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Assessing Ancestry Testing

CeCe Moore at Your Genetic Genealogist takes a close look at commercially available genetic ancestry tests from Family Tree DNA, Ancestry DNA, 23andMe, and National Geographic's Geno 2.0.

Moore finds that 23andMe matches her known ancestry the most closely and is the "most informative and flexible" but not without a few caveats. For example, it assigned some Finnish ancestry to her paternal side when it should all have come from her maternal side.

Overall, she recommends 23andMe as the best option, but notes that Geno 2.0 is a better choice for people most interested in deep ancestry and anthropology.

"It is important to remember that as intriguing as these admixture predictions are, none of them are 100 percent accurate at the granular level," she says. "We still have a long way to go before anyone can honestly claim to be able to tell a person exactly where their ancestors once lived based on their autosomal DNA alone."

She adds that the "ever-increasing competition" between commercial genetic ancestry testing forms "is proving to be beneficial, spurring all to improve their offerings." As a result, she says, "don't count any of them out quite yet."

Meantime, Vincent Plagnol at Genomes Unzipped questions how some genetic ancestry testing companies are promoting their products. Specifically, he takes issue with a BBC Radio 4 interview with Alistair Moffat, who is rector of St. Andrews University and affiliated with a genetic testing company called Britain's DNA.

Plagnol, who notes that his post is not a review of the commercial product, critiques a number of Moffat's comments in the interview, including unsubstantiated statements regarding the origin of specific alleles from biblical figures such as Aaron and the Queen of Sheba.

The take home, he says, is that "human ancestry is a complex process with many unknowns." Consumers need to be aware that "one cannot link allele frequencies in modern population with definitive statements about where these alleles 'originated.' This extrapolation cannot be supported by scientific studies, and therefore many of the claims made in the … interview are not substantiated."

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