Thursday, May 5, 2016

Don't Miss "Your Genetic Genealogist" on 20/20 Friday night!

Tomorrow, Friday May 6th on ABC, 20/20 will cover a story that I have been working on for the last few months. 

Unbelievably, three babies were found abandoned within a five mile radius of each other over a five year period of time and DNA testing at AncestryDNA revealed that they all share the same mother. (More details are here.) See them reunite below.

Then, through testing the foundlings at 23andMe, we made another major discovery. Don't miss the entire story on 20/20 Friday night on ABC (check your local listings).

Thursday, April 21, 2016

DNA Day Sales at AncestryDNA and Family Tree DNA

In honor of DNA Day, both AncestryDNA and Family Tree DNA are offering discounts on their DNA kits. The sales have already started and will go until April 26. 

Family Tree DNA's autosomal DNA Family Finder test is only $79 ($20 off) and the Y-67 test is only $199 ($69 off). If you have been holding off on Y-DNA testing, now is a great time to do it. Also, if you have older family members that have not yet been tested at FTDNA, you may want to take the opportunity to purchase Family Finder in order to get their DNA into storage for future testing. FTDNA is the only company that guarantees access to our stored samples for future testing (although they cannot guarantee it will be viable). Upgrades on existing tests will go on sale in June, so if you already have a Y-DNA or mtDNA test and want to upgrade to a higher resolution, you will have an opportunity to do so then.  For those of you considering a Y-DNA test, you may want to start with Y-37 (on sale for $129) and see what you get as far as matches. Then, if your results are back in time and you need to narrow it down further, you could upgrade to Y-67 during the later sale. Click here to order.

AncestryDNA's kit is now $79 ($20 off) plus free shipping (use code FREESHIPDNA). With the free shipping, this is an especially good deal! Ancestry's database is huge now (well over 1.5 million!) and growing fast, so do not miss out on all you could discover by testing there. If you are ordering multiple kits, you may want to do so separately to take full advantage of the free shipping (works for only one kit per order). Click here to order.

AncestryDNA is also on sale for Canadians - $109 CAD plus $20 shipping ($40 off). Click here to order. 

**Update - 23andMe just sent me an email for $50 off up to three tests ($149 each) for Mother's Day, good through May 8th. This is apparently a targeted sale, so check your email to see if you received one.

Enjoy and best of luck on your research!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Don't Miss the Incredible Story DNA Uncovered for LL Cool J on "Finding Your Roots" Tonight

Tonight on "Finding Your Roots" the power of genetic genealogy will be showcased through LL Cool J's discovery that his mother was adopted and the search for her biological family.  When I first started working with his DNA over a year ago, it was clear that there was a story to be told and, finally, we are telling it. I will be appearing on the show to discuss some of the DNA analysis and our findings. Check your local PBS listings and don't miss it!

Dr. Gates and I discussing the DNA on tonight's episode
LL Cool J, me and Ondrea Smith (his mother)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Finding Your Roots, Season Three Premieres Tonight on PBS

Don't miss out, Season Three of "Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr." premieres tonight on PBS (check your local listings) and will run every Tuesday night for ten weeks. The first episode features actor Ty Burrell, artist Kara Walker and author/political analyst Donna Brazile. I have written an article on some of the DNA analysis used for the show that should be posted in the next couple of days on the PBS site.

Read this great review of the series by Cal Thomas from the Washington Times. He writes, "Next to 'Downton Abbey,' which is again pulling large audiences for its sixth and final season, Mr. Gates' program (premiering Jan. 5th) is the best and most compelling television you will ever see."

I also have a new public Facebook page here. Please follow me there for more updates if you are on Facebook. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

AncestryDNA's $69 Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sale Starts Tonight at 9pm Pacific!

AncestryDNA's Black Friday Sale = Only $69!

This is 30% off the regular price of $99 and is the best price of the year. It will run tonight at 9pm Pacific thorough the 30th at 9pm Pacific. (I have been advised that the free shipping code FREESHIPDNA will not work with this sale.)  Click on the link or image below to access the sale after 9 pm Pacific tonight -- 30% off AncestryDNA Nov 27-30. 

I hope this brings in many more testers to help us all with our research!


Wednesday, November 18, 2015 Files a Trademark Case Against DNA Diagnostics Center for the Marketing of "AncestryByDNA"

I became aware today of a trademark case recently filed by vs. DNA Diagnostics Center.

Although DDC's "AncestryByDNA" test has been around in one form or another for many years prior to the launch of "AncestryDNA" by in 2012, I have seen significant market confusion due to the way AncestrybyDNA has been marketed through sites such as LivingSocial and GroupOn since that time. I wrote about this back in 2012 here.  In fact, I am the "third party" mentioned in the complaint: "On our about July 29, 2012, Ancestry was contacted by a third party who was concerned about consumer confusion resulting from an online 'LivingSocial' advertisement for 'Ancestry DNA.' Confusingly, the LivingSocial ad was entitled 'AncestryDNA' and advertised DDC's services at the website" Since this time the confusion has continued and, as a result, we have seen many people who intended to purchase the AncestryDNA product extremely disappointed upon receiving their AncestrybyDNA results. It is such a shame to see people spending their hard-earned money and receiving a product that is virtually useless for genealogical purposes. In some cases, this was the only opportunity an individual had to test a family member, which as genetic genealogist know is of great importance to our research.  It is also an unfortunate and unnecessary deterrent for those who might otherwise have become more involved in our community since this test may discourage them from any further participation in genealogy/ancestry DNA testing. vs DDC Filing

In the very large genetic genealogy and unknown parentage-focused groups that I administer, we are seeing this brand confusion increasingly often -- almost on a daily basis lately -- and so I am very glad to see this addressed. All of my team spends a significant amount of time trying to clarify the difference between the two tests and save people from the impending disappointment of purchasing a product they believed was something else entirely.

