Follow-up: AncestryDNA Sometimes Gives Surprising Results

My original AncestryDNA results.

My original AncestryDNA results.

A few months ago, I posted about getting the opportunity to try the AncestryDNA service, the DNA-based genealogical service at Ancestry.com. I wrote about them sending me a DNA collection kit, me spitting into a tube, and mailing it off hoping for interesting results.

I received my results in the expected time frame (6-8 weeks), but was surprised by some of the numbers it gave. They differed slightly from what I (thought I) knew about my family background. According to the current AncestryDNA algorithms, my results are 68% British Isles (not a surprise), 30% Eastern European (a huge surprise—most of the rest of my family was from Germany), and 2% uncertain (this would include such things as my Delaware Indian ancestor). The site goes on to explain why you might be surprised by some of your results, since some areas are hard to nail down. Natural barriers like bodies of water, mountains, and deserts historically help separate populations, but in areas without those natural divisions, the results can get a bit muddled, giving somewhat less accurate results.

Original AncestryDNA results, shows the location of where some of my ancestors lived.

Original AncestryDNA results, shows the location of where some of my ancestors lived.

To learn more about my results and why they differed from my expectations, I scheduled a phone call with Dr. Ken Chahine, Senior Vice President and General Manager of AncestryDNA, who helped me to interpret my results. He explained the challenges with certain geographic regions, and how to use the site to find still-living relations, such as distant cousins. He also explained how the company was continuing to improve the algorithms used, and how they had some new, more detailed ones they were testing. He then offered to run my data through the new algorithms.

My new AncestryDNA results, using the algorithms that will be available to all by the end of the year.

My new AncestryDNA results, using the algorithms that will be available to all by the end of the year.

I got the new information about a month later, and it gave more detailed and somewhat different results. This time, the results said that I was 69% Europe West, 9% Ireland, 9% Great Britain, 5% Scandinavia, and 7% Other. The Europe West area encompassed Germany, but took a lot of the percentage away from the British Isles areas. And as far as I knew, I had no Irish in me. Granted, these new divisions were overlapping, and dealt with results much differently from how the currently available algorithms handle it all. The added Ireland and lower Great Britain numbers were a surprise, but I knew I have some Dutch and other roots that weren’t originally represented.

How is AncestryDNA useful? Why should people sign up for this service? It’s a fascinating study in where you come from genetically. On top of that, if you are looking to expand your Ancestry.com family tree, you will be matched with distant cousins who have common ancestors. You can work together to do research, or potentially meet them in person. You can access “leaf hints” that suggest potential other ancestors that you and your cousin might have in common. You also are able to see shared surnames between your trees, along with shared birth locations for your ancestors.

Plus, when you sign up for AncestryDNA, whenever they develop new algorithms, they will run your data through them without any extra charge. It’s like getting a free update for software. According to Dr. Chahine, a couple of years ago this kind of service might have cost about $1000. AncestryDNA charges $99 for it, and their results get more and more accurate and pinpointed as they improve their process. In addition, as more people sign up for this service, you will likely have more potential cousins listed.

The Science Behind AncestryDNA

How does AncestryDNA get your information from spit in a tube? They manage to get your DNA from your saliva (that part is beyond me—I wasn’t a biology major), then put it on a chip that looks like a stick of gum. They can test about 12 different people on each stick. They test it at 700,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms, meaning they check your DNA at 700,000 different positions (for reference for people who know these things, you get about six billion nucleotides from your parents). They then look for random changes that have occurred over time. Every time you pass on your DNA to the next generation, you pass on mostly the same things, but there are minor changes. This creates a unique DNA signature for you.

AncestryDNA_logoThen they go on to create your ethnicity prediction, currently comparing you to over 20 populations from all over the world. That’s how they get your composite numbers. They also compare your stretches of DNA to those of others in the program, determining how likely you are to be cousins, and to people you each have in your Ancestry.com family trees. They can detect a fourth cousin with up to a 95% confidence rate, and then the confidence drops off as the level of cousin goes higher. This is understandable. You can then contact the potential cousins for free, but to look at their documents you will need an Ancestry.com subscription.

The new algoritms (the ones they ran my data through the second time) will separate those 20 populations into even more areas, separating Ireland from England, Southern Europe will be broken off from the Iberian Peninsula, and Italy will also be separate. Africa will also be broken into many more parts.

