Database Sizes—September 2018 Update

Ancestry.com has finally updated their corporate page to say that their DNA database is “over 10 million people”.  Until this Labor Day weekend (Sep 3), the page said “almost 10 million”.  Based on past growth—they added 2 million testers between February and April 2018—they should have crossed the 10 million threshold back in May or June.  Why they haven’t promoted such a major milestone is anyone’s guess.

Regardless, I’m happy for any excuse to update the graph of autosomal DNA database sizes. “Over 10 million” is a geek’s nightmare of imprecision; it could mean anything from 10,000,001 to the entire human population.  For the graph, I used 10 million for AncestryDNA, even though I’m sure that’s an underestimate.  I also got an updated number from GEDmatch.

 

Based on past trajectories, there been an apparent slow-down at AncestryDNA.  If I extrapolate the growth rate from the previous two AncestryDNA reports (from February and April) to today, they should be at almost 12.8 million.  Perhaps their database really is nearly 13 million and their description of “over 10 million” is too modest.  Alternately, they may have experienced a real decrease in growth rate.  Without inside information, there’s no way to tell which is the case at the moment.

GEDmatch does seem to have experienced a real slow-down, however.  If the growth from February to May had continued, they would have about 1.2 million people today.  The official value is 1,080,000, or 10% less than expected.  Two possible explanations are that (1) the slow-down at AncestryDNA is real and is having downstream effects on GEDmatch, or (2) people are shying away from GEDmatch now that they know law enforcement is using the database for criminal investigations.  Of course, both possibilities may be at play or even other factors I haven’t considered.

I did similar calculations for each of the major databases and summarized the results in this table:

Company Estimated size Official size
AncestryDNA 12,777,778 > 10 million (Sep 2018)
23andMe 8,468,239 > 5 million (Feb 2018)
MyHeritage 1,739,130 1,400,000 (May 2018)
FTDNA 951,695 n.a.
GEDmatch 1,203,292 1,080,000 (Sep 2018)

It will be interesting to see whether these projections are accurate.

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23 thoughts on “Database Sizes—September 2018 Update”

  1. If Ancestry has experienced a decrease in growth rate, that is not at all surprising.

    Ancestry has real negative press. Many customers are very unhappy and word of mouth is the best advertising, positive or negative; and in this case, negative.

    Their site and its navigation in the dna accounts is unruly and antiquated. It is like, “you have got to be kidding.” People are disinclined to pay subscriptions for that, especially younger people who on a daily basis work with technology and know its capabilities and what experienced programmers are capable of delivering.

    Subscriptions are their bread and butter, not testing. They probably do not make a penny from each test.

    I guess if they ever have a public offering, we can make money by selling short.
    We are the insiders with insider information. LOL

    Rome crumbled from within.

  2. This is very interesting information. While I knew that ancestry would probably have the largest DNA base, I was surprised the order of of the other companies. Pleasantly surprised at myheritage’s growth, probably due to the overseas customers. Thanks for giving us this info.

  3. MyHeritage seems to have just finally created profiles today for v5 23andMe transfers it had been sitting on for a long time. (I manage another user’s account.) This likely significantly added to the size of its database.

    1. Yes! They’ll be integrating the v5 kits into the database over the next few days. I’m trying to get an official number from them so I can update the graph.

  4. Good info.
    With FTDNA, is their long term viability at risk? It sounds harsh, but It just looks like they are becoming an also-ran in the DNA market and are becoming the “PALM” of this space. I still use them, but honestly can go weeks without taking a look on their site. I am more likely to login to MyHeritage / 23andME over FTDNA.

    Any thoughts?

  5. For what it’s worth, I feel a little like Caith, and I note that recently I received a survey asking my opinion on my Ancestry DNA test. Maybe they too feel the need to improve either their image or (hopefully) their product, particularly the weakness of their search, download and analysis tools.

    Like JP Creecy, I too worry about FTDNA. I have just found a match with another person who, like me, chose FTDNA because I thought they were the best company for several reasons, but they don’t seem to be pulling in the users. But having said that, I have gained more useful information from them, small database and all, than I have from Ancestry.

    It is interesting that at the bottom of the screen as I write this are three advertisements – for Ancestry, My Heritage and 23 and Me. None from FTDNA. Does that explain anything?

    1. Ancestry runs surveys constantly, although any one user will only be asked to participate occasionally. They use the feedback to decide which features to offer and which need improvement.

      There are ads for all of the companies in the sidebar. Only three will fit across the bottom, so I chose the three with the largest databases.

  6. I tested with a LivingDNA. Any figures for these new kids on the block? My results were way off as their Irish database is minuscule from what I can see.

  7. Hi

    It would be interesting to know what your thoughts are on Ancestry DNA testing in European countries – in particular Germany. I am looking for my German Father and have such low matches on his side (often <30cm) across all testing platforms. It is my current knowledge that DNA testing is not available in Germany? due to the current laws there.
    I have lots of good matches on my mother's Irish side – mainly due to mass Irish migration to the USA and large Irish families. But either my father's German ancestors had smaller families and less migration to the US or both.

    1. AncestryDNA does not sell in Germany, but the other companies do. This post might be helpful: https://thednageek.com/genealogical-dna-testing-around-the-globe/

      Your best bet for Germany is probably MyHeritage. If you’ve tested at AncestryDNA, you can transfer to MyHeritage for free through the end of November. After that, they will charge a fee (probably similar to FTDNA’s fee). Instructions on how to transfer are here: https://thednageek.com/how-to-transfer-your-ancestrydna-test-to-other-databases/

  8. Thanks for this update. Just what I needed to convince someone to test with Ancestry. I’ve had friends….who know what I do all day, every day, try to tell me that FTDNA is “better”. Of course depending on what your purpose in testing is, Ancestry is still likely the best first test. Followed by uploading to all other available sites. Just the research tools alone make it a better option. IMHO. 🙂 Again, thanks!!

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