A DNA test not to bother with

Save your money for a real DNA test

Don't bother
catching this ring

Sundays are DNA days around The Legal Genealogist. Today, it’ll be short and sweet: if you’ve been tempted to stick your toes into the water of DNA testing with a new service called ConnectMyDNA (www.connectmydna.com), offering something called Gene Circles, save your money.

Yes, it is very inexpensive. The full price of this service is $89 but there are special offers and coupons all over the web for as little as $19 or $29 or $39. And yes, the end result of the service is a very attractive set of concentric circles that are reportedly a graphic representation of the results that are unique to you and you alone.

And, the service says, you’ll get a list of the countries where people live whose results in the particular areas examined are closest to yours.

So why am I — a self-confessed DNA junkie — not rushing off to get this test and not urging everyone I know (and those I don’t) to get this test done?

Because, from the standpoint of genealogy, this service is about as handy as a handle on a duck’s rear end.

First off, the service frankly concedes, and I quote, “NO, ConnectMyDNA™ is not an ancestry test.”1 What it does is look at 13 specific places in your DNA and produce what it calls a DNA profile. And those specific locations, according to the Center for Genetics and Society, “are currently regarded to be “junk DNA” sites, home to non-coding genetic materials, which currently are good for nothing but identifying an individual.”2

As the company says on its Facebook page:

Since the DNA Profile does not contain sufficient information about ancestry, ConnectMyDNA™ is not intended as an ancestry test. What it does show is the extent that we as human beings are genetically related which hopefully people that take the ConnectMyDNA™ test can appreciate.3

What the company does after it develops your Profile, it says, is compare it to the profiles of “population groups.”
It will

perform a calculation to determine which population group contains the most similarities with your profile. The population groups are then reported to you. Since this test is not an ancestry test, the population groups with the most similarity to your DNA Profile merely represent an interesting correlation, not an indication of your heritage. We hope this information is of interest to you and that you might be inclined to explore the population groups in terms of areas you find interesting.4

The value of this comparison — which population groups are included, how many samples there are and how significant they are — is hinted at more than specified. The company says: “There are a scientifically significant number of data points in the databases used for ConnectMyDNA™. If more data points were added to a country’s database, it may change the ranking of the country, but not necessarily.”5

In plain English, I read that to mean “we’re not going to tell you how we came up with these country lists and we’re not guaranteeing they’re accurate.” The service goes so far as to concede, on its Facebook page, “ConnectMyDNA will always pick the top 5-10 matches, even if the most appropriate database is not included in the mix.6

So why does the company say this test is worth anything at all? Because, it says on Facebook, “Most genetic testing involves complicated personal issues regarding biological relationships or genetic disease. The ConnectMyDNA™ test is a way to participate in DNA testing in a way that is hopefully fun and educational.”7

Getting the picture here? This test isn’t useful for genealogy. It isn’t useful for health issues. But hey… it’s FUN, and besides it’s CHEAP, and after all you don’t really want to, well, you know, learn anything about genetic genealogy, right?

The Latin phrase is caveat emptor. It means “let the buyer beware.” If what you want is a pretty graphic to print on a t-shirt (which I’m sure the service will be happy to sell you), go right ahead. If what you’re interested in is information that might someday be of any use to you whatsoever in your genealogical research, save your money.


  1. Frequently Asked Questions,” ConnectMyDNA (http://www.connectmydna.com/ : accessed 31 Mar 2012.
  2. Doug Pet, “How to Use $90? Buy a Gene Ring, or Burn for Warmth?,” Biopolitical Times, posted 8 Dec 2011 (http://www.biopoliticaltimes.org : accessed 31 Mar 2012).
  3. ConnectMyDNA Facebook page (www.facebook.com : accessed 31 Mar 2012).
  4. Frequently Asked Questions,” ConnectMyDNA (http://www.connectmydna.com/ : accessed 31 Mar 2012. (emphasis added).
  5. Ibid.
  6. ConnectMyDNA Facebook page (www.facebook.com : accessed 31 Mar 2012).
  7. Ibid.
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64 Responses to A DNA test not to bother with

  1. ed says:

    I did an ancestry test which I got as a present, I thought it would b more specific than what the results told me. http://www.myancestrydnatesting.com/ -
    On the website it mentions genealogy and family trees but you do not find out anything about these you find out where your ancesters, millions of years ago came from and where they went. Not exactly what I had in mind to find out, but for some people i guess it is interesting

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      A lot depends on which ancestry test you took: the deep ancestry will not be all that useful, a YDNA test much more so.

  2. Sue Adams says:

    I agree with your conclusions about this particular test. However, I would be cautious about all DNA tests offered for genealogical purposes. As Ed noted, his result was not as specific as he had hoped.

    Y-DNA tests use a limited number of loci (beads on the ‘string’ of DNA), typically 67 last time I looked, but the number offered keeps increasing. That is only enough to place the individual in a general group (haplotype), which if it turns out to be really common (e.g. about half of European men are R1b), is not very informative.

    Forensic and legal DNA tests employ a range of techniques and take great care to ensure samples are not contaminated other people’s DNA. Not surprisingly, these tests are much more expensive than those offered for genealogical purposes.

    A DNA test result, even if accurate and specific, tells you nothing if you have no samples compare it to.

    This company mentions CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) the DNA database used by the FBI. They are coy about where thier data comes from but suspect it is aggregated data that has been published. I am not sure I would want my DNA to be compared with that of felons ;-)

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      If all the test gave you was the haplogroup, I’d agree with your hesitation. But for genealogical purposes, testing with a reputable company with a good database of tested individuals gives you much more in the usual case. YDNA is very very helpful when compared to that of other persons who have tested. It isn’t the haplogroup that’s particularly useful, it’s the fact that you are (or are not) a match to another person.

  3. Steve Welch says:

    Has anyone ever tried DNA Tribes or DNA Consultants?

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      I don’t see the genealogical value in either of those, which appear to be more directed to deep ancestry (admixture) analysis.

    • Doll says:

      I bought it and found it to be helpful, with monthly digests (up to 18 pages) on various genetic areas…not always mine. The reporting was difficult to understand, not in % of this or that, but you match ,37 of people living in this area. 23 and me showed the migration…literally…a tiny migration, showing how long L3d1′s stayed before leaving in much later migrations. It gave a list of over 500 people with 6 points of comparison down to 2 points of comparison. the first person I contacted was a 98% match. DNA Tribes did not have much to offer.

  4. GKM says:

    This was a great wasste of money and truly misleading, we think and believe DNA to be the blueprint of ourselves. Not a compiliation of what could or could not be the end results of everyone else who tested. How stupid is this?

  5. Yan says:

    Should have read this before purchase. Total scam. Said I was from Namibia. I’m a biochemist and that’s just plain quackery

  6. Alonna Carter says:

    I was very confused by connectmydna’s website. I was given ten countries when I had taken the test and then a few months later, I checked back and there was some alteration in those countries as well as some that hadn’t previously been mentioned. I am looking to find a more accurate test.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      The most accurate test for deep ancestry — generations and generations back — will probably be the new Geno 2.0 from National Geographic, Alonna. For genealogy generally, your best bet is most likely Family Tree DNA, and if you want health info as well then 23andMe.

      • Randy says:

        Thank you for this information. I did the Geno 2.0 test but it did not tell me what I was interested in.

        • Judy G. Russell says:

          If you’re looking for deep ancestry, Randy, Geno 2.0 is as good as it gets — and the data will only get better over time. For genealogy, you really need to test with either (or both) Family Tree DNA or 23andMe.

  7. Beth Wong says:

    I feel like everyone who was truly disappointed didn’t correctly read the description to begin with. I have to give them props for at least putting an innovative product out–even if it’s for pure entertainment. To me it was purely a fun test, and it got me reading articles on population genetics for an hour or two. It was fun to tell people about the weird results I got as a conversation piece, I had a good laugh.

  8. Miss Jackson says:

    As an African American family research can only go so far and I take DNA testing seriously. I’m very disappointed with ConnectMyDNA. They left much to be desired. Even the ring is difficult to understand and customer service wasn’t helpful. Now I’m on a quest for a reputable company that will layout my ancestral profile. Any recommendations?

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      If you are looking for genealogical testing, to help find your personal recent-time roots, then the company I personally use for most of my family DNA testing is Family Tree DNA. I have tested with both 23andMe and with AncestryDNA, both of which have excellent science, but have issues that make me less willing to recommend them as a first choice (though I always recommend that you test with as many different companies as you can afford). If what you want is deep ancestry — your African roots — you might also consider the new National Geographic Geno 2.0 project, which is likely to produce more and better info on deep ancestry than anybody else around.

  9. BB says:

    Thanks for your article. The deal being offered looked intriguing but glad the truth about it was clarified better here. Thanks for savings me $30!

