AncestryDNA Test Sharing

My 14-year-old, like many teenagers, is afflicted with a case of myopic-itis. At least, that is what I am calling it. You will recognize this condition: the ability to see every situation only from your own point of view. This is of course, how everyone of us reacts to every new situation. The difference between those suffering from this condition and the rest of us is that fairly quickly, perhaps once the shock has subsided, we can see things from the point of view of others, and can therefore be more understanding about the whole situation. 

AncestryDNA recently caused an attack of myopic-itis when announced a change to their policy on how DNA tests are registered. Previously, you could register anyone’s test under your own account. Say you were gathering the test for an aged aunt or disinterested cousin. You handle everything from the order to the test registration to handling all correspondence. Your aunt or cousin merely needed to spit in the tube. 

However, effective July 18, 2017, that has changed. Each person who takes an AncestryDNA test will have to have their very own account at AncestryDNA. A natural reaction is to immediately reject this as a terrible idea that will certainly slow, if not hault your efforts to gather the needed genetic information from your less-than-enthusiastic relatives. Your myopic-itis flares up and threatens to cause you to throw up your hands in frustration and just forget the whole thing. 

But don’t! Really, all that is changed is that you have to take just one more step in the administration of the DNA test for your friend or relative: creating them their own AncestryDNA account. Then, they can assign you as the Manager of their DNA kit. Doing so allows their DNA results to show up in your Ancestry account, just as if you yourself had registered the test under your account. Viola!  

Now, why would Ancestry decide to so inconvenience your life with another step? Well, to protect the rights of the cousin and the aunt that you are asking to take the test. It is that simple. Not that you would, but if the results are in your account, you can delete them, you can limit their access to them, in short, you have ultimate control. Causing each test to have its own account tries to put that control back in the hands of the test taker.  

One of the criticisms that has come up from this announcement is that Ancestry is doing this just to make more people buy subscriptions to Ancestry. As stated above, I don’t think this is their primary motivation. In fact, a blogger in the UK, Debbie Kennett, suggested that it may be partially in reaction to a new law in the UK that starting next year will require this personal access for Ancestry to continue selling tests there (https://cruwys.blogspot.com/2017/07/an-update-to-ancestrydna-kit-management.html). But even if getting more subscribers was their primary motivation for the change, how is more people looking up records on Ancestry a bad thing?! Think of it this way: If you look at your cousin and say, “I got this. Don’t worry about anything. I will do it all.” Then they will let you, and they won’t take any ownership of the process or the results. However, if you say, “I have created a login for you at Ancestry so you can view your own results. I will also be able to see them in my account. I would love to go over them with you, if you are interested. But you can go in anytime and look around.” Then wouldn’t it be great if they really did that and then they got so interested that they decided it was worth paying Ancestry to access records and they actually started helping you do research?! 

DNA is one of the biggest hooks we have to get our friends and family interested in family history. I think this change is just one more way that we can spread our love of family history with our family, not to mention protect their privacy and their rights. 

In addition to Debbie Kennett’s post I mentioned above, make sure to read the official post by Ancestry, and these two blog posts about the changes as they address some of the common questions you may have about how to actually make this happen.  http://thednageek.com/reality-check-changes-at-ancestrydna/ and https://dnasleuth.wordpress.com/2017/07/15/managing-multiple-kits-and-the-new-ancestrydna-change.  

Originally published on July 2017 on genealogygems.com.