My personal wish list for genetic genealogy in 2017 involves realistic, optimistic, and moon-shot goals. For example, I have identified several people to test who might prove that my 3-great grandparents were Jean Crouchet and Mary Walker, and I’m certain I’ll know the answer by the end of the year. I’d need a bit more luck to determine which of the many John Larkins in New Orleans in the late 1800s was my grandfather’s grandfather, but hope springs eternal. Confirming my father’s ancestry in Germany, where DNA testing is not widespread, is more of a stretch, at least for now.
I also have a wish list of realistic, optimistic, and moon-shot goals for the major DNA testing companies. Here goes:
- Shared network visualization. A third-party tool for FTDNA creates great visualizations of the connections between your shared matches (called “in common with”, or ICW, at FTDNA). I would love to see a similar tool at AncestryDNA. Here’s what one version of it looks like.
The common matches circle lets you visualize the connections among your DNA matches.
- Person search. I can currently search my matches’ trees for a surname or a location. Being able to search for a specific person in the trees of my DNA matches, much like I can search all Ancestry member trees, would be a great feature.
- Ethnicity search. Similarly, I’d like to be able to filter by specific ethnicities. This would be especially helpful in unknown parentage searches when the two biological parents came from different populations.
- Relationship to me. Within my own family tree, I can see how a relative is related to me in a linear format, with that person at the top, one shared ancestor somewhere along the line, and me at the bottom.
That information would be much better presented using the layout of the DNA shared ancestor hints, with the shared ancestor (or couple) above and the two lines of descent below. Better yet, all relationships could be shown, as in the shared ancestors tool. (This isn’t strictly a DNA wish list, but I thought I’d slip it in given that Ancestry would only have to port over to the family trees programming they’ve already written for their DNA tools.)
- Improvements to the messaging system. Specifically, I’d like nested folders, the ability to move multiple messages to a folder at once, and for the recipient’s user name to remain linked my outgoing messages when I move them into folders. Honestly, none of these features should be particularly challenging to program, but Ancestry’s messaging system has been flawed for a long time, so my hopes are not high.
- Chromosome browser. AncestryDNA has said multiple times they’re not planning on implementing a chromosome browser, which would allow users to graphically view the segments shared with relatives. AncestryDNA cites privacy concerns and the cost of developing and supporting such a tool. The community still wants one. I’m not holding my breath. (Perhaps as a compromise, AncestryDNA could work with GEDmatch to create a ‘fast & easy’ transfer tool that would provide access to a chromosome browser independently of Ancestry’s business.)
- Data transfers. FTDNA is long overdue for accepting data transfers from the AncestryDNA version 2 (v2) chip, which has been in use since May of 2016. Ideally, the programming changes needed to accommodate the AncestryDNA v2 chip will allow them to accept 23andMe v4 data, as well.
- Exclude small segments. Most DNA segments smaller than 7 cM are false positives, yet FTDNA still includes them in their matching algorithm and reports them as part of the centimorgan total. Scientifically, this is hard to justify.
- Accurate relationship predictions. FTDNA grossly overestimates all but the closest predicted relationships, in part because those small, false-positive segments are included in the total amount of shared DNA. They should revise their predictions based on known relationships.
- Improved ethnicity estimates. Of the three companies, FTDNA has the most unrealistic admixture for me, including 21% Scandinavian and 7% Jewish Diaspora, neither of which is known in my family tree, and only 3% Western & Central Europe, which makes up about 73% of my ancestry.
- Common ancestors tool. A common ancestors tool would work similarly to AncestryDNA’s shared ancestors tool.
- Faster website. ‘Nuff said.
- Autosomal project tools. My greatest fantasy for FTDNA would be a way to link multiple users within a group project to the same tree for segment analysis. Administrators could “peg” triangulated segments to the common ancestor. The thought of the downstream applications make me giddy: quickly sorting new project members into regions of the tree, reconstructing ancestral genomes, project recruitment, adoptee searches, perhaps even making sense of endogamous groups … eek!
- Sort by ‘all sharing’. 23andMe currently allows me to sort my DNA relatives by those who have chosen to share with me and also by those who are participating in “open sharing”. Truth be told, I don’t really care how they came to share with me; I’d like both groups to sort as one.
- Flag matches who opted out of sharing invitations. Some 23andMe users have opted into DNA Relatives, so they show up in my DNA Relatives list, but have chosen not to receive sharing invitations. Those people should be flagged, perhaps with a black dot, so I know not to bother with them. Better yet, I’d like to remove them from my match list entirely.
- Expand relatives in common to all sharing relatives. Currently, the relatives in common tool (equivalent to shared matches at AncestryDNA or ICW at FTDNA) only works for people who are participating in the “open sharing” feature. However, if I have two relatives who are both sharing with me, I can use the chromosome browser to see if they match one another. Excluding some matches from the relatives in common tool doesn’t protect anyone’s privacy; it just makes my analyses more difficult.
- Allow spaces in chromosome browser search. When selecting names for the chromosome browser, I can enter a string of letters but not a first and last name. For example, I can search for John or Hebert, but I can’t search for “John Hebert”. If I have a lot of John matches and a lot of Hebert matches (I do), the inability to specify the full name is frustrating.
- Bulk control of message notifications. The message notification icon at the top of the screen tallies all messages, share requests, and share accepts together. I’d like to be able to clear those notifications in bulk, especially the ones that someone has accepted my share request. As is, getting rid of them is tedious: click on each notification, wait for the page to load, and go on to the next one.
- Stronger commitment to genealogy. 23andMe’s main focus was never the genetic genealogy community, but we have a lot to offer them as a customer base that actively recruits other people to test. That they now offer a genealogy-only version of their test gives me hope that they are listening to us.
- On-site trees. 23andMe can never give us tools to integrate our DNA results with family trees if they continue to outsource the trees. This wish is a moon shot because 23andMe previously hosted trees and abandoned them. They are not likely to reverse course again, much as I would like them to.
What’s on your wish list? Use the comments to chime in.