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Thread: What's Your Ethnicity via Paper Trail?

  1. #1
    Registered Users
    United States

    United States of America Germany Netherlands Switzerland Belgium France

    What's Your Ethnicity via Paper Trail?

    Apologies if this is in the wrong area; I wasn't sure exactly where to put it I also apologize in advance if this is worded incorrectly or in an unprofessional manner-- still very much a greenhorn to ethnicity, genealogy, etc.!

    I've noticed a fair number of other folks here who have calculated their ethnicity in their signature, based on their paper trail! I'd love to see others' ethnicity compositions based on your paper trail, specifically. Here is mine:

    62.5% German
    15.625% Dutch
    6.25% Swiss
    6.25% Unknown
    3.125% Belgian
    3.125% French
    3.125% Colonial American (Irish, English, Welsh)

    My father's:
    37.5% German
    31.25% Dutch
    12.5% Unknown
    6.25% Belgian
    6.25% French
    6.25% Colonial American (Irish, English, Welsh)

    My mother's:
    87.5% German
    12.5% Swiss

    I have calculated these ethnicities based primarily on my 3x great grandparents, which had to have been confirmed born in that country via paper to be counted within the above scores. For example, 14 out of the 16 3x great grandparents on my mother's side have been confirmed born German, and the remaining two were born in Switzerland. I am fortunate that many of my 3x great grandparents are known (save for the "Unknown" ones on my father's side), and many I have been able to go back several generations, which helps solidify the ethnicity (for example: direct generation after direct generation born in the Netherlands-- not recent migrants to the Netherlands etc.)

    A few questions for you who also have calculated your ethnicity via paper trail:
    What do you consider "legitimate"? What criteria do you establish for yourself in order to consider something to be within your ethnicity? Paper proof of the ancestor being born there? Multiple direct generations born there?

    Looking forward to your replies!


    PS-- almost all DNA tests I take give me around 30 to 40% Scandinavian-- despite having no known Scandinavian ancestors. Fun how ancient migration works!
    Ethnicity via Paper Trail (Rounded): 63% German, 16% Dutch, 6% Swiss, 6% Unknown, 3% Belgian, 3% French, 3% Colonial American (Irish, English, Welsh).

    Ancestry DNA Results: 64% Germanic Europe, 22% England/Wales/Northwest Europe, 6% Norway, 3% Baltic, 3% Sweden, 2% Slavic.

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  3. #2
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    England Ireland Wales Scotland England North of England European Union
    Going by my 3x great grandparents based on known country of birth (four of the 32 are not known at all) -

    81.2% English
    12.5% unknown
    6.25% Irish

    For my mother's 3x great grandparents and my 4x great grandparents (eleven of the 32 are not known at all, although I know the first name of one) -

    53.1% English
    34.3% unknown
    12.5% Irish

    For my father's 3x great grandparents and my 4x great grandparents (all of his 32 3x great grandparents are known) -

    96.8% English
    3.12% Irish

    When I was looking at my tree to work these out, I based it solely on where they were known to have been born (with one exception, an ancestor on my mother's side who was born in Ireland. His father, the only known parent, was an English soldier so I don't know how long he might have been in Ireland for), but a few of the ancestors I looked at were born to parents from another country or had significant ancestry from another country. For example one of my paternal 3x great grandparents, William Clegg, was born in England and I've listed him as English. However, his mother was half-Irish (and her parents seem to have moved between England and Ireland in the years before her birth) and his father was half-Welsh. A maternal ancestor, James McKenna, is listed as English although both of his parents were Irish immigrants.

    That being said, the very English result for my dad is quite accurate as a lot of his ancestors came from rural parts of Northern England and Hertfordshire and likely have little non-English ancestry that I don't know about (although his Hulks line might have originally been Dutch and his Wren line Danish, although there's little proof of either - the Dutch ancestor is found on a few trees but just looks like multiple people copying one tree without fact checking, whilst there's a story that some Wren families in the North were originally from Denmark but came to England in the medieval period, but I doubt that).

