Like many teenagers, my 14-year old sees every situation only from her own point of view. I call it myopic-itis. This is, of course, how most of us react to every new situation. The difference between those suffering from this condition and the rest of us is that fairly quickly, perhaps once the shock has subsided, we can see things from the point of view of others, and can therefore be more understanding about the whole situation.
AncestryDNA recently caused an attack of myopic-itis when they announced a change to their policy on how DNA tests are registered. Previously, you could register anyone’s test under your own account. Say you were gathering the test for an aged aunt or disinterested cousin. You handle everything from the order to the test registration to managing all correspondence. Your aunt or cousin merely needed to spit in the tube.
However, effective today, July 18, 2017, that has changed. Each person who takes an AncestryDNA test must have their very own account at AncestryDNA.
A natural reaction is to immediately reject this as a terrible idea that will certainly slow–if not halt–your efforts to gather the needed genetic information from your less-than-enthusiastic relatives. Your myopic-itis flares up and threatens to cause you to throw up your hands in frustration and just forget the whole thing.
But don’t! Really, all that is changed is that you have to take one more step when administering DNA tests for your friends or relatives: create AncestryDNA accounts for them. Then, they can assign you as the Manager of their DNA kits. Doing so allows their DNA results to show up in your Ancestry account, just as if you yourself had registered the test under your account. Viola! (Well, if your relative doesn’t have an email account, you may have to create one, so that would be one more step.)
Now, why would Ancestry decide to so inconvenience your life with another step or two? Well, to protect the rights of the cousin and the aunt that you are asking to take the test. It is that simple. Not that you would, but if the results are in your account, you can delete them, you can limit their access to them. In short, you have ultimate control. Causing each test to have its own account tries to put that control back in the hands of the test taker.
One of the criticisms of this announcement is that Ancestry is doing this just to make more people buy subscriptions to Ancestry. I don’t think this is their primary motivation. In fact, a blogger in the UK, Debbie Kennett, suggested that it may be partially in reaction to a new law in the UK that, starting next year, will require this personal access inr order for Ancestry to continue selling tests there.
But even if getting more subscribers was their primary motivation for the change, how is encouraging interest in genealogy a bad thing?! Think of it this way: let’s say you tell your cousins, “I got this. Don’t worry about anything. I will do it all.” Then they will let you, and they won’t take any ownership of the process or the results.
Instead, now you can say, “I have created a login for you at Ancestry so you can view your own results. I will also be able to see them in my account. I would love to go over them with you, if you are interested. But you can go in anytime and look around.” Then wouldn’t it be great if they really did that? Maybe they’d even get so interested that they’d decide to help you research?!
DNA is one of the biggest hooks we have to get our friends and family interested in family history. I think this change is just one more way that we can spread our love of family history with our family–not to mention protect their privacy and their rights.
In addition to Debbie Kennett’s post I mentioned above, make sure to read the official announcement by Ancestry, and these two blog posts about questions you may have: Reality Check–Changes at AncestryDNA and Managing Multiple Kits and the New AncestryDNA Change.
Ready to test some relatives? Click here for tips on talking about DNA at your next family gathering (like, this summer’s reunion?). Then sign up for the free weekly Genealogy Gems e-newsletter and/or follow us on Facebook to learn about the fantastic DNA sales we’ve been spotting lately.
What if your 93-yr-old grandmother doesn’t own a computer and doesn’t want to do anything but spit? She also lives by herself thousands of miles away? I think they overreacted.
Diahan, If you think this is all about myopic-itis I suggest you read the “comments” attached to the Ancestry announcement (508 as of my last look, almost all are negative). Some VERY valid questions are raised and they are not being answered. Oh, they are answered but they sure look like “smoke and mirrors” to me. Typical corporate PR. The legal issue thing is total BS. All I see happening are bogus accounts and even more bogus “fake” email addresses. Increasing the number of accounts with these new rules smells of corporate needing more “numbers.” It has nothing to do with making things easier for us users. For the lone family genealogist like myself continuing to use Ancestry for DNA just got a whole lot harder and more complicated than it was YESTERDAY. Getting aging relatives and distant cousins to agree to test given these new rules will be more than difficult. My bottom line: A very poor decision by Ancestry.
What about existing accounts I have under my name already?
Yes people need to have control of their own DNA however it is not as simple as forcing the creation of personal accounts. Recently I organised a kit for an elderly relative I had not personally seen for a number of years via a quick short messages. I registered the kit online and shipped it overseas along with others. I then discovered that the elderly person would not be able to give informed consent to the testing so immediately requested the test not to be administered. The ethics of testing people that are not interested in managing their own testing or not able to give informed consent is not solved by the creating of accounts. So consider this case where being over ninety and blind this person would never create their own Ancestry DNA account or email. I could do this and I could have let the test go ahead. Creation of account while annoying and probably necessary it will not stop people organising tests and taking control out of the hands of the owner of the DNA.
I just now need to look at how you can change the registration for the kit to another person that can give informed consent.
Thanks for keeping us up to date on DNA and love your guides. Fran
Marnie – I have worked with 100s of adoptees and others who have taken a DNA test. Of all of the clients I have worked with, I’ve not ever had a problem with helping someone to activate a test (even if that means I set up a new email for them), but I have had numerous instances of people not being able to access their own test results because a well-meaning friend or family member bought the test and then refused to give the person access to their results. Prior to the implementation of this policy, the only recourse was for the person to retest. This is definitely a step in the right direction to make the test takers responsible for their on genetic information.
Agree, poor decision. It’s already hard enough, and this plus the lack of sharing of chromosome data has led me to decide that all future relative DNA tests will be through other companies.
Oh great! Now I have to secure an Ancestry account for my wife’s 91 year old mother who doesn’t own a computer, doesn’t want a computer and doesn’t need a computer. Come on, make a sensible, intelligent exception. What I hoped would be a key to research just became another stumbling block, and your answer is?
I can only say that I am glad I got the test for my over 90 cousin activated before the deadline. He is interested in genealogy & DNA, but his ability to set up accounts & emails & find the correct settings may be limited. I looked into what it would take for him to create his own account so that I could explain it to him … and decided it would just be easier to add him to my account. I will certainly share those results with him. While I do agree with the personal control issue, that also means that the Manager of the account could inadvertently be changed. I don’t really see the issue about adding new accounts, as you can have a guest account at Ancestry, so its not like they are making more money – unless of course the Guest decides to do some research, and then that is definitely a good thing!
You are not alone in your feelings, as you suggested with the number of comments posted on Ancestry’s blog. I guess for me the bottom line is that I don’t know for sure why they made the change, just that they did, so all I can really do myself is try to see a way that I can make the best of it. After all, for everyone testing at Family Tree DNA, this is the way it has always been: one person per account. At FTDNA you don’t even really have an easy way to share your access to your account with family members. You just have to keep track of all the kit numbers and passwords! At least at Ancestry you do still have a way to see all of your family members in your own account.
I wish you the best in your own genetic genealogy efforts.
Do I understand correctly that this change does NOT apply to DNA tests that have already been run & done, like 2 years ago?
I don’t know why anyone would ask a family member to take the test and then NOT allow them access.
I’m glad I already got my 100 yr old mother done, it would have been impossible to test her with these new regs. Many of us are starting with the older generation, as is logical, and most of them do not operate computers. As somebody pointed out ancestry is just encouraging people to set up phoney email accounts for our rellies who are not interested in the follow up, but just happy to provide the sample and have us interpret the information when the test results arrive.. it’s all so silly, if another adult is willing to drool in a vial, obviously they know something is going on, it’s not as if we all picked up used coffee cups like they do in CSI shows.