  10. Anthony says:

    For the life of me I can’t understand why so many people are so upset when ConnectMyDNA has flat out in bold print said that they’re test was NOT an ancestry test multiple times and has gone into detail why their test wasn’t an ancestry test. They’ve also mentioned tests like Ancestrybydna and Ancestrydna that are ancestry tests.

  11. Calenti says:

    Thanks for saving me $30. Sounds like if I am interested in this I should go with Family Tree DNA or 23andMe.

  12. TP says:

    What about Ancestryby DNA? There is currently a groupon for it

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      That’s not a useful test for genealogy at all. Please read CeCe Moore’s post here on that test — and don’t spend your money there if what you want is genealogical information.

  13. Ugh, sure wish I’d been smart enough to do some research before I bought a ConnectMyDNA Living Social deal! Total scam.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Yeah, well, we all make mistakes. Now pick a GOOD company — Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, or AncestryDNA — and get the test you really want!

  14. Anthony S says:

    What test would you recommend for finding specific regions of decent? I’ve been interested in my family’s heritage mostly because I want to know where I come from. I know with certainty that I have Scott-Irish but I’d like to know if perhaps the Norwegian or Native parts were accurate as well. I just don’t want to waste money on a test that doesn’t tell me what I want to know. It’s funny because I remember my parents wasting their money on this test here a few years ago and questioning their results.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Anthony, the truth is, there just isn’t any test — yet — that will give you a really accurate view of your ancestry the way that you’d like to receive it. I wrote about this some time ago in a post called Mixing it up with admixtures that will help explain why not. This aspect of DNA testing just isn’t soup yet.

  15. Joe says:

    I saw these comments too late I guess! I ordered tests for me and wifey, we are both from India and mine came up with Mongolia a #1 and my wife’s as Iranian #1 which made me set out on a late night search for how Mongolians could have ended up just north of the equator near the Indian ocean. Disappointed to say the least!

  16. J says:

    My experience was more accurate. We had a family historian who had previously researched our heritage. It was consistent with the countries that were identified in his research.

  17. holly says:

    I used DNA Tribes for my mom’s DNA test. What a colossal waste of money. The results were impossible to understand and extremely vague. A total scam if you ask me.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Sorry to hear you had such a bad experience. I’ve found it most useful to work with testing companies whose customers are largely active genealogists.

    • jane says:

      Hi Holly – and chance you are on 23andme.com? if so, please sign on and see our exciting results! I think your email there may not be working because I got an odd message, so sending messages to a few Hollys with ancestry comments – hope its you. Look forward to hearing from you (if it is you :) Thanks!

  18. Mary Helen Haines says:

    I am a volunteer administrator for one surname project, and co-administrator for another surname project with FamilytreeDNA. I believe the Y-DNA test at that company is the very best for genealogy purposes, but it depends on the number of people in the project. One project has only about 20 people in it, therefore there is only one match (but the match goes back to the 1500s), while the other project has over 350 people and we have definite lineages that have allowed us to match up individuals with their correct cousins. By itself, the markers mean little, but when compared with others who have the same markers, and then add the paper trail research, a person can extend or verify their previous knowledge of their family history. The Y-DNA test very often opens up new lines of questions and research,and sometimes debunks traditional family stories.It is a great genealogical tool.

  19. Camen Manilla says:

    I feel like people who are upset with the ConnectMyDNA thing are misunderstanding what it is telling you. If you are Asian, and it lists your closest “matches” as being in Europe, it is NOT saying that you are from Europe. It’s saying based on the company’s initial data and data they have compiled since starting out, the people MOST LIKE YOU are in Europe. It’s not a DNA test to test your ancestry, and they clearly state that. It is meant to be a fun activity…a toy for adults. You spend $100 on your kid’s dollhouse – do you expect your kid to be able to live in it? No, it’s just for fun.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Genealogists don’t have the time or money to waste on “fun toys.” And this is an expensive waste-of-time toy.

  20. Carol says:

    So the Ancestry.com DNA is legitimate?

  21. Kitty R says:

    I am a middle aged female trying to get an idea of what my father’s ancestry is. He is no longer living, and because he was adopted as a child way back in the early 1900′s,there is no way of knowing if he had any half siblings, also I have no siblings. In this case , one of my grown sons took the Ancestry.com autosomal dna test, which is supposed to take ” random” parts from some on either/both sides of the family. As long as he didn’t take the Y test that would have covered only his father’s side of the family’s male linage, we thought that something might have shown up in his autosomal test results about my father. Even though my father ( and I) look southern european, we weren’t sure if the 11% percentage of Iberian was my father, but it seems as if it could be. What is your opinion about autosomal dna tests and the maternal father/ grandfather’s dna clue showing up?

