Ancestry 2018 Ethnicity Update

When ethnicity estimates were first produced by vendors, they tended to resemble the wild west.

Today, results are becoming more refined and hopefully, more accurate as reference populations grow and become more reliable.

The Ancestry ethnicity update has been in beta for several months, but this week, Ancestry rolled out the ethnicity update for everyone.

Checking Your New Results

To see your updated results, sign on and click on the DNA Story to the left with Ethnicity Estimates.

Ancestry then explains that while your DNA doesn’t change, the estimates (pay attention to that word) do as the science improves.

Ethnicity Estimate Aren’t Precise

I’ve said this before, and I want to say it again. Ethnicity is the least precise and the least accurate of DNA tools for genetic genealogy. Ethnicity estimates are the most accurate at a continental level. Within continents, like Europe, Asia and Africa, there has been a lot of population movement and intermixing over time making the term “ethnicity” almost meaningless.

I know, I know – ethnicity estimates are also the simplest because there isn’t much learning curve and they’re easy to understand at a glance. This deceptive “ease of use” also makes them interesting to people who have only a passing curiosity. That’s why they attract so many test takers who either love of hate their results, but never fully understand the true message or utilize any other genetic genealogy tools.

Let’s take a look at how ethnicity estimates have changed over time and if they have improved with the latest version.

Ethnicity Estimate Changes

In my case, my original Ancestry ethnicity estimate in 2012 was:

  • British Isles 80%
  • Scandinavia 12%
  • Uncertain 8%

To say it was really bad is an understatement.

In 2013, Ancestry introduced their ethnicity V2 version which provided a lot more granularity.

Version 2 was dramatically different, with the British Isles moving from 80% to a total of 6%. Like a pendulum swinging, neither was accurate.

Ancestry introduced new features and combined their Genetic Communities with their ethnicity estimates in 2017.

In this new 2018 version, Ancestry has divided and recombined the British Isles and Western Europe differently and the resulting differences are significant.

My mystery Scandinavian is entirely gone now, but sadly, so is my Native American.

The New Results

I just got really boring – but the question is whether or not the new results are more accurate as compared to my proven genealogy. Boring doesn’t matter. Accuracy does.

Various Ancestry Ethnicity Versions Compared to Proven Genealogy

I created a chart that reflects the three Ancestry ethnicity versions as compared to my proven genealogy.

For the current version, I also included the ranges as provided by Ancestry.

As you can see, generally, the results are much more accurate, but the regions are also fairly broad which makes accuracy easier to achieve.

Until this current version, Ancestry didn’t show any Germanic, but now the Germanic estimate is exact at 25%.  The Germanic range is also very tight at 24-26%, right where it should be.

The England, Wales & Northeast Europe category is somewhat high, but that could be accurate because I do have some ancestry that is unknown.

Unfortunately, my Native is proven, both through Y and mtDNA and by triangulating the Native segments to others descending from the same Native ancestors. That portion is now missing in my Ancestry ethnicity.

Ancestry V1 Test Versus the V2 Test

For the record, I’m using my Ancestry V1 test because I’ve used that test version for all previous ethnicity comparisons.  My Ancestry V2 test ethnicity results are approximately the same, as follows:

  • England, Wales and Northeast Europe – 76%
  • Germanic – 22%
  • Ireland and Scotland – 2%

The same tree is attached to both tests.

On my V2 test, which I seldom use, I had to answer a couple of question regarding my expectations about ethnicity testing changes and how accurate my previous results were perceived to be before I could access my updated results.

Regions Changed

In Ancestry’s FAQ, they provided this list of how the regions were and are defined.

Previous Region New Regions
Scandinavia Norway, Sweden
Iberian Peninsula Spain, Portugal, Basque
Europe South Italy, Greece and the Balkans, Sardinia
Europe East Baltic States, Eastern Europe and Russia
Caucasus Turkey and the Caucasus, Iran/Persia
Europe West Germanic Europe, France
Native American Native America—North, Central, South; Native America—Andean
Asia South Southern Asia, Western and Central India, Balochistan, Burusho
Asia East Japan, Korea and Northern China, China, Southeast Asia—Dai (Tai), Southeast Asia—Vietnam, Philippines

Ancestry has addressed lots of other questions in their FAQ as well, and I suggest taking a look. I particularly like their comment, “Some places are complicated.” Indeed, that’s true with population churn both in historical times along with unknown pre-history and that complexity is exactly what makes intra-continental ethnicity estimates so difficult. Of course, people whose ancestors are from Europe, for example, want as much granularity as possible.

Previous Ethnicity Versions

For the first time, Ancestry explains what happened between versions, at least at a high level.

Click on the little “i” in the upper right hand corner of your ethnicity estimate box.

You’ll see more information.

Click on “View Previous Estimate” at the bottom.

Your previous ethnicity estimate is shown.

To see how your estimate changed, click on “Compare these results to your most recent Ancestry DNA estimate.”

This display shows you the differences compared to the previous version. In my case, England, Wales and NE Europe increased by 69%, but that’s because Ancestry redefined the regions. Note the little slide box underneath the regions on the map. You can slide back and forth from previous to current (update.).

I do wish Ancestry had told us where the “Scandinavian” went, what category it fell into. Are those segments, as a group, included in another region? Was the previous estimate simply flat out wrong? Was Scandinavian a vestige of Vikings who invaded much of Europe? What happened?

New Regions and Reference Samples

By clicking on “See other regions tested” at the bottom of your Ethnicity Estimate box, you can view the locations of Ancestry’s current reference populations.

The regions tested in which you have results are colored, and the regions where you aren’t showing results are shades of grey. This is an improvement over the previous version which people routinely misinterpreted to mean that they had results in those tested regions.

Best Features

In my opinion, the best feature of the combined ethnicity and Genetic Communities is the combined mapping. For example, the screenshot below combines the ethnicity regions with the ancestors from my tree who immigrated from that region in that timeframe.

