Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Official Clarification: AncestryDNA With and Without an Subscription

There has been a lot of confusion surrounding the issue of what is included with the AncestryDNA test with and without an subscription.  Since I had heard conflicting things from different employees, I requested official clarification. As a result, I received a beautiful .pdf file from Stephen Baloglu,'s Director of Product Marketing, today. I couldn't fit it in its entirety on this blog, so I cut and pasted the text here. (I will link to it as soon as they post it on their site.) Please click on the images to enlarge any text you cannot read.

A subscription adds these benefits:

I think this should clear up the confusion and I appreciate Stephen's efforts to clarify this for us. In summary, non-subscribers will have full access to their list of DNA matches and "Genetic Ethnicity" results, continue to receive new matches and updates to the admixture analysis, be able to view shared surnames, birth locations and a limited tree view for their matches and (as we have all been hoping) have the ability to contact their matches through So, this confirms that there is still a lot of functionality, even without the subscription. In my opinion, outside of traditional genealogy research and strictly in regard to the DNA test, the most important additional benefit that only comes with the subscription is the ability to explore your matches' full family tree. This can be very important when attempting to confirm a common ancestor with a match that might fall just beyond a genealogical brick wall.

If anyone has additional questions, please ask them in the comments section below and I will try to make sure they get answered.

I will also be following up with a post with more technical details about the test from my recent conversation with Ken Chahine, General Manager of AncestryDNA. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

AncestryDNA Launch and Other Related News

AncestryDNA's Wide Release
AncestryDNA is now available to all without an invitation. The new price is $129 for subscribers.

For non-subscribers the price is $199, however if you order a package deal with the 6 month US Discovery membership, the price drops to $189. The package deal with 6 months of the World Explorer membership is $249. Obviously, this is a loss leader with the intent of acquiring and retaining subscribers. (You can order here.)

There is a chart provided to compare the options. I have reproduced the relevant portion below:

Based on the information provided in the chart, it appears that even non-subscribers will receive new matches and be able to contact them, however it is unclear if they will be able to access their matches' trees (see line 4 in the graphic). I called the AncestryDNA customer service, but the rep wasn't sure of the answer, although he said that he thought they would be accessible since "that is an important part of the service". [*10/26/12 Update - I spoke with another customer service rep today named Jeremy. He told me that "Connect with your DNA matches" from the chart above does NOT mean that you will be able to contact them unless they contact you first. It only means that you will be able to see the match and review their family tree.  So, non-subscribers WILL be able to see their matches' family trees, but they will NOT be able to initiate contact with them. 10/31/12 Update - The information contained in the last update was inaccurate. Please see the official clarification here.]

In other AncestryDNA News... 
Earlier this month, Dr. Ken Chahine announced a significant addition to the AncestryDNA service in his keynote presentation at the Consumer Genetics Conference in Boston. Crista Cowan reported the news from the conference on the blog:

AncestryDNA believes that our customers have the right to their own genetic data. It is your DNA, after all. So we’re working to provide access to your raw DNA data in early 2013, which includes related security enhancements to ensure its safety during every step of the process. Moving forward, we plan to add even more tools and improvements for our customers, and any new features will be available to all AncestryDNA members.

I'm very glad to hear that AncestryDNA is listening to its customers (well, the really vocal ones at least). Back in March when I was first introduced to the product, I cited the lack of raw data as one of the major drawbacks to their offering and have continued to beat (and beat) on that drum since then. So, in addition, to the other bloggers and customers who have repeatedly asked for this feature, I feel like this is a victory for genetic genealogy. (Now, we just need to keep pushing for the matching segment data!) I was concerned that the raw data would not be released in a downloadable format due to the wording in the announcement "access to your raw DNA data...which includes security related enhancements", especially after reading Dr. Chahine's comments to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues in Washington D.C in August. So, I was happy to be informed by Stephen Baloglu, Director of Product Marketing, during a recent AncestryDNA webinar in which I participated, that the raw data would be in a "downloadable format". Hopefully, that format will also be uploadable to third party sites like so, in the absence of AncestryDNA providing it, we can access the matching segment data that genetic genealogists require for their research.

Stephen Baloglu also provided some insight into AncestryDNA's matching system when he responded to a inquiry from Shannon Christmas, "We use total amount of DNA shared and contiguous shared length of segments to calculate how closely you match someone else." I know this doesn't seem like earth-shattering news since it sounds pretty much like what their competitors are doing, but with so little of the scientific method behind AncestryDNA's algorithms public knowledge, every little bit is noteworthy to some of us.

Crista also reports:
We plan to continue to be a part of the genetics landscape moving forward and will be at more events, including the American Society of Human Genetics in San Francisco, where we will present some amazing new discoveries that our scientists have been working on.

I will be keeping my eyes and ears open to hear what that might be!

And, last but not least, I'm sure everyone has already heard about's impending sale to Permira and might be wondering what this will mean for the DNA portion of the business. I am told that there should not be any major changes and we can see from the press release that DNA appears to be an area they expect to expand in the future, "'s focus will continue to be on investing in content, technology and its user experience, expanding its product offerings in areas like DNA, and building the brand and the family history category, all on a global basis." Although according to the website, the "AncestryDNA test is not yet available for purchase outside of the United States", this sounds like they intend to promote the DNA tests beyond the United States in the future which would be a positive development for those seeking their genetic connections overseas. 

As always, I will continue to follow the developments of all genetic genealogy related news and make sure my readers are updated. 

[While I was writing this post, I glanced at my new AncestryDNA matches and found a confirmed 5th cousin on my Roderick/Long line with a predicted range of 4th -6th cousins and a 96% confidence level. Yay! I sure do wish I could see our matching segments though! In that vein, Tim Janzen reports that he called today and asked if would be releasing the matching segment data as well, "The representative said that might not do that, but that they might  create an 'opt in' option that would allow people to share the matching segment data if they are interested in doing so."]

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Geno 2.0 - It's in the mail!

I was very excited to finally receive my Geno 2.0 kit today. I quickly collected my DNA sample and returned it to National Geographic. I thought I would post a few photos for those of you who are still waiting for your kit.

Upon opening, you get this:

And this:

The swabs are exactly like Family Tree DNA's:

The vials are tucked away at the bottom of the cardboard insert:

To get them out, you need to pull out the cardboard folds at the corners from this:

To this:

The vials also look just like FTDNA's:

Just follow the directions:

Don't forget to fill out the consent form, detach it and mail it back:

After swabbing (I didn't take pictures of that, but Roberta did!), CAREFULLY release the tip of the swab into the solution in the vial by pushing on the end of the swab like this:

Then put the vials in the provided plastic baggie:

And place them in the envelope:

And then mail it back!

Don't forget to register your kit here using the confidential ID found on the inside cover of your kit, your vials and the back of the Quick Start Guide:

And please consider contributing your result to science:

I'm really looking forward to discovering some of the things discussed in the pamphlet:

But I will have to wait awhile:

You can bet I will be checking this ^^ page regularly!

**You can order your kit here.