Monday, 24 April 2017

AncestryDNA passes four million milestone and announces sale for DNA Day


AncestryDNA have announced on Twitter that they now have an astonishing four million people in their database. They passed the three million milestone in January so this means that they have sold one million DNA tests in the last three months alone. If sales continue at the current rate there could well be seven million or more people in the database by the end of the year.

If you've not yet tested at AncestryDNA now is your chance as they have today announced a flash two-day sale in the UK and Ireland in celebration of DNA Day. There is a 25% discount on UK kits which brings the price down from £79 to just £59. Return postage is extra and is charged at £20. In Ireland the test is reduced from from €95 to €70.


Visit the UK store here: https://www.ancestry.co.uk/dna

Visit the Irish store here: http://ancestry.ie

There are also discounts available on the AncestryDNA test in the US and Canada. There is no discount in Australia but that's probably because 25th April is ANZAC Day and it would be inappropriate to detract from the solemnity of the occasion with a frivolous DNA sale.

If you are a pre-existing AncestryDNA customer the closing date of the sale is given as 2nd May 2017. It is not clear if the closing date of the sale for new customers will be extended as well.

If you test at AncestryDNA and haven't yet tested at Family Tree DNA make sure you take advantage of the free autosomal DNA transfer programme to add your results to FTDNA's Family Finder database. This will give you a different mix of matches and the ability to participate in the various surname and geographical projects. If you pay a small additional fee of US $19 (£15 or €17.50) you will have access to additional tools such as the chromosome browser. Although Family Tree DNA have a smaller autosomal DNA database than AncestryDNA they have been selling their test in the UK since 2010 whereas AncestryDNA only launched in the UK in January 2015. You are therefore likely to find many cousins in the FTDNA database who have not tested at AncestryDNA.

For a comparison of the autosomal DNA testing companies see Tim Janzen's testing comparison chart in the ISOGG Wiki.

Note that if you've tested at AncestryDNA from May 2016 onwards you will get a reduced number of matches when you transfer to Family Tree DNA. This is because AncestryDNA are now using a different chip, and there are fewer markers that are compatible with the chip used by FTDNA. See the blog post from Louise Coakley Should I upgrade my Family Finder transfer for further information.

If you want to take advantage of the full features of both databases then there is much to be said for testing independently at FTDNA. If this is something you want to do make sure you take advantage of FTDNA's DNA Day sale. The Family Finder test is now just £46 ($59).

Thursday, 20 April 2017

A DNA Day sale at Living DNA and the launch of a new German People project

Living DNA have announced a special sale to commemorate DNA Day. Discounted kits are available for a limited period only. There is a £20 discount when ordered from the UK, a $40 discount in the US and a €30 discount in Ireland and other European countries. For details visit the Living DNA website.

For background information on the Living DNA test see my previous articles:
The Living DNA test provides the best biogeographical ancestry analysis for British people, but note the test does not currently offer a cousin-matching service although this feature will be introduced in due course.

Living DNA recently launched an Irish DNA Research Project to improve their reference dataset from Ireland. We learnt at Who Do You Think You Are? Live this year that they now have around 1200 samples from Ireland and are expecting to roll out their Irish update in about eight weeks' time.

Living DNA have now announced a similar initiative to collect samples from Germany. The project is being run in collaboration with CompGen (Verein für Computergenealogie e.V). CompGen is the biggest genealogical society in Germany and has over 3,700 members.

To participate in the project click on one of the following pages on the Living DNA website:
There are further details of the project in the following press release from Living DNA.
Living DNA initiative seeks to identify patterns of DNA within Germany and surrounding regions

An international group of researchers from the UK and Germany today launched a large-scale appeal for people with four locally-born grandparents, to contribute to a long-term DNA project that will map the genetic history of Germany.
One Family - The German People / Eine Familie - Die Deutschen, is a collaborative project by European ancestry firm Living DNA and Germany’s largest genealogy society, Verein für Computergenealogie e.V. (CompGen). Individuals with four grandparents all born within 80 kilometres (50 miles) of each other, are being sought to take part in the project by taking a simple DNA test.

The project’s aim is to map the genetic structure of contemporary Germany and surrounding eastern regions (Silesia, Posen, Pomerania, East and West Prussia), which have been part of Germany prior to WWI, with a special focus on the former eastern provinces (now part of Poland and Russia).

By focusing on people whose grandparents were all born in close proximity, the team aims to build up the most detailed and accurate regional map of Germany’s genetic history – prior to the loss of territory and mass departures from the eastern parts of Germany that occurred as a result of WW2.

One of the biggest challenges the project faces will be identifying people across all regions of interest, some of which now lie outside of contemporary Germany (Silesia.To encourage suitable people to come forward, individuals who fit the criteria will be able to claim a discounted DNA test at only €89 + return postage (RRP €159), which includes lifetime membership to Living DNA.

Qualifying people who have already had their DNA tested, can transfer their results to the project free of charge and receive a complimentary lifetime membership to Living DNA, which means that they will receive updates to their ancestry results as the Living DNA database grows.

