After posting a couple of blogs this month on family heritage (Celebrating Your German Ancestry during German-American Heritage Month! and Celebrating Filipino Heritage and Ancestry during Filipino American History Month!) for German-American Heritage Month and Filipino History Month during Family History Month, I decided to look into heritage a little more, which took me more into biographical ancestry and DNA ethnicity results.
DNA tests for your ethnicity can be quite fun, but did you know that ethnicity can’t really be detected from your DNA? It can overlap with your biogeographical ancestry though. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of ethnicity is a particular ethnic affiliation or group. Not only does ethnicity look at common geographical locations, but religious affiliations, and cultural heritage as well. Don’t get too hung up on your ethnicity results from DNA testing companies then get off track with your research by going down a rabbit hole.
DNA Sample Populations:
Keep in mind, that most of the sites sample pools are not very large and the samples are taken from people living now; this is what forms the panels for the reference populations. They do try to collect from people with deep roots in a particular area though. You also need to keep in mind that political boundaries have changed greatly over time and that the regions used in DNA tests are of modern day. You get your DNA “ethnicity” percentages based on your closest matching populations to the reference panel. YOU ALSO CAN ONLY MATCH TO THE GEOGRAPHICAL REGIONS THAT ARE IN THE COMPANY'S DATABASE, so keep that in mind as well; although, they will try to match you to the next closest region that they have available in their database.
Calculating Your DNA “Ethnicity”:
You have a better chance of understanding your biogeographical ancestry if you use your results from each site in conjunction with one another, along with your research of where your family immigrated from, your family surnames, and the trees and names of your distant matches (with hope that their research is correct 😉).
Results vary from company to company because they each use a different algorithm and, of course, they have different reference populations to compare your DNA to.
DNA Results Constantly Changing:
Keep in mind that each company tries to improve on results, so your results may change over time. They may have more regions included in their reference population, they may have come up with a better algorithm, etc.
Your DNA “Ethnicity” Percentage Reliablility:
My DNA “Ethnicity” Results from AncestryDNA:
My DNA “Ethnicity” Results from 23 and Me:
My DNA “Ethnicity” Results from MyHeritage:
My DNA “Ethnicity” Results from Family Tree DNA:
*These are my newest/updated results at the time of this post; remember, they are constantly updating and improving. These results have changed quite a bit overtime.
My Known Family Geographical Regions of My Main Family Lines (Using the Lines of All My 2nd Great Grandparents):
My Known Family Geographical Regions Compared to My Ethnicity Results Used in Conjunction:
If I use my ethnicity results in conjunction with my known family geographical locations, along with understanding present day locations and migration patterns, and if I keep a mental note of the percentage RANGES that each company offers and how each company defines their geographical regions, then my “estimates” are not too far off. 😉 The only unknown composition (that I have no idea where it came from) is African. I do have a 4th great grandparent on the Mexican line of my paternal side that shows as Mulatto on a Mexican baptismal record, but that doesn't show up in my DNA; although, it does for my paternal uncle. But, when I deep dove more into my results and my DNA matches (and now AncestryDNA has their new "SideView Ethnicity Inheritance" DNA feature and their new "Ethnicity Chromosome Painter" DNA feature to help confirm what I had already researched on), I had learned it is on my mother's side. I have ABSOLUTELY no idea where it comes from, and I'm still researching to figure that out. It shows up on ALL the sites I tested my DNA at (or uploaded my results to), along with many of my maternal matches showing the same; although, the percentages may be off, it is obviously still part of my biogeographical ancestry.
Summary of Understanding Your DNA “Ethnicity Results”:
More Genealogy Resources:
Learn about more resources you can use in your genealogy research and to preserve your family history under the Genealogy Resources category and on my dedicated Genealogy Resources page!
More DNA Posts:
Interested in genetic genealogy? Find more DNA posts under my DNA Simplified category!
Other DNA Posts that May Be of Interest:
Evalogue.Life, Heart of the Family, Molly's Canopy, Climbing My Family Tree, Cami Mayer, Field Genealogist, Ancestor Detective, DNA Breakthroughs, Your DNA Guide, Ancestral Findings, Genealogy Tip of the Day, Family History Daily, Genea-Musings
I hope my family history and genealogy blog on genealogy research tips, resources, events, and more, along with my own genealogy journeys, will help you in your research and in building your family tree to learn more about your ancestors and family history to preserve for future generations to come!