LivingDNA Product Review

Living DNA entered the landscape for ethnicity testing in the summer/fall of 2016. Hands down, they win the contest for “cool logo.”

Ordering and Waiting

I ordered my test, and the results were frustratingly slow in arriving – more than 3 months after submission. Their website currently says “within 10-12 weeks our results will be ready to explore.” Speedy is not their middle name. At first I thought the delivery time of 12 weeks was a startup snafu, but apparently it’s their standard delivery window.

Sometimes vendors offer free tests with the hope of a good review. I typically order tests like any other customer from a vendor, because it’s not a fair review if the vendor knows they are testing someone who will likely review their product. In other words, I don’t want special treatment. However, in this case, I did complain to the Marketing Director and received my results shortly thereafter. I don’t know how long those results would have taken otherwise.


LivingDNA is a British company, registered in England and Wales. Their price in US dollars is normally $159 with an additional $9.95 for standard delivery (5-7 working days) or $39.95 for premium delivery (2-3 working days). At the time I ordered, US purchasers were required to purchase premium delivery, making the price of an ethnicity test effectively $199.

The LivingDNA ethnicity test costs substantially more than Ancestry or 23andMe at $99 or Family Tree DNA at $79, plus shipping. The other vendors products include ethnicity results plus matching to other testers and varying comparison tools. LivingDNA hopes to offer matching between testers in the future.

Terms and Conditions

Thankfully, Judy Russell recently provided a great overview and digestion of Living DNA’s terms and conditions. Please read Judy’s First look: Living DNA terms of use.

Vendors can and do modify their terms and conditions, so always read what any vendor provides, including any fine print.

LivingDNA’s Claims

The page that greets customers provides the following verbiage.

LivingDNA claims twice the detail of other ancestry tests. Detail, which means reference populations and regions in this case, does not necessarily equate to accuracy, but we’ll see how they fare in that department.

LivingDNA is the only company, to date, that offers ethnicity breakdown by regions within the British Isles, based on the POBI (People of the British Isles) project results funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Living DNA claims to have a 3-in-1 ancestry test, meaning ethnicity, mitochondrial and Y DNA, which isn’t exactly true, but it’s not entirely false either. It’s a matter of perception.

LivingDNA is a scan test that scans specified locations in your genome. Haplogroups, both Y and mitochondrial, are defined by specific locations that carry mutations. LivingDNA scans for Y and mitochondrial haplogroup mutations at some level, but they do not offer anything more for Y and mitochondrial DNA than the haplogroup designation. In other words, no detail and no matching. The LivingDNA results are in the same ballpark as 23andMe or the Genographic project, but much less detailed than Family Tree DNA. Ancestry doesn’t offer any Y or mtDNA results, haplogroup or otherwise. To see a detailed comparison of Y and mtDNA testing and who provides what, please refer to Which DNA Test is Best?

LivingDNA does not offer DNA matching, nor do they currently provide a download raw data file so that you can upload your results elsewhere. They indicated in a February Rootstech conference call that they want to move towards both of these goals.

All major vendors (with the exception of Genographic) provide free updates to existing customers when they update their data base, so it’s good that LivingDNA does too.

As for the LivingDNA claim to “view your ancestry through history,” let’s take a look and see what they deliver.


Notice on the left hand side of the page that I have two options under Ancestry:

  • Family Ancestry – your ethnicity results
  • Motherline – your mitochondrial DNA results

If I were a male, I would also have Fatherline.

Where ever you are on the site, additional options are always shown on the upper left hand side of the page.

Mother Line – Mitochondrial DNA

First, let ‘s look at my mitochondrial DNA results. Your Motherline options are shown on the bar to the left of your page.

The “Download Results” function has not yet been implemented.

The first Motherline page provides an overview.

I know already that my full haplogroup through full sequence testing at Family Tree DNA is J1c2f. Let’s see what LivingDNA tells me.

Living DNA shows my haplogroup as J1c, which isn’t incorrect as far as it goes, but isn’t complete either.

Living DNA gives me an option to ‘take a tour” of my results, so I did. The heat map, below, shows the locations of my “mother line haplogroup.” Heat maps are hotter, or darker, meaning more intense, where the frequency is greater.

Please note that you can click on any image to enlarge.

I’m not clear whether LivingDNA is displaying a map for haplogroup J1c, or core haplogroup J, given the “hottest” region shown is, surprisingly, Yemen. J1c is typically considered to be European, so surely this map must be referring to haplogroup J plus all subgroups.

The LivingDNA heat map is significantly different than the spatial frequency map for haplogroup J, shown below, published in the academic paper, Genetic Stratigraphy of Key Demographic Events in Arabia published in PLoS ONE in March 2015 by Fernandes et al.

Next, Living DNA discusses the genetic migration for haplogroup J.

Followed by a migration map.

Haplogroup J is shown in Europe here. What happened to Yemen? From this map, it looks like J was born near the Black Sea and traveled directly to Europe, which certainly doesn’t track with the heat map or the PLoS ONE article.

Last, the phylogenetic tree showing the path from Mitochondrial Eve, the first known woman to have offspring that lived to today, to me. I notice in this tree that the migration map above omits haplogroup JT between R and J.