The Company

The AncestryDNA department has nine PhDs in math, statistics, and genetics to work toward improving the service all the time. While these new algorithms aren’t yet available, they should be online before the end of the year. And in the meantime, the current algorithms still give some interesting results, and connect you with distant cousins. As time goes on, AncestryDNA will continue to update and improve their procedures. And the beauty is that you never need to pay again to receive updated results. You can sign up now, send in your sample, and get current results. Then as new procedures are put into place, they re-run everyone’s data through the new procedures, and you always get updated results.

What patterns are they seeing? Dr. Chahine says that we are all a lot more related than we ever thought. They are finding the most common ancestors among people from 1690-1700, and in Virginia. This isn’t too surprising, knowing about how people came to this country during that time.

So, what did I think? Is AncestryDNA worth the money? It depends. If you don’t care one iota about genealogy or where you came from, then no. It probably isn’t worth the money for you. But if you enjoy genealogy, or learning about your roots, or if you or someone above you in your family tree was adopted, then it’s a great, relatively affordable service to help you understand your origins. It’s definitely something that I would have paid for myself, even if I hadn’t had the opportunity to review it, especially since they will continue to improve their process and the accuracy of the results.

Note: I received the AncestryDNA service for the purposes of this review.

Jenny Williams

About Jenny Williams

Jenny Williams is a core contributor at GeekDad. She is a lifelong geek who spends her time learning, writing, homeschooling her two wickedly smart kids, playing board games, and mastering the art of traveling on a shoestring.

Jenny Williams

About Jenny Williams

Jenny Williams is a core contributor at GeekDad. She is a lifelong geek who spends her time learning, writing, homeschooling her two wickedly smart kids, playing board games, and mastering the art of traveling on a shoestring.

74 thoughts on “Follow-up: AncestryDNA Sometimes Gives Surprising Results

  1. I’m not a Bio-major but I did take multiple courses in genetic and anthropology in college and a question on this topic was raised in every one of those classes. In every case the professors independently agreed – it is impossible to do a genetic test to determine ethnic heritage. Genetic tests can say that these genes are more abundant in these areas, and those genes are more abundant in those areas. As an analogy, we might say that most applies come from the US but some come from Argentina; most sugar comes from the US but some comes from Russia; most wheat comes from the US but some comes from Egypt, and most coffee comes from Colombia and some from Ethiopia. (I’m making this up as I go, but you get the idea). If the “genetics” of your apple pie showed sugar, apples, and flower, but no coffee, the algorithm would conclude that its ancestry was from the US (since that is where those products come from most often, and there is agreement between multiple different indicators.” But there is absolutely nothing – nothing – in that same genetic data that is inconsistent with an origin of Argentina + Russia + Egypt. In fact, there’s nothing inconsistent with an origin of Colombia and nowhere else (Colombia makes all of those other products too – they’re just less common). There is more diversity within any race than there is between races (Pick a black person and a white person and they could easily have more genes in common than two white people or two black people.) The proper way to read these results is, “there is some chance that you have ancestry from ___ but really, we can’t say, and if you have other data that disagrees with this, then you should ignore these results,” which means it can’t tell you anything you don’t already know.

    • Perfectly put. You can’t tell a thing about your ancestry from DNA, much as you can’t tell the ancestry of entire civilizations from DNA. This quasipopular offering of learning of your ancestry by analyzing DNA is one of todays biggest fraudulent pseudoscience scams. It’s a criminal scam industry that leaves its victims dry as a proverbial bone, and ancestry.com is a wicked and crooked perpetrator. A very nice informative post from you. Thank you.

      • Thanks for your insight! You saved me $99!

        Do you know much about 23andMe? I have a coworker who did it and was pleased. From what I understand, it focuses less on ancestry and more on genetic traits and other types of DNA analyses. Is 23andMe just as worthless as AncestryDNA?

      • Hmm, you could not be further from the truth. I uploaded my raw DNA genetic data to Gedmatch.com and broke down my ancestry to exact regions of the world. You must be a “professor of paperwork”, thinking everything else you can’t understand is “magic”.

    • Just thought I might jump in here and throw in a few cents. My father, 79 years old now, was adopted. He and I have attempted to track our heritage with little success. I decided I would do the DNA test, as a birthday present to myself. My father had said his adopted Aunt told him what his biological last name was when he was about 11 years old.

      When I received my DNA test, after reviewing the Ethnicity I clicked on matches. The first match was listed as a 3rd cousin by 98% certainty. She had the same surname in her family tree. In fact, it was her maiden name. It had changed in spelling but her grandfather had the same spelling of the name that we were given.

