Ancestry just did a major update to its ancestry composition estimates based on DNA tests. I was sad to see that my brother and I lost all our German. That seems strange and incorrect, as our grandmother was Bavarian. Now her ethnicity appears to be some combination of Swedish, English, Norwegian, and Eastern European. Germany was a crossroads between Eastern, Western, and Northern Europe so one expects to be very mixed, still I was sorry to see her German and Italian go away. On the other hand, I am pleased to now be 49% Norwegian since my father was the son of Norwegian immigrants in Brooklyn and I am also happy to be even more Jewish.
The ethnicity comparison with my first cousin who shares my German grandparents (one Jewish, the other Bavarian) seems to show the new view of my grandmother’s ethnicity
Today was the day that I finally got the email from Ancestry announcing the update to my ethnicity estimates. Vivs, an administrator of one of the many DNA FaceBook groups I follow, pointed out that this is an ideal time to send messages to DNA relatives you have not heard from as they may well log in and see your message because of that email. In fact, just now, I got a reply from a cousin I had messaged over a year ago!
Clicking on the button that says Learn more in Ancestry‘s email took me to a page that explained the update and included a nice map. Here is a quote from there with the essence of the changes:
“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.”
Of course, I had to go look at some of the people I have helped who have interesting ethnic mixes.
Some of you may remember Elana, the Australian women searching for her unknown father whose ethnicity helped solve the case (click here for that story). Her father is half Chinese and on the other side has an Sicilian grandmother and an Irish descended grandfather. Notice the increased granularity of her Irish, Chinese and Italian roots.
Others of you may remember Tessa, whose unknown father was descended from the original Spanish settlers of New Mexico while her mother was an American of German and English roots (click here for her tale). Here is the increased breakdown for her ethnicity.
A recent case figuring out the unknown father of an unknown father for an African American man with Louisiana roots even turned up a father not being the one of record back in the 1700s on his North European grandfather’s line. His African side has far more countries shown in the ethnic breakdown than before. Although I did not get a before chart, there was a click point to see it.
Personally I used to feel that ethnicity estimates via DNA tests were just good conversation pieces and not yet actual science. However I have solved a few mysteries with the help of ancestry composition so perhaps I should not be so negative about it. The science is constantly improving after all. The communities Ancestry lists are very accurate in my experience and can be quite helpful. Perhaps the improvements come from having so much DNA data with trees.