Sunday, 9 December 2018

Living DNA's Family Networks feature is finally here (for me anyway)

Two weeks ago I posted my DNA Test Christmas Wish List, and already wish number 9 has been granted - my 3 DNA kits have finally been included in the Family Networks feature on Living DNA.  But I was somewhat underwhelmed at my first login.

I understand that the Family Networks feature is still in beta test, but there are currently only three aspects of Family Networks that are functional -

  • Who do I share DNA with
  • How much DNA do I share with each match
  • I can contact other users who share DNA with me
But I will take any feature that identifies more DNA matches for me and is free!

The first thing that I noticed is that as I had uploaded my DNA test result from another testing company, rather than testing with Living DNA, I am not shown my ethnicity results.  This is not a big deal to me.

When I checked the quantity of matches for each kit, I had none, and my wife and mother in law (my other two kits) matched only each other.  A disappointing beginning, but it can only get better going forward.

With LivingDNA entering the competition, it is a good time to compare the features available from the 5 top DNA testing websites, and the GEDmatch site which facilitates matching between test results from various sources.  The chart below, lists the DNA test result features that I find most useful, in diminishing order of usefulness, with the testing companies in decreasing order of database size, plus a caution when using GEDmatch - 



Most notably, Ancestry, which has the largest database of autosomal test results, has a feature set that more closely resembles that of Living DNA, which is a new entrant to the market.  23andMe, with half the database size of Ancestry has a much broader range of useful features.  FamilyTreeDNA remains my personal favourite, but I anticipate that MyHeritage will outclass them within 12 months, and over time will become the testing company of choice.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

My DNA Testing Christmas Wish List

It is that time of year when children write letters to Santa Claus, identifying the gifts that they would like for Christmas.  If the DNA testing companies were Santa Claus, my top ten gift requests this Christmas would be as follows -

10.  I would like to see MyHeritage buy FamilyTreeDNA.  In my opinion, FamilyTreeDNA has the best analysis tools of any of the big 5 DNA testing companies, yet despite low prices and the added benefit of offering Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA testing, they have one of the smallest autosomal DNA databases.  This must create a value opportunity for one of the other players in the industry.  MyHeritage already works closely with FamilyTreeDNA and is the company that I believe will become the industry leader, so it would be a natural fit.

9. I would like to see LivingDNA finally make their Family Networks feature available.  More than a year ago LivingDNA enticed people who had tested at other companies to upload their test results, with the promise of being able to use Family Networks, LivingDNA's DNA matching feature, when it became available in the summer of 2018.  The company provides little to no information on progress of the current beta test of Family Networks and keeps postponing the general release date.  Either bring the feature to market or exit the family history DNA test Business. 

8.  I would like all the DNA testing companies to show when my DNA matches last logged in.  When you have a DNA match it is nice to know if they did a DNA test, got the result, viewed their ethnicity results, and then never logged into the site again, or if they are a keen genealogist and login frequently.  Currently, Ancestry is the only company that shows when your DNA matches last logged in.

7.  I would like Ancestry to allow a search for a particular DNA match by username.  I have over 20,000 DNA matches on Ancestry, and people will ask if a particular person is in my match list.  Without a search capability or the ability to export your entire match list (to search in another program), it is impossible to know if a particular person is in your DNA match list.

6.  I would like Ancestry to provide triangulation of DNA matches.  Ancestry is the only major DNA testing company to not offer a triangulation feature.  They show you "shared matches" (those who share DNA with you and with a particular match), but they don't tell you if all three of you share any DNA in common.  Without this triangulation, a shared match may be due to two individuals each sharing DNA with a third person, but not being related to each other.

5.  I would like to know if my DNA matches have read my message to them.  None of the major DNA testing companies tells you whether or not a contact has read your message, so you don't know if the person is ignoring you or has not received the message.

4.  I would like MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA to provide at least one tag per match.  Ancestry and 23andMe both give you the option to tag DNA matches (starred matches on Ancestry / favourites on 23andMe), but MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA do not offer this feature.  I use the tag to identify which DNA matches I have confirmed the relationship with.  If two tags were provided, I would use the second tag to identify DNA matches with whom I had corresponded, but not confirmed the relationship with.  More tags would offer even more flexibility, but I don't want to seem greedy.

