Friday, January 23, 2015

Bait-And-Switch At AncestryDNA

Correction: the requirement for a subscription only applies to new tests after last fall's changes. You will get the screen shown on the right if you recently tested and try to access trees. You will be required to pay at least $49 a year to see any portion of a tree.

I was absolutely blown away yesterday when my cousin's DNA results came back and we couldn't even view partial trees for his matches. I set up a free account for him. In the past you could view the first 7 generations of a match's pedigree without subscribing. You could even see more if you clicked on the names. Now you can't see anything without subscribing. I think this is highly unethical. When I bought my kit I understood that I would be able to see at least a partial tree without paying a dollar more. This test has suddenly become the most expensive test offered by any company. Without the trees the test is useless, other than getting the highly controversial ethnic results, there would be no reason to use their test. If you maintain the minimum subscription of $49 to see the trees the test would end up costing you more than $500 over 10 years. I would rather use that money traveling to ancestral locations. The test results, which are often changed for the worse, the glitches, and no segment information in the AncestryDNA database mean this test is absolutely not worth that amount of money.

After learning about this bait-and-switch move by AncestryDNA I've decided I will eventually make my tree private. If Ancestry decides to make viewing partial trees free again I will unlock my tree. A number of people have linked to my tree so I will have to invite them to my private tree.

So now when you buy an AncestryDNA kit for someone as a gift they will be required to maintain some kind of subscription to continue to see the trees. A gift that keeps on taking?

In my last blog I shared the fact that a 3rd cousin 1x removed disappeared from my Mom's match list. It seems she purchased a test for another relative, and that relative now matches my Mom at the Extremely High Confidence level. Their result came in yesterday. This person appears to be a 2nd cousin 1x removed to my Mom. I will contact this match and see if she would be willing to compare at GEDmatch. I have a feeling they both share large segments.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Which DNA Company Has The Best Matching System?

I am now finally able to evaluate the new matching system, at AncestryDNA, which uses the Timber filter to eliminate supposedly IBS segments. I was quite shocked to find a 3rd cousin 1x removed, who was a 95% confidence level match, now missing from my Mom's match list. This match is in a Circle with us and definitely isn't considered a match anymore.  A cousin lost a total of 8 matches who were previously 95% confidence level matches, which no longer match at all.

Now that I have this comparison information I can evaluate the 3 companies I have experience with i.e: Family Tree DNA, AncestryDNA, and 23andMe.
  1. 23andMe's system appears to be the best. Their matching procedure isn't as rigid as the others, which may result in false matches,  but I believe they have a good confidence rating system which should provide enough guidance when it comes to establishing the likelihood that you are actually related.
  2. Family Tree DNA uses IBS small segments to determine matches. This sort of rating system can cause good matches to be lost.
  3. I rate AncestryDNA well below the others when it comes to matching. They phase results and now use a Timber filter to determine IBS segments. AncestryDNA processes as many as 30,000 kits a month. I believe the extra processing they do with the kits affects the accuracy of their match results. They claim their processes have a low error rate. I personally think the error rate is higher than they claim. Their computer system is full of glitches which may also affect the match results? Both my Mom and I lost 3 previously 95% confidence matches ( one was a 3rd cousin 1x removed). A third cousin of mine lost 8 matches in the previously 95% confidence level. After phasing these matches looked strong, the Timber filter eliminated them completely. Timber also pushed a few 95% confidence matches into the Extremely High confidence level. A couple of these matches have extensive trees going back 8 generations. I can't find a common ancestor or even common places with them?
I have to say I was sold on phasing after listening to AncestryDNA representatives talk about it. I believe it works well on a small scale, with more quality control than is  possible when working with a high volume of kits.

I think it would be best if all of the companies would use the same match criteria as 23andMe, which is at least one segment which is 7 cMs and 700 SNPs. 23andMe sets a cap on the number of matches to avoid the problem AncestryDNA had with massive numbers of matches. I think the cap is a better idea than trying to filter out IBS segments and in the process losing good matches. is more of an entertainment site rather than a serious genealogy site. A great blog post explaining the pitfalls of this approach was published this week "Ignorance is Bliss at AncestryDNA". I would still test with them; it's just important to realize their match procedure and confidence levels are flawed. I probably lost half a dozen matches I felt were likely true matches at AncestryDNA when the Timber filter was used. That's not a good thing, but I can live with that because the trees are so helpful.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

DNA News of the Week: 23andMe Digs Out Of Hole & No Chromosome Browser at AncestryDNA

My first Exam for a Udemy Genetics course

News out of the "Association of Professional Genealogists’ Professional Management " conference in Salt Lake City, from a blog post by the "The Legal Genealogist", AncestryDNA will not have a chromosome browser and that's final ( unless there is a management change at some point). I would never pay $99 for the test without the chromosome browser. I believe it's worth $49. Ancestry's DNA business is the only thing driving new subscriptions at this point. I feel like this will help to keep Ancestry afloat for a while. Long term I think sales will slow down. Ancestry's database subscriptions are too expensive to maintain for years on end. You only save money if you subscribe to them for a limited time. If Ancestry had images of Deeds I would definitely maintain a subscription longer. I will have to cancel my monthly subscription soon. I just have too many other financial obligations to continue. I'm going a spending diet for a while.

