Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Did AncestryDNA quietly become more expensive?

Many of us die hard genetic genealogists who are seriously addicted to family history research may not have noticed, but AncestryDNA seems to have become more expensive for the casual DNA test taker. In a notice last updated on January 12th in the Help section of its site, Ancestry differentiated what is available to those who order an autosomal DNA (atDNA) test and those who order an atDNA test AND a database subscription. 

For those of us who regularly research family history, we subscribe to Ancestry.com for the billions of records in historical databases. If we throw in an atDNA test; we get the full matching information at no extra charge except for the modest, one-time, cost of the test (currently $99). However, the current pricing structure as described above, makes one wonder if the price of the test is considered to be a loss leader to sell subscriptions to databases. If so it is understandable why Ancestry often offers the test at flash sale prices of $89, $69 and even $49.

Many of you will remember that Ancestry announced last summer that it was no longer testing yDNA and mtDNA. They really had not been active in this marketplace for some time when this announcement was made. 

What then do persons get if they do not also subscribe to the databases? Ancestry says:

An AncestryDNA test without an Ancestry subscription includes:

§     One of the most technologically advanced autosomal DNA tests available, that looks at over 700,000 markers across your entire genome.
  §     You’ll have access to your personal online DNA results, on Ancestry.com at all times.
  §     Your DNA results include your full genetic ethnicity breakdown. So for instance, you can quickly discover if you’re part Scandinavian, North African, European Jewish—AncestryDNA reports on 26 different regions from around the world.
  §     Receive updates to your ethnicity over time as we roll out new findings.
  §     Your DNA results also include a dynamic list of DNA member matches to help you find potential new relatives. This is continually updated and includes everything from immediate and close family to 4th-5th cousins.
  §     Manage multiple AncestryDNA tests in one account.
  §     Keep your DNA results stored securely with your family history research on Ancestry.com, all in one place.
The first four items above have to do with ethnicity testing. This would seem to be the main benefit for someone who tests but does not want to subscribe to database access. This is a prime motivation for many people to test. It swells the size of the database of tested individuals and provides more matches for all of us. 

For those of us who consider ourselves to be serious genetic genealogists, the ethnicity results are the softest part of the "science" of DNA testing for family history. The accuracy of the DNA testing is not in question. However, our knowledge of the GPS locations of specific populations 500 to a 1,000 or more years ago is far from settled science. 

Hard core genetic genealogists are after the matching relatives. We are also interested in the details of how and where theses matches occur. We have been frustrated by Ancestry's unwillingness to provide such details since it got into atDNA testing almost three years ago. It does not look like relief is on the way. 

It is unclear to Dr. D what exactly customers are being offered in the 5th bulleted item above:
 §     Your DNA results also include a dynamic list of DNA member matches to help you find potential new relatives. This is continually updated and includes everything from immediate and close family to 4th-5th cousins.
It appears that the list of close matches will be updated and continue to be available even if one does not opt to subscribe to Ancestry's database. What is not clear is whether such individuals will be able to see the pedigree charts of those matches. Without the pedigree charts, such matches are essentially useless genealogically speaking.

I hope someone from Ancestry will be able to clear this up for us. 


  1. Which is more important to get, the contact details or the tree (which may be wrong anyway)? Supposing say you could see their tree but they never reply to your contact email anyway? Just a thought.

  2. Hopefully, it is not either/or. Genetic genealogists want it all and we want it now! ;-)