By clicking on the 1700 box, the people from that time period in my tree are displayed. I can enlarge the map to make the display larger, until finally individual “people” icons are displayed, as shown with Johann Peter Koehler, below. Clicking on the individual person pin shows that individual in the box at right.

By clicking on the “Lower Midwest and Virginia Settlers,” I see this region and Ancestry tells me where those settlers likely originated.

You can then scroll down to the bottom of the information box where you see “Ancestry DNA Members.”

Click on the 1000+ link and you will then see the people who match you in a specific region or migration.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t always accurate. My 2nd cousin match is showing as a “Lower Midwest and Virginia” match and our ancestors came from the Netherlands directly to Northern Indiana. Ironically, she shows up in three of the 4 regions I can select from. This feature is not 100%, but it’s still nice to be able to see where that match is grouped in terms of ethnicity and Genetic Communities, according to Ancestry.

Given this combined functionality, I do wonder if Ancestry’s new ethnicity isn’t simply population genetics, but a combination of population genetics, ancestors in my tree, my matches and corresponding DNA Circles with their associated history. If so, that would make sense, both in terms of what I’m seeing as my new ethnicity results and the map functionality as well. Could that be where my Germanic came from, and why it’s so precise at 25% which matches by tree exactly?

In Summary

For me, Ancestry’s ethnicity estimates are significantly improved with the exception that my Native disappeared. I’ve worked long and hard on the Native aspect of my genealogy, and I know that part of my ethnicity mix is valid. However, that is a very small percentage overall (about 2%), and the combined improvements certainly outshine that one negative.

Of course, your mileage may vary. What are you seeing in terms of your new ethnicity estimates as compared to your known genealogy? Better? Worse? Did you lose any categories that you know are valid? What about small amounts of minority heritage?



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170 thoughts on “Ancestry 2018 Ethnicity Update

  1. Very informative Roberta. Encouraging some and a tad disappointing in what you reported here. Your message is so important to me. I am printing your message to follow all you have stated to navigate my ANCESTRYDNA R results. Thank Roberta. Kathy

  2. It looks pretty accurate for me, except that I kind of object to being told I am 29% Norwegian. My grandmother was born in Göteborg, Sweden and I have most of her ancestry traced back to the 1600s and they are all solidly in Sweden – albeit in western Sweden nearer to Norway. Previously I was 24% Scandinavian which is just about right for having one grandparent from Sweden. So either there are pre-1500 Norwegian ancestors who mixed with the Swedes that are skewing things or Ancestry isn’t correctly identifying western Swedes. In any case, I would suggest they shouldn’t attempt to narrow things to Norway or Sweden or rename “Norway” to “Norway & Western Sweden”. Also, I’m not aware of any other Scandinavian in my genealogy and it is pretty well documented. So how did I get to 29%? (Maybe their first estimate at 24% was just lucky!)

    As you say, ethnicity is pretty squishy. I have 33% Scandinavian at FTDNA and similar variations at the other companies. So I don’t expect much. But I did have a teeny emotional reaction to being told I’m Norwegian! 🙂

    (By the way, one of my wife’s cousins had her Swedish labeled Norway as well – so I guess it’s a thing!)

    • Yes – my 28% Swedish was changed to 24% Swedish and Norwegian, but my Swedish people were from the west coast of Sweden and could have immigrated down from Norway at some point. They were all in Sweden in the 1830s however.

      DNA genealogy is so interesting. Thanks for explaining some of it, Roberta!

  3. Why does this article and the Ancestry report use the term ethnicity, which encompasses cultural, linguistic and religious factors that define a group of people, rather than ancestry?

    • The term ethnicity has been used since the beginning in the field of genetic genealogy. Ethnicity includes things like Jewish heritage, geography, but not linguistics which can’t be measured by DNA. “Ancestry” is typically used to refer to traditional genealogy. All of these terms are evolving and somewhat ambiguous.

    • I’ll preface this by saying that I have an MA in a form of History, I am a published genealogist, and by now I have some life experience and perspective, now that I am old.

      You asked “why”. Why? Put on your economist’s hat. Because ethnicity is what many people want to know, and they are willing to pay for something, anything that provides them with SOME or any information, even if it is less than entirely accurate. It’s marketable and it SELLS. Many people are interested with the past few generations, including recent emigrations, as that is their level of interest. This is why Ancestry, FTDNA and 23and me and MyHeritage exist. Currently there is a burgeoning market for that which these venues are selling. I’m not saying this is bad. I’m saying it is now the current situation, which is marketable.

      Is you stated, ethnicity does encompass “cultural, linguistic and religious factors that define a group of people”. I agree. No argument there.

      Now let’s put on a psychologist’s hat. Our world is rapidly changing. Due to racial and ethnic mixing, many young people today (particularly in America) are totally devoid and clueless about their genetic or cultural heritage. Some are adoptees or are the product of sperm donors. This leaves a void, understandably often an insatiable yearning, that is ***one of a lack of personal identity***. They look to DNA/genealogy sites for answers. If this trend continues, to put it bluntly, there will be many more generations who can’t or won’t know who they are or from whence they came. Perhaps, given enough time over future generations, most will no longer care. Some entities including politics and businesses find this modern dilemma expedient, exploitable and profitable, as they have their own agendas to pursue. Not everyone is interested in genealogy. Not everyone has a quest for personal identity.

      Now let’s think about history. History cannot exist as a concept or as an academic discipline without acknowledging events of time past.

      What is Genealogy? Does it encompass history, ethnicity, family (Including living familial relations), language, culture, religion and nationality? It does. Genealogy is panoptical, or multi-faceted and multi-disciplinary. It is interesting and fascinating to some, but not to all.

  4. My revised results were much more INaccurate. My previous results reflected my maternal grandfather’s Italian ancestry in my Europe South %. The family lived in one geographic area for hundreds of years. That was reduced to zero in the new results. Completely wiped out, along with 2 other related ethnicities. I think they have some bugs to work out.

