Black Friday, Holiday and DNA Sales by Any Other Names

Now that DNA testing has gone mainstream, with more and more people interested and testing – it’s the perfect time to purchase kits for yourself and family.

Remember, genetic genealogy is a team sport and the more people who test, the more successful everyone will be!

This is the first year that there have been numerous companies having pre-holiday sales, Black Friday sales, Cyber Sales and any other kind of sale they can have to attract attention.  A rose by any other name is still a sale😊

My first suggestion is to stay mainstream.  Because of the popularity of DNA testing, many new companies are jumping on the bandwagon with somewhat questionable products.  Don’t get caught up purchasing something you really didn’t mean to purchase and whose results are sketchy, at best.

Therefore, I’m listing the companies I consider to be mainstream below, whether or not I’m 100% comfortable with their products or terms and conditions.  As always, the companies I link to, I do recommend and feel that their products bring the best value to consumers transparently and without other agendas.  You can read more about the individual companies and their products as I’ve discussed their products and services over time by utilizing the little search icon at the right hand side of the blog page.

Who To Test With?

My recommendation is to unquestionably take the following genealogy tests, minimally:

  • Autosomal DNA (Family Finder test) at Family Tree DNA includes ethnicity, matching and advanced tools
  • Y DNA Test (males only) at Family Tree DNA for patrilineal line, includes haplogroup estimate and matching
  • Mitochondrial DNA Test at Family Tree DNA for matrilineal line includes matching and haplogroup
  • AncestryDNA autosomal test includes ethnicity and matching

There is an entire range of secondary testing companies that I would add after that, with the autosomal matching tests the highest priority:

  • MyHeritage autosomal test includes matching and ethnicity
  • 23andMe autosomal test includes matching, ethnicity and haplogroups

Other tests don’t provide matching, but do provide interesting features:

Not a testing company, but genealogy research provided by:

Last, a new startup company with cool DNA gear:

If you want to research the pros, cons and details of the tests and what each company offers, please read these two articles:

If you’re an adoptee or looking for an unidentified parent or grandparent, you’ll want to test at all 4 companies that provide matching to other testers:

Ready, set, go….sales!

The Sales

Let’s look at the sales being offered at each company.

Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA has announced a Black Friday sale on their Family Finder autosomal test priced at $49 which you can order here.

However, many other tests are on sale as well and will continue to be on sale throughout the holiday season.

Family Tree DNA’s holiday sale began on November 12th and will continue through the end of the year.  Sale items include Y and mitochondrial DNA, their autosomal Family Finder test, and some upgrades – most notably – the Big Y which includes a free upgrade to a 111 STR test.

Their autosomal Family Finder test includes ethnicity, matching to relatives as well as a dozen or so tools to help you with your genealogy.

Family Tree DNA is definitely the most sophisticated testing company, providing the most tools without the need for an added subscription.

In addition to their Holiday Sale, they post a Holiday Rewards coupon to the personal page of everyone who have already tested.  I provide mine from the multiple accounts I manage weekly for people to share.

Recent articles about the Big Y testing and sales include:

If you’ve every considered Y DNA testing (for males) or you have already tested and would like to purchase the Big Y, now is definitely the time.

Ancestry

Ancestry.com autosomal DNA kits are on sale for $79 in the US.

Ancestry’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale provides the same kit for £49 in the UK.

These kits include both ethnicity and matching, but please be aware that only about half of the features are available without at least a minimal subscription.

Be sure to review the terms and conditions carefully before purchase to assure that you are comfortable with the ways in which your DNA may be shared with other entities.

MyHeritage

The MyHeritage autosomal test is on sale for $49 but the sale only runs through November 27th. They are also offering free shipping on 3 kits or more.

You can order here.

23andMe

23andMe is offering their autosomal test which includes ethnicity and matching at the price of 2 for $49 each for their Ancestry Service kit which is genealogy only, without the health traits.  Their Health plus Ancestry remains at its normal price.

Be sure to review the terms and conditions carefully before purchase to assure that you are comfortable with the ways in which your DNA may be shared with other entities.

Genographic Project

The Genographic Project kit which provides ethnicity plus Y (males only) and mitochondrial DNA haplogroups (males and females) regularly for $99.95, but reduced to $69 this weekend. The Genographic project does not provide matching but does support open research.

This price reflects that the Helix processing and kit is actually free, and you are only paying for the Genographic app.

LivingDNA

The LivingDNA test which provides ethnicity results focused on the British Isles plus Y (males only) and mitochondrial DNA haplogroups (males and females) is regularly offered for $159, but is $89 for Black Friday.

Insitome

First purchase only, $80 off plus free shipping.  What this really means is that you are receiving the Helix text kit for free and are only paying for the Insitome app, which is ALSO on sale.

I recently reviewed the Neanderthal and Metabolism apps here.

Insitome is announcing today that they are adding a third product focusing on Regional Ancestry.

Want a sneak peek? Here you go, compliments of Insitome!

In addition to the map above, testers will be receiving a migration map as well

I don’t have my own results yet to share with you, but as soon as I do, guaranteed, I’ll be writing an article.

You can order the Regional Ancestry product now for $19.99, but results won’t be available for delivery until around January 8th. The best deal is this weekend, but after Cyber Monday, the Ancestry Regional app is still on sale, as follows

  • From Black Friday – Cyber Monday
    • You get a free Helix DNA kit + shipping
    • First time purchasers get it for $19.99
    • 2nd time purchasers get it for $19.99
  • From Tuesday, November 28th – December 12th
    • You get free shipping from Helix
    • First time purchasers get it for $59.99
    • 2nd time purchasers get it for $19.99

I don’t think the $19 price is supposed to be available until Black Friday, but I notice it’s available now if you click on the “Order for myself” button through this link.  The price is adjusted in the shopping car. Click here to order.

Legacy Tree Genealogists

Legacy Tree Genealogists doesn’t do DNA testing, but they do a great job of genealogy research, especially if you have a brick wall.  In my case, this occurs with overseas research where I don’t know the language, the customs or even where records are kept.

Legacy Tree’s DNA related specialty is with adoptee and missing parent searches.  Their staff does include an awesome specialist in this type of research, Paul Woodbury.

To purchase genealogy research, or to obtain a quote, click here and use the code CYBER100 to obtain $100 off through November 29th. If you miss the Cyber Sale, you can always get $50 off by using this link and telling them Roberta referred you.

DNAGeeks

New to the scene, DNAGEEKS, founded by geneticists David Mittelman and Razib Kahn, doesn’t offer a DNA test, but does offer DNA themed garb, gadgets and coming soon, educational items. As everyone knows, I’m a HUGE fan of education and anything to encourage people to ask questions and become interested in DNA and DNA testing is wonderful

Also, DNAGEEKS gets the 2017 award for the coolest website picture, above!

My personal favorite item is the orange helix t-shirt – and yes, I’m ordering one.  Not even waiting for Santa!

I suggested to David Mittelman, that I would really like a helix cover for my iPhone.  A few hours later, he e-mailed me with this new product. I’m so geeked – pardon the pun. The great news is that you can order one too!

What do you think?  Your phone is the ONE thing everyone sees – so why not make a statement!

To order either the t-shirt or the phone case, click on this link, then Products, then Science Outreach Gear – but wait, there’s a coupon too.

A big thank you to DNAGEEKS for a special coupon only for my blog followers that gets you 15% off of anything Black Friday through Cyber Monday – just enter the following coupon code at checkout:

dnaexplained17

You can click here to view all of DNAGEEKS cool items and don’t forget the code.

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Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate.  If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase.  Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay.  This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 900 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc.  In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received.  In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product.  I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community.  If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA, or one of the affiliate links below:

Affiliate links are limited to:

Helix Sale

Helix is a startup company (funded in part by the DNA testing juggernaut, Illumina) that is offering a marketplace approach to DNA testing.

This means you pay for the initial Exome sequencing through Helix, then you pay for apps from companies that develop applications, much like the app stores.

I will be reporting on my Neanderthal and Metabolism results soon, but Helix has launched a 2 day sale (ending November 9th) that is the best Exome pricing I’ve ever seen anyplace – and If you are interested, I don’t want you to miss the opportunity.

However, and this is a big however, you do NOT receive your raw data results, so you can’t download and use those results for genealogy or health outside of applications available for purchase through Helix affiliates.

If you are interested in testing for other types of information offered through Helix affiliate company applications, you may be interested in this sale.

Here’s how the Helix marketplace works:

You purchase an application and bundled into that price is both the Helix exome sequencing and the app itself.

On the Helix site, click on the various icons under the “shop” tab to see the regular and sale pricing.

At this point, the only three tests that I have confidence in are the Neanderthal and Metabolism apps by Insitome (a startup by Spencer Wells, former Director of the Genographic Project and Scientist in Residence), the Genographic Project app, and potentially the Health category apps, although I have not personally evaluated the Health apps.

In other cases, I’m downright skeptical of the value of some of these apps, but I’ll let you be the judge.

App categories, other than the ones I mentioned above, include:

  • Entertainment
  • Family
  • Fitness
  • Nutrition

Here’s are the sale prices for:

Disclosure

While I am a National Geographic Genographic affiliate researcher, there is no financial remuneration involved, nor is this a paid affiliate link.  This means I have no financial interest whatsoever, in any way, in these products and services – nor do I receive any commission if you purchase any of these products.

Which Ethnicity Test is Best?

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:

The links above provide product reviews of recently released or updated results.

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:

  • Africa
  • Europe
  • Asia
  • Native American
  • Jewish

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.

Summary

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.

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Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure will now appear at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

Autosomal DNA Transfers – Which Companies Accept Which Tests?

Somehow, I missed the announcement that Family Tree DNA now accepts uploads from MyHeritage.

Other people may have missed a few announcements too, or don’t understand the options, so I’ve created a quick and easy reference that shows which testing vendors’ files can be uploaded to which other vendors.

Why Transfer?

Just so that everyone is on the same page, if you test your autosomal DNA at one vendor, Vendor A, some other vendors allow you to download your raw data file from Vendor A and transfer your results to their company, Vendor B.  The transfer to Vendor B is either free or lower cost than testing from scratch.  One site, GedMatch, is not a testing vendor, but is a contribution/subscription comparison site.

