Monday, June 1, 2020

News From Genetic Affairs: Ancestry Demands They Stop Collecting DNA Match Data

Genetic Affairs is a third-party autosomal DNA analysis website that uses your DNA match data to group your DNA matches into clusters who share common ancestors.

I have been using it for about 18 months now, and it has really helped me determine how many of my AncestryDNA and MyHeritage DNA matches are related to me.

I received this email from Jan-Evert Blom, the creator of Genetic Affairs, today and wanted to share it with my readers (originally sent 28 May on the Genetic Affairs Facebook group):


I am mailing you this with respect to some recent developments regarding analyses with Ancestry. As some of you may have already heard, last Friday (just before I was packing for a family outing) I obtained a cease and desist letter from ZwillGen, the legal representatives from Ancestry. I was able to quickly post a public announcement on several groups on Facebook (for instance Genetic Genealogy Tips and techniques and our own Genetic Affairs - User Group ).

In short, Ancestry wants me to stop offering the AutoCluster analyses that employ Ancestry data.

For sake of completeness I am pasting my announcement from last Friday:

"Hi all,

"I am afraid I will have to inform you that our, sometimes rocky, journey with Ancestry has come to a sudden end. I just obtained a cease and desist letter from ZwillGen, the legal representatives from Ancestry.

"When I started Genetic Affairs in 2018 and released AutoCluster I couldn't have imagined the impact it would have on the genetic genealogy and its amazing userbase. Partly this success can be attributed to the unprecedented DNA database of Ancestry. I also realized that to keep a sustainable relationship with them I should implement rate-limiting measures to minimize the computational impact on Ancestry's servers.

"For this reason, I implemented a queue system that only allowed for a limited number of parallel analyses. Moreover, instead of downloading all (shared) matches Genetic Affairs only focuses on the top fraction of matches, which have the highest probability of generating relevant hypotheses. We also motivate our user base to employ our targeted clustering approaches, thereby focusing only on a subset of matches.

"Despite our best efforts to be a good neighbor, Ancestry requested that we stop providing our services to you, their customers, to cluster your matches.

"It is therefore with great sadness and disappointment that I must withdraw support for Ancestry from our site at this moment. Please remember that it is still possible to utilize the AutoCluster analysis if you transfer your DNA results to MyHeritage and FTDNA.

"I would like to thank our Ancestry users for their continued support and wish you all good luck with the remainder of your genetic genealogy journey.

"Evert-Jan Blom - Genetic Affairs - "

"If you want to try to start an AutoCluster analysis I would strongly recommend trying this as soon as possible. I will remove the Ancestry option around 11PM CET. .

"Yesterday, I have reached out to the legal representatives from Ancestry and asked for a line of communication. In the upcoming days/weeks I will try to resolve the issue with Ancestry and try to come up with a workable solution. Please subscribe to our Facebook user-group to obtain the latest developments regarding this matter.

"I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news but I can assure you I am doing my utmost best to resolve the issue. Yet, we will have to prepare for the worst, i.e., the removal of clustering support for Ancestry from our website.

"Best regards,
Evert-Jan Blom"


NOTES:  You can read more information on the Genetic Affairs Facebook page -  A letter from Ancestry to users was posted at

The link to Ancestry apparently will end at 11 p.m. CET, which I think is 5 p.m. EDT and 2 p.m. PDT today, Monday, 1 June.

I sent another Genetic Affairs analysis for Ancestry request this morning - I don't know if it will be fulfilled or not.  

Needless to say, I am very disappointed that Ancestry has done this to the genetic genealogy community.  Ancestry has provided some DNA matching tools, but they have resisted chromosome browsers and now this clustering tool.  Of course, it is possible that Ancestry has or will develop their own clustering tool.  Time will tell.

Genetic Affairs partnered with MyHeritage to provide this clustering tool to MyHeritageDNA users.  It can also be used on Genetic Affairs to define clusters for FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe autosomal DNA matches.

Disclosure:  I have been a paid subscriber to Genetic Affairs for several months, and really appreciate Jan-Evert's program capabilities and the overall service he provides.  Thank you, Jan-Evert.

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Unknown said...

Not sure if this will hold up as the owner of the DNA are the people who are sending this in.
This is like telling GedMatch they cant do what they are doing.
I suggest he get a lawyer and tell Ancestry to bite the big one.
Barry Sheldon

Randy Seaver said...

Hi Barry,

The problem is that somehow Genetic Affairs was capturing my DNA match Shared Matches but also the Shared Matches of those Shared Matches. Then grouping them into a cluster. I have about 1480 matches with shared matches (share more than 20 cM (about 0.3%)) and so the database collected was large.

Dave said...

Without some kind of Shared Matches feature, AncestryDNA is almost useless since there is a small fraction of people with trees worth looking at.

I'd like to see the Shared Match threshold come down to 15 cM and would pay extra for that.

Unknown said...

My DNA raw data isn't mine after all? I was under the impression I owned it and could do as I pleased with it. Or is it just that I can share it widely but the recipient can't touch it? Ancestry has never been user friendly. Ancestry is all about the money.