I spoke to an Ancestry representative at Who Do You Think You Are? Live last month to enquire what they were planning to do about their Y-DNA and mtDNA tests. I was told that they had at one time considered phasing them out but that they still regularly receive orders every week from a few projects. They have now supposedly set up the system to make the Y-DNA tests easy to find for those who need them but difficult for everyone else to discover. However, it would appear that even if you have a Y-DNA project at AncestryDNA, there is currently no way to order a kit. It is not clear if the Y-DNA and mtDNA tests have been permanently discontinued or if this is a temporary problem.
Ancestry have not been actively marketing their Y-DNA and mtDNA tests for some time now and have focused instead on their new autosomal DNA product. Probably about 95% or more of surname projects are hosted at Family Tree DNA, but there are a few surname projects which have persisted against all the odds with AncestryDNA. AncestryDNA acquired Relative Genetics in 2008 and some of the old Relative Genetics surname projects were transferred to AncestryDNA. Family Tree DNA bought out the British company DNAHeritage in April 2011, and these projects were given the opportunity to transfer their results free of charge to FTDNA, but a handful of projects decided to move their results to AncestryDNA instead. However, even if there is a project at AncestryDNA, there will inevitably be a complementary or rival project at Family Tree DNA.
I've never been a great fan of the AncestryDNA Y-STR and mtDNA tests. One of the biggest problems was that the company provided no facility for SNP testing. Y-DNA haplogroups can often be predicted with a high degree of confidence from a Y-STR haplotype, but this becomes much more problematical with a rare haplotype. There have been a number of reported cases of incorrect haplogroup predictions from AncestryDNA which were only discovered when the customers tested elsewhere. There are probably many other people sitting in the AncestryDNA database blissfully unaware that they have been assigned to the wrong haplogroup. There have been similar problems with the Ancestry mtDNA haplogroup predictions. The AncestryDNA mitochondrial DNA test sequences most of the hypervariable (non-coding) region of the mtDNA genome. While it is often possible to predict the mtDNA haplogroup from HVR results, sometimes there is ambiguity and it is necessary to test SNPs from the coding region for confirmation. Ancestry do not have any facility to upgrade mtDNA test results or to order SNP testing to confirm the mtDNA haplogroup. Other companies do offer mtDNA haplogroup backbone tests or include some coding region SNPs in the cost of the test. Family Tree DNA include with their mtDNAPlus test (HVR1 + HVR2) a free mtDNA haplogroup backbone test which covers a panel of 22 coding region SNPs to confirm the haplogroup. FTDNA are the only company to offer a standalone full mitochondrial sequence test for a detailed haplogroup assignment and matches within a genealogical timeframe. GeneBase also offer a full sequence test but it is only available as an upgrade and costs almost twice as much as the FTDNA test.
In addition to the haplogroup problems Ancestry provided very little in the way of support for surname projects. The interface was very primitive and very hard to use and no improvements have been made since the service was launched back in October 2007. Ancestry have only ever offered two basic Y-STR tests for 33 markers and 46 markers. They inflate their marker count by including three markers for which the majority of the population will have a null value. Other companies report values for these markers if found but don't routinely include them in the marker count.
The Ancestry marker panels are also supposedly less useful for genealogical purposes because they have a slower mutation rate. The genetic genealogist John Robb has done an interesting study comparing the mutation rates of the AncestryDNA and Family Tree DNA Y-STR markers which can be found here:
There are occasions when it is necessary to order additional markers in order to subdivide family groupings or if one has a large number of matches. Unfortunately Ancestry did not have any facility to order extra markers. Other companies offer upgrades to 67 markers, and Family Tree DNA even offer a 111-marker test.
However, Ancestry did have one advantage over Family Tree DNA because they have always reported microalleles (fractional marker values such as 14.2). While microalleles are rare, they can be genealogically useful as the Acree surname project have found to their benefit. It is very much hoped that Family Tree DNA will eventually provide the facility to report microalleles.
If you have taken a Y-STR test with AncestryDNA I recommend that you transfer your results to Family Tree DNA. The basic transfer costs US $19, and once your results have been transferred you will have the option to upgrade for an additional fee so that you can be included in the matching database. For further details see the third-party transfer section in the FTDNA Learning Center:
For comparisons of the Y-STR tests available from the different companies see the Y-STR testing chart in the ISOGG Wiki:
There is also an mtDNA testing comparison chart in the ISOGG Wiki:
Thanks to Joss Ar Gall and Charles Acree for telling me about the unavailability of the AncestryDNA tests.
Update 23 February 2014
Stephanie Ray has kindly sent me the following link which can apparently still be used to order a Y-DNA test from AncestryDNA:
This page does not appear to be linked from anywhere within the AncestryDNA pages. It also transpires that it is no longer possible to access the group results from the groups menu. However, you can access the results by using this link:
The link only works when you are logged into your own Ancestry account. The number after the equals sign needs to be replaced with your own Ancestry group ID. You can find the group ID by going to the groups menu and going to the home page for your group.
Update 24 February 2014
Charles Acree has advised me that he has tried to ring AncestryDNA to clarify the current situation. He tells me that the Ancestry.com reps are not accepting any Y-DNA or mtDNA orders at all. They are "portraying it as a temporary situation (not a problem)" and they've added that "there are no new kits on order". I do not know of anyone who has tried to order a Y-DNA or mtDNA test from AncestryDNA, but Charles was told that even if an order were placed a kit would not be sent. He was further told that the link to the misleading webpage that Stephanie provided is a glitch that will eventually be corrected.