      • I had the same thing happen. My grandfather was 100% Sicilian and I, too, have records to prove this. I was heartbroken to see my Italian ethnicity percentage reduced from 20% to nothing because it was a huge part of my cultural upbringing.

  5. I’ve only tested at Family Tree, but my uncle just mailed his Ancestry sample, and I’m looking forward to seeing the results with their family circles. Thanks for this ‘how to’ info! I also recently discovered that you’re a small 7.1cM match with my kit (not positive that it’s with your kit) and would love to get with you sometime in the future. Thanks again! Laurie

  6. Roberta, I think you have been subverted by the dark side . . .

    “What are you seeing in terms of your new ethnicity estimates as compared to your known genealogy? Better? Worse? Did you lose any categories that you know are valid?” Huh?

    What I see here is a significant departure from the original scientific concepts behind ethnicity estimates to a consumer-oriented “we want you to feel good so we are telling you what you think you already know and want to hear” kind of estimate. Ancestry has perverted the concept from “where did your ancestors originate in a pre-genealogical time frame” to “where did your ancestors emigrate from.”

    The original science was simple in concept but difficult to implement accurately because the “pure” sample populations are so difficult to identify and test (if they even exist). The consumers got pissed when they found that their Italian ancestors possibly had Middle Eastern origins, or North Africa, or even Persian (hey, wasn’t it all the Roman Empire?) Or when their pure British ancestry turned out to have been sullied by the French, Romans, Saxons, Irish, Scotti, Germanic, and Scandinavian invaders. So Ancestry has taken the feel good approach by now incorporating the massive family tree information into their estimates – no longer will the Italian be anything but the purest of Italian, preferably descended from the Caesars, and the Brits will now feel smug in the comfort of their shops. No more invasions, no more pillage and rapine – it just didn’t happen. Fake news! Everyone will now be happy! It will be just like reading those early 20th century local histories where every man was upstanding and respected in his community, a pillar of their church, and every woman was pure of heart and noble in their charitable pursuits. (I’d quote Garrison Keilor here but he’s no longer PC.) If anyone wants the original scientific approach, all they have to do is test at the N.G. Geo project, or maybe FTDNA until they are forced to follow. And Ancestry will continue to rake in the cash with their idiotic “kilt or lederhosen” approach. Worst of all, simply because of Ancestry’s dominance in the marketplace, this approach will become the popular standard, potentially forcing the other players to follow suit. Sigh . . .

    • Rest assured, I haven’t been subverted. I did ask how much is pop gen versus other info. I know that ethnicity is extremely difficult and what is or is not accurate may well be a matter of time and the size of the reference population.

      • I didn’t mean to imply you have forgotten the underlying scientific basis for the estimates, and you have oft explained the problems with the reference population concept. The point I was trying to make is that you seemed to accept this new approach by Ancestry as valid with little critical thought (or maybe I missed it since I didn’t read all the material on your own results. And yes, this approach is “valid” if you accept that Ancestry is trying to satisfy a wide but rather unsophisticated market falling for their slick commercials. Of maybe they just got tired of responding to all the complaints from purchasers who thought their earlier estimates were horribly inaccurate because grandma came from Poland, not Ukraine and certainly had no German genes!

        • I don’t think your assumption is quiet accurate. I know a significant portion of my genealogy and the estimates for the most part match that. Yet I have Balkan and Jewish DNA in my estimate that I cannot trace with genealogy. I’ve also lost my known eastern European estimate being replaced with Baltic. While I can specifically trace 4 of my gg-grandparents to central and southern Poland, that should result in the new Eastern Europe and Russia region in my estimate if your assertion is true. The estimate clearly doesn’t care what places I have in my tree or the probabilistic ratios of my DNA. These new estimates could easily be explained if I had a more thorough tracing of my eastern European ancestry, but certainly isn’t getting the information from my tree.

    • Even if it’s indeed Ancestry is trying to tell what its customers want to hear, it’s the only company where the family trees are wide spread in their customers data. At FTDNA, they could hardly do the same, even if they wanted to. The same for 23&me. What about Living DNA? Insitome?

      It think My Heritage is the only one who could do the same.

  7. “Given this combined functionality, I do wonder if Ancestry’s new ethnicity isn’t simply population genetics, but a combination of population genetics, ancestors in my tree, my matches and corresponding DNA Circles with their associated history.”

    Before reading this article, I wondered the same thing about my updated estimate. Interesting.

    By the way, my mysterious “26% Scandinavian” also completely disappeared with this update. However, I do share a good number of conservative matches on, MyHeritage, and FTDNA with people from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark across most of my chromosomes…this excludes common pile up regions. My paper trail does not yet reveal the source(s) of these Scandinavian matches, but time will tell. I think segment matches speak volumes.

  8. Mine is moderately amusing. Last time Ancestry based my results on a survey they sent me of my known tree at the time so it was pretty accurate. Large chunk of British and Irish, about 1/4 Swedish, and Europe West 11%, Europe South 4%, Iberian Peninsula 2% and Finland/Northwest Russia 1%. Not too bad. I figured the Southern Europe was some of my French ancestry, Iberian Peninsula??? and maybe a Finish grandmother I haven’t found yet.

    This time I got:
    England, Wales & Northwestern Europe 44% Decreased by 5%
    Sweden 24% Refined from: Scandinavia 26%
    Norway 22% Refined from: Scandinavia 26%
    Ireland and Scotland 10% Increased by 3%
    I am going to say 22% Norwegian is just not possible. My 1/4 Swedes are fairly well documented and mostly from southern Sweden. I can go with 22%. What happened to my French? Even if ALL my brick wall grandmothers (who appear to be mostly English) turned out to all be Norwegian, I couldn’t get to 22%????

    As you have said before, accurate to a continent level (all of Europe) and taken with a big grain of salt.

