Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ancestry.com Launches Autosomal DNA Test

Today Ancestry.com officially launched their autosomal DNA test, which they call simply: AncestryDNA

AncestryDNA user interface
Frankly, I think the name is a bit confusing considering they have other tests for Y-DNA and mtDNA, but that's a minor point. This new test now competes with FamilyTreeDNA's Family Finder test and 23andMe's Relative Finder test. So how does it compare?

The answer, unfortunately, is that I don't know yet. The only people who have received results so far, considering it just launched today, are those who participated in the beta test, where Ancestry.com sent out tests to various groups of people that were already customers of Ancestry.com. In fact I was one of the people who received a free (not including shipping) kit, but unfortunately there were problems in getting the kit for a long time due to mail problems, so while I have submitted a kit, I haven't received my results yet.

What I can tell you is what looks good even before I have a chance to look at the DNA results.

For one, I was very grateful they handle something that the other companies haven't done yet – you can manage the DNA of other people. With 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA, you essentially set up an account for each person whose DNA is submitted. This doesn't always make sense. If you're submitting the DNA of your grandfather who doesn't use a computer, then you don't want to have to deal with a separate account, remembering the password, etc. Ancestry.com handles this much better by allowing you to attach DNA kits from multiple people to your existing account.

Another place where Ancestry.com seems to have put in some thought, is connecting tests to people in your family trees. Of course, Ancestry.com has a major advantage here, as they have very sophisticated family trees, that already integrate with other features of their web site such as finding records. The other companies that pioneered autosomal DNA tests do not have family trees of anywhere near the sophistication of what Ancestry.com offers, and thus Ancestry.com holds a clear advantage in this area. You can attach a test, whether the AncestryDNA autosomal test, or one of the existing Y-DNA and mtDNA tests, to a person in your family tree, and presumably Ancestry.com uses that information to try to figure out connections between people who match DNA. How well that works remains to be seen, but it looks promising.

It's not clear yet whether or not you'll be able to upload data from another company, or whether you'll be able to download your data either. Ancestry.com does allow you to download your Y-DNA and mtDNA results, so it makes sense they would allow this for their autosomal test as well, but this test is still in beta and there is no way to download the data as far as I know.

The test is supposed to be priced at $99 with a membership to Ancestry.com. What does that mean? I'm not sure. Is that a price you get once? or if you want to order more tests do you get that price on all tests? What if you're not an Ancestry.com member? If you only get one kit at $99, does that renew every year when you renew your membership? I'm sure the pricing will be explained better soon.

Anyone else reading this take part in the beta? Did you receive your results? What did you think?