Vendor B then processes your DNA file that you imported from Vendor A, and your results are then included in the database of Vendor B, which means that you can obtain your matches to other people in Vendor B’s data base who tested there originally and others who have also transferred.  You can also avail yourself of any other tools that Vendor B provides to their customers.  Tools vary widely between companies.  For example, Family Tree DNA, GedMatch and 23andMe provide chromosome browsers, while Ancestry does not.  All 3 major vendors (Family Tree DNA, Ancestry and 23andMe) have developed unique offerings (of varying quality) to help their customers understand the messages that their unique DNA carries.

Ok, Who Loves Whom?

The vendors in the left column are the vendors performing the autosomal DNA tests. The vendor row (plus GedMatch) across the top indicates who accepts upload transfers from whom, and which file versions. Please consider the notes below the chart.

(Chart updated September 28, 2017)

Please note that on August 9, 2017, 23and Me began processing on the Illumina GSA chip which is not compatible with earlier versions.  As of late September 2017, only GedMatch accepts their upload and only in their Genesis sandbox area, not the normal production matching area.  This is due to the small overlap area with existing chips.  You can read more about the GSA chip and its ramifications here

  • Family Tree DNA accepts uploads from both other major vendors (Ancestry and 23andMe) but the versions that are compatible with the chip used by FTDNA will have more matches at Family Tree DNA. 23andMe V3, Ancestry V1 and MyHeritage results utilize the same chip and format as FTDNA. 23andMe V4 and Ancestry V2 utilize different formats utilizing only about half of the common locations. Family Tree DNA still allows free transfers and comparisons with other testers, but since there are only about half of the same DNA locations in common with the FTDNA chip, matches will be fewer. Additional functions can be unlocked for a one time $19 fee.
  • Neither Ancestry, 23andMe nor Genographic accept transfer data from any other vendors.
  • MyHeritage does accept transfers, although that option is not easy to find. I checked with a MyHeritage representative and they provided me with the following information:  “You can upload an autosomal DNA file from your profile page on MyHeritage. To access your profile page, login to your MyHeritage account, then click on your name which is displayed towards the top right corner of the screen. Click on “My profile”. On the profile page you’ll see a DNA tab, click on the tab and you’ll see a link to upload a file.”  MyHeritage has also indicated that they will be making ethnicity results available to individuals who transfer results into their system in May, 2017.
  • LivingDNA has just released an ethnicity product and does not have DNA matching capability to other testers.  Living DNA imputes DNA locations that they don’t test, but the initial download only includes the DNA locations actually tested.
  • WeGene’s website is in Chinese and they are not a significant player, but I did include them because GedMatch accepts their files. WeGene’s website indicates that they accept 23andme uploads, but I am unable to determine which version or versions. Given that their terms and conditions and privacy and security information are not in English, I would be extremely hesitant before engaging in business. I would not be comfortable in trusting on online translation for this type of document. SNPedia reports that WeGene has data quality issues.
  • GedMatch is not a testing vendor, so has no entry in the left column, but does provide tools and accepts all versions of files from each vendor that provides files, to date, with the exception of the Genographic Project.  GedMatch is free (contribution based) for many features, but does have more advanced functions available for a $10 monthly subscription. The GedMatch Genesis platform is a sandbox area for files from vendors that cannot be put into production today due to matching and compatibility issues.
  • The Genographic Project tested their participants at the Family Tree DNA lab until November 2016, when they moved to the Helix platform, which performs an exome test using a different chip.
  • The Ancestry V2 chip began processing in May 2016.
  • The 23andMe V3 chip began processing in December 2010. The 23andMe V4 chip began processing in November 2013. Their V5 chip August 9, 2017.

Incompatible Files

Please be aware that vendors that accept different versions of other vendors files can only work with the tested locations that are in the files generated by the testing vendors unless they use a technique called imputation.

For example, Family Tree DNA tests about 700,000 locations which are on the same chip as MyHeritage, 23andMe V3 and Ancestry V1. In the later 23andMe V4 test, the earlier 23andMe V2 and the Ancestry V2 tests, only a portion of the same locations are tested.  The 23andMe V4 and Ancestry V2 chips only test about half of the file locations of the vendors who utilize the Illumina OmniExpress chip, but not the same locations as each other since both the Ancestry V2 and 23andMe V4 chips are custom. 23andMe and Ancestry both changed their chips from the OmniExpress version and replaced genealogically relevant locations with medically relevant locations, creating a custom chip.

Update:  In August 2017, 23andMe introduced their V5 chip which has only about 20% overlap with previous chips.

I know this is confusing, so I’ve created the following chart for chip and test compatibility comparison.

(Chart updated Sept. 28, 2017)

You can easily see why the FTDNA, Ancestry V1, 23andMe V3 and MyHeritage tests are compatible with each other.  They all tested utilizing the same chip.  However, each vendor then applies their own unique matching and ethnicity algorithms to customer results, so your results will vary with each vendor, even when comparing ethnicity predictions or matching the same two individuals to each other.

Apples to Apples to Imputation

It’s difficult for vendors to compare apples to apples with non-compatible files.

I wrote about imputation in the article about MyHeritage, here and also more generally, here. In a nutshell, imputation is a technique used to infer the DNA for locations a vendor doesn’t test (or doesn’t receive in a transfer file from another vendor) based on the location’s neighboring DNA and DNA that is “normally” passed together as a packet.

However, the imputed regions of DNA are not your DNA, and therefore don’t carry your mutations, if any.

I created the following diagram when writing the MyHeritage article to explain the concept of imputation when comparing multiple vendors’ files showing locations tested, overlap and imputed regions. You can click to enlarge the graphic.

Family Tree DNA has chosen not to utilize imputation for transfer files and only compares the actual DNA locations tested and uploaded in vendor files, while MyHeritage has chosen to impute locations for incompatible files. Family Tree DNA produces fewer, but accurate matches for incompatible transfer files.  MyHeritage continues to have matching issues.

MyHeritage may be using imputation for all transfer files to equalize the files to a maximum location count for all vendor files. This is speculation on my part, but is speculation based on the differences in matches from known compatible file versions to known matches at the original vendor and then at MyHeritage.

I compared matches to the same person at MyHeritage, GedMatch, Ancestry and Family Tree DNA. It appears that imputed matches do not consistently compare reliably. I’m not convinced imputation can ever work reliably for genetic genealogy, because we need our own DNA and mutations. Regardless, imputation is in its infancy today and due to the Illumina GSA chip replacing the OmniExpress chip, imputation will be widely used within the industry shortly for backwards compatibility.

To date, two vendors are utilizing imputation. LivingDNA is using imputation with the GSA chip for ethnicity, and MyHeritage for DNA matching.

Summary

Your best results are going to be to test on the platform that the vendor offers, because the vendor’s match and ethnicity algorithms are optimized for their own file formats and DNA locations tested.

That means that if you are transferring an Ancestry V1 file, a 23andMe V3 file or a MyHeritage file, for example, to Family Tree DNA, your matches at Family Tree DNA will be the same as if you tested on the FTDNA platform.  You do not need to retest at Family Tree DNA.

However, if you are transferring an Ancestry V2 file or 23andMe V4 file, you will receive some matches, someplace between one quarter and half as compared to a test run on the vendor’s own chip. For people who can’t be tested again, that’s certainly better than nothing, and cross-chip matching generally picks up the strongest matches because they tend to match in multiple locations. For people who can retest, testing at Family Tree DNA would garner more matches and better ethnicity results for those with 23andMe V2 and V4 tests as well as Ancestry V2 tests.

For absolutely best results, swim in all of the major DNA testing pools, test as many relatives as possible, and test on the vendor’s Native chip to obtain the most matches.  After all, without sharing and matching, there is no genetic genealogy!

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Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

New Native American Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroups

At the November 2016 Family Tree DNA International Conference on Genetic Genealogy, I was invited to give a presentation about my Native American research findings utilizing the Genographic Project data base in addition to other resources. I was very pleased to be offered the opportunity, especially given that the 2016 conference marked the one year anniversary of the Genographic Project Affiliate Researcher program.

The results of this collaborative research effort have produced an amazing number of newly identified Native American mitochondrial haplogroups. Previously, 145 Native American mitochondrial haplogroups had been identified. This research project increased that number by 79% added another 114 haplogroups, raising the total to 259 Native American haplogroups.

Guilt by Genetic Association

Bennett Greenspan, President of Family Tree DNA, gave a presentation several years ago wherein he described genetic genealogy as “guilt by genetic association.” This description of genetic genealogy is one of the best I have ever heard, especially as it pertains to the identification of ancestral populations by Y and mitochondrial DNA.

As DNA testing has become more mainstream, many people want to see if they have Native ancestry. While autosomal DNA can only measure back in time relative to ethnicity reliably about 5 or 6 generations, Y and mitochondrial DNA due to their unique inheritance paths and the fact that they do not mix with the other parent’s DNA can peer directly back in time thousands of years.

Native American Mitochondrial DNA

Native American mitochondrial DNA consists of five base haplogroups, A, B, C, D and X. Within those five major haplogroups are found many Native as well as non-Native sub-haplogroups. Over the last 15 years, researchers have been documenting haplogroups found within the Native community although progress has been slow for various reasons, including but not limited to the lack of participants with proven Native heritage on the relevant matrilineal genealogical line.

In the paper, “Large scale mitochondrial sequencing in Mexican Americans suggests a reappraisal of Native American origins,” published in 2011, Kumar et al state the following:

For mtDNA variation, some studies have measured Native American, European and African contributions to Mexican and Mexican American populations, revealing 85 to 90% of mtDNA lineages are of Native American origin, with the remainder having European (5-7%) or African ancestry (3-5%). Thus the observed frequency of Native American mtDNA in Mexican/Mexican Americans is higher than was expected on the basis of autosomal estimates of Native American admixture for these populations i.e. ~ 30-46%. The difference is indicative of directional mating involving preferentially immigrant men and Native American women.

