DNA Communites

With AncestryDNA’s recent announcement that their database is over 2 million participants strong, it is clear that many of you have embarked on your own DNA testing journey.

As a reward for swabbing or spitting you received a pretty pie chart containing estimates of your ancestral origins as well as a list of genetic cousins with whom you can connect with to collaborate on genealogical efforts. 

Those two items alone often yield results worthy of the cash you shelled out to have your DNA analyzed as is evidenced by the multitude of DNA success stories circling the internet and permeating nearly every genealogical gathering. However, there is a third product of your DNA testing experience that you may be under-utilizing, and that additional companies are vying to help you take advantage of. 

That additional aspect is what we call your raw data. This is the actual output file created by the DNA testing company. You can access your raw data at each testing company, and I strongly encourage you to download yours and save it to your computer.

This file contains your little DNA values at the over 700,000 locations that were tested by your testing company. Which means that any company with the right set up and analysis tools can help you find matches with others and make additional genealogical discoveries. They may also be able to tell you if you like cilantro and are likely to have high blood sugar. 

There are several research projects underway that utilize your data from any of the big three testing companies (Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, and AncestryDNA) for various genealogical or genetic purposes.  

For example, the not-for-profit DNA Land (DNA.land) has over 26,000 individuals who have voluntarily uploaded their autosomal DNA test results into their website to be used for research purposes. Their self stated goal is to “make genetic discoveries for the benefit of humanity.” 

Recently My Heritage (http://blog.myheritage.com/2016/05/myheritage-is-adding-free-dna-matching/) announced that they would be accepting your raw data for incorporation into their genealogical database, though they have provided few details at this point. 

At the end of June Geni.com (a family tree collaboration tool) jumped on the DNA bandwagon and announced that they too would be integrating DNA into their family tree tool. Utilizing a partnership with Family Tree DNA, the only testing company offering the direct male line YDNA test and the direct female line mtDNA test, they are utilizing all three kinds of DNA in their offering. From first look, the interface looks much like what you would see at your testing company: a list of matches with some family tree information. Certainly this offering, and others like it, will improve over time as more people join and more analysis is possible. 

The biggest take-away from this recent influx of destinations for your raw data does show us that the integration of your DNA into your genealogy is in full swing. I estimate that every genealogy company and every major genealogy software provider will offer some kind of DNA integration within the next five years. They will have to. DNA has earned a permanent spot as a genealogical record type. 

With all of these options available, and surely more to come, you will want to be careful about who you are giving your raw data to. Make sure that you are comfortable with the company and its goals. Make sure you understand what role your DNA will be playing in their research. There is no question that these are exciting times in the world of genealogy, and even in health care as there is so much our DNA is willing to tell us, we just have to ask.

Originally published August 2016 on genealogygems.com