    • You do not inherit DNA in equal proportions to your genealogy. Let’s say your father was half English and half Swedish. It’s theoretically possible that you could inherit only the Swedish half or only the English half. Although not probable, it is also not likely that you would inherit both the Swedish and English DNA in the exact proportions that your father carried them. You are also dealing with regions that are frequently mixed, so it is quiet possible your English ancestor passed you Norwegian DNA, that came from a viking invasion, which isn’t typically found in most English with any significant frequency for to classify it as British. The stickiest part of all these estimates is at what frequency do you classify DNA as coming from a specific country of origin when that DNA can actually be found among various neighboring populations.

  9. My ethnicity estimate is definitely more accurate. My 28% Scandinavian (huh?) went away and I now show the Germanic and English I expected as a majority of my makeup, which matches my tree. (My recent results at LivingDNA note that Scandinavian ancestry is very similar to much British ancestry, so I’m sure that’s part of the shift.) The ancestor map thing is cool – but not very accurate. I have ancestors who lived and died in South Carolina showing up in Oregon!

    Realistically, with regard to the “fake news” – what ancestry should probably do is what FTDNA has done: show both more recent origins and ancient origins. Yes, we all had ancestors who migrated. There were significant invasions and migrations not only within continents but from one continent to another at times. But it’s the more recent piece that might be helpful to (for example) someone with an unknown parent or grandparent who is trying to categorize matches to a parent or grandparent.

    I loved the FAQ item about getting rid of your Viking tattoo. 🙂

    But I still want ancestry to give us a @$%&*# chromosome browser!!!! Way more useful than this…

  10. Greetings,

    My DNA update is better than expected. My NA went to 56% and my Iberian went way down. My French went to a whopping 22% from zero!!
    Overall it improved that I had a lot of areas which were less than one (1) percent and now they seemed to be more defined!

    YDNA: Q-M242
    YDNA: Q-Z780 (01-08-18)
    Note: Q-Z780 is a subgroup of Q-M242
    mtDNA: A2d
    Kit: 574781

  11. I think the updated ethnicity estimates are more accurate. Now the estimates are more aligned with the Spanish and Native in New Mexico, and the Portuguese migration to Madeira/ Azores and ultimately Hawaii. The French percentage made sense when I read about Napoleon invading Portugal. My initial estimate of 31% Italy/ Greece is now 3% which I believe us more accurate. My Native percentage increased a little.

  12. I don’t know what to believe Roberta! My original Ancestry test showed 82% Irish, 13% British, 4% Iberian and the other 1% broken up. My full sister’s test was about the same, showing her 83% Irish. I looked at these new results today and now I’m showing 98% Irish and 2% Norwegian, with no Iberian or West Europe. My sisters test is still 83% Irish, 12% British, 1% East Europe, 1% West Europe, 1% Iberian and the other 2% mixed. How can this be more accurate? I realize that we’re not clones, are different people and didn’t receive the same amount of all the same DNA segments, but we share the same parents and mostly match all the same cousins to 2nd cousins once removed. I think our ethnic mix should still test very closely together, as it did in 2013.

      • After reading some of the complaints of others, I think Ancestry needs to re-do their formula for doing ethnicity estimates. I think my first estimate was much more accurate, so I switched back to it, which is close to my sister’s estimate. This new one is similar to the MyHeritage estimate, that I was never able to believe.

  13. Hi Roberta,
    Excellent article! My results updated to closer to what my known genealogy is, so, much better. Also two unexpected results: one on my mother’s and one on my father’s tests (neither showed up in my results, but of course, that is because it gets diluted – obviously!). Also, results that were previously ill-fitting into my known genealogy are now gone. Great update in my opinion. – Laura

  14. Thanks for covering this! I agree, more accurate, but boring. I didn’t need to do a DNA test to know most of my family came from “England, Wales and Northeast Europe”. What is interesting is to know what ethnicity that made up that population still shows up in my DNA. Vikings, Normans, maybe a bit of Moorish. I think we just lost all that.

  15. My father’s results are definitely more accurate, but the Germanic is still too low. It did drop off areas that shouldn’t have been there.

    Unfortunately, my results are more mixed. It correctly increased Germanic. However, although my father does show 4% France, which is about the correct amount from his Acadian ancestry, it doesn’t show me with any France component, and I have lots of matches from that Acadian ancestry. Also, it dropped all my East European ancestry, even though it should show about 6% Lithuanian. Again, I have a number of matches from that ancestry.

  16. My Ancestry DNA report was similar to your 2012 results, which made me think the worker just copied the previous customer’s DNA data. I have no Scandinavian nor English in my (5+ generation) family tree. My daughter’s report from 23 and Me was pretty accurate, not only showing a high percentage in France and Germany (listed first) but also my Italian father’s roots. Her report contained no Scandinavian nor English. Her father is Irish-German.

  17. Why would a child show ethnicity in their updated results that neither parent has in their updated results?
    My results made sense compared to my parents before but now I’m questioning the accuracy when mine shows Greece/Balkans and Germanic when my parents results don’t.

    • The only reason that would validly occur is if the mixture of the two looks like something different. Phasing should eliminate that problem. This is a good example of why ethnicity is at best unreliable and only an estimate. It’s hard to have confidence isn’t it.

  18. Wow, I’m so amused by the updated results.
    Much, much less accurate.
    They smoothed the results so hard that I now appear to be white as white bread sprinkled with white sugar.
    And I know I’m not even that white looking, because I’ve had rude people ask me “are you sure that you’re really a cracker”.
    I know I am 18% mixed and suddenly I’m purely Scottish and Irish according to Ancestry. They wiped away 50% of my other ancestry.
    The results were ALREADY pathetic to begin with.
    I am proven to be NA on 4 sides, I already have the “proof” via paper trail AND Dr. McDonald and others. Mohawk Wolf Tribe, Montaukett, Powahaton, etc/
    The I have a lot of French/Dutch/Norwegian/South Indian/European Jewish ancestry that is now GONE.
    What completely hilarious garbage.
    They still show my Colonial New York mapping for 1700s, but they were mostly Dutch/Huguenots/NA.

  19. I would pay good money for Ancestry to let us see what our 40 runs look like. It appears they’re using the most conservative results possible. Very odd. Has a white national taken them over?

  20. On the one hand, I lost Polynesia. Which makes a HUGE amount of sense, because I had absolutely no idea where that came from. My Europe West got refined greatly to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Which also makes sense. They swapped some stuff around within those 4 countries, but that’s not surprising. I would guess it’s not that easy to pin those 4 down.

    I lost Finland and Russia (4%) and gained Norway (3%). No idea which of those is right, or if any of it is right. Gained Germanic Europe, which may be a nod to one extremely frustrating ancestral line that I cannot pin down (Swink). And I lost Iberian Peninsula, but didn’t gain any of the three countries that replaced it. They just chucked that, Caucasus and Polynesia (???) into England, Wales and Northwestern Europe. Which also includes parts of Ireland and Scotland.

    They decreased my Ireland and Scotland by 8% and added that to the England, Wales and Northwestern Europe, which when you look at the map, includes parts of Ireland and Scotland. Crazy!

    None of them ever capture my NA, but it’s teeny so I am not surprised. After all, my mother is only 1%.

    All in all, I suppose it is more accurate, but I don’t think they got the breakdown of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales right. Living DNA gives a similar overall percentage, but breaks it down into the different regions in a way that makes more sense, based on my genealogy.

  21. Oh, Roberta! Mine got so boring! 81% England, Wales and Northwestern Europe, and 19% Ireland and Scotland. I know I have segments of African and Native American, and my Scandinavian I’m having a hard time parting with even though I’ve never “seen” evidence of it. I feel kind of like an interior decorator came over while I wasn’t at home and redecorated–totally in beige…meh

      • Well at least I’m not alone in losing my smaller regions! And like you’d reminded us in this article, that his process is “least precise and the least accurate” of the genetic genealogy tools–also I realized I’ve not target-tested with Y-DNA results or mtDNA (that’ll be one day in the future, I hope!). So, I’ll admit I’ve understood my NA and African to be pretty tiny. I’ve only done several utilities as far as atDNA segment matches to confirm the paper genealogy. So, I’m willing to wait and see what shakes out as time goes on! just a string of ones and zeros, got run through their algorithms (which will change in the future as more folks test) just the same as everyone else’s. So it’s sort of like a cascading, evolving process, right? We’re just at a point where the companies are dealing with the waves of new testers.

  22. The biggest change for me was the loss of “Europe South” (19%) which went down to Italy (3%). The issue with that is my maternal grandfather was a 1st generation American, with both his Italian parents being right off the boat. My Italian family is still there — we’re in touch w/ them, traveled back and forth, blah blah — and has been on the Adriatic Coast (central Italy) at least since about 1650 A.D. (And on the Y-DNA side, my cousin’s closest matches are all Mediterranean/Middle East folks). To keep this short, my Europe South turned into England/Wales. My brother’s Europe South turned into France, and my mom’s 46% Europe South turned into 18% Italy and 10% France. On the plus side, we got rid of the “low confidence” ethnicities that made little sense. I suspect Ancestry has a poor reference group for Mediterranean and Middle East heritage. AND my genetic community of Southern Ireland (got from my paternal side) is still RIGHT ON. No issues there.

    • Normans conquered southern Italy around 1000-1100 AD. Normandy is located within modern France and Ancestry’s “England, Wales, and Northwestern Europe” category. It may seem unlikely, but it’s not inconceivable that you’d have such ancestry.

  23. Many of my regions disappeared. Everything was thrown at british. Is this now a catch-all for saying you are European? My paperwork for 10 generations has German, french, and a greatgrandfather who was from what is now Serbia. So seeing eastern and Southern European at 11% worked. But that is all but disappeared. The update is not matching the known paper trail. The old results did

  24. i went from 39% europe south to 38% French (34-38% range) and 16% Italy (0-16% range) my mom is half Italian with her dad’s side being from southern italy. my maternal grandmother’s father was half Italian with his father’s side being from Calabria. my paternal g-grandmother was half french canadian. i know the france designation also iincludes part of northwestern italy. i don’t know what to think of the new pecentages lol. i pay more attention to my cousin matches because they are more of a gauge to whether i am on the right track with my tree and research.

  25. This new version of ancestry is more accurate for me, my Native American finally showed and they took away the Asia Central, I often wondered why of the tests I’ve taken AncestryDNA was the only one that didn’t show my Native American, in FTDNA ,23andMe, and gedmatch it clearly shows. One supprise Greece now, but on 23andMe it shows some Southern European

  26. My Native American is Native American /Andean now, but from my history it’s said too be Cherokee. The new one I have is Greece /Balkan, and my Scandinavian has been refined to Norway, I lost Senegal, and the Hunters Gatherers.

  27. Mine did not really change – still 55% British and zéro French, whereas my genealogy shows 99% French. But they do not seem to catch that the following is a bit ridiculous to say the least:
    They say I belong to these two communities:
    – Gaspésie, New Brunswick & Northern Maine French Settlers
    – Bas-Saint-Laurent & Northern Maine French Settlers

    which is entirely correct, but follow with this:

    Your connection to this region is likely through your ancestry from:
    Great Britain
    Europe West

    !!! So French settlers come from Great Britain….

  28. On a different note, I also agree that ethnicity and ancestry are not really representative of what is being presented. I now prefer to talk about “genetic affinity”, which is closer to reality, since we are being compared with modern populations inhabiting certain geographic areas – countries in the mind of most people.

      • Sure, but if Ancestry’s tests are targeting “hundreds up to a thousand years ago,” we’re well within the realm of recorded history. It’s not like Ancestry is going to tell someone in Spain they are in fact German because of all that Vandal ancestry.

        Speaking as one of the seemingly non-trivial number of people with documented Southern European ancestry being subsumed into “England/NW Europe,” I’d like to ask Ancestry’s data scientists when in the last few hundred years the land mass known today as “Spain” (or “Italy”) was inhabited by the English, who are in fact our REAL ancestors, as we would discover if we could just trace those Alvarez’s and Herrera’s back a dozen more generations to the time of the, what? . . . the Great Anglo Migration to the Mediterranean of 1340 AD, when the Alden family settled in Madrid and changed its name to Alvarez?

  29. I lost almost all my Scandinavian, and doubled my English to 64%. That makes sense to me since a number of my English Puritans had Scandinavian surnames, some of which were: Thompson, Denison, Richardson, and Blossom, Blossom being a great grandparent. A portion of Scandinavian I have left, Swedish 8%, may relate to a theory I’ve had that a German great grandmother was partly Swedish since she was blonde and her mother was born in extreme northern border area of East Germany and Poland.

    There was a welcome change from Europe West to Germanic Europe. That is accurate, especially since it includes France. A German great great grandmother is from extreme West Germany, with other grandparents born in Alsace. One of her grandparents was born in Strasbourg.

    I was a little surprised to see me taken away from the groups living in Utah. That was accurate. First of all, most of them descended from Puritans, and I have a lot of them in my family. One of my DNA matches at Family Tree descended from a brother of my 4th great grandfather who traveled by wagon train to Utah in the 1850s.

  30. The estimates for me are improved. They cleaned up the regional labeling around the British Isles (for all users). Also, they removed some of my trace regions that weren’t on my tree.

  31. Yes, the Scandinavian mystery has been resolved! I think they heard from a lot of people that their German was missing so reclassified the results. They seem to have folded in some previous small % regions – North Africa, Middle East – into their total population for Italy. More focus on peoples than individual influences they carry in common.

  32. The odd finding is French…..I think that is German – at least for me – hard to distinguish some of those border populations and the people mixed etc. The French have significant German heritage so that is not surprising.

  33. Hi Roberta, you said, “Given this combined functionality, I do wonder if Ancestry’s new ethnicity isn’t simply population genetics, but a combination of population genetics, ancestors in my tree, my matches and corresponding DNA Circles with their associated history. If so, that would make sense, both in terms of what I’m seeing as my new ethnicity results and the map functionality as well.”

    I believe that is likely the case. As 23andMe has used a combination of AIMs and user results, so too has apparently. My previous results did not reflect my discovery of my birth-father’s heritage, French Canadian, and it showed 13% Iberian and 5% Europe West (which included German as well). Now that I’ve added hundreds of French Canadian cousins to my tree, the 13% Iberian has COMPLETELY disappeared and they now show 25% France, which is still too low; I have more colonial American cousin matches on my birth-mother’s side than French Canadian cousin matches, due I believe to fewer French Canadians testing, and not reflective of my DNA which should be over 40-45% French. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

  34. I have the following problems with the results:

    My father is Northern Italian. He has 42% French DNA and 32% Italian DNA.

    I have 0% French DNA and 46% Italian DNA.

    My son has 14% French DNA and 0% Italian DNA.

    These numbers do not make sense. How can my son have French DNA if I have none? How can my son have no Italian DNA?

    (FYI, my wife is 93% Scottish/English with 7% Norwegian.)

    Great article! Thanks for your help.

    • Something seems up with the Italian dna figures based on what I have been reading.

      My mothers grandparents immigrated from Italy in the early 1900’s. Ancestry shows she has 67% Italy, 15% Greece and Balkans, 12% France, 3%Greece. 3% Germanic and 3% Turkey.

      My Father shows 54% Ireland and Scotland and 46% England, Wales and NW Europe.

      My results reflect only 14% France and 3% Greece and the Balkans. No Italy. The remaining is 44% England etc and 39% Ireland.

      So only 17% of my dna from my mother shows here? When nearly 70% of my mothers DNA shows Italy how do I not end up with any of it?

      I dont get it….

  35. Thank You very much for posting this. I went in today and saw that mine changed and I was generally pleased by the improvements. My minority status estimates improved and feel that it helps to confirm further research I continue to do on one side of my family. It at least helps to explain stories, now to the proof and evidence. Overtime this status continues to be there and appears to improve. So happy overall and also thankful for this blog too!

    Cheers Bob

  36. My updated results appear to be a significant improvement, somewhere in the great to huge range. Neither my original ethnicity estimate, nor subsequent update, seemed very realistic, based on known genealogy. For instance, my Iberian Peninsula % was so high, that one of my grandparents should have been 1/2 Spanish, or Portuguese, for the number to be remotely plausible, which was not the case. I have my family tree pretty extensively sorted out, with virtually every branch but one extended into the American Colonial Period. Previous estimates not only showed the unrealistic Iberian results, but also a notable amount of North African. Again, historically implausible. The worst offender was the Scandinavian results, which were so high that I should logically have had a parent that was fluent in Norwegian, or Swedish. All of my proven ancestry from outside the British Isles was Dutch, French and German.
    I have yet to genealogically link my Native American ancestry to particular ancestors, but I most likely have some on my paternal side and my maternal side almost certainly does. The previous ethnicity versions on Ancestry showed a small amount of Native American for me, but none at all for my mom (who I have also had tested). With this latest update, my Native ancestry no longer shows up, but my mom’s results show it now, which makes more sense, since I’m a generation further removed.
    As for my overall percentage estimates, they match my known and probably ancestral origins quite accurately. Furthermore, I have my DNA results from all the other major vendors, as well as use GedMatch. All the others have always been more in line with my known ancestry than AncestryDNA and, more or less, were in agreement with each other. AncestryDNA was always the implausible odd man out – until now. The North African percentages are now gone, replaced with Subsaharan, which is very much in line with what the other vendors and GedMatch told me long ago. My European ancestry no longer shows improbably results, such as Greek and Finnish, but very closely reflects my known heritage. Of course, the percentages are always arguable, but the ratios in relation to one another, make fairly solid sense.
    In short, this update took Ancestry from being my most ludicrous set of ethnicity results to being, quite possibly, the most accurate. At the least, it brings them closely in line with my averaged results from other test providers, as well as closely reflecting my traditionally researched genealogy.