David Nicholson, managing director of Living DNA comments:“Within our DNA is the fact that we are all connected. At Living DNA our One Family project aims to map and connect the world’s DNA. Ultimately producing a one family tree of the world.”

Mr Nicholson also adds: “It’s a great honour to work with CompGen on this project, they have a vast understanding of the complex population structures of Germany and surrounding regions and we are all excited to see the results of the project”.

Dr. Tobias Kemper, genetic genealogist working for CompGen, says: “We are thrilled to be working on this project which will show how the history of middle Europe – from the Roman Empire through the middle ages and the early modern period – until now has left traces within German DNA and their regional distribution.

“This project is of the utmost importance for genealogy in Germany, because it will lead to the creation of the first databank containing a large amount of German DNA samples. DNA genealogy, which has already established itself in many other countries, through the special link between historical research and natural science, will finally also be available in Germany on a large scale.”

Susanne Nicola, chair of the Verein für Computergenealogie e. V. adds: “We’re very pleased the society will be able use its expertise to make a sizeable contribution to a publicly available mapping of the genetic structure of “Germany”.

The DNA research team, under the leadership of Living DNA, made a name for itself in 2015 through its work on a similar landmark study entitled “The People of the British Isles”. This study, which was published in Nature magazine, was the first to map the genetic history of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in high detail. Key members of CompGen under leadership of German genetic genealogist Dr. Tobias Kemper, are also closely involved in the project to ensure it is as academically robust as possible.

The DNA Day sale at Family Tree DNA


Family Tree DNA have announced that they will be holding a sale to celebrate DNA Day. The sale starts today and will end at 11:59 pm Houston time on 27th April.  Here are the sale prices as advised to group administrators.


If you've not ordered a Family Finder test or wish to test other family members now is a really good time to do so. The price works out at £46 or 55 Euros at current exchange rates. Postage will be charged extra and costs $12.95 worldwide. In the US return postage is included in the price.

There are also particularly good deals on the BigY test and the SNP Packs. The BigY is £331 or 395 Euros, and the SNP packs are £70 or 83 Euros which I believe are the lowest ever prices. If you wish to order a BigY or SNP pack test make sure you check first with your haplogroup project administrator to ensure that you're ordering the right test for your situation.

Note that Y-DNA and mtDNA upgrades are not included. You will receive the reduced price if you add a product to an existing kit, but going from Y-37 to 67 or mtPlus to mtFull Sequence (FMS) will not be discounted this time.

Any orders placed through the invoice system must be paid by the end of the sale period.

Happy DNA Day!

Monday, 10 April 2017

23andMe passes two million milestone and gets FDA approval to offer health reports to US customers

While I was away last week in Birmingham at Who Do You Think You Are? Live it was announced that 23andMe have now obtained approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to offer genetic health reports on ten medical conditions, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, to their customers in the US. This is a landmark decision and clears the way for 23andMe to submit further applications in the future for additional reports. The approval will now put 23andMe in a very strong position as they are the only company who can say that their reports are approved by the FDA.

The new FDA reports will only be made available to 23andMe customers in the US, all of whom have now been migrated to the new 23andMe platform. 23andMe reintroduced their health reports in the UK back in 2014 but they haven’t updated any of the literature on most of these reports since about 2011 so they are now very out of date. 23andMe's customers in the UK, Canada and a few other countries are still in limbo on the old 23andMe platform. No announcement has been made about the availability of the reports in other countries. I assume that we will not be able to benefit from the updated reports until we have been migrated to the new website. There are rumours that we will be transitioned by the end of June, but it remains to be seen if this will happen.

It is also worth noting that there are still many health reports available to UK customers that have yet to be approved by the FDA in the US. One example is the report on the BRCA markers associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. As this test is potentially diagnostic I understand it will have to go through a separate approval process.

There is no mention of 23andMe re-introducing the pharmacogenetic reports in the US. In a recent preprint Lu, Lewis and Traylor (2017) expressed concerns about the out-of-date pharmacogenetic reports that 23andMe are providing to their UK customers. The authors say:
Better mechanisms should be in place to ensure that tests reflect the latest science, to ensure tests do not become outdated. Pharmacogenetic research can move quickly – and producing out-of-date reports raises ethical questions since reports may be invalid based on updated research results.
It seems unlikely that 23andMe would be in a position to update these reports until they have approval from the FDA so I hope that they will eventually get clearance for these too.

Anne Wojcicki, the co-founder and CEO of 23andMe, was interviewed by Bloomberg on Friday and provided some interesting insights into the approval process and the company's future plans. She also revealed that the company now have over two million people in their database. 23andMe were reported to have 1.2 million customers in March 2016 which means that they have sold around 800,000 tests in the last 12 months or so.

Update 17th April 2017
The full text of the letter received by 23andMe from the FDA can be seen here. The official press release from the FDA can be seen here.

Update 22nd April
Note that US customers who tested prior to 23rd November 2013 will not have access to the new reports. See the article in the 23andMe help centre Am I eligible to receive the new Genetic Health Risk reports?

Further reading
I've provided links below to some of the most useful articles and blog posts about the FDA's approval of the 23andMe health reports: