14 November 2009

23andMe - Price and format change

News has begun to travel around the genetic genealogy world that 23andMe is changing its prices ... a major increase...and splitting its health testing services from its genealogical/ancestry services. This more than disturbing to the genetic genealogy world ....

As a very active person in genetic genealogy and as a person who gives more presentations than any other person on DNA as used for genealogy, I am very disturbed by this move. (If anyone is in doubt of my claims to my level of interest and participation, l know multiple thousands of genealogists who are interested in DNA testing. One of my projects has over 3,000 members, and I belong to ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogists: www.isogg.org), doing presentations on their behalf. The ISOGG membership is huge!)

I just gave a presentation that included info on 23andMe last Tuesday as I tested there during their recent sale. I was very excited about this new company as it could help genealogists find cousins in their lineages that were not strictly along the all female or all male lines. We can now use DNA to find cousins for all those in our ancestry between the top and bottom lines of a pedigree chart.

My enthusiasm has greatly waned since last Tuesday (Nov 10th). The reason: 23andMe is keeping their nearly $500 fee for testing (the regular price, not any sale price), but instead of getting information on your health issues AND their Relative Finder section which helps you locate others who have tested and with whom you share a common ancestor (grouping them by level of cousins...3rd, 4th, etc), after November 19th $399 for the Ancestry edition, OR $429 for the Health edition, OR $499 for the Complete edition. The price before November 19th is $399 for the Complete edition. That is a huge increase in price for the service. HUGE!

After my presentation, my group was very excited about 23andMe even though I did not mention price. Then, when all this happened (the announcement of the change), I emailed everyone in ALL of my DNA projects and in all my interest groups to tell them of my disappointment only because it will limit who is able to purchase this type of testing. I had not mentioned the previous prices at all, but did mention that maybe they would have a Holiday price as they did last year. Even if they do now, people will be quite hesitant to pay that much for half of what they will get from now to November 19th.

I will continue to recommend it for people who are interested in finding ancestors beyond the Ydna and mtDNA for sure, but all the time knowing that most of my audience, if not all of it, will not pay that price for either section of 23andMe.

23andMe has something good going, but as it stands, it may only be for the more affluent or the really obsessive genealogist. Many genealogists may not have the time, patience, or depth of research to hunt down the lines to find the common ancestor, but would have been willing at a better price. Now, they will see it as beyond them.

That's very, very sad for the world of genealogy and for genetic genealogists. I know I would have talked many people in my projects into it as they cannot find the paper connection although they have tested their Ydna. This would have helped them determine the possible generation by another means. It also would have helped those who are interested in our surname projects who do not carry the surname and who are women not able to test for a surname project. Currently, I am in conversation with a man who does not carry the Talley surname, but has several Talleys in his family. We think this could be the connection. As a woman who also can't test for the Talley surname, we may have never met. Now, I'm helping him trace his line back to see where we connect, and I think I have it. BUT...is that worth $500 ... not really; not even if I find many lines this way.

SO ... not only this move by 23andMe limits who will buy their tests, but it will limit information on all of our DNA projects. It is really sad. Had I any idea this would be their direction, I would have bought many test during the sale, giving them to my project members and those connected to the project who cannot test for the surname. Many of them cannot find the paper trail to each other and this could have helped. Many of them, like most genealogists, are retired on fixed incomes or have families and must limit their spending on this hobby.

I dearly hope 23andMe is not trying to be a mega company for the sake of gathering a fortune, but be more like those companies who are more (or at least equally) interested in the genealogy world along with their "bottom line." I hope this is not their "Waterloo," but they have just pushed away the largest part of the genealogy world. The average genealogist cannot afford this and will not spend the money on it.

We at ISOGG have tried so hard to get the general public to understand and accept DNA testing for genealogy, helping them with justifying the cost of the Ydna and mtDNA tests. How wonderful it would have been to have them see that more than these two lines of the lineage could be tested to find family. This is truly a step backward for us all.

IF anyone sees a window to better pricing with 23andMe at some time, please post. I am sure many of my project members and interested parties would be interested if the price is right.

just my opinion...
If you do not hear from me in a timely manner, just write again...I was buried in email. LOL
Northwest Regional Coordinator and Speaker for ISOGG (www.isogg.org)
Administrator for thirteen FTDNA DNA Projects

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