Friday, July 7, 2017

Reading The Ethnicity Estimates At

Most of us here in central PA assume with are German.  And most of us also believe we have Native American somewhere in our lines.  So when we get the ethnicity estimates from, there are often a lot of questions and confusion.

Wait - Where's the German?
Those of us with German roots will find our results higher in the "Europe West" category.  That includes:  Belgian, French, German, Dutch, Swiss, Luxembourgian, Liechtenstein

I've been surprised, using paper trail genealogy, to find that a lot of our "German" roots are not so German. There are a lot of French Hugenots, and Swiss, that came to America from Germany, but were only in Germany for a few years, or possibly one generation, before their arrival in America.  But for the purposes of an ancestry dna estimate, they are all Europe West.

Then there is the timing.  WHEN were my ancestors German?  What generations are giving me these results?  The blog below covers this more in depth, in her critisim of ethnicity estimates:

"It’s difficult to determine which of the matching populations are more recent and which are less recent.  By way of example, many Germans and others in eastern Europe are descendants of Genghis Khan’s Mongols who invaded portions of Europe in the 13thcentury.  So, do we recognize and count their DNA when found as “German,” “Polish,” “Russian,” or “Asian?”  The map below shows the invasions of Genghis Khan.  Based on this, Germans who descend from Genghis’s Mongols could match Koreans on those segments of DNA. Both of those people would probably find that confusing."

But I KNOW My 4th Great Grandmother Was Native American!

"So how much of your great-great-grandmother’s DNA are you likely to have?  Probably around 1.5625%! And that may not be enough to detect Native American ethnicity."

You may know, but your DNA may not.  It's possible you simply did not inherit that part of your parents DNA.  This chart here shows how little DNA we inherit from our ancestors - and explains why.

And even if your test results show Native American DNA - it may not mean you are American Indian.  This is a common theme on genealogical forums - " My uncle, who was born in Peru, recently tested and is 87% Native American. Ancestry very accurate detects Native American heritage from Mexico, Central and South America, but not so much Native Americans from US tribes".

There's a MUCH more in depth (but not over your head technical) post about Native American DNA here-

"One of the most important things you must remember is that having Native American DNA is different from having Native American ancestry. This is because your potential inheritable Native American DNA could be lost every generation but you could still have real Native American ancestry in your family history. " 

So How Is Ancestry Coming Up With These Results?

They are estimating, based on averages.

" plasters its home page with pie charts that promise to give you a “sense of identity” with decimal-point precision.

The problem is that DNA snippets, or markers, are inconsistent. Sometimes they are passed on and sometimes they are not, and whether they are or aren’t is random. Sure, a large percentage of Native Americans may share certain genetic markers. But many Native Americans may lack the same marker, and many non–Native Americans may carry it by coincidence.

So when a DNA test comes back saying you are 28 percent Finnish, all it’s really saying is that of the DNA analyzed (most companies don’t analyze all of your DNA), 28 percent of it was most similar to that of a completely Finnish person. In the end, these comparisons are a fun but ultimately unreliable way to think about the possibilities of whom your ancestors might have been, rather than definitive proof of your ethnic background."

"We’ve assembled one the of most comprehensive DNA datasets in the world, with thousands of DNA samples from people with deep roots in each of our 26 different regions. This dataset makes up what we call a “reference panel.” Each person in the reference panel is from a specific location and has a documented family tree indicating deep ancestry in a particular region. To estimate your genetic ethnicity, we compare your DNA to the DNA of the people who make up the reference panel and then upload the results to your Ancestry account. These results can go back 500+ years and are an estimate based on current research. You can expect them to change and become even more refined as we do even more population genetic research."

Hang On - Where did the Scandanavian Come From?
If you do not have scandanavian in your genealogy research, and you tested through, it's most likely part of a KNOWN error in Ancestry tests.  You can read more about that here  -

"The problem is that their admixture percentages are simply WRONG.  Period.  Not a “tiny error”, not “needs tweeking,” utterly, entirely wrong.  Throw it out and start over wrong.  There are no secret Scandinavians hiding in the bushes, or in everyone’s family tree, and the fact that they are embracing their error and trying to turn a dime by telling people that they DO have a huge amount of mythical Scandinavian blood and they just need to use Ancestry’s tools to search longer and harder is not only infuriating, it’s unethical and self-serving."

And that makes it hard to trust ANY of ancestry's results, doesn't it?

So How Can I Get Better Ethnicity Results?
I'm not sure you can get "better" at this time.  I think everyone is still learning, and the calculations are still improving. But I could be wrong.  :-)

Some other sites to try for more break downs include:

Gedmatch.  Really, if you had a dna test done anywhere, you should download the raw dna and upload it to gedmatch.  They have the most free toys and best comparison tools.  Basically, anyone doing any DNA research should have a gedmatch account.  It's the basics.

DNA Tribes.  This is a suggestion from another blogger.  I have not used them.  I feel like I was in over my head just reading the descriptions.  So if you try this, please let me know how it works out for you.

Family Tree DNA - This one is not free.  I read that you can upload your Raw DNA from ancestry and have it analyzed here for  $39.  But I also have not tried this one.  This site does have the most comprehensive tests.  

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