      We are still on the journey as we haven’t figured out who his exact parent was. It’s very exciting to have some people with the same blood running through their veins. Ironically (or not), the uncle of this 3rd cousin was one of three illegitimate children born to a particular woman of this last name. He found his sister but never his older brother, who is possibly my dad. They both have recently ordered the DNA test to take. We should know in the next two months if they are brothers. It will be interesting to see what that match would be identified as and by what percent. I will save this website and post the finding when they come.

      • This is exciting! I hope your father getting the DNA test himself will answer some questions for him, for you both. I hope he has found his brother!

        I personally LOVE AncestryDNA and the connections I’ve made through it. My parents and I and my husband have all done the DNA test. My son-in-law knows little of his father’s line and I plan on getting him the test as a gift. Hopefully he can make some connections.

          • I’m on ancestry.com, gedmatch & 23andme. Are you part of any of these? We could possibly connect through one of those.

            I’m cautious of sharing personal information on a public website. I’ve gotten slammed with spam from sharing my email address in the past.

  2. Hi, Jenny.
    I was very happy with my results from the National Geographic Genographic Project. It’s focus is different. I wouldn’t be able to trace my ancestry on either side because of what happened in Europe (the pogroms, those murdered in the Holocaust). Jewish people didn’t even have surnames until the last couple centuries. (My Hebrew name is Bracha, daughter of Moshe and Bluma. That’s how it worked for at least 5,000 years.) I was more interested in the path my ancestors took out of Africa. I don’t know if you were given that kind of info. I’d be happy to share my results with you.

  3. I was let down with my Ancestry.com results. 96% British Isles and 4% uncertain. I have written information from the mid 1800’s that states some lines are from France and Germany and have traced them there. I have since then uploaded my DNA to Gedmatch and am waiting for my results from them.

    • That is at least consistent with my incorrect results. They have me at 91% BI and the rest Southern European (7%) and Uncertain (2%). On paper I am 37.5% BI with the rest from Germany, Switzerland and France which did not show up at all (it did at FTDNA and 23andMe). They seem to be allocating France and Germany to the BI.

      • No, they are not doing that. I was expecting 50% British Isles and got none. It depends on what particular DNA you inherited from your parents. So, if one parent was from British Isles but you didn’t inherit any of those genes, it wouldn’t show. Works better to have siblings tested as well.

    • The British Isles were populates by German Goths, who also populated some of France (which is where the English language comes from— it began as a primarily Germanic language called Angles, which is now called English). Your German ancestry would share a lot of DNA with people of the British Isles, so ancestry.com probably just picked between the two. A lot of people in in the UK can trace their heritage to Germany, as well.

  4. The same type of autosomal DNA test is available from 23andMe and Family Tree DNA. Ancestry’s a newcomer to the market, which is reflected in their product’s shortcomings. FTDNA allows imports of the raw data from the other two companies, although their database is smaller; 23andMe has the largest database, and their “Ancestry Composition” is vastly superior to Ancestry’s “Genetic Ethnicity.”

  5. With the ethnic origins tests the size of the database is irrelevant because your autosomal markers are compared against reference populations, not against the database. It’s only for matching to relatives that the size of the database matters. I don’t know how many populations 23andMe uses, but where Ancestry uses 20, FTDNA currently uses 62 – which still doesn’t give enough geographic specificity to distinguish among many ethnic groups, especially those with a great deal of admixture. It simply gives a region from which those ancestors originated. And it does depend on how the program sees those markers in relation to the reference population.
    To complicate things, the markers for certain ethnic groups tend to pass down over longer periods of time than others. Autosomal DNA used in these tests goes back only about 5 or 6 generations – by the time you get back to your gggg-grandparents, you’re looking at only a bit over 1% of your total DNA – and random recombination means that you may not get a proportionate number of markers from each branch. For example, if mom was half Finnish and half Han Chinese, when she passes that 50% of her DNA to you, it’s not usually in that exact 50-50 ratio. You could get 60% Finnish and 40% Han Chinese for the 50% you got from her. Then when you pass to your child, that 60/40 ratio meets what you got from your father and anything can happen. So just because you have documented ancestry from a particular population, doesn’t mean that you have markers that show that ancestry or that it matches one of those reference populations closely enough to be shown in your profile.
    But this science is in its infancy and will continue to develop and improve.

  6. How do you match DNA? do you take my last name and just do into data base and check others with same last name and match us up? How do I have proof that my saliva actually matched with these individuals? Or just checked family trees?

    • Your last name would not be taken into account when a genetic test is performed, this Ancestry DNA test focuses on autosomal DNA frequency and similarity over a range of test subjects.

      The original test was in Beta stage so the results were only a rough picture with few test groups. The larger the test sample, the more accurate the results should be.

      The question of proof is that Ancestry is accredited by the BBB and has qualified PhDs running the tests on your saliva that is compared to people native to the region where the sample was collected. If a certain genetic material repeats itself, that shows similarity to a specific group.

      I’m not a scientist but comparisons of genes are what the test is all about not surnames.

      Also, yes, there are difference between ethnic groups by DNA even if it’s 1%, which is enormous when one considers the amount of genes in the human body. So, I would take the test if you’re interested in your family lineage.

  7. I found the DNA results from Ancestry.com to be close to useless. I could have made better guesses from looking at a snapshot. The first results showed heavy scandanavian and no British Empire. The next results showed the opposite. Both sets of results showed significant Eastern European and Jewish ancestry which my 200+ years of research shows none

    The possible relatives analysis is also useless. Even in links showing second cousins, surnames are not even close. Neither are regions

    I look at the DNA results as no more than a parlor game

  8. This has all been so incredibly helpful. I’ve recently taken a strong interest in my family history, and have spent the past few months researching. I thought I might take a shot at AncestryDNA, but thought I’d do some research first. I’m glad I found everyone’s comments. I think I’ll just save my money.

    Question though: I have a coworker who did “23andMe”, and he was pleased with the experience. From what I understand, they focus a bit less on ancestry and more on genetic makeup, such as genetic traits, disease susceptibility, etc. Has anyone had any experience with 23andMe? Is it just as worthless as AncestryDNA?

  9. It is estimated that a third of all Germans are actually Polish or some Slavic group. A little basic understanding of history can go a long way to understanding why the Eastern European part of you is such a surprise.

  10. I thought the results were great. I’ve done several tests in my family and I purposely did not link them to a tree until after I had my results and wouldn’t you know it….it matched me to people who had common ancestors in their trees (this was before I linked my tree so I know the results were genuine). It really will help you find ancestors and expand your research

  11. I have mixed feelings about the AncestryDNA Test. Because I am an American (mostly third generation-born), I’m more likely to be a “mutt” than most others in the world, and it’s harder for me to find information on ancestry. However, I have a pretty good looking family tree, and have found out most of the information on my family back at least 4 generations. I ordered the AncestryDNA test, and although for the most part it came out as expected (mostly Ireland/UK and Scandinavian regions), it gave me a best guess of 20% Iberian. In all my research, I have found nothing to suggest I am Iberian at all, so this shocked me. There is not a whole lot known about my father’s mother’s history, other than the fact that her parents were Welsh (father), and English (mother), and came to the US from those areas when they were children. Considering that my paternal grandmother is only 25% of my heritage, and her parents both came from the UK, it’s extremely unlikely that both of them have a overwhelming Iberian background; in fact, it’s highly unlikely that one of them does. All the other missing pieces in my ancestry going back six generations have offspring in mostly Scotland, Ireland and Norway, so it seems pretty certain that there isn’t much, if any, Iberian background there. I’m thinking about getting my brother to try it as well, and see if he gets the same results (I have one brother who isn’t a member of ancestry.com), and I might also give 23andMe a try.

    • You should check out previous comments as someone states that DNA is not passed down equally and another notes that history is just now finding out that one Germany for example was full of polish people. I’m not saying the test is right but to interpret why you got the answer you got, it seems prudent to account for history and learn a bit more about genetics. A previous post also said that 23andme was closed down for the moment. Plus I know there are huge privacy concerns with that company, judging by a very popular review on Amazon.

    • Dan, you might be interested in this story about the origins of the Celts, as it could explain the Iberian results. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/wales/1256894.stm. Recent analysis shows a genetic link between Celts and Basques. My Chilean husband’s ancestors were Basque, and almost all my ancestors on my Dad’s side immigrated from Ireland, so this link is so interesting to us.

    • If you research Irish/British Isles ancient history, you will find that there is suspected to be a lot of trade between the Iberian people and British Isles, which usually includes some interbreeding too…

  12. Hello all,
    You might consider being a little more gentle in your review of these tests.
    I have an extensive family tree posted at Ancestry. I decided to give their DNA test a try to see what I could find on common ancestors (real people, not regions).

    The test works. It correctly identified living individuals that I am related to. 20 or more folks from different trees, unrelated to each other. Common surnames of Burns, Manceau, Picard, Labadie, etc.

    These matches may not have been found without the DNA test.

    Ancestry gives the projected relationship (3rd cousin, 4th cousin, etc.), and the probability of relationship (98%, 95%, moderate, etc). These are probabilities, but upon review I have occasionally found valid matches (when the other folks have gone to the trouble of placing a family tree that goes back far enough to overlap). Occasionally it has prompted a matched individual to do a little more research to establish the match.

    So, is it worth it? It was for me.

    Comments from earlier postings on this site:
    ” it can’t tell you anything you don’t already know.” not the case.

    “It’s a criminal scam” – really?? How did I find matches then?

    “Looks like they ripped u off” – It depends what you are looking for. The mapping function is under development – interesting but just a probability (by the way, the many “Irish” haplotypes overlap with Iberian haplotypes – You may actually be from Spain and just not know it. Much of northern Great Britain has Viking DNA – I wonder where that came from??).

    Good luck with your searches – Keep searching my friends.

  13. Wow is uneliveabl to me because i never believe in it, I got Mr JAMES number on net about waec GCE upgrad someone commented on how Mr Festus upgraded his result for him and i was having problems with my result so i call Mr Festus and he told me not to worry that he will help me to upgrade my result which he did for me and now my result are all well ok any body who need Mr Festus help should call his number 07058634574.

  14. I’ve been using Ancestry.com for more than 12 years, mapping out my family and trying to find as much information as possible about cousins and family lines. I’ve built my tree out to more than 7,000 people and have traced back to early America.

    I chose to do the ancestry DNA test to try to validate the research I’ve done. It was interesting to see the Ethnicity estimate. There were definite surprises in there, but I’ve had to remind myself that just because a family member emigrated from a place, doesn’t necessarily mean their family had been there for a long time. For example, I had estimated myself to be about 25% Irish, but the tests came back at more than 50% Irish and another 15% Great Britain. This could just mean that people had left Ireland for the UK, or Germany or someplace else in Europe a few generations before they came over to the US. They’d still have Irish tracings, even if on paper they’re “German” I would have expected a lot more German and Italian.

    My results also came back with 15% European Jewish, which I expected because I have family members with Ashkenazi disorders. It was interesting to see that on paper, though, since we’ve never had genetic testing done to confirm this.

    I have mixed feelings about the family results but not to the fault of Ancestry.com. I was matched as a definite relative to less than 10 people, but of those 10, 7 had built out an extensive family tree and I was able to find a common ancestor. The other 3 had not added any family members, which makes it hard to see how we’re matched or to confirm that the results are correct.

    I was matched as a “moderate” match to probably another 50 people, many of whom were also European Jewish. One of them told me that ancestry used to tell you that the majority of the European Jewish community will test as related, but most won’t be able to find a common ancestor.

    The biggest disappointment is the hundreds of people who took the DNA tests but haven’t bothered to build out a family tree. I was hoping to be able to fit many more people into my family tree, but without their input it makes it difficult.

  15. For those who think the tests are a total scam you have to consider that what you think you know about your heritage may be untrue / wrong because some people have the history of not wanting to be anything that would be considered ethnic for fear of being ostracized, enslaved or killed. Therefore it is more likely that you should trust the DNA results than the history passed down to you through the stories of relatives. Sad but true.

    • Nonsense…..I have solid documentation of where my ancestors came from. When I first got my DNA results, I was in shock………how could I have been so wrong in my research? Science does not lie does it?
      The truth is that Europe is a jumble of DNA. They do not know where you came from. But when you put out a number like 57% Scandinavian it infers a level of accuracy that does not exist

  16. I received my Ancestry.com results a few days ago. The results were similar to my tree in every way except for one area; 9% Italy-Greece. I have no idea how that got there! When I purchased the DNA kit, I understood this is a process that will take time to perfect. My concern is the cousin links. There are around 50 cousins listed either 2-3rd or 3-4th or 4-6th. There are may others with less relativity. Of the 50, there are only seven that are actually related to me based on the family tree of the cousin and my own tree. The others appear to be last names that appear in both trees. I don’t have enough knowledge of genetics to understand whether or not Ancestry.com is producing something that is, or will be valuable to those searching for family. It was $99; we will see.

  17. I’m surprised nobody’s pointed out the possibile role of illegitimacy in explaining unexpected genetic data. We have a lot of faith in our female ancestors when we trace our family trees back over 10 generations, as I have done.

    I’ve surprised at the expectations Americans have in seeking fine distinctions in their European ancestry. For example I’m British and going by my family tree and some single origin surnames, my English side have knocking around in East Anglia, where I’m from for over a 1000 yrs. However if I did a dna test for that side it could easily show these ancestors as being from Friesland, Northern Germany or Denmark, as that’s where angles, Saxons , Jutes, Vikings (the ones that settled E. England were Danish) were from. Eastern and South E. English have much closer dna to these areas than they do to Western Brits, such as the Welsh, Cornish, etc who are closer to Irish and Basques. Many of the English founders of the USA were from Eastern England, so it’s to be expected they might show up as Dutch, SkandinavIan and German.
    A good book on this subject is the Origins of the British – it covers the rest of Europe too.

    • Exactly. There’s also the possibility of an ancestor being adopted. I have a great grandfather who was adopted, but the only reason we know that is because he said he was. For legal reasons his marriage record listed his adopted parents as his parents, so if he’d never said anything none of us ever would’ve known and our line would’ve been traced incorrectly.

  18. If you take 5 different “ancestry” DNA tests you will get 5 completely different results.These DNA tests are pseudoscience.Everyone is so desperate to be in a little gang, that they want a paper proving that they aren’t like the others.Race is a corrosive construct and sadly most people on this site are entranced by the evil concept of races.Only one race exists the human race, grow up and accept this before it’s too late!

    • Maybe you want us all to have absolutely identical genomes, but I certainly don’t and they aren’t. Vive la difference !

    • You, sir, are a complete asshat. Race is absolutely not corrosive in any respect; my guess is that you have something to be ashamed of.
      Anti-racism is the ultimate evil. (That and your stinky-ass farts, which make your trailer smell like old cheese and moldy jockstraps.)

  19. I’m going to have to go with pseudoscience here. I just got mine back – mostly Western European, Irish (no surprise there) and Scandinavian, and Western Asia? A family portrait looks like a pow-wow – you can’t swing a dead cat in my family tree for hitting a Creek or Cherokee – and I look like it.

  20. My husband got his dna results back from Ancestry.com today. And we were surprised that there was no indian dna. We were told his dads dad was Indian. But no ones ever met him. Not even sure what his name is. And we were surprised to find out he’s 20 percent Asian. But it does make a lot of sense. He has a darker complexion and his eyes have always been a mystery. So we know that his dads dad must have been Asian. Not Indian. And it was very accurate because it linked his dna to other relatives from his moms mom and his dads dad. So yes we were very pleased and excited with the results.

    • Your husband’s grandfather may well have been Indian. Take a look at the Clovis Boy DNA story. They did tests on the 13,000 year old bones of a boy discovered in Montana. His DNA sequence revealed DNA similar to present-day Native Americans of both North and South America, but also Siberians giving you the Asian connection. 30,000 years ago or so, Asia and N.America were connected at what is now the Bering Strait and previous archaelogical studies had concluded that an easterly population movement took place across this land bridge.

    • The American Indian population DNA consists of East Asian, Siberian, Mongolian, South Asian, Japanese & Central Asian markers. That’s why you’re seeing Asian. Do 23andme and you’ll see your results broken down accurately, then upload your raw data to Gedmatch.com and use their Admixture population tools to see exactly where in Asia the DNA originates.

  21. Well, here’s my experience with AncestryDNA. I did my test in late 2013 (November/December). It came back as:

    64% Great Britain (makes sense to me)

    15% Scandinavian (um, no – but AncestryDNA has a reputation for over-reporting Scandinavian heritage, especially with those from Great Britain)

    7% Ireland (also makes sense)

    The rest is trace amounts. The shocker was a trace amount of 5% Iberian peninsula (none in my tree at all), with only 2% western European (several lines in my tree go back to Germany and the Netherlands).

    And no Native American, though that’s not so surprising since it’s only one rumored ancestor in my family tree, and it’s my granduncle’s and grandaunt’s families that strongly appear to have the physical traits, whereas my branch mostly does not.

    More surprising was the lack of genuine matches to other Ancestry members. Oh, it says I have 80+ pages of potential relatives, but none of the ‘highly probable’ matches share anything in common with my family tree. Most of my matches come from those considered to be ‘low’ or ‘very low’ in probability, and with one singular exception, all come from just 2 separate lines on my mother’s side. One set of these is a match to a Canadian third great-grandfather with rumored Irish roots , and the other set – where I have the most matches – are much further back, being various points in my Dutch line; more in the realm of 7th to 9th great-grandparents.

