While this question is very straightforward, the answer is not.
I have tested with or uploaded my DNA file to the following vendors to obtain ethnicity results:
- Family Tree DNA
- Genographic Project
Guess what? None of the vendors’ results are the same. Some aren’t even close to each other, let alone to my known and proven genealogy.
In the article, Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages, I explained how to calculate your expected ethnicity percentages from your genealogy. As each vendor has introduced ethnicity results, or updated previous results, I’ve added to a cumulative chart.
It bears repeating before we look at that chart that ethnicity testing is relatively accurate on a continental level, meaning:
- Native American
Intra-continent or sub-continent, meaning within continents, it’s extremely difficult to tease out differences between countries, like France, Germany and Switzerland. Looking at the size of these regions, and the movement of populations, we can certainly understand why. In many ways, it’s like trying to discern the difference between Indiana and Illinois.
What Does “Best” Mean?
While the question of which test is best seems like it would be easy to answer, it isn’t.
“Best” is a subjective term, and often, people interpret best to mean that the test reflects a portion of what they think they know about their ethnicity. Without a rather robust and proven tree, some testers have little subjective data on which to base their perceptions. In fact, many people, encouraged by advertising, take these tests with the hope that the test will in fact provide them with the answer to the question, “Who am I?” or to confirm a specific ancestor or ancestral heritage rumor.
For example, people often test to find their Native American ancestry and are disappointed when the results don’t reveal Native ancestry. This can be because:
- There is no Native ancestor.
- The Native ancestor thought to be 100% was already highly admixed.
- The Native ancestor is too far back in the tester’s tree and the ancestor’s DNA “washed out” in subsequent generations.
- The testing company failed to pick up what might be arguably a trace amount.
Genealogy Compared to All Vendors’ Results
In some cases, discrepancies arise due to how the different companies group their results and what the groupings mean, as you can see in the table below comparing all vendors’ results to my known genealogy.
In the table below, I’ve highlighted in yellow the “best” company result by region, as compared to my known genealogy shown in the column titled “Genealogy %”.
British Isles – The British Isles is fairly easy to define, because they are islands, and the results for each vendor, other than The Genographic Project, are easy to group into that category as well. Family Tree DNA comes the closest to my known genealogy in this category, so would be the “best” in this category. However, every region, shown in pink, does not have the same “best” vendor.
Scandinavian – I have no actual Scandinavian heritage in my genealogy, but I’m betting I have a number of Vikings, or that my German/Dutch is closely related to the Scandinavians. So while LivingDNA is the lowest, meaning the closest to my zero, it’s very difficult to discern the “true” amount of Scandinavian heritage admixed into the other populations. It’s also possible that Scandinavian is not reflecting (entirely) the Vikings, but Dutch and German as a result of migrations of entire peoples. My German and Dutch ancestry cumulatively adds to 39%.
Eastern European – I don’t have any known Eastern European, but some of my German might fall into that category, historically. I simply don’t know, so I’m not ranking that group.
Northwestern Europe – For the balance of Northwestern Europe, 23andMe comes the closest with 43% of my 45.24% from my known genealogy.
Mediterranean and Southern European – For the Mediterranean, Greece, Italy and Southern Europe, I have no known genealogy there, and not even anyplace close, so I’m counting as accurate all three vendors who reported zero, being Living DNA, Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage.
Unknown – The next grouping is my unknown percentage. It’s very difficult to ascribe a right or wrong to this grouping, so I’ve put vendor results here that might fall into that unknown group. In my case, I suspect that some of the unknown is actually Native on my father’s side. I haven’t assigned accuracy in this section. It’s more of a catch all, for now.
Native and Asian – The next section is Native and Asian, which can in some circumstances can be attributed to Native ancestry. In this case, I know of about 1% proven Native heritage, as the Native on my mother’s line is proven utilizing both Y and mitochondrial DNA tests on descendants. I suspect there is more Native to be revealed, both on her side and because I can’t positively attribute some of my father’s lineage that is mixed race and reported to be Native, but is as yet unproven. By proof, I mean either Y DNA, mitochondrial DNA or concrete documentation.
