Ancestry’s SideView™ – Dividing Your Ethnicity in Two

Recently, Ancestry introduced a new view of your ethnicity called SideView™. In a nutshell, AncestryDNA uses your DNA matches to attempt to divide your ethnicity into regions inherited from Parent 1 and Parent 2.

Based on your matches and the common DNA they share with you, Ancestry strives to divide your ethnicity into parental “sides,” although Ancestry can’t tell you which side is maternal and which side is paternal.

Even though Ancestry can’t tell you which side is which parent, there are tricks that might help you do just that.

Ethnicity

Before we look at SideView, let’s have a quick review of ethnicity estimates and how they do and don’t work.

Every vendor creates their own proprietary mathematical algorithm to determine their customers’ ethnicity or population percentages based on their own customer database and other resources.

“Country” boundaries change and people migrate. The article, Making Sense of Ethnicity Updates may be helpful.

If you haven’t done so, create a spreadsheet or chart identifying the amount of DNA you would inherit from each ancestor if exactly 50% of each ancestor’s DNA was passed down in each generation. Your spreadsheet may/will help you identify which “side” belongs to which parent. I provided instructions for calculating your expected ethnicity percentages based on your genealogy in the article, Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages.

My Genealogy

I’ve updated my genealogy totals slightly since that 2017 article because I’ve been able to push some of those lines back in time, either genealogically, via Big-Y or full sequence mitochondrial DNA testing and matching, or a combination of both.

Here’s an updated chart. I’ve included the last two ethnicity percentage results from each vendor except MyHeritage because their ethnicity results have remained the same for several years although they released Genetic Groups to complement ethnicity in 2020.

I’ve clustered geographies in regions because the vendors measure locations differently. Locations sometimes change within the same vendor with different releases.

The earlier “Unknown” genealogy category is gone now because I’ve been able to assign those ancestors to a geographic region if not an exact “country.”

The Genealogy Percent column, with a header and totals in yellow, details the geographic source for each of my 64 great-great-great-great-grandparents who each contributed approximately 1.5625% of my DNA. Of course, we know that DNA isn’t divided exactly in half in each generation, and I possibly inherited none of the DNA of some of those people and more than 1.5625% from others. Regardless, this is the best measuring stick of what I should expect and a way to determine if my ethnicity results are in the right ballpark.

The yellow cells in the vendor column totals reflect the “best fit” for my known genealogy percentages when compared against the expected percentages. In the Native grouping, vendors receive a yellow cell for identifying that heritage.

OK, now let’s take a look at Ancestry’s new SideView.

Finding SideView

At Ancestry, your ethnicity estimate, as well as your new SideView results, are found in the DNA Story section of your DNA Results Summary tab.

Ancestry does update your ethnicity estimate from time to time, so yours may have changed since you last viewed your results.

Ideally, if exactly half of the DNA of each ancestor was passed down in each generation, then I would have the amount of DNA shown in my personal chart, assuming my genealogy is accurate with no adoptions or unexpected parent events.

Also ideally, I would show exactly half of each of my parent’s ethnicity.

But that’s not how it works. While we do inherit half of our DNA from each parent, they can randomly give us all of a segment of DNA from one ancestor and not any of a segment of DNA from a different ancestor.

I wrote about how DNA is passed to children in the article, Ancestral DNA Percentages – How Much of Them is in You?. This explains how and why you might not inherit the exact amount of a specific ethnicity you would expect. Of course, that combined with each vendor’s different algorithms may produce results that surprise you, although the discrepancy should be relatively small.

Keep in mind how ethnicity inheritance works as you view your ethnicity results, including SideView.

SideView Results

Here are my Sideview results.

Remember, we don’t know which parent is “1” and which is “2.” Click on “How we identify this” to learn about how SideView works.

Here’s a more detailed description along with some nice graphics.

Analyzing My Results

SideView appears right beside your ethnicity map, so be sure to consult that map. Note that regions reflect populations, not necessarily countries as boundaries are drawn today.

The first thing I noticed is that my significant Dutch heritage, along with my French is missing in my ethnicity results as well as on the map.

How is this possible?

The arrows point to the Netherlands and France. These are important pieces of my ancestry on my Mother’s side. Mom was 25% Dutch so I should be about 12.5%. My maternal side genealogical breakdown is shown in the chart below.

Mom % I Should Inherit From Mom
German 50 25
Dutch 25 12.5
French/Acadian 12.5 6.25
England 12.5 6.25
Native ~2 in the Acadian line ~1

Of course, my Native American is also missing at Ancestry, even though the other three major vendors identify those segments. The two vendors who paint ethnicity by segment, 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA report Native on the same segment on my chromosome 1, so it’s unlikely that both of those vendors are in error in exactly the same way.

While Native is critically important to my genealogy, it is a small percentage. Missing a small percentage, while frustrating, is more understandable than missing a larger percentage.

My Dutch ancestors at 12.5% and French at 6.25% are not trivial and together comprise more than one-third of my mother’s heritage and more than one-sixth of mine. And yes, in case you’re wondering, I do match many other people who descend from these same ancestors so it’s not a mistaken or misidentified ancestor issue.

My father was kind of a colonial mutt. Scottish, Irish, and English with a small smattering of African and Native along with 1.5% Scandinavian/Nordic. The African in the later versions tends to show as Middle Eastern or North African, or doesn’t show at all, but that segment with a small Native one cluster together on the same chromosome. I also match other people who are Native/African on those segments as well.

However, given that neither of those ethnicities appear at Ancestry, we don’t have those to work with, nor do we have specific segment information.

Let’s work with what we do have.

View Breakdown

I wish Ancestry did not say “Now, you can see which ethnicities you inherited from each parent,” because while that’s the goal, it isn’t always the case. Lots of people will simply accept that statement at face value.

Click on View breakdown.

You’ll see your results broken into two sides with the reported regions noted at the bottom. All regions are showing in the circle by default.

To see how this works, click on any single or combination of regions.

Determining Sides

What can we do to determine which side is which parent?

Let’s start with ethnicities or regions which should be unique to one parent and not the other.

I clicked on both Norway and Sweden/Denmark since I know that one couple on my father’s side is Scandinavian/Nordic, but I discovered that Ancestry assigned pieces of those regions to both Parent 1 and Parent 2.

I’m positive that my mother did not have any ancestors in the past 6 generations and significantly further back that were Scandinavian or Nordic, BUT, Germany and the Netherlands both border those regions. People traveled, wars happened and populations as a whole mixed, so while I’m confident of my genealogy, this actual ethnicity may be accurate even though it does not reflect genealogical locations. It may well reflect populations and admixture.

What I am sure of is that I can’t use these particular regions to identify which side is maternal or paternal.

Detailed Comparison

Let’s look at the detailed comparison you’ll see by scrolling down.

Can I identify any of these regions as solely connected with only one parent?

Yes, I can. Ancestry has assigned Germanic Europe to only one parent, and Mom is 50% German, so Parent 1 has to be Mother. I should expect to be assigned roughly half of what my mother has – so about 25% Germanic.

Mother has no Irish, so Ireland has to be Dad, which also correlates to known genealogy.

However, the rest of the ethnicity results are questionable, including Mom’s missing Dutch and her missing England and Northwest Europe which should total in the neighborhood of 37.5%. I would be expected to inherit about 18.75% of that from her. Where is it?

No Segments

I very much wish Ancestry provided segment information.

Using segment matching information from the other three vendors, including ethnicity segment information from both 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA, I’ve painted my segments at DNAPainter, so I know which ancestors or ancestral lines contributed which DNA segments.

If Ancestry, provided users with segment information, I could determine which ethnicities they have attributed to which ancestors and maybe unravel why.

Another Possible Clue

There is one additional way I might be able to figure out where Ancestry attributed Mom’s Dutch and French heritage.

Given that I know which of my closest matches are maternal and paternal, I can utilize shared matching plus shared ethnicity to look for similarities. Just click on the match with someone, then on the Ethnicity tab.

The closest match on my mother’s side is my first cousin who also descends from my maternal grandparents. My cousin’s relevant parent should have roughly the same amount of the same ethnicities as my Mom since they were siblings, taking into account that not all of our ancestors’ DNA is passed in exactly half and siblings, unless they are identical twins, don’t inherit all of the same DNA from their parents. Of course, that means my first cousin should share roughly the same amount of DNA/ethnicity from our common grandparents as I do.

My cousin’s other parent is European with what appears to be a significant number of German ancestors, so we need to take that into account when viewing my cousin’s shared ethnicity comparison with me, above.

I can see that my cousin has 4% French and 1% Native, but that percentage might have been contributed by their other parent, especially since there is a French surname in that line.

If my cousin’s other parent had been African or Asian or an ethnicity that is different from the ethnicity of our shared line, it would be easier to compare our results meaningfully.

In this case, the shared match ethnicity comparison did not help, but your mileage may vary based on your unique circumstances.

Assign the Parent

If you are fortunate enough to be able to determine which parent is which, you can assign Parent 1 and 2 as maternal or paternal at Ancestry by clicking on the “Edit parents” icon at top right on the Detailed Comparison page.

I selected side 1 as Maternal based on the 35% Germanic Europe which is very clearly my mother’s side.

What I wish we could do, but we can’t, is to explain why we disagree with some portion of an assigned ethnicity. Ancestry does have my tree and I do have Thrulines from these ancestors, so the information is available for comparison should Ancestry choose to utilize that resource.

You can undo your selections by selecting “Back” or click on “Sounds good.”

I initially clicked on “Sounds good,” even though that bothers me. I hope that I’m not confirming something that’s incorrect, given my Mother’s missing Dutch and French, and that I’m not going to make *something* worse in the future by baking in bad ingredients. I’m not comfortable confirming something that’s significantly wrong. On the other hand, Parent 1 is clearly my mother, so I’m conflicted and I really don’t know exactly what I’m confirming to Ancestry.

In other words, we don’t know what Ancestry is doing under the hood with this information, if anything, other than labeling your sides.

Ultimately, I clicked “Back”, at least for now, to leave my sides unassigned until there is some benefit to me to identify the parental sides and I know I’m not confirming something that shouldn’t be confirmed. In other words, I know which parent is which, but I do NOT want to confirm that these ethnicities are fundamentally accurately assigned, because they are not.

Does Testing Your Parents Make a Difference?

If you’re wondering if testing your parents makes a difference with SideView predictions, it does not.

Ancestry is NOT utilizing your parents’ DNA for SideView ethnicity division, even if your parent or parents have tested, which Ancestry confirms in their documentation.

If you’re wondering why Ancestry doesn’t use your parent’s DNA to improve your SideView results, remember that someone who matches you at the parent/child level can be either your parent or your child. Often trees are either absent or incorrect, so Ancestry cannot simply assume anything.

Benefits of SideView?

What do you think?

Is there a benefit to SideView or is it simply interesting window dressing?

Are your SideView results accurate?

Do you feel that Sideview is accurate enough to be genealogically useful?

Are you able to utilize Sideview for your genealogy? If so, how?

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