Don’t be fooled
Judging from the inbox of The Legal Genealogist (and of every genetic genealogist I know), it happens all too often.
And it’s just happened again.
Reader Theresa wrote in just yesterday: “I purchased AncestrybyDNA — a waste of money. Got a purple blob circle telling me I am European… I KNOW that. No breakdown of percents, Do not waste your money!”
It’s that “by” word again.
Because, folks, really, without any doubt:
Nope, nope, nope. AncestrybyDNA.com is a whole ‘nother beastie from AncestryDNA — and anyone who misses that fact is going to be out one heck of a lot of money.
Here’s the bottom line:
• An autosomal DNA test from Ancestry (ordered at http://dna.ancestry.com/) “surveys over 700,000 locations in your DNA.”1
• The tests offered by AncestrybyDNA.com “provides your ancestral proportions based on … identified 144 informative markers in our DNA…”2
Let’s see here… 700,000 on one hand, and 144 on the other. And 144 that are, to put it simply, useless if what you want is to help advance your genealogical research.
This is pretty much a no-brainer, isn’t it?
So why does anybody buy the AncestrybyDNA.com test?
Two reasons: discounts; and confusion.
AncestrybyDNA.com works a lot with the discount place Groupon. As a matter of fact, right now Groupon has a deal on AncestrybyDNA.com — down to $69 from the “regular” $195. (I put “regular” in quotes because I’ve never seen a time when Groupon didn’t have a “discount” deal that priced this test at $69.) So anyone who doesn’t know better who looks at this thinks this is a great deal and a great price for a great product.
That’s where the confusion part comes in. Because anyone who doesn’t know better who looks at this really thinks what’s being sold is the product they see advertised on television, with those ads3 showing people trading in lederhosen for kilts based on their test results. But that’s the AncestryDNA test, not the AncestrybyDNA test.
How bad is this? Read what my friend and colleague CeCe Moore said last month in her blog Your Genetic Genealogist: “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…”4
Don’t think for a minute that Ancestry doesn’t realize that a lot of people are confused by this. As CeCe reported, on November 16, 2015, Ancestry filed suit in federal court against DNA Diagnostic Center, Inc., the parent company that operates the AncestrybyDNA.com website.
Charging trademark infringement and consumer confusion, Ancestry is asking the federal court to order AncestrybyDNA.com to stop using any advertising using a name confusingly similar to the Ancestry family of trademarks,5 and it’s asking the court to issue a preliminary injunction — an order stopping the advertising even while the case is pending.6
The defendant has to answer the motion for a preliminary injunction by January 12th and there’s a hearing scheduled on that motion for January 29th.7
Until the court acts, we as genealogists need to protect ourselves. Pay attention to that graphic above. These tests are not the same. They are not equivalent. And only one will get us information that’s genealogically useful.
But that brings up the question of how even the AncestryDNA test is genealogically useful. Because Theresa added a question as well: “I wanted to see the percents of different nationalities,” she wrote. “What is the best test for that??”
Folks, really, honestly, no foolin’, those percentages are just estimates — guesses — maybe even that technical scientific term wild-assed guesses.8 My own term for them: cocktail party conversation pieces.9
Autosomal DNA tests really are terrific at discerning the difference between European and Asian and African ancestry. They’re decent at painting broad brush strokes. But when they get down to trying to distinguish, say, French from German, or Irish from Scottish? Um… not so good. At all.
So take any autosomal test you’d like from any reputable genealogical DNA testing company — AncestryDNA and Family Tree DNA are on my recommended list right now — but do it mostly to find cousins to work with to advance your overall family history.
And use those percentages mostly for entertainment value.
And if you do test at all, remember to avoid that “by” word. AncestrybyDNA is not the right test for genetic genealogy.
- “What does ‘autosomal’ DNA testing mean?,” AncestryDNA – Frequently Asked Questions, DNA.Ancestry.com (http://dna.ancestry.com/ : accessed 19 Dec 2015). ↩
- “FAQs for DNA Origins,” AncestrybyDNA.com (https://www.ancestrybydna.com/ : accessed 19 Dec 2015). ↩
- Don’t get me started… ↩
- CeCe Moore, “Ancestry.com Files a Trademark Case Against DNA Diagnostics Center for the Marketing of ‘AncestryByDNA’,” Your Genetic Genealogist, posted 18 Nov 2015 (http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/ : accessed 19 Dec 2015). ↩
- Complaint, Ancestry Operations et al. v. DNA Diagnostic Center, Civ. No. 1:15-cv-00737 (S.D. Ohio, filed 16 Nov 2015), Pacer.gov (access date 20 Dec 2015). ↩
- Ibid., Motion for Preliminary Injunction, filed 24 Nov 2015. ↩
- U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio, Civil Docket, Ancestry Operations et al. v. DNA Diagnostic Center, Civ. No. 1:15-cv-00737, Pacer.gov (access date 20 Dec 2015). ↩
- InternetSlang (http://www.internetslang.com : accessed 20 Dec 2015), “WAG.” ↩
- Judy G. Russell, “Those pesky percentages,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 27 Oct 2013 (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 19 Dec 2015). ↩
Amazing some of the “tricks” companies use to sucker folks in. I have tested with Ancestry, Family Tree, and 23 & Me. For the buck, Family Tree is the best but Ancestry also has a LOT of people testing so its easier to meet possible cousins out there and compare notes. Of course, the mtDNA and Y-DNA tests are the best and those are through Family Tree.