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      I am very much in favor of autosomal tests in circumstances like yours, since they can help you find cousins who may eventually be able to fill in some information about the missing parts of your heritage. I put very little stock in the ethnicity analysis, beyond the continental level (Europe vs. Asia for example, and not England vs. Norway) but even though it’s dicey it can still provide clues or at least a direction to look at (and great cocktail party conversation starters!). Your son’s results are less valuable for this than your own, since you have 50% of your father’s DNA and your son only about 25%, so you should test and test as widely as you can afford. There are three major companies in this field, 23andMe, Family Tree DNA and AncestryDNA, and to have the best chance of connecting with a close cousin you want to test with all three.

  22. Chris Scott says:

    We, my brother and I took all of the tests offered by AncestryByDna thinking they were the company Ancestry. They are not….got the results back…the y test was for a 12 marker and they implied when I talked with them, which is when I was ordering the test and not been able to talk to anyone since, they never answer the phone..that it was a test for the 47 markers. Since then my brother has taken the test with FamilyTree in Houston. Got the result back and nothing compare with the test taken by AncestryByDna…like it is two different people. Lesson learn–do research before putting down your money…check out the web site. It seems that everyone doing business in the genealogy category uses similar names…no one stands out as an individual company…they copy each other with similar names so you really do not know who you are dealing with online, just who is legit and who is riding on the coat tails of the real company unless you do a really good security check. I have now found out that AncestryByDna was operating under another name but was forced to close due to bankruptcy I think but opened back up under this new name and is doing great business riding on the coat tail of the legit Company of Ancestry.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      I’m sorry you got taken in here. Glad you’re dealing now with legitimate companies: AncestryDNA (from Ancestry.com), Family Tree DNA and 23andMe are the way to go in the US.

  23. Dotty says:

    I have taken 23andme and FTDNA. I ended up finding a distant relative on my father’s side from 23andme. I was completely surprised, but it provided information that I had been searching for decades. My racial makeup surprised me. I am African American and thought I would have more African(62%). I am piecing together my African ancestors migration through slave trade. I have DNA relatives in several countries. Would be nice to trace back to African village.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      I wish it were easier to get back to a village, or a tribe, or even a region, Dotty. But it’s really only at broad levels that the ethnicity stuff works well.

  24. Theresa says:

    I paid for testing from My DNA Connect a few years ago. Today I logged in just to see the results again. They aren’t the same as a few years ago.

  25. Neil says:

    ConnectMyDNA is not just useless for genealogy but for everything. It gives absolutely no useable information.

    From an ancestry standpoint it is totally off base in my case. My mother’s parents were both born in Sweden and I have a book in Swedish with their ancestry. My father’s parents both were from Newfoundland.

    ConnectMyDNA tells me the following about my similarities:

    Region 1: Asia

    Region 2: Europe

    Region 3: Middle East/North Africa

    Region 4: Central/South America

    Region 5: Africa

  26. Amy says:

    I found this test to be utterly useless. I’m a white woman with blue eyes. My results have changed over the course of a year & they are still meaningless. I am solely of western european ancestry (an yes, I understand the nature of this test) & yet this test matches me with Iran, Hungary, Nicaragua, Rwanda & Australia (the last one is probably the most accurate since I am half Welsh/Scottish). I can’t see how this information provides any benefit at all. It’s a ridiculous waste of money.

  27. Kelsey says:

    What’s a good DNa test for ancestry

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      For YDNA or mitochondrial DNA, the only company to test with is Family Tree DNA; for autosomal, you can test with Family Tree DNA, 23andMe or AncestryDNA.

  28. Souljahgirl says:

    Is the home DNA test really real

  29. ok so i got groupon offer an had the test done, it came up with what i think was where my distant relatives came from or went a few hundred thousand yrs ago
    anyway i plan to try another test just to actually check out where they are now
    the test was two for 49$ so not a lot of money

  30. Gina R. says:


    Would you please recommend a good DNA ancestry test? There are a few on the market. I am adopted and the only information that I have of my birth parents is that my birth mom is Hispanic. Any sort of information I can find about myself will be great. Thank you.

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