8 Key Points about Raw Data Files

If you are going to download a raw data file from an at-home DNA test like 23andMe or AncestryDNA, here are eight key points to be aware of:

•       The responsibility for the security and privacy of the data is in your hands once you     download the file

•       Raw data have not been validated (thus files can, and often do, contain errors)

•       Raw data generated by one company will typically differ from the next

•       Raw data generally include markers from only a small fraction of the entire genome

•       There are consistent issues recognized for certain markers in raw data files (i.e. false positives, also called miscalls)

•       There are additional problematic markers currently unknown, uncomfirmed, and/or unreported

•       A raw data file without a separate tool to analyze it is generally not useful

•       A finding in the raw data can be a “hint” in the right direction but is never the final answer


One of my areas of specialty work through Watershed DNA is helping people with their raw data.

Raw data can be very useful for many purposes, but there are limitations. This doesn't mean using raw data is of no benefit. Rather, it's better to know there are both benefits and limitations, and be aware of them as you move forward.

I’ve taken my own raw data to many different third-party tools, some for genealogical purposes (investigating how my DNA matches other people's, for example) and some for health (figuring out if any well-established health risk markers could be found). My "insider’s" view has given me a better understanding of raw data generated by consumer genetics companies testing and how to make the best use of the data.

I have worked with a number of clients in the past interested in understanding how to “do more”. Some have wanted basic guidance in what direction to take with a raw data file, and some have wanted me to do more of the leg work. I’m happy to meet my clients where they are and help them on to the next steps.

Have a raw data file and interested in knowing what to do with it?

Reach out through my contact me button in the upper right corner. I’d be happy to work with you.