Friday, November 7, 2014

Open Letter to Ancestry

Dear Ancestry Marketing Department,                                   November 1, 2014  

Hello, my name is Raymond House. Over the past 5 months I, my fiance', my mother, my daughter, my great aunt and two of my cousins have all completed DNA testing with Ancestry. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to take advantage of some of your discounted pricing. Realizing the importance of completing our family tree I continue to work to get more family members tested (with Ancestry), and often use my own money to do so. In my search to uncover our history through DNA testing one of the most obvious obstacles, aside from the lack of family knowledge, is the lack of tested African Americans in the database. While DNA testing is more affordable than it once was, and even though your company frequently offers other discounts, some African Americans are still unable to or haven't taken advantage to get tested. There is a need to have a massive push to get more African Americans tested. A few years ago, to address this issue 23andMe launched its African American Ancestry Project. For a limited time they offered free DNA testing kits to our underrepresented population. To substantially increase the numbers in the DNA database, still more work needs to be done. I'm writing this letter to appeal to your ability to address this matter in the form of a broad promotional effort to target African Americans.

January 31 2015 will mark the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment. On that day in 1865, after 246 years of legal slavery in this country, the amendment declared that, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except by punishment for crime whereof the party has been duly convicted shall exist in this United States or any place subject to its jurisdiction". While the end of slavery was the beginning of legal citizenship for African Americans, the impact of slavery continued to exist and is still present today in the form of their missing family lineage. There is no way to right the wrong of slavery. Your company was not responsible for it in any way nor are they obligated to show favor to assist African Americans in matters related to it. However, if your company's good will is interested in investing in a worthy cause, they can participate. Remarkably, after almost 2 1/2 centuries of countless family separations during slavery and the passing of 150 years since, something can finally be done to help reconstruct the fragmented history of the African American family.

The day after the anniversary of the historic event marking the beginning of freedom for African Americans would be a perfect time. It's the start of Black History Month. What better way to celebrate the anniversary of the momentous occasion that ended the lawful separation of African American families through slavery, than to honor it with a major promotion that would allow them to connect back to their families through the descendants of their ancestors. The value of this kind of promotion would be priceless!  A major promotion would dramatically increase the number of African Americans in the database, start important dialogue between them and give passionate hope to those searching for family history through newly discovered relatives. For Ancestry it would be great for public relations and it would grow your database. It would likely resonate throughout the African American community and produce residual business, making Ancestry their family choice of DNA testing companies, further growing your business. Also, many more African Americans who follow Dr. Henry Louis Gates' show Finding Your Roots, could finally join in and take part in DNA testing. I understand that even if your company is interested, with such short notice, this suggestion may not be possible during Black History Month 2015, but any kind of promotion at any time would be greatly appreciated.

Annie B. Garrett    Annabelle Swift
In closing, I'd like to say that know that there may be almost no chance for what I'm asking to happen (a belief echoed by others). I don't have any group support or the backing of anyone considered important. I am the voice of one, but I represent the voice of many from the past and present who are important. Perhaps your company would consider this kind of endeavor important enough to start advertising more to African Americans through promotions to make DNA testing more of a possibility for them. DNA testing confirmed the relationship between the slave owner and my paternal 4th grandmother, whom Annie B. Garrett, my grandmother descended. I am hopeful that it leads me to the descendants of Amanda Swift, grandmother of my maternal grandmother Annabelle Swift. With Ancestry's help in the near future African Americans in the present would have the opportunity to be introduced to their relatives in the past, something never thought to be possible prior to the scientific breakthrough of DNA testing.


Raymond House

Ancestry's response to the open letter I sent indicated that they had received it. As of today, March 12th, 2015 they have yet to respond to the actual content of the letter. Black History Month has come and gone and the ethnic holiday St. Patrick's Day is March, 17th. Here are two promotional ads to honor Irish ancestry


  1. Cousin Raymond, you did a very good job and I'm sure this will not fall on deaf ears. Anything worth having is worth working for, and GOD knows we been working. GOD is good all the time. One Love!!!

    1. Excellent! I hope you don't mind too much but I submitted your impassioned plea to several black genealogy websites. I encouraged the readers of those sites to also write a letter to requesting the same marketing blitz for 2015 Black History Month. If you wish me to remove your blog information from those sites, please let me know, otherwise hopefully MANY of us will request Ancestry to help build their database with African American DNA. Superb idea Raymond!

    2. Wonderful Letter!! I will copy and paste a portion to their Facebook page and write one of my own! Thank you for taking the first step!

      Joyceann Gray

  2. Thank all of you for your support. It is greatly needed and greatly appreciated.