Ysearch and MitoSearch to Close Completely before the End of May

+17 votes

It was announced about 12 hours ago on the Family Tree DNA Forum that Ysearch and MitoSearch will, after a number of years running unsupported, go completely dark before the end of this month.

Not explicitly stated, but it seems obvious that, since FTDNA was not actively supporting the two sites, that the new GDPR-imposed privacy restrictions would be impractical to implement in order the bring the services in compliance. While the exact date of closure has not yet been announced, it seems quite likely it will be by May 25.

If there are any data regarding your matches that you wish to copy and archive from the sites, I very much recommend you do that within the next few days.

in The Tree House by Edison Williams G2G6 Pilot (351k points)
What “copy and paste” method is recommended?
I honestly don't know. I have several kits that I've managed for quite some time, but have been unable to log into any of them for well over a year.

The standard public "Search for Genetic Matches" at Ysearch returns a table that can be copied and pasted into a spreadsheet application like MS Excel while retaining formatting. The active hyperlinks in the table include the User ID (clicking on that provides STR values, most distant known paternal ancestor, and contact person...email addresses aren't displayed and I haven't seen the "Contact this user" hyperlink work in recent memory) and, if present, a pedigree.

The pedigree presents a horizontal tree display, and you have to do a mouse rollover on the names to see birth and death information. That capture looks like it will take manual transcription. I tried looking at the page source for the display and, while the names appear, the actual data for those rollover links do not.

I and my surname DNA project members haven't made a great deal of use of Ysearch and MitoSearch, but even I see--from the public search alone--some information that I don't want to vanish. So I'll schedule a little time this weekend to capture what I can.

A quick follow-on from comments about this in the ISOGG Facebook Group. Marek Blahuš, a volunteer assisting a Czech yDNA non-profit research effort, reminded me that while it's true 193,000 of the 220,000 records in Ysearch came from FTDNA--meaning the original data will live on with FTDNA--the other 27,000 came from sources like Oxford Ancestors and Relative Genetics. Once Ysearch goes dark, so does the information from those other sources. Relative Genetics was acquired by Ancestry in 2007, and Bryan Sykes is closing the doors on Oxford Ancestors this month, as well.

Edit: I didn't see it, but Bryan Sykes posted on May 3 that Oxford Ancestors will not be closing its doors as previously announced. He apologized for lapses in customer service over past weeks, but said Oxford Ancestors will remain open.

3 Answers

+11 votes
Best answer

A follow-on about this broader subject of ephemeral data. Blaine Bettinger posted something last night on his Genetic Genealogy Tips & Techniques Facebook group that I think is worthwhile repeating...especially in light of new GDPR constraints settling down all around us, as well as the--unfounded--backlash to genetic genealogy following the highly-publicized capture of the Golden State Killer. I don't think Blaine will mind me quoting part of his post; the original link is: https://www.facebook.com/groups/geneticgenealogytipsandtechniques/permalink/413835562413483/.

"However, there is a lesson here. We must be PROACTIVE in our DNA efforts and remember that ANY resource/database could disappear. We as a community MUST MUST MUST find a way to stably archive the DNA evidence that we are losing at an astonishing rate. We Save the Pensions and fight against record destruction, but we are not working to find stable, long-term ways to save DNA evidence for future generations. We MUST find ways to do this for our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and beyond."

(And thank you, Blaine, for the shout-out tag in that post.)

There is a double-edge to the (now) old adage that once something is posted to the internet it never goes away. Not true. It all depends upon the type of data, how it was originally published, whether it was publicly accessible when published, as well as several other factors. In this particular case of Y-STR data, Ybase was another option that went dark first, taking thousands of instances of Y-STR data with it. Now Ysearch will do the same. These data are precious because they aren't recoverable; once they're gone, they're gone and, as time marches on, the people who took those DNA tests are no longer alive to contribute another sample.

The problem with all commercial testing companies in this regard is just that: they are commercial. Some may have elements of altruism at work--FTDNA did, after all, create Ysearch way back when--but it is simply not in their best fiduciary interest to openly share too much. What is not openly shared is subject to permanent deletion at a moment's notice.

