Finally, Ancestry’s New Ethnicity Estimates

Today we all got an email from Ancestry announcing new ethnicity reports for everyone. Adding five times the reference populations plus a better algorithm that can often indicate the modern countries. This time I really do have the new ancestry composition estimates!
Updates Available box
Naturally I immediately went and looked. Then I messaged and emailed all my tested cousins to accept the new update. When you log in to Ancestry and click on DNA in the top menu you get a page with three panels. Click on the panel to the left called “DNA story” to go to a page with a world map and the Updates Available box on the upper right.

Click the green button that says View your Updated Estimate in that box. Next you have to answer a few questions about your expectations and your thoughts on the previous ethnicity. I am afraid I did not understand that below each was a slider which I could move to indicate the level of accuracy, so until the last one that I answered, I left it alone. I wonder how many others will make that error.

The first time on your new ethnicity page, you will see a panel on the right showing how your estimates have changed. Here is mine. I was sad to say goodbye to that unlikely 1% Polynesian!

My father was Norwegian American with one fourth grandad (2% of his DNA?) who was German. My mother was born in Munich to a Jewish father and Bavarian Catholic mother. So how does that play out in these new estimates? Could the Swedish be a remnant from the 30 years war where Swedish soldiers rampaged through Bavaria? Actually I think my Norwegian dad had a fifth grandparent who was Swedish but that would hardly show either.

Here is my brother’s  page showing the new estimates with the changes:

I am still 29% Jewish but my brother is down to 20% from 22%. Our maternal grandad was Jewish and I randomly got more of his DNA than my grandmother’s. When a 2nd cousin on our maternal grandmother’s side tested, my brother did indeed share a third again as much DNA with her as I did (Click here for that post)

By the way you can get back to the page showing the changes together with the new estimates by clicking on the small blue Updates at the top of your ethnicity estimate then the View Previous Estimate at the bottom of the Ethnicity box followed by Compare these results to your most recent AncestryDNA estimate on the next page.

Now to look at some more interesting ethnic makeups from my cousins and people I have helped.

I found the unknown paternal family for Tessa who turned out to be New Mexican from the earliest settlers of that state, both native and coming from Spain. They probably even included a few sephardic jews fleeing the inquisition (click here for that story). Here are her results


My own dear husband who was very surprised to be only 87% jewish in the previous estimates, as he knew he was 100%, is much happier with the new 97%. His father’s family was from Galicia/Poland and his mother’s family from Galicia/Ukraine so this looks pretty accurate:

Here is my cousin whose mother was Belgian and father Norwegian (my Dad’s brother). This is a screenshot of the page showing what changed:

Strangely different, except for Norway, is his son whose mother is Morrocan. He is indeed his son and my cousin in the DNA. Where did the Belgium DNA from his grandmother go? Part of Portugal?

And as more of my interesting cousins report in, I will post those images here

Meanwhile head on over to the DNA Geek’s blog, from Leah Larkin, for a good scientific analysis of these changes: http://thednageek.com/major-enhancement-to-ancestrydnas-ethnicity-estimates/

Or read Robert Estes’ post on these changes. She reminds us that ethnicity is far from an accurate science yet! https://dna-explained.com/2018/09/13/ancestry-2018-ethnicity-update/

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9 thoughts on “Finally, Ancestry’s New Ethnicity Estimates

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  1. My 26% Scandinavian disappeared…poof…gone. Where did it go? I still receive plenty of chromosome matches with people of Scandinavian decent that were born/live in Scandinavia. Who knows?

    “Next you have to answer a few questions about your expectations and your thoughts on the previous ethnicity. I am afraid I did not understand that below each was a slider which I could move to indicate the level of accuracy, so until the last one that I answered, I left it alone.” Do you think it’s possible that your answers, or lack thereof, play into how your new ethnicity estimate is calculated? Do our answers affect their ethnicity algorithm?

      • An emerging science indeed…far too few reference samples for starters. Thankfully, there’s the calculators and tools at GEDmatch to aid our search!

        I notice that Finland now appears for you with this Ancestry update. Out of curiosity, do you show any Finnish at MyHeritage?

  2. I had 3 Jewish Grandparents.
    In the update, my % European Jewish went from 76% to 81%. At the same time, Ancestry’s map for the area considered “European Jewish” seems to have more than doubled in size by adding more of Eastern Europe, most of Western Europe, England and parts of Scandinavia. Jewish genealogy isn’t hard enough already? Which part is the improvement?

    • Ancestry compostion is still in its infancy and I do not recommend Ancestry for jewish – upload to family tree DNA and MyHeritage for jewish

  3. The science my be improved, but my trust is shot.
    Scandinavia gone (24%)
    Iberian gone (10%)
    West Europe gone (7%)
    It makes me question their reliability across the board. Some people are downright giddy on the results, but for me it makes me lose confidence in a company if their prior product was that far off the mark. Why trust them now?

  4. my 94% ashkenazi + smattering of greco-italian and iberian went up to 100% ashkenazi, losing the latter two (and mapped in more detail to reflect, pretty much exactly, where each set of my great-grandparents are from in eastern and central europe). more interestingly, my husband, whose dad is ashkenazi and mom southern italian, lost his (surprise) 15% caucasus in favor of becoming *much* more italian (up from 25% to 42%) and slightly less ashkenazi (down from 60+% to 50something). i had had 1% trace caucasus prior as well. but 15% is a lot to lose…i wonder what they did to parse the source of that caucasus category better?

  5. Disappointed in Ancestry’s new ethnicity estimates. My paternal grandparents were both born and raised in Scotland and my maternal grandparents both have deep roots in the earliest days of the U.S – including Native American. I previously had a trace of Native American (which aligns with family stories. Clovis genes also appear in a GedMatch analysis) – and no Swedish or Norwegian in my ancestry – and that made perfect sense–because I have no Swedish or Norwegian ancestors! Yet, suddenly with the new Ancestry algorithms, Native American is gone – and I am 5% Swedish and 5% Norwegian. (This makes no sense based on about 10 years of in-depth genealogical research.) What is clear to me is that Ancestry still hasn’t figured out how to correctly classify trace amounts from unique populations – or how to define “British” genes – which are likely the result of centuries of invasions, raids, and settlement from Vikings, Saxons, the Gauls, etc. I am also disappointed that Ancestry still doesn’t have a more robust genetic cousin analysis tool – such as the ability to look at individual gene comparisons – the way GedMatch can. The comparison of ‘family trees’ is pretty useless, since the vast majority of my genetic cousins haven’t entered family trees.

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