Tag Archive | german ethnicity

Comparing Ethnicity Estimates Across Companies

Both Ancestry and FamilyTreeDNA have recently updated their ethnicity results. As much fun as it is to look at your ancestry composition, those estimates do not really reflect the populations of today’s countries, but rather human migrations hundreds of years in the past. Therefore the big picture is more accurate than the smaller areas. Examples that I have found to be realistic are North versus South Europe or East versus West versus South Asia.

To the left is a simple pie chart showing the known ancestry for my brother and myself for the last 300 years or so. Our father was Norwegian American, documented back to the 1600s, and our mother was born in Munich to a Jewish father and German (Bavarian) mother. In 2016 I wrote a blog post showing how my brother’s ethnicity appeared at a number of DNA companies and third party sites (click here for that post). This post will look again at the ethnicity predictions for each of us from the main testing companies.

One thing I always find interesting is that they all show my brother Shipley with less DNA from our Jewish grandfather than I have. The variations between full siblings can be quite large.

Let’s look at the new Family Tree DNA results first:

My Origins at Family Tree DNA for my brother and myself

Nice and simple but not very accurate. We have no British ancestors in the last 500 years that we know of. However there is no such thing as German DNA because that area was a crossroads. It usually shows up as French, Scandinavian, British, or even Eastern European. Jewish DNA is quite distinct due to centuries of endogamy. Interestingly, our Jewish never comes out at the expected 25%. All the companies show me with more than that and my brother with less. Although you inherit half of your DNA from each parent, they do not have to pass you an equal amount from each of their parents.

Here are our results at MyHeritage:

Our ethnicity predictions at MyHeritage

MyHeritage is an excellent site for working with your DNA since it includes a chromosome browser that shows triangulations and it also looks through user trees to try and figure out your relationships to your DNA cousins. However, although their ethnicity estimates have improved over time, like Family Tree DNA, they incorrecty find lots of British Isles DNA for us. They call it Irish, Scottish, and Welsh. The Jewish component is only few percentage points different from Family Tree DNA.

Frankly I find the estimates at 23andme and Ancestry more accurate.

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MyHeritage DNA Matching: Excellent Enhancements

MyHeritage has kept its promises: tree matching, pedigree display, a place for notes, and best of all, a chromosome browser. Plus the cousin matching is finally quite good, at least for your closer cousins, and includes some triangulation.

A very nice new feature is the Ethnicities Map, a menu item under DNA, which gives you the common groups for any modern day country you select. Since a question I commonly receive from family members is “Why doesn’t my known German ancestry show up?”, it is great to be able to show them this map:

A picture says it better than telling them that in the DNA, northern Germans look Scandinavian, southern Germans look Italian, eastern Germans look East European, and western Germans look French. My maternal ancestors lived at the crossroads of Europe!

Uploading your results from another DNA testing company is still free at MyHeritage and you get many of the DNA features. Personally I have just a data subscription and a small tree (there is a 250 person limit for unpaid members). In a few weeks I will create an account for a cousin and see if this works as well as it is supposed to for completely free members.

After the recent change, the segment details for my matches to my close family are very similar to what I see on GEDmatch and 23andme, same chromosomes, similar sizes, slightly different boundaries. This is a wonderful improvement!

Since my ancestors are all fairly recent immigrants from Norway and Germany, I was hoping for some international matches when I uploaded my DNA results to MyHeritage last year. In practice, as usual, there were no Germans (testing is not popular there), but plenty of Norwegian cousins that I already knew about, plus a few new distant ones.

However, I did recently get a new close cousin match (1C2R-2C1R), Melissa from New Jersey. I will use her match to investigate the new improved DNA matching.
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