I am often asked if I think the genetic genealogy testing companies will ever join forces and contribute to one single combined genetic genealogy database. While the answer is “definitely not” because, well, it just isn’t good business, we do have the next best thing: transferring. Transferring your DNA results means you can take them from one company to another.
The foundation of this mobility is the fact that our DNA testing companies are all using roughly the same technology in their laboratories to analyze your DNA. The technology analyzes about 700,000 locations in your DNA. While these locations aren’t exactly the same for every company, there is enough overlap that the results from multiple companies can be compared to each other. This works because what goes on in the laboratory is just half of what you see displayed on your testing company’s website. The second part is the analysis. Every company has their own way of looking at the data to make assessments of your heritage and relationships so when you transfer your DNA, you are actually just taking the data file generated by the laboratory and dumping it into the analysis machine at another testing company.
In a way, once you have a data file, it becomes your ticket into other venues. However, just like with many movie tickets and amusement park passes, some tickets are “non-transferrable,” or rather, some companies do not accept transfers. Currently, of the five genetic genealogy testing companies, 23andMe, AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage, and LivingDNA, two do not accept transfers: 23andMe and AncestryDNA. You can transfer into the remaining three for free, however only transfers to MyHeritage have full functionality. The transfer to Family Tree DNA till provides you with all the tools you need without payment, but if you want a couple more tools, you can pay the $19 fee.
LivingDNA is a bit different, as their transfer program is primarily to help build the One World One Tree. This is an effort to help map the genetics of the world and show us how we are all connected to each other. Transferring your data from any testing company to be part of this effort will provide you with your own general ethnic breakdown, but to take advantage of LivingDNA’s full offering, including their breakdown of the UK into 43 pieces, you will need to be tested directly with them.