Fatherline – Y DNA

Clearly, being a female, I don’t carry a Y chromosome, but the Y DNA section holds the same pages of information as the mitochondrial DNA section, above, which you also receive if you are a male.

Family Ancestry

The Family Ancestry section is where you will find your autosomal ethnicity results.

You have four options, shown on the left bar.

The first page you will see offers you the option to take a tour and then provides basic information.

In the “What Makes You” section, my results show that I’m 93.4% European and 6.6% unassigned in the rest of the world.

Well, that’s pretty boring, but there’s more.

Click on the “+” to the right of the word “Global” which shows regional results, shown below.

Clicking on the “+” again shows the full breakdown, including the British Isles detail. They could certainly make finding this information more intuitive than “+” and “-“. I suspect a lot of people miss this detail, and if you’re testing for ethnicity, which is all LivingDNA offers today, this IS the important part of the test.

You can click on each region to show history about that region, but I surely wish they had shown a map of the British Isles with the sub-region highlighted instead of the image of the body. It’s impossible to discern which present day counties are included in which LivingDNA regions.

My English ancestors whose locations I know are from Lancashire and Kent, and I can’t tell which of the English regions referenced by LivingDNA would include the locations my ancestors are from.

Ireland, on the other hand, is pretty self-explanatory, but is also a pretty large area.

The Family Ancestry Map shows the locations where your ancestors were found.

Clicking “explore in full” and then the “+” button shows me the following, as does the “Through History” selection.

I’m 72.5% Great Britain and Ireland and 12% North and West European and 6.2% unassigned European which is reflected on the map below, with the darker area having the higher frequency. However, please note that the legend and map are reversed.  On the legend, the Europe unassigned at 6.2% is shown as the darkest shade of green, where on the map, the Great Britain and Ireland shown at 75.2% is shown as the darkest, which is accurate if you are using heat maps.

Click on the “+” sign once again moved to subregions showing the detail of where your ethnicity is found.

Clicking on the region at left shows the associated region on the map.

Please note that some of the features both above and below did not display correctly, or at all, using a PC with either Edge or Internet Explorer browsers.  MACs did better.

Another really easy to miss feature is the “click here” just above the word “standard” which allows you to view your family ancestry at different points through history, beginning with 500 years ago. I really like this video type feature as it shows you the movement of your ancestors with time.

Expanding back in time.

At the bottom of each time period is some history to go along with the time period you’re viewing.

Clicking on the Chart option, shows the following.

How Accurate is Living DNA’s Ethnicity?

I wrote the article “Calculating Ethnicity Percentages” to explain how to determine, based on your known genealogy, what to anticipate in your ethnicity percentages, and to compare the various vendors’ accuracy, although Family Tree DNA has since released an update since that article was published.

For purposes of comparison, I calculated all of my 64 GGGG-grandparent’s ethnicity percentages – each individual accounting for approximately 1.56% of my DNA today.

The following chart shows how LivingDNA compared with my known genealogy.

LivingDNA significantly overestimated my total British Isles. My known and inferred British Isles, based on surnames and colonial American records, is no more than 50.7%, while Living DNA shows it at half again as much, at 75.2%. That’s simply not possible, given the immigration records of my ancestors and the proven locations of their origins in Germany, the Netherlands and France.

I can’t align the known locations of my British or Scottish ancestors with the British Isles regions shown, so I really don’t know if the subregion breakdown within the British Isles is accurate or not. That’s not a problem with the LivingDNA analysis, but is due to the fact that my British Isles ancestry with proven locations is scant.

LivingDNA shows Scandinavian that I don’t show in my genealogy, but they aren’t alone, as we’ll see in a minute when we look at how they stack up to the other vendors.

LivingDNA badly missed the mark for my German which is proven at 25% and my Dutch proven at 14%, although clearly that unassigned European probably comes from that grouping. Living DNA shows Germanic at 9%.

LivingDNA clearly struggled with DNA outside of Europe, as they could not identify any DNA anyplace else in the world. Other vendors have identified Middle Eastern, North African and Native American. Of those, only the Native American is solidly proven.

Altogether, with unassigned Europe and unassigned in the rest of the world, 12.8% of my DNA is unassigned.

Compared to Other Vendors

I’ve updated the chart below to include the LivingDNA results along with the new Family Tree DNA update that occurred in April 2017. The only vendor results which are not the results provided by vendors with a current test is the Genographic project, whose ethnicity results changed in November 2016 when they switched their testing vendor to Helix. I have not retested at Genographic. I have included Genographic in the chart, but excluded them in the comparison because their categories are so broad as to not be functionally comparable to the major vendors and the results are obsolete at this point.

Compared to the other three major vendors, Living DNA was the worst at determining my British Isles ethnicity percent as compared to other regions. Family Tree DNA was the best.

All vendors showed Scandinavian, which is not reflected in my genealogy. The school of thought most prevalent is that Scandinavian is possibly reflective of Viking ancestry that was so ingrained into the population as to remain a constant today. That may be true, at least to some extent. LivingDNA shows less Scandinavian than anyone else, making them the most accurate in this category given that I have no known Scandinavian genealogy.

LivingDNA was second worst in determining my Dutch/French/German heritage if you presume that all of the 6.2% European unassigned fell into that group. If you don’t make that presumption, then LivingDNA was the worst. 23andMe was the best.