    I consider anything above 1.5% (1/64th or 4x great grandparents) that can be confirmed via paper trail to be part of my ethnicity. Anything before that is, in my opinion, too distant to be considered especially due to the dwindling number of records and the percentage being less than a percent.

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  5. #3
    Registered Users
    Waterville, ME
    Great Migration Colonists
    Y-DNA (P)
    R1b-U106 (S10415)
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    T2b3 (23andMe)

    United States Gadsden England Scotland Ireland Wales
    I have created a spreadsheet at with both my paper trail ethnicity as well as estimates based on a variety of DNA tests. The spreadsheet can be found at:

    I calculated my ethnicity by looking at each of my sixteen great-grandparents ethnicities (by looking at their ancestors traced to an immigrant ancestor). Thus my final percentages of KNOWN ethnicity falls short of 100%. I also added in an ESTIMATED ancestry by allocating the unknown ancestry across my known fields.

    Proven: 74.1% English, 7.3% Scots, 0.8% Irish, 0.9% Welsh % 17.6% Unknown % 0.7% Other (German & Jersey)

    Adding in the Unknown to the percentages above:
    88.5% English, 8.7% Scots, 0.9% Irish, 1% Welsh, 0.8% other

    I do consistently score a bit of Scandinavian ancestry in all of my DNA test results. This may simply be the result of ancient Viking ancestry, but there is an outside possibility of a small bit of Swedish Ancestry. I have a great-great-great-grandmother born in Delaware in 1818 and there was a New Sweden colony in this area. I have traced SOME of her ancestry (with none going back to that colony), but there are gaps where it is possible I may have some more recent Scandinavian ethnicity.
    Gedmatch DNA: M032736 Gedcom: 6613110.
    Gedmatch Genesis: WH4547538
    co-administrator: Y-DNA R-U106 Haplogroup Project

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  7. #4
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    Russian Federation Star of David Belarus Lebanon Kazakhstan Ireland
    My paper trial has too many holes but I know the Russian side is all correct. My parental grand fathers side is a confusing hellhole that I think is mainly Moroccan Cameroonian Iranian or Ukrainian and Italian. but I’m not sure. DNA results don’t really help, they give so many overlapping regions and they are terrible with small amounts as well so they leave somethings out I’d assume/don’t detect with some matches. Some matches get Iberian and North African, etc others don’t so it’s all confusing others get Caucasus and “Europe East”.
    That’s why my signature is always updating as I go along things get more legitimate.
    Legitimacy to me is if toy can prove it by DNA and records, or personal things such as names and even looks.

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  9. #5
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    Chicago, Illinois
    mixed European
    Y-DNA (P)
    Dad: R1b/L21/DF63
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    United States of America England Wales Sweden Germany
    Fun question.

    My 3x great-grandparents are mostly in the US of somewhat mixed ancestry. Using my parent's 16 3xg grandparents, I still have to estimate or guess to some extent, as most are still born in the US (or have mixed English/Welsh ancestry in the UK), but come up with the following as my best estimate:

    Mom: 2.5 German, 6 English, 3.5 Irish, 4 Swedish, so 37.5% English, 25% Swedish, 22% Scots-Irish, 15.5% German.

    Dad: 10.5 English, .5 German, .5 Dutch, 3.5 Welsh, 1 French, so about 65.5% English, 22% Welsh, 6.25% French, roughly 3% each German and Dutch.

    So me: roughly 52% English, 12.5% Swedish, 11% Welsh, 11% Scots-Irish, 9% German, 3% French, tiny bit of Dutch.

    Current Ancestry: 69% England, Wales, and NW Europe; 23% Ireland/Scotland; 8% Swedish
    Current 23andMe (rounded): 49% UK, 19% German, 11% Sweden, 18% Broadly NW Europe, 3% Broadly Southern Europe, 1% Broadly European.
    Last edited by msmarjoribanks; 08-23-2018 at 04:19 PM.

