AncestryDNA Opt-Out Options for DNA Matches: What This Means for You

A new AncestryDNA opt-out option allows DNA test takers to not participate in DNA match lists: they do not receive matches or show up in others’ match lists. Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard weighs on in the implications for genealogy researchers who may worry about cousin matches they may miss.

AncestryDNA opt-out

New AncestryDNA Opt-Out Policy

Ancestry.com recently announced an update to their privacy policy. Current and future AncestryDNA users now have the option to opt out of the DNA matching feature.

When you take a DNA test, you receive two different kinds of results from the DNA sample that you submit to your testing company:

  • information about your ancestral origins and
  • a list of your DNA cousins.

Opting out of matching essentially cuts the value of this product in half. You only get the ancestral origin information, and you forfeit access to your list of genetic matches. Opting out doesn’t just mean you can’t see them: it means that they can’t see you either.

AncestryDNA joins 23andMe in providing this option to their clients. You can look at this move as Ancestry’s response to an ever-expanding global audience, many of whom are not genealogists or are reluctant to have their DNA compared to others for a variety of reasons. It is important for them as a company to provide options for their clients to experience their product in a way that works best for them.

What the AncestryDNA Opt-Out Policy May Mean for You

What does this new opt-out option mean for genealogists? Hopefully, not much will change. Ancestry reports that overwhelmingly, people are opting in.

There has been quite a bit of push-back to this announcement, especially from the adoption community. DNA testing has been a tremendous source of information for those seeking out their biological relatives, and many fear that this change will limit access to quality DNA matches. But we will all still be able to do good genetic genealogy work, even as we are each allowed to choose whether to participate in the matching feature. To understand this better, it is important to see this issue from the other side, from the side of a person who might want to opt out. Here are two possible scenarios:

Scenario #1: Susan would really like to explore her heritage. She hasn’t tested before because she didn’t want to see cousin matches for a variety of personal reasons. But now she does test and opts-out. The community hasn’t lost anything because Susan would never have tested in the first place. But after exploring her ethnicity results and noticing membership in a couple of Genetic Communities, she begins to wonder more about her ancestors and decides to opt-in to matching, after all. In this scenario, the Opt-Out policy offers users a way to comfortably give DNA testing a try.

Scenario #2: Ryan heard about AncestryDNA while watching TV last year and ordered a kit. But then last week he heard about the ability to opt out, and went in and changed his account settings. So one day you could see Ryan on your match list, and the next you didn’t. We as a community would certainly see that as a loss. However, consider the circumstances that might have caused Ryan to hit that opt-out button. Perhaps Ryan had no idea how to use the match list, no interest in using it, and found it a bother to get correspondence from people. Perhaps Ryan found something unexpected, like that he wasn’t his father’s child, and he needed some time to deal with it. Maybe Ryan is under pressure from his sister, who didn’t want him to test in the first place (perhaps she knows something he doesn’t about their family tree, or she’s afraid of how any results and revelations might impact her). The short of it is: It doesn’t matter why Ryan opted out, it is his personal right to do so. Just as an adoptee has the right to seek out their heritage, others have the right to keep their family secrets to themselves. This scenario does support the idea that you should review your DNA matches frequently and record information about them in your own master match list, which I talk about in my quick reference guides, Organizing Your DNA Matches and Breaking Down Brick Walls with DNABy promptly recording matching results, you will have them to work with even if the tester decides later on down the road to opt out.

As a genealogy community, we can educate others about the value of the match list, while at the same time cautioning them that unexpected connections may appear. So in everyday conversations, share your own experiences—whatever these may be. Maybe it was affirming for you to see that the dad you grew up knowing is indeed your biological father. Perhaps you can share a story about the power of using a list of fourth cousins to discover information about your third-great-grandfather. Maybe you’ve discovered a new connection—and maybe that connection isn’t yet comfortable or fully explained, but you’re glad to know about it.

Learn More about AncestryDNA Testing

Get the most out of your AncestryDNA testing experience with my quick reference guides! I recommend:

  • A Guide to AncestryDNA How to find your best DNA matches, interpret ethnicity results, link your tree, understand relationship ranges and DNA Circles, and work with Shaky Leaf hints. 
  • Autosomal DNA for the Genealogist. What autosomal test can tell you, who can be tested, how to interpret your ethnicity results, and more.
  • Organizing Your DNA Matches. How to keep track of your matches and apply what you learn from them to your family history.
  • Breaking Down Brick Walls with DNA. What to do next to maximize the power of DNA testing in genealogy. Take your DNA testing experience to the next level and make new discoveries about your ancestors and heritage!

