Many of us have an innate curiosity about our origins. Who were our ancestors? Where were they in the age of kings and knights? Where did they come from before they migrated to the New World? Which famous people are we related to? These questions are always on the minds of genealogy enthusiasts. Several online services have made it easier to create a comprehensive family tree. Let's look at two of the top names in this sector:
23andMe takes its name from the 23 pairs of chromosomes found in humans from which our DNA can be extracted. This company is headed by CEO Anne Wojcicki, the wife of Google co-founder Sergei Brin. Clients are given a test kit and all they have to do is place their spit sample into the provided container then mail the kit to the testing facility. After 6 to 8 weeks, though usually much faster, the results are posted privately on the client's personal account. Indications of a close match with other 23andMe users will be posted and many have found distant cousins through this method. Direct contact is possible though response will depend on the interest of the probable relative.
See, although the site offers a Relative Finder tool, the majority of its users are more interested in the health information provided by the DNA test results. They evaluated the Disease Risk for over 155 common ailments, a person's genetic Carrier Status for the likelihood of passing certain disorders to offspring, Drug Response to aid doctors in crafting personalized treatments, and known physical Traits such as alcohol flush reaction, bitter taste perception, and appearance. By finding out their genetic predispositions, clients can take proactive steps towards prevention.
This site started out as tool for genealogy enthusiasts who use traditional methods such as searching through historical records. Although it does not completely eliminate the need to do thorough research in libraries and on the field, it does make things easier for people who want to make preliminary studies for their family tree. Ancestry.com boasts of having an impressive 10 billion records and 34 million family trees for reference. They have an intuitive graphical interface for family tree creation and the finished product can be exported into a book for posterity. People can create trees for free but access to records requires a monthly membership fee.
The site recently launched a service called AncestryDNA, which uses a comprehensive autosomal DNA testing to provide a drill down of ethnic blend, an insight into ancestral origins, and matches for probable relatives. The information can be incorporated to the family tree being built. Since the service is currently in beta testing phase, they are offering it at a low introductory price.
Both sites give users a chance to look into their past with DNA but 23andMe leans toward the health implications while Ancestry.com is focused on family history. People can choose the service that caters to their needs.