LivingDNA had the highest amount of unassigned at 6.6% of any vendor while Family Tree DNA and Ancestry assigned all of my DNA and 23andMe only has .1% unassigned.

LivingDNA missed my Native altogether, while all three other vendors found it, even though it is a small percentage.


LivingDNA did not perform well in any category relative to ethnicity as compared to the other major vendors with the exception of Scandinavian. Surprisingly, they placed last in the British Isles category which is their area of expertise.

Some of my British Isles heritage is inferred, which could theoretically have raised my genealogical percentage of DNA if I am incorrect in my inference. In other words, in reality, my British Isles heritage % could be even lower than the 50.7% shown on the chart. It’s also possible that amount is slightly low, but my British Isles can’t be much higher because more than 45% of my genealogy is unquestionably proven elsewhere with relatively recent German and Dutch immigrants. So, at most, my British Isles can’t be more than 55%.

If LivingDNA had shown less British Isles than my genealogy, I would have been accepting of that information, given that their specialty is supposed to be British Isles ethnicity and some of my British Isles is inferred. However, LivingDNA was 50% higher than my own calculations, showing 75.2%.

My mitochondrial haplogroup at Living DNA was not incorrect, but it was incomplete, showing only 2 of 4 branches of haplogroup J, as proven by full mitochondrial sequencing. By comparison, the two other vendors who provide the same type of scan tests for mitochondrial and Y DNA, 23andMe shows me as J1c2 and the Genographic Project 2.0 test shows me as J1c2f. Family Tree DNA shows me as J1c2f as well, but their mitochondrial DNA test is more comprehensive and is a separate test altogether, not included in their Family Finder autosomal test.

I can’t correlate my known English genealogy to specific regions as reported by LivingDNA because my only ancestors whose British Isles locations are specifically known came from London, a melting pot from all over the rest of England, Kent and Lancashire, so I can’t pass any judgement as to the relative accuracy of LivingDNA’s British Isles breakdown except to say my known Irish appears to be accurate.

What I can say is that for anyone who doesn’t have primarily British Isles DNA, or entirely British Isles DNA, I would not recommend this test given the issues noted above. Additionally, LivingDNA is substantially more expensive at $149 than the competing products at $99 (23andMe and Ancestry) and $79 (Family Tree DNA,) all of whom also include matching.

For this test to be useful, the tester would need to be nearly or entirely British and have their genealogy proven to specific regions within the British Isles in fairly recent generations to ascertain accuracy. For me, with a high level of American colonial DNA mixed with relative recent ancestors from western Europe, the test fared poorly.

I would be very interested in knowing the accuracy from the standpoint of multiple testers whose ancestors are entirely from the British Isles and have proven an extensive genealogy back through their 64 GGGG-grandparents. In other words, are the regions within the British Isles accurate?

Keep in mind that all ethnicity tests are really estimates and vary based on the reference panels used by the vendor and the algorithms the vendor uses internally to assign your DNA to specific ethnicities.  LivingDNA points out on their website that inheritance is not a constant at 50% per generation (of ancestral DNA being passed to the next generation) and ethnicity testing is not an exact science – and they are right, on both counts.

In other words, your mileage will vary – a lot.



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62 thoughts on “LivingDNA Product Review

  1. What I find interesting is that there is another player in a field already crowded. Did they do a market feasibility study to determine if there is room for them. What will their carrot be to entice people to test with them. What do they think distinguishes them from their competitors. Just wondering.

    Thanks, Roberta, for keeping up informed.

    • I would guess they are targeting European public who could be worrying over what law apply to their DNA in the United States. Plus there is less time to wait and less fees to pay with a Europe based company.

      For the moment, they are really specialized in British Isles and England much more precisely, but I guess they will try to make their algorithm more efficient for the rest of Europe and progressively for the rest of the world.

      The already saturated American market is probably not in their aim for the moment.

    • I mean: circumvent the system of a company that does not want the Brazilians as customers, as some brazilians do.*

  2. There can be British ancestry in your Dutch and German ancestors. For example, my husband has Dutch ancestry, but delving into that ancestry, we learned that an English gent migrated to The Netherlands around 1700-1710 and married a Dutch girl — thus the surname Addison emigrating from The Netherlands to America in the mid 1800s. This ancestry would have been more disguised had my husband descended from a female offspring of Jonas Addison of Hatfield, England.
    Combine that with the uneven inheritance from so far back, and a bit of extra English might not be so far fetched.

    • I made a LivingDna test showing 85% Great Britain. I’m from Lower Saxony in Germany and don’t have a single English ancestor.

      • Living DNA puts me at 75% British Isles as well, but I am a product of recent immigration to US and Canada so we know from where they all came. Scotland could be 50% but no higher, and the rest is Sweden, Finland and Poland/Ukraine — not very close and no surnames back to 1700s are even remotely British. Interestingly, none of those 3 show up at all, just Baltic and Russian (OK, Finland could be Baltic…). Anyone else out there have their British DNA badly overestimated by this British DNA firm?

        • I just got my results, which also show very high British Isles: 83% because only one grandfather, a fairly recent immigrant to the US, was from GB. The other three grandparents were from different countries (2 from the Netherlands, the other from lower Germany, but I believe was originally Jewish). Yet the report showed no Dutch ancestry at all. I have read the possible reasons why. I was very skeptical of the breakdowns. I know that my Dutch grandparents and their relatives were from a part of the country inhabited by many Spanish settlers. My relatives are dark haired, dark eyed and very short, very different from the typical Dutch.