I have counted any vendor who found a region above zero and smaller than my unknown percentage of 3.9% as accurate, those vendors being Family Tree DNA, Ancestry, 23andMe and MyHeritage.
Southwest Asia – I have no heritage from Southwest Asia, which typically means the Indian subcontinent. National Geographic reports this region, but their categories are much broader than the other companies, as reflected by the grey bands utilized to attempt to summarize the other vendor’s data in a way that can be compared to the Genographic Project information. While I’m pleased to contribute to the National Geographic Society through the Genographic Project, the results are the least connected to my known genealogy, although their results may represent deeper migratory ancestry.
As you can see, the best vendor is almost impossible to pinpoint and every person that tests at multiple vendors will likely have a different opinion of what is “best” and the reasons why. In some ways, best depends on what you are looking for and how much genealogy work you’ve already invested to be able to reliably evaluate the different vendor results. In my case, the best vendor, judged by the highest total percentage of “most accurate” categories would be Family Tree DNA.
While DNA testing for ethnicity really doesn’t provide the level of specificity that people hope to gain, testers can generally get a good view of their ancestry at the continental level. Vendors also provide updates as the reference groups and technology improves. This is a learning experience for all involved!
I hope that seeing the differences between the various vendors will encourage people to test at multiple vendors, or transfer their results to additional vendors to gain “a second set of eyes” about their ethnicity. Several transfers are free. You can read about which vendors accept results from other vendors, in the article, Autosomal DNA Transfers – Which Companies Accept Which Tests?
I also hope that ethnicity results encourage people to pursue their genealogy to find their ancestors. Ethnicity results are fun, but they aren’t gospel, and shouldn’t be interpreted as “the answer.” Just enjoy your results and allow them to peak your curiosity to discover who your ancestors really were through genealogy research! There are bound to be some fun surprises just waiting to be discovered.
If you are interested in why your results may vary from what you expected, please read “Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum.”
If you’re interested in taking a DNA test, you might want to read “Which DNA Test is Best?” which discusses and compares what you need to know about each vendor and the different tests available in the genetic genealogy market today.
I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.
Thank you so much.
DNA Purchases and Free Transfers
- Family Tree DNA
- MyHeritage DNA only
- MyHeritage DNA plus Health
- MyHeritage FREE DNA file upload
- 23andMe Ancestry
- 23andMe Ancestry Plus Health
- Legacy Tree Genealogists for genealogy research
It was only recently did I realize why people had issues with some of these. It’s because they have only one continent level. Whereas those who have different continents for their background find it much more accurate as you mentioned and others have been saying too. Which is why I never had a problem with my background on a continent level.
I had my Dna test with Ancestry and My Heritage. I think that Ancestry is very accurate. But, I am very dissapointed with the results from My Heritage.
El jun. 20, 2017 3:52 PM, “DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy” escribió:
> robertajestes posted: “While this question is very straightforward, the > answer is not. I have tested with or uploaded my DNA file to the following > vendors to obtain ethnicity results: Family Tree DNA LivingDNA Ancestry > 23andMe Genographic Project MyHerita” >
I’ve posted about this before, but maybe it bears repeating. From memory, FTDNA originally said that 32% of my DNA was West & Central European. That whole category is absent from my revised results, and I now have 33% Scandinavian, where I had none before. My guess is that, like most Scots and a lot of northern English people, I have a large component of Anglian DNA – that’s the Anglo- part of Anglo-Saxon. The Anglo-Saxons weren’t one tribe from one part of Germany: the Angles came from southern Jutland so could just as easily be described as Scandinavian rather than German, depending on your point of view.
