Ancestry® Now Delivers More Precise Ethnicity Estimates

Those of us who have taken multiple DNA tests from different DNA companies have often experienced results where all the tests did not agree with each other.  As stated in today’s announcement from Ancestry.com:

While your DNA doesn’t change, the science we use to determine your ethnicity estimates does. Advances in the algorithms used to analyze your DNA and increases in the size and diversity of the reference panel can help you connect to even more regions around the world. As our DNA network grows and science advances, you can expect more comprehensive and precise results.”

My interpretation: if you had your DNA tested a few years ago or even recently by a different DNA testing company, taking a new DNA test today (or re-interpreting your original DNA sample) may result in more comprehensive and precise results.”  Of course, this isn’t limited to Ancestry.com or to any other one DNA testing company. All the major DNA testing companies are constantly working to improve the accuracy of their tests.

Today’s announcement from Ancestry.com describes the recent improvements made to that company’s DNA test methodologies. The result should be significantly improved accuracy. It may even shift your reported ancestry to a different place of origin. I suggest you carefully read the last two paragraphs of the following Ancestry.com announcement (You may want to “trade in your lederhosen for a kilt):

Powered by the world’s largest consumer DNA network, millions of family trees linked to AncestryDNA test results, and by increasing our reference panel, Ancestry is releasing our most precise DNA update yet.

While your DNA doesn’t change, the science we use to determine your ethnicity estimates does. Advances in the algorithms used to analyze your DNA and increases in the size and diversity of the reference panel can help you connect to even more regions around the world. As our DNA network grows and science advances, you can expect more comprehensive and precise results.

In our latest update we have been able to break larger regions—like England, Wales & Northwestern Europe; Ireland & Scotland;  Italy; China; Japan; the Philippines; Cameroon, Congo & Southern Bantu Peoples; and Eastern Europe & Russia—into smaller, more precise ones.  In addition, we have added a new region in Cyprus.

With coverage around the world, your next discovery could be waiting in our latest ethnicity update

We’ve asked Barry Starr, Ph.D., Director of Scientific Communications at Ancestry, to share his excitement with our newest update. Learn why your latest results could include more Scotland in your ethnicity estimates as Barry explains how the Ancestry science team tirelessly works to deliver ethnicity improvements.

Whether you’re ready to view your updated ethnicity estimates or you’d like to purchase an Ancestry DNA kit, Barry also has some guidance to help you on your journey of discovery in his article, “5 Things Everyone Should Know About Consumer DNA Tests”.

Footnote: the reference “trade in your lederhosen for a kilt)” is from an older Ancestry.com television commercial that describes a surprise experienced when a new and undoubtedly more accurate DNA test provides surprising results.

23 Comments

Precise for some and mayhem for others.

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Not impressed. One way Ancestry supposedly increased their accuracy was by deleting the reporting of the 6 & 7cM matches. (They deleted lessor matches earlier). About half of those matches were good matches and they were the ones I needed to try and connect with descendants of relatives who immigrated in 1820-1855. They also say that some ancestor came from Connacht Ireland, specifically West Roscommon and East Mayo – then they list three people whose DNA also belong in that group – my brother and two of my grandchildren. . Whoopee – Those matches are of no help whatsoever to me in determining what ancestor came from there.

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    You didn’t mark them in colors, which is why you lost them.

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    I lost some 20,000 matches based on my sample and 30,000 on my daughter’s. I did my best to review as many as possible before hand, but the numbers were so huge.

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    I agree with Billie W. Those older smaller matches were some of the most revealing. Unfortunately many don’t carry their public tree back far enough to know the connection unless you already know or suspect the connection yourself.

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    Rob
    I would largely agree, but in respect of my own database would comment as follows
    I am British and the more distant UK related matches largely leave me without a clue as to how they might fit in.
    The American ones are a different kettle of fish. They fall into broadly three categories
    Firstly the same I haven’t a clue.
    Secondly I can see how they fit in to the picture I have in my mind, but cannot actually fit them in to what I already have
    Thirdly the lack of genetic diversity makes them easy to identify

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Ancestry finally improved my ethincity but still left out my French and early Dutch and combined Scottish-Irish with the Gaelic Irish as one.

