Tag Archive | Ancestry Compostion

New Ethnicities at Ancestry

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.

Kitty Cooper's ethnicity at Ancestry.com

Kitty Cooper’s ethnicity at Ancestry.com

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.
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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.
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Ancestry’s Updated Ethnicity Reports

UPDATE 3-SEP-2018: My apologies, my account and my cousins do NOT have the latest updates. Since they are more recent and prettier than the last time I looked, I had made that false assumption. Thanks to the members of the Ancestry DNA Matching Facebook group for showing me what the real update looks like.

To see what your version is click on the “up to date” or the “i” in a circle on top of your ethnicity results. Then it will show you a box that tells you what version you have. If you only have 3000 reference samples, then, like me, you do not have the very latest.

I look forward to writing a new post whenever I finally get those changed reports! Meanwhile this post may still be of some interest…


Original post was:

Over the summer Ancestry DNA has been rolling out their new ethnicity estimates and they have finally arrived in my account.

My brother’s ethnicity has not changed, it just has more features.

These changes have been made for two reasons. First of all, Ancestry has lots more data; they have added 13,000 new samples to an original group of 3,000 reference populations.* Secondly they have changed their algorithm to look at runs of DNA rather than just single points (23andme uses this technique as well). You can read their full explanation here: https://www.ancestry.co.uk/cs/dna-help/ethnicity/faq

The predictions for my brother, as shown above, have not changed (click here for my previous article on his ethnicity). He is still 62% Scandinavian (our Dad is Norwegian American) and 22% Jewish (Mom’s dad was German Jewish). While the Bavarian from Mom’s mother is still showing as Scandinavian, Europe South (this was Italy/Greece), and West European. The English comes from Dad according to various other sites where he was tested. This is discussed in my article Norwegian or English? where I suggest that it is the English who have some Norwegian.

The new presentation is prettier and it has some very accurate subcategories. Yes all our Norwegian ancestors are from the circled areas, Western and Southern Norway.

and my ancestors ended up in the city of Brooklyn, NY

One thing I find very enjoyable are the descriptions of the subgroups and migration groups. Also of interest is the story they tell you when you click on one of your groups and a date like 1875 as above.


My ancestry is different from my brother’s but not wildly so. I have more Jewish (German Jewish so within the predicted subgroup), less Scandinavian, and a few interesting bits of noise like Polynesian. I remember one ethnicity estimate somewhere which claimed I had 1% Amerind. I like to think there is a sprinkling of Sami that creates that blip.

I have examples from a wide variety of people thanks to the many adoptees and relatives that I have helped. By the way, my perfect cousin (who I often blog about) is still 100% Scandinavian with the expected subpopulations of South and East Norway.

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Norwegian or English? DNA ancestry predictions

My third cousin Irene (found with DNA) complained to me via email that her ethnicity results at 23andMe were very different from Ancestry; what was going on? Irene’s recent ancestry is known to be half Norwegian (my side) and half Scottish with some Irish (about 6% expected) mixed in.

Ancestry’s predictions are on the left, 23andMe’s estimates are on the right

So I looked and saw that 23andMe (above right) has a very low estimate for Scandinavian for her, while the British and Irish (her Scottish) is fine. Ancestry DNA (above left) has the Scandinavian predicted correctly but calls her Scottish both Irish and Western European. At least it includes her in a Scots genetic community which is correct and very cool.

Family Tree DNA’s predictions

Since I had also uploaded her DNA results to Family Tree DNA, I checked there and saw that they correctly predicted 49% Scandinavian. However the Scottish shows as 36% British Isles followed by some traces including 9% East Europe? No one else saw that!

One of the problems is that our Viking ancestors visited and even settled in various parts of the British Isles making it hard to tell British from Scandinavian. Also there was more migration within Europe many hundreds of years back than we might realize. Finally each company uses different reference populations and techniques for their ethnicity estimates.

Predicting where your ancestors originated based on your DNA test is just not that accurate yet. The broad strokes are pretty good, but since the actual percentages vary quite a bit from company to company it is easy to see that there is much improvement needed.

Somewhat alarmed that 23andMe, which I had always thought was the most accurate of the three, did not predict Irene’s Scandinavian correctly, I decided to double check the predictions for my Norwegian-American Dad, as well as my brother who is tested at all three of the main companies.

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Ancestry Composition Numbers by Segment at 23andme.com

Did you know 23andme now provides the segment data for its ancestry composition assignments? This is a pretty recent feature and might even be useful. Unlike the other companies, 23andme does its admixture (aka ancestry composition) in chunks. This may make it more accurate than the others but in any case it means that they can give us the segment numbers. Then we can compare those to our matches.

To get these numbers, first pull down the reports menu and click on ancestry. On the initial ancestry page click on Ancestry Composition or the > symbol next to your highest group. Both are marked with my red arrow below.


The next page, the ancestry composition page has the pretty chromosome picture with ancestries displayed where you can change the confidence level from speculative (50%) to conservative (90%). To get a CSV file of the segments you click on Scientific Details at the top or the bottom of this page.


Then scroll all the way to bottom of that next page until you see this. You can select your confidence level as well for your downloaded data.


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