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

Family History Episode 1 – Getting Started

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast

with Lisa Louise Cooke
Republished August 8, 2013

 

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

In this episode, I chatted with Margery Bell, Assistant Director of the Oakland, California Family History Center. Her own family history journey started in her 20s with a visit to a relative’s house. She didn’t even know what to talk about! But it was a start. Years later, she visited the Northern Ireland home of her great-grandmother, and felt like she’d come home. Learn her tips for getting started and two inspiring stories of “genealogy serendipity.”

In the second half of the show, you’ll learn why choosing a database for your family tree is your first essential step. Hear about some of my favorite databases—both free resources and products you can pay for. Don’t spend too much time fussing about software: I’ll tell you why you should just pick something and go with it.

Choosing a Genealogy Database

Whether you want to build an elaborate family tree, or just want to know who your direct ancestors were and some of the stories about them, the place to start is to get yourself a family history database. You don’t have to be highly computer savvy to use one. They are VERY intuitive and user friendly. Basic data entry skills is all you need.

Now I know you’re anxious to get started finding out about the folks who came before you and contributed to putting you on this planet. But this step is key to long term success and enjoyment. I know too many people who have gotten all excited and jumped in, getting all kinds of information about their family, but without a database they very quickly end up with huge stacks of paper and stickie notes. With all this chaos they often end up duplicating efforts they forgot they already did which is a waste of precious time. And worst of all, when someone shows an interest in what they are doing, it’s impossible to coherently pull out the information from the jumbled stacks in order to share it.

Having a family history database will keep all of your findings organized, with proper background information on where you found the data, as well provide a place to pull together photographs, documents and everything else you discover along the way. It’s like painting a piece of furniture. A little prep work goes along way to a really nice finish.

Now there are lots of family history software programs out there, but you only need ONE, and all of them will serve your basic needs. So I’m going to give you my top choices. It’s you’re decision how much you want to spend and how sophisticated you want your database to be.

If FREE is your price range, and you’re looking for a place to stay organized with streamlined screens to work in without a lot of startup time, then Family Tree Legends Online is perfect for you. (Family Tree Legends Online is now Family Tree Builder by MyHeritage.

Don’t let FREE fool you into thinking it won’t do the job. Legends offers lots of family history charts; custom reports; helps you share your data and pictures on a CD or DVD; allows you to back up your files to CD or DVD; and includes genealogy programs for Palm handheld devices and the Pocket PC. I’ve used it and it’s great. You can download the software FREE at the above link.

If you’re a PC user and are willing to spend $30-40 dollars, there are several really good and easy to use options available. You can order the product or purchase a digital download which will save you some money. And frankly, I really don’t think you need to the physical boxed product. All the help you need is online. And all of these products offer a free demo that you can download to try it out before you buy.

The top seller is Family Tree Maker which is from the folks at Ancestry.com which is the largest online records website which we’ll be talking a lot more about in future episodes. Click on its name to learn more about Family Tree Maker. This is probably the most commonly used database out there.

If you’re looking for great printed reports that you can share then RootsMagic is a great choice. It’s available as a digital download from their website at RootsMagic.

Some of the differences you’ll find between these products is the types of reports and charts they produce. So if that’s important to you, you can try the demos and see which you like. But again, I really don’t think you can go wrong with any of these products. They are all well established and fully supported.

And I want to stress, it’s just important that you take the steps and get started. Don’t get bogged down in analyzing software forever. If you really want to change to a different program down the road you can always do that. But the important thing here is that you have a place to put the information that you find and be able to retrieve that information so you can share it with others.

Now if you’re a Mac user I have two solid programs you could use. Again, both of these programs offer free demos if you want to test drive them:

  • iFamily for Leopard is the most affordable at $29.95.
  • Reunion 9 is fairly pricey at $99.95. If you’re interested in Reunion 9, I highly recommend that you listen to Episode 51 of my more advanced Family History show called The Genealogy Gems Podcast. In that episode you can listen to a review of Reunion 9 by my contributing partner Ben Sayer, the MacGenealogist, who’s an expert on everything Mac for family historians. And if you want to compare iFamily against Reunion to see what you’re getting for your money, you can also listen to Ben’s review of iFamily in Genealogy Gems Episode 53.

Now when you fire up your new software database it’s going to ask you to fill in information about yourself, then your parents and so on. In family history we always start with ourselves, and then work our way backward. So enter everything you know. By just enter data on you and your parents, you’ll very quickly get a feel for how the program works. And once you get everything in there that you know, go ahead and try and print out a pedigree chart.