The actual Native mtDNA rate in their study of 384 completely sequenced Mexican genomes was 83.3% with 3.1% being African and 13.6% European.

This means that Mexican Americans and those south of the US in Mesoamerica provide a virtually untapped resource for Native American mitochondrial DNA.

The Genographic Project Affiliate Researcher Program

At the Family Tree DNA International Conference in November 2015, Dr. Miguel Vilar announced that the Genographic Project data base would be made available for qualified affiliate researchers outside of academia. There is, of course, an application process and aspiring affiliate researchers are required to submit a research project plan for consideration.

I don’t know if I was the first applicant, but if not, I was certainly one of the first because I wasted absolutely no time in submitting my application. In fact, my proposal likely arrived in Washington DC before Dr. Vilar did!

One of my original personal goals for genetic genealogy was to identify my Native American ancestors. It didn’t take long before I realized that one of the aspects of genetic genealogy where we desperately needed additional research was relative to Native people, specifically within Native language groups or tribes and from individuals who unquestionably know their ancestry and can document that their direct Y or mtDNA ancestors were Native.

Additionally, we needed DNA from pre-European-contact burials to ascertain whether haplogroups found in Europe and Africa were introduced into the Native population post-contact or existed within the Native population as a result of a previously unknown/undocumented contact. Some of both of these types of research has occurred, but not enough.

Slowly, over the years, additional sub-haplogroups have been added for both the Y and mitochondrial Native DNA. In 2007, Tamm et al published the first comprehensive paper providing an overview of the migration pathways and haplogroups in their landmark paper, “Beringian Standstill and the Spread of Native American Founders.” Other research papers have added to that baseline over the years.

beringia map

“Beringian Standstill and the Spread of Native American Founders” by Tamm et al

In essence, whether you are an advocate of one migration or multiple migration waves, the dates of 10,000 to 25,000 years ago are a safe range for migration from Asia, across the then-present land-mass, Beringia, into the Americas. Recently another alternative suggesting that the migration may have occurred by water, in multiple waves, following coastlines, has been proposed as well – but following the same basic pathway. It makes little difference whether the transportation method was foot or kayak, or both, or one or more migration events. Our interest lies in identifying which haplogroups arrived with the Asians who became the indigenous people of the Americas.

Haplogroups

To date, proven base Native haplogroups are:

Y DNA:

  • Q
  • C

Mitochondrial DNA

  • A
  • B
  • C
  • D
  • X

Given that the Native, First Nations or aboriginal people, by whatever name you call them, descended from Asia, across the Beringian land bridge sometime between roughly 10,000 and 25,000 years ago, depending on which academic model you choose to embrace, none of the base haplogroups shown above are entirely Native. Only portions, meaning specific subgroups, are known to be Native, while other subgroups are Asian and often European as well. The descendants of the base haplogroups, all born in Asia, expanded North, South, East and West across the globe. Therefore, today, it’s imperative to test mitochondrial DNA to the full sequence level and undergo SNP testing for Y DNA to determine subgroups in order to be able to determine with certainty if your Y or mtDNA ancestor was Native.

And herein lies the rub.

Certainty is relative, pardon the pun.

We know unquestionably that some haplogroups, as defined by Y SNPs and mtDNA full sequence testing, ARE Native, and we know that some haplogroups have never (to date) been found in a Native population, but there are other haplogroup subgroups that are ambiguous and are either found in both Asia/Europe and the Americas, or their origin is uncertain. One by one, as more people test and we obtain additional data, we solve these mysteries.

Let’s look at a recent example.

Haplogroup X2b4

Haplogroup X2b4 was found in the descendants of Radegonde Lambert, an Acadian woman born sometime in the 1620s and found in Acadia (present day Nova Scotia) married to Jean Blanchard as an adult. It was widely believed that she was the daughter of Jean Lambert and his Native wife. However, some years later, a conflicting record arose in which the husband of Radegonde’s great-granddaughter gave a deposition in which he stated that Radegonde came from France with her husband.

Which scenario was true? For years, no one else tested with haplogroup X2b4 that had any information as to the genesis of their ancestors, although several participants tested who descended from Radegonde.

Finally, in 2016, we were able to solve this mystery once and for all. I had formed the X2b4 project with Marie Rundquist and Tom Glad, hoping to attract people with haplogroup X2b4. Two pivotal events happened.

  • Additional people tested at Family Tree DNA and joined the X2b4 project.
  • Genographic Project records became available to me as an affiliate researcher.

At Family Tree DNA, we found other occurrences of X2b4 in:

  • The Czech Republic
  • Devon in the UK
  • Birmingham in the UK

Was it possible that X2b4 could be both European and Native, meaning that some descendants had migrated east and crossed the Beringia land bridge, and some has migrated westward into Europe?

Dr. Doron Behar in the supplement to his publication, “A Copernican” Reassessment of the Human Mitochondrial DNA Tree from its Root” provides the creation dates for haplogroup X through X2b4 as follows:

native-mt-x2b4

These dates would read 31,718 years ago plus or minus 11,709 (eliminating the numbers after the decimal point) which would give us a range for the birth of haplogroup X from 43,427 years ago to 20,009 years ago, with 31,718 being the most likely date.

Given that X2b4 was “born” between 2,992 and 8,186 years ago, the answer has to be no, X2b4 cannot be found both in the Native population and European population since at the oldest date, 8,100 years ago, the Native people had already been in the Americas between 2,000 and 18,000 years.

Of course, all kinds of speculation could be (and has been) offered, about Native people being taken to Europe, although that speculation is a tad bit difficult to rationalize in the Czech Republic.

The next logical question is if there are documented instances of X2b4 in the Native population in the Americas?

I turned to the Genographic Project where I found no instances of X2b4 in the Native population and the following instances of X2b4 in Europe.

  • Ireland
  • Czech
  • Serbia
  • Germany (6)
  • France (2)
  • Denmark
  • Switzerland
  • Russia
  • Warsaw, Poland
  • Norway
  • Romania
  • England (2)
  • Slovakia
  • Scotland (2)

The conclusion relative to X2b4 is clearly that X2b4 is European, and not aboriginally Native.

The Genographic Project Data Base

As a researcher, I was absolutely thrilled to have access to another 700,000+ results, over 475,000 of which are mitochondrial.

The Genographic Project tests people whose identity remains anonymous. One of the benefits to researchers is that individuals in the public participation portion of the project can contribute their own information anonymously for research by answering a series of questions.

I was very pleased to see that one of the questions asked is the location of the birth of the participant’s most distant matrilineal ancestor.

Tabulation and analysis should be a piece of cake, right? Just look at that “most distant ancestor” response, or better yet, utilize the Genographic data base search features, sort, count, and there you go…

Well, guess again, because one trait that is universal, apparently, between people is that they don’t follow instructions well, if at all.

The Genographic Project, whether by design or happy accident, has safeguards built in, to some extent, because they ask respondents for the same or similar information in a number of ways. In any case, this technique provides researchers multiple opportunities to either obtain the answer directly or to put 2+2 together in order to obtain the answer indirectly.

Individuals are identified in the data base by an assigned numeric ID. Fields that provide information that could be relevant to ascertaining mitochondrial ethnicity and ancestral location are:

native-mt-geno-categories

I utilized these fields in reverse order, giving preference to the earliest maternal ancestor (green) fields first, then maternal grandmother (teal), then mother (yellow), then the tester’s place of birth (grey) supplemented by their location, language and ethnicity if applicable.

Since I was looking for very specific information, such as information that would tell me directly or suggest that the participant was or could be Native, versus someone who very clearly wasn’t, this approach was quite useful.

It also allowed me to compare answers to make sure they made sense. In some cases, people obviously confused answers or didn’t understand the questions, because the three earliest ancestor answers cannot contain information that directly contradict each other. For example, the earliest ancestor place of birth cannot be Ireland and the language be German and the ethnicity be Cherokee. In situations like this, I omitted the entire record from the results because there was no reliable way to resolve the conflicting information.

In other cases, it was obvious that if the maternal grandmother and mother and tester were all born in China, that their earliest maternal ancestor was not very likely to be Native American, so I counted that answer as “China” even though the respondent did not directly answer the earliest maternal ancestor questions.

Unfortunately, that means that every response had to be individually evaluated and tabulated. There was no sort and go! The analysis took several weeks in the fall of 2016.

By Haplogroup – Master and Summary Tables

For each sub-haplogroup, I compiled, minimally, the following information shown as an example for haplogroup A with no subgroup:

native-mt-master-chart

The “Previously Proven Native” link is to my article titled Native American Mitochondrial Haplogroups where I maintain an updated list of haplogroups proven or suspected Native, along with the source(s), generally academic papers, for that information.

In some cases, to resolve ambiguity if any remained, I also referenced Phylotree, mtDNA Community and/or GenBank.

For each haplogroup or subgroup within haplogroup, I evaluated and listed the locations for the Genographic “earliest maternal ancestor place of birth” locations, but in the case of the haplogroup A example above, with 4198 responses, the results did not fit into the field so I added the information as supplemental.

By analyzing this information after completing a master tablet for each major haplogroup and subgroups, meaning A, B, C, D and X, I created summary tables provided in the haplogroup sections in this paper.

Family Tree DNA Projects

Another source of haplogroup information is the various mitochondrial DNA projects at Family Tree DNA.

Each project is managed differently, by volunteers, and displays or includes different information publicly. While different information displayed and lack of standardization does present challenges, there is still valuable information available from the public webpages for each mitochondrial haplogroup referenced.

Challenges

The first challenge is haplogroup naming. For those “old enough” to remember when Y DNA haplogroups used to be called by names such as R1b1c and then R1b1a2, as opposed to the current R-M269 – mitochondrial DNA is having the same issue. In other words, when a new branch needs to be added to the tree, or an entire branch needs to be moved someplace else, the haplogroup names can and do change.

In October and November 2016 when I extracted Genographic project data, Family Tree DNA was on Phylotree version 14 and the Genographic Project was on version 16. The information provided in various academic papers often references earlier versions of the phylotree, and the papers seldom indicate which phylotree version they are using. Phylotree is the official name for the mitochondrial DNA haplogroup tree.

