Ancestry Announces Lay-Offs and a Change in Corporate Focus on the Family History Business

Ancestry’s president & chief executive officer, Margo Georgiadis, today announced a reduction in the company’s workforce. Blaming a slowdown in the company’s DNA service, she writes, “Future growth will require a continued focus on building consumer trust and innovative new offerings that deliver even greater value to people. Ancestry is well positioned to lead that innovation to inspire additional discoveries in both Family History and Health.”

You can read the full announcement in the Ancestry Blog at https://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2020/02/05/our-path-forward/.

15 Comments

Criminals or fear of finding one in your family may be a cause of the slowdown. But if I had a serious criminal (i.e., serial killer of 40 people,) in my family I would want them caught. DNA is no different in the progress of science than blood typing and fingerprints. In the early days of using those two techniques, I am sure, caused fears in people – fear of losing their privacy rights.Using DNA may help, actually, in preventing false convictions, long unjustified prison terms or worse, executions.

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    For me it’s not about the criminal element, it’s about safeguarding the DNA. At this point I don’t trust any company not to sell my DNA to marketers, insurance companies, etc so that it can be used against me. This comes after hearing about a health system selling patient medical info to Google. And yes, it was legal in that state. There are always loopholes that don’t protect the victim.

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While DNA can be very important, I hope that that Ancestry’s main focus is still on records.
There are many sources for DNA results & I’m certain they both help & alarm users. But there are also many historical records that are not available for users. Yes I know money may be part of the reasoning for this possible change of focus. Having been a subscriber for many years, I still find new info. In fact, by using Ancestry & a very limited number of other sources, I found that my childhood home is not 110 years old but at minimal, 158 years old. So my use of Ancestry has not only enlightened my family records but has helped me (and several others) to create a historical perspective of the builder (who’s name I knew) & all his contributions to my home town. (Turns out there are several.) Who would have thought of that, at first, as a use for Ancestry? Not me. PS: Now I have to learn Dutch in addition to German!!!!!.

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Every time you filled out a medical information form at your doctors office detailing your medical history including why your parents died & any medical issues in your family ( including siblings) was & did discriminate against your getting healthcare. Did your parents smoke, drink, died from what diseases? That was your DNA before DNA testing became available.

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I wonder if the number of DNA companies/services may be more of an issue than privacy. 23andMe also announced layoffs about a week ago citing the recession that they see as being on the horizon.

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Let’s hope “building consumer trust and innovative new offerings” include cleaning up “ThruLines” by including matching DNA strings in the mix and adding a chromosome browser. Right now AncestryDNA tools are mostly smoke & mirrors of little actual value. IMHO

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Ancestry’s announcement mentioned ‘Trust’ multiple times. In the last couple years, Ancestry has revised their DNA results multiple times – with a number of people seeing their ancestors moved to different countries of origin. This is not a way to develop ‘Trust’.

Ancestry’s ads also imply that one can simply enter a little information about immediate ancestors and, in return, get complete (and accurate) family histories within seconds. Again, not reality and not a way to develop ‘Trust’.

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    We suspect that the reason for reduction of employees is more tied to the early use of DNA health findings than an apprehension of a drop in the economy. Personally, I avoided the use of 23 and me products with the thought of corporate greed raising its ugly head by the sale of my dna information by the testing company.Unfortunately, as the morals of our nation have been heading downward partly due to children not receiving the benefit of motherly teaching prior to age 4, greed has become the byword of many a company board of directors. It is perfectly obvious that the CFO is more listened to than the CEO by the Boards, simply by watching the outcome as released by scandals. The Media is also, and ever has been, affected by greed. They pander to the sensationalism by the public, thereby attracting advertising.
    Follow the money.

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I use Ancestry for the records that keep coming up. I have enhanced two Latvian lines thru marriage records. I have used their dna features an so has my family members. It’s just that they don’t haven’t time their young working people.

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Ancestry says that they are going to focus on family history but to do so they will need to improve their online service. I have been getting constant error messages when trying to attach records to my family trees for the last couple of days. And yes, I have cleared my cache, cookies, crossed my fingers, muttered a few incantations… Nothing has helped.

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Please, would the fear mongering people just GET A GRIP! Have you educated yourselves to know how anyone can take “your” DNA results and connect them to you? If you can prove – beyond a shadow of a doubt that my string of DNA results will have anyone knocking at my door to say I have a pre-existing condition, then I say go for it – prove it and give me the names of those companies taking that information to use against me.
I started having my DNA done in 2007 and if I’ve had five (5) contacts – which I seriously doubt as I’ve done most of the contacting – it would seem that my DNA is the least important to anyone or any company looking to invade my privacy.
Might I suggest to the ‘many’ that you watch the Legacy webinars (the past ones you will need a membership for and which should you have if you are at all interested in any form of genealogy knowledge) and learn what DNA testing can and cannot do for you.
May you all sleep peacefully tonight as I am sure no one is any more interested in your DNA than they are in mine.

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    Insurance companies and big Pharm will spend any money and effort to get health info for use in targeted advertising or , in the case of insurance companies, finding out who they need to exclude or increase premiums for. While I sleep well because of being retired Navy, over 65 and also covered by my union plan as a pensioner, other people may not be so blessed. Not being aware of industry pressures is like putting blinders on : it changes nothing.

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I just don’t think Ancestry’s DNA program is very user friendly or that their test results are as trustworthy or perhaps far reaching as other companies whose focus is solely DNA. Ancestry should put their focus on the records part of the research but also make it easier for lay people to figure out the connections of all these DNA matches we get. With thousands of connections I’ve had such a small amount of luck figuring out the relationships. Although, I will say I did discover a first cousin and a half uncle due to an extra marital affair my maternal grandfather had in 1943. Nobody in either family recognized surnames. It was very hard to figure out when I contacted this match and got a some background information from her. Without a city directory in Ancestry’s collection that not only listed residents but also employees of local businesses living in other towns, I never would have figured it out. This cousin suspected her mother’s father might have had an illegitimate child. It turned out to be her paternal grandmother who’d had an affair with my maternal grandfather while they were both married to our other grandparents. I knew where my grandfather had worked and when I saw her name as a co-worker there, the mystery was solved. It was fortunate that we found this out after my grandparents and my mother had passed away. It was a scandal that as a genealogist I found fascinating but had my grandmother and my mother been living, it would most certainly have caused heartache.

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I wish I had never sent my DNA for analysis. I find it useless. The matches I have I already knew about. Most of the others have no tree or not linked and I never heard of any of them and their lineage is so far off from mine, I doubt they are relatives.

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Ancestry is doing itself in. Its problems are far greater than DNA. In August 2019, it gave a $900 million dividend to its private investors, funded by $1.15 billion in junk bond debt. All the while their business model is alienating customers. $400 a year for full subscription access? Who can afford that? Putting user-contributed data like family trees behind its paywall? Dumping Rootsweb mailing lists, the last remnant of service to the genealogical community at large ? Gone greedy and needing to scrape for nickels and dimes to pay off that debt. That attitude begins a vicious downward cycle for any company. They may try to blame the recession – which has not occurred yet, but the blame lies within.

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