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Is Genetic Genealogy A Scam?

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you know that I am a strong proponent of genetic testing for genealogical purposes. I believe that when used correctly genetic testing can serve as a valuable tool in the genealogist’s toolbox.

A recent visitor found my blog with the search term “is genetic genealogy a scam?” When I recreated the search, I discovered that a previous post on this blog is the leading link for this search. The process made me think about the many people who are skeptical or wary of genetic genealogy. As a scientist, I appreciate and encourage healthy skepticism. After all, genetic genealogy has been available for less than a decade, and it has changed considerably since it was first offered. I believe that anyone who forays into the world of genetic genealogy should have a basic understanding of the science and the application of the results. Just reading about genetic genealogy in the media can give one a distorted view of the technology. Along this point, I recommend reading an interesting article by Rebecca Skloot (author of the upcoming book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” which I can’t wait to read). I was referred to that article by a post on her blog (Culture Dish) entitled “The Bogus-ness of DNA Testing for Genealogy Research” in which she reiterates the point that genetic genealogy tests “simply can’t tell you anything definitive about your heredity unless you’re testing your DNA and comparing it to someone else’s to find out if you’re related.”

I agree with Ms. Skloot – the skepticism and wariness about genetic genealogy comes from the interpretation of the results. As a scientist, I believe that a DNA sequence is a DNA sequence and a person can’t argue with those results. But, using that DNA sequence to tell a person that they are 50% Native American is the type of data interpretation that should be viewed skeptically. It can be exciting, but the science is still too new. For me, the verdict is still out on autosomal testing (click on About Genetic Genealogy at the top of the page to learn more about autosomal testing).

On the other hand, I strongly believe in mtDNA and Y-DNA testing. The results are nothing but DNA sequence and an approximate haplogroup determination. These tests CAN tell you if your Y chromosome or your mtDNA is Native American or distinctly European. The information from these test can serve a multitude of functions. For example, I run a surname project to determine if all people in North America and Europe with my surname are descended from the same German family. I am able to answer this type of question using genetic genealogy as a tool.

Genetic genealogy best serves people who are ready for genetic testing to add to their basket of knowledge. It is not as well suited for people who have no experience in genealogical research or who know nothing about their past (unless, of course, they are unable to know anything about their past – then it’s perfect), although it can still be a useful tool for the beginner.

Genetic genealogy is definitely not a hoax. DNA sequence can be a very useful and exciting addition to a genealogist’s research, IF that genealogist is aware of meaning and consequences of genetic testing. If you have any questions or thoughts about the usefulness of genetic genealogy, leave a comment below.

Note: When writing this post I attempted to find other online sources or blogs that had discussed this topic.  Unfortunately, I failed to discover a fantastic review of the subject written by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak at the Family History Circle (available here).  If your interest was piqued by my post, please be sure to read hers.  Interestingly, the format of the posts are remarkably similar and both mention the article and blog post by Ms. Skloot (although in much more detail at Family History Circle)!  Nothing like re-inventing the wheel!

Blaine Bettinger

Intellectual property attorney, genealogist, and author of The Genetic Genealogist since 2007

48 Comments

  1. Pingback: ScienceRoll
  2. Dna Tribes or http://www.dnatribes.com
    Never sent my results but
    charged my card.
    Even had a Fex ex con# they recieved it.
    Try to get help but just got
    the lab..who says they are not associated.
    Humm..lost $225

  3. I sent for my dad’s DNA from DNA Tribes. And unlike the other post I did receive the results and now I’m sorry I did. I did it primarily for indian results. My French Canadian, Scotch Irish, Sioux dad came back, Italian, Arabic and Puerto Rican. Three nationalities that are an impossiblity in my family going back 300 years. So now I really an wondering if his results got switched with someone else’s. I was warned that these DNA studies aren’t accurate, but I didn’t listen. Save your money and savor the mystery.

  4. Our family spent over $600 for DNA testing by http://www.ancestry.com. A brother, sister, and her husband submitted swabs. The results were botched, mixed up, difficult to access. The results for the unrelated brothers-in-law were identical which is impossible. Whether this is a blatant fraud or incompetency is not clear; the end results are the same: worthless.