Generally, between Phylotree versions, the haplogroup versions, meaning names, such as A1a, remain fairly consistent and the majority of the changes are refinements in haplogroup names where subgroups are added and all or part of A1a becomes A1a1 or A1a2, for example. However, that’s not always true. When new versions are released, some haplogroup names remain entirely unchanged (A1a), some people fall into updated haplogroups as in the example above, and some find themselves in entirely different haplogroups, generally within the same main haplogroup. For example, in Phylotree version 17, all of haplogroup A4 is obsoleted, renamed and shifted elsewhere in the haplogroup A tree.

The good news is that both Family Tree DNA and the Genographic project plan to update to Phylotree V17 in 2017. After that occurs, I plan to “equalize” the results, hopefully “upgrading” the information from academic papers to current haplogroup terminology as well if the authors provided us with the information as to the haplogroup defining mutations that they utilized at publication along with the entire list of sample mutations.

A second challenge is that not all haplogroup projects are created equal. In fact, some are entirely closed to the public, although I have no idea why a haplogroup project would be closed. Other projects show only the map. Some show surnames but not the oldest ancestor or location. There was no consistency between projects, so the project information is clearly incomplete, although I utilized both the public project pages and maps together to compile as much information as possible.

A third challenge is that not every participant enters their most distant ancestor (correctly) nor their ancestral location, which reduces the relevance of results, whether inside of projects, meaning matches to individual testers, or outside of projects.

A fourth challenge is that not every participant enables public project sharing nor do they allow the project administrators to view their coding region results, which makes participant classification within projects difficult and often impossible.

A fifth challenge is that in Family Tree DNA mitochondrial projects, not everyone has tested to the full sequence level, so some people who are noted as base haplogroup “A,” for example, would have a more fully defined haplogroup is they tested further. On the other hand, for some people, haplogroup A is their complete haplogroup designation, so not all designations of haplogroup A are created equal.

A sixth challenge is that in the Genographic Project, everyone has been tested via probes, meaning that haplogroup defining mutation locations are tested to determine full haplogroups, but not all mitochondrial locations are not tested. This removes the possibility of defining additional haplogroups by grouping participants by common mutations outside of haplogroup defining mutations.

A seventh challenge is that some resources for mitochondrial DNA list haplogroup mutations utilizing the CRS (Cambridge Reference Sequence) model and some utilize the RSRS (Reconstructed Sapiens Reference Sequence) model, meaning that the information needs to be converted to be useful.

Resources

Let’s look at the resources available for each resource type utilized to gather information.

native-mt-resources

The table above summarizes the differences between the various sources of information regarding mitochondrial haplogroups.

Before we look at each Native American haplogroup, let’s look at common myths, family stories and what constitutes proof of Native ancestry.

Family Stories

In the US, especially in families with roots in Appalachia, many families have the “Cherokee” or “Indian Princess” story. The oral history is often that “grandma” was an “Indian princess” and most often, Cherokee as well. That was universally the story in my family, and although it wasn’t grandma, it was great-grandma and every single line of the family carried this same story. The trouble was, it proved to be untrue.

Not only did the mitochondrial DNA disprove this story, the genealogy also disproved it, once I stopped looking frantically for any hint of this family line on the Cherokee rolls and started following where the genealogy research indicated. Now, of course this isn’t to say there is no Native IN that line, but it is to say that great-grandma’s direct matrilineal (mitochondrial) line is NOT Native as the family story suggests. Of course family stories can be misconstrued, mis-repeated and embellished, intentionally or otherwise with retelling.

Family stories and myths are often cherished, having been handed down for generations, and die hard.

In fact, today, some unscrupulous individuals attempt to utilize the family myths of those who “self-identify” their ancestor as “Cherokee” and present the myths and resulting non-Native DNA haplogrouip results as evidence that European and African haplogroups are Native American. Utilizing this methodology, they confirm, of course, that everyone with a myth and a European/African haplogroup is really Native after all!

As the project administrator of several projects including the American Indian and Cherokee projects, I can tell you that I have yet to find anyone who has a documented, as in proven lineage, to a Native tribe on a matrilineal line that does not have a Native American haplogroup. However, it’s going to happen one day, because adoptions of females into tribes did occur, and those adopted females were considered to be full tribal members. In this circumstance, your ancestor would be considered a tribal member, even if their DNA was not Native.

Given the Native tribal adoption culture, tribal membership of an individual who has a non-Native haplogroup would not be proof that the haplogroup itself was aboriginally Native – meaning came from Asia with the other Native people and not from Europe or Africa with post-Columbus contact. However, documenting tribal membership and generational connectivity via proven documentation for every generation between that tribally enrolled ancestor and the tester would be a first step in consideration of other haplogroups as potentially Native.

In Canada, the typical story is French-Canadian or metis, although that’s often not a myth and can often be proven true. We rely on the mtDNA in conjunction with other records to indicate whether or not the direct matrilineal ancestor was French/European or aboriginal Canadian.

In Mexico, the Caribbean and points south, “Spain” in the prevalent family story, probably because the surnames are predominantly Spanish, even when the mtDNA very clearly says “Native.” Many family legends also include the Canary Islands, a stopping point in the journey from Europe to the Caribbean.

Cultural Pressures

It’s worth noting that culturally there were benefits in the US to being Native (as opposed to mixed blood African) and sometimes as opposed to entirely white. Specifically, the Native people received head-right land payments in the 1890s and early 1900s if they could prove tribal descent by blood. Tribal lands, specifically those in Oklahoma owned by the 5 Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole) which had been previously held by the tribe were to be divided and allotted to individual tribal members and could then be sold. Suddenly, many families “remembered” that they were of Native descent, whether they were or not.

Culturally and socially, there may have been benefits to being Spanish over Native in some areas as well.

It’s also easy to see how one could assume that Spain was the genesis of the family if Spanish was the spoken language – so care had to be exercised when interpreting some Genographic answers. Chinese can be interpreted to mean “China” or at least Asia, meaning, in this case, “not Native,” but Spanish in Mexico or south of the US cannot be interpreted to mean Spain without other correlating information.

Language does not (always) equal origins. Speaking English does not mean your ancestors came from England, speaking Spanish does not mean your ancestors came from Spain and speaking French does not mean your ancestors came from France.

However, if your ancestors lived in a country where the predominant language was English, Spanish or French, and your ancestor lived in a location with other Native people and spoke a Native language or dialect, that’s a very compelling piece of evidence – especially in conjunction with a Native DNA haplogroup.

What Constitutes Proof?

What academic papers use as “proof” of Native ancestry varies widely. In many cases, the researchers don’t make a case for what they use as proof, they simply state that they had one instance of A2x from Mexico, for example. In other cases, they include tribal information, if known. When stated in the papers, I’ve included that information on the Native American Mitochondrial Haplogroups page.

Methodology

I have adopted a similar methodology, tempered by the “guilt by genetic association” guideline, keeping in mind that both FTDNA projects and Genographic project public participants all provide their own genealogy and self-identify. In other words, no researcher traveled to Guatemala and took a cheek swab or blood sample. The academic samples and samples taken by the Genographic Project in the field are not included in the Genographic public data base available to researchers.

However, if the participant and their ancestors noted were all born in Guatemala, there is no reason to doubt that their ancestors were also found in the Guatemala region.

Unfortunately, not everything was that straightforward.

Examples:

  • If there were multiple data base results as subsets of base haplogroups previously known to be Native from Mexico and none from anyplace else in the world, I’m comfortable calling the results “Native.”
  • If there are 3 results from Mexico, and 10 from Europe, especially if the European results are NOT from Spain or Portugal, I’m NOT comfortable identifying that haplogroup as Native. I would identify it as European so long as the oldest date in the date ranges identifying when the haplogroup was born is AFTER the youngest migration date. For example, if the haplogroup was born 5,000 years ago and the last known Beringia migration date is 10,000 years ago, people with the same haplogroup cannot be found both in Europe and the Americas indigenously. If the haplogroup birth date is 20,000 years ago and the migration date is 10,000 years ago, clearly the haplogroup CAN potentially be found on both continents as indigenous.
  • In some cases, we have the reverse situation where the majority of results are from south of the US border, but one or two claim Spanish or Portuguese ancestry, which I suspect is incorrect. In this case, I will call the results Native so long as there are a significant number of results that do NOT claim Spanish or Portuguese ancestry AND none of the actual testers were born in Spain or Portugal.
  • In a few cases, the FTDNA project and/or Genographic data refute or at least challenge previous data from academic papers. Future information may do the same with this information today, especially where the data sample is small.

Because of ambiguity, in the master data table (not provided in this paper) for each base haplogroup, I have listed every one of the sub-haplogroups and all the locations for the oldest ancestors, plus any other information provided when relevant in the actual extracted data.

When in doubt, I have NOT counted a result as Native. When the data itself is questionable or unreliable, I removed the result from the data and count entirely.

I intentionally included all of the information, Native and non-Native, in my master extracted data tables so that others can judge for themselves, although I am only providing summary tables here. Detailed information will be provided in a series of articles or in an academic paper after both the Family Tree DNA data base and the Genographic data base are upgraded to Phylotree V17.

The Haplogroup Summary Table

The summary table format used for each haplogroup includes the following columns and labels:

  • Hap = Haplogroup as listed at Family Tree DNA, in academic papers and in the Genographic project.
  • Previous Academic Proven = Previously proven or cited as Native American, generally in Academic papers. A list of these haplogroups and papers is provided in the article, Native American Mitochondrial Haplogroups.
  • Academic Confirmed = Academic paper haplogroup assignments confirmed by the Genographic Project and/or Family Tree DNA Projects.
  • Previous Suspected = Not academically proven or cited at Native, but suspected through any number of sources. The reasons each haplogroup is suspected is also noted in the article, Native American Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroups.
  • Suspected Confirmed = Suspected Native haplogroups confirmed as Native.
  • FTDNA Project Proven = Mitochondrial haplogroup proven or confirmed through FTDNA project(s).
  • Geno Confirmed = Mitochondrial haplogroup proven or confirmed through the Genographic Project data base.

