Ancestry Publishes New Genetic Research on U.S. Population Structures in Nature Communications

The following announcement was written by Ancestry:

DNA and genealogical information from more than 700,000 AncestryDNA users gives new insight into historical events in North America during the last several hundred years

ancestry-com-logoLEHI, Utah and SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 07, 2017 — Today, Ancestry published a scientific article entitled “Clustering of 770 thousand genomes reveals post-colonial population structure of North America” in Nature Communications. The article shares new research using genetic data from over 700,000 individuals from North America to uncover a detailed picture of the subtle patterns of migration and settlement in post-colonial USA. Ancestry is the leader in family history and consumer genomics with 80 million family trees and more than three million people using AncestryDNA, a combination which powered the fine-grain historical insights that have previously been inaccessible from genetic studies.

This research was led by Ancestry’s Chief Scientific Officer Catherine Ball, Ph.D., her Ancestry colleagues and historian Erin Battat, Ph.D., from Harvard University.

“Ancestry is just scratching the surface of scientific discoveries that can be made when combining large amounts of genomic data with detailed pedigree information, and I’m incredibly proud of the work the team put into this research project as well as the fascinating results we’ve found,” said Ball. “It’s especially rewarding to gain insights that not only contribute significantly to genomic research, but provide a glimpse into our own personal histories and identities.”

Key highlights of the paper:

  • The authors created a network of genetically-identified relationships among over 700,000 individuals, and identified clusters of individuals who were very subtly more related to one another. By using family tree information, the team identified that these clusters corresponded to detailed and subtle patterns of migration and settlement in post-colonial USA.
  • The main achievement of this research is not only the development of novel scientific methodology, but also Ancestry’s use of an extremely large sample of both genetic and pedigree data.
  • This research identifies population structure in North America, shaped by many different geographical and cultural factors, which has previously been difficult to determine at such a fine granularity from genetic data alone.
  • The data depict movements and settlements across east-west and north-south gradients, and pick out groups descended from those who remained isolated after moving to the USA for geographical or cultural reasons, such as Amish populations within in Midwestern states and Pennsylvania.
  • The authors suggest that these data reveal more than our history. Some clusters of individuals have higher frequencies of gene variants associated with disease risk, which could inform future avenues of research in the field.

Ancestry is well on the way to harnessing the scientific power of its two unique data sets — the combination of the records of history in our genetics, coupled with paper records of family history. Such research can not only provide personal stories, but also the context of ties between people, places, and human events, allowing people to understand their identities even more deeply. The Ancestry team continues to study ethnic diversity, migration patterns, human evolution, and the history of our species to uncover connections among mankind.

This work was made possible by the contributions thousands of customers who have researched family trees, taken the AncestryDNA test and agreed to participate in scientific research. The science and research revealed in the article will be made available in a product feature in the coming months.

About Ancestry
Ancestry, the global leader in family history and consumer genomics, harnesses the information found in family trees, historical records, and DNA to help people gain a new level of understanding about their lives. Ancestry has more than 2.4 million paying subscribers across its core Ancestry websites and DNA data from more than 3 million people. Since 1996, more than 19 billion records have been added to Ancestry’s databases, and users have created more than 80 million family trees on the Ancestry flagship site and its affiliated international websites. Ancestry offers a suite of family history products and services including AncestryDNA, Archives, AncestryProGenealogists, and Fold3. AncestryDNA is owned and operated by DNA, LLC, a subsidiary of, LLC.


“The science and research revealed in the article will be made available in a product feature in the coming months.” I would guess either with an additional fee for access or an increase in overall fees. Should have realized that Ancestry will manage to profit from my DNA.


    I kno, right? Did we give them permission to use our DNA results for anything other than reporting to us? Time to check the fine print…



Back on December 28th I rec’d an email from Ancestry thanking me for being part of Ancestry DNA research. Research?
The email further stated …”This is just a reminder that you have agreed to participate and participation is voluntary. You can change your status by visiting your settings page and choosing Research Consent…”
Let the buyer beware…


I have not had a DNA test done by anyone YET. I want to do it and believe that sharing it with anyone doing Anonymous analysis on populations, emmigration, imigration, migrations in general, the merging of hominid species, etc , is welcome to use my raw data. I can see from the highlights here that Ancestry is using a combination of genealogical data and DNA data. If I give them (or some other entity) permission to use my data, genealogical or DNA or both, I believe I am a paid participant in their research. If I am a participant, I have paid for their research and believe that I should entitled to free access to whatever results are published.
While you are welcome to my personal information, don’t take it and sell it to others without letting me have a free (remember I PAID for the DNA testing) copy of the results.


(i) Is Ancestry research done under the auspices of independent ethics and technical committees? If not – it may be on a par with the past research by cigarette companies.
(ii) Is the research based on Ancestry private and public family trees? Well, let me tell you about the quality of many of the Ancestry trees I’ve come across……..


Enough is enough. This “research” is totally bogus. First, all of the alleged research is based not on random samples, but self-selected persons, those who decided to have their DNA done. No reputable scientist, one who might receive funding from the NSF, the CDC, or any other provider of funding, would allow this research to be conducted. To suggest, as this article does, that there is a scientific basis for any findings related to migration etc. is completely false. Second, I have always found this DNA research questionable because the “sample” against which my DNA is compared is not a scientific control group. There is nothing that prevents the DNA research that might say I have west African ancestry to have reached this conclusion because their comparative group includes one or more people who migrated to Scotland from west Africa long after my Scottish ancestors came to American in 1740. The only valid study would be one that compares my DNA taken today against a sample of DNA of people who lived in Scotland before 1740. We had an adage when I was in graduate school at the University of Illinois in the late 1970s that is pertinent to this alleged research, that adage is “garbage in, garbage out.” That’s what this is, just garbage.


I believe, at a minimum, all of we Ancestry DNA testers, should receive a free copy of the full paper.


This “so called “research may be the reason to have DNA testing done by an entity that has no direct connection to the pedigree charts we create on their web site which becomes their property that they can use at their discretion without proofing charts that do not list primary or derivative sources. Too many “public trees” utilize other folk’s trees as their sources which replicate misinformation. Similar to other fads “buyer beware”


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