  5. Hi,

    read this blog entry and would like to get your opinion on this. I am female and adopted and know that on my mother’s side, I am European (Eng. Irish and Scot.) but have no idea about my father’s side, and no real way of finding out through anyone. I have no contact with my birth mother and from the letter from the agency I read, she seems to have been protecting the father’s identity. I have been asked many times whether I’m native american…greek…and a few other things, and my answer always has to be “I don’t really know”. It gets frustrating.

    I recently came across things like dnatribes.com and was considering getting the basic $150 test to try and figure out my patrilineal side, since there’s really no one I could meet or talk to in order to find out about it. But it’s beginning, from the other comments, to sound like these things are scams or unreliable…?

    I would just do the National Geographic one to test my y-chromosome, but again, no male relatives I can contact. : ( Any ideas or advice? Your feedback/input would be VERY much appreciated.

    Thanks!

  6. I have a DNATribes analysis. I do not believe the results. Actually, I wonder whether this is a scam perpetrated to take advantage of the growing interest in DNA use in genealogy. Obviously, their people are well educated and intelligent. I read all of the purple prose and realize that I have no recourse. I chose to order the DNA analysis, regardless.
    In my case, I believe that the expensive report is wrong. I base this opinion upon my genealogical research. With documents, I have proved 41 Revolutionary ancestors and several Magna Charta ancestors to several hereditary societies. I have a BS and an MBA.
    I have a German surname, Metz/Mitts/Metts. However, the more than a hundred surnames in my family tree are English, German and Scottish. There are no Polish names or ancestors. (I would have no reason to be ashamed of Polish ancestors! In fact, I would welcome them, but there are none.). The report shows that over half of my ancestry is Polish!
    I suspect that my German surname was considered and they sent me a pre prepared mid European report. I wonder whether any lab work was done. They may have “boiler plate” prose, which can be doctored with a computer and sent to people like me! I knew better as I read their literature. I have no one to blame but myself. I knew better.

  7. Al – I don’t think you were scammed, I think that the results of your test weren’t fully explained to you. As I understand the analysis your DNA received, the test looks at 21 locations on your autosomal (non-X or Y) chromosomes. This is, of course, the big limitation of autosomal testing – it looks at just a very few locations out of 3 billion in the entire genome! As a result, the results you received examined your inherited ancestry only at those 21 locations. They then compared your results to other people in their database. It would appear that your results most closely match people who are native to Poland. Thus, the results you received were accurate; they were just not as informative as you might have believed them to be. If you are only interested in learning about your ancestry percentages (i.e. autosomal testing), then I suggest you wait for a few years for whole-genome sequencing to revolutionize this field. Otherwise, Y-chromosome or mtDNA might be more to your liking (for more about that, click “About Genetic Genealogy” above). I just answered a question related to yours for an writer at Wired Magazine. You can see it here: http://www.wired.com/techbiz/people/magazine/16-11/st_kia.

    As for your match with Poland, I don’t think that result is too unexpected. First, it might be that there just aren’t any more accurate matches in their database, and your closest matches were in Poland. Second, genes have plenty of ways of moving around geographically. Just because we have a complete family tree doesn’t mean that it represents our actual biological ancestry; non-paternal events (including adoption, illegitimate children, etc) have occurred frequently throughout history (the estimated rate is anywhere from 2% to 10%!!).

    I hope this answers your concerns, and that you are dissuaded from genetic genealogy; it has plenty of great uses. For example, did you know that there is a Metz DNA Project (http://www.worldfamilies.net/surnames/metz/)? A simple Y-DNA test will tell you whether or not you are related to these Metz’s.

  8. The two test I took , both from DNA tribes, the general and the Europa one. The general one put me as Polish. The Europa one put me as Russian.

    Now if I hadn’t be doing geneolgy for the last couple of years, this would be fine but it doesn’t add up with what I know about my family or their current locations.

    Nor are the results inline with known migrations, though I could be ignorant of a russian and/or polish migration prior to 1800 that made it to the England, Scotland AND Ireland.

    It is possible that ALL my female forbears had a “weakness” for slavic gentlemen and ALL my male forbears were either very forgiving or painfuly unobservant. Now if I can put a Pole or a Russian in those areas I will have a plausible story.