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    Please explain – “you didn’t mark them in colors, which is why you lost them” …
    Are we now unable to retrieve our previous ethincity / matches?
    Thank you.

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Sorry, but this is still grain of salt time… Mine has been heavily weighted to the Scottish part of my heritage and my husband has now completely lost his german ancestry

Liked by 1 person

    Mary Wallace Thomason Morris September 12, 2020 at 12:05 pm

    I will be interested to see if my 2nd test still shows ancestors in the old country 1-3 generations ago, when my latest immigrant ancestor came here c1745.

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I agree with Fiona Hall. My latest AncestryDNA ethnicity estimate replaced all of my Scottish results with Scandinavian. It’s hard to believe with my last name there is no Scottish ethnicity. I need to find the original Campbell in my line who came to America…

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    —> My latest AncestryDNA ethnicity estimate replaced all of my Scottish results with Scandinavian.

    I am not surprised. In fact, I will suggest that might be very accurate, even more accurate than previous reports.

    I will repeat: “might be.” There probably is no proof other than the DNA.

    If you study the ancient history of what is now called Scotland, you will find that most of the land was ruled for centuries by Scandinavians. Recorded history is a bit slim but ancient oral legends, supplemented by written histories in the middle ages, and by recent DNA analysis, shows that Scotland was ruled by Scandinavians, usually by people from what we now call Denmark. (Boundaries changed often over the years.) We can assume that Scandinavian settlers also settled in Scotland and raised families there.

    A few years ago, I spent some time at Roslyn Chapel, located in the village of Roslyn, a few miles from Edinburgh, Scotland. (This is the chapel that was featured prominently in Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code and in the later movie of the same name. The last part of the movie was filmed at the real Roslyn Chapel. However, that is another story for another time.)

    The construction of Roslyn Chapel (often spelled as Roslin Chapel) was started in 1456 under the supervision of by William Sinclair, 1st Earl of Caithness of the Scoto-Norman Sinclair family. (The name originally was Saint Clair but a Scottish accent probably resulted in the pronunciation of Sinclair.)

    What interested me during my visit was the family tree of William Sinclair that was etched in a back stone wall of the chapel. Yes, it was literally etched in stone.

    We are not sure of the date of the creation of that family tree but it may have been created in the 1400s and later generations of descendants were then added in later years.

    So here is the family tree of a Scottish nobleman showing his ancestry back to the 800s AD (I am going from memory here). The family tree claims he was a direct all-male descendant of several kings of Denmark. The rest of the branches of the family tree is filled in with various noblemen of Denmark, along with a mix of noble and royal people from the other Scandinavian countries plus a few nobles from Germany, Spain, and elsewhere.

    So I agree that your more recent ancestors may have all been from Scotland but THEIR ANCESTORS may have come from Scandinavia. If my theory is correct, then your DNA indeed might be Scandinavian. After all, DNA goes back thousands of years.

    Liked by 1 person

    P.S.

    You might also want to read my earlier article, Genetic Study Shows Deep Norwegian Lineage in People of Northern Scotland, at https://blog.eogn.com/2019/09/05/genetic-study-shows-deep-norwegian-lineage-in-people-of-northern-scotland/

    Liked by 1 person

    Have you done a “Y” DNA test with FTDNA? In order to take your paternal line direction it would be helpful. I had a 2nd cousin CAMPBELL do one for me and lo and behold only two matches – likely father and son – and they aren’t CAMPBELL’s. When joining the CAMPBELL project it was noted that there was an inconsistency which also indicates that perhaps there was a name change along the way – there are a lot of “wrong side of the blanket” births in Scotland. Sometimes our DNA doesn’t lie and we have to be open to looking at things slightly different than what we have grown up to believe. I also believe in having your DNA tested by other companies by uploading your raw DNA data from Ancestry to them for comparison. If you get similar results then ‘your DNA is your DNA’ and ‘you are who you are!’

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    I’m not convinced they look that far back, they are testing modern populations to get their reference points. Both AncestryDNA and 23andMe assign Scandinavian ancestry to me, 23andMe gives a timeline and the Scandinavian is 19th Century. It happens to be incorrect but I don’t think they are looking back to the tenth century.

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Thank you for the interesting information about Scotland having Scandinavian roots.
We know that my great-great-grandmother came to America from Ireland; and many DNA matches indicate that she came from County Galway. However. MtDNA testing has resulted in a majority of matches from Scandinavian countries! It appears that Irish history is similar to what you have described for Scotland?

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    —> It appears that Irish history is similar to what you have described for Scotland?

    I believe the answer is “Yes” but I am certainly not an expert. Still, based on many things I have read, I believe there was a lot of travel (and sometimes raiding parties!) between Ireland and Scotland for centuries. For verification, I would suggest you find genealogists, historians, and books that are more familiar with that topic than I am.

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They finally recognize my northern Italian heritage. Results seem MUCH more accurate for me now.

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Sighhhh there is nobody at Ancestry that has an 8th grade comprehension of basic math.
Ok most people here are going conflate reference populations with algorithms so I’m not even going to start with my % of this or that ethnicity. I will start with the fact my mother was also tested so I have a reference. Now if one of parents has been tested basic biology, simple math and the nature of autosomal DNA recombination says at an absolute minimum you will have 50% ethnicity in common with either of your parents. In many cases higher because the overlap in your parents ethnicity is far more common than not. Regardless 50% is the minimum mathematically possible.
The first controversial update I matched my biological mother by 16% in ethnicity. That is pretty amazing since I got half my DNA from her and they do acknowledge she is my mother. I contacted support countless times never to hear from them about this obvious error. Again this is a statistical calculation math error NOT a reference population issue. If it were the latter we would be assigned the wrong population but would overlap by > or = to 50%. Last upgrade we were over 50% so while I questioned the ethnicity assignments at least the math was possible. Now another so called upgrade and here we go again only 35% ethnicity in common from mom. Math is math and the reference populations look to be about as trustworthy With all the millions of dollars they have made they can’t hire someone that even if they can’t do the math can at least know it isn’t right or even close?

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To say I am unimpressed with Ancestry’s new estimate would be a gross understatement. It is just NOT precise at all and makes very little sense. I have been doing genealogy for a lot of years now and I have a pretty good idea where most of my lines come from. At best the new estimate tells me nothing I didn’t already know, it does not break the of Great Britain and Europe down and has now made about 60% nonsensical.
I uploaded the same DNA test results from Ancestry to My Living DNA and the breakdown was incredible – right down to counties in England and Scotland, The percentages actually made sense to me in light of my years of tracing the family lines. Yes there were some new insights with MyLiving’s analysis, but nothing as stupid as deciding 60% of my ethnicity is Scots.

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Mine don’t look more accurate. When I add Scotland, Ireland and England in their estimate I’m at 62% whereas before I was at 47%. The 47% is about right, I’m mostly English with a little Scots-Irish and a little New York Dutch on my mother’s side. My father’s side is German with a little Belgian. Before if I added the German to the Scandinavian, I was at about 53% now I’m at 38%. My father is waning, my mother is waxing. I think Ancestry is too British Isles centric and they think markers that are British are exclusive to Britain while they also occur in other populations like Germany? I also believe they are mistaking my extensive North German ancestry for Norway and Sweden. I have DNA matches all through my father’s ancestry including further back in the direct paternal line so I don’t think there was is a mistake in my document based tree.

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    Right I agree with both of you that their ethnicity estimates appear vastly distorted… My grandfather was 100% Italian. I have traced back many relatives to Turin and Milan and yet they have me as 0% Italian and 7% French. Now I’m supposedly 25% Scottish and I haven’t traced a single ancestor directly to Scotland? My direct paternal ancestors literally has an effigy in Cardiff Cathedral Wales, but I’m only 2% Welsh?

    Again more important and in my estimation inexcusable is the fact that my ethnicity when compared to my mothers is again biologically impossible. Those at Ancestry DNA involved in developing the algorithms for ethnicity should be fired and they all should be employed where math is not a perquisite. Nobody can share 35% ethnicity with a parent, it is biologically impossible it has to be = or > than 50% because you inherited half your autosomal DNA from them??? I hope they get sued.

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    I’d like to add to my comment that my sister (Ancestry and 23andMe agree with our parents, we are full siblings) when you add up the British Isles components of the Ancestry results, they total 50% and when you add the German and Scandinavian, they total 50%. So she right where the documentation says (assuming the Scandinavian is really North German).

    Like

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