Tuesday, September 18, 2012

LivingSocial's AncestrybyDNA Offer is NOT the AncestryDNA Test!

It has come to my attention that many people interested in genetic genealogy may be purchasing the AncestrybyDNA test thinking it is the AncestryDNA test offered through Ancestry.com. This week LivingSocial has been promoting a $97 "deal" for AncestrybyDNA that reads "AncestryDNA" in the headline (which is trademarked, by the way).

LivingSocial offer on 9/14/12 (price is actually $97 - I have $40 credit in my account)

I was worried when I first saw it that some people may mistake this for the AncestryDNA test due to the headline. Exactly as I feared, I starting seeing messages on mailing lists from people that were under the impression that this was a way of purchasing one of the "invitation only" AncestryDNA tests. (The AncestryDNA test is now out of Beta and you can order here.) I mentioned this to Ken Chahine, General Manager at AncestryDNA, because I was afraid that some people might be tricked into buying this test due to of the misleading way it was presented and then stay away from genetic genealogy after a bad experience.

Today, I noticed that the offer looks different.

LivingSocial offer on 9/18/12

I'm not sure when they changed it, but I am bothered by the fact that upwards of 443 AncestrybyDNA tests have been purchased in the interim. When they offered the same deal in July of this year, you can see that there were significantly less takers (only 81).

LivingSocial offer on 7/28/12

Is this increase due to the heightened visibility and popularity of the AncestryDNA test during this time? It wouldn't surprise me a bit if that is the case.

AncestrybyDNA is a test that has been around for a long time. It is an autosomal DNA test, but not by any means the same as the new autosomal AncestryDNA test. It is a biogeographical ancestry analysis which is based on only 176 markers, while in stark contrast, the AncestryDNA test is based on 700,000 markers. Further, the AncestrybyDNA test does not have any relative finder capabilities, which, in my opinion, is currently the strongest aspect of the AncestryDNA test.

The FAQs on the AncestrybyDNA website states, "The AncestrybyDNA™ test provides your ancestral proportions based on years of collaborative research of populations representing 4 ancestral groups. This research identified 176 informative markers in our DNA, called Ancestry Informative Markers (AIMs)." The FAQs on the AncestryDNA site explain, "The AncestryDNA test uses microarray-based autosomal DNA testing, which surveys a person’s entire genome at over 700,000 locations, all with a simple saliva sample. Additionally, the new online interface integrates state-of-the art tools for you to utilize your DNA results for family history research."

The description on the LivingSocial ad is as follows:
Everyone has a story, even if we don't know exactly how it begins. Uncover the early chapters of your past with today's deal from AncestrybyDNA.com: Pay $97 (regularly $195) for an AncestrybyDNA test, with results available online. Swab the inside of your cheek and send it in for analysis -- your DNA sample will be tested for your complete ancestral makeup based on your chromosomes, giving you results of your full ancestry, instead of just simple information based on your direct maternal and paternal lines. Your ancestral origins will be quantified in percentages across four population groups: Indigenous American, European, East Asian, and African. With a personalized ancestry test certificate and a detailed manual to explain and interpret your results available online, you will have a clearer picture of where you come from -- and possibly be able to close the book on some family mysteries. 

I think this description is also a bit misleading. The AncestrybyDNA test is based on old technology by today's standards and is not useful for genealogical purposes. While possibly of entertainment value, to say that it will test "your complete ancestral makeup" and give you results on "your full ancestry" is really stretching it.

I have nothing against AncestrybyDNA and I'm a fan and customer of LivingSocial, but if you bought this offer thinking you were getting an AncestryDNA test from Ancestry.com, I would write to LivingSocial and ask for a refund. Fair is fair.


**Update - 1/21/13 - This offer is back again. After receiving a lot of very negative feedback about this test and the disappointment caused by it, I would like to suggest that if you are considering purchasing it, please do your research and review these four other geographic origin DNA tests that I recommend instead. (Personally, I like 23andMe and at $99 it is only $2 more than the AncestrybyDNA Living Social offer. You will get MUCH more detailed, useful results from that test.)

**Update- as of 9/26/12, almost 4000 tests have been sold through this promotion.
LivingSocial offer on 9/26/2012

51 comments:

  1. You're spot on! Good job of letting people know about this, as it really is misleading people.

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    1. Thank you, After Darkness Light. It sounds like you have experience dealing with it too.

