2015 redefines value of DNA genealogy tests

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.

Since then, I also have tested through Ancestry DNA and 23andme. Right now, I don’t know if my hope just needs to be extended for another year or got crushed by one company.

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.

Related posts:
Guide for making the best choices in DNA testing

A Russian-American’s insider view of the Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder Test

A Russian-American’s inside view of the new AncestryDNA test

A Russian-American’s insider view of the 23andme Autosomal Test (before the recent changes)

7 thoughts on “2015 redefines value of DNA genealogy tests

  1. Hello Vera, I read your blog all the time, I really enjoy it. This Week you have written about DNA. I’ll like to tell you my story. My mother was taken from her home in Dniepropetrovsk Ukraine when she was 17 years old by the Germans invading all over Europe during WW2. She was in a forced labor camp from 1942 till 1945 when at the end of the war an American Army Unit liberated her camp in Lauf Pegnitz, Germany. She was taken to Ansbach, Germany and I was born 9 months later in 1946. In 1951 she was sponsered by a Church in Dubuque Iowa and came to American with me. I was 5 years old. A few months later, a man arrived from Germany, also Ukrainian, and they were married. I was led to believe he was my father. They both passed away in the late 1980’s and in their possessions I found my adoption papers, this man had adopted me. I always felt something was not right, but now I Knew for sure. At that time I started to write to the internation tracing service, the red cross and archives of Germany, I even put an ad out in the Ansbach newspaper, looking for someone that might have know my mother, I did get a reply from one man, he was 13 when I was born, and lived in the same building that my mother lived in, he told me my father was a German Soldier, this was one my many many wrong leads. I never stopped writing. I think everyone at all the archives knew me very well when they received my letters. Then in the 90’s DNA came about, but all I could see was my mothers halogroup, which really didn’t tell me anything, then autosomal DNA came about, I had that tested. But there was no way for me to find out anything about who my father may be. Then Gedmatch, and Gedcom came to be, I had given up by then, but I put my raw DNA data in these site, and was able to see poeple that matched me. And the best part, I was able to see their family trees. Once I started looking through these trees, I relized right away, my father had to be American. I had nothing under 3rd cousin matches, which would have made me related to these people through Great grandparents. The one man that matched me the most, never answered my email. I looked through many trees and looked at many WW2 veterans faces. One day I thought to myself, why am I looking thru all these trees, I don’t know what names to look for or anything. So I decided that morning to go back to the family tree of this man that I first emailed, oh, by the way, he didn’t have a tree, I made a tree for him on Ancestry.com. Then I spread out the tree further then I did the first time. That same morning I found my father! What I was doing was spreading out from the great great grandparents and going now the lines to the WW2 period. Almost all the men during that period were in some sort of military, I would look at there faces and say, no this can’t be my father. Till I hit this one man, I never seen before in my life, but I knew he was my father. I started looking up to find out who his children may be, and I found a daughter and a son. I called the daughter first, she was very nice, and I still talk to her every single day, but she was adopted. Then I found his son, with her help.Looking at his facebook page, I said OMG, he looks exactly my oldest son. I talked to him for the first time 2 nights ago. He is happy to hear from me, and he will get a swab to test his DNA against mine. We will be shocked if we are not brother and sister. Conpairing notes there are to many coincidences for it not be so. And he agrees I look like his father, and my son looks like him. Also, he was in the town I was born in. He was probably there when my mother was liberated and taken to Ansbach, and then had to leave, I am sure he didn’t know she was pregnant. I did not mention his man passed away in 2008. The son has a video tape of an interview he did with his father (before he died) about WW2. I am very much excited to see this video. Again, thanks for yur great blog.I love it. Nell

    Date: Thu, 17 Dec 2015 03:58:08 +0000 To: nelldren@msn.com

    1. Congrats on your success! I am hoping to find my mother’s cousin’s father’s family through DNA test. Sadly, she lives in Russia and I am afraid the Ancestry DNA test will not get past Russian customs. I hope that all the people buying tests this holiday season will end this mystery about the father. The mother is alive and doesn’t want to talk much about the father. Glad that you love my blog. Maybe you could become a subscriber.

  2. Ray Ann Alt

    Waiving my hand frantically… Eastern European Jewish (3% my Ancestry DNA test says–so that is my right little toe I thin).. my grandmother came here in 1892 from East Prussia.. and one of her brothers served in the Spanish American War and his papers state he came from Koenigsburg .. and the youngest brother’s registration for WW2 states he came from Tilsit in Germany.. well with a name like Graetsch, I’m so lost—I hear what you are saying. I tried sending letters to anyone over there I could find with the same surname–but got nowhere–so now I keep hoping that if the DNA tests are made available in those areas, maybe I will get some answers and try to figure out who gave my little toe the Jewish DNA…

  3. Karol S.

    Vera really interesting blog, I will be following your page to see how ur progress goes! Vera I’m a Slovak American who took the ancestry DNA test and I’m just wondering from pure curiosity how a person’s enthnic percentages would compare whose ancestors are Russian. Would you mind posting your actual percentage break down?

    1. On Ancestry DNA- 81 percent Europe East, 16 percent Finland/Northwest Russia, 2 percent Asia East and less than 1 percent Melanesia. On 23andme- 83.6 percent Eastern Europe, 8.4 Northwestern Europe, 1.3 percent southern European, 4.6 percent broadly European. On Family Tree DNA- 81 Eastern Europe, 17 Finland and Northern Siberia, 2 percent Northeast Asia.

  4. Hello Vera,

    I have tested at 23andMe and FTDNA and I have Lithuanian ancestry on my maternal side. I have also had my mother tested, and she and I have some Ukrainian distant cousin matches, though I’ve not been able to make contact or figure out a connection yet. I just wanted to share that to give you some hope.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s