  3. My results are expected in July – as you say, Roberta, not speedy. I am anxious to see what they say, as I am one of those mainly British Isles people you speak of. My mother’s family comes from Ulster in Ireland and has also been found on the Isle of Man, which might account for all those Scandinavian matches I get (Vikings would go along with Manx history). My father, OTOH, has a strong American colonial (Mayflower) ancestry, PLUS more recent ancestors from Wales and Somerset in England. These latter two lines have been traced back to only the mid-18th century, so there might be some room for variety there. I had wanted a male on my father’s surname line (Tefft) to test, because we know nothing about the progenitor’s origins except that he came from England in the 1630s, but couldn’t find a direct descendant. Perhaps one will pop out of the woodwork sometime and perhaps the Living DNA results will improve. Perhaps before I’m gone?


  4. Roberta,

    Regarding your various Scandinavian ethnicity estimates, do you receive many matches on GEDmatch with kits having e-mail domain extensions like .no, .se, .dk, .is, or

      • Interesting. My Scandinavian ethnicity estimates are the following:

        Ancestry: 26%
        FTDNA: was 10%, then 3% Finland and Northern Siberia, now 0% Finland and Northern Siberia or Scandinavia.

        As of yet, I have not been able to pin down a known Scandinavian ancestor on paper (My documented genealogical tree is not very developed at this time). However, I do tend to receive a good number of matches on with Scandinavian (or Finnish) names/surnames that have domain extensions like the ones I listed…these are conservative matches across various chromosome pairs/segments. I would think that you would likely see some of this yourself if you had fairly recent shared ancestry originating in Scandinavia.

      • Living DNA assigns me with 6.6% Scandinavian, FTDNA 18%. I have no known Scandinavian ancestors but several 5th cousins in Scandinavia on Family Finder. I have 6 g-grandparents who came from Ireland and LivingDNA has me at 8.6 Ireland and 1.6% SW Scotland and Northern Ireland, 25.7% NW Scotland. The rest of my English regions seem about right for my known ancestry.

  5. It must be remembered we do not inherit autosomal DNA from all of our ancestors 500 years ago. As such, these tests can only make predictions based on the limited number of ancestors we actually did inherit some DNA.

    This inheritance pattern is believed to be random, and it is quite possible the random nature of inheritance skews the results. As a simple hypothetical example, a person may be 50% English and 50% German from their “paper” genealogy, but only 25% English and 75% German from their aDNA inheritance.

    We certainly cannot entirely “fault” a DNA test for incorrectly giving the percentage of our ancestry from different regions when at least some of this “blame” properly belongs to the random nature of inheritance.

    • It surely would be nice if the random nature of inheritance was reflected with any consistency by multiple vendors. Looking st the results, it isn’t today. LivingDNA is the furthest afield from the only accurate tool we have which is our own genealogy.

  6. Hi Roberta,

    I am waiting for the results of the Living DNA tests for both my parents any day now.

    I have been closely reading the Living DNA threads on Anthrogenica and it seems most people are generally happy with their results but there are a few issues:

    – people with German ancestry such as yourself are finding that some of it is showing up as East Anglia (this may be because East Anglia had the highest levels of Anglo-Saxon immigration during the dark ages)
    – People with Irish ancestry are finding lower than expected levels of Irish
    – People with Scottish ancestry are debating where the boundaries between some of the regions within Scotland should be.

    Living DNA does have plans to fix these things. They are adding in an Irish regional breakdown in about 8 weeks and they have started work on a project to do a regional breakdown of Germany. So hopefully if you come back in a year, your results will look much better!

    As a Brit, I’m very excited about my results as I’m hoping it will give me some clues as to where my London ancestors originally came from.

    I agree that Living DNA aren’t as good as the others currently but I’m willing to cut them a lot of slack as they don’t have the resources of Ancestry and as I think they have the potential to have a really great product a year or 2 down the line. I’m hoping if they succeed they can get a lot more Brits testing and help fill in the gaps.

    Best Wishes


  7. Roberta,
    That you for a very comprehensive review of Living DNA. I tested with them because I am 50% British Isles/Ireland, and I cannot connect positively to one region. I’m hoping for the best.

  8. It seems an issue right now, that Dutch or North German ancestry is mistaken, probably because of the Anglo-Saxons, and misinterpreted as East-Anglian or Sout-East English. If you interpret those as Germanic, it should already make a difference. They are doing a German project, so this might be finetuned probably next year.

  9. I liked the human figures made of dots. Very cute, but it’s not a novel idea. It brought to mind pointillism.

    This is “Eye Candy”.

    Q: Why are all the GG sites now providing ‘eye candy’?
    A: Because they want to attract business, attracting people like flies to honey, or moths to the flame. For them, they know that’s where the money is, at this moment. And their competition, in all the GG sites also know where the money is.

  10. It is fairly obvious by now that people with German ancestry are often having it placed in their Southeast England & East Anglia categories. In fact, they recognized the problem from the start and made reference to it in their technical notes. One of the things I appreciate about LDNA is that they let you know where they may be having a problem. So in my case, I was able to make the appropriate adjustments, which balanced things out and brought my results more in line with my own calculations. It may also explain why they’ve started recruiting participants for a fine scale analysis of Germany. They’ve also been expanding their sample sizes in both Ireland & Scotland where some have complained about under reporting for those areas. So it would appear that they’ve been working on their problems and hopefully it’ll be reflected in some of their future upgrades.

    “Technical Note

    East Anglia and the Southeast are the regions of the UK most similar to Germanic populations such as Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands.

    If you have Southeast England ancestry that you didn’t expect: If you expected Germanic ancestry, then it is likely that it has been mistaken for British ancestry. If you expected British ancestry, but not East Anglian, then it is possible that you possess a slightly higher Anglo-Saxon ancestry proportion than expected and East Anglia is used to represent this.

    If you have Southeast England ancestry but it is not inferred as strongly as expected: This appears to empirically be quite rare, so it may be real; however, this ancestry can sometimes be spread over several neighbouring populations.”

  11. Hi Roberta,

    Thank you for the review of Living DNA, as a company we are really keen on education and supporting people to connect with their ancestry and the fact of the diverse mix that we share within our DNA at different points in history. We developed the figures to help people, and the young adults in our anti-racism work, connect with their results but that is designed to be one way of looking at their information and for many a map or chart is more helpful.

    In terms of pricing the premium option was never a requirement so I do apologise if that occurred for you. We are also working to bring down the price but as the test includes atDNA & mtDNA (plus YDNA if you are male) there is quite a difference there.

    All that said the main area that we are working on is improving the Northern European ancestry estimation, with the adjustments that we are making (growing our databases) your results will see a substantial improvement. We are working flat out with hundreds of thousands of DNA samples at the moment and you’ll receive a full update later in the year.

    I do want to add that we are doing great results for people with Asian, Southern European, African etc. ancestry. The only area where the calling gets mixed is half a dozen countries in northern Europe, which is being addressed as the similarity to certain parts of the British Isles is very strong.

    We appreciate your feedback on the haplogroup map for J and will have our team review this.

    We are also working on reducing down our pricing but as a company that does not sell your data or charge a yearly subscription fee we have to look at where the finances come from.

    Warmest Regards

    David Nicholson
    MD – Living DNA

  12. Hello I am new to this interesting Blog, I was wondering do you know or heard about any updates on AncestryDna in their algorithm since the current one is pretty broad and does not give me a lot of information. I am mostly Polish as well as I have distant German and Austrian ancestry also how can I find out if my ancestor was from a specific ethnicity? I assume I have german due to the last name my ancestor had witch is Sattel not really polish but when I did my research mostly poles and germans showed up and I don’t know what to think. While my austrian is not fully documented i have their last name and there are family tales about them. My austrian ancestors seem to marry ones with the german last names.

  13. Got my Living DNA results a few weeks ago; for comparison, I have my Big 3 vendor results plus 30 years of paper research. I can segregate my immigrant ancestors to the U.S. into two distinct groups: 1610-1775, and 1845-1870.

    For my non-UK heritage, I have the similar experience of my German disappearing into East Anglia, my East Europe (Lithuania-Poland) missing in action, etc.

    But, my UK ancestry (average 40% from all sources) is especially why I took this test, and first I note that Living DNA doubled that to 84%.

    Putting that aside, let’s look at the breakdown; I have 14 UK sub-regions.

    The easiest for me to sync up are two regions: 10% Cornwall and 10% Scotland. These logically derive from four mid-19th c. immigrant GG grandparents, two from N.Ireland/Scotland, and two from Cornwall.

    But, the rest of my UK heritage comes through eight GG grandparents who descend from the 1610-1775 immigrants. (The UK is blended with a smaller portion of German-Dutch-French). I do know the geographic origins for many of those ancestors, spread across the southern half of England.

    And, what are my remaining UK sub-regions from L-DNA? They are spread all across southern England. In some cases, I can sync up the regions to specific ancestors, with a few “mystery regions” that are still plausible.

    I look forward to the refinements to come, but right now find most interesting that for the first time I see “tentative proof” that I’ve inherited ethnicity from both “older” and “newer” ancestors, when I might have expected that the 400-year-old segments would have washed themselves out more than they did.

  14. Hi Roberta,
    As a comparision I thought I’d comment on my results. I am Australian and we use the term Angloceltic to refer to my type of ethnic background – that is, all UK & Ireland. I know the UK county of origin for most of my forbears except for 2 London families circa 1800 who could have come from anywhere (one is most likely North Wales). At FTDNA I show as 96% British Isles with 4 trace elements of 1% each. Unfortunately, they don’t even break it up between Anglo Saxon and Celtic, so I find the result useless. At Ancestry, I am 51% English, 35% Irish (ie Celtic) and 14 % split between Scandanavian and Europe West. The 2/3rds Anglo 1/3 Celtic accords reasonably well with my paper research. I have no known Scandinavian or Europe West and presume this is medieval vikings and flemish weavers of Kent circa 1300.
    At Living DNA I am 99% British Isles. The region/county split has been very useful. I am 41% South East England (one grandfather is pure Kent & Sussex and 2 other grandparents have some Kent) and nearly all of the regions I can assign to the applicable ancestor in roughly the right percentages, including 1.3% Orkney for my GGGGGrand mother from Thurso.
    The intriguing bit is the 12% Cumbria – I have no known ancestors from Cumbria. I’m starting to wonder if my GG Grandmother from London had Cumbrian roots (she is a brickwall).
    For me, Living DNA has been the most useful test as far as ethnicity is concerned.
    Thanks for writing your blog. It has helped me to understand the new world of DNA testing for genealogy!

    • Ditto here, Wendy. My results just came through – quite a bit earlier than predicted, BTW. I am in a similar situation (see my message above May 5) and also have one subregion I cannot ascribe to an ancestor. Looking forward to the matching and future additions to the program. Angloceltic sounds good to me.

  15. Pingback: Beware – LivingDNA Requires Customer to Indemnify Company to Download Raw Data | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  16. Did you consider that perhaps there is an illegitimate Scandinavian ancestor in your line? It’s not uncommon, and a little more likely than a Viking gene that stayed unmutated since before the Norman conquest.

    We all have bastardy in our lineage; it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

    There must be something to it if all the tests are picking it up.

    • Yes, apparently they did DNA tests of men all over Britain in the last few years and found Scandinavian DNA in every corner of the Isles. Previously they had thought it was limited to the East of Britain but it seems the Scandinavians interbred more than they thought! haha.

  17. I received my results from this test a few weeks ago and when I logged into the page and noticed that they assigned me an unusually high amount of British Iles ancestry (twice that given by Ancestry DNA and Family Tree DNA 2.0) , and the rest was unassigned I was really disappointed as I really thought this would the best dna test ever created given their contention that they offer twice the detail of other tests. How can a test with supposedly twice the detail of other tests give so much unassigned ancestry and such an inflated amount of British Iles; way beyond what is possible given my paper trail ?

    • I am also reading on Anthrogenica that several people who tested with Living Dna have already received updates in their ethnicity estimates. One individual even claiming that he has had three so far. My estimates have not changed at all. I will try to be patient however and hope for the best…

  18. Pingback: Which Ethnicity Test is Best? | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  19. Hi, well I got my results back and found their site usage confusing and the mechanics of the site useless and silly, do I really need to see a human outline that when you hit it, it dissolves then goes back together, why? The interactive map is stupid, you get a list of the gen. %’s let say Italy, you hit that and the map comes up & shows you Italy….Wow had no idea where that was! I was more interesting in the ancients from Africa, so it shows you migration lines but you click on them and again nothing, no timeline, no info at all. I’m waiting for the book, I’m hoping it gives a lot more detail than the site cause as of now I can’t recommend this test, yeah some of it was interesting but overall it’s a big snooze, you don’t get a very big bang for the buck. I really like the Nat Geo. I did back in 05 & was hoping this because the tech. has advanced so much since then it would really get closer to the history of these ancient groups, but in a way it was less.
    Their site is somewhat useless and redundant as every time you leave a page it goes back to the beginning, why? Maybe if you are a professional you can get more out of this site but as a average person for the money I feel it’s going to leave you flat after about 15 mins. of looking. Depending on the book as of now on a scale of 1-10 I give it a 4. It’s not what & how it’s marketed, you get the flash but a confusing mess of BS.
    Maybe they do this so you buy the book, I’ll let you know…………M

  20. I took LDNA because I live in the UK and have a “paper trail” that indicates most of my recent 10 generations Ancestors are from the England and Scotland. For this reason the LDNA test seemed like a no brainer as it splits the results into counties which for the most part seem to be roughly what was expected . I do had a higher than expected Scandinavian result but that is due to the historic influx of Danish (Vikings) and Normans (orginally Viking)in the areas that a lot of my ancestors where. Most of the other tests are so woolly when it comes to Europe that they are not worth taking for me and I hate that they wipe out all Scottish Welsh and Cornish ancestory by saying you are Irish. You see it in you tube DNA reveals when people are trying to work out who their Irish ancestors where – when they might well look at Scotland. I still have some research to do but atm I the earliest i can find mention of Ireland is in the 12 Century. I look forward to the future developments as I know that they are working on mapping the Irish counties and also the regions with in Germany. I am hoping that they will do the same for Scandinavia as that would be interesting. It is an ongoing project and they are refining it all the time and once you have brought the test they will update you on any refined result relating to your breakdowns.


    • Are you saying they distinguish Scotland from Great Britain? I was wondering why the testing companies can give Ireland a category, but have not given Scotland a category. Giving Scotland a category would be important to me.

      • Yes its is split at the moments into Northwest Scotland ( which is Highland and Islands and the Northern most tip of Northern Island ) – Aberdeenshire which covers a great deal of the eastern cost – from Aberdeen to midway through Fife – then the Orkaneys – from John O Groats – through the Orknays and up to Shetland. Its probably best to check with them . There is also South west Scotland which is from about Glasgow down through Ayr and part of the boarders. South East Scotland is included with Nothumbria and stretches from Durhams throgh the boards and half way through Fife. I know they have had requests from people in Scotland to define it a bit more – but I suppose it is a work in progress . Whatever it is certainly more useful than cumbersome ones like Ancestory lumping everyone into Ireland.


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  22. The thing about Living DNA, getting ahold of a POBI researcher (Living DNA uses POBI), is it is very much about “surface” ancestry. As the POBI researcher told me if they did deeper ancestry – great-grandparents instead of grandparents – they would have far fewer samples as few would have great-grandparents within the mileage criteria. One doesn’t need to be a statistician to realize there’s something “fishy” about that.

    But then such isn’t surprising if anyone knows more than rather basic history about the UK. There’s been a **lot** of movement in England since the Industrial Revolution. There’s also the fact that there has been immigration into England for the same reason – I know there were Swedish/Norwegian men in Durham England, for example, of all places taking advantage of the growing mines during the late 1700s and early 1800s even. And prior – there were enough Poles in England, for example, that not only did Shakespeare write about them but they were part of the colonial expansion.

    So despite its lauding as a “better” DNA site, it isn’t. It is very good for colonists in that many can barely trace their ancestry back across the pond. Or for people whose family trees are as full of holes as a piece of swiss cheese. It serves to “confirm” their assumptions. But having had a running discussion about my grandfather’s ancestry and Living DNA’s assinine responses it isn’t that good if you know your English ancestry beyond 2nd great-grandparents.

    • English ancestry – I should say UK ancestry. When they say they are beginning to identify Scotland accurately. Given the Clearances I doubt it. They’d need to have sampled areas like the Braetongue to get accurate and given as Living DNA specifically says references are to *come to them* not that they go to the remote areas how many old Scots or old Irish are going to bother. Scots and Irish who aren’t so certain of their authenticity, on the other hand, will go in droves.

      • Let me get this clear – you are presuming that absolutely no Highlanders remained in Scotland after the Clearances and that Scotland was an empty land. Sorry but its just not true as I’m sure plenty of Scottish would be happy to tell you in many dialects.

      • There are lots of genealogy related reason to take DNA tests. Family Tree DNA offers three different types of tests, Y, mtDNA and autosomal (Family Finder) that will match you with other people. Those tests are much more informative than the ethnicity tests for genealogy. I personally took the LivingDNA test to report on it. I would probably not have taken this test were it not for the fact that I write this blog.

      • Norma – chipchase doesn’t say there are no Highlanders left. He/she mentions the Braetongue where it is known a number of people fled to from the Clearances. Anyone who knows about Scotland knows they went north, south into England, or across the pond.

        But there are plenty of British “interlopers” – even if they have Scottish surnames, dig deeper and they likely have British ancestry – living in the Highlands because that was one of the major reasons for the Clearances. Clearing out the “useless” Scottish and making way for “useful” British. Not to mention Scotland has always been dirt cheap property wise compared to England.

      • Norma – there’s also the fact Living DNA/POBI specifically says they didn’t go to the remote towns where accurate ancestry is more probable. Or at least ancestry that goes beyond a, in many ways, meaningless grandparent level ancestry given population movement in the last 100-200 years.

        So how many references come from these remote towns where lack of population movement would mean their DNA is likely distinctive. I mean most of these DNA sites say Orkney references, for example, can “trace” their ancestry there… means jack.

        So a number of references likely don’t know jack about their ancestry beyond grand or great-grandparents claiming they do indeed represent an area when they don’t. I know a number of people whose results are rather inaccurate to known ancestry & you can’t blame an NPE because there are no unknown cousins to support that.

  23. None of the companies can estimate western and north western European ancestries properly. The problem is that they created the unusually specific “British” reference very early, which is far more specific that the other European references. As they do not have such specific references from the neighbouring populations, this means “British” also partially cover Danish, Dutch, Northern France, Norway, Faroe Islands, Iceland and probably other regions too. I know of several Danish people who have taken some of the tests, and they tests as mainly British. They have no British ancestry whatsoever. The test they took is AncestryDNA and 23andME, but the effect of having specific British references will be the same for all genetic testing companies (at this point in time).

    Dutch ancestry may appear as either generic Western or NW European, or British. In some cases, British ancestry will also appear as part Scandinavian in some cases, as the Scandinavian reference is also too specific – and doesn’t really cover Scandinavia very well.

    It’s also worth mentioning that genealogical lineages do not correlate with genetic inheritance. We do not inherit a specific amount of DNA from any specific grandparent, and this effect can be accumulated the farther back you go. The average will be that people inherit 25% from each grandparent, but for an individual’s specific ancestries, the percentages can vary a lot. So if your genealogical data shows that 25% of your ancestry is Dutch, then it will not necessarily be so that 25% of your DNA originates from that specific ancestry. Also, men will always inherit slightly more from their mother than their father, and if they have daughters this higher percentage will be transferred nearly intact.This is because the X-chromosome is much larger than the Y-chromosome.

    This unfortunately creates a problem of a lack of control in some cases. For people of mixed European ancestry, there will not necessarily be any direct correlation between genealogical data and genetic data, and it’s impossible to know what the true percentages are. Since the genetic data also has false positives for neighbouring countries, it cannot be relied on to show such detailed ancestry as LivingDNA does.

    Unfortunately a lot of people believe the results they get, but they are only reliable in general terms. The more specific the date, the less reliable it is.

    This is not what people want to hear, the fact that they cannot know whether their test is reliable no matter what they know about their ancestries. What they CAN know is that every single of the tests are unreliable.

  24. We’ve tested our father’s DNA wit livingDNA. His papertrail leads back to 1490 on several lineages and we’ve tracked down about 150 direct ancestor-pairs. All are Dutch, with a few (3) exceptions who are German.

