt shell-shocked, stupid, naïve, duped and taken advantage of. I had willingly opted-in and contributed my information with the idea that I was contributing to Parkinson’s research, while in reality, my DNA may have been used in the designer baby patent research.  I have no way of knowing and I had no idea that’s the type of research they were doing.

Parkinson’s yes, designer babies no.  It’s a personal decision, but once your DNA is being utilized or sold, it can be used for anything and you have no control whatsoever.  While I was perfectly willing to participate in surveys and have my DNA utilized for a cure for diseases, in particular Parkinson’s, I was not and am not willing for my DNA to be utilized for things like designer babies so the wealthy can select blue eyed, blonde haired children carrying the genes most likely to allow them to become athletes or cheerleaders.

And once the DNA cat is out of the bag, so to speak, there is no putting it back in. In some cases, you can opt out of identified data, but you can’t opt out of what has already been used, and in many cases, you can’t opt out of having your anonymized data sold.

So, let me give you an example of just how much protection anonymizing your data will give you.

Anonymized Data

Let’s say that someone in one of those unknown firms wants to know who I am. All they have to do is drop my results into GedMatch and my name is right there, along with my e-mail.

Have a fake name at Gedmatch? Well, think for a minute of the adoption search groups and how they identify people, sometimes very quickly and easily by their matches.  Everyday.

Not to mention, my children (and my parents, were they living) are very clearly identifiable utilizing my DNA. So while my DNA is mine, and legally belongs to me, it’s not entirely ONLY mine.

The promise of anonymized data by stripping out your identifying information has become somewhat of a hollow promise today. In a recent example, a cholesterol study volunteer recognized “herself” in a published paper, but was not notified of the results. In an earlier paper, several Y DNA volunteers were identified as well. Ironically, Dr. Erlich, now having formed DNA.Land and soliciting DNA uploads was involved with this unmasking.

Knowing what I know today, I would NEVER have tested at 23andMe and I would have to think very long and hard about Ancestry. The hook that Ancestry has, of course, is all of those DNA plus matching trees.  Is having my anonymized DNA sold worth that?  I don’t really know.  For me, it’s too late for an Ancestry decision, because I’ve already tested there and you cannot opt out of having your anonymized data sold.

I already had an Ancestry subscription, but some testers don’t realize they have to have at least a minimum level subscription to receive all of the benefits of testing at Ancestry. That could certainly be a rude awakening – and unexpected when they purchased the test.  The $49 DNA base subscription is not available on Ancestry’s website either – you have to know about it and call support to purchase that level.  I’m sure most people simply purchase the normal subscription or do without.

One thing is for sure, our DNA is worth a lot of money to both research and Big Pharm, and apparently worth a lot of effort as well, given how many people are attempting to capture our DNA for sale.

In the past few weeks, there have been several new sites that have come online relative to autosomal DNA uploading and testing.

But before we talk about those, I’d like to take a moment for education.

The Sanger Survey

Sanger survey

I’d like to suggest that you take a few minutes to view the videos associated with the Sanger Institute DNA survey here. I think the videos do a good job of explaining at least some of the issues facing people about the usage of their DNA.  Of course, you have to take their survey to see the videos at each step – but it’s good food for thought and they do allow you to make comments.

So, please, take a few minutes for this survey before proceeding.

Genes and US

One of the first “sidebar” companies to appear in September 2014 was at the site   http://www.genesand.us/ which is now nonfunctional.

I took screen shots at that time, since I was going to write an article about what seemed quite interesting.

Genesandus

It was a free service that offered to “find the best genes that you can give to your child.” You had to test at 23andMe, then upload both you and your partner’s raw DNA files and they would provide you with results.

I did just that, and the screen shot below shows the partial results. There were several pages.

Genesandus1

At the end of this section was a question asking if I wanted to “speak to a doctor about any of these benefits.” I didn’t, but I did want to know if gene selection was actual possible and being implemented.  I found the site’s contact information.  I sent this e-mail, which was never answered.

genesandus2

So let me ask you…where is my and my husband’s DNA today? I uploaded it.  Who has it?  Was this just a ploy to obtain our DNA files?  And for what purpose?  Who were these people anyway?  They are gone without a trace today.

