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Third-party tools for genetic genealogy give you the ability to explore your DNA in ways beyond what your testing company provides. A free third-party tool called DNA.Land offers analysis of raw data from the “big three” testing companies: 23andMe, AncestryDNA and Family Tree DNA. In addition to an ethnicity analysis, you get a list of your closest genetic matches.
DNA.Land is a nonprofit website, run by scientists at the New York Genome Center and Columbia University in New York City. In addition to providing tools to genealogists, the scientists hope to use crowdsourced genomes for medical and other research that requires enormous amounts of genetic data.
Although DNA.Land is at an early stage in its development, it’s expected to grow both in size (it’s now at 40,000 genomes) and in available tools. As more people join the DNA.Land database, participants can expect to receive more genetic matches. Follow these steps to get started.
Get Started on DNA.Land
1. To join DNA.Land, click the Log-in/Register button on the front page of the website. Create a new account with an email address and a password, and click Register.
The next page has the site’s Terms of Consent. It’s important to understand this agreement before uploading your raw DNA data. For example, it notes that you might “learn unexpected findings about you or your family,” including “a certain ethnic heritage, predisposition for a trait, or a nonpaternity event.” Indeed, “[f]or some, such information is empowering; for others, these findings may cause anxiety and discomfort.”
These outcomes can occur with any genetic testing or analysis, and they’re an important consideration when using this or any third-party tool. (See the Genetic Genealogy Standards site for more on these issues.) Once you’ve agreed to the terms of consent you can proceed to the next step.
Upload Your Raw DNA Data
2. Now, you’ll upload the raw data file from your testing company, following DNA.Land’s detailed step-by-step instructions for downloading data from each company and uploading the file to DNALand.
As the file uploads, fill in as much personal information as you feel comfortable providing—your name, date of birth, sex and limited ancestry information (including parents’ names). Only the name is mandatory, and you can use a pseudonym to further protect your privacy. The more information you contribute, the more points you’ll see on your “contribution badge.”
If you have a profile on Geni, you can use the Import From Geni button on your main profile page to import details into DNALand from Geni. Your DNALand matches will then be able to click a link to go to your Geni profile.
3. DNA.Land typically requires between a few hours and a few days to completely process the raw data file; check back to see whether processing is complete. Once it is, participants can access two reports, which summarize your ethnicity and genetic matches.
View Your Reports and Matches
4. Under My Reports, click View to open each report. Your ethnicity report (shown above), called Ancestry Composition, provides an estimate of your ethnicity from a small number of broad geographic categories, such as north/central Europe, southwestern Europe, Native American and others (the “others” category isn’t currently defined). Results are provided as a color-coded percentage for each category.
5. The genetic matches tool provides a list of your 50 closest genetic matches in the DNA.Land database. The limit may increase in the future, and few people currently reach it due to the relatively small size of this still-growing database.
For each match, you will see the name entered, your predicted relationship, the number of shared segments between the two of you, the total amount of shared DNA (in centimorgans) and longest shared segment. You’ll also get a chromosome browser that shows exactly where on your chromosomes you share DNA with that genetic match. And unlike other analysis tools, this site classifies the shared segments as either “ancient” (the ancestor who contributed this DNA lived before a genealogically useful time frame) or “recent” (the common ancestor lived relatively recently). You can contact matches if they’ve opted to make their email address visible.
A Relatives of Relatives tool lets you see distant relatives who match those with whom you share more DNA.
DNA.Land is still relatively new, so it may take awhile for matches to show up. It’s expected to add new tools in the future, which will further add to the value of this third-party tool.
Adapted from the May/June 2016 Family Tree Magazine