    Notice that most of the matches are a Dutch line, yet the DNA reporting says only trace amounts of western European. I conclude that I’m getting more matches on the remote Dutch side simply because it’s better documented, as in being a gold mine once you locate an ancestor in New Amsterdam in the late 17th/early 18th century.

    And that 64% “Great Britain” in the DNA results? Not a match to be found among the Ancestry members. Yet I know I’m not the only one researching these lines, and seriously doubt that no one else from them has had their DNA tested by Ancestry.

    So, interesting results, but not very helpful to me from a research standpoint. Quite possibly more than one of my female ancestors produced offspring from someone other than the father of record, but still…I remain skeptical.

    On the other hand, my partner was also tested and received much more sensible results and better matches.

    What I question in the end is how much of a link there is between the DNA testing and the matching ‘potential relatives’ among Ancestry’s members. At least in my case, the DNA results are very much at odds with the kinds of matches (or lack thereof) that I’m experiencing.

    • The Scandinavian links are very understandable since the Vikings, at one time inhabited the northern half of Great Britain for many years and were later assimilated. Throughout Ireland there were numerous colonies, and settlements of Vikings, which also were assimilated by the Irish. It would surprise me a great deal if anyone had ancestry of Britain or Irish and didn’t also have some Scandinavian.

  22. I find this all quite interesting (comments), since the British Isles are a crossroads of conquest. We had a saying in our family: you never know whether you’re getting the Viking or the Celt when we had a blonde blue eyed child with three other brown hair brown eyed children. Extrapolate that with the Northern and Southern Italians in the Roman army who fathered Britons, the Germanic tribes like the Saxons, and the Gauls from France who in turn pillaged England and left their seed. The Scandinavian Vikings all took a shot at raiding the coast of Ireland and Dublin at one time was the largest Viking city in the world. The admixture of conquering races in the British Isles would make your genetic makeup all the above. As for the Celts, if they came from Northern Spain to England, that mixture was reinforced by the Spanish Armada disaster. Then comes the world wars and back across the pond come the mixed up Yanks who father British, French, German and Italian children and leave trace DNA of you guessed it, Europeans, Native Americans and Africans. So, no wonder some say BI and some say Western Europe. I traced my father’s family back to England, Ireland and Germany, my mother’s to Wales, Ireland and the Cherokee nation. With a sprinkle of Dutch and one or two Amish tossed in. I accounted for all of the wood’s colts and adoptees myself. Am I interested in my y-DNA. Not sure what it could tell me I don’t already know.

    • Very well put Don. As a GI baby I can only concur with what you have written. For millenia the whole of Europe has been a DNA melting pot such that people undertaking the Ancestry test should perhaps expect some conflict with their non DNA related genealogy research.

  23. As far back as I can go on any branch of my tree….1500’s and 1600’s….everyone of my ancestor’s was from the Netherlands….do you think any of these DNA tests are worth my money and time???? I am reading a lot of negative reviews about them. Thank you.

    • I am starting to think that, no, they are not worth the time and money. I just read through this entire string and what I am seeing is that Ancestry’s DNA test is providing pretty much the same results for everyone. Mostly Great Britain, Eastern Europe, etc. with no Native American even when these people KNOW that they have Native American ancestry. My wife did the test and got the same results as most of the people in this thread. I think that Ancestry is relying more on comparison to other Ancestry members who have submitted their DNA test than to actual DNA analysis by region. If very few (or no) Native American Ancestry members have submitted their DNA, the results will show no Native American connections. In other words, it’s BS.
      Trust your ancestors. Trust the people that told you the stories about your ancestors. I truly believe that is way more reliable than these DNA tests.

      • I know there is at least one of
        my matches that has Native Amerucan listed second in their nationalities which I’m assuming is pretty high.
        If it’s not going to set you back too much, I would go ahead and do it. It may come out completely accurate. I’m sure there are many people happy with their results as I am. Don’t let a handful of negative responses deter you. Just a suggestion.

  24. You do know Germans are like Neighbors and are close in ancestry to Eastern Europeans right? Same with russians, i wouldnt expect them to tell me I was russian, but either southern or eastern european we share an ancestry, they cant break it down completely to you and tell you what heritage you come from they tell you what racial lineage you come from

  25. I ordered an Autosomal test from DNA Spectrum and thought that the test did a really nice job of describing my Eastern European Roots. There were many individual populations that resonated with my family history. I had not seen this nice of a description of my European Roots with other tests. One of the most interesting association was with the Native American Ancestry Markers. This was completely new to me and I am going to start researching the findings as I did with my Eastern European Roots.