And there’s our first family history term: “pedigree chart.” You’ve probably heard the term used for pure bred dogs, but pedigree just means lineage or ancestral line. It shows your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc. No aunts, uncles or siblings. Just the folks you directly descend from.

Another type of chart your database can print is a descendant chart, which shows all the people who descend from one person. So if you had two kids, your descendant chart would show you at the top, and two children directly under you. This comes in real handy when you want to have a reunion of all the descendants of let’s say your great grandpa Marvin. You would go to Marvin’s card in the database, and then print the descendant chart from there. It would then include Marvin, all his kids, his grandkids, his great grandkids and so on. But it wouldn’t show the kids spouses, or Marvin’s parents. It’s just going to tell you who was born directly as a result of Marvin.

So enter what you know, and once you’ve got all that in there, play around with your new database by printing out a pedigree chart and a descendant chart. And next week we’ll start uncovering more clues to your family history.

Here’s a final thought for today: A famous idea taken from one of Shakespeare’s plays is that what is Past is Prologue. It seems to me that a key to moving forward in your life is to look back and see what’s come before. How things were done. What worked, and what didn’t. It can inspire you to continue family traditions or give you the motivation to create something new for the next generation.

Up next: Episode 2: How to Interview Your Relatives.

Best Genealogy Software: Which Should You Choose and Why

Just about every major genealogy website these days lets you build your family tree from scratch right on their website. But you may wonder what will happen to millions of carefully-constructed trees if the company goes out of business or the site goes down.

Before the days of internet genealogy, researchers organized family history findings on their home computers in specially-designed software. These programs generated .GED files (called GEDCOMs), a universal file type that allowed researchers using different software to share their findings. Software like this still exists. These days it can communicate your research to any genealogy sites you care to share with–by using those same GEDCOM files.

If you do choose to build your family tree online, make sure you can download your tree anytime as a GED file. Keep this file as a backup both on your computer and in a second location (like cloud storage). But my recommendation is to build your tree at home, in your own software. Then you can upload or synch your data to your favorite genealogy websites whenever you want–and you never lose control of your research.

Choosing the Right Software

There are lots of family history programs out there, and all of them will serve your basic needs. But you only need ONE. What’s the best genealogy software? It depends on how much you want to spend and how sophisticated you want your database to be. In many cases, you can order the product or purchase a digital download. I really don’t think you need the physical boxed product. All the help you need is online. All of these products offer a free demo that you can download to try it out before you buy.

FREE AND EASY: Family Tree Builder by MyHeritage helps you stay organized with streamlined screens to work in and doesn’t require a lot of startup time. Family Tree Builder offers lots of family history charts; custom reports; helps you share your data and pictures on a CD or DVD; allows you to back up your files to CD or DVD; and includes genealogy apps for mobile devices. Download the software FREE at the above link.

PC (and NOW MAC) OPTION WITH GREAT REPORTS: If you’re looking for great printed reports that you can share, and loads of free online help videos, then RootsMagic is a great choice. (and we are honored to have RootsMagic as a sponsor of The Genealogy Gems Podcast.) And they now have an iOS app.

Some of the differences you’ll find between these products is the types of reports and charts they produce. So if that’s important to you, you can try the demos and see which you like. But again, I really don’t think you can go wrong with any of these products. They are all well established and supported. (Update: There have been many updates since the post was first published, including a Mac version. Click here for a series of article by date on RootsMagic updates and their app.)

POPULAR PC AND APP PROGRAM: Legacy Family Tree is also an extremely popular program and solid choice. To give it a test run, download the free version. Then check out its strength in regards to source citations: you can now record the quality (original vs derivative, primary vs secondary, etc., direct vs indirect) of each source as you work on proving your conclusions. And they have an app called Families for your mobile device. Learn more about the app here.

AFFORDABLE MAC OPTION: iFamily for Leopard is the most affordable at $29.95.  There’s a free demo you can try before you buy.

TOP-SHELF MAC OPTION: Reunion 11 by Leister Pro is fairly pricey at $99.00. We’ve featured Reunion in the past: listen to Episode 51 of The Genealogy Gems Podcast. In that episode you can listen to a review of Reunion 9 by Ben Sayer, the MacGenealogist. And if you want to compare iFamily against Reunion to see what you’re getting for your money, you can also listen to Ben’s review of iFamily in Genealogy Gems episode 53.

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