3.  I would like 23andMe to allow me to filter out X-chromosome matches.  I have a group of DNA matches near the top of my 23andMe match list, with whom I only share X-chromosome DNA, or with whom most of the shared DNA is on the X-chromosome.  X-chromosome DNA is not passed down in the same manner as the other 22 autosomal DNA chromosomes, resulting in 23andMe identifying as close matches, people who are actually much more distant cousins.

2.  I would like Ancestry to show me my matches' family tree without a paid subscription.  In order to view the family tree of my DNA matches on Ancestry, I require a paid subscription to Ancestry.  I can identify the names of my DNA matches' family trees, I can filter my matches by ancestral surname, but I cannot view the matches' tree.  My workaround, after identifying shared ancestral surnames and the name of the tree, is to go to my local library, and find the tree on Ancestry Library Edition, free of charge.

1.  I would really like Ancestry to provide shared segment data.  Ancestry knows exactly which segments of which chromosomes we have in common with each of our DNA matches, but they choose to not make that information available.  FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage and 23andMe all provide the segment detail, but Ancestry claims that they are protecting our privacy but not providing this information.  I have been really good this year, and if I could only have one gift, it would be that Ancestry capitulate on this issue.  The workaround is to request your DNA matches to upload their Ancestry DNA result to FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage or GEDmatch.com, so that you can see which segments are shared.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Revised Rationale for Choosing an Autosomal DNA Test

In a blog post in January of this year, I suggested that deciding which company to use for an autosomal DNA test should involve evaluating various criteria.  Ten months later, my views on this topic have changed drastically.

To continue with the fishing analogy that I posted in June, if your goal was to catch fish you would not choose where to fish based on how pretty the location, whether of not there is a fish-cleaning station, the ease of moving around the lake, catch and release policy, or the type of fish.  You would choose the location that had the most fish.

Similarly, in autosomal DNA testing, the goal is to "catch" relatives.  So, unless your ancestors are from a geographic area that had very little migration to North America, the first choice for an autosomal DNA test has to be Ancestry.com (or its regional variations), simply due to the size of its autosomal DNA database.

I am not in any way suggesting that Ancestry is the best DNA testing website.  It certainly does not have the best features for analysis of your DNA matches, but it has 10 million test results in its DNA database, which is about twice as many as 23andMe, its closest competitor, and far more than MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA and Living DNA.  So Ancestry has to be the first choice for an autosomal DNA test.

Once you have tested at Ancestry, you can then copy that test result to other websites, providing more exposure.  My suggested testing sequence is as follows -


Additional comments -
  1. Uploading of your Ancestry test result to MyHeritageDNA is currently free, but the company has announced that for samples uploaded after December 1st 2018, they will be charging a fee to utilize some features of the site.
  2. LivingDNA has been accepting DNA test result uploads for more than a year, but they have not yet provided a DNA matching service to people who have utilized this opportunity.  This was originally to be available in the summer of 2018 and is currently expected to be available by the end of 2018.
  3. GEDmatch is a wonderful site as it allows comparison of autosomal DNA test results between tests taken on different sites.  This is particularly useful for people who have tested at Ancestry, as Ancestry does not identify which segments of DNA you share with your DNA matches.  The downside is that anyone (law enforcement included) can upload a DNA sample to the site, and utilize the matching capabilities of the site for purposes other than genealogy - The Golden State killer in the USA was recently identified through DNA matches to a sample of the killer's DNA uploaded to the site.  So be aware!!!




Thursday, 4 October 2018

Is Living DNA a Viable Company?

I was initially excited  by Living DNA's entry into the autosomal DNA testing market - As I have UK / Irish ancestry, I was hoping to see more DNA matches, from a UK company.

When Living DNA announced the opportunity to upload autosomal DNA test results from other testing companies, I immediately uploaded our results, but that was 11 months ago, and still I wait.

There was supposedly a beta test of their Family Networks feature (DNA matching) earlier this year, but there has been no communication from Living DNA on whether that was successful, a dismal failure, or if it has been extended.

The company's blog had 4 posts in June, 4 posts in July, 2 in August, and none in September.  It is like Living DNA has ceased to operate, although their website is still active.

Although I don't have a Facebook account, I have checked the Living DNA Facebook page, but it too contains no feedback on the Family Networks feature.

I appreciate that new features take time to develop, and companies do not have endless resources, but when a company stops communicating to their customers, it is usually a sign of trouble.

I hope that I am wrong.


Friday, 31 August 2018

Still waiting for Living DNA Family Networks

Living DNA has not been very forthcoming about when their Family Networks feature will be available for general viewing, but it did move a little closer this week - I was able to opt in to the Family Networks feature.