I’m not going to use the word “trick” here because there is some legitimate defense here as to which came first in using the phrase for DNA testing — but the confusion is crystal clear.
“percents of different nationalities” It would be far more useful to back track your grandparents a couple of generations. Then you know where you came from. A circle on a map of where you might be from is all you’ll get from a DNA test. Use that money to find the exact place by building a family tree.
I blame ancestry for giving people the wrong idea of what a DNA test and building a family tree will accomplish. Everyone thinks they’ll get all the information they want neatly reported to them in an email. Instant gratification. It just doesn’t happen that way.
Building the tree is essential, Toni — but DNA is a very useful and helpful tool in many many ways as we work on building (and confirming) our trees. Like any tool, it has to be used properly, and its limits understood — but for what it is good for, it’s terrific.
Wonderful post, your line “nother beastie from AncestryDNA” taken literally to a skimmer might seem that the test is also coming from AncestryDNA. “nother beastie than AncestryDNA” ???? just a thought. Excellent article. Thanks for your blog.
Good point, Nathan, and with your comment folks shouldn’t be confused.
A few years ago I had my DNA tested by Ancesty.com. That opened up a whole world of family that I had never heard about. Both of parents died before I ever became interested in who my ancestors were. Sure, I knew my grandparents, aunts and uncles from both my mother and father. And I knew that Mother was Scot-Irish. At one point I did ask Dad where his family came from and he said his family came from Wales. But that was the extent of my knowledge.
Doing the DNA test was worth every bit of what it cost.
>> Doing the DNA test was worth every bit of what it cost. << Worth repeating! 🙂
I used Family Tree DNA Autosomal testing. I know pretty much what my Ancestry is. I was only disappointed that it included my European background. I already have documented proof of my Canadian Indigenous Heritage. That was only minute on my percentage scale. There was nothing about Canada even mentioned and most of my Paternal side is two generations removed Canadian for generations and mixed with the Mohawks. So, You are correct that it is general conversation and not true fact. I have a Registration Number with the Six Nations in Canada. So I don’t have much confidence in the test. Unfortunately there is no test I can take to show the DNA. It was my Father’s Grandmother and there are no females to test.
It’s not the test’s fault that it can’t distinguish what you want it to distinguish. There’s no genetic difference between a Canadian with European ancestry and an American with European ancestry or a European with European ancestry — there’s nothing in our genes that’s waving a Maple Leaf or the Stars and Stripes! As for your indigenous ancestry, detecting it at all depends on (a) how far back it is and (b) the random luck of the draw as those parts of the genome were passed down through the generations.
I am embarrassed to say I was one of the many who got confused and now I need to buy a real DNA test. However, is there anything I can do with the markers that AncestrybyDNA tested? Any cross over? Could I do something at Gedmatch?
Unfortunately, no. AncestrybyDNA isn’t compatible with any of the other services.
I can’t believe that AncestryBYDNA is still around. The plug should have been pulled on this test years ago. It was a little okay in late 2009 when DNA Diagnostics Center got the rights from DNA Print Genomics and it was shown on George Lopez’ “Lopez Tonight” but then again at that point really only 23andme’s admixture test was around and 23andme’s admixture test, “Ancestry Painting,” at that time really wasn’t that much better (not until late 2012 with the first “Ancestry Composition”). Really, AncestryBYDNA should have been buried and forgotten when DNA Print Genomics went out of business, because even though it was really the only admixture test, it was still terrible even for that time.
Not only is groupon/Living Social with DNA Diagnostics Center suckering in people who think they’re getting ancestry.com’s ancestryDNA, but since late 2014 you also have the Maury Povich show (which I admit, I love the paternity shows) are now showing people with this outdated inaccurate test, which will sucker in some unsuspecting people who have never heard of home genomics testing before and leave them with a bad experience and bad opinion.
http://www.yelp.com/biz/ancestrybydna-fairfield A few more reviews in January 2016 of folks who were suckered.
Groupon is how I wound up on this site!
Saw the offer, opened the link, and thought “hmmmm…. this doesn’t look quite right”. Nothing on the site about family trees, or integration/import/export to Ancestry or FamilyTreeDNA. Figured I’d do some sniffing around. Looks like it stinks as much as I thought it did.
Thanks for the informative blog. Hadn’t found it before now!
Thanks for your email post on “Genealogy’s one constant question.” So true, though getting everyone to do research using good practices is basically impossible (but maybe a few will learn). In my case, my father’s parents both had Threlkeld ancestors. The book Threlkeld Genealogy (Col Threlkeld, 1932) has a major error in one ancestor on our ‘maternal’side, the error made evident by my research and others using original tax, wills, marriage, property divisions naming heirs, and other records (plus confirmation of my research by a few others over many years). But, in Ancestry I’ve seen dozens, maybe hundreds, of family trees created by simply propagating the error in Threlkeld Genealogy, without any apparent original research on their own. Frustrating. I do intend to submit a paper (mostly written) on this matter to the major libraries. I’ve got to GET AT IT. Meanwhile, thanks for spreading the gospel. Vernon, Bend, Oregon
Good morning, I just found you code to check my results but could get the web site to come up. I bought several test, how do I get my money back.
I have no idea what company you bought your kits from.