In early January, FamilyTreeDNA merged with an Australian pharmacogenetics company called myDNA, and FTDNA’s CEO stepped down. myDNA focuses on fitness, vitamins, and skin-care, so the future of FTDNA as a long-term resource for genealogy is unclear.
A new “Health & Wellness Discovery Survey” from FamilyTreeDNA arrived in my inbox yesterday. It gauges interest in different topics, such as health and fitness, prescription medications, reproductive genetics, personalized meal and workout plans, skin care, and similar topics.
Notably, not a single question in the survey is about genealogy.
Does this foreshadow the future of FTDNA?
See For Yourself
The main survey questions are below. (The first five questions were demographic in nature: genetic sex, age, prior DNA testing.)
34 thoughts on “The Future of FTDNA”
The atDNA side has been languishing for a good while, based on few new matches (certainly over the last 2-3 years). I am more concerned about their Y-DNA testing surviving.
Me, too! It is critical for me to find a Y volunteer from my mystery Ward line in New Brunswick. I can’t figure out the common ancestor until I get a Y test done on one of them.
I also received it. As an admin for a group, I feel somewhat betrayed… However, this is a business, and they are trying to do things as the best see fit.
That is simple marketing. They do not make any money off the tests once completed, except for upgrades in the case of Y or mtDNA. These health items are addons that can add value. Would you pay for maintaining a website of historical data, with no future income potential except matches? No, not if you can offer add ons and make more money. Ancestry forces you to buy a subscription to get the most out of your test. I tried it without a subscription and you cannot even see a matches’ tree.
Marketing 101 – add ons, upsell, whatever you want to call it.
Unfortunately, FTDNA has fallen behind all of their competition in their atDNA offerings, so perhaps this detour is necessary to stay afloat.
I have not yet received my survey but looking over your blog/post, it reminds me of when I was tested at 23&Me, 10-plus years ago. Some of the questions that were asked in their survey were intrusive, unseemly, disgusting and dare I say, smacked of reading porn.
I guess all of this is the New Normal and many of us will opt-out.
Thank you for sharing. We appreciate your blog.
I took that survey at 23andMe! As a scientist, I was more intrigued by the questions than anything else. A key difference between 23andMe and FTDNA is that the former has always been a biotech company with a health focus, and they let users control how their data is used. FTDNA, on the other hand, promised never to sell their customers’ genetic data, then sold (or merged) the entire company to a healthcare outfit.
Remember this? https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/family-tree-dna-will-never-sell-your-genetic-data-300562348.html
I personally haven’t had much success with the M or Y matches at ftDNA, but this seems so totally out of the box for a merger. I wonder if there is more to it than meets the eye.
Agreed. This was an odd merger. I’d hoped that MyHeritage would buy them.
Unfortunately the constant promotion of Ancestry is putting enormous strain on the smaller testing companies. They need to find other income streams and see the benefit of health related aspects that allow 23 and me to gain paying customers, as opposed to free downloads from Ancestry and 23. To follow an a similar analogy I often see about fishing in all the ponds, what you are seeing is what happens when a large fish grows too large pushing smaller fish out of the pond.
MyHeritage has done quite well since they introduced their DNA test. Within a year, their atDNA database had outgrown FTDNA’s, and they’re now more than three times bigger. Their growth is a testament to the appeal of a fresh web interface and a stream of new features.
I thought this was going to happen. And now it has. The future of genealogy records seems doomed.
I don’t think FTDNA will abandon genealogy any time soon. After all, they seem heavily invested in law enforcement investigations, and they need the atDNA database for that. My fear is that myDNA won’t invest in new features at FTDNA to enhance the genealogy side.
This change over, or whatever one would call this change of way of doing business the customers bought into, stinks to high heaven. So many of us have spent hundreds of dollars, thousands of dollars for many of FTDNA customers, for a product and services offered to make the product usable for our hobby or research or family history or all those activities and more. We bought into what was offered at the time and lived up to our end of the purchase. I personally would like my money back the very day that genetic genealogy as I have come to expect it to be offered is no longer the product being offered. This is a ditto on 23andme also.
FTDNA is still offering the same products. The concern I see with the myDNA take-over is that they won’t be investing in upgrades to the genealogy side of things. Even 23andMe has introduced new genealogy features, and they’ve always been honest that they’re a biomedical company.
Roberta Estes recently published a blog that I’m sure we can all find on her site about what 2&me has done to their autosomal DNA matching on DNA Relatives. I had just paid $90.00 at 23&me during October 2020 to have new matches and along with that comes DNA Relatives. However, the usefulness of DNA Relatives “YES” does not indicate a match the same as we have come to know it according to Roberta’s blog. It is now a maybe or maybe not.
23andMe works fine for me.
none too happy with 23andMe here either. I was finally getting close to breaking through a brick wall after some years of work, and then bam – all the matches that I needed were suddenly just gone. they just chucked all that work without any warning whatsoever. As to FTDNA I’ve uploaded there, but I have never figured out using the website well. I paid the $20 for access to the “extra” tools but it still feels rather clunky. My aunt finally uploaded her test recently, but we haven’t figured out how to connect the two tests yet so I still have no one in the maternal/paternal “buckets”. All that to say if they go more towards health also I will be disappointed, but not nearly as much so as I was with 23andMe – who are asking nearly $200 to get back what I had already paid for once before they suddenly decided not to provide it anymore.
I am concerned because I have a lot invested in Y-DNA and mt-DNA testing plus I get my European cousins to test there so I can do Y-DNA testing if I need it. No other company does this and even if one did, I could not afford to redo my testing. I need them to be successful.
One option is to upload the data to mitoYDNA to preserve it in a second database.
This is disappointing. FTDNA has so much more to offer the genealogy community. Changing focus to the survey subjects would be very disappointing, not to mention there’s no science behind some of these subjects.
FTDNA’s Y-DNA database is huge, it’s definitely their strongest asset.
I would really like to see them accepting Y-DNA data transfers and I’d happily pay a reasonable fee to get my WGS data included in their Y-tree.
I will be very disappointed, and upset, if they move away from the geneolgy/DNA. Most people, like my husband, utilized their site to help find biological family. This was another DNA site to help give him find more matches. I pray ? they do not take away that part as it is very important to many people searching.
Linda McKee — there was a time when triangulation at 23andMe was not working as expected, but it has been back to normal for several weeks now.
I just got that survey, too. The survey says nothing about genealogy, but the email that introduced it said
FamilyTreeDNA’s focus will always be genealogy, and we will continue our efforts to bring you new and innovative features that support you in your journey of discovery. As a result of our recent merger with myDNA, we are also looking forward to expanding our product offerings to include myDNA’s health and wellness services and would like to gauge your interest.
I *think* (he said in a mostly reassured voice) that that answers the question. 🙂
One can hope.
I suspect that they are the same as Ancestry and MyHeritage which have had ownership changes and are exploring new revenue streams. This does not lead me to jump to the conclusion that they will abandon their basic business. That simply would not make good business sense.
FTDNA hasn’t invested in their basic business in years. New revenue streams, I fear, won’t change that, and will only detract from genealogy even more.
That’s my impression, as well.