Furthermore, on “Scandinavian” ancestry – Oppenheimer’s “Blood of the Isles” book has a map showing mtDNA J people migrating from northern Scandinavia to Scotland in the Neolithic. My mtDNA J1c2 matches are a mixture of northern Irish (Ulster Scottish Presbyterian), Norwegian and Norwegian/American. So on the mtDNA side I undoubtedly have “Scandinavian” matches, but they aren’t necessarily evidence of Viking ancestors, they may well go back to that Neolithic migration from Norway to Scotland.
Lastly, FTDNA say that my ancestry is 100% European, but how does that square with the assertion that mtDNA originated in, roughly speaking, what we now call the Middle East?
Ethnicity results don’t reach back that far in time, meaning to the Middle East thousands of years ago when haplogroup J was born.
If the tests are right about my Eastern European DNA (including apparently a specific gene that is supposed to be Polish?), then it could only come from my German line that is unidentified as where they came from. Judging by surnames, there is a possibility that they came from Pomerania, so maybe that would be where the Eastern European DNA comes from.
Pomerania was part of Prussia for along time only recently became part of Poland. Also medieval Prussians spoke Old Prussian which is a Baltic language. Slavic speakers and Germanic speakers have been cross pollinating for millennia.
It must be that cross-pollinating!
Pomeranian is central Europe so is Poland
Actually Polish is central European
Many if the results from there are very Eastern European though.
I have only done one DNA test at Family Tree DNA; uploaded raw data file to GEDMatch and My Heritage. FTDNA says 49% British Isles, 31% Scandinavia, 9% Western European, 8% Eastern European; 1% Liberia. I was confused by so much Scandinavian (although I knew from mom I had some) but Harry Watson’s explanation might explain that since I too am a Scot (Maternal Grandmother) and English (Maternal Great Grandfather) and coming fresh off the boat with my mom. My Heritage really seemed the closest all around for me; moved a lot of that Scandinavian to North and Western European. I guess that little bit of Balkan (Romania) was the Romani Gypsy I read about in some history I found when working on family tree..
23andme is best for me, Roberta. I have a small amount (about 2.2%) of Native American ancestry. 23andme not only reported this but but made it possible to identify the start and stop points for the three Native American segments reported there. I match many, many people on these segments and several of them have documented lines back to the known partially Native American ancestor. And that’s the case for each of the three segments.
I have tested at FTDNA, 23andMe, Ancestry, and most recently MyHeritage. My ethnic background is easy: somewhat more than 25 percent German, somewhat less than 75 percent. FTDNA came closest to reflecting that. MyHeritage was way off.
should be ”somewhat less than 75 percent ENGLISH”.
Awhile back, I uploaded files from three different DNA tests — all done on me — to My Heritage. These were: 23andMe (v2/v3); Ancestry (v1); and FTDNA.
As a result, I now have three different ancestry analyses from My Heritage. The fascinating thing is that all of these obviously are using the same algorithm and reference panels, yet they are each slightly different.
The three are within 0.6% on how European they say I am. The “low” of 97.5% is based on the Ancestry file, while the “high” of 98.3% is from the FTDNA file. The FTDNA file also yields my highest North and West European (82.3%), and lowest Southern European (16.0%). The lowest North and West European (78.5%) and highest Southern European (19.2%) are from my 23andMe file.
Finally, all three files have been interepreted as revealing Native American, and at nearly the same percentage — if you discount Central America. From 23andMe’s file, My Heritage sees 1.6% Native American, but that’s in addition to 0.7% Central American. From the Ancestry file, these numbers are 1.5% for Native American and 1.0% for Central American. From the FTDNA file, the the highest “Native American” at 1.7% is reported —
though obviously it’s by just a very small very small amount, *and* there is nothing additional reported for Central America.
The only thing I can think of to account for these differences is that each file includes somewhat different SNPs.
For reference, my paper trail would suggest I should be somewhere around 3/8 German, and perhaps a little less than that of British.