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  2. Has anybody taken that outdated test?

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  3. It's funny how they have that model holding that sample certificate and acting like that's really her results!

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  4. Thank you for this post. I've been waiting for the AncestryDNA test for years and thought this was too good to be true. Guess I'll keep waiting.

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    1. Hi Papillon - Make sure you are on the AncestryDNA list to receive an invitation for their test: http://ancstry.me/JWrdPe

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  5. I was misled! I thought it was the same thing from Ancestry! I did the test sample last night and mailed it in this morning--so now I'm stuck! I really thought it was the same thing from ancestry.com. I'm really disappointed! It was very misleading. I knew that Ancestry just recently changed the name of their DNA test, so since it said AncestrybyDNA I was thinking that was it. Boy howdy.

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    1. Michael - I am so sorry to hear this! Hopefully, you will find the results interesting anyway. Please come back and report on your experience for the benefit of everyone else. If you are unhappy with them after receiving your results, I would still contact LivingSocial and complain about the misleading offer.
      CeCe

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  6. i wish i saw this blog a couple months ago! i just got my results and realized it was a scam that doesnt provide any specific info!

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    1. I am very sorry to hear that, TIW Carmella! In the future, I hope you will try one of the other tests that genealogists typically use - Family Tree DNA, 23andMe or AncestryDNA.
      Thank you for letting my readers know about your experience.

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  7. I received my results, today. Complete Junk. My grandmother is a Full Blood Native American, Choctaw and Cherokee. My results listed me as 100% European. Aside from my Paternal Grandmother, I have multiple instances of Native American heritage in my direct-line family tree. I emailed to question them, and got a canned-response. Complete waste of time.

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    1. Sorry to hear that, John. There are other more reputable companies providing these analyses. If you are up for it, try 23andMe. With that much Native American ancestry, they are bound to find it with their new Ancestry Composition. See this post: http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/12/23andmes-new-ancestry-painting-first.html

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  8. If all they offer is 4 'groups', aren't most of us going to be 'European' and that's it?

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  9. I think this DNA test is a scam. It was not what I thought it to be. I know where I came from. What they found I already knew. Waste of money. Don"t bother to do this test. I am waiting for the Ancestry.com to let me know the test is available on their site. I wish I had read more about the test and what it was REALLY GOING TO TELL ME. It didn't tell me anything I already didn't know. Shame on me and shame on them for not being more forthcoming.

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    1. Sorry to hear that! Ancestry.com is now offering their DNA test to the public. However, 23andMe just dropped their price to $99 which is an extremely good deal because you get a lot of very detailed analysis with them. Here is my post on the price drop: http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/12/23andme-receives-50-million-and-drops.html

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  10. 4000 People taken in by this as of December 2012. That's really too bad, because that's 4000 people who could be getting Yline or mtdna matches at Family Tree DNA, or autosomal matches at Family Tree DNA, 23andMe or at Ancestry, even if theirs is inferior to the other two, but still better than this. But instead there are now 4000 unhappy people with genetic genealogy. Sad, very sad.

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    1. I agree, Roberta. Unfortunately, it appears that it is a lot more than 4000 now too. The newest ad quotes another 500+. It is really too bad!

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  11. I'm so glad I found your website and appreciate the knowledge you share with others! Unfortunately, I found your site a few days after my daughter surprised me with an ancestrybydna test kit. She thought she was getting a special from ancestry.com. I haven't used the kit yet, and feel it is pointless after reading reviews and comments about this company. In your opinion, is there anything I could do, to get a refund for them and send it back? Also, which company would you recommend for ancestry dna testing? There has always been a question as to my mother's biological father,..she is now deceased. Is there a test I could do, as a female,..that would tell my mother's ethnicity on her paternal side, as well as her maternal side? Thank you so much for your response, Renee

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    1. Hi Renee,
      That is really too bad! I would contact AncestrybyDNA and see if you can get a refund for an unused kit. I would also (loudly) complain to LivingSocial if she got it through their promotion. In my opinion, they need to put a notice clearly on the offer that it is not associated with Ancestry.com. Too many people have been misled.
      In your case, I would definitely recommend an automosal DNA test such as 23andMe, FTDNA's Family Finder or AncestryDNA. 23andMe is the least expensive and gives the most information.
      You might want to read the articles that I wrote explaining which tests to use when. They are linked to on the right side of my blog under "Getting Started...". I also reviewed the four major companies admixture ("Ethnic" percentages" results here: http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/12/comparing-admixture-test-results-across.html.
      Good luck!
      CeCe

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  12. My husband & I made the same mistake with this special offer. My husband got his results yesterday & was surprised to see that he had & 7% Sub-Saharan African & 93% European rather than the Native American that he has always thought. We will get 23andMe or AncestryDNA as a second step, because we thought we would be getting much more detail.

    Are you saying that the test result are not accurate & he shouldn't share the information with is family yet?

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  13. Hi Cece,
    I'm also glad I found your website. We are among the group that purchased the kit on LivingSocial & my husband got his results yesterday. His results were 93% European & 7% Sub-Saharan African (instead of the Native American that he had always thought). We will go ahead & get another kit from either AncestryDNA or 23andMe. We thought we would be getting much more detailed information because we looked on Ancestry.com before we purchased the discount coupon. Are you saying that the AncestrybyDNA isn't accurate & he shouldn't share the information with his family until he gets better information?

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    1. Hi Donna,
      I am sorry to hear that. I really don't know if their ancestral origin breakdown is accurate or not, so I think I would hold off telling his family until you get the test results from another company. I would STRONGLY suggest testing with 23andMe to get the most accurate picture of his ancestry. Here is my experience with the four major companies performing this type of analysis: http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2012/12/comparing-admixture-test-results-across.html
      By the way, my brother-in-law also had a strong oral family history of Native American ancestry and turned out to be 6.6% SSAfrican and no Native American at all.
      Good luck and please let me know what happens!
      CeCe

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  14. Man I REALLY wish I had read this before I bought my test. Exactly as you recount, I purchased it thinking it was the Ancestry.com DNA test, and of course it wasn't. I figured oh well, I'll just do it anyway and see how it turns out because it wasn't that expensive. It's not bad, but really not great for $100. It basically told me a bunch of things I already know, although it gave me a very high sub-saharan African marker which seems like it could be wrong, but I guess I have nothing else to compare it to so I have no idea. I will definitely check out 23andMe.

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  15. I also wish that I had read this before purchasing my test. I just got it back with the results 100% European background. There's a problem with this, as I know for a fact that a great-grandfather was persian. We have a historian in the family and it's word-of-mouth family history. I've seen photos of him and he LOOKS Persian. I know that there are no paternity issues...and a measure of his looks have been carried forward. When I wrote to ask AncestrybyDNA about this, they wrote back with "cut and paste" nonsense:

    "Also, barring adoption and paternity issues, your range bars and confidence intervals are also part of your answer. The values within these determined ranges represent other possible outcomes that are statistically significant but are less likely. Therefore, if your range bar on the bar graph includes values greater than zero, you should consider that possibility."

    This was a total waste of money. Don't fall for it as I did!

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  16. I ordered the AncestryByDNA test and it returned results saying that my background is 100% European. The issue that I take with this is that I know of a great grandfather who was Persian. It's family oral history, and looking at his photograph, one can SEE that he's Persian. I am certain that there are no paternity/adoption issues.

    When I questioned AncestryByDNA, I got back a "cut and paste" non-answer:

    Also, barring adoption and paternity issues, your range bars and confidence intervals are also part of your answer. The values within these determined ranges represent other possible outcomes that are statistically significant but are less likely. Therefore, if your range bar on the bar graph includes values greater than zero, you should consider that possibility.

    A complete waste of time, don't bother with AncestryByDNA!

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  17. My Dad died in January 2012. I had his cheek swabbed and got blood samples before he died that I still have. Is there anywhere that can do his analysis with the year old blood or cheek swab? I recently had his brother test at 23andme. I am going to do 23andme in the next couple of weeks. Trying to get best outcome possible. What do you suggest?

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    1. Hi Ms. Kimberly,

      I am sorry to hear that.

      23andMe will not accept any DNA samples except saliva, but Family Tree DNA may very well be able to use the cheek swab. I would call them at (713) 868-1438 to get a quote.

      If they are able to run the Family Finder test on his sample and you want to compare, you can transfer other family members from 23andMe to FTDNA for $89 or you can just upload everyone's raw data files to gedmatch.com (free).

