DNA Testing News: 2017 Year in Review

Plenty of DNA testing news crossed our desks in 2017! Advances in genetic genealogy include an AncestryDNA database that doubled in size, new options for participants, more health-related information and a new global genetic tree. Catch up on these developments before 2018 brings us even more DNA news!

dna testing year in review

DNA Testing News in 2017

The genetic genealogy industry is growing at a break-neck pace. Ancestry.com has amassed the largest DNA database by doubling its testing pool in 2017. Over 6 million people have now tested there. This is great news for those seeking genetic connections. As these databases grow larger, it’s also clear that genetic data–correlated with genealogical data–has tremendous ability to provide us with other answers about ourselves.

In November, MyHeritage announced an effort by their scientific team to “study the relationship between genetics and behavior, personal characteristics, and culture.” These studies are not new, as 23andMe is in open hot pursuit of the connections between genetics and our health, and always has been.

Increased options for your DNA testing experience

All of our genetic genealogy companies are involved in research on one level or another and every person who swabs or spits has the opportunity to participate in other research projects (click here to read up on the consent policies at each company). At the time of testing, you have the option to opt in or out of this research, and the ability to alter that decision at any time after you test, by accessing your settings. According to an article in Fast Company, it seems we as a community are very interested in helping with research: 23andMe reports an over 80% opt-in-to-research rate among their customers. And I’ve got some breaking news for you: Family Tree DNA recently ran a consumer awareness campaign to reinforce the message that they will never sell your genetic data.

DNA testing news

Health data and research

All our genetic genealogy companies realize that you might want to do more with your data than just look for your ancestors. This year Family Tree DNA has partnered with Vitagene in an effort to provide insight into your health via your genetic genealogy test results. Of course 23andMe is the leader in health testing when we look at our top genetic genealogy companies. This year 23andMe finally succeeded in passing several of their health tests through the FDA, a huge leap forward in their efforts to provide health testing directly to consumers.

While health testing has certainly seen an explosion of interest this year, it is not the only way that our companies are using the data they have amassed. AncestryDNA took the DNA and pedigree charts of two million customers who consented to research and, using some really fancy science, were able to provide amazing insight into our recent ancestral past with the creation of their genetic communities. These genetic communities enhance our understanding of our heritage by showing us where our ancestors may have been between 1750 and 1850, the genealogical “sweet spot” that most of us are trying to fill in.

A global genetic family tree

Living DNA, a relative newcomer to the genetic genealogy arena, announced in October of 2017 their intention to use their database to help create a One World Family Tree. To do so, they are collecting DNA samples from all over the world, specifically those who four grandparents lived in close proximity to each other. Along with this announcement, Living DNA is allowing individuals who have results from other companies and want to help with this project, to transfer into their database.

So it seems that with growing databases come growing options, whether to opt-in to research, to pursue health information from your DNA test results, or to help build global databases for health or genealogy purposes. Recognizing the growing appeal to non-genealogists as well, AncestryDNA added to their list of options the ability to opt-out of the match page, and there are rumors that Living DNA will soon be adding the option to opt-in to matching (they do not currently have a cousin-matching feature as part of their offering).

DNA testing news

Keep up with DNA testing news

It can be tricky to keep up with the seemingly relentless flood of DNA advances, so follow us here at Genealogy Gems, where I report on the most important DNA testing news for your genealogy research. You can stay up-to-date by following us on Facebooksubscribing to our free weekly e-mail newsletter and tuning in to the free Genealogy Gems Podcast.

The Author: Diahan Southard

The Author: Diahan Southard

Your DNA Guide

Diahan Southard is Your DNA Guide here at Genealogy Gems! She has worked with the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, and has been in the genetic genealogy industry since it has been an industry. She holds a degree in Microbiology and her creative side helps her break the science up into delicious bite-sized pieces for you. She’s the author of our DNA guides Getting Started: Genetics for Genealogists, and Y Chromosome DNA for Genealogists (click STORE in the menu above)

REGISTER NOW – Free Webinar “Reveal Your Unique Story through DNA and Family History”

free webinar

What to reveal more about your family’s unique story through DNA and genealogy? Grab your seat in our upcoming free webinar:

Date: Sat. Sept. 23, 2017
Time: 11:00 AM Eastern
Length: 90 minutes including Live Q&A

Here’s what you’ll learn:

Your DNA Guide will dispel the myth that there’s just one DNA test
There are more options, and possible outcomes, than you might think! Diahan will walk you through the choices.

Creative ideas for filling in the gaps in your family’s story
Lisa will show you online tools that go well beyond names and dates. Then we’ll expand your story in unexpected ways by finding DNA connections.

Share the story you’ve uncovered through awesome video
Lisa & Beth will show you how easy it is to tell your story like a pro!

Please share this free webinar with your friends

Please share this free webinar with your friends and genealogy society. Here’s the link to the registration page to share on social media:

https://events.genndi.com/register/169105139238464863/a65a2c57c6 

Why Do DNA Testing for Family History If You Already “Know” Your Tree

“I don’t need DNA testing for family history: my pedigree is full!” I still hear this occasionally. But here’s why everyone doing their family history should take at least one DNA test.

Full tree You still need DNA testing

Teenagers (including my own) are always talking about the things that “everyone else has,” a phenomenon that Malcolm Gladwell describes as the “tipping point.” He says that the tipping point is “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point” for change in human behavior. For my kids, it’s everything from the point at which a party becomes fun to doing everything humanly possible to procure a fidget-spinner (if you don’t know what that is, ask the nearest 11-year-old).

In DNA testing for family history in the United States, that tipping point is now. We have reached the point where most genealogists at least have the passing notion that genetics can be useful in genealogy. Most genealogists (I would guess 85%) who attend the lectures I give have already had at least one DNA test completed.

Let’s stop for just one minute and recognize how incredible that is! Not too long ago I was still trying to convince people that this was a good idea and that you didn’t have to dig up your ancestors to do it. But now we have scores of genealogists who have not only tested themselves, but have convinced half their family to test as well!

“I don’t need DNA testing for family history.” Really?

This got me thinking though: who are those people who haven’t tested? And why not? One category of people sans DNA test is those who have full pedigree charts. I have heard many of them say that they don’t see the need to do DNA testing since they have most of their lines “way back.”

To those with the blessing of ancestors who kept better records than mine, I am offering four reasons why you should RSVP anyway to your invitation to DNA test.

1. To create and preserve a unique record. First and foremost, your DNA is a record. Just as you have obtained birth certificates and marriage licenses for your ancestors, your DNA is a unique record. It does represent you and your family in a way that no other record can. It is a document of your genetic history and should be preserved. Further, while you may doubt the ability of your DNA to shed light on your current genealogy, don’t underestimate the contribution it might make in the future.

2. Because you have second cousins. And third cousins, and fourth cousins, etc. Having your DNA tested means you can see a biological connection between you and other relatives that have had tested. For many, the idea of meeting or forming relationships with distant cousins is not appealing. But even if you have no intention of attending DNA family reunions or even in corresponding with these relatives, there is something reassuring about seeing them there on your match list. There is a certain thrill that comes with recognizing the connection between you and someone else. A connection that may not add any new names to your tree, but it helps you feel a deeper connection to your ancestor, and a greater appreciation for your biology.

Genetic vs Genealogcial Cousins3. To verify what’s on your tree. Which brings me to the next point. Seeing these cousins on your list can actually help verify the genealogy you have already collected and documented. It helps to reassure you that you have made the right steps along the way, and may help you gain additional resources about your relative through their descendants that you find on your match list. Resources that can help turn that ancestor from a name on a chart to a story and a life worth preserving.

Verifying what’s on your tree brings with it a certain amount of uncertainty, it’s true. In fact, in the process of verifying your tree, you may discover new genetic truths about it. You may find that some who you thought biologically related actually aren’t, and you may discover new biological relatives you didn’t know about. Not everyone is prepared for this, especially if they’re pretty sure they know everything about their ancestry. But increasingly, I’m finding, people do want to know about a second cousin who was adopted out of the family or their grandpa’s secret half-sibling–and these connections may never emerge unless you participate in DNA testing for family history.

Remember, your genealogical pedigree is not the same as your genetic pedigree! Click here to read about different things you may learn from each one.

4. To help someone else build their tree. The last reason to go ahead and have your DNA tested is to help others. If you have been lucky enough to fill in most of the blanks on your tree, you can help others do the same by simply having your DNA tested. Your DNA provides a link to your tree that might be just what someone needs to overcome a brick wall in their family history.

So, if you have been hanging out on the outskirts of DNA testing because you feel like your tree is full enough without it, remember to RSVP to your invitation to be DNA tested, and join the party!

Test DNA for Family HistoryClick here to get started with DNA testing for family history. You’ll learn who to test, why to test, what tests you can take and where to purchase them. You can watch a short video about getting started and see additional resources that will help you get the most out of your testing experience all along the way.

You have more families and stories to tell than you think

You probably have more families than you think. I know I do.

I’m a pretty lucky lady. My business is a family business. All three of my daughters and my husband work with me to create Genealogy Gems. But our company family also includes Sunny Morton, our Editor and Book Club Guru, and Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard. As we capture memories throughout the year for generations to come, it makes sense to capture all the families we a part of: businesses, teams, churches, and yes, even genealogy societies.

tell your family stories

This year has been an important one for the Genealogy Gems family. It’s our 10th year serving people around the world who yearn to learn more about their family history. So, I temporarily set aside my workload this last weekend and devoted some important time to recording our history.