In addition, I am 1/8 Spanish. The remainder is filled out with some things very similar to the above — Swiss, French (divided between northern and southern), Irish — and something very dissimilar, Native American. This last ancestry is documented, though distant, and is through both of my mother’s parents. (But quite a bit before either of them, of course.)
I liked the current ethnicity estimate I received from My Heritage the best of the ones mentioned (and I have taken all of these tests ) because the results seemed to align better with my known ancestry. I have learned, however, never to get too attached to any set of results you receive because they will most certainly be updated again in the future for better or for worse depending on your expectations, , .
Western Europeans been wandering all over western europe since the horse got domesticated. The”:archer” buried at Stonehenge is from the Continent most like subalpine for instance. my grandmother Mtdna is also J1 and she was from Ballymoney. Once You get several ancestors from different parts of Europe forget it you are not going to be able to pinpoint a position in Europe to much static from recombination not to mention other factors.
Sometimes you will find arare disease or such that will tell you something. MY brother in law parents were form the Ukraine very blond like me when I was young. He got a genetic disorder of the hands that required surgery. A mutation found almost exclusively in ar Nordic people such as Icelanders. Well the Russ founded Kiev so there you are.
I’m very interested in what you say about your brother-in-law, of Ukrainian ancestry, requiring surgery on his hands. I recently attended a reunion of my old school class and one of my former classmates, whose father was from the south of Poland, told me that he had required several operations on his hand. Many of the Polish soldiers who were stationed in my part of Scotland during WWII were from Galicia, and of course that area has switched between Poland and Ukraine at different times.
How about none & save your money to research your family tree? I have done all of these DNA tests, just for amusement sake, and that’s all it really is amusement. Shame that the ethnicity summaries are widely junk & it isn’t just myself with old family history that says so. But my family tree happens to well researched & I have yet to find an “ethnicity” tests that accurately represents what paper trail says but the paper trail is ironically backed by the DNA relatives.
Let’s use my parents for example:
Family Tree DNA:
Dad gets half British / half West/Central Europe, can’t identify the Italian worth beans & gives him Eastern European which doesn’t exist in the family tree or relatives.
Mom before the update she was 98.7% British Isles, pathetic as she isn’t that by paper trail. Now she’s half British/half West/Central Europe. That’s nice. She’s actually 75% British Isles by paper trail & 25% Other.
FTDNA’s summary is garbage because it doesn’t split the different countries into smaller references so you can, like with my parents, identify if that European is French or German or something else.
LivingDNA – A researcher with POBI, which LivingDNA uses as database, confirmed what I had assumed and so no not buying this one.
Dad is apparently 20/20/20 Europe West, Scandinavian, Ireland. That’s a pretty pathetic summary as this is the ONLY dna site to say he has Scandinavian. Amusingly, despite the fact his father is English from a very old English family, his British Isles is only 5%. As his mother is Continental [aka Western Europe] is it impossible to identify an accurate representation from the other rubbish in the summary. Again the Italian/southern European is poorly presented.
Mother is apparently 40/20/20 British Isles/West Europe/Scandinavian. Okay. The Scandinavian is actually her British/Scottish ancestry. One can assume that’s the same for my father despite how his ancient ancestry is actually not Scandinavian but as identified by a professional DNA summary into the locals Anglo-Saxons. It’s a bit better than FTDNA but not by much as again you can’t separate the West Europe into smaller pieces & the Irish is under-represented.
Dad – 63% British Isles, 5.4% German/French. Should he come back when the cows learn how to fly? There’s a large chunk under generic European which is utterly worthless. Can’t identify his South European worth a cow’s paddy.
Mum – 56% British Isles, 6.7% French/German. Again a poor representation. If one is paying a large chunk of money they’d expect something accurate. Given as 23&me seems to use AMERICANS as their references it does explain the poor accuracy as Americans are oftentimes more mixed than they assume & given the average American’s poor ability to trace their family history this isn’t surprising.
