Ethnicity Testing and Results

I have written repeatedly about ethnicity results as part of the autosomal test offerings of the major DNA testing companies, but I still receive lots of questions about which ethnicity test is best, which is the most accurate, etc.  Take a look at “Ethnicity Percentages – Second Generation Report Card” for a detailed analysis and comparison.

First, let’s clarify which testing companies we are talking about.  They are:

Let’s make this answer unmistakable.

  1. Some of the companies are somewhat better than others relative to ethnicity – but not a lot.
  2. These tests are reasonably reliable when it comes to a continent level test – meaning African, European, Asian and sometimes, Native American.
  3. These tests are great at detecting ancestry over 25% – but if you know who your grandparents are – you already have that information.
  4. The usefulness of these tests for accurately providing ethnicity information diminishes as the percentage of that minority admixture declines.  Said another way – as your percentage of a particular ethnicity decreases, so does the testing companies’ ability to find it.
  5. Intra-continental results, meaning within Europe, for example, are speculative, at best.  Do not expect them to align with your known genealogy.  They likely won’t – and if they do at one vendor – they won’t at others.  Which one is “right”?  Who knows – maybe all of them when you consider population movement, migration and assimilation.
  6. As the vendors add to and improve their data bases, reference populations and analysis tools, your results change. I discussed how vendors determine your ethnicity percentages in the article, “Determining Ethnicity Percentages.”
  7. Sometimes unexpected results, especially continent level results, are a factor of ancient population mixing and migrations, not recent admixture – and it’s impossible to tell the difference. For example, the Celts, from the Germanic area of Europe also settled in the British Isles. Attila the Hun and his army, from Asia, invaded and settled in what is today, Germany, as well as other parts of Eastern Europe.
  8. Ethnicity tests are unreliable in consistently detecting minority admixture. Minority in this context means a small amount, generally less than 5%.  It does not refer to any specific ethnicity. Having said that, there are very few reference data base entries for Native American populations.  Most are from from Canada and South America.

In the context of ethnicity, what does unreliable mean?

Unreliable means that the results are not consistent and often not reproducible across platforms, especially in terms of minority admixture.  For example, a German/Hungarian family member shows Native American admixture at low percentages, around 3%, at some, but not all, vendors.  His European family history does not reflect Native heritage and in fact, precludes it.  However, his results likely reflect Native American from a common underlying ancestral population, the Yamnaya, between the Asian people who settled Hungary and parts of Germany and also contributed to the Native American population.

Unreliable can also mean that different vendors, measuring different parts of your DNA, can assign results to different regions.  For example, if you carry Celtic ancestry, would you be surprised to see Germanic results and think they are “wrong?”  Speaking of Celts, they didn’t just stay put in one region within Europe either.  And who were the Celts and where did they ‘come from’ before they were Celts.  All of this current and ancient admixture is carried in your DNA.  Teasing it out and the meaning it carries is the challenge.

Unreliable may also mean that the tests often do not reflect what is “known” in terms of family history.  I put the word “known” in quotes here, because oral history does not constitute “known” and it’s certainly not proof.  For the most part, documented genealogy does constitute “known” but you can never “know” about an undocumented adoption, also referred to as a “nonparental event” or NPE.  Yes, that’s when one or both parents are not who you think they are based on traditional information.  With the advent of DNA testing, NPEs can, in some instances, be discovered.

So, the end result is that you receive very interesting information about your genetic history that often does not correlate with what you expected – and you are left scratching your head.

However, in some cases, if you’re looking for something specific – like a small amount of Native American or African ancestry, you, indeed, can confirm it through your DNA – and can confirm your family history.  One thing is for sure, if you don’t test, you will never know.

Minority Admixture

Let’s take a look at how ethnicity estimates work relative to minority admixture.

In terms of minority admixture, I’m referring to admixture that is several generations back in your tree.  It’s often revealed in oral history, but unproven, and people turn to genetic genealogy to prove those stories.

In my case, I have several documented Native American lines and a few that are not documented.  All of these results are too far back in time, the 1600s and 1700s, to realistically be “found” in autosomal admixture tests consistently.  I also have a small amount of African admixture.  I know which line this comes from, but I don’t know which ancestor, exactly.  I have worked through these small percentages systematically and documented the process in the series titled, “The Autosomal Me.”  This is not an easy or quick process – and if quick and easy is the type of answer you’re seeking – then working further, beyond what the testing companies give you, with small amounts of admixture, is probably not for you.

