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AncestryDNA hits the million mark

No, actually, it isn’t Sunday, when The Legal Genealogist usually writes about DNA.

One million speed limitBut today’s announcement from AncestryDNA1 really shouldn’t wait.

Not the part of the announcement that talks about AncestryHealth.

Frankly, I have some concerns about that — the data collection and aggregation of health information linked to family trees, and particularly to living family members who are not Ancestry customers and who have not given their consent, raises privacy concerns that need to be addressed.2

But the other part of the announcement.

The part that gives an astonishing number.

One million.

That’s the number of autosomal DNA tests AncestryDNA has processed — the number of people whose DNA data is in the AncestryDNA database.

AncestryDNA isn’t the first company to hit that mark. 23andMe announced last month that it had genotyped its one millionth customer as well.3 But a huge number of 23andMe customers tested for health reasons, not for genealogical research. So you often match people on 23andMe who have no interest in family history and so don’t respond to sharing requests.

Ancestry customers, by contrast, all tested because of some level of curiosity about their family history. They may not all have the degree of knowledge of their family trees that we’d like to see, but they’re all there in that database because of some shared interest in our shared ancestry.

And as that database grows — as the number of people who have taken a genetic genealogy test increases — so too does the likelihood of making a breakthrough in our own family history research by working collaboratively with those we discover are our genetic kin.

It really is just because of this database size that anyone serious about finding genetic matches to work with on family history mysteries needs to test with AncestryDNA.

Yes, I’m still disappointed with AncestryDNA’s refusal to provide tools to analyze our DNA results — the lack of a chromosome browser, for example, to see precisely where our DNA and a match’s DNA line up.4

But the simple fact is, database size matters. The more people we match, the more people we can connect with who may just have that photo of Great Granddad that no-one else has seen — or information about where Great Grandma was buried — or… or…

So even with the fact that AncestryDNA doesn’t give us everything we want, it’s still worth testing there and ponying up the $49 annual fee (for non-Ancestry subscribers) to get access to all of the match information that is available.

We don’t want to stop there, of course. Those who test with AncestryDNA should also immediately transfer their raw data to Family Tree DNA in order to take advantage of its database and its vastly superior set of analytical tools. The transfer fee is $39, and is waived for those who get at least four others to transfer their data. And then when finances allow serious genealogists should also test with 23andMe to get into that database too.5

And yes, actually, I have tested with all three… and I’d love to have more cousins test everywhere too.

I’m looking for every genetic cousin I can find to help break down our family’s brickwalls…


  1. Ancestry Launches AncestryHealth,” Press Releases,, posted 16 July 2015 ( : accessed 16 July 2015).
  2. And that, because of its complexity, will have to wait for a Sunday down the road.
  3. Power of One Million,” 23andMe Blog, posted 18 June 2015 ( : accessed 16 July 2015).
  4. See generally Judy G. Russell, “Transfer time,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 2 Nov 2014 ( : accessed date).
  5. See generally ibid., “2015: Most bang for the DNA buck,” posted 2 Feb 2015.
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