DNA.Land first launched in October of 2015, a free upload site whose goal is to encourage sharing to enable scientists to make new discoveries including the initiative to understand what is needed for a cure for breast cancer by 2020.
Their purpose, as stated by DNA.Land in their FAQ:
DNA.Land is a place where you can learn more about your genome while enabling scientists to make new genetic discoveries for the benefit of humanity. Our goal is to help members to interpret their data and to enable their contribution to research.
DNA.Land has invested a lot of effort into providing tools for genetic genealogists in order to encourage them to upload their autosomal DNA testing results to DNA.Land and participate in research in exchange for having access to their tools.
Let’s step through the process and take a look at their offerings.
If you’re interested in participating, the first thing to do is to register and the next step is the consent process.
If you are considering participation, or uploading your DNA to utilize their ethnicity or matching services, you must sign their consent form. Needless to say, you need to fully read the consent form before clicking to authorize, at DNA.Land and anyplace else.
Please note that you can click on any image to enlarge.
Upload Your File
After you click to approve and continue, you’ll be asked to select a file to upload. I chose Family Tree DNA Build 37.
Given that the focus of DNA.Land is medical research, you’ll be asked questions about yourself and your ancestry, such as your birthdate, as well as that of your parents.
I joined the Breast Cancer research and authorized researchers to contact me.
You are then asked, “Is this file your file?” DNA.Land wants to be absolutely sure you are providing information for your own file, and not someone else’s.
DNA.Land then asks questions related to your family and breast cancer. I answered the questions, agreed to be contacted if there are questions and joined the study.
You’ll answer questions about whether your parent, full siblings or children have been diagnosed with breast cancer, as well as questions about yourself.
I was excited to see that I was the 7,456th person to join the breast cancer initiative, but then I realized that their goal is 25,000 by the end of 2017. They have a LONG way to go. Please consider joining.
Your Personal Page
Your personal page includes your file status, the research projects in which you are participating as well as reports available.
Your file status is shown at the bottom of the page, including links to learn more.
DNA.Land was the first vendor to attempt imputation. I wrote about imputation in the article, Concepts – Imputation. I also wrote about matching with a vendor who utilizes imputation in the article Imputation Matching Comparison.
Imputation affects your matches, segment sizes and the quality of those matches. If you’re not familiar with imputation, I would strongly suggest reading these articles now.
While I’m incredibly supportive of the breast cancer and research initiatives, I’m less excited about the accuracy of imputation relative to genetic genealogy. Let’s take a look.
Now that I’m done with setup and questions, I’m ready to view information about my own DNA results according to DNA.Land. Remember that these results include imputed information, meaning data that was imputed to be mine in regions not tested based on my DNA in regions that have been tested. My Family Tree DNA file that I uploaded held over 700,000 tested locations, and DNA.Land imputes another 38 million locations based on the 700,000 that were actually tested.
You can select from various My Reports options:
- Find Relatives
- Find Relatives of Relatives
- Ancestry Report
- Trait Prediction Report
Let’s look at each one.
As of today, just over 70,000 individuals have uploaded, an increase of 10,000 in just under two months, so the site is rapidly growing.
The first page is DNA Relationship Matches. The match below is my closest match to cousin, Karen. I wrote about dissecting this match in the article Imputation Matching Comparison.
You can show or hide the chromosome table at far right. Segments are divided into recent and ancient based on the segment size. I’m not sure I would have used the term “ancient,” but what DNA.Land is trying to convey is that more often, smaller segments are older than larger segments.
I have 11 High Certainty matches and 1 speculative.
The information page explains more. Click on the “Learn more about the report” link in the upper left hand corner, which displays the following example information.
All reported segments are 3.00 cM or larger.
Very beneficially, my closest match, Karen, showed her GedMatch kit number as her middle name. I utilized her file at GedMatch and her results at DNA.Land to compare raw data file matching and imputed file matching. You can read about the findings in the article, Imputation Matching Comparison.
Based on imputed matching, I’m not sure that today I would have much confidence in matches to the relatives of relatives, but let’s take a look anyway.
Find Relatives of Relatives
Relative of relatives is a big confusing. Think if it as an alternate to a chromosome browser. Here’s what their information page says about this feature.
This is a bit confusing. The “via” relative is the person on your match report.
The first person listed, or the “endpoint” relative is the person related to them.
The intersection is the set of intersecting matching segments between you, your match and their match that (apparently) also matches you, or they would not be on this report.
Here’s a Relatives of Relatives match with my strongest match, Karen.
The problem is that the person shown as Karen’s match, Shelley, is not shown as my match. The common matching segments between the three of us, shown above and below, are very small. Even though Shelley is a match to Karen, Shelley apparently only matches me on smaller segments, not large enough to pass the DNA.Land threshold for a match.
The problem is that all of the above matching and triangulating segments above are imputed segments and don’t show up as legitimate matches at GedMatch between me and Karen, so they can’t be a valid three way match between me, Karen and Shelley.
In other words, these aren’t valid matches at all, even before the discussion about whether they are identical by descent, chance or population. Therefore, these have to be matches on imputed regions, not through actual testing.
The certainty field is also confusing. I initially though that the “high” certainty pertained to the three way match certainty, but it doesn’t. Certainty means the certainty of the match between your match (the via relative) and the endpoint (their match) and has nothing to do with the certainty of the segments matching the three of you being relevant.
If you’d like to utilize this information, please read the information pages VERY CAREFULLY and be sure you understand what the information, is, and isn’t, telling you.
Ancestry Report (Ethnicity)
The Ancestry report is DNA.Land’s ethnicity report.
Looking at the map, it’s difficult to compare the DNA.Land results to other vendors, because they have Scandinavia divided into half, with the westernmost part of Scandinavia included in their Northwest Europe orange grouping, the light green designated as Finnish with the olive green as North Slavic. Other vendors include Norway and all of Sweden as part of Scandinavia.
One nice thing is that the population reference locations are shown on the map below, even for non-matching reference groups.
In my case, DNA.Land missed my Native American entirely.
The chart below represents my known and proven genealogy as compared to the DNA.land ethnicity results.
You can see how DNA.Land stacks up against the rest of the vendors, below.
Trait Prediction Report
The trait report requires an additional consent form. In essence, DNA.Land wants to make sure you really want to see your traits, that you understand what you are going to see and that you understand how traits are calculated and displayed.
DNA.land offers several traits you can select from.
But there’s a hitch.
Before you can see your traits, you get to answer a survey. In all fairness, DNA.Land’s purpose is medical research, and the reports participants receive are free.
My eye color is accurate, BUT, I also just told them that my eye color is dark brown during the questions. Not terribly confidence inspiring – but my confidence increased after reviewing all of the information they provided about the science behind my actual trait prediction.
The eye color map, above, is something unique I haven’t seen elsewhere. I find this kind of information quite interesting.
Even though I did provide DNA.Land with the “brown eyes” answer, this chart makes me feel much better, because they shared the science behind my result with me. Therefore, I now feel much better, because, based on the science, it’s apparent that they didn’t just parrot my result back to me.
There is also a “what if my result is wrong” link. After all, science is all about continuing to learn and to think we know everything there is to know about genetics is foolhearty.
Yea, I like this a LOT!
If you’d like to read more about how genetic research takes place, read the interesting article titled Is there a Firefox Gene? Yes, that’s the Firefox browser, and yes, this is a real study. Take a look. It’s really quite interesting and written in plain English.
DNA.Land has a different purpose than other DNA matching and ethnicity sites. As a nonprofit, DNA.Land offers their matching and ethnicity services as an enticement to genetic genealogists who have paid to test elsewhere to upload their results to DNA.land and in doing so, to participate in medical research.
DNA.Land is absolutely up front about their mission. The features are “complimentary,” so to speak, meant to be enticements to consumers to participate and contribute their DNA results.
Given that, it’s difficult to be terribly upset with DNA.Land’s features and services.
DNA.Land has a nice user interface and some nice display features. Their eye color mapping isn’t found elsewhere, and other similar features would make great teaching tools. Their help pages are informative and educational.