Let’s look at what you can expect in terms of inheritance admixture.  You receive 50% of your DNA from each parent, and so forth, until eventually you receive very little DNA (or none) from your ancestors from many generations back in your tree.

Ethnicity DNA table

Let’s put this in perspective.  The first US census was taken in 1790, so your ancestors born in 1770 should be included in the 1790 census, probably as a child, and in following censuses as an adult.  You carry less than 1% of this ancestor’s DNA.

The first detailed census listing all family members was taken in 1850, so most of your ancestors that contributed more than 1% of your DNA would be found on that or subsequent detailed census forms.

These are often not the “mysterious” ancestors that we seek.  These ancestors, whose DNA we receive in amounts over 1%, are the ones we can more easily track through traditional means.

The reason the column of DNA percentages is labeled “approximate” is because, other than your parents, you don’t receive exactly half of your ancestor’s DNA.  DNA is not divided exactly in half and passed on to subsequence generations, except for what you receive from your parents.  Therefore, you can have more or less of any one ancestor’s individual DNA that would be predicted by the chart, above.  Eventually, as you continue to move further out in your tree, you may carry none of a specific ancestor’s DNA or it is in such small pieces that it is not detected by autosomal DNA testing.

The Vendors

At least two of the three major vendors have made changes of some sort this year in their calculations or underlying data bases.  Generally, they don’t tell us, and we discover the change by noticing a difference when we look at our results.

Historically, Ancestry has been the worst, with widely diverging estimates, especially within continents.  However, their current version is picking up both my Native and African.  However, with their history of inconsistency and wildly inaccurate results, it’s hard to have much confidence, even when the current results seem more reasonable and in line with other vendors.  I’ve adopted a reserved “wait and see” position with Ancestry relative to ethnicity.

Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder product is in the middle with consistent results, but they don’t report less than 1% admixture which is often where those distant ancestors’ minority ethnicity would be found, if at all.  However, Family Tree DNA does provide Y and mitochondrial mapping comparisons, and ethnicity comparisons to your matches that are not provided by other vendors.

Ethnicity DNA matches

In this view, you can see the matching ethnicity percentages for those whom you match autosomally.

23andMe is currently best in terms of minority ethnicity detection, in part, because they report amounts less than 1%, have a speculative view, which is preferred by most genetic genealogists and because they paint your ethnicity on your chromosomes, shown below.  You can see that both chromosome 1 and 2 show Native segments.

Ethnicity 23andMe chromosome

So, looking at minority admixture only – let’s take a look at today’s vendor results as compared to the same vendors in May 2014.

Ethnicity 2014-2015 compare

The Rest of the Story

Keep in mind, we’re only discussing ethnicity here – and there is a lot more to autosomal DNA testing than ethnicity – for example – matching to cousins, tools, such as a chromosome browser (or lack thereof), trees, ease of use and ability to contact your matches.  Please see “Autosomal DNA 2015 – Which Test is the Best?”  Unless ethnicity is absolutely the ONLY reason you are DNA testing, then you need to consider the rest of the story.

And speaking of the rest of the story, National Geographic has been pretty much omitted from this discussion because they have just announced a new upgrade, “Geno 2.0: Next Generation,” to their offering, which promises to be a better biogeographical tool.  I hope so – as National Geographic is in a unique position to evaluate populations with their focus on sample collection from what is left of unique and sometimes isolated populations.  We don’t have much information on the new product yet, and of course, no results because the new test won’t be released until in September, 2015.  So the jury is out on this one.  Stay tuned.

GedMatch – Not A Vendor, But a Great Toolbox

Finally, most people who are interested in ethnicity test at one (or all) of the companies, utilize the rest of the tools offered by that company, then download their results to, a donation based site, and make use of the numerous contributed admixture tools there.

Ethnicity GedMatch

GedMatch offers lots of options and several tools that provide a wide range of focus.  For example, some tools are specifically written for European, African, Asian or even comparison against ancient DNA results.

Ethnicity ancient admixture


So what is the net-net of this discussion?

  1. There is a lot more to autosomal DNA testing than just ethnicity – so take everything into consideration.
  2. Ethnicity determination is still an infant and emerging field – with all vendors making relatively regular updates and changes. You cannot take minority results to the bank without additional and confirming research, often outside of genetic genealogy. However, mitochondrial or Y DNA testing, available only through Family Tree DNA, can positively confirm Native or minority ancestry in the lines available for testing. You can create a DNA Pedigree Chart to help identify or eliminate Native lines.
  3. If the ancestors you seek are more than a few generations removed, you may not carry enough of their ethnic DNA to be identified.
  4. Your “100% Cherokee” ancestor was likely already admixed – and so their descendants may carry even less Native DNA than anticipated.
  5. You cannot prove a negative using autosomal DNA (but you can with both Y and mitochondrial DNA). In other words, a negative autosomal ethnicity result alone, meaning no Native heritage, does NOT mean your ancestors were not Native. It MIGHT mean they weren’t Native. It also might mean that they were either very admixed or the Native ancestry is too far back in your tree to be found with today’s technology. Again, mitochondrial and Y DNA testing provide confirmed ancestry identification for the lines they represent. Y is the male paternal (surname) line and mitochondrial is the matrilineal line of both males and females – the mother’s, mother’s, mother’s line, on up the tree until you run out of mothers.
  6. It is very unlikely that you will be able to find your tribe, although it is occasionally possible. If a company says they can do this, take that claim with a very big grain of salt. Your internal neon warning sign should be flashing about now.
  7. If you’re considering purchasing an ethnicity test from a company other than the four I mentioned – well, just don’t.  Many use very obsolete technology and oversell what they can reliably provide.  They don’t have any better reference populations available to them than the major companies and Nat Geo, and let’s just say there are ways to “suggest” people are Native when they aren’t. Here are two examples of accidental ways people think they are Native or related – so just imagine what kind of damage could be done by a company that was intentionally providing “marginal” or misleading information to people who don’t have the experience to know that because they “match” someone who has a Native ancestor doesn’t mean they share that same Native ancestor – or any connection to that tribe. So, stay with the known companies if you’re going to engage in ethnicity testing. We may not like everything about the products offered by these companies, but we know and understand them.

My Recommendation

By all means, test.

Test with all three companies, 23andMe, Family Tree DNA and Ancestry – then download your results from either Family Tree DNA or Ancestry (who test more markers than 23andMe) to GedMatch and utilize their ethnicity tools.  When I’m looking for minority admixture, I tend to look for consistent trends – not just at results from any one vendor or source.

If you have already tested at Ancestry, or you tested at 23andMe on the V3 chip, prior to December 2013, you can download your raw data file to Family Tree DNA and pay just $39.  Family Tree DNA will process your raw data within a couple days and you will then see your myOrigins ethnicity results as interpreted by their software.  Of course, that’s in addition to having access to Family Tree DNA‘s other autosomal features, functions and tools.  The transfer price of $39 is significantly less expensive than retesting.

Just understand that what you receive from these companies in terms of ethnicity is reflective of both contemporary and ancient admixture – from all of your ancestral lines.  This field is in its infancy – your results will change from time to time as we learn – and the only part of ethnicity that is cast in concrete is probably your majority ancestry which you can likely discern by looking in the mirror.  The rest – well – it’s a mystery and an adventure.  Welcome aboard to the miraculous mysterious journey of you, as viewed through the DNA of your ancestors!



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71 thoughts on “Ethnicity Testing and Results

  1. Yes, ethnicity from different companies can be different. At present 23andme more accurately reflects my documented genealogy, even picking up a shred of Native American dna (1% – on Conservative, Standard and Speculative) from 2 unrelated NA documented ancestors some 10 generations ago. However, FTDNA picked up 5% Ashkenazi/Jewish Diaspora and 5% Eastern European. Balkan showed up on 23andme as well so that’s not a concern but the 5% Ashkenazi is a mystery. I’ve been assured it’s not noise, however, I show few, a handful at best, genetic cousins with Ashkenazi at FTDNA and none over at 23andme, even when I adjust the margins to virtually nothing. However, I do have one family who might have been Ashkenazi (only based on their name and some heresay from a descendant who may or may not be related to my family) and if true, then FTDNA certainly pulled off a coup for me. Just never know. I’ve just ordered a test from Ancestry and anxious to see what the ethnicity results will be.

  2. There is a common misconception where people think that they inherit half of each parent’s DNA (which they do) which translate to 25% of each grandparent, which is not true. It’s not an easy concept for people to understand that although each parent will contribute 50% of their DNA, that 50% is a random amount of what they inherited from their parents. While that parent will always have in their own DNA 50% of their mother’s and father’s DNA each, when it comes time for them to pass on DNA via their egg/sperm, that in turn is always random. Nature loves diversity and that is the purpose of randomness. If they did pass on the exact 50% for every egg/sperm, we would all look exactly like our siblings.

    • That concept is difficult to explain, as is the fact that genetic information is lost and gained with each successive generation. And that’s a feature, not a bug.

      • I’m looking at it like this… From my perspective, half of my genetic information was lost when I gave my DNA my daughter, but she has gained information from her mother.

        Since my wife are from the same geographical region and we do share at least one ancestor 8 generations back, my daughter could have quite literally regained some of the genetic information that was lost on its way to me.

        • If your daughter regained it, and it didn’t come from you, it just means that your wife passed it on to your daughter from your common ancestor.

  3. Regarding downloading Ancestry raw data to ftDNA: will all Ancestry matches be added to Family tree matches or will they be in a kit of their own?
    I have been working with family tree matches (approximately 660) because I am finding that 1500 matches on Gedmatch is a bit overwhelming.

    • Your Ancestry matches will not be brought over to Family Tree DNA. All you are downloading is your raw results – and it’s only relevant if you haven’t tested at Family Tree DNA. If you’re already tested at Family Tree DNA – you don’t need to do the download.

  4. Great read. It took about a year, but I have started to find common ancestors with Family Finder & Gedmatch. It seems like most of these findings are on my mother’s side. Recently, I was matched with the Quesada family from Mexico on Gedmatch. It seems that they are related to my 5th ggmother Antoinette Salazar. I believe that one of my Big Y matches, Quezada, is also related to the Quesada’s. The ru106 dna project admin is surprised that he doesn’t see more kits from Spain being positive for U106. Considering how widespread U106 was in Western Europe back then.

  5. Hey Roberta,

    So Ancestry updated your ethnicity estimates since last year? I checked mine and it’s still the same as it was last year. I still have the puzzling <1% Pacific Islander. Does anybody know whether Ancestry is "secretly" updating ethnicity calculations?

  6. Ethnicity analysis will NEVER tell the whole story.

    Even if you could, in theory, improve ethnicity analysis to the point that you could assign ethnicity to every SNP in your genome (and that will never be possible), you still would be unable to find a complete record of your ethnic origins in your DNA. Approximately half of the record is lost, in big random chunks, with each successive generation. It’s a bit like randomly ripping out half of the pages of a good history book, and then randomly tearing out half of the remaining pages every twenty years thereafter in repeated cycles. Even if every letter of what remains is perfectly legible, whole chapters of the book are completely missing after a few generations.

    There’s little doubt that improvements in autosomal testing and analysis will improve our ethnicity reports in the future, but some parts of your genetic story are lost forever. Don’t blame the tests, blame biology!

    • Definitely! We know this to be true about ancestry. I can’t imagine how much better it can be. Especially since boundaries have changed throughout time and migrations have continued since the beginning of time.

  7. I am trying to explain DNA testing to my relatives. I understand from your post that other than the 50/50 DNA split of parents, DNA splitting from ancestors is random and you may not receive DNA at all from some ancestors. The farther back that ancestor, the less likely you carry any of his/her DNA. As an example, is it a true statement to say that you could have an African ancestor, but carry no DNA from that ancestor so that ancestor is lost UNLESS recorded in the DNA of another of your direct relatives? I think from your post to Jason Lee above, this statement is correct.

  8. Thank you for the suggestions! I went into gedmatch and did a match to the archaic profiles and got a page full of hits. Now, I am REALLY new at this. Some profiles I am almost black all the way across the chromosomes and other profiles I am almost orange across the profiles. Is the orange a matching area and the black non-matching? There does not appear (intuitively) to be any sort of ranking of the profiles from top to bottom. I have a gif if you would like to see it.

  9. I tested with FamilyTreeDNA and also 23&Me, both of which confirmed Native American and African ancestry. My sister decided to test with 23&Me to see if her results were similar. She literally just received her test results. The racial admixture was very similar to mine, but we discovered to our shock that we are half siblings and not full. Yesterday my sister asked our dad about this, and now my 87-year-old dad (and my sister and I) are faced with dealing with the fact that some unknown person is my sister’s father. This was something we NEVER expected to find out when we did this testing. 🙁

    • You need to be positive about this before you draw that conclusion. Also, are you sure it’s your sister who is not your father’s child? To confirm that, your father should also test. I’m so sorry for the heartbreak I know this discovery is bringing your family. Just understand that your mother may have been a victim and not a willing participant – so don’t condemn her.

  10. I have a question that I haven’t seen addressed. Do cousin marriages skew the results. I found several in my mom’s line and even a niece/uncle marriage.

  11. What a great article and very interesting. I have learned so much from following your blog. I did this same test a few years ago and had the surprise of finding Askanazi Jewish. After doing some research and discovering common Jewish ancestral matches it was confirmed. I think an interesting twist to knowing your heritage also includes common diseases which may be more prevalent in certain ethnicities also. Thanks for the great blog. 🙂

  12. 2% African blood qualifies one as black. Recently I had a dna test learning I’m 3% Native American. Do those same rules apply?

    • I guess it depends on why you ask. I’m not sure what 2% qualifies you “for” if you know what I mean. I would say that 2% means you have some African heritage and 3% Native means that same thing, unless there is some reason to hink otherwise. For example, some people of Germanic heritage are showing up to 3% Native and it’s likely the Asian admixture from the same base population. Unfortunately, not much is absolute at 2 or 3 %.

    • In the U.S. designations have been completely political. Due to prejudice, a “one drop” rule “made” everyone with any “black blood” black. This enabled discrimination.
      On the other hand, with native Americans due to financial considerations you needed to prove you were NA. Most times you needed to be at 25% NA. At the very least you needed on be in the Tribal Roll. Tribal Rolls determine federal benefits.
      The bottom line is you are what you are made of. If you have trace black or NA genes, you are partially that. No one’s opinion can take that away from you.

    • Echoing what Bobbi said. Basically blood quantum were used for nothing but disenfranchising people. Either the one drop rule which was basically the smallest amount made you that specific group, or with Native American (and also Native Hawaiian as defined by U.S. Congress) where you need a specific amount to be considered that tribe/group since money and/or land was involved.

      But in the end as everyone said, you are what the DNA says you are. Cultural affiliation or tribal/political affiliation is not reflective in your DNA.

  13. Pingback: DNAeXplain Archives – Basic Education Articles | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  14. Hello Roberta, I was hoping you could help me determine which company I should test with. I am adopted and I have no idea what my genealogy is. I do have a sister and I know we share the same mother. I am interested in taking an autosomal test to find out what ethnicity I am. I am not too concerned with finding other relatives at this point in my life, but do not want to rule out this option for the future. I would also like to buy my sister a testing kit as well to compare our results.I am on a budget right now, but maybe later I can test with another company to compare my results even further. It seems as if using GEDmatch is a must so I will definitely upload my results there. Thank you for all of your very informative articles!

    • I do not know if it matters or not, but my sister looks like she is of African descent and I look more ethnically ambiguous. It sounded as if some tests were less accurate for those with African heritage.

  15. Dear Roberta,

    I have been reading your blog for some time now, and I see that you really are an expert in genetic genealogy. So, I want to ask for your opinion about my ethnicity admixture.

    According to FTDNA MyOrigins, I am 82% European (which is of no surprise to me. I am Lithuanian, and about 75% of my known ancestors are Lithuanians) and 18% Ashkenazi Jew. The latter is strange. So far, I did not find any Ashkenazi ancestors. Maybe I will. But just to clarify, is 18% a big enough number to be able to reject the possibility of error? (I did not test with other companies, and I did not yet do any research on gedmatch)

    One more interesting thing. I have also tested my father (95% European, 5% Central/South Asian) and my maternal grandmother (100% European). Unfortunately, my maternal grandfather died before I started genetic genealogy, and he did not have siblings. Now the question. Can we conclude from the data available, that all of my supposed Ashkenazi ancestry comes from my maternal grandfather? In that case he would have to be like 70% Ashkenazi??? To my knowledge, all 4 of his grandparents were Lithuanian. I did not research the earlier generations yet, so maybe I will find something…

    I would very much appreciate your comments on my situation.


  16. I just tested with Ancestry and uploaded my raw DNA file to FamilyTreedna and
    I would say that a good 25% of my cousin matches are Ashkenazim. Some of them cluster up in one chromosome, some in another. Except I test a big fat zero for European Jew! I have 4% middle eastern, 5% North African, 2% South Asian, and the rest a mixture of the Mediterranean. So…Sephardic Jew? I don’t know what to think! (My grandparents were all Spaniards, btw)

      • Sephardic, or Arabic great grandparents – probably more likely Arabic since there is far more Arab blood in Spain than Sephardic Jewish. The average Spaniard, especially Southern Spain is 25 percent Arab from the Moore conquests of Spain hundreds of years ago. Same with Southern Italy and Southern Greece. Less and Less likely as you go North into these countries and into Europe as a whole.

  17. This is an excellent article, but you forgot to mention that people without living parents or other older relatives should have their siblings tested with the same test(s) and calculate the averages in each geographical category. This will give a more reliable estimate of the parents’ ethnicities.

  18. Hello, I find this discussion very interesting and would like to get your opinion on my results. I tested with Ancestry DNA and was surprised to discover I had a trace amount for European Jew <1 ( the average between 0-2%), and 3% Eastern European. This was very unexpected as I am 39% Irish and 49% Western Eropean. I also have a 3% trace for the Caucasus region.
    I wondered if the European Jew was "noise" until I discovered two very Ashkenazi names in my lineage dating to the early 18th century: "Pharisien" (France) and "Seibert" (Germany). I then ran my DNA through Gedmatch's Eurogenes J-Test and got a 3.8% Ashkenazi result. In your opinion, is it likely I have distant Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry?

  19. Roberta, I really, really, need your help please.
    Hopefully this shouldn’t take too long.

    My uncles girlfriend needs to find out more about a suspected Jewish great, great grandmother from Russia. I am keeping names out of this because she has asked me to find answers as anonymously as possible up till now, although that may change over time.

    At first I assumed the branch of her family must have been Ashkenazi Jewish since she was from Russia (the ancestor), but other info I found is now leading to a more likely Sephardic Jewish origin. This branch of the family have a name that is common among Christians and Jews, but the Christian version seems more common in Hispanic countries than other Christian countries of Europe and is apparently also a Sephardic name, although not strictly only Sephardic. I might be slightly wrong on this assumption, but that is where I am at the moment and from what I have read online.

    She has done a DNA test with Family Tree DNA and the MyOrigins admixture ethnicity results show 100% European, broken down into 48% Western and Central Europe, 35 percent British Isles, 12% Scandinavia and 5 percent Southern Europe.

    There is no Jewish Diaspora, or Ashkenazi, or Sephardic showing.
    There is also no Middle East showing, or African, or Asian, although the last two of these show up in very very small amounts below 1% probably indicating just genetic noise.
    There is nothing else showing, no Turkey, or Asia Minor/Anatolia and no North African.

    All of this leads me into believing there is no Sephardic link because these last few usually show up for Sephardic Jews from what I have read. (there is currently no Sephardic category at all on Family Tree DNA results and so you have to figure that out for yourself).

    Too explain the Jewish suspected connection she talks about, I am looking at Sephardic, since no Ashkenazi Jewish has shown up on the test (no Jewish at all).

    As mentioned above there is no Turkish, Subaharan African, or North African together with the Southern European in the test result to confirm Sephardic origin. The Southern European in the result is interesting though because of the percentage shown (5 percent) matches very closely with the suspected Jewish percentage I calculated she should have from her Jewish Great Great Grandmother (around 6%).

    This is another reason, besides the surname that I am suspecting Sephardic Jewish descent which is not impossible for Jews in Russia although a little unlikely as most Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain went to Turkey and North Africa, not as many to Russia, or Eastern Europe although that is where most of the world’s Jews come from in recent history.

    I just read an article on Sephardic Jews confirming the surname of this relative definitely can be Sephardic. This just seems to confirm my suspicion even more.

    I have uploaded the info to Gedmatch and so far have only used the “MDLP K13 Ultimate Admixture” calculator on there. I will not now go into too much more detail, but it pretty much confirms the Family Tree Test results and elaborates a little on the different possible ethnicities from these regions. Proportions are about 10% different in some ethnicities though. Caucas Gedrosia (8.89 percent) seems to be a match the Southern European component (5 percent). Not sure if these are the same, but they are both the smallest percentages, so I have assumed that to be the case (except for the trace amounts considered genetic noise).

    Would you say there is enough genetic and family surname evidence to be reasonably sure that there is a small Sephardic component (around 5, or 6 percent)? If yes, what chance would you guess this is likely to be the case (eg. Are you 70 percent sure, 90 percent sure, etc)??

    I realise there is still more work to be done, but at this point what would you say so far?
    I am prepared to do more research on the genetic and family history side, although there is not much more on the family history side.

    But please let me know what you think so far in as much detail as possible.
    Are there people you know who ARE Sephardic Jews and who can show you and me their test results, or even if they are half, or quarter Sephardic.

    What do you think based on my info above so far?


    (I have not checked for cousin matched with Family finder yet.)

  20. My sisters dna showed <1% native american.
    My dna shows <1% west asia and <1% caucasus
    Does this mean she is native american and I'm not?

  21. how does a full name change effect your results? If at one time I was one named billy bob hammer and changed it to Truly truble magee. will this effect any of the results?? how accurate will my results be? I have no clue who my father is and mother is passed.

    • Your DNA is unchanged by a name change, so it doesn’t affect anything. I would suggest using your birth name for trees attached to your account because otherwise, people may neglect a very valid hint.

  22. Roberta – you are so kind to read, digest, and respond to everyone’s inquiries. I hate to add my voice to the load but this is something I just cannot stop thinking about and I’d love your take on it.

    AncestryDNA shows me as 40% Ashkenazi Jewish. 23andMe shows it at 47.7%. My son’s AncestryDNA results show him at 24%.

    Would this data lead you to believe that one of my parents were close to 100% Ashkenazi Jew? If that’s the case, this could be a classic case of “my daddy’s not my daddy”.

    Your thoughts?

    • I would never, ever interpret ethnicity tests as evidence of a nonpaternal event. Ethnicity estimates are interesting, but not meant to be used for this. You are much better off to find close relatives of your father, as in uncles, brothers, or your father himself to test. If your father is your father, you will match 2nd cousins of yours or closer on your father’s side utilizing the Family Finder test.

      Unfortunately, ethnicity tests can be all over the place. Also Family Tree DNA has the most experience of the three testing companies with Jewish genetic genealogy. Both owners are Jewish and they have a focus on that population. Here’s an article for you to read.

  23. Hi Roberta, I got my 23andme results back recently. My whole family is of Indian descent, including my parents, who were both born in India, as well as all 4 grandparents. To my surprise, my results show that I’m 50% South Asian and 50% Western European, mostly British/Irish. 23andme states that these are results based on the last 500 years of ancestry. I’d love to understand how I can interpret these results when both of my parents are clearly Indian – could these results be based on a single relative somewhere way back in my lineage? Would it have to be multiple relatives? From one side (seems likely to be as fairer skin runs more so on one side of my family vs. the other), or would it have to most likely be from both sides to get such a high European genetic composition?

  24. Question, I did an Ancestry Dna test and my results were what I kind of expected, but I want to know what the highest percentage of my Dna means since there were other percentages form other areas? for example I had 30% Cameroon which was the highest percent of everything, and 29% Ghana, now am I to assume most of my lineage if from Cameroon?

  25. Hello Roberta,

    I have what may be a silly question as I am a novice trying to learn the science of DNA and more specifically Ancestry Testing. I have completed two DNA tests from two different companies.
    One an automsomal and The an MTDNA. test. My autosomal was very surprising and showed a lot of Western European/Australian Aborigine mix. It also showed Mestiza from Northern Mexico (although I have no known ancestors from Australia or Mexico) . It also Showed Altai, and Inuit ancestory and showed I am most closely similar to the genetic admixture of populations of Northern Brazil (my family verbal history is all over the place so this makes some sense). However my MTDNA from Family Tree came back as Mt haplo group U, which to my understanding would point to almost exclusively European lineage, even though I supposedly have a Native American ancestor in my direct maternal line, (who was supposedly Ojibwe/Chippewa however the Automsomal did not find any Ojbbwe DNA)
    So confused!
    Thank you

  26. Just curious, going by the table you put. I show 3% African ancestry (97% British Isles/Western Europe). So would a good guesstimate as it were, be that my african ancestor around the 6th or 7th generation back? I had my mothers DNA checked as well and it and she has same approx percantage, my father has not been tested but his father has been and he shows none so I’m pretty sure this comes through my mothers line though i have not been able to prove yet.

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  28. Hello Roberta,

    I am adopted and I have done my DNA testing through 23andme and have come up with about 8% Native American DNA. My birth mom said that her grandfather was part Ojibwa so this would make sense. My only question would be is why I would have the haplogroup J?
    Would this still make sense?
    I do have quite a bit of Scandinavian ancestry which would align with haplogroup J.
    I have also been told that my birth father was southern European- mainly Greek, but I only show about 7% Southern European in my results and at the conservative level 58% broadly European. Could it be mixed in there somewhere regardless?

    Also, people who I am sharing my results with, who have similar European ancestry (mostly 3rd+ cousins) stay at about 98% European when in the conservative setting with 2% unassigned while I jump down to 85% European in the conservative setting.
    How do I have roughly 15% of my DNA unassigned with such a big jump while the others do not? Could this be more Native American DNA? I have heard that it is harder to assign because of sampling issues.

    Thank you for any further clarification!

  29. Hi Roberta!
    My Ancestry DNA result says that I am 95% Eastern European and possibly 5% Finnish/Northern Russian (low confidence region). Possible minute traces from Ireland, West Europe and South Asia, 0-0% Ashkenazi Jewish. Nothing suggesting Ashkenazi roots on GED match.
    Nothing except the fact that roughly 1/3 or 1/4 of my top 100 matches there are Ashkenazi Jewish. Including my second best match with whom I share 31 CMs on 3 different chromosomes (longest chunk 16 CMs) They all match me on a few segments on 3 chromosomes.
    3 out of 4 of these segments are painted mostly east med/ashkenazi on gedmatch chromosome browser. Though overall i only show very minute, if any east med, admixture in gedmatch Jtest calculator.
    Ancestry DNA timbered most of my AJ matches but some are still there and we do share 10-18 CMs, sometimes without having any ancestral/ethnic community in common.
    My ancestral regions are as I described above. One of my matches is listed as European Jew with one trace region in East Asia (probably noise). Yet we share 17 CMs on one chromosome.
    How is it possible? What does this mean?

    • Hi Ada. This kind of a question is impossible to answer in this type of context. If you follow my blog, you’ll know that in a small minority of cases, you can have a large match that is not valid. It’s probably that you have an ancestor. I can’t answer about whether the answer is your Jewish one or not. As you know, Ancestry Timbers out anything they think is too matchy of population based, unfortunately.

  30. Thanks Roberta for this excellent explanation. My Hungarian family and friends who have tested with FTDNA are frequently puzzled by significant percentages of British Isles ancestry, when we have no genealogical documentation identifying British ancestors. Am I correct in interpreting your comments to suggest some ancient DNA from the Celts may be the answer?

  31. I am wanting to take a test to find out if I’m Kewish. My grandmother took hers last week with Ancestery and said she is 3% European Jewish. If I take the DNA test will that show up on mine?
    Thank you

  32. Roberta,
    I’m on a journey to find my biological father. I recently found out through FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage that I’m almost 50% Askenazi Jew. I also had my mother tested and she came up as mostly British and some Norwegian. Does this mean that my father had to be a good percentage Jewish? Also, if I were to have half siblings could their DNA show up with no Jewish ethnicity?

    • Yes, assuming both are accurate – your father was probably highly Jewish. Your half siblings through your mother would not be Jewish, unless they too had a Jewish father. However, your siblings through your father, assuming he is mostly Jewish, would surely have some.

  33. Both of my daughters and I tested through 23 and me and the results were exactly the same: 99.9 western european—does this happen often or was there a screw up in the testing?

    • That’s not unusual, especially given that they have he same parents. You can always test both parents to see if that result is in line. Do keep in mind that these tests are only estimates.

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