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:

Or read Robert Estes’ post on these changes. She reminds us that ethnicity is far from an accurate science yet!


31 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?

        • Bryan,
          My Dad has a Finnish segment on chr 4 and another on chr 10 as per 23andme and gedmatch. Per 23andme, my brother got one and I got both, but only about half of the segment on 10. On MyHeritage, my brother and I have none but my Dad has 4%.

          • Does your dad happen to show a small percentage of East Asian on MyHeritage? This is why I ask:

            I have a Finnish segment on chr 14 per 23andme and GEDmatch. On MyHeritage, this same chr 14 segment matches a large number of people from Finland and Sweden, though predominately from Finland. The vast majority of these matches go something like this:

            From Finland:

            Finnish: 98.6% / Eskimo/Inuit: 1.4%
            Finnish: 98.2% / Chinese and Vietnamese: 2.0%
            Finnish: 96.7% / Scandinavian: 1.7% / Japanese: 1.6%

            From Sweden:

            Scandinavian: 52.1% / Finnish:43.5% / West Asian:2.2% / Filipino, Indonesian, and Malaysian: 1.4% / Indigenous Amazonian: 0.8%

            Scandinavian: 49.5% / Finnish: 32.2% / Irish, Scottish, and Welsh: 9.1% / Italian: 3.8% / Baltic: 1.9% / South Asian: 2.5% / Chinese and Vietnamese: 1.0%

            …and so on.

            Out of the majority of people that share this chr 14 segment with me and come from Finland, the most common Asian component is Eskimo/Inuit at around 1%-2%. With the Swedes it tends to be more South East Asian in the range of 1%-2%.

            While I also share segments with Swedes, Finns, Danes and Norwegians on other chromosomes, none of them have this East Asian component present in their ethnicity estimate. However, some of them do show a small amount of Central American at around 1%-2%

            How about your father? I’m particularly curious with your family’s Finnish/Scandinavian connection.

          • Bryan –
            Probably from the Sammi people in the North, they are a little related to the Inuit
            My dad shows one little east asian bit on some of the gedmatch calculators and at 23andme…none at My heritage
            North and West Europe

        • Kitty, please stop calling it a “science.”
          None of these companies have shared the data of their reference populations for scientific peer review into their practices and methodology.
          Their methods are not validated by an independent group of scientists and there are not agreed-upon standards of accuracy.


      • Our son is now suddenly 10% Norwegian according to the Ancestry data base “improvements”…. problem is neither myself or my husband have any Norwegian DNA in our profiles !?!?!

        Go figure

  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

    • I went from 69% European Jewish to 79%.
      They erased 9% Western European and 1% Scandinavia and reassigned it to European Jewish.
      If I didn’t cancel my account, I’m sure by my next update they will rebrand me with an Armenian great-grandparent or something….
      I admit it, I flushed 80 bucks down the toilet on this test.

      BTW, I don’t feel 10% more 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.

  6. All my readers who commented please remember that the figuring of ancestral populations from DNA is still a very new science and far from perfect. For some it is pretty good but for others terrible. Stay tuned for the next update.

    As to English versus Norwegian see this post of mine:

    I am happy my British, which is not in my tree, is now gone from the Ancestry DNA estimate although it still shows up at MyHeritage. My latest thought is that that is my German ancestry (think Saxons invading england back when)

  7. Appreciate your work and reminders.
    Is there is a way to identify Sephardic vs askenazi via DNA? Can you direct me to a resource. I have been following the ethnic work done in New Mexico on the “proto Jewish” population that is said to have assimilated into the Hispanic/ Native American population back in the 1500’s and 1600’s

    Ps have never seen such a thorough disclaimer Congrats.

  8. Kitty says:
    September 19, 2018 at 11:37 pm

    “Bryan –
    Probably from the Sammi people in the North, they are a little related to the Inuit
    “My dad shows one little east asian bit on some of the gedmatch calculators and at 23andme…none at My heritage
    North and West Europe


    I also suspect Saami.