23andMe announced a deal with big pharma to examine the role of genetics in the Parkinson's disease process. It's a $10 million deal. I have no problem with 23andMe's use of customer information for research purposes. I believe everyone testing with them is aware that their primary goal is to collect DNA and use it to help customers understand health risk factors they may have, and compile customers' health survey information to find common genetic characteristics of people with certain diseases.

Listening to a Youtube video presentation by 23andMe founder Anne Wojcicki did bring up some good points. She was asked shouldn't the testers be paid for their contribution instead of the other way around? I don't know about offering free tests. I think that would be highly unlikely. I think $30 would be a fair price for the kind of information 23andMe offers, plus the fact they are profiting form the results. I'm considering testing with them but feel $99 is too much considering the results are still subject to debate. I was shocked when I read, in the "Time" article, that the number of testers dropped by half after the FDA suspended the health portion of the test. I think a drop in price would help to rebuild their database. Testing with 23andMe for genealogy purposes has been helpful for some people. My particular family doesn't seem to be well represented in their database judging by my cousin's results.

ISOGG updated their identical by descent information. I think the phasing that AncestryDNA does is helpful in weeding out IBS segments, as stated by ISOGG, even though it's not perfect. However I'm skeptical of their approach when it comes to filtering pile up matches. Reading "How Phasing Works and Determining IBD Versus IBS Matches" blog post at the "DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy" blog it sounds like what defines a "pile up" is variable. As few as 25 people sharing DNA in the same place may be considered a "pile up". So someone sharing 24 matches in the same place on a segment wouldn't be a "pile up"? I'm wondering exactly what the arbitrary cut offs really are? It seems ridiculous.

I'm taking a Udemy Intro to Genetic Genealogy course. It's very interesting so far. Got 100% on my first examine. I love the ancient theory of preformationism. The idea that there are little preformed bodies in sperm is so funny.

We got a new match at Family Tree DNA this week. This is a predicted 2nd to 4th cousin for my Mom. I found a dozen people triangulating on segments shared with this match, which I believe may be related to our Browning line. If I verify this it would cut my list of unidentified matches at Family Tree DNA by around 12. I know that at least one match shares the same Browning line with my Mom and I. Several members of the same family tested with Family Tree DNA, and they share the same Browning match with us. I was thinking they shared this same family line hundreds of years ago. Now I'm thinking it may have been more recently as the 2nd to 4th cousin prediction would suggest. I noticed their Combs line lived in Lawrence County, IN  and Monroe County, IN where some of our Browning relatives settled.

My cousin's AncestryDNA kit is being processed now. Hopefully we'll see results in a couple weeks?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2014 Year in Genetic Genealogy: Looking Backward And Looking Forward

Family Tree DNA myOrigins was introduced this year

Happy New Year 2015!

We began the year 2014 with a push to grow our Forgey/Forgy & Forgie Y DNA project. We did grow it by several additional members. We added two additional men to the main grouping, and three are now outside the most common Y haplo group. We need to solve two of these NPE's. Hoping an autosomal test will show a female line of descent for one of these lines?

My Mom and I tested with AncestryDNA this year. I tested in March and my Mom in July. I've found a couple dozen matches through Ancestry. I had a few taken away recently with their new pile up elimination filter. It's going to take a few years before we know how accurate Ancestry's methods really are.

My Aunt Loretta tested with Family Tree DNA. Their new myOrigins ethnicity estimate was very far off for her. The estimates for my Mom and I are closer to correct.

My DNA Personal Highlights 2014:

