31 July 2012

First Thoughts On My AncestryDNA Results

     Today, after only 19 days in the lab, I received my AncestryDNA results. My first impressions: it's pretty, easy to navigate, has great tree integration and is severely lacking in details.

     Here's a breakdown. It's going to be long, but hopefully informative.

The Main Results Page

     On the first page, you get a summary of your ethnic genealogy and the first of your DNA matches.

     The ethnic genealogy data gives you a breakdown of your ancestry. Mine's pretty clearcut: British. Other options are Scandinavian, Central European, Finish, Persian/Turkish, West African, etc. You also get a map. In my case it's sort of superfluous, but other folks have more colorful results. There's a link to click on for Full Results.

     Next, you see your DNA matches. You can filter your matches two ways: starred (a preference set by you) and unopened (aka, you haven't clicked on them yet). Next, using the slider, you can choose which relatives you see, based on suggested relationship (ex: only 1st cousins; 4th cousins or closer; etc).  Finally you can also choose to sort by relation ship or date.  You cannot sort by name.

     Looking at a specific match, you see their Ancestry.com user name and avatar, a possible relationship range, a "confidence" percentage, the last day they logged in and, if they have a family tree, how many people are in the tree. You can then click Review Match to see more.

     This list is somewhat vague. You don't have a list of surnames or any other data to really prioritize one match over another.  Your matches are all lumped together by suggested distance. In my case I have Fourth Cousins (19) and Distant Cousins (1009). The only change is that the confidence level gets progressively lower and lower.

     Ok, but what is the confidence level based on? I assume the number and length of shared DNA segments. But Ancestry.com's results do not tell me how much DNA I share with the match, nor the chromosome that we match on. How little DNA do I share with a match to rate a very low confidence? The FAQs are no help here.

     And I knew about the lack of this data going in, but didn't realize how much it would bug me. I really, really want to be able to see the DNA I share with my match.

Ethnicity Results Detail

     Your Ethnic Genealogy Detail page expounds on the ethnic results shown on the main page. You get an expanded map, which still highlights your regions of origin, as well a pins showing the birth locations of your ancestors. You then get a detailed description of the geographic location, its history and the migration patterns of the region.  You also see a list of your matches who also have ancestry from this region.

     As far a my personal results are concerned, I expected to have more/some continental European results. My maternal grandmother has a strong Colonial German heritage which isn't reflected here. I did expect the unknown portion, which showed up in my ftDNA and 23andMe results.

 Member Match Page

     There's a lot going on here! On the top left you can see the match detail for a suggested 4th cousin. You can see his ethnic genealogy and how it compares to yours.  On the top right you can "star" the match, mark it unread/new or hide it. You also have the option to send them an email via ancestry's message system and see how long it's been since they've logged into the site.

     In the next section you see that Ancestry.com is suggesting the ancestor that I share with this match. In this case, the suggestion is wrong - but it's understandable. The two ancestors share names, have similar dates, wives named Elizabeth and both died in North Carolina only a year apart. I had to double check my tree to make sure that it wasn't a match.

     So the match is wrong - but I can't dismiss it.  I would think it would be like a hint in a family tree and have an "ignore" button, but no.  On the flip side, I don't see a way for me to select a matching ancestor. I have a match here that I share at 23andMe and ftDNA. I know how we're related but Ancestry.com didn't pick up on it. I don't see a way to mark the connection. I ended up "starring" the match.

     Next, you can see the match's family tree and surnames. This is a pretty neat feature. You can see above that the left side of the screen shows common surnames, followed by a list of all surnames. You can expand each surname to see a list of your match's ancestors. If you click on one of the names in the shared surnames section, a box will pop up to show a side by side list of your ancestors and your match's ancestors that have that name. 

     You can also switch over to a map view on this page. It puts a pin into a map to indicate the locations of your ancestors, as well as those of your match. When you hover over the pin you see detailed information about the ancestor who lived there.  This page also gives a list of locations shared between you and your match (not shown).


     There are a lot of neat features here. I'm amazed by the family tree integration features, but can still see room for improvement: being able to select and save a common ancestor; being able to reject incorrect suggested relationships; a feature to make notes about matches. 

     The biggest other improvement would be adding details regarding actual DNA segments, as mentioned above.  I like to be able to prioritize my matches and feel that I can't do this with AncestryDNA.

     I'd also like to see a more expansive FAQ. The current one is pretty basic, but so are some of the features. I'd like to see more specific information about how DNA works and how Ancestry comes up with their results.

     Right now, this set up is still in Beta. I'm hopeful that Ancestry is going to continue to make improvements on their already impressive system.


Your Genetic Genealogist said...

Very nice review, Valerie. You covered a lot of the same concerns I have and gave praise where it is deserved. Thank you.

Debbie Kennett said...

Thanks Valerie for this helpful review. I was wondering how the tree matches worked. It's good to some actual screenshots. Like you I do wish Ancestry would provide more information in their FAQs. I've tried asking them about the reference populations they use for the British Isles but have had no response. I live in the British Isles and all my Ancestry is from the British Isles, yet according to Ancestry I am 58% Central European, 25% British Isles, 13% Eastern European and 4% unknown. It seems bizarre that a lot of Americans mixed European ancestry come out with a much higher percentage of "British Isles" than me!


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