Imputation concerns me. Imputation for medical research doesn’t directly affect me today, although it may someday, given that imputed data is used for research.
Imputed data does affect your results at Promethease if you choose to utilize your imputed results as input for any application that reports your academic and/or medical mutations. You can read about that in the article, Imputation Analysis Using Promethease.
Imputation affects matching for genetic genealogy negatively. While I didn’t discuss matching quality in this article, I did in the article Imputation Matching Comparison, which I would encourage you to read if you are attempting to utilize the DNA.Land matching function seriously for genealogy. I would encourage genetic genealogists to simply match at the vendor where they tested, or at Family Tree DNA which accepts uploads (Ancestry V1, V2 and 23andMe V3, V4) from other vendors, or at GedMatch for serious match analysis.
My suggestion to DNA.Land for matching would be to eliminate the smaller segments entirely, especially if they are a result of imputation and not actual matching DNA segments. In my limited experiment, DNA.Land seemed to do relatively well on matching and utilizing larger segments.
Ethnicity results at DNA.Land, called Ancestry Results, are divided oddly, with Northwestern Europe including all of the British Isles, western Scandinavia along with the northwest quadrant of continental Europe. This division makes it extremely difficult to compare to other vendors’ results.
DNA.Land seems to report an unrealistic amount of Southern European, but again, it’s somewhat difficult to tell where the dividing line occurs. It would be easier if their ethnicity map were overlayed on a current map of Europe showing country boundaries. DNA.Land missed my Native entirely.
It would be interesting to know how much of the ethnicity results are calculated on actual DNA and how much through imputation. Ethnicity results tend to be dicey enough in the industry as a whole without adding the uncertainty of imputation on top. Having said that, given how popular ethnicity testing has become, offering another ethnicity opinion is probably a large draw for attracting people to upload and participate in research at DNA.Land.
Some of the trait information is quite interesting and new traits will probably be equally so, although I wonder how much of that information is imputed as well. In other words, I don’t know if the results are actually “mine” through testing or could be in error. The good news is that DNA.Land provides the genetic locations where the trait analysis is compiled, allowing you to utilize a service like Promethease which provides the ability in some cases to confirm imputed data if you upload your actual tested files from testing vendors.
For all results, I would very much like to see a toggle where you can toggle between actual match results and match results derived from imputation.
I would also like to see some research about the accuracy of imputation as compared to non-imputed results. Clearly this would be available through research efforts like my own at Promethease, exome and full genome sequencing.
In a nutshell, DNA.Land provides an interesting free service so long as you don’t want to take the results terribly seriously for genealogy research. If any of the results are important or you want to depend upon them for accuracy, verify elsewhere with actual tested data.
It’s important to remember at DNA.Land that their real goal isn’t to provide a product or to compete with the testing vendors. Their features are a “thank you” or enticement for consumers to contribute their autosomal data for medical research, some of which may be “for profit.” Companies aren’t going to participate in research initiatives that don’t hold the potential for profit.
I really didn’t need an enticement, but I’m grateful nonetheless.
Additionally, DNA.Land has provided an important first foray into imputation and allowed us to compare imputed data with tested data. I know that wasn’t their goal, but I’m glad to have the opportunity to learn and work with real life examples. My own. I would encourage you to do the same.
Be Part of the Cure
The last thing I have to say is that I truly hope and pray that the Breast Cancer Deadline shown as 2020 is a real and achievable goal.
I welcome the opportunity for anything I can to do help eliminate that horrific scourge that has affected so many women. Breast cancer has taken the lives of my family members and friends, as I’m sure it has yours, and I would like nothing better than to participate in some small way in wiping it off the face of the earth. DNA.Land is one way you can help, and it costs you absolutely nothing.
I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.
Thank you so much.
DNA Purchases and Free Transfers
- Family Tree DNA
- MyHeritage DNA only
- MyHeritage DNA plus Health
- MyHeritage FREE DNA file upload
- 23andMe Ancestry
- 23andMe Ancestry Plus Health
- Legacy Tree Genealogists for genealogy research