Saturday, May 19, 2012

DNA Updates: Three Companies Want Your Business

Message received when requesting autosomal testing kit from Ancestry.

Three companies are competing for your genetic genealogy business.  If you have not tested your DNA yet, you are approaching a great time.

Ancestry has offered DNA testing of Y-DNA and mt (mitochondrial) DNA for years.  They recently acquired GeneTree and have announced that they will offer autosomal DNA testing.  This will bring them into direct competition with 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA.  I requested additional information and received the above message that there is an unspecified waiting period for ordering the autosomal kit.  I do not know how much Ancestry's autosomal testing will cost.


Current pricing at FamilyTreeDNA for autosomal testing.
FamilyTreeDNA offers the three main tests:  autosomal (they call it "Family Finder Testing"), Y-DNA, and mitochondrial DNA.  Autosomal testing is currently $289.  You can order the whole testing package for $837.  The advantage of testing Y-DNA at FamilyTreeDNA is that they offer surnames studies.  You can discover if your Y-DNA matches someone else.  You can also do this at Ancestry, but they do not offer the comprehensive surnames studies.  Another advantage at FamilyTreeDNA is that your matches are not anonymous, unlike 23andMe.

Current pricing at 23andMe
23andMe has also made some changes.  Its current price is $299 for autosomal testing.  They have eliminated their criticized subscription plan, which was $5 or $9 per month.  You will receive your Y-DNA haplogroup (if male) and your mtDNA haplogroup, but you will not be able to identify who else in their database is a precise match along those specific lines.  You can upload your results to other free sites, such as GEDmatch and Ysearch, to possibly locate exact matches.  A disadvantage at 23andMe is that most of your matches are anonymous and will not answer your request to compare family trees.  Whereas Ancestry and FamilyTreeDNA are solely for genetic genealogy, 23andMe offers health reports based on DNA.  This dual offering has genealogists chasing genetic matches who are only in the database to discover which diseases they may develop.  23andMe launched a new feature about two weeks ago, allowing you to compare all of your genetic matches (who have consented to "share") to one another.  You may possibly be able to group your matches into working branches of your genetic tree.

I have used all three sites.  The Y-DNA and mtDNA testing at Ancestry led me nowhere, and I am hoping that they offer some kind of a reduced upgrade to their autosomal testing.  I have promising leads at FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe, but to date I cannot confirm any genetic matches with a paper trail.  I have so far uncovered two known distant cousins of the same branch in the 23andMe database and we do not share any identical DNA.  The new comparison feature allows me to compare these two distant cousins to my other matches to perhaps place them in the same branch as the known distant cousins.

I have worked on my family tree for years.  I traced up and back down.  I can identify several lines to the 1500s and have names of many living cousins as far as the tenth degree.  It is very disappointing to be presented with hundreds of genetic matches and have no idea how they are related.