Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ancestry DNA - Test Results

About a little over a month ago, I had written a blog post about getting tested through AncestryDNA. I have been evaluating getting the test for years, but the price was always out of my spending range. When it got into the $99 range, it seemed to make more sense to give it a whirl. So, being that I couldn't take it any longer, I finally purchased the test and went through the motions of getting it completed (as I detailed in a previous post).

Firstly, it took about 4 1/2 weeks. I am assuming this was a non-peak time to take the test as I did it a few weeks after the holidays. Other genealogy blogs said it took theirs longer due to the surge of Christmas purchases of DNA tests. So, it looks like late January - early February is a nice time to sneak one in and get it done quickly.

Here is a breakdown of the pros and cons:

Ethnicity Estimate & Ethnicity Map - Score - 8 out of 10


For me, the most surprising was finding how much Scandinavian blood I carry in me. It must be mostly from my British ancestors. Even my last name is of Danish origin, although we have no immediate Danish family members. I also was slightly disappointed of not carrying any Native American in me, although it's been mostly confirmed that we have it in our family. My great grandmother was even born in the Cherokee Nation capital. So, I guess my genes just decided to skip out on giving me any Native American. Ah well! 

However, what I gained in my Trace Regions made me excited. Even though these "traces," as they call them, are not really saying you are actually of this ethnicity, it is still an interesting part of your make-up that shouldn't be ignored. What it seems to help confirm is that some of the surnames we carry have origins in these areas. A surname I recently highlighted in a previous post of mine (Orth), has strong origins in Spain, which could explain why I have some deep-rooted Iberian ethnicity in me. 

The Italian/Greek in me is the strangest one of them, though. Not strange because it's a strange ethnicity to have, haha. But because it was the least expected finding I would expect.

I often thought that my grandmother's maiden name sounded like "Rome" and I have read theories on the surname, Roehm - that it likely meant that they came from Rome. This is somewhat far fetched and is only speculation, but it is a fascinating thought. I like what the exotic Trace Regions have brought to my genealogy. 

All of this information has helped me feel more connected now and help answer (and confirm) where I really am from. 

The Ethnicity Map is fun to look at and see just how broad of an area your DNA covers. It goes to show how nomadic our people were (and still are). 

Overall, this portion is by far the best first impression you get once you receive your results. And, it's a great impression of what AncestryDNA is offering up. After this, though, it begins to get a little unnerving. 

DNA Matches - Score - 5 out of 10

At first, this seems pretty awesome. You see lots of faces pop up on the page beside your Ethnicity Estimate and Map which give you an impression of the many people you may be related to, on what seems a pretty high confidence level. However, as you click on the link to check them out, it becomes obvious that you've got your work cut out for you. I looked down at how many pages I was going to have to go through - 78 pages of possible cousin matches!! This could take me years. But, I was still excited about these connections and started clicking on several of them to see how we could be connected.

Some connections were very obvious due to the DNA Circles (I will move onto this topic next) and some you could only really connect through a common surname in your trees by clicking on their name and then seeing the surnames you're connected with. What was really strange is several surnames were shared between us as cousins and they were both from my mother and father's trees. So, this got me a little tripped out - Is AncestryDNA only really connecting us by how many surnames we share? It seemed to be the case. I found this to be a little weak for what DNA is really supposed to offer. If we're related through DNA, that's what I want to know! Not how many surnames we share! I am sure that could easily be figured out without my DNA sample.

DNA Matches are a bit of a help and in some ways a bit of a hindrance. I think in some ways they help because in  one way or another you're connected and that's pretty cool! But, in other ways, it's not of a huge help if you have 78 pages of possible cousins that are not very well outlined as clear-cut connections. There is no description of how you're connected and what kind of DNA got you two to that connection.

Other reviewers of AncestryDNA also start to get frustrated at this level. I can understand this frustration. We are paying a fairly hefty price for some invaluable and unique information (selling our soul, so to speak) and yet AncestryDNA has dumbed it down so much that even the newbies are going to feel like they are getting less than what they paid for.

I am not really super, super savvy with everything that DNA entails, but something called a chromosome browser sounds like a great idea - however, I would need to know how it worked. Since AncestryDNA is not offering it (yet), it sounds like researching your own DNA to connect it with others is going to be done the Ancestry way - cousin matching and shaking leaf hints.

I am sure if AncestryDNA created a user-friendly chromosome browser and explained it's usefulness to members, it would become the norm on how we can make our connections and actually make our DNA information even more priceless and useful. I think people who take the DNA test want to learn more behind the actual DNA (what's it made of, give us a visual sample of how our DNA looks, show on a strip how we connect to another person and what makes us similar), not that they only have a 150 new cousins.

DNA Circles - - Score - 6.5 out of 10

As you scroll down, there is an area called DNA Circles. This allows you to see how many people you share common DNA based on people that you share in your family trees. It's actually one of the more interesting and better features that AncestryDNA offers, although, it is best to verify these matches with various approaches (such as filtering your DNA matches with the shaky leaf hint option). You can click on the various DNA Circles (I only have 6 at the moment) and see how many people are connected to the same ancestor as you.

IMPORTANT: It is best to remember that AncestryDNA may be connecting you with these people solely on fact that you have the same people in your trees. It would be best to cross reference these connections to ensure that you do indeed have a true connection.

The DNA Circles are innovative but once again, without not being able to verify your Chromosomes through a Chromosome browser, these connections cannot be truly verified unless you can ensure your trees match based on verifiable records.


Overall Score - 6.5 out of 10

I think the technology of DNA testing for genealogy, although it's come a long way, still has a long way to go. I was hoping for a little more help from on how to navigate and get around these things, especially with all the available tools that some other sites are already integrating. I really feel AncestryDNA can really benefit by adding more analytic tools for the results and let us explore based on these tools. Any really good and thorough genealogist is not going to accept their results and likely matches as the real deal unless they have the hard data to prove it. So, give us a little more credit and please give us what your peers are already offering.