Some people may argue that this is Ancestry using their vast resources to bury a smaller competitor, but DDC is a large, successful paternity testing company and the product in question is only a very small part of their business. I am quite confident that they make plenty of money without the extra income generated by people purchasing a test in error. I am not an intellectual property legal expert (unlike my friend and colleague Blaine Bettinger), so I will refrain from technical analysis of this case. However I will say that after reading the complaint thoroughly and from my own experience observing the marketplace, I believe that is in the right and has a very strong and persuasive case. They addressed all of the misgivings I had about their position in the complaint. While it is true that DDC was using "AncestrybyDNA" before Ancestry started using "AncestryDNA," the market confusion due to their promotional methods is significant and very damaging. (All you have to do is read the comment section of my original blog post on the subject to see the evidence.) I hope this suit will put a stop to that.

One other very interesting thing to me is that states in the filing that ConnectMyDNA, (the other useless "ancestry" DNA test that Judy Russell wrote about here) has also been marketed by DDC, "Previously, DDC apparently advertised its services through LivingSocial under the trademark CONNECTMYDNA and the website" I checked the site registration and sure enough, the site is registered by DDC.

Thank you to for taking action to clear up this confusion. It is my sincerest wish that consumers will no longer be fooled into spending money on these products that do not fulfill the purpose for which they were purchased.

Friday, October 9, 2015

DNA.Land Launches

DNA.Land was launched today by scientists from the New York Genome Center and Columbia University. I was asked to advise on this project several months ago and have been excitedly anticipating its launch. 

Posted by Dr. Yaniv Erlich on Facebook today:

After long months of work, DNA.Land ( is finally on air.

We developed a platform to massively crowd source genetic, genealogy, and health information from millions of people. Our goal is to help our participants know more about their genome and help science. By uploading their genome data to our website, participants will be able to find genetic relatives, learn about their ancestry, and get a more complete version of their genome data. During this process, they will also be able to contribute to cutting-edge genetic research...

To quantify their level of contribution to science, the website will also present to each participant a badge with a score that corresponds to the amount of data he or she contributed and the percentile of data contribution...

If you were tested with 23andMe, Family Tree DNA, or Ancestry - take a look at

The website is not-for-profit and was developed by scientists from Columbia University and the NY Genome Center.

We would love to hear your feedback.

Anyone who has tested at 23andMe, Family Tree DNA or AncestryDNA may participate by uploading the raw data to the site. There are very good instructions on DNA.Land for completing the raw data upload process. Please make sure to use a valid email address or you will not be able to access your results. Due to consent and privacy issues, DNA.Land currently does not support multiple uploads to a single account, so you if you have consent from family members to perform the upload to DNA.Land, it will require a different email address/account to do so. 

The raw data upload and the imputation step will take about two hours and the ancestry reports will be ready in about 24 hours. (Imputation is the act of inferring the base -- ATCG -- at a location that has not been tested. More info here and here.)

I have received my reports and am sharing screen shots from my account below. Right now there are only two, but there will be more features added in the future. 

Relative Matching:

I really like that DNA.Land classifies the shared segments as either "ancient" (green) or "recent" (orange), which we have not seen previously on other sites. Not surprisingly, shorter segments are more likely to be designated as "ancient," but you cannot always tell just by looking at the chromosome graph. This is because in some regions, the rate of recombination is slower than others, resulting in a lower centiMorgan value versus nucleotide count (megabase pairs). You can see this in my screenshots above where DNA.Land has classified the segment on Chromosome 9 in my matches 1, 4 and 5 as "ancient" even though it appears to be relatively large in comparison to some of the other "recent" segments. This is because it is crossing the centromere and the recombination rate is expected to be slower there. At this point, you cannot see the start and stop points of the shared segments on the site, but I am advised you can do so by viewing the HTML source. (Hopefully, this will be surfaced later.)

Since I was one of the first ones to upload to the database, most of my matches are from OpenSNP. For these, no email address is provided (column one), but for most of your matches, there should be an email address for contact. I have some concerns with the closeness of the relationship estimates shown in column two because I would not expect to see so many close relatives in such a small database, but I am confident the team will reassess this during this beta phase. I think the "Relationship Likelihood" graph in column five is a good addition to demonstrate the uncertainty of the relationship predictions. 

Ancestral Origins Report:

As you can see these reports are pretty basic right now, but they will continue to develop and improve. Knowing how much the genetic genealogy community likes to see the predictions of the small percentage ancestral origins, I have recommended that this be expanded. 

Please remember that this is an early beta version and DNA.Land will be refined as they work through issues and add additional features. Feedback and questions should be sent to

This is a wonderful way to contribute to genetic research, so please check it out! 

FAQ are here.
Facebook page where you can ask questions here.
More information from the Nature news article here