    In the overview from livingDNA it was said he was 68.6% Great Britain and Ireland, 17,9% Europe (South) and 9.5%Europe North and West.. And when I zoom in, it only says 2,3% Germanic.

    I’ve read somewhere that a lot of DNA from Brabant (the region in the Netherlands we come from) gets confused with DNA from the British Isles. It’s really confusing!

    I think it’s better to dive in the paper trail, you’ll come across some nice stories about your ancestors, and with the internet it’s becoming much easier, although you have to be carefull to double-check..

  25. Hi Roberta, I recently got my results back from LivingDNA. They gave me 1.1% Central Asian (Chuvashia) DNA. Could my Central Asian DNA be related to Native American ancestry? Also, my maternal results were interesting. I am H13a1a1. It showed that the highest country on my match list was Tuareg (Fizzan) Africa. Does this meant that there a lot of kits that are H13 in Tuareg?

  26. A friend finally got her results from them after waiting just over 4 months. She reports that they missed her exact Haplogroup and put her at 60% UK when she got 32% on 23andMe.
    She is mixed with Greek and Spanish mainly. They have not replied to her request for a refund. Just boilerplate language explaining her results.

  27. I actually thought they were pretty accurate against familytreedna autosomally, as familytreedna had assigned me as a Scot with Amerindian and various Asian groups. Although the main thing does remain. I’m Scottish with one German grandparent so obviously a British based tester will be more accurate. Regionally, there were only minor inconsistencies in where British genetics were (they pulled me towards Wales, but haven’t got any real welsh ancestry recently).

    Haplogroups are done on a chip in Living DNA, which makes them generalised- like most haplogroup ancestry tests, and thus they are
    worse and may as well not be included- I got T2b which is consistent with all other providers (even wegene, LOL) although familytreedna gave a much better result as it involved whole genome sequencing.

    The most accurate autosomal results were 23andme whilst familytreedna was worse than DNAland, autosomally.

    I would say that Living DNA could have promise as time goes on, and they get more non European DNA but to us in the old world who don’t have many rather ‘exotic’ markers in our DNA, Living DNA works out alright- only a little worse than 23andme.
    The British isles regional dna is interesting, and other than the Welsh pull was accurate- even correctly predicting DNA in the English MidLands and the Kent area in south east England, whilst again correctly guessing that my Scottish ancestry is Aberdeen (I’m located now in Edinburgh so they couldn’t have used the shipping address to guess that).

  28. Worst value for money of any test I have taken. My mitochondrial haplogroup as determined by 23andMe (v3) is HV, Living DNA provided the same result – as for my Y-chromosome haplogroup Living DNA assigned me J-M267 (the branch point for J1). 23andMe assigned me to J-P58 (i.e. a more secific designation) – in fact I am J1-1853*. So the claims regarding motherline/fatherline are in no way matched by the reality – you’ll get a haplogroup or haplogroups assigned but they are about as low level as possible.

    Ethnicity testing – a joke. I have most of my British 4X grandparents. The regional map for the UK (17 regions) completely missed two regions where I know many of my ancestors originated – while highlighting 14 regions only one of which I have any connection to.

  29. Well, I bought the LivingDNA Kit because I wanted to know my haplogroups and if I paid for the individual tests offered by FTDNA would be more expensive. 23AndMe was not an option since it did not deliver to Brazil and I did not want to try to circumvent the system of a company that does not want the Brazilians as some people do.

    I think all these companies in general are losing market opportunity in Latin America. With the exception of MyHeritage who has really worked hard. Especially in Brazil, I have to admit.

  30. I realize this is about a year old blog post, but I just received my LivingDNA results and was curious about yours and other expert thoughts. Depending on the test (I have now tested with all the major 5), I am anywhere between 66% to 90% Great Britain, and Scandinavian anywhere between 3.3% to 22%. Depending on the test, other regions are either non-existent or are 5% or less.

    My research has revealed no Scandinavian lineage (yet), so I have assumed that it is from Viking migrations to the British Isles. LivingDNA links me to Northumbria, North Yorkshire, and Northwest Scotland (matches my paper trail) which are areas that Vikings traded/raided/settled.

    I tested right after purchasing at RootsTech this year, and received my results just last week (early June). I am going to test both of my parents, as my father has a high % of British and Irish DNA on Ancestry, but also has a good % of Western Europe. My mom is like me, mostly British with a bit of Scandinavian. Mother’s paper trail leads to Scotland on a few lines, and the rest British, mostly central and northern. Dad’s line is also central, Yorkshire, but his maternal grandmother’s line is Cornish, so I am curious to see if his % from Cornwall is higher than my 5%.

    Based on my research, I found that MyHeritage and 23 and Me are the least accurate on my ethnicity. But, my research may certainly be flawed…

    There is certainly a lot LivingDNA could improve upon. I know they plan to roll out matching, and I hope they make the sub-regional map moveable. It would be nice if they could also do an overlay of some of the larger cities/towns for those who may not be as familiar with the regions, but are looking for a particular city. I also wasn’t sure about the halpogroup heat maps accuracy….but I am still pretty much a novice at DNA so I haven’t spent much time in this area. 🙂

    I am looking forward to seeing how they grow and improve.

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