Friday, 26 October 2012

Ancestry's autosomal test is now on general sale in the US

Ancestry's new autosomal DNA test has now gone on general sale in the US. There was no official announcement other than a post last night on's Facebook page. Ancestry initially offered free DNA tests to around 10,000 people in America in order to kickstart their testing programme. In the beta-testing phase the test was offered at the special price of $99 on a first-come first-served basis by invitation only. It is estimated that around 40,000 people were able to order the test at this price. The beta-testing was only actively advertised in the US. I was able to order the test from the UK but I know of no one else outside North America who has yet ordered the test. If you click on the DNA tab on you are taken to this page:
You then have to go to on the US site which takes you to a big splash screen about the new test. For subscribers in the US the test is being offered for $129. This is shown as a reduction on the usual price of $199 though the test has never been on sale at the higher price and Ancestry misleadingly do not make it clear that $199 is the standard price for non-subscribers. If you are in America and don't have an Ancestry subscription there are three options:

1)  Buy the test without a subscription for $199
2)  Buy the test with a 6-month World Explorer subscription for $249
3)  Buy the test with a six-month US Discovery subscription for $189

Note, however, that as Peter Calver of Lost Cousins has pointed out, if you are in America, Canada or Australia it is currently much cheaper to order an Ancestry worldwide subscription from The advertised six-month subscriptions in this new DNA deal are very expensive as it is possible to order an annual worldwide subscription from the UK site for around $218. However, if you order your subscription from the UK site you will probably not be able to order the DNA test. I would be interested to know if anyone in America who has taken out an Ancestry sub via the UK site has been able to order a test.

As you can see from the chart below, if you take the test and don't take out an Ancestry subscription your options are extremely limited. You will be able to see the names of your matches and contact them, but you will seemingly not have access to the trees of your matches so there will be no easy way to filter the matches to find the ones of interest.
CeCe Moore reports that she contacted Ancestry for clarification on this issue. The rep she spoke to was not sure of the answer but did suggest that the trees might be made accessible since "that is an important part of the service". However, Ancestry trees have never before been made accessible to non-subscribers and it seems to me unlikely that Ancestry will make an exception for people who have taken a DNA test, especially when they are selling the test as a loss leader with the aim of encouraging more people to take out a subscription.

There are probably many people who are still on the waiting list who did not received the invitation to order the test at $99. Ancestry have put a comment on their Facebook page that they will honour these invitations. Customers are asked to ring Ancestry's toll-free number 1-800-262-3787 to make the arrangements.

Ancestry subscribers outside North America are not currently able to place an order and it is not known when or if the test will be made available elsewhere. Although I was able to purchase the test from the UK during the $99 beta-testing period, as reported in a previous blog post, it appears that this is no longer possible. I have heard from people in Australia and Ireland who have been unable to order the test and I am sure the same situation will apply in the UK.

The Ancestry autosomal DNA test has a number of limitations compared to the rival products from Family Tree DNA and 23andMe. Ancestry do not currently allow customers to have access to their raw genetic data, though it has since been announced that this will be possible some time in 2013. Furthermore, Ancestry do not provide any details of the matching DNA segments. Without the segment data you have no way of identifying which segments have been inherited from a particular ancestor. Tim Janzen reported on the ISOGG list last night that he had rung Ancestry to ask about the segment data and was told " 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".

There are significant problems with the ethnicity percentages provided by Ancestry and this situation has yet to be resolved. If you are interested in having ethnicity breakdowns the most advanced test on the market is the new Geno 2.0 test from the Genographic Project. This test will also give you haplogroup assignments for mtDNA and, if you are male, for Y-DNA. The first results from the new Geno 2.0 test should be reported in the next few weeks. It is surely no coincidence that Ancestry have chosen to put their test on the market now rather than wait until the problems have been fixed as they will undoubtedly lose market share to the Genographic Project when the Geno 2.0 results start to become available, and reviews start to appear in the newspapers and the blogosphere.

The fact that Ancestry have restricted the test to North Americans is another significant disadvantage. I was told by an Ancestry representative that 99.9% of the database is in America. Although Americans will benefit from matching other Americans in the database, they are often much more interested in making connections across the pond, and it therefore seems very short-sighted to restrict the test to the American market. If the test is made available elsewhere it will now have much less appeal. It will be like trying to find a needle in a haystack wading through pages and pages of American matches in the hope of finding a match with someone from your own country where you will have some chance of finding the genealogical connection. At the moment Ancestry do not have any tool to filter matches by surname so you have to open up the tree for each match individually to check for surnames of interest. And of course you will only be able to see the trees of your matches if you retain your Ancestry subscription.

If you're thinking of doing an autosomal DNA test I cannot recommend the Ancestry DNA test in its present form, and especially with the geographical limitations of its database, unless of course you're like me and wish to experiment with every test that is available! If you are interested in learning about your health and traits you should take the 23andMe test. If you are looking for genealogical matches you should consider taking Family Tree DNA's Family Finder test. If you have already tested with 23orMe and/or FTDNA then the Ancestry test is only likely to be worthwhile in the short term if you are American or are seeking to make connections with lost relatives in America. In such a situation it is always worth casting the net as widely as possible. If you're particularly interested in having ethnicity percentages then the new Geno 2.0 test will be the best option. With the Geno 2.0 test you will be able to transfer your results to the Family Tree DNA database and participate in the many surname, geographical and haplogroup projects.

*Important update*
CeCe Moore has advised me of an important update regarding Ancestry DNA.  She has spoken with another customer service rep today by the name of Jeremy. He told her that "Connect with your DNA matches" from the options chart does NOT mean that you will be able to contact them unless they contact you first. However, 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. CeCe has also been told that the test is now out of beta, but some features of the site are not (like an additional log in for people who have their test on your account and moving test results to a separate account).

© 2012 Debbie Kennett


Your Genetic Genealogist said...

Hi Debbie,
I just received an important update regarding AncestryDNA. I spoke with another customer service rep today named Jeremy. He told me that "Connect with your DNA matches" from the options chart 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.
Also the test is out of Beta, but some features of the site are not.
Thanks very much for keeping your readers informed.

Bill said...

Hi, Can another company's dna testing results be somehow downloaded to Ancestry DNA? From all I've read, Ancestry DNA isn't the way to go, but obviously the family tree connection is very attractive. Family Tree DNA has such a small database in comparison. Thanks, Bill

Debbie Kennett said...

You can't upload results from other companies to the Ancestry autosomal database. 23andMe have the largest autosomal DNA database with 180,000 customers, and now that they've reduced the price of their test to $99 it is the best option. Ancestry probably have around 50,000 people in their autosomal database. FTDNA probably have very similar figures, though they have a much larger general DNA database with around 250,000+ Y-DNA results alone. The Ancestry test is only available to Americans so unless you have Colonial American ancestry then the matching database is effectively useless. Also you don't need a DNA test to search the Ancestry family trees. Without the matching segment information you have no way of proving which line the match is on.