Dad – accurate 50/50 southern european / northern european
This is actually better than some which is pathetic for the other sites as until recently it wasn’t lauded as a DNA ethnicity site.
Mum – 40/20/10 Scottish/Welsh/Irish / English / Finnish – if one does research into DNA they’d realize Scots do happen to score quite a bit of Finnish (as per real research not family mumblings). Her maternal is widely Scottish & old Scottish, paternal is Welsh/Irish & English. However, it doesn’t show hide nor hair of the fact that paternally she has recent Continental ancestry.
Dad – 40/15 English / Scottish/Welsh/Irish & 18% Iberian/21% Italian – this is better than others which as stated above couldn’t identify his southern European worth peanuts. In fact, using a dart board would have been more accurate for him than some of the guesswork tripe.
My summary. Save your money. Or at least don’t buy these tests for the ethnicity summary. Some goof on another site suggested adoptees should put the ethnicity tests to use. Given as the ethnicity tests can’t represent people who know their ancestry well properly an adoptee should STEER CLEAR of the ethnicity tests.
No matter how good you think a paper trail is, there is a very high probability that sooner or later, it will be wrong. It won’t be “officially” wrong, but it will be wrong because the parent/parents are not who the paper says they were.
Without DNA testing, I would likely *never* have known that the folks who raised my maternal grandfather were not his biological parents. So you can dismiss DNA tests as “amusement”, but don’t forget that ancestry calculation is not the only purpose of such tests.
At Ancestry, I am in nearly two dozen DNA Circles and have over a hundred Shared Ancestor Hints. Many these are related to the likely parents of my grandfather, who are people whose identities I’ve been able to ferret out only thanks to DNA testing.
The problem here was *not* my research. My grandfather’s tree was well documented. It’s just that the most important document — his birth certificate, which did not exist until nearly 60 years after my grandfather’s birth — was based on a lie.
Now, you may presume this will never happen to you. The trouble is, how will you *know*? Not every adoptee knows that the people who raised him or her, are not the biological parents. And this is no less true for one’s parents, or grandparents, or anyone else up the line.
Thankfully, I’ve now found 2nd cousins, 3rd cousins, etc., who have allowed me to piece together a more accurate picture of my grandfather’s ancestry — an ancestry of which he himself was not aware.
As to using the tests for determining ethnicity, there is *some* justice in what you say. The tests are far from perfect. However, the tests are frequently quite capable of determining the likelihood of, say, Native American ancestry — or of helping to put such a theory to rest.
For example, it’s pretty close to conclusive if you have either a Y DNA or mtDNA Native American haplogroup. Even if you don’t, because the suspected ancestor is in neither of these two lines, you might still be able to find a relative who is. Or, the DNA testing can be used to establish that great grandma was likely *not* Native American, if her great grandchild shows 0% Native American.
As far as I’m concerned, the ethnicity results are just “gravy”. I’d take the tests for finding relatives, or for supporting (or refuting) my existing paper trail. But this means if I’m only going to take one or two tests, I’ll want to use a company that offers DNA matching.
I would also look for a company that offers a chromosome browser, which Ancestry unfortunately does not. They do offer some tools which *help* to overcome this weakness, but it’s one reason I wouldn’t recommend Ancestry if you’re only going to take one test. However, you can get around this somewhat by uploading your Ancestry results to GEDmatch or Family Tree DNA.
Ancestry also no longer does Y DNA testing or mtDNA testing, which I think is a mistake on their part. For these tests, I’d use FTDNA.
Well said Gary!
in light of the very recent ethnicity updates from Family Tree DNA’s My Origins, My Heritage DNA, and even Living DNA (over the last few days even though they just recently entered the market), when do you think we should we hope to see updates for the results given by 23 & Me and Ancestry DNA? I believe they should each have acquired a lot more data by now, but it appears that they are dragging their feet for some reason. ,
I don’t know when either company plans updates. I think updates should be planned carefully. Quick successive updates suggest to me that adequate care wasn’t taken initially and causes me to wonder if quality improved with the updates.
