Ethnicity Estimates, Should we take them seriously?

So further to my previous blogs covering my DNA journey (see links below), I have recently received an updated version of my ethnicity estimate from my test with Ancestry.

The question is how much notice should we take of these ethnicity estimates?

There are definitely similarities between the estimates that I have received from Ancestry and My Heritage, but likewise there are startling differences.

My Current Ancestry DNA and My Heritage estimates. are shown below:

Screen Shot 2019-05-27 at 14.13.21


Screen Shot 2019-05-27 at 14.12.31

The clue is probably in the name. They are estimates! Pure and simple. They are a guide and an indicator of your ethnicity origins, nothing more. The accuracy of the estimate is also based on many different factors. There are a number of varying factors that effect the the overall ethnicity result that you receive, no matter who you test with, the first couple are the fancy algorithms that calculate the estimate itself, the one that you are interested in is the reference population in the database of the company that you are testing with. These reference DNA’s are individual to each company and are solely based upon the population areas that they have tested within, therefore accuracy on specific areas is solely based on their specific database content. Thats why there is such a large variation in your results from company to company.

The important part of any DNA testing, for a Genealogist, is the DNA match list, its here where you have the potential to breakthrough a brick wall or find a new cousin. Unfortunately Ethnicity Estimates are seen as a great marketing tool for the large commercial DNA testing companies, encouraging you to unlock your ethnicity when parting with your cash. What they fail to tell you is that they are purely a guide, an indicator of your ethnicity, nothing more.

Periodically you will receive updates on your ethnicity from your testing company as their reference population changes and grows, as these changes are made, these are then shown in your own ethnicity estimates. Ancestry have previously updated theirs and included below are my old and new estimates.


Screen Shot 2019-05-27 at 14.22.15


Screen Shot 2019-05-27 at 14.13.21


Remember also that the map of Europe and indeed the World looked vastly different 300 years ago to what it does today, so be mindful of your European ethnicity in particular.


So be mindful of the accuracy of your Ethnicity estimate, its a guide of where your origins are from, as a Genealogist it’s the matches that are the key to success, but thats the subject of a whole new blog…….

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