    Funny, speaking of your dad’s MyHeritage results, I just received my first MyHeritage match from Norway on this particular chr 14 segment. This individual’s ethnicity estimate is very similar to your father’s estimate:

    North and West Europe 100.0%

    Scandinavian: 91.4%
    Finnish: 4.6%
    Irish, Scottish, and Welsh: 4.0%

    What timing!

  9. 9% of my Western Europe and 1% Scandinavian got converted to 10% European Jewish.
    Can’t really see how AncestryDNA just basically nearly added a Jewish great-grandparent, and confused European Jewish with Western Europe and Scandinavia to begin with…
    I have read 100s of complaints about Ancestry’s new updates.
    This type of “update” for many just serves to show that you can never believe the results of these tests or take them too seriously.
    I wouldn’t even call this a science, its a pseudoscience that swindles the vast majority of users.
    For cousin matching and finding lost relatives its a science, that is the extent of it.

  10. I’m disappointed with the new ancestry ethnicity update. Science says there should be a 50-50 split to represent a person’s maternal and paternal ancestry. I have a 40% (maternal)-60% (paternal) split, Both of my paternal grandparents were born in Poland. Families have been traced back. Advanced Y-DNA deep testing at FamilyTreeDNA shows I’m Balto Slavic. I also match 9 Russians from the same family from Northwest Russia. Ancestry has me at 51% Eastern Europe and Russia and 9% Baltic States for a total of 60%. My maternal side (40%) has been traced back for centuries in western Europe. No Eastern European! . Wildly inaccurate results!

  11. I will stick to my net geo results. Lost all trust in ancestry DNA. You are right Ancestry it’s a new science”wrong just a guessing game.

  12. I can trace my family back to 1671 on my Father’s side in Sicily and Calabria, my Grandfather on my Mother’s side is from Venice. I can trace all of my family roots into the early at least 1800’s to Italy but my Grandmother on my Mother’s side was born in Massechuetts so Ancestry decided I was from the early Virginia settlers who migrated to Kentucky absolute insanity, my family is getting a big laugh out of it. This result it seems to be simply says that we go into some computer program that uses a vast amount of data that is capable of incorrectly slotting people.

    • Please remember that predicting ethnicity is far from an exact science yet. Perhaps some of your ancestors’ close relatives went to Kentucky… or perhaps someone up your tree is not the biological parent … or wait for the next ancestry composition update

      • No actually I can trace my relatives on my Dad’s side to 1761 and my Mom’s side back to their early roots in Venice Italy, absolutely no way any of my relative, and I mean any lived or came from Kentucky!! I don’t just “hope” this is true, I know that my great grandmother on my Father’s side came from Palermo and I know where my Mother’s Father and Mother’s Mother and Father came from Period! This whole thing is based on assumption! And nothing concrete that fits my family! I have baptismal records from Italy so you cannot substantiate anything connecting my family to Kentucky.

  13. I am so confused by my results. I went from 56% Western European with 20% Irish and 16% British plus trace regions to a change of 81% British and 19% Irish. My German completely disappeared and I know there are strong German roots on both sides of my family. Seems a little off at least in my new estimate.

  14. Kitty, I’m on Ancestry, where I tested, FTDNA, and My Heritage as well as GEDMATCH Genesis. Since Ancestry changed their algorithm, is my GEDMATCH information affected? Is it now inaccurate and should I upload the new compositions? Ancestry is more in line with FTDNA. Ancestry says approximately the same colorless British, Ireland,Scotland and Wales. FTDNA only says 99% British. My Heritage used my Ancestry test results and are very similar to GEDMATCH and the first algorithm of Ancestry. There is no contact information for GEDMATCH to ask about the changed composition. Am I wrong in thinking that
    Ancestry’s first algorithm is just hidden within the newest algorithm. It makes me wonder if anything is accurate.

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