The DNA Testing Companies Ignore Customer Feedback and Requests

>> Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Please do not include FTDNA in this category, As a company, they have tried to be very helpful and responsive. My comments in this blog are for 23andme and AncestryDNA. Both of these companies give us the impression that the customer is just a nuisance factor to be ignored. They are both going after the big money from selling our data and seem to be forgetting - no customer equals no data.

I will start with 23andme. For years 23andme has ignored the complaints and requests from genealogical customers to change the way genealogical searchers can interact with matches on 23andme. These have been the chief complaints:
  • Contacts with anonymous matches are limited and ignored
  • Obscure options have affected results
    • No close relative option
    • People do not understand that a match must share genomes for you to see any data about them at all as opposed to other testers
    • No ICW information unless you extract it one at a time - also not clear to users
    • People are anonymous without their knowing it
    • C of A is a poor substitute for real information and people do not know that they have to use it.
I even have a first cousin match that is anonymous there and now it has disappeared. This is frustrating enough for me, what if I were a adoptee and this was my only close match. Is this any way to treat a customer.

In the last month, 23andme has announced extensive changes in the user interface and data interpretation. We are waiting to see what happens with that.  For all the years that they ignored user complaints, now that they are starting to repair their relationship with FDA, let' see if they figure out that the customer is an important part of the overall picture.


Ancestry DNA has continued to ignore customer requests that would allow their data to be better aligned with the rest of the industry. Anyone trying to map chromosomes throughout their ancestral tree is out of luck with Ancestry data. The decision to provide "black box" data manipulation has also made it difficult for adoptees and those in endogamous relationships to make educated guesses about the alignment of DNA segments and the length of those segments. Traditional comparisons across results from different companies is not possible unless tests are uploaded to FTDNA or GedMatch,
  • We wanted a chromosome browser for these reasons, so they gave us Timber which eliminated even some valid matches, 
  • We wanted a chromosome browser so they gave us DNA circles and NADS, (did I tell you my only NAD was the wife of a first cousin, seven times removed, This was far from useful.
  • We wanted a chromosome browser so they gave us DNA Matches.
  • We wanted a chromosome browser so they gave us total cM and number of segments after they had fragmented them through a form of phasing
For some reason AncestryDNA has their blinders on or they have decided that they know what is best for us.

What they seem to be ignoring is that they do not exist in a vacuum. The customer, particularly those searching for missing or unknown ancestors, needs the ability to bridge test results from different vendors and to consistently use tools and to know what we are looking at in the results.

Admittedly, AncestryDNA may be trying to move the field forward and has a different concept of what the forward direction, might be. However, they still do not exist in a vacuum and need to provide meaningful information on their results and interpretations that the average customer can understand and equate to the mixed vendor world.

Several things at this moment have made me think that I, personally, do not trust Ancestry to make the best decisions in my interests without my buy-in. These factors are based on the inability to get any kind of meaningful response from a decision maker at AncestryDNA regarding our observations that the New Ancestry as they call it is not ready for prime time. I have been trying to contact managers at AncestryDNA with no success to this point to provide actual cases of problems. No one seems interested.

Two areas of Concern with the New Ancestry

There are two major areas of concern for those of us working heavily with Ancestry data in regards to the New Ancestry imposition on the customer.

1 - User interface
The new user interface is very awkward to use and requires more clicks, and more interim copying of data by handwriting.
Here are some specifics I have noted. The list is by no means complete.
  • I can’t just hover to get basic information from tree boxes which can really slow down the user.
  • I Cannot cut and paste basic info to tree from the initial views into a developing tree or for comparison.
  • More clicks needed for many operations
  • I want the family tree as a tree, it is very slow to have to scan a story and get the information
  • Very few hints are available, meaning that you have to go to Search Records for information and it is a long way back to a screen where you can enter information you have looked up so information must be written down in the interim.
  • The hints like the Ancestry Review are too light a gray on a white background, hard for older people to see.           
  • The box that comes up to enter a new individual sits right over the one in the tree you might want to copy the information from and grays out the tree info under it making it impossible to copy the information. The box should be movable and the screen underneath still visible;
  • Ancestry as a genealogy tool is still severely lacking in functionality. You should be able to merge gedcoms, split off branches, see offspring with at least birth dates all at one time. Deletions of siblings for example should be available to do more than one at a time. Merging of duplicated individuals has no utility to identify them as duplicates and no way to merge them other than a single one at a time. Deleting an individual takes you back to the owner of the tree instead of leaving you where you were. There is no reporting ability and this is ridiculous in this day and age.
  • Ancestry's attempts at an almost a comic book interface are insulting to the genealogy user. I want facts, not facts buried in prose.
  • I have been working with several people who had worked on trees previously and cannot figure out how to use the New Ancestry to do the most rudimentary tasks.
2 - Data Integrity
I could get stuck in this part of the discussion for a long time. This is very important to the customer.
Searches and matching are bringing up wrong information.

Example: Hovering over census data shows a different person in the tip screen than the person in the  census. This is not a one time occurrence but is happening repeatedly.

Example: Search on a person born in California in 1932 for example. The unrestricted search brings up thousands of hits. Refine the search to an exact date, a range of dates still appear in the hits. add the restriction to California as Exact birth place and I will get no hits. This happens consistently.

Example: Search on a name with the exact restriction and some of the time it comes up with an entirely different name, some time with many similar names, sometimes with several occurrences of the name and sometimes with no hits. This can be on one search after another.

Example: Look for the duplicate of a name to merge two names together. It may not come up and you have to go to the second name and search from that direction to get the hit.

Example: Look for the name of a person in the tree you are working on and you may or may not get a hit (the person is in the tree)

Example: Try reporting an error of this type to the help desk and you will be told it may be fixed when it fits in with its priorities.

Example: Date errors in the returns. especially with city directory results. Many pages there have the date format incorrect.

Example: 1940 census interpolation is so bad that one has to have an excellent imagination for possibilities to find people.

Example: Searches on census results may not get a valid hit, even though your person is actually in the database

Example: The leaf hints are not nearly as reliable as they used to be. Vital information is not brought up, and wrong information presented

Example: Date and place formats should be enforced to facilitate searching and comparison. Look at PC and Mac programs for how that is done.

Example: A DNA circle centered around Jesse Gallimore. When the user clicks on more about, a totally different and unrelated Jesse Gallimore comes up

These are not the only examples, I just picked a few. This not a professional way to run a business.


Ancestry is a big business founded to help people research their family  history. They have decided to go for the really big money to sell data to pharmaceutical companies. What a deal, take the traditional customer and ignore their stated needs, charge money to collect your data, have you sign away your rights to any use of that data and reap in the profits from that sale. I expected better of ancestry than this. What makes it worse is that there is no acknowledgement of the customers' wishes here,  Ancestry remember your roots.


  © Blog Design by Simply Fabulous Blogger Templates

Back to TOP