DNA.Land

More recently, in the fall of 2015, DNA.Land came upon the scene.

As of today, 22,000+ people have uploaded their autosomal DNA files.

dna.land

What does DNA.Land offer the genealogist?

A different organization’s view of your ethnicity as well as relative matching to others who upload.

The quality and reliability of these enticements offered by companies in exchange for our DNA files may vary widely. For example, when DNA.Land launched, their matching routine didn’t find immediate family members.  No product should ever be launched in an alpha state, which calls into question the quality of the rest of their products and research.  That matching problem has reportedly been fixed.

The second enticement they offer is an ethnicity tool.

I can’t show you my example, because I have not uploaded my DNA to DNA.Land.   However, a genetic genealogy colleague conducted an interesting experiment.

TL Dixon uploaded four DNA files in late April 2016. He tested twice at 23andMe, both tests being the v3 version, and twice at Ancestry, in 2012 and 2014, and uploaded all 4 files to DNA.Land to see what the results would be, comparatively.

TL 23andMe test 1

23andMe v3 test 1

TL 23andme test 2

23andMe v3 test 2

TL Ancestry test 1 2014

Ancestry test from 2014

TL Ancestry test 2 2012

Ancestry test from 2012

We all know that ethnicity testing as a whole is not terribly reliable, but is the most reliable on the continent level, meaning Africa vs Europe vs Asia vs Native American. Given that these raw data files are from the same testing companies, on the same chip platform, for the same person, the Ancestry 2012 and 2014 ethnicity results from DNA.Land are quite different from each other relative to African vs Eurasian DNA, and also from the 23andMe results – even at the continent level.  Said another way, both 23andme results and the Ancestry 2014 results are very similar, with the Ancestry 2012 test, shown last, being the outlier.

Thanks to TL Dixon for both his multiple testing and sharing his results. According to TL’s known family history, the two 23andMe and the Ancestry 2014 kits are closest to accurate.  Just as an aside, TL, surprised by the differing results, utilized David Pike’s utilities to compare the two Ancestry files to see if one had a problem, and they were both very similar, so the difference does not appear to be in the Ancestry kits themselves – so the difference has to be at DNA.Land.

So, what I’m saying is that DNA.Land’s enticement of a different company’s view of ethnicity, even after several months, and even at the continent level, still needs work. This along with the original matching issue calls into question the quality of some of the enticements that are being used to attract DNA donors.  We should consider this not only at this site, but at others that provide enticement or “free” services or goodies as well.  Uploaders beware!

While the non-profit status of DNA.Land along with their verbiage leads people to believe that their work is entirely charitable, it is not, as reflected in this sentence from their consent information.

I understand that the research in this study may lead to new products, research tools, or inventions that have financial value. By accepting the terms of this consent, I understand that I will not be able to share in the profits from future commercialization of products developed from this study.

At least they are transparent about this, assuming you actually read all of the information provided on the site – which you should do with every site.

My Heritage Adds DNA Matching

This past week, My Heritage, a company headquartered in Israel, announced that it has added autosomal DNA matching. Some people think this is great, and others not so much.

MyHeritage

My Heritage, like Ancestry, is a subscription site. I happen to already be a member, so I was initially pretty excited about this, especially when I saw this in their blog.

Your DNA data will be kept private and secure on MyHeritage.

Our service will then match you to other people who share DNA with you: your relatives through a common ancestor. You will be able to review your matches’ family trees (excluding living people), and filter your matches by common surnames or geographies to focus on more relevant matches.

And also:

Who has access to the DNA data?

Only you do. Nobody else can see it, and nobody can even know that it was uploaded. Only the uploader can see the data, and you can delete it at any time. Users who are matched with your DNA will not have access to your DNA or your email address, but will be able to get in touch with you via MyHeritage.

I was thinking this might be a great opportunity, perhaps similar to the Ancestry trees, although they don’t say anything about tree matching.

However, their Terms of Service are not available to view unless you pretend to start an upload of your DNA (thanks for this tip Ann Turner) and then the “Terms of Service” and “Consent Agreement” links become available to view. They should be available for everyone BEFORE you start your upload.