But this isn't just an issue with commercial, for-profit endeavors. We learned in the last few days that the reason Oxford Ancestors had announced that they were ceasing business was not, as I had suspected, economic and legislative (i.e., GDPR) pressures, but that Oxford University had planned to restructure the Science Area and the labs doing the DNA testing would become unavailable for up to a year beginning this July. This seems to have been averted, and Oxford Ancestors will remain open.

On a purely academic scale, a yDNA study was undertaken at Washington State University back in 2004 or 2005 looking more deeply at the R1b haplogroup. Data was shared and the professor heading the study was communicative with the study participants; interesting stuff. Within 18 months, the funding was pulled and the study closed, taking the volunteer-contributed DNA data with it.

And, if you participated in the initial implementation of National Geographic's Genographic study and have tried to log into your account in the past few years, you've found that access to the study and your yDNA data went quietly away. Genographic 2.0 lives, but the data are not interchangeable between the two studies and, while the collective data from v1.0 no doubt still exists somewhere, it's completely unavailable now to the study participants.

Important genetic genealogy data affecting, quite literally, millions of people is far more fragile than we might think.

by Edison Williams G2G6 Pilot (351k points)
selected by Peter Roberts
Quite excellent Edison Williams. I know surname "Williams" is a rather large project within FT. I was coadmin, did Y results and matching for surname Johnson at FT, which was 3rd largest project within FT for many years, may still be... WE co-admins walked away some years back because of "privacy issues".

"Privacy issues" came up with our linked JJJ external website which focused on pedigrees presented as groups with "group leaders" and those were linked to our public display of Y results. All who participated did so in good faith, and we operated on that principle. It was all about presenting connections.

We had an awesome website: Presidential pages, War veterans pages, and a world wide library that hosted research. We left it all. Then later found that (someone) at FT had reconstructed links to our webpage, and we called on that. They took it down, but bits & pieces of our old web page still float here and there....

Bennett is a very smart man, he let Ancestry do the TV shows and then capitalized on that without investing any money. Hats off to him. FT will survive I think.

Y search has not been of much value for years. Also the MT stuff is a moot point. The y results and the projects that focus on specifics within that are of value. Also the FF is doing well.

Sherrie Mitchell-17863
+6 votes
Thanks for the alert, Edison.
by Carolyn Martin G2G6 Pilot (228k points)
You're very welcome, Carolyn. I wish I could provide more cheerful alerts, though.  ;-)
+2 votes
If pedigree information from ySearch/MitoSearch is something you don't want to lose, are you aware that geni.com scraped it into their tree - causing chaos with duplications* in the process in my view - but nonetheless it may be available there.

* and often obsolete haplogroups
by Lorna Henderson G2G6 Mach 2 (27.0k points)
edited by Lorna Henderson
I can see haplogroup information at Geni.  Is there any kind of link        which allows you to see STRs (haplotypes)?
Thanks, Lorna. As you noted, the chaos that's been caused by companies (and individuals) "scraping" unverified information into online trees is very much the dark side of the internet and genealogy. What drew me to WikiTree, in fact, were the first seven words of its missions statement: "Our mission is to grow an accurate..."

I personally never bothered with MitoSearch--and not much with Ysearch in recent years--but the pedigree information is minimal at best...especially with common surnames and forenames that might well be squashed incorrectly into thousands of family trees.

Even though I don't use Ysearch much, what I do bemoan is the loss of yet another free, public database where researchers can opt-in to share information. The demise of Ysearch effectively means that the only general repository of Y-STR data in any volume is at FTDNA, and for actual yDNA data FTDNA has a bit of AncestryDNA flavor to it: the results reported are very good, but you can't get at any useful level of detail even when directly viewing matches. Your matches can't see your Y-STR marker values, and vice-versa. If they've joined a surname DNA project and you can find them there, that's the only way to see the detail unless they're willing to email you their results. At least Ysearch, as flawed as it came to be, displayed the Y-STR values so you could do one-to-one evaluation based on specific markers and mutation rates.
Peter:  GMTA.  ;-)

Haplogroups only as far as I remember but the links I recall tried to take you back to ySearch, where the further detail would have been available to some extent IF you could access it.

But I've not been able to get links to ySearch to work and haven't bothered with it for years, preferring to point people to point FTDNA projects, and encouraging project members to review their settings so that the haplogroup, STRs and most distant ancestors are available to view.

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