I have been recommending AncestryDNA here on this site for the past several months now because I’ll be the first to admit it’s much easier to use than FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA) in terms of seeing possible shared ancestor hints and locations of the ancestors of your matches. In addition, they’ll generate matches further back in your genealogical history than will FTDNA.
One thing I was not aware of, however, is that without a paid Ancestry membership, you cannot view your matches surnames or your shared ancestor hints. Now for a regular Ancestry user like me, that’ not a big deal, but for someone who bought the DNA test and hasn’t done much genealogy research before, they’re either going to quickly give up on DNA or they’re going to be angry when they realize the only thing they were really paying for was paying for was their ethnicity results (which they’ll likely learn are ever changing) and a list of matches that basically serve as bait to pay for a monthly subscription. In that way, it feels like they’re holding your information hostage.
That’s hugely disappointing since this is one area in which FamilyTreeDNA beats them hands-down. While FTDNA only gives you results to the 5th cousin level, and their family trees are cumbersome to navigate, at least they don’t pretend like they own that data.
Ancestry, on the other hand, does pretend they own the data. A shared ancestor hint is NOT like a hint for data in their subscription-only collections. They are essentially telling you that a genetic cousin and you likely share a certain ancestor, but they won’t tell you who it is — even though you ALREADY PAID FOR the DNA kit — unless you buy a monthly subscription.
Do they really think that their best, most loyal customer base is buying a DNA kit for that lame, constantly changing ethnicity report? Of course not! So if someone like myself, who pretty much is a year-round Ancestry subscriber with only very occasional, short periods in which I’m not paying for a membership, takes a break from a regular genealogy research subscription for a month or two (while they’re trying to fix all of their massive, system-wide technical issues), I shouldn’t be also locked out of any usefulness in our family’s AncestryDNA results. I bought the kits. Does that entitle me to nothing useful on the AncestryDNA site?
It just goes to show there are no perfect genealogical DNA companies. If GEDmatch could allow easier surname searching for your matches’ DNA kits, it would be near perfect and I’d gladly pay a monthly subscription for that! This is where free markets work… ultimately, customer demands will create newer and better products and services and I look forward to seeing that as it unfolds.
In the meantime, I still think the AncestryDNA test is most useful for serious researchers, but only if you go into it aware of the fact that you’ll have to pay for a monthly membership to have full access to your results AND you’ll probably want to import your results into GEDmatch if you’re to the point where you need to start looking more closely at where you’re matching on different chromosomes.
That’s all for now! Happy researching!