  37. Since I first took their test in 2013, AncestryDNA had been promising to update their test they finally did, it was a great improvement, my Asia Central dissapeared and my Native American finally showed up.

  38. “For me, Ancestry’s ethnicity estimates are significantly improved with the exception that my Native disappeared.”

    Maybe it’s not Ancestry’s error. Isn’t it likely sometimes to lose all trace of an ancestor within just a few generations? After all, the usual 50%, 25%, 12.5%… calculations are statistical approximations. There can be a 0% inheritance in a short while.

  39. What happened? All of a sudden tonight they ask me how accurate my estimates were and after I tell them they were completely out to lunch, it gets revised to 100% France, which is essentially accurate! The process was not complete?
    Or they spy on your blog? 🤔

        • Yes exactly, but for me they asked about all five results. I chose 100% inaccurate for the first four and kept the Western Europe at 6% in the middle, because Western Europe was accurate, but not the 6%. Then the write-up says that the 6% WE became 100% France. They remained silent about the 55% Britain that had disappeared…

          The process is nebulous at best. It leaves me with a feeling that the ethnicity estimates now are also inspired by the DNA circles and thus my tree.
          One of the commenters wrote that they are now giving the results of where our ancestors emigrated from, rather than DNA-based ancestry. But since we are talking genetic genealogy, it is not a bad approach in my view. For most of us, save a few lines connecting us to ancient royalty, this is exactly what the client wants. It is however at the expense of minor ancestries, where the fun part is for a lot of us.

          I have less than 1% Native ancestry because it goes way back. The problem is probably the reference samples. There was an interesting study published this summer :
          which shows that there is a different between First Nations in Ontario (ancient samples near Windsor-Detroit)- hence probably most of the North East of America and the West coast. If the data makes it to public databases, then companies should be able to improve their estimates.

          • It really does seem as if the “survey” might have some influence on the ethnicity estimate. It would be interesting to be able to take the survey again. provide different answers, and see if any changes occur in the ethnicity estimate based on said changes. Too bad there is no way to do this.

            As far as the Native American/ First Nation peoples,..there are far, far too few reference samples in Ancestry’s reference panel. To think that all the indigenous nations present throughout the Americas are adequately represented by a handful of samples is just plain poor science..

  40. On the plus side, Ancestry has now figured out that I have a Jewish 2G grandfather. And my Western European is now identified as Germanic. And my mysterious Southern European and Iberian Peninsula ancestry have disappeared. However, my Scandinavian estimate has actually increased, though I still have found no evidence of ANY Norwegian or Swedish ancestry in my tree. Interestingly, ALL my Scandinavian matches on FTDNA have occurred in pileups — huge numbers of matches sharing short segments of no genealogical relevance and representing various ethnicities. Could this be the source of my bogus Scandinavian ancestry on Ancestry?

  41. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the changes, I didn’t mind loosing the <.1% Jewish as I knew not right. But I am absolutely part German/French with a 2nd GGMother via dad's mother born in Germany and my dad's father's side German additionally with German surname. There is Dutch as well so I guess when you cross England to NW Europe and just mix it all in together that is why it changed upward 59% on England/Wales/NW Europe! 59% change – unless you say that is just rearranging the borders of what there was prior is a pretty significant shift.

    If they do look at your tree then I do have a lot – probably mostly – English/Scottish/Irish surnames. I bet after I found a 2-3rd GG Father from Canada but born in England that could shift it as well. But then why would they ignore 2nd Great Grandmother born in Germany?

    They eliminated my Iberian (some Portuguese known was 7% to 0%), cut eastern European/Russian in half down to 3%, called the Scandinavian Norwegian (none known, I think it is the Dutch?) … They eliminated the Southern Europe 2% to 0, and 1% added to the Scottish/Irish, eliminated what they had as S. India, which I think was the equivilent of the West Asian or Native/E. Asian I get on other services.

    I think it was the drastic addition on English/NW Europe I found upsetting I suppose and the elimination in total of the Iberian. Of course, 23andme keeps changing us and with my dad and son on there v.5 and me v4 things there keep getting rotated around too … If we put a wide radius over the UK and Europe, yeah that is me more or less just it is eliminating the fun parts, the smaller parts you know are there from your own family history, seen on other tests as well.

    Thank you also for heads up on 23andme v. 5 being compatible with MyHeritage. 🙂

  42. Thanks for the post – great information.

    This was a big change in my results. I tend to lose confidence when big changes happen, not gain confidence. So in general, it was a bit of a downer for me. Emotionally I liked being associated with a lot of different ethnic groups, so the consolidation (even if accurate) is a drag. Another point – I don’t like the Ancestry marketing machine, because now you will have people who bought into an ethnicity – only to be disappointed if their changes were significant.

    New Estimate
    England, Wales, NW Europe – 71%
    Ireland & Scotland – 29%

    Old Estimate
    Great Britain – 35%
    Scandinavia – 24%
    Ireland/Scotland/Wales – 21%
    Europe West – 10%
    Iberian Peninsula – 5%
    Europe South – 3%

    What time frame are they estimating with these ethnic makeups? I have a hard time understanding how to explain this to other people in my family.

