AncestryDNA’s service might seem like magic from the outside: pay $99, spit in a vial, stick it in the mail, and then wait for a report telling you where from where your ancestors hail and that you have a fifth cousin in St. Louis. It’s very much a scientific endeavor, though — and one that requires generating a lot of data. At this point, every advance the genetic-analysis arm of genealogy service Ancestry.com makes toward pinpoint-accurate analysis is also a step toward outgrowing the cutting edge of commercial big data technologies.
Like the field of genetics overall, the state of the art for AncestryDNA is moving fast. In fact, AncestryDNA Senior Vice President and General Manager Ken Chahine explained in a recent interview, figuring out your ethnicity hardly required even required a DNA test three years ago. All the company could have told customers is whether they were of European, African or Asian descent.