      Best of luck!
      CeCe

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  18. I have taken several DNA ancestry tests and knowing my own background before I took them the only ones that were even close to what I know my actual ancestry to be were Ancestry by Dna and Dna Tribes.They use the by far superior STR method of testing.The same method used by the FBI to analyze gemetic material.If SNP was so great why isnt it used by the FBI to examine crime scene material.SNP is very new in this field and really inaccurate.I think 23&me is a joke and the only reason it is so popular is that the owner of 23&me is the wife of one of the owners of Google and she can afford to position her company with advertising on GOOGLE as the best as the newest as the greatest and frankly it simply isnt.They are probably only good for uncovering European Y or Mtdna lines but that is about it.AncestryDna uses the same SNP testing methods and they also are missing the boat.SNP tests are very new and not widely accepted by people who actually need to determine someones racial or ethnic background in a life and death situation like the FBI.The day that the FBI swithes from STR's to SNP's then Ill believe what 23&me or Ancestrydna has to say.

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    1. We will have to agree to disagree on this, Jeff.

      Most, if not all, of the very experienced genetic genealogists in the community prefer autosomal DNA SNP testing to STR testing and consider the latter outdated.

      CeCe

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  19. It see this blog favors the company I wrote truthfully yet unfavorably about.I am guessing that you screen the feedback and allow only the comments that support your point of view..too bad

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    1. Hi Jeff,
      You are quick to judge. In very large letters under the comment box is a notice that I have been forced to moderate this blog due to a large amount of SPAM comments. This means that comments do not immediately post.
      Thank you,
      CeCe

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  20. The fact remains that SNP tests are very new and not even close to being accepted by agencies that depend on accurate information to catch bad guys based on DNA .Read the article I pasted below.STR testing is much more powerful with far more populations in the data base to draw on.The FBI will not use SNP info to identify a persons ethnicity or racial makeup because it is not accurate.
    With more than 15 short tandem repeat (STR) loci currently validated for forensic analysis for the purpose
    of human identification, the discriminating power of forensic DNA analysis has reached a satisfactory
    level for most forensic case scenarios. However, miniaturization and automation of DNA technology
    prompted the need of consideration of the newly discovered single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) sites
    in the form of ‘DNA chips’ for forensic analyses. This investigation considers the theoretical issues related
    to the comparative efficiencies of STR versus SNP loci for various scenarios of forensic analyses. First,
    we show that the expected effect of population substructure on the statistical strength of DNA evidence is
    greater for SNP loci as compared to that of STR loci. Second, we argue that because of the lower
    discriminatory power of individual SNP loci, a far larger number of SNP loci would be needed to attain an
    equivalent power of the current battery of STR markers for forensic analysis. Third, because of the biallelic nature of the SNPs,interpretation of mixture analysis based on SNPs is likely to be more difficult as
    compared to that based on the STR loci. Based on these considerations, we recommend that, once
    validated for forensic applications, the SNP-based DNA chips may be used as a supplementary battery of
    forensic markers, and the technology of STR typing should be retained as the primary set of markers for
    forensic DNA analyses. However, mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome-based DNA chips may be used
    in addition to STR-typing to help in determining the possible number of contributors in mixtures of DNA
    samples. The theories used in these arguments are illustrated with empirical data from the current battery
    of STR markers. (Research supported by US Public Health Service Research grants and grants from the
    US National Institute of Justice).

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  21. I hope you actually publish this

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  22. Dear Jeff,
    Autosomal STR markers are excellent for what they do. However, they sample a relatively small portion of the entire genome. The DNA Tribes test only tests 27 autosomal STRs and the AncestrybyDNA test only tests 176 autosomal STRs. The three primarily genetics companies that do testing for genealogical purposes (23andMe, FTDNA with its Family Finder test, and Ancestry.com with its AncestryDNA test) all use SNP chips that test over 682,000 SNPs. I do believe that you can get reasonably accurate BGA estimates from autosomal STR tests such as those offered by AncestrybyDNA and DNA Tribes. However, these two tests don't offer fine resolution BGA analysis. The primary reason that skilled genetic genealogists prefer the autosomal SNP chip tests such as what 23andMe offers is that the analysis can be done on a segment by segment basis at a very fine level since the 23andMe SNP chip tests over 960,000 autosomal SNPs. For instance, 23andMe's Ancestry Composition can predict ancestral contributions as small as 0.5% to 1%. Autosomal STR tests such as those offered by AncestrybyDNA and DNA Tribes can not come close to matching the specificity on a segment by segment level that you can get from 23andMe's Ancestry Composition feature. I suggest you study this feature if you haven't already done so. For people who want a very broad overview of their ancestry, then an autosomal STR test such as those offered by AncestrybyDNA and DNA Tribes are fine. However, I want much more detailed analysis of each individual segment down to the 5 to 10 cM level. The tests offered by AncestrybyDNA and DNA Tribes can't deliver that.

