Follow Up 2014 Ancestry Launch

Follow up December 2014:

There are few things more exciting than receiving mail.  I thought letters were best, but I was unexpededly just as excited to begin receiving mail from Genealogy Gems listeners. I recently received a letter that I would like to comment on. 

For those of you who listened in recently as we discussed the new DNA Cirlces Feature at ancestry, you will remember that I was mostly optimistic about this new change and felt that it shows that Ancestry is trying to implement tools to help make Genetic Genealogy more successful. 

However, it is worth mentioning that Ancestry DNA is still lacking one essential feature.  It is known in the industry as a Chromosome Browser. 

I am a huge proponent of the Chromosome Browser as an essential tool in genetic genealogy. I agree that it should be a part of any genetic genealogy experience.   

A chromosome browser allows you to see the actual physical locations on the DNA where you share with others. Knowing this information can help you in your analysis of your relationship, and help you make connections with others who may not have an obvious connection to your family tree. It essentially provides the answer to your question of “What Now?”  You know, when you login to the testing company and you see all these people that are your genetic cousins, but either they don’t have a family tree, or you can’t immediately see a connection in your tree. So you aren’t sure what to do next.  Part of the answer is in the chromosome browser. 

The genetic genealogy community as a whole is up in arms about Ancestry’s lack of a chromosome browser. 

I have been in meetings with Ancestry and they do have their reasons for not providing one, with privacy being paramount in their minds.  The idea that we can have quick and relatively inexpensive access to our ENTIRE genome is a daunting thought.  We can't possibly know what will lie ahead in the many industries implementing this amazing scientific advancement.  Ancestry is just trying to be forward thinking. I too feel that this makes them seem like an overprotective parent that keeps their child in the house at all times behind two padlocked, steel-enforced doors, just so they won't wander out into the street and get hurt. And it is very frustrating.  But on some level I do understand their perspective.  They have a VERY long term perspective.  They are planning and thinking about where this technology will be in 5, 10, 15, 20 years.  At that time we will surely have moved away from the SNP testing we are doing now to full genome sequencing.  At that very high level of comparison there will be many things that a chromosome browser could reveal about our health.   

I think with the implementation of DNA circles Ancestry is trying to create tools in the areas where they are comfortable, and actually capable.  Yes, they are making mistakes.  But so are the other testing companies.  Yes the trees are flawed. They did release the DNA circles as Beta. I too have read many concrete accounts of how this tool is making mistakes.  But they are in uncharted territory here.  No other company is trying to so fully integrate traditional genealogy with genetic genealogy, and there is something to be said for that.  And, you will probably agree that one of the biggest frustrations with any testing company is getting people to post their family trees and/or respond to your inquiries about their family trees.  By making inclusion in the Circles contingent upon having and linking your sample to a family tree (even a flawed one) it does encourage more people to post public trees.  Of course, it does completely ignore anyone without a family tree- again, frustrating. 

My letter writer brought up an interesting point about the limitations of all the companies, and in upcoming episodes, I'll  be exploring more about setting realistic expectations when it comes to DNA testing. 

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