Your DNA Ethnicity Report Probably Will Change Over Time

In other words, you might not be who you think you are!

This is something that genealogy DNA experts all know but DNA newcomers usually do not. You can have your DNA sample taken one time and submit it to one testing service. A few weeks later, you will receive a report that shows the percentage of ancestry you have different parts of the world.

Simple, isn’t it? Well, not really…

For many people, perhaps most people, if they go back to that testing service’s web site some time later and look at their own DNA report again, they may find that the report has changed! The reason is simple: since the first report was completed, the DNA testing company has improved their database(s) with new and more extensive data. In fact, the DNA testing companies are often updating their ethnic origins databases in order to provide even more precise reports.

While your DNA obviously hasn’t changed, the information the testing company uses to interpret that DNA often changes when more information becomes available. As the Ancestry DNA web site says:

“Your ethnicity estimate is based on the data we have and the methods we use to compare your results to that data. Because we’re always collecting more data and our methods are constantly improving, your estimate may change over time.”

That happened to me as about 50% of my ancient ancestors “moved” about 1,000 miles between two reports of a single DNA sample. The first report said a high percentage of my ancestors came from the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) which I thought was strange. When I went back some months later to read the same online report again, I found all those Iberian ancestors had since “moved” to France, which seems more likely as the country of origin for all the French-Canadians in my family tree.

Lydia Ramsey had a similar experience and she wrote about it in an article in Business Insider at https://read.bi/2SHvjDk. You might want to read Lydia Ramsey’s article, then go back to the web site of the DNA testing company you used and see if anything has changed in your report.

10 Comments

It also depends on the testing company, and the reference data that they use. I imported my DNA to Heritage, and suddenly became very Scandinavian! I believe it’s because my North Germany ancestors (and there are many of them) had genes that are linked to Denmark. There is also a town name in Denmark that is the same as my surname. Groups of people haven’t always stayed in the same area…they moved around.

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Ancestry recently changed my ethnicity report and it is now closer to my ancestry.

I also imported data to My Heritage and my German and Welsh ancestry (both documented) disappeared completely. They say I’m 30% Swedish (I have no record of any) and a bit of Finnish (I really doubt that). It’s interesting to see how differently the companies interpret the same data.

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I have a great-grandfather from the north coast of Spain and Ancestry’s previous results showed me as 13% ‘Iberian’. Right on the money for one-eighth. The revised results just call that part of me ‘Northwest Europe’. A lot of the world, including Asturias, Spain, have not taken Ancestry’s DNA test so our DNA does not show up. The rest of my results remained pretty much the same.

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My birth father was Armenian, his parents were Armenian, his grandparents were Armenian, coming from Lebanon and eastern Turkey.
NONE of the DNA companies show ANY Armenian, western Asia, Caucasus.
My birth mother was French-Canadian and Swedish.
Ancestry shows me at 60% British.
At this point, I consider DNA testing a total waste of money.

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    cheryl.j.kraft@gmail.com February 18, 2019 at 1:26 pm

    I would agree with your comment, maybe it is a waste of money. The DNA sites, for me, seem to have identified the correct 1st, 2nd, and 3rd cousins and of course, I know most all of them. However, they are telling me I’m 65% British. I have traced my four grandparents back 450 to 650 hundred years and NOT one of them has any British connections. And I have confirmed all my genealogy records via original transcripts from their countries of origin, either by hiring a genealogist from that country or going to LDS, Salt Lake City and viewing microfiche.

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I take a screen shot of my ethnicity reports once a year, at all the companies I tested at. The reports have changed quite a lot since I started doing this in 2013.

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My understanding is that the “data” they use is partly extrapolated from the customer database, wherein customers have “declared” what their origins are. Relying upon a DNA company to tell you your ethnicity % estimates is akin to relying upon Ancestry Family Trees to tell you which great leaders and famous people you descend from.

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    Actually, no they don’t use member submitted info. They use tests from individuals who have all 4 grandparents established to be from a specific area. Unless the reference protocols have changed recently. I’d personally want to see 8 ggp or 16 gggp myself, but given the difficulty of finding that, I understand why they don’t.

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Which only goes to show that these DNA crooks are in it just to make money!
Don’t trust any of them.

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A friend of my nephew used 3 names (but one credit card) and got 3 very different results. He complained and the provider said it was a subcontractor’s fault, but he got his money back.

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