AncestryDNA released new ethnicity estimates today, so if you’ve tested, be sure to log in and see how your ethnicity estimate has changed.
The best part is they allow you to compare your updated estimate to your previous estimate, so you can visualize the changes. (Use the toggle switch at the bottom of the ethnicity estimate to move between your new and old figures.)
Why did my AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimate change?
If you’re wondering why your Ethnicity Estimate changed, part of the reason is an improved reference database with which they can compare DNA samples.
“We have better tools for telling regions apart, especially closely related regions like Ireland and Great Britain. We also have 16,000 reference samples now instead of 3,000, which helps screen out less-likely regions. …We determine your ethnicity estimate by comparing your DNA to samples of DNA from people who have a long history in a region. As we get more samples, our picture of what DNA from a region or group “looks like” gets better. We’ve added more than 13,000 new samples to the original 3,000 in our reference database to give us our clearest picture yet for each region.”
Ancestry also says ethnicity estimates have changed because they’ve improved how they read the data.
“DNA is made up of strings of four different letters: A, C, G, and T. Our old algorithm looked at one letter at a time, and based on where that letter appeared in your DNA, it decided where that bit of DNA came from. Without getting too technical, our new algorithm reads longer stretches of your DNA at once, making it easier to identify regions of the world where you ancestor once roamed.”
And if you’re the technical type, here’s Ancestry’s 2018 White Paper on Ethnicity Estimates.
My Old AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimate
My New AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimate
What changed in my Ethnicity Estimate?
In my case:
- England, Wales & Northwestern Europe increased by 50% (Europe West disappeared; it was 45%; England, Wales & Northwestern Europe includes a portion of the former Europe West)
- Ireland and Scotland decreased by 1%
- Scandinavia disappeared (it was 5%) and was replaced with Norway at 2% (a new, tightened region of Scandinavia)
- Iberian Peninsula 1% disappeared
Below is a screenshot of AncestryDNA regions that have changed. For example, I used to have some Iberian Peninsula. This region no longer exists, it’s been separated into Spain, Portugal, and Basque. I used to have Europe West which no longer exists; this region is now Germanic Europe or France.
You can read a great explanation about these new regions and the ethnicity estimate shifts at Ancestry’s Ethnicity FAQ page.
My Genetic Results vs. Genealogical Results
My new, updated AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimate more closely resembles the genealogical records I’m aware of. My paper records going back 8-10 generations are predominantly English & Welsh, with some Irish, a little Scottish, and some German. I’m not aware of any Norwegian ancestry but MyHeritageDNA also shows Nordic ancestry (they call it Finnish at 3.6%) and at MyHeritageDNA I have Finnish, Norwegian, & Swedish DNA matches and some are as close as potential 3rd cousins (19 cM individual segments and shorter), so I think both companies are seeing something in my DNA that I haven’t yet found in the paper trail.
My genealogical records go back about 400 years (take the accuracy of 400-year-old records and my family tree precision with a good dose of skepticism). These autosomal DNA tests are supposed to be looking at genetic markers that date back 1000 years or more, so I’m pretty excited to see the only discrepancy between my genetic results and my genealogical results is some Nordic ancestry I haven’t yet traced.
I’ve always considered my DNA very plain Jane but maybe there are even a few surprises out there for me.
Best in your research and don’t forget to check your updated AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimate!
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