  43. My DNA relatives list is populated with shared relatives that descend from Sant’Angelo dei Lombardi, Avellino, Campania, Italy ancestors. On page 1 of my results I count 13 relatives that are descendants of those from Sant’Angelo dei Lombardi, on page 2 there are 15, on page 3 there are 21 relatives… I stopped counting after that. In the last version of AncestryDNA estimates they said I was 13 % Italian. This new version has dropped my Italian to 1%. The multitude of DNA relatives that match me on my DNA relatives list say otherwise. In addition to DNA, I have an extensive paper trail of proof. I have traced my Italian grandfather’s parents into Sant’Angelo and have worked my way through the Italian records. I have discovered ALL of my 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Italian great grandparents. Additionally, I have discovered almost all of my 5th and a few of my 6th Italian great grandparents in the Sant’Angelo dei Lombardi records.
    AncestryDNA’s new estimate for my southern Italian heritage being only 1% is woefully wrong. Incidentally, 23andMe lists my Italian heritage at 17%.

  44. Hi Roberta, Thanks for this information. My new estimate shows me as 89% England Wales & NW Europe (France, Germany & Luxembourg) and 11% Irish. I lost 6 regions and my Irish % dropped from 31 to the current 11. The grouping of England, Wales, France, Germany & Luxembourg feels like a huge group of regions to throw together. Is the DNA of those populations truly so similar that the percentages can’t be determined? While we have a strong verbal history of French origins I would love a breakout of the percentages by country but it looks like that’s not possible.

  45. I completely lost the entire (large) percentage of my makeup of Scandinavian with Ancestry’s recent update. And then they had the gall and inconsiderateness to make a joke about people getting their viking tattoos removed. I think folks should consider sending them a bill for both the original tattoo, plus the cost of laser removal.

  46. In my case, Ancestry’s older estimates are generally closer to my paper-trail calculations than are the updated ones. Previously, I had 44% “Europe West”, 25% “Great Britain”, 9% “Ireland”, and 9% “Iberian Peninsula”. Only two of my “trace” regions had any support in my paper trail: my 2% “Europe South”, and my 1% Native American.

    By genealogical calculation, I estimate “Europe West” at 44.5% if I include in this category my German, Alsatian, Swiss, and French ancestors. I have 31.25% “Great Britain”, but only if I include in this category a couple whose surnames were “White” and “Smith”. It’s equally possible that these names were changed from “Weiss” and “Schmidt”. Without these two, the “Great Britain” calculation would drop to 25%. (Of course, the “Europe West” would presumably increase.) My combined “Ireland and Scotland” is 12.5%, based on genealogy. I also have Catalan ancestry, which by genealogical calculation, 12.5% since my mother was one-fourth and my grandmother was half. For my Native American ancestry, a genealogical calculation puts it at around 2% — which is exactly what I get at both 23andMe and FTDNA (and now, at Ancestry).

    After the update, Ancestry says I have 80% “England, Wales and Northwestern Europe”. It’s clear from their description that Ancestry equates this with “Great Britain”, since they tell me this 80% figure represents a “55% increase”. The only thing that previously had been 25% is “Great Britain”. “Ireland and Scotland” is up 2% from “Ireland”, to 11%.

    At, I’ve seen a lot of posts from people with primarily English or other British descent who felt that their old number was “too low”, and who are happier with their increase. The problem for me is that my “Europe West” really did just seem to be that — Western Europe, *not* including Great Britain. It seems as if now all but 6% of my German ancestry has been shifted to “Great Britain” by a new name, to satisfy the disappointed Englishers.

    I think the problem is that among many of the English, there is a “Germanic” component. But in trying to separate this component from Germany, “German” has actually been reduced for some of us — for *me*, anyway.

  47. I am curious how the autosomal test can accurately detect ancestors of the 7th to 10th generations. At least 90% of my ancestors are in this range as ALL of my ancestors were in North America before 1785 – most long before if not here to begin with. And now the new Ancestry interpretation eliminates my 4th generation French ancestor yet seemingly detecting (imagining?) the earlier generations of other families. How does this science work?

    Sent from Outlook


  48. New ethnicity results Sept 14th are horrible, there must be some huge mistakes. I have an Italian grandfather who’s parents both were Italian immigrants and now I have 0% Italian ancestry down from 20%. I have many matches going back to Turin and Milan some with the same Cerutti surname. My Grandmother similiar situation except from Germany and I’m only 5% German now. Here is the kicker My mother was 40% Italian which should be close and she is now only 13% Italian. She is 50% Germanic Europe and 37% French. Ok now I only share two ethnicities with my own mother so 11% French and 5% Germanic Europe so I am to believe I have only inherited 17% of my autosomal DNA from my mother??? Does that make any sense… Of course not. I will no longer be recomending Ancestry to anyone and if they have paid for this test to go to GED.match and you will find your missing Jewish and Native Amerian ancestry that Ancestry DNA misses. Yes and now I have Swedish ancestry too but only on Ancestry…

    • Crazy results. Mine are very similar. My mothers grandparents were both immigrants from Italy. She shows 67% Italian. I show none. Our matching locations also only show 17%. The rest shows areas from my fathers dna.

      Seems silly…

    • Similar results for me with Italy. My grandmother was an Italian immigrant and I only show 4% now. My father who showed 29% before the results shows only 8% Italy now and his British region increased by 48%!!!
      He also lost 7 other pretty diverse ethnic regions which added up to quite a bit of his previous results. Strange.

  49. Why/how did they leave out Denmark? As you note, they separated Scandinavia into Norway and Sweden and consolidated Germanic Europe. What happened to Denmark? All 4 of my mother’s grandparents were born in Denmark and immigrated to the U.S. in the late 19th century. We have her family genealogy in Denmark back 200+ years, plus a few Germans who moved into Denmark in the early 1800s. She should be about 75% Danish/25% German, but Ancestry has her Swedish, English, Norwegian, and German. She definitely does not have any English ancestry and very little, if any from Sweden or Norway. I also have identified more than 50 DNA matches on Ancestry who are her 1st, 2nd, and 3rd cousins to her Danish ancestors, so there DNA ethnicity will be ridiculously wrong as well. I have tried to communicate with Ancestry but they do not respond. I would like to help them fix this oversight. How could they be so incompetent to completely leave Denmark out of their model?

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