I turned to my favorite video tool, Animoto, to pull it all together. It took some time to sift through all the photos and notes I’ve collected over the years, but I loved the nostalgia of seeing it all again and looking back on how far we’ve come. It still blows me away how much easier it is to make a video these days with this new technology. A video like this would have taken me 8-10 hours just ten years ago. But Animoto literally took minutes, and automatically applies the transitions, music, background, and makes sure it all times out together perfectly.

Here’s what I came up with:

There’s no better use of your time than telling the story of the families that mean most to you. Every single one has a story, and I can’t think of a better person to tell that story than you! You can get a free trial of Animoto here, and get started right away. There doesn’t even have to be a reason or an occasion – these videos can be treasured and enjoyed anytime. Show your families how much you care. And when you do, share the link in the comments, won’t you?

(Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Thank you for supporting the free Genealogy Gems blog and podcast!)

3 Top Uses for the New MyHeritage Collection Catalog

myheritage genealogy giantThe new MyHeritage Collection Catalog is making the site even easier to use. Read our 3 favorite uses for the new MyHeritage Collection Catalog, and a description of how MyHeritage counts its records.

The new MyHeritage Collection Catalog has just been released, and is dedicated to searching records collections on the site. It’s a public catalog, available whether you are a subscriber or not, so now you can easily see whether MyHeritage may have the historical records you need.

It’s a public catalog, available whether you are a subscriber or not!

“The new Collection Catalog provides a useful listing of the collections on SuperSearch and is a gateway to the vast historical treasure trove of 7.8 billion records currently offered by MyHeritage,” says a MyHeritage press release. “The catalog lists our 6,503 main collections and excludes tiny collections that have fewer than 500 records each.” (Those may be added to the catalog later on.)

Here are 3 top uses we see for the new MyHeritage Collection Catalog:

NEw MyHeritage Collection catalog overview

1. Look for specific record types for a particular place and time period. Use the left side menu to select record types, locations and time periods. Within many of those, you’ll be able to choose more specific subcategories. You can also do keyword searches if you’re generally looking for particular kinds of records (“newspaper” or “church”).

2. See what’s new on the site, or what collections have been recently updated. To see what’s been added or updated lately, roll over Sort by and select “Last updated.” You’ll also see a little tag on any collections that are new or have been recently updated. This helps you to know whether you’re seeing the most recent data available, particularly in collections they index from other websites, such as the FamilySearch Tree or Geni World Family Tree.

3. See how many records are in a collection. This may help you determine how comprehensive a particular database might be, and compare how many records for a particular place are on their site.

Speaking of record counts, MyHeritage also shared a description of how they count records. I’m really encouraged to see a major records site do this and I hope this trend continues! In our newest quick reference guide, Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites, we talk about how difficult it is to compare record content on different genealogy websites because there’s no uniform standard for counting them, and they don’t all define their counting methods alongside their site statistics. Here’s MyHeritage’s description of how they count records:

“In structured collections, such as census records, birth, and marriage records, each individual name is counted as one record. For example, a marriage document naming both the bride and groom is counted as two records. Nicknames or aliases are not counted as additional records. In family trees, each tree profile is counted as one record, even when it is available in more than one language. Each photo is counted as one record. In unstructured collections, such as newspapers or yearbooks, each page is counted as one record even though it may include hundreds of names. We count each page as a single record because we don’t want to inflate the record count by guessing.” (MyHeritage previously published this information in a 2014 blog post.)

Getting the Most from MyHeritage

Here at Genealogy Gems we strive to help you get the most out of the genealogy websites you choose to use in your research. In the case of MyHeritage, we’ve got two jam-packed quick reference guides like no others on the market:

MyHeritage Quick Reference Guide: Newly Updated in 2017!

This guide shows you how to:

  • create a family website on MyHeritage (and help your relatives use it for free),
  • build your family tree,
  • research records and others’ trees,
  • get the most from the built-in search tools,
  • test or upload your DNA and work with DNA matches,
  • quickly navigate the website, and choose the best membership plan (free or paid) for your needs.

Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites: NEW in 2017

This comprehensive guide helps you answer the question, “Which genealogy records websites should I use?” You’ll learn:

  • genealogy giants quick reference guide cheat sheetHow knowing about all four websites can improve your family history research
  • How the sites stack up numerically for historical records, names in trees, DNA profiles, site users, site languages and subscription costs
  • Unique strengths of each website and cautions for using each
  • What to keep in mind as you evaluate record content between sites
  • Geographic record strengths: A unique table has an at-a-glance comparison for 30+ countries
  • How to see what kinds of records are on each site without subscribing
  • How family trees are structured differently at these websites—and why it matters
  • Privacy, collaboration, and security options at each site
  • How DNA testing features differ at the two websites that offer it
  • What you can do with free guest accounts at each website
  • Subscription and free access options

Thanks for sharing this post with others who will want to know about the new MyHeritage Catalog! You are a Gem!

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