On the MyHeritage main site, you’ll see DNA matching at the top. I’m a member, so, if you’re not a member, your “main site” may look different.

MyHeritage1

Click on “learn more” on the DNA Matching tab.

MyHeritage2

Step two shows you two boxes saying you have read the DNA Terms of Use and Consent Agreement. Don’t just click through these – read them.  Not just at this vendor, at all vendors.

In the required DNA Terms of Use we find this in the 5th paragraph:

By submitting DNA Results to the Website, you grant MyHeritage a perpetual, royalty-free, world-wide, transferable license to use your DNA Results, and any DNA Results you submit for any person from whom you obtained legal authorization as described in this Agreement, and to use, host, sublicense and distribute the resulting analysis to the extent and in the form or context we deem appropriate on or through any media or medium and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed or discovered.

And this in item 7:

c. We may transfer, lease, rent, sell, share and/or or otherwise distribute de-identified information to third parties for any purpose, including without limitation, internal business purposes. Whenever we transfer, lease, rent, sell, share and/or or otherwise distribute your information to third parties, this information will be aggregated and personal identifiers (such as names, birth dates, etc.) will be removed.

In the optional Informed Consent agreement, we find this:

The Project collects, preserves and analyzes genealogical lineage, historical records, surveys, genetic information, and other records (collectively, “Research Information“) provided by users in order to conduct research studies to better understand, among other things, human evolution and migration, population genetics, regional health issues, ethnographic diversity and boundaries, genealogy and the history of the human species. Researchers hope that the Project will be an invaluable tool for a wide range of scholars and researchers interested in genealogy, anthropology, evolution, languages, cultures, medicine, and other topics and that the Project may benefit future generations. Discoveries made as a result of the Project may be used in the study of genealogy, anthropology, population genetics, population health issues, cultures, trends (for example, to identify health risks or spread of certain diseases), and other related topics. If we or a third party wants to conduct a study (1) on topics unrelated to the Project, or (2) using Research Information beyond what is described in this Informed Consent, we will re-contact you to seek your specific approval. In addition, we may contact you to ask you to complete a questionnaire or to ask you if you are willing to be interviewed about the Project or other matters.

  1. What are the costs and will I receive compensation? MyHeritage will not charge participants any fees in order to be part of the Project. There will be no financial compensation paid to Project participants. The data you share with us for the Project may benefit researchers and others in the future. If any commercial product is developed as a result of the Project or its outcomes, there will be no financial benefit to you.

You can’t see the terms of use or consent agreement unless you are in the process of uploading your DNA and in addition, it appears that your DNA data is automatically available in anonymized fashion to third parties. The terms of service and informed consent data above does not seem to correlate with the marketing information which states that “nobody else” can see your data.

The other thing that’s NOT obvious, is that you don’t HAVE to click the box on the Consent Agreement, but you do HAVE to click the box on the DNA Terms of Use.

If you are not alright with the entirety of the DNA Terms of Use, which is required, do not upload your DNA file to My Heritage.  If you are not alright with the Consent Agreement, don’t click the box.  Judy Russel wrote an detailed article about the terms here.

Uploading your DNA to MyHeritage is free today, but may be a pay service later. It is unclear whether a subscription is required today, or will be in the future.  However, at one time one could upload a family tree of up to 250 people to MyHeritage for free through 23andMe.  Larger files were accepted, but were only free for a certain time period and now the person whose tree was larger than 250 people and who did not subscribe is locked out of their account.  They can’t delete their larger-than-250 person tree unless they purchase a subscription.  It’s unclear what the future holds for DNA uploads, trees and subscriptions as well.

I have not uploaded my DNA to MyHeritage either, based on 7c. It would appear that even if you don’t give consent for additional “research information” to be collected and provided, they can still sell your anonymized DNA.

WeGene

WeGene

Very recently, a new company, WeGene at http://www.wegene.com has begun DNA testing focused on the Chinese marketplace.

Their website it in Chinese, but Google translates it, at least nominally, as does Chrome.

WeGene1

WeGene2

It does not appear that WeGene does matching between their customers, or if they do, I’ve missed it in the translations.

