Ancestry Adds Options to Share or to Not Share DNA Information

Ancestry has announced a new update to its popular DNA service: an option to share DNA information or to keep the information private. In a statement released yesterday, the company states:

“Customers can now decide if they want to have access to the list of people they may be related to and be shown as a potential family member for other customers with whom they share DNA. While connecting family is one of the main benefits of our service, we also recognize that not everyone is open to discovering their extended family.”

The full announcement may be found at: http://ancstry.me/2A5suyF.

My thanks to the several newsletter readers who told me about the new announcement.

12 Comments

It’s not about sharing DNA information, but whether you can see your DNA matches and they can see that they match with you.

Not everyone who tests their DNA plans to research their family tree – for some it’s a substitute (ie they’re only interested in the ethnicity estimates), for others it’s an impulse purchase. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this change is being implemented just before Thanksgiving, considering that last year Ancestry sold more tests on Black Friday alone than most of their competitors sell in a year.

So this change could potentially make life simpler for family historians. Having thousands of matches with DNA cousins who don’t have a tree and have no interest in creating one is mostly a waste of our time.

But it could go wrong – for example, if users routinely choose to opt out without really understanding the pros and cons, not just for themselves but for their genetic cousins.

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What’s the point of the DNA test if you can’t find ancestors? Now Ancestry is going against what they advertised?

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    @ Mary Hutchins – Some people are just curious about whether or not DNA tests will confirm the documents that lead us to the countries of origin of ancestors. e.g., Documents show I have ancestors from seven different countries, but I studied history (including migration patterns of various groups) for many decades so I also know that Anglo-Saxon and Viking DNA could show up in my British (Celtic) lineages, or that if it goes back far enough, even Roman or Mediterranean DNA could show up in my British lines from other parts of England or Alsace, or that perhaps Jewish DNA will make an appearance since I have Dutch DNA and the Netherlands took in refugees from the Spanish Inquisition. Old Norse DNA that may or may not show up in my British or Celtic Irish lineages “should” be different from my more recent known northern Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish ancestors who didn’t arrive in the US until the 19th century. I do not, however, know if mtDNA can reveal any of those things with precision since it seems to be more generalized than yDNA, and I would only have my own mtDNA to test. I have been doing genealogy research for over half a century so I pretty much know who I’m related to; I’m not particularly interested in finding additional living relatives, altho two have found me by conventional means.
    I’m very curious about the DNA testing, but have not taken any DNA tests yet, partly because I am waiting for results to be more precise (altho I am old so shouldn’t wait too long), and partly because I don’t trust US corporations not to “share” my info with any number of other corporations or government agencies that could profit handsomely from the results. I just want to satisfy my own curiosity, not provide additional profits to corporations that are now out of hand in the power to invade our privacy that they jointly wield with government laws they write and expect our legislators to pass. Ordinary Fourth Amendment privacy is an alien concept to them, just as it is to many younger generations who display their lives on the internet or “reality” shows (TMI~!!!).

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Well, Ancestry just wants to play it safe. Maybe there was a faction of noisy customers complaining about messages from their matches and feeling “unsafe” as a result or something. I’m not paranoid about “corporations” or “government” using my data for nefarious purposes. I’m just a genetic genealogy geek fascinated by how interrelated we are. And why the heck are so many people paranoid about “corporations?” I just don’t get it. The paranoid who want to believe what they want make life for the curious genetic genealogy geeks very difficult.

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    @ lydiagaebe Not actually paranoid, just horribly aware that corporations have much too much power over government, from removal of restrictions to keep people safe, to making record-setting profits off of our health (insurance, medical, and pharmaceutical corporations), to spying on us, to mercenaries waging war for corporate profits (oil, gas, pipelines), to being given rights of personhood and faux religious rights by SCOTUS which blurs the line between separation of church and state. Corporations (to their enormous profit) now have few (or no) restrictions, are apparently running all three branches of government, and out-of-control corporate power is something our Founding Fathers warned against.
    DNA databases can be cross-checked with law enforcement agencies to find people related to known felons, or felons themselves (last I read that needed a search warrant…, but that may have changed by now). The names and addresses and email addresses of those who have had DNA tests could just as easily be sold to advertisers interested in selling their products to people.
    Paranoia and elementary propaganda and brainwashing is what made legislators pass the Patriot Act (since expired and two days later replaced with the USA Freedom Act which was essentially Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the most egregious part of the Patriot Act). The Patriot Act and other paranoid nefarious legislation made librarians mad enough to make sure the library patrons’ privacy was protected and law enforcement couldn’t track which books were checked out by patrons, or who used public computers at the public library…, and made it difficult for genealogists to get public documents about our ancestors from our local courthouses, requiring researchers to produce picture IDs to get documents about our grandparents, gr-grandparents, and assorted relatives.
    A quote from someone who knew how to wield the combination of corporate and government power with no restrictions:
    “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” — Benito Mussolini
    I, too, am fascinated by the geekier aspects of DNA research and what can be found out about ancestors more than four hundred years ago since that’s about as far back as most of my documents have taken me (a few older, but not many). I’m just not looking for living relatives beyond the hundreds I already know, or know about. If they find me by conventional means, okay, but otherwise I’m not particularly interested.

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The people who are not interested don’t respond when I try to contact them anyway. And most of the time I can’t figure out how we are connected on my own. So while it’s slightly disappointing, I hope I will still find enough “leads” to one day discover who my mystery great grandfather was.

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I am not interested in finding living relatives. It’s those from the early 1900’s I do not know about due to early deaths, second or even third marriages, that are sought. The DNA shared matches without family trees may offer clues because they match those with a family tree. In my case, these can be grouped accordingly. Even without a family tree the cm’s and ethnicity regions are available. The more clues the better. Ancestry DNA advertisements were heavy on “finding relatives”…This change appears to be a poor decision.

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    Mary, I’ve spent the last 14 years creating and running a site to help family historians find other researchers who share their ancestors, so I don’t understand your reluctance to connect with living cousins. After all, who better to help fill in the gaps on your family tree than somebody who shares part of that tree?

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Mary, You are missing out on valuable information a living cousin could have about your deceased relative. I’ve been in contact with people who had the Family Bible passed down to them from generations back. Or that letter from a great grandmother to their great grandmother. There are so many treasures out there to be shared by newly found living cousins. I’ve contacted many who are willing to share and I am always willing to share what I have. There are those of course who do not respond, but they may be the one missing out on valuable information.
I would also suggest anyone with an ancestry.com DNA test should transfer their raw data to gedmatch.com. This is a very helpful site because DNA is transferred there from not only ancestry.com, but also from familytreedna.com, myheritage.com, and 23andme. It is a way to compare your dna with people from these other sites, giving you a much larger database. And it is FREE. Also, you are able to see the email address of your matches, making it easier to contact them. Especially those who no longer respond to messages on ancestry.com.

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I think Ancestry is just recognizing that they don’t own the DNA or the results of the DNA test, they simply provide a fee based service. I don’t think anyone has a right to demand to see my test results for blood or urine or saliva. That said, I’ve tested with FamilyTreeDNA and my results are visible there. It hasn’t helped in my research at all. For all the agonizing over this, maybe Ancestry will sell more tests and maybe some percentage of those extra tests will decide to let others view the results, a win-win. Give it a chance.

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    If you haven’t uploaded your results to GedMatch you should as it would give you a much larger database of people to match with. Having done our DNA with several companies but not Ancestry we finally had a deal not to be refused and – who knew – found the closest contact and she was only on the Ancestry DNA not any of the others!
    Our results are also visible at My Heritage but without a membership completely useless as we can’t contact and they can’t contact us!

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