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, 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 (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!!!