Got it. Well said.. Thanks Roberta.
Keep in mind that Scandinavian Vikings had a lot of influence on the Brittish Islands during that period so you might find Scandinavian DNA through UK, Scotland, Ireland.
I would distinguish between results that are certainly wrong, like the high British Isles result for Living DNA, and those which are equivocal and vague, like the 23andMe methodology which acknowledges that some portions of your ancestry informative autosomal DNA can only be sorted to crude degrees (like “Broadly Northwestern European”), although Ancestry really likes to lump everything into Western European to a perhaps unnecessarily high degree.
23andMe and Ancestry both do well for me but Ancestry misses my significant Eastern European ancestry completely.
6.25% Silesian (from Poland)
11.7% unknown (probably mostly British)
30.5% British and Irish
27.4% French and German
25.2% Broadly Northwestern European
2.3% Eastern European
2.7% Broadly Southern European
0.3% Ashkenazi Jewish
4.5% Broadly European
<0.1% Unassigned (West African)
<0.1% Native American
<0.1% Broadly East Asian
For adoptees or those with close ancestors who are adopted or the equivalent I think DNA ethnicity tests are great. Also for that rumor about a great grandparent.
But for the result of us, how do we judge what is good?
Usually we judge things from what we already know and think that a good result is what confirms our previous research or prejudice.
I am fortunate to know my 16 gg grandparents’ IDs and origins and the regional analysis is more detailed than one of these tests will provide. So I totally agree with your earlier post https://dna-explained.com/2017/01/11/concepts-calculating-ethnicity-percentages/ that calculating your ethnicity is worthwhile. Many of my lines go back further and those that do confirm my own calculations.
So, if you have a tree and you are going to use it as a yardstick anyway, why not have confidence in your own calculations? I would rather DNA test more relatives than see what yet another company will make of my own DNA ethnicity.
I agree. The best way to confirm your genealogy is to test relatives, not just for autosomal but for Y and mtDNA too. However, many people enter the testing space for ethnicity results only. My point is that people should not take any ethnicity result as gospel. I hope that ethnicity testing isn’t the end for people but instead a first step.
Ancestry’s “white paper” on estimating ethnic origins has a too brief discussion of how they attempted to validate their most recent algorithm. One important criterion is “consistency”, such that a child should have ethnicity estimates that are consistent with those of the parents. Whether the other vendors have done this test, and on what scale, I don’t know. There have been many reports on the FTDNA message boards indicating that this criterion has not been met. We would like to know, for a large sample of parents/child “trios” where the relationships have been confirmed by measuring autosomal matching, how often and with what percentage the child is estimated to have an ethnicity that is not estimated to occur in either parent. Ancestry reports that their tests on this point were qualitatively good, but without citing specific numbers. The consistency test, using a large number of “trios”, would be a good way to compare algorithms from different vendors.
It has to be remembered that there are (at least) two major confounding factors: First, whether the “reference groups” accurately reflect the genetic composition of the population that they claim to represent, and second, the degree to which your own DNA equally represents the actual ethnic origins of your various ancestors. The first point is currently unknowable, since we don’t actually have DNA from historical populations. As for the second point, we know that recombination and the random segregation of chromosomes will result in some ancestors farther back than your parents being under-represented and others being over-represented. At least some ancestors 5 or 6 generations back are almost certainly not detectable in your DNA, and others, to make up the difference, must be over-represented. We should not expect any report of ethnic origins to produce exact answers, even if the reference groups happened somehow to be perfect!
I would like to see the results of a large number of people with documented ancestry, some from family groups, and see which calculator more often has results that are most similar to the documented ancestry and which calculator less commonly has results that are vastly different from the documented ancestry. A lot of them should also be from various regions of the world. From all of the kits and documented ancestry that I have seen 23andme has been the one to match the closest and myOrigins 2.0 has been the one to more often have results that differ immensely from the paper trail. My experience is that using anecdotal results doesn’t do a good job of reflecting the higher inaccuracy some of the calculators have with some of the ethnic components. Having the results of the parents and many other family members and relatives allows a person to see when certain calculators have a higher rate of matching the genealogical record and others have a lower rate of matching the genealogical record. A calculator that misses the larger percentages 10% or 20% of the time, when the other calculators don’t, can’t be considered a good calculator.
In addition to the above, it seems that some people get hung up on the small percentages that don’t match the genealogical record but there are a lot of reasons that happens including the fact that many populations share autosomal SNPs and the calculators choose the reference population that the SNPs are more commonly found in based on other SNPs found in the person’s genome. So a single digit amount of Iberian or southern European in a person with only with northern European ancestry shouldn’t cause concern. Inversely, people with southern European ancestry shouldn’t think that they have a hidden northern European ancestor just because of a small amount of northern European DNA. There are a lot of persistent autosomal SNPs from the Mesolithic,Neolithic and Bronze Ages that Europeans still carry in their DNA. I brought all of the up because some people complain more about the small amounts than they do about the larger amounts that don’t match the genealogy or the historical record.
FWIW, most people who test and see their newly generated ethnicity reports are of Western European heritage and they are admixed, often to a substantial degree, at least in terms of nationality and ethnicity, over centuries.
In my case all my ancestors were of Slavic heritage. They were of only one recorded nationality for several centuries before emigration to USA in the early 1900’s, and came from only two distinct but similar ethnic groups from the same geographical area. They did not intermarry until after emigration. In a case like mine there is virtually no likelihood of introducing other ethnic elements as possibilities. Culture, religion and language predominated and prevailed in their ethnicity, even though the imposed nationality shifted over centuries. Both FTDNA and Ancestry have my report right, reporting that I am 99% Eastern European and possibly 1% Siberian. 23andme reports that I am only 76% Eastern European, with a lot of other European elements presumed to be in the mix in their report. One can only conclude that 23’s report is fanciful but *wrong* regarding my ethnic and ancestral group, because all the evidence points in the opposite direction..
Most people have no way of proving whether these reports are right or wrong. Virtually no one can prove their ancestry farther back than five centuries, if even that, because in earlier centuries there are virtually no documented records extant. However, to be factual or credible, these ethnicity estimates should ALL be reporting the same or very similar results *for the same person*, if he/she has tested on all three GG sites. Some assume and insist that these reports must *always* be right, in some way. Surely if the reference point in time is one of ancient history the point becomes remote and moot. But that is not what is being claimed in the report for the time frames indicated.,
No test is “best”. Some are right, some are wrong, and apparently none are right all of the time.That leaves room for doubt of their accuracy or credibility – unless you are a true believer. For those who believe without questioning, no explanation is necessary – and no proof is required.
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I recently learned through experience how true the statement is to test with every vendor. I found an unknown 1st cousin who was adopted at birth, when I transferred mine and my mom’s ancestry raw data to FT DNA. He had tested with two companies more than two years ago. If he had added one more of the big ones, he would have matched to his grandma and an uncle right when he originally tested. So what does that mean for me? I want to test with the other companies I haven’t tested with. I also want to get my Grandma to give me admin rights to her Ancestry test so I can upload the raw data to other vendors. So much to do…
Ethnicity estimates can be just plain bad depending upon your ethnicity! My own, which includes about 25% Belgian Wallon and 25% NW German Saxon is one such example. Those ethnicities also make up a bulk of that in England (Celtic Belge and later Anglo-Saxon migrations). So I invariably get classed as being about half or more British, which I am not. That said, FTDNA (55%) classes me as even more British than Ancestry (45%) or 23&Me (24%). So, of those I have taken 23&Me is best, but still needs tweeking. I sometimes wonder if the estimates might be doing a better job than they think and pointing towards different Celtic or Germanic tribes.
FTDNA has me as 28% Southeastern European (huh!?), 9% Eastern European and 8% Scandanavian. AncestryDNA has me as 25% Western European, 14% Eastern European, 7% Southern European, 4% Scandanavian, 1% European Jew, and 2% Western Asian (another company said that Asian was of a far eastern origin, might be one of the Kahns’ men during a conquest?). I tend to think Ancestry has it about right for the rest (other than their attempts to call me English).
The problem for these companies is the database from which they draw their data to assign ethnicities. Those areas from which they may have more DNA tests in their base often colors their estimates. Thus early on Ancestry had a “Scandanavian Problem” in which their first version of their Ethnicity estimates overwhelmingly called people Scandanavian. They fixed that, but a while back I wrote an article on their website (now no longer available) which showed that AncestryDNA now has a bias in favor of Great Britain.
All of my ancestry is from continental Europe, specifically, as mentioned above, half from Belgium (overlapping into France I have lately found) & NW Germany. But also a major portion from eastern France (Lorraine, Franche-Comte/Vosges), northern Switzerland (German/French mix), and Baden, Germany. I also have some ancestry in NW Poland (which might be where the 1% of European Jewish ancestry comes from).
I just got the results of my free upload to My Heritage DNA and the results are the closest to my known ancestry of all the testing companies (Ancestry is a close second, FT DNA way off, DNA Land way off due to limited samples).
It’s important too to look into some history as well. People do cross borders – particularly in times of war, disease and famine.
23 and me gave me 4% of unassigned DNA. if i test with another company like Family Tree DNA can they decipher that missing 4%? Does Family Tree DNA gives a Composition Chromosome Painting of your 23 chromosomes like 23 and me ?
Every company’s result will be somewhat different. They also present the results differently. Family Tree DNA dies not so chromosome painting but they do have ancient dna and also matching by ethnicity categories.
Thank you Roberta for your help, i have been reading all your Irish and family articles, its like reading a history Book, five stars to you
I ordered my Family Finder test in Ukraine, at http://www.testdnk.com.ua, but they sent my samples to FTDNA, and I have now FTDNA’s account. The information of ethnic breakdown is rather by continents, not by countries. I found the site https://dnatribes-snp.com, they can analize Family Finder’s raw data in more detailed way. What could you say about their algorithm? Is it worth beleiving?
Thank you for reply!
The man who founded this company died several years ago. I was hoping that someone would continue his work. It looks like they are still selling the analysis, but there is absolutely no information about who is behind the company or if it’s really the same one.
Thank you, Roberta! Maybe there is a company whom you trust. I would like to receive more information on ethnic breakdown than Family Finder.
I would suggest uploading to GedMatch and experimenting with their ethnicity applications. There are several.
Hello! I know it’s kind of a stupid question, but being new at this and all I am bound to ask a lot of stupid questions. For the ethnicity results – haw many generations back do the analyses go?
About 6, on average. Sometimes slightly more and sometimes slightly less. I know you hate the answer of “it depends,” but it depends:(
I dont trust My Heritage. It dont match to my knowledge of my etchicity as whole and same situation with my boyfriends. I bouht tests for both of us.
It will vary from person to person. For me, since I have an extensive tree I could compare the known to the dna results. Ancestry is the closest and then My Heritage. FT DNA was not very accurate…for me…..DNA Land is too limited so the results are not as accurate.
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I may know the answer to this already, but I thought I’d ask anyway.
My cousin’s mother was Costa Rican, her father is Spanish. She said her grandmother was Costa Rican & her grandfather, who never married the grandmother, was German. Wouldn’t my cousin or her children have ‘some’ German in her DNA if that was true?
Probably, but the issue could be either that he wasn’t actually German, or that the ethnicity test just isn’t picking that up. Don’t rely on ethnicity for this.