PROVO -- DNA is helping genealogists find their ancestral homes and family, thanks to a new service launched by Ancestry.com. AncestryDNA is a DNA test that enables subscribers of Ancestry.com to combine new DNA science with the world's largest online family history resource and a global database of DNA samples.
"Some find DNA daunting," Ken Chahine, senior vice president and general manager of AncestryDNA said. "The genealogy community is lacking a DNA test they can understand and use. This is both scientifically rigorous and absolutely accessible."
According to Chahine, old DNA tests would only test 46 marker locations in a person's genome. The new test analyzes more than 700,000 marker locations and cross reference the information with an extensive worldwide DNA database. The aim is to help people find distant relatives.
Combining genetic matches with Ancestry.com's 34 million family trees and nine billion records, AncestryDNA intends to provide experience that helps find common ancestors dating back as far as the mid-1700s.
"All your DNA is passed down in a very real way," Chahine said. "In a way you carry your genealogy."
Chahine added, "We are testing more people then have ever been tested. This is the best science, working at capacity in a timely manner."
Testing at this level is allowing for fourth cousins to be found with 95 percent confidence. That's five generations. At fifth cousins the confidence is about 50 percent.
"We've worked hard at Ancestry.com for more than a year building, testing and reinventing our approach to genetic genealogy," Ancestry CEO Tim Sullivan said. "We think AncestryDNA has created a unique and engaging experience that will provide existing Ancestry.com subscribers with an entirely new way to make amazing discoveries about their family history."
The test kit asks for saliva samples that are sent to AncestryDNA for testing. The cost for the test is $99 and will be available to the general public in approximately a year.
In March, Ancestry acquired access to an extensive collection of DNA assets from Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, a non-profit organization. Founded by molecular genealogy pioneer, James LeVoy Sorenson, this organization has been dedicated to building the world's foremost collection of DNA samples and corresponding genealogical information.
In the last 12 years, the Sorenson Foundation collected a DNA database of tens of thousands of DNA samples with documented family histories in more than 100 countries on six continents. This DNA database gives AncestryDNA test-takers an expanded family history genetic resource and should enable new levels of discovery about people's family backgrounds.
The current version of the test includes 22 worldwide geographical and ethnic categories, including six regions in Europe, five regions in Africa and Native American DNA.
Chahine added, "We think the newest DNA technology will dramatically change family history research. For the experienced genealogist it will help break down brick walls and for the casual family historian it will make it easier than ever to get started. While the science is cutting edge, the new online experience is simpler and more intuitive than ever before."
"Currently demand is so high we are sending invitations only to subscribers and long-term subscribers first," Chahine said. "We've already had overwhelming response and positive feedback from beta users as they discover relatives and uncover the treasures their ancestors passed down through DNA. DNA picks up where the paper trail leaves off. Genomic science can extend family history research into parts of the world where few paper records are available."
Interest in exploring family history is rising quickly, especially on the scientific front, and that interest extends all the way back to the old country, wherever it may be. In fact, 56 percent of Americans recently surveyed by Harris Interactive are interested in taking a DNA genealogy test, up from 42 percent less than a year ago. What's more, people's family history interests reach back beyond arrival in America -- nearly two in three respondents told Harris that learning about pre-U.S. family members is one of the most important benefits of researching family history.
To learn more about AncestryDNA, or to sign up to be notified once it's available, please visit www.ancestrydna.com.