Family Networks promises to be a very useful,and unique, feature - by providing only your DNA sample, sex and birth date (which does not have to be exact), Living DNA plans to show your DNA matches in an ancestral tree.  The date of birth is required to help separate first cousins from aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews.  The key seems to be having as many close relatives as possible, on both sides of your ancestry, provide DNA samples.  Details of Family Networks in action, can be found by clicking here.

Living DNA offers autosomal DNA testing, but they also (at least until 31 October 2018) accept raw DNA samples from people who have tested at Ancestry, 23andMe, MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA.  If a lot of people take advantage of this upload opportunity, Living DNA could quickly become a "go to" site for determining how you relate to other DNA testers.  Perhaps the hardest thing to figure out is how to upload your raw DNA sample to Living DNA, so I have provided a link to get to the right page quickly.


Once you have created an account and uploaded your DNA sample, you need to opt-in to Family Networks.  To do this, click on "View Test" from the "My Tests" option on the home page.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Coming Soon - Living DNA User Matching

Back in November 2017 I uploaded our DNA test results to Living DNA.  The upload was free and came with a promise that by summer 2018, Living DNA would offer matching to other users on their site.

This was exciting, because Living DNA is based in the United Kingdom, and so so will hopefully have more users with UK ancestry.

I checked my Living DNA account yesterday and the message now reads -

Welcome to Living DNA.
Thank you for uploading your DNA file; we’re excited to process your results and provide insights into your DNA.
By uploading your DNA file to Living DNA, you will have the option to participate in our One Family, One World project, as well as Family Networks and your unique ethnicity results.
To say thank you for your support, each uploader from now until October 31st, 2018 will soon be able to choose to see how they match and connect to other Living DNA participants. This feature is rolling out to small groups of users at a time, starting August 8th, 2018.
We hope you enjoy finding, connecting with people all over the world.
David Nicholson & Hannah Morden

Co Founders - Living DNA
-----------------------------------------------------------
I hope that we will be in one of the first groups to participate in this new service, but regardless, I will report back once I have tried it.

The other date to note in this announcement is that the opportunity for free upload of your DNA test result from another company could expire on 31 October 2018.  So if you have tested at another DNA testing company and have UK ancestry, time is running out to take advantage of this offer.  To participate in this offer -

  • Download your raw DNA data from your account on your DNA testing company's website, and save it to your computer.
  • Join the One Family, One World project on Living DNA, and follow the instructions to upload your raw DNA data.
Good luck!

Sunday, 8 July 2018

A Myriad of New Cousins


It has been a busy few months trying to keep up with all of our new DNA matches at the various DNA testing companies.  My 20 confirmed matches have jumped to 35 since the beginning of the year, and Marlene’s 26 matches have jumped to 51 in the same period.  Admittedly some of these are the same people testing with more than one company, but still, a remarkable increase in new cousins found.

Some of the new matches have been quite straight forward, whereby we compared ancestral trees and the relationship was obvious, but for others the relationships were more complex –
  •          Another previously unknown half-sibling for Marlene’s 3 LeBlanc 2nd cousins once removed, who were all adopted at birth.
  •         Two previously unknown illegitimate 2nd cousins on different lines.
  •          A new first cousin once removed on Marlene’s LeBlanc / Wood lines, who is unaware of any LeBlancs or Woods in her ancestry.
  •          A new third cousin once removed on my Brady line, who appears to have an unknown Brady great great grandfather – his great grandmother was illegitimate and raised by her mother, so this is the most likely source of his Brady DNA, and the geography fits.

None of these new cousins would have been found through researching in paper records, and probably would not have been revealed in conversations with older relatives.  So kudos to DNA testing!

DNA testing has now also confirmed the paper research back to the parents of 13 of our 16 great grandparents – i.e. we share significant amounts of DNA with identified descendants of siblings of 13 of our great grandparents, which proves that we have a common ancestor, but does not prove who that ancestor is.

Overall we have seen more than a 60% increase in DNA matches since the beginning of 2018, so if this trend continues we will more than double the number of matches by the end of the year.  Unfortunately we are still only able to confirm on paper the relationship with just over 0.1% of our DNA matches, but with each new match that we confirm, that percentage creeps slower higher.

I am looking forward to August, when Living DNAs matching service is scheduled to be unveiled.  Hopefully their database will contain more people from the United Kingdom and Ireland, providing more opportunity to find new cousins.