My hope for finding great matches through DNA testing was set high for this year after reading so many success stories on Facebook. It’s been exactly 5 years since I swabbed my mouth for the Family Finder test from Family Tree DNA.
I naively thought that the majority of 23andme customers who chose to be private would change their minds after the company announced those people will no longer have messaging abilities.
Nope, the majority of my private matches (and the majority of my matches) sit in the land of anonymity. My closest matches, 3rd to 6th matches, are taunting me by refusing to name themselves and their ancestors. When the day comes that I get closer matches, I worry whether they will hide behind “Anonymous Male or Anonymous Female.”
On top of this, 23andme just showed where its heart (or wallet) is invested with the price increase to $199 from $99. AncestryDNA has mainly priced its test at $99 and Family Tree DNA continues to keeps its Family Finder test at $99.
23andme has restarted offering health-related results so it’s focus isn’t genealogy. I understand the importance of learning about health conditions through DNA testing but 23andme has changed so much that it should be the third choice for DNA genealogy.
My disadvantage with these DNA tests has been who I am. Seven of my eight great-grandparents are Russian. One great-grandmother was born in Russia, where it is now Poland, but she had German strong family roots throughout Poland.
Genealogy is getting more popular in the former USSR but the U.S. prices for DNA tests are hard to swallow in Russia and Ukraine. Only Family Tree DNA sends kits there but some Russians and Ukrainians were sneaking in the 23andme test. Forget that until their economies get better.
In the meantime, I am thrilled that Ancestry DNA is now selling its test to United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada and Australia, where Russians and Ukrainians escaped for better lives.
The company also added two features – showing the amount of DNA in common with matches and viewing the shared matches with each match.
Another addition to Ancestry DNA has been DNA Circles, a feature that tries to predict a common ancestor between matches based on DNA and family tree data. That feature has been highly criticized but maybe this feature will help some break down their brickwalls.
There hasn’t been much change at Family Tree DNA, except for better ethnicity breakdowns and the ability to search the database of family trees by name or place. Family Tree DNA has the best tools to analyze matches. The only thing that Family Tree DNA could improve is building up its customer base for the Family Finder Test.
So if you’re like me with lots of Eastern European blood running through your veins, there is no need to run away from DNA testing for genealogy. Everyone’s experience will be different.
I highly recommend first testing through Ancestry DNA, which is having a sale on its test for $89 until Dec. 21, and then transferring your data to Family Tree DNA for $39. I recommend using 23andme as the third choice, especially for adoptees.
After the first test results arrive, upload your data for free to Gedmatch, which matches you with Ancestry DNA, Family Tree DNA and 23andme customers who chose to do the same. This route will be most wise and affordable.
Guide for making the best choices in DNA testing
A Russian-American’s insider view of the 23andme Autosomal Test (before the recent changes)