Color Legend:

native-mt-color-legend

Additional Information:

  • Possibly, probably or uncertain indicates that the data is not clear on whether the haplogroup is Native and additional results are needed before a definitive assignment is made.
  • No data means that there was no data for this haplogroup through this source.
  • Hap not listed means that the original haplogroup is not listed in the Genographic data base indicating the original haplogroup has been obsoleted and the haplogroup has been renamed.

The following table shows only the A haplogroups that have now been proven Native, omitting haplogroups proven not to be Native through this process, although the original master data table (not included here) includes all information extracted including for haplogroups that are not Native. Summary tables show only Native or potentially Native results.

Let’s look at the summary results grouped by major haplogroup.

Haplogroup A

Haplogroup A is the largest Native American haplogroup.

native-mt-hap-a-pie

More than 43% of the individuals who carry Native American mitochondrial DNA fall into a subgroup of A.

Like the other Native American haplogroups, the base haplogroup was formed in Asia.

Family Tree DNA individual participant pages provide participants with both a Haplogroup Frequency Map, shown above, and a Haplogroup Migration Map, shown below.

native-mt-migration

The Genographic project provides heat maps showing the distribution of major haplogroups on a continental level. You can see that, according to this heat map from when the Genographic Project was created, the majority of haplogroup A is found in the northern portion of the Americas.

native-mt-hap-a-heat

Additionally, the Genographic Project data base also provides a nice tree structure for each haplogroup, beginning with Mitochondrial Eve, in Africa, noted as the root, and progressing to the current day haplogroups.

native-mt-hap-a-tree-root

native-mt-hap-a-tree

Haplogroup A Projects

I enjoy the added benefit of being one of the administrators, along with Marie Rundquist, of the haplogroup A project at Family Tree DNA, as well as the A10, A2 and A4 projects. However, in this paper, I only included information available on the projects’ public pages and not information participants sent to the administrators privately.

The Haplogroup A Project at Family Tree DNA is a public project, meaning available for anyone with haplogroup A to join, and fully publicly viewable with the exception of the participant’s surname, since that is meaningless when the surname traditionally changes with every generation. However, both the results, complete with the Maternal Ancestor Name, and the map, are visible. HVR1 and HVR2 results are displayed, but coding region results are never available to be shown in projects, by design.

native-mt-hap-a-project

The map below shows all participants for the entire project who have entered a geographic location. The three markers in the Middle East appear to be mis-located, a result of erroneous user geographic location input. The geographic locations are selected by participants indicating the location of their most distant mitochondrial ancestor. All 3 are Spanish surnames and one is supposed to be in Mexico. Please disregard those 3 Middle Eastern pins on the map below.

native-mt-hap-a-project-map

Haplogroup A Summary Table

The subgroups of haplogroup A and the resulting summary data are shown in the table below.

native-mt-hap-a-chart-1

native-mt-hap-a-chart-2

native-mt-hap-a-chart-3

  • Total haplogroups Native – 75
  • Total haplogroups uncertain – 1
  • Total haplogroups probable – 1
  • Total new Native haplogroups – 38, 1 probable.
  • Total new Native haplogroups proven by FTDNA Projects – 9, 1 possibly
  • Total new Native haplogroups proven by Genographic Project – 35, 1 probable

Haplogroup B

Haplogroup B is the second largest Native American haplogroup, with 23.53% of Native participants falling into this haplogroup.

native-mt-hap-b-pie

The Genographic project provides the following heat map for haplogroup B4, which includes B2, the primary Native subgroup.

native-mt-hap-b-heat

The haplogroup B tree looks like this:

native-mt-hap-b-tree-root

native-mt-hap-b-tree

native-mt-hap-b-tree-2

B4 and B5 are main branches.

You will note below that B2 falls underneath B4b.

native-mt-hap-b-tree-3

Haplogroup B Projects

At Family Tree DNA, there is no haplogroup B project, but there is a haplogroup B2 project, which is where the majority of the Native results fall. Haplogroup B Project administrators have included a full project display, along with a map. All of the project participants are shown on the map below.

native-mt-hap-b-project-map

Please note that the pins colored other than violet (haplogroup B) should not be shown in this project. Only haplogroup B pins are violet.

Haplogroup B Summary Table

native-mt-hap-b-chart-1

native-mt-hap-b-chart-2

  • Total haplogroups Native – 63
  • Total haplogroups refuted – 1
  • Total new Native haplogroups – 43
  • Total new Native haplogroups proven by Family Tree DNA projects – 12
  • Total new Native haplogroups proven by Genographic Project – 41

Haplogroup C

Haplogroup C is the third largest Native haplogroup with 22.99% of the Native population falling into this haplogroup.

native-mt-hap-c-pie

Haplogroup C is primarily found in Asia per the Genographic heat map.

native-mt-hap-c-heat

The haplogroup C tree is as follows:

native-mt-hap-c-root

native-mt-hap-c-tree-1

native-mt-hap-c-tree-2

Haplogroup C Project

Unfortunately, at Family Tree DNA, the haplogroup C project has not enabled their project pages, even for project members.

When I first began compiling this data, the Haplogroup C project map was viewable.

native-mt-hap-c-project-map-world

Haplogroup C Summary Table

native-mt-hap-c-chart-1

native-mt-hap-c-chart-2

  • Total haplogroups Native – 61
  • Total haplogroups refuted – 2
  • Total haplogroups possible – 1
  • Total haplogroups probable – 1
  • Total new Native haplogroups – 8
  • Total new Native haplogroups proven by Family Tree DNA projects – 6
  • Total new Native haplogroups proven by Genographic Project – 5, 1 possible, 1 probable

Haplogroup D

Haplogroup D is the 4th largest, or 2nd smallest Native haplogroup, depending on your point of view, with 6.38% of Native participants falling into this haplogroup.

native-mt-hap-d-pie

Haplogroup D is found throughout Asia, into Europe and throughout the Americas.

native-mt-hap-d-heat

Haplogroups D1 and D2 are the two subgroups primarily found in the New World.

native-mt-hap-d-heat-d1

The haplogroup D1 heat map is shown above and D2 is shown below.

native-mt-hap-d-heat-d2

The Tree for haplogroup D is a subset of M.

native-mt-hap-d-tree-root

Haplogroup D begins as a subhaplogroup of M80..

native-mt-hap-d-tree-2

Haplogroup D Projects

D is publicly viewable, but shows testers last name, no ancestor information and no location, so I utilized maps once again.

native-mt-hap-d-project-map

Haplogroup D Summary Table

native-hap-d-chart-1

native-hap-d-chart-2

  • Total haplogroups Native – 50
  • Total haplogroups possibly both – 3
  • Total haplogroups uncertain – 2
  • Total haplogroups probable – 1
  • Total haplogroups refuted – 3
  • Total new Native Haplogroups – 25
  • Total new Native haplogroups proven by Family Tree DNA projects – 2
  • Total new Native haplogroups proven by Genographic Project – 22, 1 probably

Haplogroup X

Haplogroup X is the smallest of the known Native base haplogroups.

native-mt-hap-x-pie

Just over 3% of the Native population falls into haplogroup X.

The heat map for haplogroup X looks very different than haplogroups A-D.

native-mt-hap-x-heat

The tree for haplogroup X shows that it too is also a subgroup of M and N.

native-mt-hap-x-root

native-mt-hap-x-tree

Haplogroup X Project

At Family Tree DNA, the Haplogroup X project is visible, but with no ancestral locations displayed. I utilized the map, which was visible.

native-mt-hap-x-project-map

This map of the entire haplogroup X project tells you immediately that the migration route for Native X was not primarily southward, but east. Haplogroup X is found primarily in the US and in the eastern half of Canada.

Haplogroup X Summary Table

native-mt-hap-x-chart

  • Total haplogroups Native – 10
  • Total haplogroups uncertain, possible or possible both Native and other – 8
  • Total New Native haplogroups – 0

Haplogroup M

Haplogroup M, a very large, old haplogroup with many subgroups, is not typically considered a Native haplogroup.

The Genographic project shows the following heat map for haplogroup M.

native-mt-hap-m-heat

The heat map for haplogroup M includes both North and South America, but according to Dr. Miguel Vilar, Science Manager for the Genographic Project, this is because both haplogroups C and D are subsets of M.

native-mt-hap-m-migration

The haplogroup M migration map from the Genographic Project shows haplogroup M expanding across southern Asia.

native-mt-hap-m-root

The tree for haplogroup M, above, is abbreviated, without the various subgroups being expanded.

native-mt-hap-m1-tree

The M1 and M1a1e haplogroups shown above are discussed in the following section, as is M18b, below.

native-mt-hap-m18b-tree

The Haplogroup M Project

The haplogroup M project at Family Tree DNA shows the worldwide presence of haplogroup M and subgroups.

native-mt-hap-m-project-map

Native Presence

Haplogroup M was originally reported in two Native burials in the Americas. Dr. Ripan Malhi reported haplogroup M (excluding M7, M8 and M9) from two separate skeletons from the same burial in China Lake, British Columbia, Canada, about 150 miles north of the Washington State border, dating from about 5000 years ago. Both skeletons were sequenced separately in 2007, with identical results and are believed to be related.

While some researchers are suspicious of these findings as being incomplete, a subsequent paper in 2013, Ancient DNA-Analysis of Mid-Holocene Individuals from the Northwest Coast of North America Reveals Different Evolutionary Paths for Mitogenomes, which included Mahli as a co-author states the following:

Two individuals from China Lake, British Columbia, found in the same burial with a radiocarbon date of 4950+/−170 years BP were determined to belong to a form of macrohaplogroup M that has yet to be identified in any extant Native American population [24], [26]. The China Lake study suggests that individuals in the early to mid-Holocene may exhibit mitogenomes that have since gone extinct in a specific geographic region or in all of the Americas.

Haplogroup M Summary Table

native-mt-hap-m-chart

One additional source for haplogroup M was found in GenBank noted as M1a1e “USA”, but there were also several Eurasian submissions for M1a1e as well. However, Doron Behar’s dates for M1a1e indicate that the haplogroup was born about 9,813 years ago, plus or minus 4,022 years, giving it a range of 5,971 to 13,835 years ago, meaning that M1a1e could reasonably be found in both Asia and the Americas. There were no Genographic results for M1a1e. At this point, M1a1e cannot be classified as Native, but remains on the radar.

Hapologroup M1 was founded 23,679 years ago +-4377 years. It is found in the Genographic Project in Cuba, Venezuela and is noted as Native in the Midwest US. M1 is also found in Colorado and Missouri in the haplogroup M project at Family Tree DNA, but the individuals did not have full sequence tests nor was additional family information available in the public project.

The following information is from the master data table for haplogroup M potentially Native haplogroups.

Haplogroup M Master Data Table for Potentially Native Haplogroups

The complete master data tables includes all subhaplogroups of M, the partial table below show only the Native haplogroups.

native-mt-hap-m-chart-1

native-mt-hap-m-master-data-chart-2

Haplogroup M18b is somewhat different in that two individuals with this haplogroup at Family Tree DNA have no other matches.  They both have a proven connection to Native families from interrelated regions in North Carolina.

I initiated communications with both individuals who tested at Family Tree DNA who subsequently provided their genealogical information. Both family histories reach back into the late 1700s, one in the location where the Waccamaw were shown on maps in in the early 1700s, and one near the border of Virginia and NC. One participant is a member of the Waccamaw tribe today. A family migration pattern exists between the NC/VA border region and families to the Waccamaw region as well. An affidavit exists wherein the family of the individual from the NC/VA border region is sworn to be “mixed” but with no negro blood.

In summary:

  • Haplogroups M and M1 could easily be both Native as well as Asian/European, given the birth age of the haplogroup.
  • Haplogroup M1a1e needs additional results.
  • Haplogroup M18b appears to be Native, but could also be found elsewhere given the range of the haplogroup birth age. Additional proven Native results could bolster this evidence.
  • In addition to the two individuals with ancestors from North Carolina, M18b is also reported in a Sioux individuals with mixed race ethnicity

The Dark Horse Late Arrival – Haplogroup F

I debated whether I should include this information, because it’s tenuous at best.

The American Indian project at Family Tree DNA includes a sample of F1a1 full sequence result whose most distant matrilineal ancestor is found in Mexico.

Haplogroup F is an Asian haplogroup, not found in Europe or in the Americas.

native-mt-hap-f-heat

native-mt-hap-f-migration

Haplogroup F, according to the Genographic Project, expands across central and southern Asia.

native-mt-hap-f-root

native-mt-hap-f1a1-tree

According to Doron Behar, F1a1 was born about 10,863 years ago +- 2990 years, giving it a range of 7,873 – 13,853.

Is this Mexican F1a1 family Native? If not, how did F1a1 arrive in Mexico, and when? F1a1 is not found in either Europe or Africa.

In August, 2015, an article published in Science, Genomic evidence for the Pleistocene and recent population history of Native Americans by Raghaven et al suggested that a secondary migration occurred from further south in Asia, specifically the Australo-Melanesians, as shown in the diagram below from the paper. If accurate, this East Asian migration originating further south could explain both the haplogroup M and F results.

native-mt-nature-map

A second paper, published in Nature in September 2015 titled Genetic evidence for two founding populations of the Americas by Skoglund et al says that South Americans share ancestry with Australasian populations that is not seen in Mesoamericans or North Americans.

The Genographic project has no results for F1a1 outside of Asia.

I have not yet extracted the balance of haplogroup F in the Genographic project to look for other indications of haplogroups that could potentially be Native.

Haplogroup F Project

The haplogroup F project at Family Tree DNA shows no participants in the Americas, but several in Asia, as far south as Indonesia and also into southern Europe and Russia.

native-mt-hap-f-project-map

Haplogroup F Summary Table

native-mt-hap-f-chart

Haplogroup F1a1 deserves additional attention as more people test and additional samples become available.

Native Mitochondrial Haplogroup Summary

Research in partnership with the Genographic Project as well as the publicly available portions of the projects at Family Tree DNA has been very productive. In total, we now have 259 proven Native haplogroups. This research project has identified 114 new Native haplogroups, or 44% of the total known haplogroups being newly discovered within the Genographic Project and the Family Tree DNA projects.

native-mt-hap-summary

Acknowledgements

Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages

There has been a lot of discussion about ethnicity percentages within the genetic genealogy community recently, probably because of the number of people who have recently purchased DNA tests to discover “who they are.”

Testers want to know specifically if ethnicity percentages are right or wrong, and what those percentages should be. The next question, of course, is which vendor is the most accurate.

Up front, let me say that “your mileage may vary.” The vendor that is the most accurate for my German ancestry may not be the same vendor that is the most accurate for the British Isles or Native American. The vendor that is the most accurate overall for me may not be the most accurate for you. And the vendor that is the most accurate for me today, may no longer be the most accurate when another vendor upgrades their software tomorrow. There is no universal “most accurate.”

But then again, how does one judge “most accurate?” Is it just a feeling, or based on your preconceived idea of your ethnicity? Is it based on the results of one particular ethnicity, or something else?

As a genealogist, you have a very powerful tool to use to figure out the percentages that your ethnicity SHOULD BE. You don’t have to rely totally on any vendor. What is that tool? Your genealogy research!

I’d like to walk you through the process of determining what your own ethnicity percentages should be, or at least should be close to, barring any surprises.

By surprises, in this case, we’re assuming that all 64 of your GGGG-grandparents really ARE your GGGG-grandparents, or at least haven’t been proven otherwise. Even if one or two aren’t, that really only affects your results by 1.56% each. In the greater scheme of things, that’s trivial unless it’s that minority ancestor you’re desperately seeking.

A Little Math

First, let’s do a little very basic math. I promise, just a little. And it really is easy. In fact, I’ll just do it for you!

You have 64 great-great-great-great-grandparents.

Generation # You Have Who Approximate Percentage of Their DNA That You Have Today
1 You 100%
1 2 Parents 50%
2 4 Grandparents 25%
3 8 Great-grandparents 12.5%
4 16 Great-great-grandparents 6.25%
5 32 Great-great-great-grandparents 3.12%
6 64 Great-great-great-great-grandparents 1.56%

Each of those GGGG-grandparents contributed 1.56% of your DNA, roughly.

Why 1.56%?

Because 100% of your DNA divided by 64 GGGG-grandparents equals 1.56% of each of those GGGG-grandparents. That means you have roughly 1.56% of each of those GGGG-grandparents running in your veins.

OK, but why “roughly?”

We all know that we inherit 50% of each of our parents’ DNA.

So that means we receive half of the DNA of each ancestor that each parent received, right?

Well, um…no, not exactly.

Ancestral DNA isn’t divided exactly in half, by the “one for you and one for me” methodology. In fact, DNA is inherited in chunks, and often you receive all of a chunk of DNA from that parent, or none of it. Seldom do you receive exactly half of a chunk, or ancestral segment – but half is the AVERAGE.

Because we can’t tell exactly how much of any ancestor’s DNA we actually do receive, we have to use the average number, knowing full well we could have more than our 1.56% allocation of that particular ancestor’s DNA, or none that is discernable at current testing thresholds.

Furthermore, if that 1.56% is our elusive Native ancestor, but current technology can’t identify that ancestor’s DNA as Native, then our Native heritage melds into another category. That ancestor is still there, but we just can’t “see” them today.

So, the best we can do is to use the 1.56% number and know that it’s close. In other words, you’re not going to find that you carry 25% of a particular ancestor’s DNA that you’re supposed to carry 1.56% for. But you might have 3%, half of a percent, or none.

Your Pedigree Chart

To calculate your expected ethnicity percentages, you’ll want to work with a pedigree chart showing your 64 GGGG-grandparents. If you haven’t identified all 64 of your GGGG-grandparents – that’s alright – we can accommodate that. Work with what you do have – but accuracy about the ancestors you have identified is important.

I use RootsMagic, and in the RootsMagic software, I can display all 64 GGGG-grandparents by selecting all 4 of my grandparents one at a time.

In the first screen, below, my paternal grandfather is blue and my 16 GGGG-grandparents that are his ancestors are showing to the far right.  Please note that you can click on any of the images to enlarge.

ethnicity-pedigree

Next, my paternal grandmother

ethnicity-pedigree-1

Next, my maternal grandmother.

ethnicity-pedigree-2

And finally, my maternal grandfather.

ethnicity-pedigre-3

These displays are what you will work from to create your ethnicity table or chart.

Your Ethnicity Table

I simply displayed each of these 16 GGGG-grandparents and completed the following grid. I used a spreadsheet, but you can use a table or simply do this on a tablet of paper. Technology not required.

You’ll want 5 columns, as shown below.

  • Number 1-64, to make sure you don’t omit anyone
  • Name
  • Birth Location
  • 1.56% Source – meaning where in the world did the 1.56% of the DNA you received from them come from? This may not be the same as their birth location. For example an Irish man born in Virginia counts as an Irish man.
  • Ancestry – meaning if you don’t know positively where that ancestor is from, what do you know about them? For example, you might know that their father was German, but uncertain about the mother’s nationality.

My ethnicity table is shown below.

ethnicity-table

In some cases, I had to make decisions.

For example, I know that Daniel Miller’s father was a German immigrant, documented and proven. The family did not speak English. They were Brethren, a German religious sect that intermarried with other Brethren.  Marriage outside the church meant dismissal – so your children would not have been Brethren. Therefore, it would be extremely unlikely, based on both the language barrier and the Brethren religious customs for Daniel’s mother, Magdalena, to be anything other than German – plus, their children were Brethren..

We know that most people married people within their own group – partly because that is who they were exposed to, but also based on cultural norms and pressures. When it comes to immigrants and language, you married someone you could communicate with.

Filling in blanks another way, a local German man was likely the father of Eva Barbara Haering’s illegitmate child, born to Eva Barbara in her home village in Germany.

Obviously, there were exceptions, but they were just that, the exception. You’ll have to evaluate each of your 64 GGGG-grandparents individually.