    In terms of the use of autosomal SNP chip tests for forensic purposes, autosomal SNP chip tests such as the three I mentioned above are clearly superior to the autosomal STR tests that are currently used if one's purpose is to identify relatively close relatives of the perpetrator of a crime. Autosomal SNP chip tests can readily identify people who are 2nd cousins or more closely related than that to the perpetrator. Autosomal STR tests can't reliably identify 2nd cousins. The current autosomal STR panel (the CODIS markers) work fine for their current purpose, which is to positively identify people who are exact matches to a pertetrator's DNA. However, more criminals would be caught and correctly identified if the DNA from crime scenes was placed in the databases of 23andMe, Ancestry.com, and FTDNA's Family Finder databases. Close relatives of perpetrators could be identified and then additional relatives could be tested until finally the perpetrator is identified and caught. I hope that law enforcement agencies begin to routinely do large SNP chip tests on the DNA from unsolved crime scenes.

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  23. I was one of those people that thought they were purchasing the AncestryDNA test by Ancestry.com. I purchased this 3 weeks ago through Groupon and didn't realize it wasn't the same company until today when I search for reviews since I'm having problems with them. I think this company's listing is completely MISLEADING. They are preying on people that aren't going to notice the difference between two letters... the "BY" between "Ancestry" and "DNA." It's completely deceptive on purpose in my opinion because there are numerous different name options they could have choosen yet they choose a name that is very close to a reputable company people have known and learned to trust. Which company's DNA testing is better I do not claim to know but getting swindled into purchasing someone else's product does not sit well with me. Someone needs to sue these people (Ancestry.com I'm talking to you). On top of the bait and switch routine they pulled off, it's been 3 weeks and NOOOOOOO DNA kit yet. I tried to contact AncestryByDNA but surprise surprise they don't have a phone # you can call and when I tried to send them an email through their website I got an 'error' message multiple times. I contacted Groupon but they seem to be pretty complacent with this company stating that they would contact the merchant and get back to me in 3-4 business days...joy. At this point I just want my money back which by the looks of things is unlikely to happen so Caveat Emptor...buyer beware.

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  24. Jeffrey -- the FBI uses STRs (the CODIS markers) to uniquely identify a person, not to determine ancestry. Here's a more complete discussion of the role STRs and SNPs can play in different scenarios:

    http://www.cstl.nist.gov/div831/strbase/pub_pres/FSMP_STRs_vs_SNPs.pdf

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  25. Crap company. I paid for two test, sent in 3 samples back in January and recently got an email indicating that they were unable to get any test results from the samples I provided and wanted me to provide another set of samples, AGAIN. (I purposely provided blood samples being they couldn't get a read off the first sample.) Six months later, they tell me they need another sample. Yea, like I'm going to wait another six months, NOT. They are supposed to be refunding me...

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  26. Rip off! Bummer! I will have to get the DNA test done from a trustful website. What a waste of $90! VERY UPSETTING!

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    1. So sorry, Marfilla. That is why I wrote this post - to try to make sure people who purchase their test know what they are getting. I hope you are able to purchase another test that gives you the info that you want.

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  27. I also paid $97 for the test....it gives percentages, but not what I thought I was paying for. Disappointed that this wasn't the real test to give me solid nationality background.

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  28. Is DNA Tribes a reliable/accurate testing company? THX

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    1. kokoh - They are not a company that I generally recommend. Although some in the genetic genealogy community like their test, it is not one of the main ones that we utilize for our research.

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  29. Do some research, 23andME is AncestorybyDNA, same company, same test, new name due to bad PR with Ancestoryby DNA

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  30. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  31. Googled "ancestrybydna" and got the following result: Ancestry By DNA - The Largest DNA Ancestry Service‎
    Ad www.23andme.com/AncestryByDNA‎
    Join Today. Only $99...."

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  32. That link goes to a "Page Not Found". AncestrybyDNA and 23andMe are completely different companies.

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