03 January 2008

Progress in genealogy DNA testing

Last May I wrote that "Family Tree DNA, the largest commercial DNA testing company for genealogy, shows annual growth in the number of records over 60%. FTDNA is also seeing growth in the number of distinct surnames in their database, up about 30% in 12 months. As of 1 May there are 62581 unique surnames in the database."

As of December 31 2007 the annual growth rate in the number of records at FTDNA slowed to a still respectable 42% annually. The number of distinct surnames in the database grew 23%.

People are opting to have a larger number of Y-DNA markers tested. 12-marker tests grew 22%, 25-marker tests by 35% and 37-marker tests by 60% on an annual basis.

With more than 173,000 records in their database FTDNA retains a substantial advantage over competitors. The company's biggest asset is being able to make the analytical result meaningful to the genealogist.

However, technology is advancing, and analytical costs tumbling, at an amazing rate. Blaine Bettinger in his blog The Genetic Genealogist, recently posted his educated guess that he will be able to sequence his entire genome for $1,000 or less by the end of 2009. Even if progress is not quite that rapid, will FTDNA be able to meet the challenge or be overtaken by others?

1 comment:

TheGeneticGenealogist said...

Great post! I was thinking about this just a few months ago (see here).

I came to the conclusion that there will be a market for both types of testing - whole-genome and STR sequencing - because there will always be people who are interested in genealogy but have no interest in revealing their entire genome, just as there will always be people who want to know what their genome holds. For many surname DNA project leaders, the only way they can recruit new members is by assuring them that the information revealed by testing does not contain medical information.

Although I expect that the major genetic genealogy firms are exploring their future options (perhaps by farming out whole-genome sequencing), there will undoubtedly always be a demand for small-scale genetic genealogy tests.