Calculating Percentages

Next, we’re going to group locations together.

For example, I had a total of one plus that was British Isles. Three and a half, plus, that were Scottish. Nine and a half that were Dutch.

ethnicity-summary

You can’t do anything with the “plus” designation, but you can multiply by everything else.

So, for Scottish, 3 and a half (3.5) times 1.56% equals 5.46% total Scottish DNA. Follow this same procedure for every category you’re showing.

Do the same for “uncertain.”

Incorporating History

In my case, because all of my uncertain lines are on my father’s colonial side, and I do know locations and something about their spouses and/or the population found in the areas where each ancestor is located, I am making an “educated speculation” that these individuals are from the British Isles. These families didn’t speak German, or French, or have French or German, Dutch or Scandinavian surnames. People married others like themselves, in their communities and churches.

I want to be very clear about this. It’s not a SWAG (serious wild-a** guess), it’s educated speculation based on the history I do know.

I would suggest that there is a difference between “uncertain” and “unknown origin.” Unknown origin connotates that there is some evidence that the individual is NOT from the same background as their spouse, or they are from a highly mixed region, but we don’t know.

In my case, this leaves a total of 2 and a half that are of unknown origin, based on the other “half” that isn’t known of some lineages. For example, I know there are other Native lines and at least one African line, but I don’t know what percentage of which ancestor how far back. I can’t pinpoint the exact generation in which that lineage was “full” and not admixed.

I have multiple Native lines in my mother’s side in the Acadian population, but they are further back than 6 generations and the population is endogamous – so those ancestors sometimes appear more than once and in multiple Acadian lines – meaning I probably carry more of their DNA than I otherwise would. These situations are difficult to calculate mathematically, so just keep them in mind.

Given the circumstances based on what I do know, the 3.9% unknown origin is probably about right, and in this case, the unknown origin is likely at least part Native and/or African and probably some of each.

ethnicity-summary-2

The Testing Companies

It’s very difficult to compare apples to apples between testing companies, because they display and calculate ethnicity categories differently.

For example, Family Tree DNA’s regions are fairly succinct, with some overlap between regions, shown below.

ethnicity-ftdna-map

Some of Ancestry’s regions overlap by almost 100%, meaning that any area in a region could actually be a part of another region.

ethnicity-ancestry-map-2

For example look at the United Kingdom and Ireland. The United Kingdom region overlaps significantly into Europe.

ethnicity-ancestry-map

Here’s the Great Britain region close up, below, which is shown differently from the map above. The Great Britain region actually overlaps almost the entire western half of Europe.

ethnicity-ancestry-great-britain

That’s called hedging your bets, or maybe it’s simply the nature of ethnicity. Granted, the overlaps are a methodology for the vendor not to be “wrong,” but people and populations did and do migrate, and the British Isles was somewhat of a destination location.

This Germanic Tribes map, also from Ancestry’s Great Britain section, illustrates why ethnicity calculations are so difficult, especially in Europe and the British Isles.

ethnicity-invaders

Invaders and migrating groups brought their DNA.  Even if the invaders eventually left, their DNA often became resident in the host population.

The 23andMe map, below, is less detailed in terms of viewing how regions overlap.

ethnicity-23andme-map

The Genographic project breaks ethnicity down into 9 world regions which they indicate reflect both recent influences and ancient genetics dating from 500 to 10,000 years ago. I fall into 3 regions, shown by the shadowy Circles on the map, below.

ethnicity-geno-map-2

The following explanation is provided by the Genographic Project for how they calculate and explain the various regions, based on early European history.

ethnicity-geno-regions

Let’s look at how the vendors divide ethnicity and see what kind of comparisons we can make utilizing the ethnicity table we created that represents our known genealogy.

Family Tree DNA

MyOrigins results at Family Tree DNA show my ethnicity as:

ethnicity-ftdna-percents

I’ve reworked my ethnicity totals format to accommodate the vendor regions, creating the Ethnicity Totals Table, below. The “Genealogy %” column is the expected percentage based on my genealogy calculations. I have kept the “British Isles Inferred” percentage separate since it is the most speculative.

ethnicity-ftdna-table

I grouped the regions so that we can obtain a somewhat apples-to-apples comparison between vendor results, although that is clearly challenging based on the different vendor interpretations of the various regions.

Note the Scandinavian, which could potentially be a Viking remnant, but there would have had to be a whole boatload of Vikings, pardon the pun, or Viking is deeply inbedded in several population groups.

Ancestry

Ancestry reports my ethnicity as:

ethnicity-ancestry-amounts

Ancestry introduces Italy and Greece, which is news to me. However, if you remember, Ancestry’s Great Britain ethnicity circle reaches all the way down to include the top of Italy.

ethnicity-ancestry-table

Of all my expected genealogy regions, the most definitive are my Dutch, French and German. Many are recent immigrants from my mother’s side, removing any ambiguity about where they came from. There is very little speculation in this group, with the exception of one illegitimate German birth and two inferred German mothers.

23andMe

23andMe allows customers to change their ethnicity view along a range from speculative to conservative.

ethnicity-23andme-levels

Generally, genealogists utilize the speculative view, which provides the greatest regional variety and breakdown. The conservative view, in general, simply rolls the detail into larger regions and assigns a higher percentage to unknown.

I am showing the speculative view, below.

ethnicity-23andme-amounts

Adding the 23andMe column to my Ethnicity Totals Table, we show the following.

ethnicity-23andme-table-2

Genographic Project 2.0

I also tested through the Genographic project. Their results are much more general in nature.

ethnicity-geno-amounts

The Genographic Project results do not fit well with the others in terms of categorization. In order to include the Genographic ethnicity numbers, I’ve had to add the totals for several of the other groups together, in the gray bands below.

ethnicity-geno-table-2

Genographic Project results are the least like the others, and the most difficult to quantify relative to expected amounts of genealogy. Genealogically, they are certainly the least useful, although genealogy is not and never has been the Genographic focus.

I initially omitted this test from this article, but decided to include it for general interest. These four tests clearly illustrate the wide spectrum of results that a consumer can expect to receive relative to ethnicity.

What’s the Point?

Are you looking at the range of my expected ethnicity versus my ethnicity estimates from the these four entities and asking yourself, “what’s the point?”

That IS the point. These are all proprietary estimates for the same person – and look at the differences – especially compared to what we do know about my genealogy.

This exercise demonstrates how widely estimates can vary when compared against a relatively solid genealogy, especially on my mother’s side – and against other vendors. Not everyone has the benefit of having worked on their genealogy as long as I have. And no, in case you’re wondering, the genealogy is not wrong. Where there is doubt, I have reflected that in my expected ethnicity.

Here are the points I’d like to make about ethnicity estimates.

  • Ethnicity estimates are interesting and alluring.
  • Ethnicity estimates are highly entertaining.
  • Don’t marry them. They’re not dependable.
  • Create and utilize your ethnicity chart based on your known, proven genealogy which will provide a compass for unknown genealogy. For example, my German and Dutch lines are proven unquestionably, which means those percentages are firm and should match up relatively well to vendor ethnicity estimates for those regions.
  • Take all ethnicity estimates with a grain of salt.
  • Sometimes the shaker of salt.
  • Sometimes the entire lick of salt.
  • Ethnicity estimates make great cocktail party conversation.
  • If the results don’t make sense based on your known genealogical percentages, especially if your genealogy is well-researched and documented, understand the possibilities of why and when a healthy dose of skepticism is prudent. For example, if your DNA from a particular region exceeds the total of both of your parents for that region, something is amiss someplace – which is NOT to suggest that you are not your parents’ child.  If you’re not the child of one or both parents, assuming they have DNA tested, you won’t need ethnicity results to prove or even suggest that.
  • Ethnicity estimates are not facts beyond very high percentages, 25% and above. At that level, the ethnicity does exist, but the percentage may be in error.
  • Ethnicity estimates are generally accurate to the continent level, although not always at low levels. Note weasel word, “generally.”
  • We should all enjoy the results and utilize these estimates for their hints and clues.  For example, if you are an adoptee and you are 25% African, it’s likely that one of your grandparents was Africa, or two of your grandparents were roughly half African, or all four of your grandparents were one-fourth African.  Hints and clues, not gospel and not cast in concrete. Maybe cast in warm Jello.
  • Ethnicity estimates showing larger percentages probably hold a pearl of truth, but how big the pearl and the quality of the pearl is open for debate. The size and value of the pearl is directly related to the size of the percentage and the reference populations.
  • Unexpected results are perplexing. In the case of my unknown 8% to 12% Scandinavian – the Vikings may be to blame, or the reference populations, which are current populations, not historical populations – or some of each. My Scandinavian amounts translate into between 5 and 8 of my GGGG-grandparents being fully Scandinavian – and that’s extremely unlikely in the middle of Virginia in the 1700s.
  • There can be fairly large slices of completely unexplained ethnicity. For example, Scandinavia at 8-12% and even more perplexing, Italy and Greece. All I can say is that there must have been an awful lot of Vikings buried in the DNA of those other populations. But enough to aggregate, cumulatively, to between a great-grandparent at 12.5% and a great-great-grandparent at 6.25%? I’m not convinced. However, all three vendors found some Scandinavian – so something is afoot. Did they all use the same reference population data for Scandinavian? For the time being, the Scandinavian results remain a mystery.
  • There is no way to tell what is real and what is not. Meaning, do I really have some ancient Italian/Greek and more recent Scandinavian, or is this deep ancestry or a reference population issue? And can the lack of my proven Native and African ancestry be attributed to the same?
  • Proven ancestors beyond 6 generations, meaning Native lineages, disappear while undocumentable and tenuous ancestors beyond 6 generations appear – apparently, en masse. In my case, kind of like a naughty Scandinavian ancestral flash mob, taunting and tormenting me. Who are those people??? Are they real?
  • If the known/proven ethnicity percentages from Germany, Netherlands and France can be highly erroneous, what does that imply about the rest of the results? Especially within Europe? The accuracy issue is especially pronounced looking at the wide ranges of British Isles between vendors, versus my expected percentage, which is even higher, although the inferred British Isles could be partly erroneous – but not on this magnitude. Apparently part of by British Isles ancestry is being categorized as either or both Scandinavian or European.
  • Conversely, these estimates can and do miss positively genealogically proven minority ethnicity. By minority, I mean minority to the tester. In my case, African and Native that is proven in multiple lines – and not just by paper genealogy, but by Y and mtDNA haplogroups as well.
  • Vendors’ products and their estimates will change with time as this field matures and reference populations improve.
  • Some results may reflect the ancient history of the entire population, as indicated by the Genographic Project. In other words, if the entire German population is 30% Mediterranean, then your ancestors who descend from that population can be expected to be 30% Mediterranean too. Except I don’t show enough Mediterranean ancestry to be 30% of my German DNA, which would be about 8% – at least not as reported by any vendor other than the Genographic Project.
  • Not all vendors display below 1% where traces of minority admixture are sometimes found. If it’s hard to tell if 8-12% Scandinavian is real, it’s almost impossible to tell whether less than 1% of anything is real.  Having said that, I’d still like to see my trace amounts, especially at a continental level which tends to be more reliable, given that is where both my Native and African are found.
  • If the reason my Native and African ancestors aren’t showing is because their DNA was not passed on in subsequent generations, causing their DNA to effectively “wash out,” why didn’t that happen to Scandinavian?
  • Ethnicity estimates can never disprove that an ancestor a few generations back was or was not any particular ethnicity. (However, Y and mitochondrial DNA testing can.)
  • Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, except in very recent generations – like 2 (grandparents at 25%), maybe 3 generations (great-grandparents at 12.5%).
  • Continental level estimates above 10-12 percent can probably be relied upon to suggest that the particular continental level ethnicity is present, but the percentage may not be accurate. Note the weasel wording here – “probably” – it’s here on purpose. Refer to Scandinavia, above – although that’s regional, not continental, but it’s a great example. My proven Native/African is nearly elusive and my mystery Scandinavian/Greek/Italian is present in far greater percentages than it should be, based upon proven genealogy.
  • Vendors, all vendors, struggle to separate ethnicity regions within continents, in particular, within Europe.
  • Don’t take your ethnicity results too seriously and don’t be trading in your lederhosen for kilts, or vice versa – especially not based on intra-continental results.
  • Don’t change your perception of who you are based on current ethnicity tests. Otherwise you’re going to feel like a chameleon if you test at multiple vendors.
  • Ethnicity estimates are not a short cut to or a replacement for discovering who you are based on sound genealogical research.
  • No vendor, NOT ANY VENDOR, can identify your Native American tribe. If they say or imply they can, RUN, with your money. Native DNA is more alike than different. Just because a vendor compares you to an individual from a particular tribe, and part of your DNA matches, does NOT mean your ancestors were members of or affiliated with that tribe. These three major vendors plus the Genographic Project don’t try to pull any of those shenanigans, but others do.
  • Genetic genealogy and specifically, ethnicity, is still a new field, a frontier.
  • Ethnicity estimates are not yet a mature technology as is aptly illustrated by the differences between vendors.
  • Ethnicity estimates are that. ESTIMATES.