  26. People new to genealogy miss the point of the Ancestry ethnic DNA test. I spent thousands of hours sitting in dark booths reading microfilm, I traveled thousands of miles to visit libraries and churches, I walked through scores of cemeteries, I wrote to scores of people. I built a family tree based on my own and hundreds of other’s research. For instance, if John E age 5 was found in the 1850 census with William E age 30 we presume a father and son relationship but that’s just a guess. The Ancestry ethnic test came back with exactly what I expected, I know of almost all of my ancestors going back to about 1600 (a different test from another company for my sister came back with entirely different results. I told her she must have been switched at birth. I hope she’ll talk to me again. Someday.) Now, with the Ancestry test, I have THOUSANDS of “new” cousins where we share some DNA markers. I already knew some of them, for others we have shared paper trails which are now confirmed. My favorite result was another test done for a little girl, 8 years old. Her grandfather was adopted and didn’t know his biological father’s name. DNA, confirmed the paper search back to a Patriot from South Carolina….Not DNA alone, it’s when one confirms the other. The special result? James Earl Carter is also descended from that Patriot! My suggestion for anyone starting into family history, learn all you can from that special aunt, search the census data, and do the ethnic test, it would have saved me tens of thousands of dollars and 20 years of effort.

  27. Perhaps the biggest “problem” with DNA testing companies is that many define their results generally overlaid upon the boundaries of modern countries- which makes zero sense if one is testing deep ancestry from thousands of years ago. People get wrapped around the axle… scratching their head…(“I could swear my family was English…but my test results indicate I’m German…what gives?”) For people getting test results with ancestry that originated from the melting pot of Europe there is almost no way to say you’re anything distinctly this or that. France, Italy and Germany until “recently” were not countries but rather a hodge-podge of independent city-states and duchies. They became united as countries in the 1800s usually due to similar cultural backgrounds. 19th Century U.S. Census records for example, rarely say “Germany”- they’ll say the specific region or town; “Bremen”, “Prussia”, “Frankfort”, “Bavaria”, “Alsace: etc….and a few of these Germanic states are now part of eastern France and southern Denmark while many former French states are in modern Belgium. Swedes are Germanic yes, but there are really three major Germanic “tribes” which make up the Swedish population (the Sver, Geats and Gutes) plus a good smattering of Finnic and Pomeranian as well). England is really just a stew of invaders from Continental Europe; Picts, Celts, Romans, Norse, Angles, Jutes, Normans (and now Pakistanis and Indians :) ..all mixed together). Combine this with countries that don’t even exist in Europe any more and there is almost no point in worrying about what you “are”. The tests can tell you however what you’re not- and that can be just as important…and sometimes you can get lucky. If you have an exceedingly rare marker(s) that can define you as distinct from others for example, then the screw can be tightened somewhat as to where or who your family specifically was/is. That’s what’s fun about the test…true surprises. I was surprised, so I believe the tests are worth it…but its also important to keep it all in perspective.

  28. My Ancestry DNA test was the first indication I had that my biological father was not the man who raised me as his son. I was certain they had mixed up my results with someone else’s. 6 months after receiving my results, my 85 year old mother revealed the long held family secret; I am in fact the biological son of a long time family friend. I’ve been an active genealogist for almost 40 years and was reminded again that there is no such thing as being certain of your lineage just because there is a marriage of record somewhere. Those who are quick to dismiss DNA results as accurate are completely ignoring the possibility that one of their Grandmothers (or even their Mother!) had a boyfriend on the side. Sorry if that bursts your bubble, but human nature is a powerful thing. I am a serious believer in DNA.

  29. i am waiting for my daughters results she is adopted from china but she looks mixed race we have 0 info on her not even her exact birthday cant wait for the results

  30. I trust the DNA humans lie. DNA proved my entire life was a lie when it matched cousins. People who were African and were passing lied and claimed to be Indian.

  31. Isn’t the reason why some of you get different results from other family members (i.e. siblings) is because two siblings will not automatically inherit the same genes from each parent? Yes, each sibling inherits the same # of genes, but one sibling may inherit more of their father’s ggggrandfathers characteristics while the other sibling may have inherited more of the mother’s gggrandmother’s characteristics? This would also explain why some of your tests are giving you ethnicity results that are bewildering. Just because your grandad was Irish doesn’t mean you are automatically going to show 25% Irish. You could have inherited more genes from the other side of your family.

    • You got it right. For a complete picture one should do the DNA test on all siblings and even cousins to get nearly full results. And grab your grandparents while you can!

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