Have you seen the latest estimate of the number of DNA test kits sold?

+24 votes

New data are in, and business is positively booming. Antonio Regalado, the Senior Editor for the MIT Technology Review, has been keeping tabs on testing trends since at least 2016, and he posted this updated chart August 6:

These numbers aren't yet affected by GDPR because they run through the month of May; GDPR went into effect May 25. The Golden State Killer genetic genealogy brouhaha surfaced last April, so the trend might also be blunted somewhat by new privacy concerns. Time will tell.

At the beginning of 2018 we were indicating that about 12 million direct-to-consumer DNA tests had been sold, up from about 5 million as of January 2017, a 140% increase. As an averaged trend, we were selling about 583,000 test kits each month. I may not be a fan of the kilt or lederhosen "ethnicity" advertising, but it works.

The first part of 2018 blows that performance out of the water. We went from 12 million kits to about 17 million, or an average of right at 1 million kits sold per month. I personally do expect the extrapolated growth trend to slow, but it's still within reason that we might see 10 million tests sold through the course of 2018.

The other thing the chart illustrates is just how rapidly the catalogs of data are accumulating. Just five years ago, in 2013, the numbers are barely a blip on the chart. Makes those of us who have been dabbling in genetic genealogy for a decade-and-a-half feel positively ancient. Speaking of ancient...

I have no source for numbers, but we're seeing a not dissimilar trend in peer-reviewed scientific studies of anthropology and population genetics. Huge technological changes--both hardware and software--have been going on in the background at companies like Illumina that make HiSeq sequencing of genomic data from small, ancient, and degraded samples possible...and at lower costs to institutions and universities than ever. David Reich, author of the excellent new book Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past, estimates that since the early 2000s the cost of analyzing ancient genomes has come down more than 10,000-fold. There's a significant time lag from study proposal to peer-reviewed publishing, but we began to see important new work start coming in around 2013/14, and the rate of publication has been steadily escalating...so much so that I now have a Google Alert set to search for new pre-prints and papers on a daily basis to help me keep up.

Back on the consumer homefront, Leah Larkin (fellow Texan and a blogger to follow at http://thednageek.com/blog) also monitors genetic genealogy sales trends. In her running information about DNA testing where she tracks current pricing, processing times, and market shares, she shared this chart showing estimated kits sold (and GEDmatch accounts) by company from the end of December 2012 through last April:

I sincerely hope we see additional players added to that graph in the near future.

Speaking of additional players, I want to take just a moment to call your attention to news that keeps popping up about a recent genealogy services market study titled, "2018-2025 Genealogy Products and Services Report on Global and United States Market, Status and Forecast, by Players, Types and Applications."

Sounds intriguing, doesn't it? Was to me. Proved to be not so dazzling. You can read my opinions in this article: "A Recent 2018-2025 Genealogy Market Study: Caveat Emptor."

in The Tree House by Edison Williams G2G6 Pilot (355k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith
Thanks for the stats and insights, which fill a gap in my own mind.

The blue part matches my own experience - I did my test about a year ago, and the number of matches I have now is almost double from when my results first came.

But I'm very skeptical about that gray part of the top chart, which just assumes the tend will continue. It seems to me like the flow of new matches I'm getting has really fallen off. I used to get a new match every day or two, but now sometimes I can go a week (or two) without one.

We may have seen the steepest part of the graph already, from when it apparently became "a thing" last year. But no matter - every new test that gets added is potentially a valuable "nugget" of new information!

2 Answers

+13 votes
Best answer
The incease in people taking DNA tests means an increase in possible matches, right?

My mother was adopted and her biological fathers name was NOT recorded on her original birth certificate.

She got her DNA test results just last month. I received my test results in May of this year.

I have already found a 1st cousin, a 2nd cousin and a 3rd cousin match with my mother - all from the right place and the right time, and on the right side of the family - my mothers paternal side. So we have found her fathers family.

Now we have to work on finding out which one of 3 brothers was her father. But there is not so much rush now.

The main reason I have been able to find her family so quickly is due to the huge increase in the number of people taking these DNA tests.

The downside to all these matches is that the vast majority of people taking these tests only do so for their ethnicity estinates. They have NO INTEREST in looking for or finding or even contacting new cousins!!

I have several other matches that look promising but they have NO family tree, no list of surnames and they do not reply when I send an email.
by Robynne Lozier G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
selected by Laura Bozzay

Hi Robynne,

You hit the nail on the head . . . the bulk of the people that test through ancestryDNA are only curious as to their ethnicity estimate.  They have no interest in locating cousins or putting together a family tree.  So while it's quite exciting to see all of these matches, it's equally frustrating that they won't do you one darn bit of good.  frown

+6 votes
Thanks for the awesome information! (and for introducing me to a new, and arguably more intelligent, Twitter space to follow).

My family has a tradition of playing the pirate gift game at our Christmas dinners. Instead of giving individual gifts, we upped the price limit on the gift game to make sure more stealing happens so the game goes on longer. Last year I took advantage of the myHeritage DNA test sale and put one in the gift game.  It was good for plenty of jokes and was stolen multiple times (great success!!) AND it  later inspired a few other family members to do the tests.
by Tannis Mani G2G6 Mach 1 (18.6k points)

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