23andMe is Updating Ancestry Results Without Telling Users

An article by Dan Robitzski in the Futurism.com web site at https://futurism.com/23andme-updating-ancestry-results states:

“If you took a genetic ancestry test through a company like 23andMe, you may want to go back and give your results a second look.

“That’s because as the company gathers more data and learns more about genetic trends, it may update the results for your specific DNA and change around where it believes your family came from, according to STAT News. While it makes sense that these companies would eventually hone in on more accurate results, the shifting reports can be a rude shock to people who used the app to figure out their personal identity — only to find, like 23andMe user Leonard Kim, that the results later shift without warning.”

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who reads this newsletter. I wrote an article a few weeks ago that describes the same thing with Ancestry.com’s test results: the company’s DNA ethnic origins reports changed as more and more information was added to the company’s findings of ethnic origins. You can find my earlier report at http://bit.ly/2DN6o8y and a follow-up article at http://bit.ly/2HxniKH.

I had a similar “change of ancestry” with the findings of another DNA test from still another testing company. It seems that such “changes” in your ancestry are not unusual.

In fact, I suspect that every DNA testing company will occasionally change their reports of customers’ ethnic origins as each company adds more and more information to their databases of historic DNA and various human migration patterns.

If you had your DNA tested by ANY company, I would suggest you go back to the testing company’s web site every few months to see if there are any updates to your earlier test results. If so, you might want to trade in your German lederhosen for a Scottish kilt.

6 Comments

Ancestry.com informs all users.
On Thu, May 23, 2019, 8:05 AM Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter wrote:
> Dick Eastman posted: “An article by Dan Robitzski in the Futurism.com web > site at https://futurism.com/23andme-updating-ancestry-results states: > “If you took a genetic ancestry test through a company like 23andMe, you > may want to go back and give your results a second look. ” >

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My new report pinpoints the areas of Norway where I have ancestry. While I cannot verify all of them, I know that at least one is spot on because it is where my great grandmother was from and her family goes back many generations in the records in Telemark.

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I wish 23andMe would update my report. I’m on an older chip or something, my sister tested more recently and her test was updated several months ago.

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I suspect 23andMe reports could benefit greatly if the people who asked for DNA tests had actually DOCUMENTED their genealogy at least four or five generations – which would be easy enough to do since so many locations now have images of actual documents online, or at least indices and an address where they could order documents (BMD info often has birth locations for most people listed, and, of course we all know birth locations at least by state or country are listed on census data, as well as the year of immigration, with the hope the info is accurate). Adding very specific locations is something 23andMe’s database won’t let a person do. Their database will let a person enter a state or a country, but not specific locations by township and county (logical to protect privacy of living persons, but if one has the locations from about four generations ago, the specific locations should be able to be listed). If 23andMe (and other DNA companies) had precise locations to document, their databases could be vastly improved.

I realize most adopted or orphaned people can’t document their genealogy or specific locations, but if they find first or second degree relatives with specific locations, they might have a better idea about where to look for their biological parents if they know other people who might be related within the last three or four generations. According to the videos about what can and cannot be determined via DNA, by the time the recombining gets four or more generations back, only snippets may (or may not) be passed on to a person anyway (which is why siblings can have different results).

23andMe’s map locations need more specifics and updating. For me they show a strong connection with Troms, Norway…, but I documented my Norwegian ancestry to ca 1620 to one specific location in the Nord-Trøndelag between the Trondheimsfjord, Verrasundet, and Beitstadfjord. (I know I have the correct location; fifth cousins still live in the area.) I also have another line that has a Danish matros (sailor, apparently military, whereas sjømand – seaman – occupations abound along with farmer occupations for the others) born 1759 in Copenhagen (according to seaman records in Bergen) who married a woman in Bergen; their eldest son, another matros, went to Trondheim where his daughter married into my Nord-Trøndelag line. There is zero documented evidence going back 400 years that any of my Norwegian ancestors were from Troms (or Oslo or Vestfold, lightly shaded in on the map). 23andMe shows a medium blue strength for Sør-Trøndelag, and I do have a few more distant ancestors from Trondheim, Sør-Trøndelag, but they don’t have the Nord-Trøndelag shown at all, and that is the location where my most recent Norwegian ancestors were born, along with their ancestors going back to the early 1600s. For the main Norwegian line, I have precise locations going back four hundred years down to the name of the birth farm, name(s) of farms where they worked and/or lived at after marriage (if they moved), all of which are still on modern maps and I can find them online on maps with the zoom feature (actually, I’ve studied the map so much I memorized most of the locations). Sør- and Nord-Trøndelag merged to become Trøndelag on January 1, 2018.

23andMe got Copenhagen correct (although it’s rather far back to show much in DNA results), but they missed the more recent Danish line that came from the island of Tåsinge, Svendborg Amt, Denmark; there are only three parishes on the island and I have copies of documents. They got the modern name of the location of my Swedish grandfather’s county (län) of birth (and ancestors further back) and I have copies of their records, but I do not have documentary evidence of any ancestors from the other läns shaded in (not impossible, but improbable).

My colonial New England ancestors from the Mayflower forward (400+ years ago, many born in the late 1500s) were from various locations in England, so the whole country is filled in and that almost makes sense. My Irish ancestor was allegedly from Castle Isle, County Cork – according to an Augusta, ME history book – (and one of my newest 23andMe matches has his surname), but there is nothing on 23andMe’s map for that location, or even County Cork. They don’t show anything for Dutch ancestry (got to America in 1630), but my DNA indicates ancestors from northeast Europe, so that’s sort of covered. They don’t show French ancestry under the “French and German” category, but they do show German (Bavaria and Berlin are shaded in; only Bavaria is sort of close enough to possibly make sense) or Switzerland ancestry (zero info regarding Swiss ancestry in family lore). American church records say Wissembourg, Alsace is where my gr-gr- & gr-gr-gr-grandparents were from. They had Germanic-sounding names but the immigration and naturalization documents indicate they were from France. Alsace has gone back and forth between those countries for centuries, depending on who won which war. In any case, online documents and info isn’t that easy to come by for France or Germany, so I highly doubt I’ll ever be able to find much about them from the country of their birth (whichever that may have been).

I’ve gotten to the point that when other matches don’t have info that can be matched with what I have listed for names on the comparison info 23andMe, or locations I listed, I don’t bother to write to them even though a small handful of names are within the first cousin or first cousin once removed category and I know who they are. Location and name info for my direct ancestors is on the 23andMe web site, so if those who don’t have the same info online want to know more about our mutual genealogy, they can contact me through the web site. I long ago figured out that not everyone is as interested in genealogy or in history as I am. Still, for my genealogy wish list: it would be nice if everyone listed their grandparents’ and gr-grandparents’ birth locations, surnames (birth surnames for women, not their married names), so that comparisons can be made for the 23andMe web site, and that would enable them to compile more accurate generalized date in the 23andMe web site and start a reasonably accurate “flow chart” of human migration across the globe.

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I did a My Heritage DNA, One son did Ancestry, and another son did a 23 and me and I thought we at least would be recognized . I have not seen any comparison, but one son was connected to my husbands second cousin. I thought by each of us doing a different test we would have more connections. I am the only one doing research.

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    It would have been better to have tested with one company such as Ancestry that doesn’t allow you to upload your raw data from other DNA companies – and then the steps that follow are to save your raw data (which you should anyway – it is yours) and then upload it to the others per your choice of places so that you are comparing apples to apples. Your sons only have half of your DNA and the son who matched your husbands second cousin – has that person submitted their DNA to any of the other DNA companies for further matching?

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