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  11. #6
    Gold Class Member
    Florida, USA.
    English, Scottish & Irish
    Y-DNA (P)
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    mtDNA (P)

    England Scotland Ireland Germany Bayern Italy Two Sicilies France
    At the time I ran these calculations, I spent a fairly decent amount of time looking through the documents I had. So they’re probably about as accurate as I’m going to get, going by my paper trail alone. There were times where I had to make inferences from surnames but in those cases, they were mostly English or Scottish, so I doubt they changed anything.

    At any rate, here are my estimates:
    45.313% English, 29.687% Scottish, 12.5% Irish, 6.25% German & 6.25% Italian.
    Or: 87.5% British Isles, 6.25% German & 6.25% Italian.

    From Genetic testing I get the following:

    LivingDNA gave me:
    88.1% British Isles (59.7% English, 27% Scottish & 1.3% Irish), 5.9% Europe (South),
    4.4% Europe (N&W) & 1.6% Europe (East)

    FTDNA gave me:
    77% British Isles, 12% East Europe, 11% Southern Europe

    Ancestry gave me:
    38% Ireland/Scotland/Wales, 22% Great Britain, 16% Scandinavia, 10% Iberian Peninsula, 8% Europe South, 5% Europe West, 1% Europe East.

    23&me gave me:
    British & Irish 66.7%, French & German 14.5%, Scandinavian 3.7%, Italian 2.0%, Iberian 0.6%, Broadly Northwestern European 10.8%, Broadly Southern European 1.0%, Broadly European 0.6%

    Considering my ancestry, it’s not surprising that LivingDNA did the best. Nevertheless, I still had to make adjustments where they were concerned, too. Although, in most cases, they were minor and I used their notes or common knowledge as confirmation.
    Last edited by JMcB; 08-24-2018 at 03:42 PM.

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  13. #7
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    Colorado, USA
    White European
    Y-DNA (P)
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    England Scotland Germany Switzerland Italy Norway
    Mine is in the links in my signature - keep in mind, of course, that we don't inherit DNA equally from all ancestors of the same generation. I inherited 18% from my paternal grandfather, not the "expected" 25%. Who knows how much my inheritance from ancestors further back must vary from the expected too. So estimating your ethnicity percentages from your tree by just dividing in half for each generation should always be taken with a grain of salt.

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  15. #8
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    It depends what one means by ethnicity.
    I understand the paper bit, and use it often.
    I know exactly where my generation of emigrants came from in Europe - my grandparents' grandparents - down to the province and town.
    By nationality AT THE TIME THEY LEFT they were:
    German 50%
    Cornish 19%
    English (other than Cornish) 25%
    Scottish 6%
    This can be very useful, much moreso than estimates by the DNA companies, and I encourage anyone to do this calculation if they have the data.

    Any person stuck in an originally colonial country would be happy to see that.
    But then the complications creep in.
    My Germans come from what is now Poland.
    Some have surnames suggesting they came from further west (and this is supported by local history).
    Some have surnames (and indeed appearances) of some sort of Slavic predecessors - but more than one type.
    For hundreds of years Germans and Slavs lived side by side.
    Some probably intermarried from time to time. They certainly did in the new country.

    Almost all of my Cornish and most of my English were in the same area for a long time.
    But one line from around Bristol appears to have been half from London, with the other half West Country with maybe some Welsh.
    Another has a surname connected with Flemish arrivals around 1500.
    My Scot's parents were a Highlander and a Lowlander, and part of the latter probably came from Northumbria a century or more earlier.
    My Cornish lived towards the south western tip.
    As I go further back, some lines move further north and east - towards Devon, and DNA links suggest some came from there.
    Way back in Cornwall, some lines were Norman, interspersed with English and Welsh.

    Do these further considerations help me find family? Not much.
    Some of the British ones help me to know where to look.
    And all of them suggest certain surname spelling variations might be more useful than others.
    But more traditional methods, particularly surname and local history research, have been more fruitful than using ethnicity.

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  17. #9
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    Pittsburgh, PA, USA
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    Quote Originally Posted by RobinBMc View Post
    Mine is in the links in my signature - keep in mind, of course, that we don't inherit DNA equally from all ancestors of the same generation. I inherited 18% from my paternal grandfather, not the "expected" 25%. Who knows how much my inheritance from ancestors further back must vary from the expected too. So estimating your ethnicity percentages from your tree by just dividing in half for each generation should always be taken with a grain of salt.
    This is an excellent point, but I'll go a step further. It is well-established that the average crossover rate per recombination event is significantly higher for women than for men. [IIRC, it's something like 42 per recombination event in women, versus 27 in men.]

    Yet sources that report the length of each chromosome in centimorgans -- such as -- don't generally take this into account. Only one value is given for each chromosome (though that value may vary somewhat from testing company to testing company). In reality, two values ought to be given in each case -- one for males and one for females.

    Even this is an oversimplification, because the frequency of crossovers can also vary between different populations, and between individuals of the same sex. Still, it makes more sense to come up with an average for males and an average for females than it does to average the rate for both sexes together. There are essentially no instances of two "averaged" parents producing children, but one father and one mother. (See below for a note about so-called "three person babies".)

    What I'm suggesting is that how much DNA you inherit from ancestors beyond your parents is likely to be influenced by the combination of sexes in the intervening generations. A line with more females is likely to have had more crossovers, and therefore the transmitted segments will tend to be greater in number but smaller in size. A line with more males is likely to have had fewer crossovers, resulting in more segments with a larger size. Again, this is on average.

    Over many generations, more segments -- even if smaller -- will be likely to represent more ancestors who have transmitted at least some amount of DNA. Fewer segments likely means that more ancestors have failed to transmit any DNA; but more of those who did are likely to have transmitted somewhat longer segments.

    [I should also note that crossovers are not the only factors in recombination. There are also gene conversions, for example.]


    There have been news reports of "three-person babies". These involve a third person, besides a father and a mother, who provides an ovum and mitochondrial DNA. The nuclear DNA is removed from this ovum, and replaced with that of the intended mother. The purpose is to allow a woman who is a known or suspected carrier of a mitochondrial disorder to have children, without fear of passing on the disorder.

    Any child produced in this way will inherit his or her chromosomes from father and mother, as with any child. The child's mtDNA, however, will be that of the egg donor, and will be transmitted to the next generation by any female child who goes on to have her own children.
    Last edited by geebee; 08-23-2018 at 07:52 PM.
    Besides British-German-Catalan, ancestry includes smaller amounts of French, Irish, Swiss, Choctaw & another NA tribe, possibly Catawba. Avatar picture is: my father, his father, & his father's father; baby is my eldest brother.


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  19. #10
    Registered Users
    Northwest USA
    British & Irish
    Y-DNA (P)
    R1b>L513>A7> BY11186
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    My paper trail ancestry estimate is included in my spreadsheet of many DNA ancestry tests below. Second column from the right. It compares well with DNA ancestry/ethnicity estimates I have confidence in.

    Last edited by Robert1; 08-24-2018 at 04:39 PM.
    Estimated ancestry after reviewing, 23&Me, FTDNA My Origins, Living DNA and known family history:
    33% English, 27% Scottish, 18% Welsh, 18% Irish, 4% German/Netherlands

    Y-DNA leads to Isle of Skye, Scottish Highlands: R1b>M343>L278>L754>L389>P297>M269>L23>L51>L151/L11>P312>Z290>L21/M529>DF13>L513/DF1>S5668>A7>Z21253> S7834 > S7828 > BY11203 > BY11186 (about 320-550 years old)

    MTDNA leads to Glamorgan, South Wales: K1a4a1f

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