  1. My Aunt matched an Owens descendant through the George Owens line.
  2. Confirmed a 3rd cousin once removed in my Owens' line. No breaks in our Owens line to William F. Owens b. abt. 1820 & Nancy Hicks.
  3. We triangulated with a Melvin match. Feel confident about our blood relationship to that line now. That takes the confirmed Hicks/Melvin line back to John Melvin b. abt. 1776.
  4. I match a couple of Scrouf descendants and Darrell matches one. If this is a true DNA match it would take us back to John Owens b. abt. 1730.
  5. We confirmed Archibald Forgey is related to everyone else in the common Haplo Forgey/Forgy & Forgie grouping at Family Tree DNA. I also confirmed that my own family had a rare mutation on a slow moving marker that the Archibald line doesn't share.
  6. I found out our Thurman line is descended through a Richard Thurman and Sarah. The Y haplo for this line is the Viking Haplo I-M253.
  7. We still have a Forgey/Roller AncestryDNA match who is a 1st cousin once removed to Archibald Forgey's descendant Christy. Nan, her brother , and Aunt are also matches on the same line.
  8. Another important remaining match at AncestryDNA is with a Descendant of John Forgey son of Andrew Forgey and Margaret Reynolds. This is a very strong match for my Mom. This would confirm the Forgey line back to Andrew Forgey b. 1732 and Margaret Reynolds b. 1741. It's difficult to evaluate the validity to this match at AncestryDNA without seeing the shared segment.
  9. We have a different Samuel Forgy b. 1726 match now (lost a previous one). This seems to point to a relationship at around 7 or 8 generations.
  10. We've had several Moses Wray descendants match at both AncestryDNA and Family Tree DNA. I feel this line is confirmed back to Moses Wray b. abt. 1725 and Elizabeth Morris. We've had some Morris matches also, one additional generation back.
  11. I was able to identify a close match that was a mystery for a couple of years. She descends from Mary Magdalene Roller.
  12. We may have matches with a couple of Francis Browning b. 1672 descendants? I believe only my Mom matches these descendants? Her reach is much farther back than mine.
Looking forward to some new AncestryDNA results in the New Year. My 1st cousin on my father's side, Darryl, is testing and a 6th cousin, Forgey line, is testing right now. My cousin Judy is also considering testing and would be able to compare with our Aunt, Darryl and I.  I would like to see a Huvane line cousin test. So far that line is not represented at Family Tree DNA or Ancestry. I would also like to see an Owens male in my line test to at least 37 markers on the Y test. Right now we only have one in my line testing at 25 markers. I will also look into having another Forgey male tested. I'm hoping someone who stated he was previously interested, is still interested?

What I will be keeping my eye on, from this point, is ethnicity estimates and brickwall related matches. Campbell, Owens, Forgey, Browning and Urmey are the names I'm focusing my DNA research on. I'm hoping the AncestryDNA Circles are fixed and expanded to make them more useful.

On a non genetic genealogy note, it was nice to find the marriage date and place for my Kapple grandparents. They had divorced and the date, and place, of their marriage had been forgotten. Found some new family picture posted to trees at Hope to find more pics posted this year.

Our collective Year In Genetic Genealogy and the Year to Come:

New episodes of "Who Do You Think You Are?" are due out early this year (beginning February 24). According to the ratings for the last season of this show were down from the previous season. Ancestry also said the CNN special about their anchors' family history stories was very successful. Ancestry also felt the last season of PBS's "Finding Your Roots" was a good investment for them. Expect to see more Ancestry commercials on FOX in the New Year. The FOX audience is a key demographic for them. I'm wondering if the DNA test sales will slow at some point? If they lower the price I believe their sales will continue growing. At the current $100 price I've found most average people aren't interested in testing. When they've had their $49 sales they've had blowout months. AncestryDNA is expanding their testing service outside the US this year, which will bolster sales this year.

We had some wonderful learning opportunities online this year. Spencer Wells gave a fascinating keynote speech early last year at "Roots Tech". Jamboree featured some great DNA presentations. One of the best was "The Future of Genetic Genealogy" presented by the founder of Family Tree DNA Bennett Greenspan (full sequencing and IDing rare SNPs is the future). The International Genetic Genealogy conference (I4GG) also offered presentations online and was, and is, another great opportunity learning. These presentations are still available for purchase. Family Tree DNA and Ancestry also offered several webinars, and livestreams, regarding DNA and interpreting their products. 23andme offered a couple of live hangouts which were also very interesting. Several conferences in the British Isles also featured DNA presentations which are still available for viewing at Youtube. I found these presentations excellent.

I've learned so much from the Facebook group International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) this year. This group is such a good place to keep up with current news about genetic genealogy. You can also ask questions. Sometimes flash DNA sales are announced here. You have to be quick to cash in on some of these sales, as we found out, because they can end as quickly as they are announced.

I'll be listening to "Roots Tech" presentations available online in February. I think it's a mistake to have former First Lady Laura Bush and her daughter, Jenna, speak. This should be a non political event. Introducing politics will just cause hostility. What happened to the tech part of "Roots Tech" anyway? The speakers should have some involvement with the Tech community, or at least genealogy.

23andMe and MyHeritage will be collaborating in the new year. If 23andMe gets the green light to resume presenting medical results their database will grow faster again.

AncestryDNA seems to be moving in the direction of reconstructing ancestral genomes, hence the new Circles centered around specific ancestors. This could be a difficult undertaking because of serious errors in some of the Ancestry trees. Many people just copy information from other trees. Everyone in a circle may have information from the same wrong tree. Everyone in a Circle may be related, but not in the way they expected? They may have misidentified their common ancestor. The results of Ancestry's first attempt at this kind of ancestral genome reconstruction were released late this year.

2014 has been an incredible watershed year in genetic genealogy. We'll see if it can be topped in future years?

Family Tree DNA introduced a new tree interface this year