Many of us who delve into DNA for genealogy have the same frustration. The general public seems to have an almost childlike belief in stories. People either believe their DNA tests are telling the absolute, scientific truth, or they’re skeptics who think it’s all bunk.
Comparatively few see the stories for what they are—marketing. Does that seem harsh? Keep reading.
The valuable part of DNA tests is that they can tell you who you’re related to, and working from that you can learn quite a bit about your family history.
What DNA can’t tell you very accurately is where your ancestors came from with any meaningful specificity.
All of the DNA companies walk a narrow line here. They have to put your DNA results into enough context so you understand what your results “mean”. But, they have to avoid leaving the impression the results show more than than they do.
BritainsDNA was far over the line, and everyone knew it. They focused on yDNA and mtDNA, which are only a small part of a person’s DNA, and they spun highly romanticized stories. When called on it, they threatened legal action. Now they’re gone.
There were reports back in 2012 and 2013. I remember reading Exaggerations and errors in the promotion of genetic ancestry testing by Vincent Plagnol, at Genomes Unzipped (Dec. 17, 2012). Can’t believe I missed BritainsDNA – Caveat Emptor by Roberta Estes, at DNA Explained (Dec. 20, 2012). She’s my DNA cousin on the Estes line. I almost always see her stuff even when I miss everything else.
You can read the story here: What we learned about fighting bad science by taking on a genetic ancestry testing company by David Balding and Debbie Kennett, at Cruwys News (Jan. 3, 2019).
I’m betting this isn’t over. I won’t be surprised if BritainsDNA finds a way to come back. People don’t walk away from a lucrative business. I just hope when they come back, they do it with more professional skill.