    In other words, Geneology by DNA, seems like a good way to make sure you are/aren’t related to someone else, but that’s about it. It’s not the “Holy Grail” of geneology.

  9. After reading the comments on this site, I think that the biggest problem is that a lot of the individuals doing the test go into this process with preconceived notions. My experience with dna.ancestry.com, familytreedna.com, and dnatribes.com has been nothing short of exemplary, and I would like to present it as counterbalance.

    I have always considered myself of African-American ancestry, and have ancestors listed of African descent for as for back as the available historical records show. That was the only preconception that I went into this experience with. My first test was a Y-chromosome test with dna.ancestry.com, which came back indicating Bantu-affiliated lineage in West Central Africa. I then did an mtDNA test with familytreedna.com that came back with Bantu-affiliated lineage in Southeast Africa.

    After doing these two tests, I felt that an autosomal test would balance out my knowledge of self, and researched all the different companies, finally settling on dnatribes.com. When I received my results from this last test, it indicated several South African tribes, but South Sotho was at the head of the list….this corresponded with where the mtDNA test from familytreedna.com placed some of my ancestry. The seventh entry down listed the Fang tribe of Equatorial Guinea in West Central Africa; again, exactly where the dna.ancestry.com Y chromosome test indicated lineage. So DNATribes actually corroborated two other tests done by two other companies. Both of these results, however, where under the .25-.75 TribeScore normal range.

    The kicker, however, was in lines 2 and 3. These lines indicated ancestry in common with Israeli Arabs (.78) and Tunisia (.72). Ordinarily, like the other posters, I would have dismissed this is a scam, but for the fact that ten years ago I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, which historically is a disease that overwhelmingly afflicts people of Semitic backgrounds (even my new family doctor asked me, before I had done the test, if I was Jewish!). The abnormally high Arab result actually explained a disease that I had previously had no idea how I had contracted. And there is no way that DNATribes knew about my Crohn’s, so they could not have “manufactured” an explanation. Likewise, they could not have known about my Y and mtDNA tests either, yet they corroborated them. It as appears, in my case, that the strongest portions of my DNA came from one particular Arab ancestor that probably lived over 2,000 years ago in Tunisia. It would seem to me that people will have the most difficulty with these tests (especially the autosomal) if they rely on the limited historical records of the last 300-400 years, as it is quite possible, that the ancestor who gave you the strongest genes may have lived outside the historical period.

  10. My mother’s mother’s side (grandma) line can almost all be traced back to West and Central Europe. Yet, they all have/had white olive to dark olive skin. They don’t look like English or German people. They don’t appear to be French.
    But, when you go deep into the history of Europe (B.S. in History) you do find that there were minorities that settled or traded with Europeans. Southern France is a perfect example. Arabs were trading in that region even up to the Medieval ages. And let’s not forget what the historians tell us, that there was a time in ancient times of a movement of Neolithic farmers from Turkey and the Near East throughout Europe.
    Doing genealogical research, I found my friend to have background from the Ural Mountains that went to Prussia. Once in Prussia, they spread west in modern-day Germany.
    Let’s not forget about Roman history. Romans put people groups from Turkey, Syria, Israel, Northwest Africa, Britain, Ukraine, etc. all across their Empire. Let’s not forget the enslavement of Jews by Europeans in the Dark Ages. Like Jewish children being given to Spanish people in the years 700-800 or so A.D.
    Then you have Romani people. Not all of them traveled in caravans. Some tried to settle down and be considered part of their populations. This is why we have ‘Black Germans’ and other terms.
    DNA tests are still at a very basic level. We are only at the beginning of a long climb to the top. But, if the company is legitimate, don’t blow a top because it shows (out of the few chromosomes an autosomal test can show) that you are Arabic or even for that matter African. If it shows you to be predominately Native American or East Asian, and you know your genealogy goes back to Europe, and you appear white skinned; check to see if there were any adoptions in your family history. If not, then your test is obviously not legitimate. If this is so, please write me. I’d like to know of any such sites. Plus, maybe you should file a complaint with your local bureau.

  11. Just got my DNA Tribes profiles back. This is a SCAM Operation!!!
    It showed that I am from Italy, Greece, Turkey, Oman, and Iran. My father’s people are from Ireland and go back a long time. My mother’s people are from Lithuania and also go way back. There is no evidence at all that we have any Italian, Greek, Turkish blood. My family is tall, thin, blond, green/blue eyed, and fair skinned. My 5 siblings LOOK like they belong in Lithuania. I have sent them emails demanding that my credit card be reimbursed and not to bother contacting to explain why I might be Italian, Greek, Turkish when that is so out of the universe of probability. DNATRIBES IS A SCAM!!! DON’T WASTE YOUR MONEY!!! SHARON

    Friday, July 10, 2009 9:51:00 AM

  12. Al Metts et al
    I also have some german ancestry and got strong polish results.Alot of areas of germany were once part of poland etc etc.When I looked up my ‘german’ surnames the areas they came from were part of Prussia. I consider many germans to be ‘germanized slavs’.The slavs were also used very heavily as slaves in ancient times [so much so that the term ‘slave’ stems from them,and were taken across the isles and europe and the middle east.The PIE [proto indo european homeland] is also considered to be in Poland and the Balkans.I’m not suprised at any of these results.I think dnatribes far more accurate than most autosomal tests as they have the largest database of populations.People conflict with them because they dont confirm their current ‘cultural’ indenity.

  13. SharonAnn
    Middle eastern farmers introduced argiculture to Europe and the british isles I don’t even blink when I see the 30-40% of europeans that get oman/arab results on dnatribes.Oman is a frequent result for french people on there.No shock whatsoever consider civilization as we know it started in the middle east.

    It’s also often indicative of some jewish ancestry often enough.You really think outsiders never got into lithuania???or ireland? hilarious. I was just reading abt the history of the jews in Lithuania last month :-)

  14. People in the past have placed too much faith in geneaological paper trails, which can be full of errors, distortions and educated guesses. One’s ancestors may have come on a boat from England, but that did not necessarily mean that they were “English.” Another common myth in American ancestry is Native American stories to account for olive skin and dark hair, and handed down for generations. In my case, this test pointed to ancestry in India :) Its better to be what you are than feign to be what you are not!

  15. I sent for my dad’s DNA from DNA Tribes. And unlike the other post I did receive the results and now I’m sorry I did. I did it primarily for indian results. My French Canadian, Scotch Irish, Sioux dad came back, Italian, Arabic and Puerto Rican. Three nationalities that are an impossiblity in my family going back 300 years.

    EnglishRussia’s last blog post..The Ultimate Anti-Theft System

  16. My grandmother was an orphan in the 1920s in NYC- so there is no record whatsoever of her parents. She had a forged birth certificate. I am half Japanese and a quarter Polish and a quarter whatever my grandma was. I think I have recessive traits from my grandma. We always guessed at what her background was based on her appearance- 5’10”, blonde hair, green eyes. Would wwww.dnaancestryproject.com help me in finding out my grandmother’s background? (I am not concerned with the rest as I’m somewhat confident which parts of the world that part of my family is from)

  17. What is truly sad about reading these comments is how strongly people feel these DNA sites are scamming them. Is it DNA Tribes fault that SharonAnn (Posted 10 July 2009) doesn’t know her own history and the history of her people? FYI SharonAnn the Celtic peoples of which te modern Irish are one of the six tribes first appeared around 400 BC in historical records when they came down out of the Alps and invaded the lands of the Estrucans in the Po Valley of Northern Italy. And you wonder where the Italian results come from? it is equally sad that there seems to be a broad ignorance of both history, politics and genetics as displayed in some of the comments. Modern day community names do not link up to country names and tribal ethnicities from centuries and millenia ago. People got around back in the day, through trade, war, enslavement, political alliances, etc. And the predjudices displayed by certain countries/regions today are not necessarily the same predjudices oflong dead people. Also, on the genetics side, I hope all are aware that it takes less thn 25 generations to modify a family group’s appearance / presentation especially if that family is migrating to lands dissimilar from their origins through both adaptation and marriage to existing local people. For example, the Asians who crossed the North American ice bridge back in the day are not exactly the same as my Cherokee cousins who are in the USA, and look nothing like me who has more African/Caucasian on my mother’s side of the family and only African on my father’s side trough inter-marriages.

  18. I became interested in my genealogy just recently,
    I have been reading a few articles on DNA testing and then I happened to find this page after doing a search to see if DNA testing is a scam. Now I am not sure if a DNA test would be worth it. I want to find out the Lineage of my mother’s father who was born in Mexico, would a DNA test show what indigenous tribe my grandfather’s ancestors came from?

  19. This can’t be as hard to understand as some people make it out. DNATribes can not tell you where your ancestors are from. They don’t even claim to do that. Some people just can’t read and have misinterpreted what they CAN tell you.

    DNATribes can tell you where in the world people that have DNA similar to your are now. It’s a clue. Your ancestors might be from there – they might not. Maybe those people’s ancestors and yours are from the same place that isn’t where they are now. That’s all they promise – it doesn’t mean “oh, my top match is Scotland so I’m Scotish” – it means only “people who live in Scotland have an atDNA that looks like mine”

    Really simple stuff and no scam at all.

  20. The Dna testing results that I have recieved do not show SHOW, SUGGEST or point to any information that was previously known about my family’s origin. It not only doesn’t show ANY of my KNOWN ancestors locations but tells me something COMPLETLY different. BOGUS, WASTE OF MONEY!

  21. Does anyone have any advice for me? I have been told by other Native Americans that I have Native Blood. My father grew up in an orphanage and is passed away so I have no one to ask or test. Are there any legitimate agencies out there that can tell me if I have Native American in me somewhere in the paternal line? I don’t care where, just want to know for sure.

  22. I received my DNATribes results yesterday. Since I did not receive them after 13 work days (they promise 9), I inquired about the status-received the results a few hours later (hmmm-squeakiest wheel or scam?). Results were certainly unexpected and I am at a total loss to explain them. I can trace all lines back to 1800 and most back before 1700. ALL were Irish, Scot (incl Ulster), English or Welsh. My 2 highest ‘tribes’ were Azores and Malta (mediterranean)! Now I do believe it is possible but not to this degree (TWO HIGHEST !?!?). Not sure I want to accuse them of scamming but think their comparison populations are too small, possibly contamination in lab (no one handled the kit but me and I was careful to not touch the swabs except in my cheek) or their algoritms need to be improved or even perhaps autosomal STR testing is ‘not ready for prime time’. Also, ALL my ‘Tribe scores’ were in the mid 40s or lower (none in the 60s or 70 as in their examples. Even worse, the same ‘tribe’ (Caucasian (USA)) was listed 4 times with no location and others were listed 2 or more times. Can these be consolidated? Why separate them if they are exactly the same? Bottom line, I cannot recommend them at this time. I do get a free update in the future so maybe the next time they will be more consistent (tho not sure how long to wait to request update).

  23. Hello! has anyone worked with Family Tree DNA? Am curious to try them.
    Thank you for any comments on your experience.

  24. I had most of those autosomal STR markers tested by FTDNA and after reading all the angst caused by results contrary to people’s expectations, I decide to have my FTDNA results analyzed by DNATribes. Just curious. So, I did not send a dna sample to DNATribes, only ordered an analysis and sent them my FTDNA autosomal STR marker results. Curiosity to see what the reports will say about my ancestry. I know my ancestry quite well as I and all my forebears come from one small place in Mediterranean Europe for hundreds of years. Actually the place Robert above seems so incensed about, Malta. The one good thing about that island is its small size, and the overwhelming Roman Catholicism of its inhabitants. Everything was record by some priest, so the records are good, at least to the early 1500s. If your ancestor was a slave, a Black person, illegitimate, a convert from Islam or Judaism – all recorded. I don’t have any slaves, black people, illegitimate people or neophytes in my family. Not pride, but just from the facts.

    My DNATribes analysis results were quite varied and not really consistent. I got two reports for my money, the Europa one and their standard one. The standard one was quite different. Native population: Spain, then Scotland, then N. Pakistan, then Malta then Ireland. At least Malta was there but I am more like the Spanish population than the Malta one. All figures were low, frequency and MRI, so I belong to a minority in all the populations. The Global was very strange: Mostly Asian Indians populations (five including diaspora Indians), Puerto Ricans and so on. That was weird. The World region population: first was Horn of Africa, second Levantine, third North Indian, fourth Arabia, fifth Mediterranean and so on. Strange results. Yes I can understand why some people get upset and offended by their DNATribes results. I am not upset or offended just perplexed. My autosomal STR markers must be quite usual to get those varied results. The DNATribes examples for Askenazim Jews or South Italians, give consistent results but mine travel from Europe to India to Africa.

    The Europa report basically indicated my deep ancestry is Spanish followed by Basque, then Italian then Scythian! and so on. The Spanish theme is the highest and is concurs with the Native Population result of the more general report. The frequency and MRI are low. So I am a minority in all the populations.

    I have to say I prepared for the unexpected but I was surprised by some of the results: Asian Indians and Horn of Africa. I can only put that down to my unusual marker values which are not common in any population group even the Spanish which was my highest for the Europa test.

    My advice is to clue yourself up on those dna tests before you test and pay out money. Expect unusual results especially from DNATribes, and as others have said, the actual people, our ancestors, whose paper trail we know could have been of some other race or ethnic group to that of the country or nation they came from and there were many ancient and unrecorded migrations. Expect the unexpected. However, your dna could just be anomalous to your ethnic group, and your appearance really hasn’t much to do with those dna results.

  25. I grew up knowing I was French, English, Irish, and American Indian. Just got my DNA sent back from DNA Tribes. I was shocked. I am Italian, Egyptian, Russian, Portuguese, Polish, Israeli, & Iraqi. I am as white as they come, with dark brown hair and blue eyes. Now my dad thinks my mom had an affair or DNA Tribes got it all wrong! doh!

  26. DNA Tribes is a scam! I carried out the test – on my mothers side I can go back about 400 years in England to small villages and on my fathers side it is the same other than one ancestor who came from Finland to England in the 1920s and who I know little about.

    My top results for native population indicated that I am was either from Karamuja Uganda (I don’t even know what that is), Southern Tunisia (I wonder why not North?) and Maghrebi. My global population match results where Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (before doing the test I stupidly thought Rio would not have one population seeing as it is one of the most multi-ethnic cities in the world), Toscana, Italy and Costa Rica.

    While I would like to believe that my Ugandan ancestors migrated to Toscana 1000 years ago and then moved to Brazil before settling in Belton, Norfolk 400 years ago as rural farmers it is probably not the case.

  27. Hi. I’m curious about the author’s opinion about which testing lab gives the most accurate and reliable results. I recently submitted my maternal aunt and uncles samples to National Geographic Genographic Project. They only test for deep ancestry and broad human migration patterns; I will recieve no specific results about where my more recent ancestors were from. I was wondering if it was worth the extra cost to have the samples transfered to Family Tree DNA to do more extensive testing? Sounds like from the comments that DNAtribes makes some inflated claims, and I dont want to pay a lot of money for bogus information. Which website would the author recommend as a scientist and geneologist for accurate testing? Thank you.

  28. I first did the DNA Tribes 15 autosomal marker test, and the top Native score was Bulgaria (.93)(629), which accorded with the Y-DNA test done by FamilyTreedna, which also had my highest match frequency in Bulgaria at the time (it’s now been edged out by Greece). In fact, most of my FamilyTree matches for Y-haplogroup E1b1b1 were in southeast Europe. Bulgaria was followed by Marmara Turkey (.94)(389), right across the border from Bulgaria, so this made sense. This was followed by Morocco and Podlaskie, Poland both in the mid/high 300s. So feeling confident of DNA Tribes results, I decided to go with their highest resolution test that adds 12 markers, bringing it up to 27. Amazingly, the top Native scores were Iceland (.83) 331,000, (83) Iceland 224,256, Croatia (.76) 66,740, Bedouin (.73) (Negev, Israel), etc. This begs the question: If another 12 markers were added, would, for example, Lithuania come up as the top match? Or, add another 12 markers, and Spain would perhaps be tops? So, my feeling is that companies that test hundreds of thousands of SNPs, like 23andMe, and also FamilyTreedna, are probably going to be closest to the truth on a person’s ancestry.

  29. I had my family take tests from National Geographic and Family Tree DNA. I was very pleased with both companies. I haven’t worked with DNA Tribes, but if it is like the other testing centers, what it does is to look for you deep, migratory ancestry. My family’s results were not typical for our ethnicity, but once I researched further I understood. These tests are not designed to tell you an exact breakdown of your ethnicity. They are testing one ancestor for paternal, an one ancestor for maternal lineage. People migrated all over the place, long before surnames were assigned. Long before we would ever have a record of our ancestry.

    Some if the reviews I read were from a couple years ago, so maybe people have a better understanding now of how to interpret the results. My only complaint is that once you take the Nat Geo test, you get your results and they can be rather vague, and you will only know more by buying an upgrade. I wish they would include deeper testing for the basic DNA test.

    This is certainly not a scam, but the results can change over time as more scientific discoveries are made. This is an emerging science, but it is very fascinating.

  30. I just got back results from DNATribes. From their report I should have dark skin, brown eyes, dark hair, and be small in stature. None of my relatives, today, have that coloring. In fact, I have blonde hair, fair skin, hazel eyes and am slightly taller than the average female. I know specifically where one line of my family came from as far back as the 1120s.

    I wonder about the validity of the test results of DNATribes. Perhaps they were biased by the spelling of my married name. It could appear to be of a different genetic source than it really is from. My maiden name would suggest a different ethnicity. My highest scores for \Native Population Match\ and \Global Population Match\ were from Slovakia. But for the \World Region Match,\ the highest score was from Mexico. Go figure?!?!

    Wish I had saved my money ………………. could have bought some fancy software for the computer with that money.

  31. OMG, are you people even reading what you are buying? The Y chromosome can be as far back as 400 years or more with everything happening in between including adultery, etc.

    Ours came back exactly as suspected. Semitics that settled in Spain with the Romans say about 2,000 years ago – we are Sephardics (incidentally the lowest rate of cuckholding found when the genomes were done). The Y is traced because it mutates easier than the X. My father looks like an American Indian, had a maternal grandmother that was an American Indian, but that won’t come up because of the way these tests work. His kids came out blond and blue-eyed. Either mom was cheating or its funky recessives coming through. If they read and talked to the people who do the testing that is made quite clear.

  32. My father’s parents were from Holland, my mother’s mother was from Sweden and my mother’s father was (as far as we know) English, Irish & Scottish (last name Cook). My profile showed my primary geographical affiliation was the Great Lakes of Africa. Not South Africa which would make more sense with the Dutch background. Needless to say, I am more than mystified.

  33. I used Ancestry.com to do a matrilineal test for my grandmother. The results came back that she belongs to Haplogroup L, the “Predecessors”. From what I read it’s supposed to be an ancient group that has subgroups associated with it. There was other information given about the subgroups, but it seemed like fluff to fill in the fact that they found next to nothing. Can anyone explain the importance of Haplogroup L to me, or offer some suggestions to help me understand the results?

  34. I was tested at both FamilyTreeDNA and 23andme, hoping that they would be able to use my DNA results to turn up people I could connect to my family tree.

    Neither service is a rip-off. Far from that. But I’m disappointed in the sense that out of all the people they identified as the closest matches to me, I was able to draw no connections at all between our family trees.

    With FamilyTreeDNA, I was tested for Y-chromosome (paternal ancestry) and mitochondrial (maternal ancestry) DNA. With the closest matches, the probability of a common ancestor within N generations back didn’t hit 50% until N got to six, which is beyond the horizon of how far I’ve been able to trace my ancestry back.

    The DNA testing from 23andme is more comprehensive, covering all lines of my family tree instead of just the paternal and maternal edges. They identified several hundred prospective third cousins. Most did not respond to my requests for communication, and out of the people I did contact, it was evident in each and every case that the estimates of cousinhood were considerably over-optimistic.

    In summary, DNA testing probably works best if you are tested along with people you already believe may be close relatives, and it can reliably confirm or refute such hypotheses. But finding new relatives that you don’t know is an unlikely proposition at best.

  35. The problem with autosomal SNP tests are that they are limited per marker to only two characteristics, or alleles. For instance, a SNP with rsXXXXXX may show up 99% of the African population as T and 99% of the European population as A, but will fail to clearly define the in-between, like Asian groups, or any other population for that matter who may have any combination of A and T within its members. One may actually be of East Asian heritage but will be much more likely, according to the test, to be African if he/she has a T at that SNP. That is the problem with using biallelic systems for ancestry testing, and the reason why most labs can only limit the populations to four (like DNA Print) or they start getting errors when seeking to pinpoint specific populations (like DNA Tribes). When the alleles exceed the populations tested you get problems. You need genome wide panels, not just 100-200 SNPS, because with biallelic SNPs you are either really right, or really wrong, and no statistical algorithm can fix “really wrong”. The only lab I’ve found that gets it right with autosomal DNA testing is DNA Reference Lab in Texas, and from what I understand, they don’t use these problematic SNPs.

  36. Oh yeah, I had DNATribes done-the 21 marker. I “know” my Dad’s family are/were all Russian Jews. Mom’s, English,Irish, maybe some Roma. My DNA Tribes came back as:Mostly Kuwaiti, Icelandic,Polish and Mestizo! All very weird. I don’t get the sense it’s a scam, just not so accurate OR it goes WAY,WAY back in time.

  37. You must read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks; it is a game-changer. I met Rebecca at a writing conference in April 2010 and could not wait to read the book. Amazing!

  38. DNA Tribes is not a scam! For those who think it is, it might be because you are so mixed! With ethnic DNA testing being a pretty new consept, DNA companies, such as DNA tribes still has plently of data to collect. Everyone these days is mixed in terms of ethnic DNA, no one is 100% pure, and some people are more mixed than others, which is why some DNA tribes analysis’ could look unaccurate. As accurate as their autosomal testing is, it is better to be more pure than mixed when taking the test. When one is mixed so much, it can start to add noise and “weird” results to your analysis. Example: someone is around 75% Polish, 13% Serbian, 5% Tibetan, 3% Altaian, and 4% Mongol, this is the estimated contribution to the ethnic DNA of Russians, and Eastern Ukrainians (from DNA tribes digest). This means, someone who isn’t Russian or Ukrainian at all, could still get Russia or Kharkov, Ukraine in their results. Keep in mind that some DNA is related to other DNA across the globe, so if your DNA is at all related to other DNA, even if you don’t have that DNA, it could still come up on your analysis. Now you are probably thinking, “how stupid, how if I am mixed can I get my DNA results if I need someone pure to take it?” Easy, get a parent or a grandparent, who is more pure than you, to take it. In conclusion, DNA Tribes is no SCAM!

  39. What’s funny to me is everyone who is arguing the results so vehemently. If you knew what nationality you are (going back hundreds of years according to some commentators) then why waste your $$ on a DNA test?? I am having a hard time wondering if I should do this. For now I will pass until the technology can produce more reliable results. Thanks to everyone who posted.

  40. DNA Tribes is a complete scam. I’ve gone back over a thousand years in several ancestral branches. It’s all heavily waited in northern Europe and there is absolutely no hint of anything outside of Europe. DNATribes, after their “considered analysis” determined my genetic profile most closely (and overwhelmingly) matched a sampling of Moroccan guest workers living in Belgium!

    I tried to get a plausible explanation for those results, but all I got was some irrelevant nonsense from an inarticulate boob named Lucas Martin. He steadfastly refused to so much as address seven very pointed questions I raised.

    I was unable to speak with anyone else. Apparently Lucas Martin has no supervisor or associates.

    I submitted a complaint to the BBB. The response I got back was from the same scientific illiterate, Lucas Martin. It included the same irrelevant boilerplate.

    The above defenders of DNATribes apparently think if they can’t dazzle us with brilliance, they can baffle us with bull *#@%.

  41. As an africa american young woman I am very interested in where I come from. As a black woman in american I lack a strong sense of identity. I have no clue what my lineage is and I would spend the money to know who I am. How do I know who to trust and who not to trust.

  42. I think genetic genealogy is a very useful tool, unfortunately, the companies that offer the testing scam people. There are complaints about DNA Tribes and Ancestry, now people are complaining that ftDNA is scamming them. ftDNA routinely LOSES DNA which is awful. There are still people waiting to be merged with 23 and me from…September, they paid for a service and never got results. I wish someone reputable would buy these companies out – it is really how sad and selfish the world is.

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