If you like to learn more about ethnicity estimates and how they are calculated, you might want to read this article, Ethnicity Testing, A Conundrum.

Summary

This information is NOT a criticism of the vendors. Instead, this is a cautionary tale about correctly setting expectations for consumers who want to understand and interpret their results – and about how to use your own genealogy research to do so.

Not a day passes that I don’t receive very specific questions about the interpretation of ethnicity estimates. People want to know why their results are not what they expected, or why they have more of a particular geographic region listed than their two parents combined. Great questions!

This phenomenon is only going to increase with the popularity of DNA testing and the number of people who test to discover their identity as a result of highly visible ad campaigns.

So let me be very clear. No one can provide a specific interpretation. All we can do is explain how ethnicity estimates work – and that these results are estimates created utilizing different reference populations and proprietary software by each vendor.

Whether the results match each other or customer expectations, or not, these vendors are legitimate, as are the GedMatch ethnicity tools. Other vendors may be less so, and some are outright unethical, looking to exploit the unwary consumer, especially those looking for Native American heritage. If you’re interested in how to tell the difference between legitimate genetic information and a company utilizing pseudo-genetics to part you from your money, click here for a lecture by Dr. Jennifer Raff, especially about minutes 48-50.

Buyer beware, both in terms of purchasing DNA testing for ethnicity purposes to discover “who you are” and when internalizing and interpreting results.

The science just isn’t there yet for answers at the level most people seek.

My advice, in a nutshell: Stay with legitimate vendors. Enjoy your ethnicity results, but don’t take them too seriously without corroborating traditional genealogical evidence!

Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroup Y

Pam, a lady with very interesting mitochondrial DNA, recently asked me about mitochondrial haplogroup Y1, and if it had ever been found in the Native American population. The answer, as best I knew, was a resounding “no.”

Pam told me that she had only found about 15 people who were of that haplogroup and most of them are East Asian. Her most distant matrilineal ancestor is from Slovakia as is her full sequence exact match at Family tree DNA. A more distant match’s most distant ancestor was born in Istanbul, but immigrated there from someplace in Europe, possibly the Ukraine or Slovakia. A third match’s immediate family was from the Ukraine near Belarus from the 1880s.

The migration map provided by Family Tree DNA tells us the following about haplogroup Y:

ftdna-mtdna-y

Given that this haplogroup is primarily eastern Asian, Pam wondered if there was any possibility that this was a “sleeper” haplogroup and had been found in the Native American population since the most recent papers had been published.

Good question. Let’s take a look.

The History of Mitochondrial Haplogroup Y

Haplogroup Y evolved from haplogroup N9 that evolved from haplogroup N that evolved from haplogroup L3, which was African.

  • L3
  • N
  • N9
  • Y
  • Y1

As a National Geographic Genographic Affiliate Researcher, I decided to take a look at what information the Genographic Project might reveal about mtDNA haplogroup Y. For starters, the Genographic project provides a nice compact tree in their research database.

nat-geo-mtdna-y

I created a chart combining the subgroups of haplogroup Y, the age of each group, the standard deviation for each subgroup, the defining mutations as provided by the Genographic project (Phylotree Version 16) and the oldest maternal birth locations for haplogroup Y subgroup participants in the Genographic Project. The age should be read as “most likely 24,576 but the range would be from 17,493-31,659 years ago.” I would simply say that haplogroup Y was born about 25,000 years ago. If you think of a bell shaped curve, 24,576 would be the top of the bell and the tails, which are increasingly less likely would extend 7,083 years in both directions.

Haplogroup Age per Dr. Doron Behar Standard Deviation (+-) RSRS Defining Mutations (Genographic V 16) Genographic Oldest Maternal Birth Locations Other
Y 24,576 7,083 G8392A, A10398G!, T14178C, A14693G, T16126C, T16223C, T16231C China (2)
Y1 14,689 5,264 T146C!, G3834A, (C16266T) Slovakia, Czech, Poland, China, Korea (2)
Y1a 7,467 5526 A7933G, T16189C! None
Y1b 9,222 4,967 A10097G, C15460T

 

None
Y1b1 G15221A Russia, Korea
Y1b1a C9278T none
Y2 7,279 2,894 T482C, G5147A, T6941C, F7859A, A14914G, A15244G, T16311C! Simonstown, Western Cape, South Africa “coloured”
Y2a 4,929 2,789 T12161C Philippines
Y2a1 2.488 2,658 T11299C Philippines (8), Sumatra Indonesia, Spain, Malaysia, China, Ireland
Y2a1a C2856T, G13135A none
Y2b 1,741 3,454 C338T none

Unfortunately, there is no mitochondrial haplogroup Y project at Family Tree DNA, so I can’t do any comparisons there.

This article at WikiPedia provides a chart of where mtDNA haplogroup Y has been found in academic studies, along with the following verbiage:

Haplogroup Y has been found with high frequency in many indigenous populations who live around the Sea of Okhotsk, including approximately 66% of Nivkhs, approximately 38% of Ulchs, approximately 21% of Negidals, and approximately 20% of Ainus. It is also fairly common among indigenous peoples of the Kamchatka Peninsula (Koryaks, Itelmens) and Maritime Southeast Asia.

The distribution of haplogroup Y in populations of the Malay Archipelago contrasts starkly with the absence or extreme rarity of this haplogroup in populations of continental Southeast Asia in a manner reminiscent of haplogroup E. However, the frequency of haplogroup Y fades more smoothly away from its maximum around the Sea of Okhotsk in Northeast Asia, being found in approximately 2% of Koreans and in South Siberian and Central Asian populations with an average frequency of 1%.

Its subclade Y2 has been observed in 40% (176/440) of a large pool of samples from Nias in western Indonesia, ranging from a low of 25% (3/12) among the Zalukhu subpopulation to a high of 52% (11/21) among the Ho subpopulation.

Summary

Given that the Native people migrated from far eastern Asia, in Siberia, sometime between 12,000 and 15,000 years ago, we can see that Y1a, for example, is too young to be among that group – given that this haplogroup was born in Asia only around 7,500 years ago. However, it could be possible to find Y1 or Y or even a subgroup of Y not found in Asia or Europe in the Americas, but alas, to date, that has not materialized, nor have any pre-contact burials been found in the Americas that include mitochondrial haplogroup Y or of any subgroup.

How did haplogroup Y, an East Asian haplogroup, come to be found in eastern Europe?  Probably the same way my Lentz male Y DNA came to be found in Germany, as well as within the Yamnaya ancient remains found north of the Black Sea in Russia from some 3,500 years ago.  We can very probably thank the repeated invasions of what is now Europe from what is now Asia for bringing many of the haplogroups found in present day Eastern Europe – including Y1.  This map of the Genghis Kahn empire and troop movements in the 1200s might provide clues.

genghis khan map

By derivative work: Bkkbrad (talk)Gengis_Khan_empire-fr.svg: historicair 17:01, 8 October 2007 (UTC) – Gengis_Khan_empire-fr.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4534962

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank: