Thursday, 2 November 2017

AncestryDNA updates – six million customers, a new DNA Story layout and changes to the consent process

There have been a few changes at Ancestry DNA in the last few days. They've started to roll out a new presentation for their "ethnicity" reports and Genetic Communities. The two features are now integrated which makes them much easier to use. This is what my new home page looks like. The admixture percentages have not changed but I am encouraged to click through to view my DNA Story.


Here is my new DNA Story page. By default the low-confidence regions are not shown, but I've expanded them in this screenshot.


I currently have one Genetic Community for Southern England. That is now nested inside the Great Britain region.

The admixture component that was previously labelled Ireland has now been renamed as Ireland/Scotland/Wales. However, this component actually covers much of England as well, and overlaps with the Southern England Genetic Community, as can be seen below.


The timeline is now conveniently located at the bottom of the page. It's easy to click through and read the historical detail for the different periods. Here's my timeline from 1850 which shows the migrations of the people in my Southern England community. This is the era of peak emigration, particularly to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and America, and it's fascinating to see how these connections are showing up in the DNA.


Some people are also seeing Migrations listed below their "ethnicity" report. This only applies if the person's genetic community is not part of their admixture regions.

AncestryDNA database now at six million and changes to the consent process
AncestryDNA have also announced that their database has reached six million. They had five million people in their database at the beginning of August 2017, which means they've added one million to their database in less than three months. The good news is that much of that growth has taken place in the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

At the same time AncestryDNA have also made some changes to the DNA cousin-matching service, as described in this blog post. Most importantly, customers now have the ability to opt out of cousin matching, and new customers have to actively consent to participate in the relative-matching database. This is what the test settings now look like for existing customers.


This is the message you get if you want to change the settings for your DNA matches.



Here is the page in the activation process for new testers where you have to consent to "see and be seen" by your DNA matches.

This is what the home page now looks like if the tester decides not to opt in to matching. (Many thanks to Michelle Leonard for these two screenshots.)


This is a very welcome change, and I'm just surprised that it didn't happen sooner. This brings AncestryDNA into line with 23andMe and Family Tree DNA, both of whom require the tester to opt in to be included in the matching database.

I always warn my fellow genealogists to be prepared for the unexpected. With the growth in the DNA databases we are finding many examples of surprise DNA matches. Some people are getting unexpected matches with previously unknown close relatives, and sometimes even with unknown siblings and parents. Much of the focus of the AncestryDNA marketing campaigns has been on the admixture percentages, and this has helped to bring in a whole new demographic to DNA testing, many of whom have then been inspired to start researching their family tree. However, many of these people don't realise that the test also has a direct genealogical application and can be used for cousin matching. I've personally come across a couple of instances of people testing to get the admixture percentages and then finding by chance that they had an unknown parent or child in the database. These discoveries were made in the most inappropriate circumstances and the embarrassment could have been avoided if there had been a proper consent process in place at the time. It's important that everyone who participates in the DNA matching database understands what they are doing and that they are forewarned about the implications so that they can make their own choices based on their individual circumstances. Not everyone is willing or ready to discover unknown relatives and their wishes should be respected.

Further reading

2 comments:

Sheilarena said...

Kitty, once again you have provided information that is pertinent to all people interested in genealogy. Ancestry has had the changes up for a while. I like their new look. Cousin matching and knowing their ethnicity was and is an important tool for those who are searching for their families. The change has already impacted my searching when getting new dna matches with the only clue of shared matches whom I do not know. That’s problematic when they fall into the thousands range and I don’t do searching 8 hours a day. This issue was bound to happen and to be clear, privacy is important. There is another group that is strongly impacted as we well know.
The comments I read from Ancestry users were largely angry for this reason.

Debbie Kennett said...

Sheila, I'm Debbie not Kitty but I'm glad you found the information useful! I've read some of the comments from the angry AncestryDNA users on their blog but these people aren't seeing the perspective from the other point of view. Everyone has the right to decide what to do with their own DNA and that includes the right not to be found. The fact that Ancestry are taking privacy issues so seriously should have a positive impact for everyone. People who were previously reluctant to test for fear of what they might find can now do so safely in the knowledge that they can look at their matches when they're ready to do and can switch them off if the prefer as well. I would much prefer that someone switched off their matches because they found an unexpected close relative rather than delete their entire account altogether. Now people have the chance to come to terms with the findings in their own free time. It's no different to what 23andMe and AncestryDNA are already doing.