The Autosomal Me – Testing Company Results

This is Part 4 of a multi-part series, The Autosomal Me.

Part 1 was “The Autosomal Me – Unraveling Minority Admixture” and Part 2 was “The Autosomal Me – The Ancestors Speak.”  Part 1 discussed the technique we are going to use to unravel minority ancestry, and why it works.  Part 2 gave an example of the power of fragmented chromosomal mapping and the raw beauty of the results.  Part 3, “The Autosomal Me – Who Am I?,” discussed how to use our pedigree charts to gauge expected results and how autosomal results are grouped into population buckets.  We also named this technique, Minority Admixture Mapping, or MAP for short.

In this segment, Part 4, let’s take a look at what the testing company autosomal results look like.  The results are presented in timeline order, with the oldest results first and the latest, and presumably most accurate results, last.

23andMe Version 1

23andMe was the first company to offer this type of testing affordably.  They initially only offered 3 population groups, and one inferred that Asian was actually Native American.  Of course, that wasn’t a valid assumption for everyone, but it was the best that could be done under the circumstances.  This was my ethnicity results display at 23andMe until December 2012 went their updated version was released.

Autosomal test 1

DeCode Genetics

DeCode Genetics initially offered autosomal tests for ancestry.  Unfortunately, under the pressure of financial issues, they stepped away from the genetic genealogy marketspace and have since been sold.

Their test showed the following ethnic breakdown, picking up both my Native and African heritage:

autosomal test 2

I particularly like these results because the X chromosome is included, and seeing Native on the X chromosome, which has a unique inheritance path is a very important piece of data.

Family Tree DNA Version 1

Family Tree DNA’s first version of their Family Finder product produced results stating that I am 100% European, split between western and northern, shown below (minus the map.)

autosomal test 3

Dr. Doug McDonald

Doug McDonald, a retired physical chemistry professor, compiles contributed raw data and compares the raw data locations with both reference populations and the contributor results.  This is not a commercial endeavor but a private research project which has been ongoing for years.  His analysis of my raw data results from 23andMe and Family Tree DNA showed that they are primarily European.  His first analysis was without Middle Eastern populations and the results showed European except for a total of about 3% East Asian, Oceana and American.   However, in a second run including the Pakistan and Middle Eastern populations, the results now showed 88% European, about 1% Oceanic and American and the balance Middle Eastern and Pakistani.

A small amount of Middle Eastern heritage is not unexpected since I do have confirmed Turkish ancestors.

Dr. McDonald indicated that this was slightly more, 1-2%, than most Europeans, and that I was generally planted firmly in the middle of the “English” area in his data.  His results showed no African.

Standard deviation (statistical noise) is about 1%.  He can achieve these low deviation numbers by using such a large number of markers (536,904 to be exact)[1] for his comparison.  I am grateful to Dr. McDonald for his contribution, not only to me, but to this field.

The graph below shows that my primary ancestry falls in the English/French region.

autosomal test 4

The second graph maps these results on my chromosomes. The American, bright green, is found on chromosomes 1 and 2, and the X chromosome shows South Asian.

autosomal test 5

Doug indicates that the Native American is found at about the .5% level.  Interestingly, on my mother’s graphs and charts (below), the Native segments are nearly identical, but my first grey South Asian segment on my X is Mideast on her chart.

autosomal test 6

It’s also interesting to note that my Native American on chromosome 2 is larger than my mother’s which may well reflect Native heritage on my father’s side.  Ironically, the oral history of Native ancestry was on my father’s side, not my mothers.

Doug’s analysis has been updated several times over the years and these results are the most current.  The vendors have made upgrades too.  In 2012, both 23andMe and Family Tree DNA underwent upgrades to their ethnicity software and the Genographic Project version 2.0 test was released.

23andMe 2012 Updated Version

The new 23andMe software offers different confidence levels.

The standard estimate, or confidence level, shows that I have about .5% Native American.  This is consistent with Dr. McDonald’s findings.

autosomal test 7

A second view is available which paints the chromosomes.  A split view is also available if one of your parents has been tested at 23andMe as well.  That is not an option for me.

autosomal test 8

The conservative estimate, below, shows less Native at .2%.

autosomal test 9

The speculative level below shows the Native back to .5% but adjusts the European regions significantly.

autosomal test 10

Although 23andMe does not provide participants with the start and stop locations, through alternative means, meaning a very smart friend, Rebekah Canada, who is a Java programmer, start and stop locations can be discerned.

CeCe Moore documented Rebekah’s technique for those who will be following along with their own results through this process.

In a future segment of this series, we’ll look at alternative ways to discern Native segments.  Thanks to Rebekah’s technique, I can tell you that 23andMe shows my Native segments as follows:

Chromosome 1 – 165,658,091 to 175,711,116

Chromosome 2 – 86,316,174 to103,145,426

23andMe also provides a Neanderthal percentage.  What fun!!!

autosomal test 11

Family Tree DNA Updated 2012 Version

My mother was deceased before chip based autosomal testing was available, but I ordered the Family Finder test for her as soon as it was available.  Thankfully her DNA was stored at Family Tree DNA and was still viable.

autosomal test 12

Mother’s original results are shown above and her most recent results are shown below.  Her results shifted within Europe and her margin of error doubled.

autosomal test 13

My current results from Family Tree DNA’s updated software are shown below.

 autosomal test 14

National Geographic Genographic 2.0

I was very surprised to see my National Geographic results.  They were very unexpected, in particular the high percentages of Mediterranean and Southwest Asian, totaling 54%.

autosomal test 15

It made more sense when I read the information.  It’s true, reading is fundamental.

autosomal test 16

These results are, in essence, more anthropological in nature.

autosomal test 17

autosomal test 18

Of course, one of the fun parts of the Genographic results are the Neanderthal and Denisovan percentages.

autosomal test 19

These are somewhat different than the 23andMe results, although if you add the Neanderthal and Denisovan values together, the resultant 2.2% is very close to 23andMe’s 2.5%.

Ancestry.com

In 2012, Ancestry introduced an autosomal DNA test as well.  What it provides is very limited, with limited tools, but it does provide percentages of ethnicity in addition to matches.  Recently, Ancestry announced that the percentages may change over time.  They have been severely beaten within the genetic genealogy community for quality issues with this product, including percentages of ethnicity that are highly erroneous.  Their stated time reference is 500 years ago.

Recently this new page was added before you can see your detailed results.

autosomal test 20

Ancestry shows my heritage as only British and Scandinavian.

autosomal test 21

Ironically, Ancestry has mapped the birth locations of my ancestors in Europe on the map above, based on my family tree submitted.  Interesting that Germany doesn’t show in Ancestry’s ethnicity list but many of my family lines originated in Germany and Holland, and none in Scandinavia.

Testing Provider Summary

Where do we stand now?

A summary of the various test results is shown below compared to my pedigree analysis.

Test Results Chart

autosomal test 22

I have included Dr. McDonald’s analysis here, not because he’s a testing provider in the sense of the testing companies, but because his offering was available in this timeframe, and because he worked with Family Tree to develop their Population Finder code.

You can see that the results are relatively consistent between testing companies.  There is certainly no question about majority ancestry, but the minority admixture which hovers someplace near 1%, give or take 5% in either direction, is much less consistent and not always reported.  If I were to have tested with only one company and taken the results as gospel, I could certainly have been left believing that I had no Native or African admixture.  For many people, it’s this small amount of minority admixture that they are seeking.  So in answer to the question of which testing company is “best,” the answer is, if you’re looking for trace amounts of anything, the compendium of all the testing companies (minus Ancestry) would provide the best set of results.  We will be using the match information as well in the next sections, so certainly nothing has been “wasted” testing with multiple companies, again, except Ancestry.  I am hopeful that Ancestry will in the future release our raw data (which they have promised to do) in a useable format, fix their misleading ethnicity results and add chromosome painting tools so that we can fully utilize our data.

In Part 5 of the series, we’ll take a look at third party tools and how they can continue to refine and add to our knowledge of our admixture.


1.  Genealogy-DNA Rootsweb posting by Doug McDonald on 7-26-09 and personal correspondence.

2.  71.5% western European, 28.4% Northeastern European

3.  Inferred that Asian is actually Native in an American with no history of Asian ancestry.

4.  No category, inferred.

5.  78.6% Northern European, 1.8% Southern European, 18.7% Nonspecific European

6.  54.6% Northern European, .3% Southern European, 43% Nonspecific European

7.  91.7% Northern European, 3% Southern European, 3.3% Nonspecific European

8.  75.18% West Europe (French and Orcadian), 24.82 Europe (Romanian, Russian, Tuscan and Finnish).  Note that my mother’s results are almost identical except the Finnish is missing from hers.

9.  43% North Europe and 36% Mediterranean

10.  80% British, 12% Scandinavian

25 thoughts on “The Autosomal Me – Testing Company Results

  1. Thanks Roberta, It is very in-depth and I can’t say I understand it very well. I have to absorb it all. I am still waiting for the 23andME results. Thanks again for all your effort to help me understand.

  2. Pingback: The Autosomal Me – Testing Company Results | Native Heritage Project

  3. I think the only way I will ever get this is if I sat with someone in a small group for a few days and have it explained in person.

  4. When one gets tested in this same manner, do they shows these charts and graphs when they return with the results? How much is the test? How long does it take to get the results?

    • Yes, the charts are shown on your personal page at 23andMe, Family Tree DNA and Ancestry. The McDonald reports are from him privately. DeCodeMe doesn’t sell this test any longer. Family Tree DNA also includes chromosome browsing, a tool that I did now show here that compares results of matches against each other and paints your chromosomes where you match. Thye test at 23andMe is $99. The test at Family Tree DNA is $289. I recommend that you take the test at 23andMe, then download your results and then you can upload them to Family Tree DNA for $89 and you’ll get the benefit of being in two data bases for a total of $188, which is less than the one $289 test. There is a link to both of those companies on the sidebar of myblog. I don’t recommend Ancestry unless you’ve already tested with the other two companies.

  5. Are you disappointed that the Geno 2.0 did not pick up Native American? From what is advertised, I would think the Geno 2.0 would have the latest, best technology. It appears that Doug McDonald may have the most accurate ethnicity test available. Am I missing something? I did purchase a Geno 2.0 test but have not received the results yet.

      • I’m thinking that the business of selling kits may be impeding the science of DNA study. We must demand from these companies that their science be first and foremost. I don’t want to keep buying tests. Let’s get it right!

      • Hi — I read on the Genographic site that they don’t list anything less than 2%, so that’s part of the problem.

  6. I’ve enjoyed your informative posts while awaiting results on my mother’s FTDNA tests. We’ve now got the autosomal results–the matches are all in the distant realm with no common surnames–so I’m very much looking forward to learning more about how I can analyze these matches. Apart from matches with Norwegian ancestry (my mother is half Norwegian), most of the matches are puzzling, and I haven’t been able to download the raw data yet to use elsewhere, which is frustrating (we want to identify her grandfathers, especially the non-Norwegian one).

    Anyway, thanks and keep those how-to-analyze posts coming!

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  12. Thanks , this has giving me some idea, of what I’am looking at. I am from S.W.VA. .5 native,.2 SSA,98 Ep,with the 23 and me test.

  13. Pingback: The Autosomal Me – The Holy Grail – Identifying Native Genealogy Lines | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  14. I notice that even tho Geno shows you as first choice British, you are closest to the Second choice, German. I think you have 14 numerical differences on the Brit, and only 4 on the German. I have the same situation on My Brit and Romanian… I am much closer to the Romanian ( I am British). I asked Geno about this twice, and I have no response. They did ask me for my password… I sent that in… no response.
    A closest match should be a closest match ? Perhaps they flip a coin, or look at our surnames.

  15. Pingback: The Autosomal Me – Summary and PDF File | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  16. I’m still not sure sure that for people of African descent,just about all of whom get less than 2% East Asian and Native American results,there is as much certainty in saying they are real as they are in saying “0.2%” is real for someone of majority European descent. Even if Dr. Doug Mcdonald tell a person of African descent that “0.4% Native American” is “likely real”, I’d still doubt it. I still don’t believe that even with Dr. Mcdonald,there is an adequate enough population reference sampling for west Africans. Yoruba and Mandinka just isn’t quite enough,especially for people of west African descent who are much more of a blending of several different west African ethnicities . I believe that if Dr. Mcdonald and testing companies get more adequate population reference sampling for west Africans , these “0.4%”s and “1.1%” results will disappear and future test takers of African descent will not see them. Just like on the Blair Underwood episode of “Who Do You Think You Are? where he did a special and “only for him” version of the then unreleased Ancestrydna from Ancestry.com. he got a detailed African breakdown and his race results were straight African and European.There were no tiny “0.2%” or “1.3% East Asian & Native American” results.

  17. Pingback: Navigating 23andMe for Genealogy | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  18. I am Johnny Fountano from Texas. I did the ancestry AtDNA test. The results came back 76% West african, 9% British Isles, 7% Scandanavean, and 8% uncertain. I was thinking the uncertain was Native American. I was told I had Blackfoot and Cherokee on my mothers side but I believe it may be Creek, Cherokee and maybe Lumbee or related. My gr. grandmother look full blooded Inian. On my fathers side is African and louisiana Creole, and European. My first cousin on my fathers side did a DNA test with Africanancestry.com and the Y chromosome in which we share was almost 99% Native american. Ancestry updated the result and came up with 78% african including soutwest Bantu. 2% Finnish, 2% west ansian. 1% native american. why the discrepency.

    had 98.

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