You can, however, upload at least 23andMe files to WeGene. I can’t tell about Family Tree DNA and Ancestry files.  Unless you have direct and fairly recent Chinese ancestry, I don’t know what the benefit would be.

Their privacy and security, such as it is, is at this link, although obviously autotranslated. Some people seem to have found other verbiage as well.  Navigating their site, written in Chinese, is very difficult and the accuracy of the autotranslation is questionable, at best.

Their autosomal DNA file is obviously available for download, because GedMatch now accepts these files.

I am certainly not uploading my DNA to WeGene, for numerous reasons.

Vendor Summary

This vendor summary was more difficult to put together than I thought it would be – in part because I am not a new user at either Ancestry or 23andMe and obviously can’t see what a new user would see on any of my accounts. Furthermore, Ancestry in particular has several documents that refer back and forth to each other, and let’s just say they are written more for the legal mind than the typical consumer.

vendor summary

* – Both 23andMe and Ancestry appear to utilize all clients DNA for anonymized distribution, but not for identified distribution without an individual opt-in.

*1 – According to the 23andMe Privacy Policy, although you can opt in to the higher level of research testing where your identity is not removed, you cannot opt out of the anonymized level of DNA sharing/sale. Please review current 23andMe documentation before making a decision.

*2 – Can Opt in or Opt out.

*3 – Can opt out of non-anonymized sales, but not anonymized sales. Please verify utilizing the current Ancestry documents before making a decision.

*4 – DNA.land indicates that you can withdraw consent, but does not say anything about deleting your DNA file.

*5 – DNA.Land states in their consent agreement that they will not provide identified DNA information without first contacting you.

*6 – At 23andMe, deleting DNA from data base closes account.

*7 – Automatically opted in for anonymized sales/sharing, but must opt in for identified DNA sharing.

*8 – 23andMe has been and continues to experience significant difficulties and at this point are not considered a viable genetic genealogy option by many, or stated another way, they would be the last choice of the main three testing companies.

*9 – All legal action must be brought in Tel Aviv, Israel, individually, and not as a class action suit, according to item 9 in the DNA Terms of Use document.

*10 – Website in Chinese, information through an automated English translator, so the information provided here is necessarily incomplete and may not be entirely accurate.

Please note that any or all of these factors are subject to change over time and the vendors’ documents should be consulting and read thoroughly at the time any decision is being made.

Please note that at some vendors there are many different documents that cross-reference each other. They are confusing and should all be read before any decision is made.

And of course, some vendors’ websites aren’t even in English.

Points to Consider

While these companies are the ones that have come to the forefront in the past few months, there will assuredly be more as this industry develops. Here are a list of things for you to think about and points to consider that may help you make your decision about whether you want to either test or upload your autosomal DNA with any particular company.  After all, your autosomal DNA file does contain that obviously much-sought-after medical information.

First, always read every document on a vendor site that says anything like “Terms of Use,” “Security and Privacy” or “Terms of Service” or “Informed Consent.” Many times the fine print is spread throughout several documents that reference each other.  If their policy does not say specifically, do NOT assume.

Also be aware that the verbiage of most companies says they can change their rules of engagement at any time without notification.

Here are the questions you may want to consider as you read these documents.

  • Does the company or organization sell or share your data?
  • Is the data that is sold or shared anonymized or nonanonymized, understanding that really no one is truly anonymous anymore?
  • Who do they sell your data to?
  • For what purpose?
  • Do you have the opportunity to authorize your DNA’s involvement per study?
  • If you do not live in the same country as the company with whom you are doing business, what recourse do you have to enforce any agreement?
  • How do you feel about your DNA being in the hands of either organizations or companies you don’t know for purposes you don’t know?
  • Are you asked up front if you want to participate?
  • Can you opt out of your DNA being shared or sold entirely from the beginning?
  • Can you opt out of your DNA being shared or sold entirely at any time if you have initially opted in?
  • Do you receive the opportunity to opt in, or are you automatically opted in?
  • If you are automatically opted in, do you get the opportunity, right then, to opt out, or only if you happen to discover the situation? And if you can opt out immediately, are you only able to opt out of non-anonymized data or can you opt out entirely?
  • Is the company up front and transparent about what they are doing with your DNA or do you have to dig to unearth the truth?
  • If you already tested, and gave up rights, were you aware that you did so, and do you understand if or how you can rescind that inadvertent authorization?
  • Do you have to dig for the terms of service and are they as represented in the marketing literature?
  • Do you feel like you are giving truly informed consent and understand what can and will happened to your DNA, and what your options are if you change your mind, and how to exercise those options? Are you comfortable with those options and the approach of the company towards DNA sale as a whole? Were they forthright?
  • For companies like MyHeritage and Ancestry, are their other unknown “gotchas” like a subscription being required in addition to testing or uploading to obtain the full benefits of the test or upload?
  • What happens to your DNA if the company no longer exists or goes out of business? For two examples, look at the Sorenson and Ancestry Y and mtDNA DNA results. This is certainly not what any consumer or tester expected. Not to mention, I’m left wondering where my DNA submitted to genesandus is today.
  • Who owns the company?  What are their names?  Where can you find them?  What is the address of the company?  What does google have to say about the owners or management?  Linked-In?  Facebook?  If there is absolutely no history, that’s probably as damning as a bad history.  No one can exist today in a professional capacity and have no history.  Just saying.
  • Is the company acting in any way that would cause you not to trust them, their motives or agenda?  As my mother used to say, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

Near and Dear to My Heart

I have family members who work in the medical field in various capacities. I also have family members who have or have had genetically heritable conditions and like everyone else, I would love to see those diseases cured.  My reticence to donate my DNA to whomever for whatever is not a result of being heartless.  It’s a function of wanting to be in control of who profits with/from my DNA and that of my family.

Let me share a personal story with you.

My brother died of cancer in 2012. He went for chemo treatments every two weeks, and before he could have his chemo treatment, he had to have bloodwork to assure that his system was able to handle the next dose of chemo.

If his white cell count was below a certain threshold, a shot of a drug called Neulasta was available to him to stimulate his body to increase the white blood cells. The shots were $8000 a piece.  And no, that is not a typo.  $8000!  His insurance did not cover the shots, because as far as they were concerned, he could just wait until his white cell numbers increased of their own accord and have the chemo then.  Of course, delaying the chemo decreased his chances of survival.

Over the course of his chemo, he had to have three of these $8000 shots. Fortunately, he did have the money to pay, although he did have to reschedule his appointment because he was required to bring a cashier’s check with the full payment in advance before the clinic would administer the shot.  After that, he simply carried an $8000 cashier’s check to each appointment, just in case.

I do not for one minute believe that those shots COST $8000 to manufacture, but I do believe that the pharmaceutical industry could, would and does CHARGE $8000 to desperate patients in order to continue the chemo that is their only hope of life. For those whose insurance pays, it’s entirely irrelevant. For those whose insurance does not pay, it’s a matter of life and death.  And yes, I’m equally as angry with the insurance company, but they aren’t the ones asking for me to do donate my DNA.

So, as for my DNA, no Big Pharm company will ever get their hands on it if there is ANYTHING I can do about it – although it’s probably too late now since I have tested with both 23andMe and Ancestry, who do not allow you to opt out entirely. I wish I had known before I tested.  At least I would have been giving informed consent, which was not the case.

Consequently, I want to know who is doing what with my DNA, so that I have the option of participating or not – and I want to know up front – and I don’t want it hidden in fine print with the company hoping I’ll just “click through” and never read the documentation. I don’t want it to be intentionally or unintentionally confusing, and I want unquestionable full disclosure – ahead of time.  Is that too much to ask?

My brother had the money for the shots, and he died anyway, but can you imagine being the family of someone who did not have $24,000?

And if you think for one minute that Big Pharm won’t do that, consider Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli, dubbed “the most hated man in America” in September 2015 for gouging patients dependent on a drug used for HIV and cancer treatment by raising the price from $13.50 per pill to $750 for the same pill, a 5,556% increase – because he could.

Medical research to cure disease I’m supportive of in terms of DNA donation, but not designer babies and not Big Pharm – and today there seems to be no way to separate the bad from the good or to determine who our DNA is being sold to for what purpose. Worse yet, some medical research is funded by Big Pharm, so it’s hard to determine which medical research is independent and which is not.

The companies selling our DNA and Big Pharm are the only people who stand to benefit financially from that arrangement – and they stand to benefit substantially from our contributions by encouraging us to “help science.” We’ll never know if a study our donated DNA was used for produced a new drug – and if it’s one we can’t afford, you can bet the pharmaceutical industry and manufacturers care not one whit that we were one of the people who donated our DNA so they could develop the drug we can’t afford.  If any industry should not be soliciting free DNA donations for research, Big Pharm is that industry with their jaw-dropping profits.

So, How Much is Our DNA Worth Anyway?

I don’t know, directly, but we can get some idea from the deal that 23andMe struck with pharmaceutical company Genentech, the US unit of Swiss drug company, Roche, in January 2015, as reported by Forbes.

Quoting now, directly from the Forbes article:

According to sources close to the deal, 23andMe is receiving an upfront payment from Genentech of $10 million, with further milestones of as much as $50 million. The deal is the first of ten 23andMe says it has signed with large pharmaceutical and biotech companies.

Such deals, which make use of the database created by customers who have bought 23andMe’s DNA test kits and donated their genetic and health data for research, could be a far more significant opportunity than 23andMe’s primary business of selling the DNA kits to consumers. Since it was founded in 2006, 23andMe has collected data from 800,000 customers and it sells its tests for $99 each. That means this single deal with one large drug company could generate almost as much revenue as doubling 23andMe’s customer base.

The article further says that the drug company was particularly interested in the 12,000 Parkinson’s patients and 1,300 of their parents and siblings who had provided family information. Ten million divided by 13,300 means Genentech were willing to pay $750 for each person’s DNA, out the door.  So the tester paid $99 or upwards, depending on when they tested – $1000 before September 2008 when the test dropped to $399, to 23andMe and then 23andMe made another $750 per kit from the tester’s donated DNA results.

And that’s before the additional $50 million and the other deals 23andMe and the other DNA-sellers have struck with Big Pharm. So yes indeed, our DNA is worth a lot.

It’s no wonder so many people are trying to trying to find a way to entice us to donate our results so they can sell them. In fact, it’s a wonder, and a testament to their integrity, that there is ANY company with access to our DNA results that isn’t selling them.  In fact, there are only two companies, plus the Genographic Project.

Who Doesn’t Share or Sell Your Autosomal DNA?

Of the major companies, organizations and sites, the only three, as best I can tell, that do not share or sell your autosomal DNA (or reserve the right to do so) and specifically state that they do not are National Geographic’s Genographic Project , Family Tree DNA and GedMatch.

Of those three, Family Tree DNA, a subsidiary of Gene by Gene is the only testing company and says the following:

Gene by Gene collects, processes, stores and shares your Personal Information in a responsible, transparent and secure environment that fosters our customers’ trust and confidence. To that end, Gene by Gene respects your privacy and will not sell or rent your Personal Information without your consent.

National Geographic utilizes Family Tree DNA for testing, and the worst thing I could find in their privacy policy is that they will share:

  • with other selected third parties so that they may send you promotional materials about goods and services that they offer. You have the opportunity to opt out of our sharing information about you as described below in the section entitled “Your Choices”;
  • in accordance with your consent.

Nothing problematic here.

Your Genographic DNA file is only uploadable to Family Tree DNA and Nat Geo does not accept uploaded data from other vendors.

GedMatch, which allows users to upload their raw data files from the major testing companies for comparison says the following:

It is our policy to never provide your genealogy, DNA information, or email address to 3rd parties, except as noted above.

Please refer to the entire documents from these organizations for details.

Serious genealogists have probably already uploaded to GedMatch and tested at or uploaded to Family Tree DNA as well, so people are unlikely to find new matches at new sites that aren’t already in one of these two places.

To Be Clear

I just want to make sure there is no confusion about which type of companies we’ve been referencing, and who is excluded, and why. The only companies or organizations this article applies to are those who have access to your raw data autosomal DNA file.  Those would be either the companies who test your autosomal DNA (National Geographic, Family Tree DNA, Ancestry and 23andMe in the US and WeGenes in China), or if you download your raw data file from those companies and upload it to another company, organization or location, as discussed in this article.  The companies and organizations discussed may not be the only firms or organizations to which you can upload your autosomal DNA file today, and assuredly, there will be more in the future.

The line in the sand is that autosomal DNA file. Not your Y DNA, not your mitochondrial DNA, not your match list – just that raw data file – that’s what contains your DNA information that the medical and pharmaceutical industry seeks and is willing to pay handsomely to obtain.

There are other companies and organizations that offer helpful tools for autosomal DNA analysis and tree integration, but you do NOT upload your raw data file to those sites. Those sites would include sites like www.dnagedcom.com and www.wikitree.com. I want to be sure no one confuses sites that do NOT upload or solicit the upload of your raw autosomal DNA files with those that do.  I have not discussed these sites that do not upload your autosomal DNA files because they are not relevant to this discussion.

This article does not pertain to sites that do not utilize or have access to your autosomal raw data file – only those that do.

Summary

As the number of DNA testing consumers rises, the number of potential targets for DNA sales into the medical/pharmaceutical field rises equally, as does the number of targets for scammers.

Along with that, I increasingly feel like my ancestors and the data available through my DNA about my ancestors, specifically ethnicity since everyone seems to be looking for a better answer, is being used as bait to obtain my DNA for companies with a hidden, or less than obvious, agenda – that being to obtain my DNA for subsequent sale.

I greatly appreciate the Genographic Project, Family Tree DNA and GedMatch, the organizations who either test or accept autosomal file uploads do not sell my DNA, and I hope that they are not forced into that position economically in order to survive. It’s quite obvious that there is significant money to be made from the sale of massive amounts of DNA to the medical and pharmaceutical communities.  They alone have resisted that temptation and stayed true to the cause of the study of indigenous cultures and population genetics in the case of Nat Geo, and genetic genealogy, and only genetic genealogy in the case of Family Tree DNA and GedMatch.

In other words, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Frankly, I believe selling our data is fundamentally wrong unless that information is abundantly clear, as in truly informed consent as defined by the Office for Human Research Protections, in advance of purchasing (or uploading) the test, and not simply a required “click through box” that says you read something. I would be much more likely to participate in anything that was straightforward rather than something that was hidden or not straightforward, like perhaps the company or organization was hoping we wouldn’t notice, or we would automatically click the box without reading further, thinking we have no other option.

The notice needs to say something on the order of, “I understand that my DNA is going to be sold, may be used for profit making ventures, and I cannot opt out if I order this DNA test,” if that is the case. That is truly informed consent – not a check box that says “I have read the Consent Document.”

Yes, the companies that sell DNA testing and our DNA results would probably receive far fewer orders, but those who would order would be truly informed and giving informed consent. Today, in the large majority of cases, I don’t believe that’s happening.

We need to be aware as consumers and make informed decisions. I’m not telling you whether you should or should not utilize these various companies and sites, or whether you should or should not participate in contributing your DNA to research, or at which level, if at all. That is a personal decision we all have to make.

But I will tell you that I think you need to educate yourself and be aware of these trends and issues in the industry so you can make a truly informed decision each and every time you consider sharing your DNA. And you should know that in some cases, your DNA is being sold and there is absolutely nothing you can do about if it you utilize the services of that company.

Above all, read all of the fine print.

Let me say that again, channeling my best Judy Russell voice.

ALWAYS, READ ALL OF THE FINE PRINT!!!

ALWAYS.
READ.
ALL.
OF.
THE.
FINE.
PRINT.

Unfortunately, things are not always as they seem on the surface.

If you see a click-through box, a red neon danger light should now start flashing in your brain and refuse to allow you to click on that box until you’ve done what? Read all the fine print.

There really is no such thing as a free lunch – so be judiciously suspicious.

I will leave you with the same thought relative to testing companies and upload opportunities that I said about companies selling our data. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

I think early in this game we all got excited and presumed the best about the motives of companies and organizations, like I did with both 23andMe and genesandus, but now we know better – and that there may be more to the story than initially meets the eye.

And besides that, we all know that presume is the first cousin to assume…and well, we all know where this is going.  And by the way, that’s exactly how I feel about genesandus who disappeared with my and my husband’s DNA.  I wasn’t nearly suspicious or judicious enough then…but I am now.

Ancestry Modifies Their Autosomal DNA Chip

ancestry logo

For today’s consumer, this isn’t really much of a story, although it may be someday.

Ancestry published an article in their blog this week announcing that they have begun testing on a new AncestryDNA chip.

Currently, Ancestry uses the standard Illumina chip also used by Family Tree DNA which also functions as the base chip for the 23andMe product as well. 23andMe has a chip customized for medical testing, and Ancestry is now following suit as well with their new chip, soon to go into production.

The Illumina chip today holds roughly 700,000 locations, or SNPs that can be reported. Ancestry’s download today provides customers with roughly 682,000 locations, as compared to 23andMe’s 577,000 and Family Tree DNA’s roughly 690,000.

However, Ancestry is trading in some 300,000 of those SNPs currently on the standard chip and replacing them with new SNPs optimized for medical and ethnicity testing in addition to replacing some “low performing” locations with alternate locations. They couldn’t provide a breakdown in terms of percentages of how many are for medical, ethnicity or other SNPs.

What Does This Change Mean For You?

Today, nothing at all, according to Ancestry.

I asked if Ancestry had tested their clients who have tested on the new chip against the same client’s results from the current, soon to be, old chip – and Ancestry said they showed exactly the same matches.

So, the chip is backwards compatible in that the new chip will still provide matches to the old chip.

The difference may come in the future when more people have tested on the new chip. Only time will tell if those people will receive more and better matching with other people that have tested on the new chip.

Ancestry indicated that if they feel their clients need to update their test at some point in the future, then they will put together a plan – but until then, if then, there’s nothing to worry about.

Should You Retest?

Obviously the bloggers group wondered about this. If you retest today, you’ll have to handle both tests separately in your account.  There is currently no way to merge tests, so you’ll have an old one and a new one.  There is no “best of both worlds.”  There is no way to preserve stars or notes or anything you may have done to one account and transfer to a different account.  About the only thing you could do is, in time, to compare to see if you continue to have the same matches on both chips as more people test on the new chip.

Why The Change?

Ancestry was very clear that the changes today are really for future development and will have no effect on current accounts or matching. They are evaluating their future position in the medical arena.  With last June’s announcement of Ancestry Health, they have very clearly been sticking their toes in that water.  They hired Dr. Cathy Petti last July as well, an MD functioning a Chief Health Officer.

I’m not sure if this means Ancestry will one day offer health services to clients, similar to 23andMe, or whether it means that the firms they are currently or want to sell the DNA data to want more health related information, or perhaps both.  We will just have to wait and see.  Clearly they wouldn’t even be discussing this publicly and laying groundwork if they weren’t planning to do something!

Will You Still Be Able to Download?

Yes, your autosomal data file will be downloadable, just like it is today.

Will You Still Be Able to Upload to Family Tree DNA and GedMatch?

That of course will depend on those vendors making the necessarily format changes. This would be similar to the different vendors’ files being compared to each other today.  Comparing one vendor to another isn’t quite as good as comparing each vendor to its own files, but the matches are still good and it’s still a darned site better than nothing.

Both Family Tree DNA and GedMatch will need to see the new file formats first and have some time to work with them. We don’t know if quality of matching will be an issue given that nearly half of the SNPs are being replaced – but until we hear otherwise from either company, I’d presume that they will make every effort to accommodate the new file structure.

When Is The Change Being Made?

The new chips are arriving next week, but Ancestry will be running on dual platforms for a little while yet during the changeover. There really won’t be any external way to tell if your test was performed on a new (v2) or old (v1) chip – so if you want the new chip – wait just awhile to order to be sure the new chip is in full production first.

Summary

Ancestry’s change, to clients today, is superficial.  Your matching will still function. You don’t need to retest, unless you are simply curious. If you do want to retest, wait a few weeks to be sure the new test is completely in production – and remember, you’ll be managing two kits separately, so everyone will be asking you about you and your twin that they match.  I’m sure there will be a number of curious people who will test on both platforms.

These chip changes are for future development – and we’ll just have to wait for the future to see what those new developments might be.