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Changing Market for Home DNA Testing

Peter Lebensold
 

Despite all the caveats, DNA testing has made a huge difference in my research:

Thanks to (and through) 23andMe, I was contacted by someone who turned out to be a cousin -- different last name, living in Brazil, but "Half identical, 672 cM, 23 segments" -- who's made me aware of (and put me in touch with) an entire "second family" that my uncle (born in Poland, living in Chicago) "created" while travelling regularly to Rio de Janeiro!  (Which explains a story that my mother always told me about her brother's wife selling his business out from under him while he was away on one of his "business" trips!)  

I am happy to say that -- through me, and thanks to a couple of 23andMe DNA tests -- a new generation of half-sisters have finally been connected with each other!

Lesson: Never, ever, ever give up!

Peter LEBENSOLD
Toronto

ResearchingGELBFISZ/FISH/GOLDWYN (Warsaw, Los Angeles), LEBENSOLD/LIBENSCHULD/and variants (anywhere), SZAFIR/SHAFFER/ and variants (Warsaw, New York, elsewhere in USA), KORN (Poland, Philippines, San Francisco), BORENSTEIN (Poland, USA, Canada), WERNER (Poland, Glasgow) ...
Additionally, in/from Poland: BAUMEISTER, BRUMBERGGUTLIEZERHOPPENGARTEN, JARECKA, KORMAN, LEVYNUSBAUMOPOSDOWER, REJZMANZEMSZ, 

Herbert Lazerow
 

    Part of the problem with dna testing services is that our expectations are too high and their explanations are too minimal, and often not read.
    1. There is a lot of "noise" dna out there that matches, especially for Ashkenazi Jews and other communities with a long history of intra-marriage.  For that reason, a large number of centiMorgans of match may not tell us much except that at some point in history, there was a common ancestor.  The problem is that for Jews whose ancestors come from eastern Europe, records only began to be kept in the 1800s, and many of those records have since been destroyed or temporarily lost.  For that reason, we can neither confirm nor deny a relationship based on a common ancestor who was born much before 1800.  What tells us in a rough way how long ago the common ancestor lived is the second number, the length of the longest consecutive string of matching dna.  It seems to require a minimum of 20 cMs, and more often 40 cMs, to find a common ancestor after 1800.
    2. We each can be sure that we are receiving 50% of our dna from each parent.  Thus, in a perfect statistical world, grandfather (gf) would have 50% of greatgrandfather’s (ggf) dna and 50% greatgrandmother’s dna.  Gf’s son father (f) would have 25% ggf dna, and father’s son (s) would have 12.5% ggf.  However, that is not exactly how it works because
    3.  the 50% of each of your parent's genes you receive is a RANDOM half.  Assume that ggf had only 8 genes, A-H.  Assume further that gf inherited 4 of them, genes A-D, 50%.  F inherited 50% of gf’s genes, but which ones? It could have been A-D, in which case father would have 50% ggf genes, just like gf. If father inherited genes E-H, father would have no ggf genes. Either result is possible, though neither is the most statistically likely.  It is more likely that f inherited 3, 2, or 1 ggf genes. Let's say he inherited 2, though it might as easily have been 1 or 3.  Now I make my grand entrance into the world.  How many ggf genes do I get? Maximum is 2, because that was all f had.  I am more likely to get 1 than 2, and more likely to get none than 2, because I had only a 1 in 4 chance of getting any, since only 2 of father’s genes were ggf genes.
    4. Which seems depressing for the likelihood of finding relatives by dna testing, but the good news is that we each have more than 8 genes. We have about 3 billion “base pairs”. Even at the remove of 5 generations, there is likely to be some evidence of relatedness. 
    This is why my test reports such different numbers of matched centiMorgans for people who bear the same relationship to me. My known second cousins vary from 291 total matched centiMorgans/75 cMs longest matched segment to 240/43 to 200/21.  I have a third cousin with whom I share only 103 cMs, but our longest consecutive string is 60 cMs.
    Sometimes I think that science is not nearly as precise as we non-scientists believe. Or perhaps it is very precise, but we need to learn to read it better.  For Ashkenazi Jews, big total cMs are not as important as long length of longest strand.
    That raises three problems with home dna testing companies. I have tested with Family Tree DNA and Ancestrydna, and posted my Family Tree results to MyHeritage, so I can only speak about those services.
     The services vary in different ways.  Ancestrydna advertises that it has the largest database.  My hunch is that Family Tree DNA has the largest Jewish database.  MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA provide a host of services and information for comparing your results with others. Ancestrydna does not even provide the length of the longest continuous stretch of matching dna; you can try to figure it out from the number of segments counted and the total amount that matches, but that is just a guess.
     Those services that ask for ancestral surnames do not ask very effectively.  The time to ask is in your application for the testing kit, but that would slow down the moment when the customer pays his money.  They could direct you to an appropriate form when they send you notice that your results are ready, but they do not. You must find it yourself.
     It is incredibly frustrating to have a match and message the person, but receive no response. I always send my ancestral surnames and locations to my matches.  I assume that a person who does not respond finds no matching surname or geography, but that is not always true.  Some known relatives have not responded. An alternate explanation is that these are people who received the test kit as a gift or who did the test as an accommodation to a close family member, but are really not interested.
     On messaging, there is a big difference between Family Tree DNA, which provides the e-mail address of your matches, and Ancestrydna and MyHeritage, which require that you communicate through their internal messaging service.  For a period the latter did not allow use of the messaging service if you did not continue to subscribe.  I think they have discontinued that limitation.
     The changing market for home DNA testing may simply reflect a changing fad, disillusionment due to excessively high expectations, too many companies dividing the market, or the fact that most people who want testing have done it. Company mergers might benefit users because they would increase the size of the database used for comparison, but one must always be aware that there are competition laws both in Europe and the U.S. that may present legal impediments to mergers, or even sharing of databases between companies.
Bert
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Herbert Lazerow
Professor of Law, University of San Diego
5998 Alcala Park, San Diego CA 92110 U.S.A.
(619)260-4597 office, (858)453-2388 cell, lazer@...
Author: Mastering Art Law (Carolina Academic Press 2015)

