Thursday 26 October 2017

Living DNA updates - free transfers and the launch of the One Family One World project

Living DNA have just launched their new One Family One World project and are now accepting transfers from people who have tested with other companies. Here is the text of the e-mail I received from Living DNA:
Here at Living DNA, we have been working on an exciting new project that we have officially launched today. The One Family One World project. As you've been a great support to Living DNA I wanted to let you know first. 
Our One Family One World project is the first of its kind to attempt to analyse people’s DNA results from around the world allowing them to see where they fit into a One World Family Tree, demonstrating how everyone is related if you go back far enough in time and produce an in-country regional breakdown of DNA from around the world. 
The project involves the use of proprietary technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and will see tens of thousands of computers working together to identify distinctive and shared patterns in people’s DNA. 
Eventually we will be running in-country regional projects across the world, today people can join no matter where they are from and we already have a number of specific projects that can be seen here -
You can find out a lot more information on the project, and how to get involved by visiting the website at If you know anyone that’s already taken a DNA test they can upload their DNA for Free and will benefit from a new type of DNA Matching in mid 2018. 
Your support and opinion matters to us, so we would love to hear your feedback on the project. Also, let us know if you would like to get involved in any way - we always value any way in which people would like to work with us. 
We’ve put together an introduction blog post that you can read
We hope you’re as excited as we are on this new 5-year project, and I look forward to hearing from you all soon. 
Warm regards, 
David Nicholson & Hannah Mordern 
ps. Apologies for the group email and do feel free to circulate this to other people 
pps. DNA Matching is in final stages of testing for Living DNA clients, we are still aiming to get this live by the end of the year
ppps. The press release is also online
pppps. People taking part and uploading their DNA for free don't get the regional UK breakdown just DNA matching when live and all the other things that will come out of the project. Therefore its not a substitute for a Living DNA test.
You can watch a video about the One Family project here.
If you are reading this by e-mail you can click here instead.

Living DNA already have projects for Ireland and Germany where they are collecting samples from people with four grandparents from the same region so it's good to see that this concept has been extended to other countries. With better sampling and larger reference datasets we can expect to see continuing improvements to the biogeographical ancestry reports with the promise of meaningful breakdowns at the regional and subregional levels.

Living DNA were the sponsors of the evening meal for the ISOGG Big Day Out in Dublin at Genetic Genealogy Ireland. I had the chance to talk to Martin Blythe of Living DNA about their forthcoming matching service. They will be delivering phased matching but they are also adopting an exciting and innovative new approach. It will be very interesting to see how their matching works out and how it compares with the services provided by the other testing companies.

If you don't want to do the transfer and prefer to get tested on Living DNA's new Orion chip (a customised version of Illumina's Global Screening Array chip) then the test is currently on sale at the reduced price of £99 ($99 in the US, €129,00 in the Eurozone). Check out the Living DNA website for prices in other countries. If you have four grandparents born within 50 miles of one another you will be eligible for a special discount on a new test.

Update 31 October 2017
Living DNA have published the following notice in the Living DNA Users' Group on Facebook in response to questions received about the One Family One World Project:
Hi Everyone, 
The One Family One World, five year scientific research project has started with great success with thousands of people delighted to be supporting the project and its purpose. 
As with all scientific projects results will take time as it requires the combined analysis of hundreds of thousands of DNA samples. 
We’ve received some questions that we want to clarify. 
How long will the project take? 
This is a five year research project and results will be announced in phases, the exact timing of the results will depend on how many people from different parts of the world take part. A critical mass for each area is required and for the overall One Family Tree. 
A number of people who requested to join the project and uploaded their data received an incorrect estimated completion date. These have now been updated to reflect when global DNA matching will be available, which is by summer 2018. This is not the date the project will be complete. 
What do I get from taking part? 
The purpose of the project is to help scientific research, and ultimately build a global family tree. To say thank you for your support, each person will be able to choose to see how they match and connect to other people both within the project and with Living DNA clients. What we can’t offer for free is your ethnic breakdown simply due to the significant data analysis costs. 
But if you buy a Living DNA kit, then you can take part in the project, receive matching when it is live and see your mtDNA/YDNA and ethnicity breakdowns. 
How do I get my ethnicity breakdown? 
Living DNA are working on delivering this, so that people who’ve already taken a DNA test can upload their results for a small fee, and receive their ethnic mix. We will announce this through our social channels as soon as we have an update.
What if I change my mind? 
With all projects run by Living DNA if you change your mind before your data is used you can contact us and we will remove your information from the system. Data used in the projects is anonymised. Please note that this means you will not have the option to find DNA Matches, help scientific research and be part of helping to build One Family genetic tree. 
We appreciate that a small number of people suggested that the information above could be made even more clear on the project website, so we are working to get these changes made by the end of the week. 
Thank you for all your support in what is an incredible project that everyone can be part of, 
Warmest Regards 
David Nicholson & Hannah Morden
Co-Founders - Living DNA
Disclosure. I shared my raw data files from AncestryDNA, 23andMe and FTDNA with Living DNA to help them test their system prior to the launch of their test in September 2016. In return I received a free Living DNA test. All views expressed here are my own.


Tim Gatty said...

It's a con. An hour after confirming email and still no instructions to upload raw data.

Flameseh? said...

Wow! This looks very interesting. But a huge project. How is LivingDNA funding this I wonder?

Larry Kettlewell

Debbie Kennett said...

Tim, Can I suggest you contact Living DNA to see what has happened with your transfer? I've not yet had time to test the transfers myself but other people have transferred without any problems.

Larry, I presume Living DNA are funding this from the cost of kit sales. I imagine they will probably want to introduce add-on tests that will bring in extra money. We currently have all the companies competing for market share by trying to get the biggest and/or most representative databases. It makes a change to have a company focusing on the European market rather than the American market.

Wing Genealogist said...

I would imagine the discount they offer for folks who have all 4 grandparents born 50 miles from each other would not pertain to folks in the "colonies" (ie North & South America and Australia).

Debbie Kennett said...

I don't think it should any make difference where you live. It's the genealogy that's important.

Michaela Thompson said...

This does look like a total con like Tim said above. I can't really see that you get anything. It seems they just want to collect data for free. It's total rubbish that they want this for scientific research. They want it for commercial reasons to help improve what they do and sell more subscriptions.

Debbie Kennett said...


It's not a con at all. Living DNA are just trying to build up their database. MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA also allow free uploads.

If you transfer your data to Living DNA you will be able to participate in their new matching service known as Family Networks. See my blog post here:

Matching with genetic cousins is the most useful part of any DNA test. Clearly the company will want to use the data to improve their biogeographical ancestry reports. This will make the service more attractive to non-British customers but this type of database will also be of interest to scientists. There are some scientists who work with the company on a consultancy basis and I can see that they would be interested in using these datasets to do scientific studies along the lines of the People of the British Isles Project.

Michaela Thompson said...

Thanks Debbie.

When you upload your data to MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA do you get your results back straight away? It looks like you do not get anything back from LivingDNA. Just a vague promise of matching in the future?

Do you know how good the matching will be? How many people will I get matched to?

This seems of much more value to LivingDNA than to me. Will I get my ethnic breakdown? It looks like no.

Why do you think matching is the most useful part of any DNA test? I want to know where my ancestors came from so I want to see my ethnic breakdown.

Debbie Kennett said...


When you upload your data to MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA you do get your results very quickly. I can't remember the exact timescale but usually within a couple of days at most. At MyHeritage you get the matches and the ethnicity reports free but you need a subscription to access some of the other services. At FTDNA you get the matches free and you get the e-mail addresses of all your matches. You have to pay a one-off fee of $19 to access the ethnicity report and the chromosome browser feature.

At Living DNA you will not get the ethnic breakdown with the free transfer.

If you want to know where you ancestors came from then you need to do family history research. DNA testing is a useful tool when used in combination with genealogical records. DNA on its own can't tall you where you came from. The ethnic reports give you a broad overview but the results are not very reliable beyond the continental level and can vary considerably from country to country. They also don't correspond with our known genealogies in the last couple of hundred years. Living DNA is the exception and provides good results for people of British ancestry but over-estimates British ancestry for people of different ancestries which is why they want to get the reference samples from other populations. They are using a different methodology to the other companies.

Michaela Thompson said...

Thanks, that is really helpful.

Do you know why LivingDNA won't give you an ethnic breakdown?

What methodologies are LivingDNA using and how is it different from the other companies? Do the other companies all use the same methodology?

For the matching, can you say anything about how good it will be? If I upload my data it would be nice to know more details about what I get back in return? Why should I give them my DNA if there is no guarantee about what I might get back? My DNA is clearly very valuable to them. I'm sorry, but I do think it is a bit of a con. I'm not sure I want to upload my DNA without much more information.

Debbie Kennett said...

Living DNA will give you an ethnic breakdown if you pay for their test. All companies have to make a profit somehow. It's standard practice to offer some services for free and then charge for the premium offerings.

I can't say how good the matching will be until we start getting the results from the beta testing.

If you upload your DNA you will get the chance to be matched with genetic cousins. That can help with your family history research. The Living DNA test is of more interest to people in the UK because of the regional breakdowns in Britain. You will find people in the database who might not be in any other database.

If you're not interested in family history research then you're not going to get much out of transferring your data.

Michaela Thompson said...

Do 23andMe and AncestryDNA give you any services for free if you upload DNA?

How big will the LivingDNA database need to be in order to have a decent chance of finding any genetic cousins? When you start getting results from testing what would consider to be a successful testing? Will you just get to see if your own data matches to anyone else? Or will you report on how lots of people match?

Also, it would be very helpful if you could tell me what you know about how LivingDNA's methods compare to the other companies?

Debbie Kennett said...


Neither 23andMe nor AncestryDNA will accept uploads from other companies. They have the largest databases (five million at 23andMe and seven million at Ancestry). The larger the database the more you learn, hence the desire for the other companies to grow their databases by offering free transfers but charging for add on services. With cousin matching you are given a list of genetic cousins based purely on the DNA. I have something like 10,000 cousins at Ancestry, 2000 or so at MyHeritage and over 1000 each at FTDNA and 23andMe. It's not the number of cousins that's important but whether or not they are genealogically relevant. There are huge numbers of Americans in all the databases so my match lists at all the other companies are dominated by Americans. I don't have any ancestors who emigrated to America so these distant cousin matches are not helpful to me. I'm sure that Living DNA will have enough people in their database to give us some good matches and because they are a British company there will be a greater chance of getting good British matches.

I've written various blog posts about Living DNA so I suggest you look on the Living DNA and read those to understand what they're doing.