Jake Jacobs
 

Something to check, if you are not getting responses to emails about DNA matches: I just discovered that my email/message box on Ancestry was nonfunctional: Nothing coming in, nothing going out. Figured this out when I sent a message to a cousin, who did not receive it.  I checked my outbox, and it did not reflect a single message sent since 2012!  I have sent many messages since that time, but no responses.  I contacted Ancestry. It took them 2 months to get the problem resolved. It finally does appear to be working.

If you haven't had any responses at all on Ancestry, might be worth checking your mailbox, sending a test message to someone who can confirm they received it.

Diane Jacobs
Austin, Texas

nardir4@...
 

One of the limiting factors that I see is price particularly if you live outside the USA in a country with an adverse exchange rate.
One would of course think if one was really keen to search  ones ancestry price would not be an object.
If this were so most people would be willing and keen to transfer there raw DNA to other databases especially GEDMATCH which is simple to do and partiarlly free .
It doesn't happen.If everyone did it ,what an explosion of useful information  there would be.
I have my initial test with Ancestry.In 3 years there has hardly been any useful match updates.
My DNA transfer to FamilyTree DNA has been static too.
My DNA transfer to MY Heritage has produced constant regular  updates.
Unfortunately like a previous poster I rarely get a reply to any query.
From my perspective MY Heritage has been the only useful and progressive DNA testing site,particularly for Ashkenazi Heritage.
Perhaps there is just too many companies wanting to cash in offering too little for the price.

Helen Gottesman
 

I also had thousands of potential relatives with FTDNA, as did my husband.  Most were from far-flung areas of Europe, did not list family names or names very different from mine and each other.  Not sure what good they did for either of us except for confirming we are both of Askenazic ancestry.
Helen Gottesman

Dobrin, Bukofzer, Lublinski, Segall, Davidsohn, Altmann, from West Prussia/Poland
Schwarz, Schwager, Gutmann, Greenhut, Grunhut, from Bavaria, germany and Western Czechslovakia/Bohemia

Sheila Toffell
 

I have seen far fewer family trees posted since the privacy laws changed in various countries but besides that I think the options to post names and places are often hidden inside other parts of the initial process and often get overlooked. 

Sheila Toffell
Glen Rock NJ

Alan Ehrlich
 

Another possibly significant factor that wasn't mentioned in the article: My experience is that 99% of the persons with matching DNA whom I contacted to exchange information never responded... At all.

Perhaps, that shouldn't have surprised me since,visibly, few enough persons, after testing (or even uploading their test results to other testing company's site), bother to add their ancestral family names/locations to these databases either.

Consequently, the 'promise' of finding additional family branches via the trees previously researched by our DNA matches (= relatives) perhaps too often goes unfulfilled...

Finally, if the perpetuity of the DNA testing companies' 'cousin matching databases' cannot be taken for granted, it can be argued that uploading one's DNA test results to non-testing company databases like gedmatch.com are all the more important.

Kind regards,
Alan Ehrlich
Switzerland

EHRLICH JOSHUA JOSUA ADLER BAUM MANASSE DELLEVIE WIENER RIES RIESS HARTWIG ÖTTINGEN OETTINGEN MICHAELIS WACHENHEIMER ARNSTEIN OPPENHEIMER KUGELMANN MARCUS

Jan Meisels Allen
 

We have read about the layoffs from both 23andMe and Ancestry DNA.  Attached is an article about the changing DNA home testing market.

 

https://www.theverge.com/2020/2/6/21126360/23andme-ancestry-layoffs-genetics-dna-market-privacy

 

Jan Meisels Allen

Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee