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Thread: A good blogpost on why Ethnicity estimates have to be taken with a huge grain of salt

  1. #1
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    A good blogpost on why Ethnicity estimates have to be taken with a huge grain of salt

    https://dna-explained.com/2017/01/11...y-percentages/

    Summary key points from the blog:
    Here are the points I’d like to make about ethnicity estimates.

    - Ethnicity estimates are interesting and alluring.
    - Ethnicity estimates are highly entertaining.
    - Don’t marry them. They’re not dependable.
    - Create and utilize your ethnicity chart based on your known, proven genealogy which will provide a compass for unknown genealogy. For example, my German and Dutch lines are proven unquestionably, which means those percentages are firm and should match up relatively well to vendor ethnicity estimates for those regions.
    - Take all ethnicity estimates with a grain of salt.
    - Sometimes the shaker of salt.
    - Sometimes the entire lick of salt.
    - Ethnicity estimates make great cocktail party conversation.
    - If the results don’t make sense based on your known genealogical percentages, especially if your genealogy is well-researched and documented, understand the possibilities of why and when a healthy dose of skepticism is prudent. For example, if your DNA from a particular region exceeds the total of both of your parents for that region, something is amiss someplace – which is NOT to suggest that you are not your parents’ child. If you’re not the child of one or both parents, assuming they have DNA tested, you won’t need ethnicity results to prove or even suggest that.
    - Ethnicity estimates are not facts beyond very high percentages, 25% and above. At that level, the ethnicity does exist, but the percentage may be in error.
    - Ethnicity estimates are generally accurate to the continent level, although not always at low levels. Note weasel word, “generally.”
    - We should all enjoy the results and utilize these estimates for their hints and clues. For example, if you are an adoptee and you are 25% African, it’s likely that one of your grandparents was Africa, or two of your grandparents were roughly half African, or all four of your grandparents were one-fourth African. Hints and clues, not gospel and not cast in concrete. Maybe cast in warm Jello.
    - Ethnicity estimates showing larger percentages probably hold a pearl of truth, but how big the pearl and the quality of the pearl is open for debate. The size and value of the pearl is directly related to the size of the percentage and the reference populations.
    - Unexpected results are perplexing. In the case of my unknown 8% to 12% Scandinavian – the Vikings may be to blame, or the reference populations, which are current populations, not historical populations – or some of each. My Scandinavian amounts translate into between 5 and 8 of my GGGG-grandparents being fully Scandinavian – and that’s extremely unlikely in the middle of Virginia in the 1700s.
    - There can be fairly large slices of completely unexplained ethnicity. For example, Scandinavia at 8-12% and even more perplexing, Italy and Greece. All I can say is that there must have been an awful lot of Vikings buried in the DNA of those other populations. But enough to aggregate, cumulatively, to between a great-grandparent at 12.5% and a great-great-grandparent at 6.25%? I’m not convinced. However, all three vendors found some Scandinavian – so something is afoot. Did they all use the same reference population data for Scandinavian? For the time being, the Scandinavian results remain a mystery.
    - There is no way to tell what is real and what is not. Meaning, do I really have some ancient Italian/Greek and more recent Scandinavian, or is this deep ancestry or a reference population issue? And can the lack of my proven Native and African ancestry be attributed to the same?
    - Proven ancestors beyond 6 generations, meaning Native lineages, disappear while undocumentable and tenuous ancestors beyond 6 generations appear – apparently, en masse. In my case, kind of like a naughty Scandinavian ancestral flash mob, taunting and tormenting me. Who are those people??? Are they real?
    If the known/proven ethnicity percentages from Germany, Netherlands and France can be highly erroneous, what does that imply about the rest of the results? Especially within Europe? The accuracy issue is especially pronounced looking at the wide ranges of British Isles between vendors, versus my expected percentage, which is even higher, although the inferred British Isles could be partly erroneous – but not on this magnitude. Apparently part of by British Isles ancestry is being categorized as either or both Scandinavian or European.
    - Conversely, these estimates can and do miss positively genealogically proven minority ethnicity. By minority, I mean minority to the tester. In my case, African and Native that is proven in multiple lines – and not just by paper genealogy, but by Y and mtDNA haplogroups as well.
    - Vendors’ products and their estimates will change with time as this field matures and reference populations improve.
    Some results may reflect the ancient history of the entire population, as indicated by the Genographic Project. In other words, if the entire German population is 30% Mediterranean, then your ancestors who descend from that population can be expected to be 30% Mediterranean too. Except I don’t show enough Mediterranean ancestry to be 30% of my German DNA, which would be about 8% – at least not as reported by any vendor other than the Genographic Project.
    - Not all vendors display below 1% where traces of minority admixture are sometimes found. If it’s hard to tell if 8-12% Scandinavian is real, it’s almost impossible to tell whether less than 1% of anything is real. Having said that, I’d still like to see my trace amounts, especially at a continental level which tends to be more reliable, given that is where both my Native and African are found.
    - If the reason my Native and African ancestors aren’t showing is because their DNA was not passed on in subsequent generations, causing their DNA to effectively “wash out,” why didn’t that happen to Scandinavian?
    - Ethnicity estimates can never disprove that an ancestor a few generations back was or was not any particular ethnicity. (However, Y and mitochondrial DNA testing can.)
    - Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, except in very recent generations – like 2 (grandparents at 25%), maybe 3 generations (great-grandparents at 12.5%).
    - Continental level estimates above 10-12 percent can probably be relied upon to suggest that the particular continental level ethnicity is present, but the percentage may not be accurate. Note the weasel wording here – “probably” – it’s here on purpose. Refer to Scandinavia, above – although that’s regional, not continental, but it’s a great example. My proven Native/African is nearly elusive and my mystery Scandinavian/Greek/Italian is present in far greater percentages than it should be, based upon proven genealogy.
    - Vendors, all vendors, struggle to separate ethnicity regions within continents, in particular, within Europe.
    - Don’t take your ethnicity results too seriously and don’t be trading in your lederhosen for kilts, or vice versa – especially not based on intra-continental results.
    - Don’t change your perception of who you are based on current ethnicity tests. Otherwise you’re going to feel like a chameleon if you test at multiple vendors.
    - Ethnicity estimates are not a short cut to or a replacement for discovering who you are based on sound genealogical research.
    - No vendor, NOT ANY VENDOR, can identify your Native American tribe. If they say or imply they can, RUN, with your money. Native DNA is more alike than different. Just because a vendor compares you to an individual from a particular tribe, and part of your DNA matches, does NOT mean your ancestors were members of or affiliated with that tribe. These three major vendors plus the Genographic Project don’t try to pull any of those shenanigans, but others do.
    - Genetic genealogy and specifically, ethnicity, is still a new field, a frontier.
    - Ethnicity estimates are not yet a mature technology as is aptly illustrated by the differences between vendors.
    - Ethnicity estimates are that. ESTIMATES.
    I think she is right when it comes to the connection between UK, Scandinavia and Germany, and I suspect Scandinavian is one of the most inflated % among Europeans who test. The most extreme examples of this include Dutch and German people who get 100% Scandinavian..

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  3. #2
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    I came out about 40% Scandinavian on one calculator and I'm British - probably the Germanic part of my ancestry but way over-inflated. John

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    22% French & German according to 23 in spec mode. I really can't account for it in recent centuries as such a high percentage doesn't reflect my documented family tree or any local history. I really wouldn't mind any Ancestry from wherever, but it just doesn't figure.

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    I must say I've found them surprisingly accurate and I've tested with 23andMe, Ancestry and FTDNA. I know for some populations they are picking up a lot more admixture that doesn't always make sense. Still it's odd how they can get Irish so correct. I suppose it because they base the British & Irish (23andMe) on them and the same for the other dna companies.

    They even appear to have picked up my distant possibly Huguenot ancestry on my mother's side.

    My mother's 23 and Me result.



    Mine. My F&G was inherited from her and she has a distant Huguenot ancestor from the 17th Century.



    Possibly populations like the English and Dutch have more admixture and do have more Scandinavian. It is only the more "extreme" populations that have majority one component. I know the Finns and Basque fall into this category. I'm looking forward to the LivingDNA results although I'm hoping I won't end up 100% Southern Irish (not that I don't like being Irish). I'd just like to know more about what populations contributed to the Irish people's deep ancestry so I'm hoping for something a bit more detailed.

    Interesting topic.

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    I just ignore everything under 4%

    I also ignore all the "broadly"


    My Path = ( K-M9+, TL-P326+, T-M184+, L490+, M70+, PF5664+, L131+, L446+, CTS933+, CTS3767+, CTS8862+, Z19945+, BY143483+ )


    Grandfather via paternal grandmother = I1-Y33791 ydna
    Great grandmother paternal side = T1a1e mtdna

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    Quote Originally Posted by vettor View Post
    I just ignore everything under 4%

    I also ignore all the "broadly"
    Agreed. Unfortunately my "broadly" categories add up to more than 40%. My favorite is the 6.5% Broadly European. Thanks Carnac!

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  13. #7
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    For certain ethnicites, estimates are real and can be very useful.

    Native American at 2% or above at 23andme, AncestryDNA, or FTDNA is real and should not be ignored. People without 2% Native American at AncestryDNA or 23andme are extremely unlikely to have an ancestor in the past 7 generations that was 100%. I find it funny that the blog poster and so many people on so many forums are so hung up on finding their Native American DNA that they complain about it not being found in DNA tests. The minute amount that Roberta gets could in fact be misassigned as NA even with the documented Native American ancestry but if it were 2% or more there would be no question that it is real. FTDNA myOrigns does under report the actual amount of Native American so 23andme and AncestryDNA are better in that order.

    West African at 2% or above is probably real too when it shows up in the tests. Roberta doesn't get any West African and there is a reason for that.

    Iberian at 10% or above at 23andme is real. Only Latin Americans, Iberians, and Basques get at or above that amount. Roberta did not get any Iberian at 23andme which is no surprise. Her Broadly Southern European was only 1.6%.

    Notice that Roberta got 11% Eastern European with FTDNA myOrigins but she did not with AncestryDNA and only 1.9% at 23andme. That, the inflated amount of Scandinavian, and the 3% Asia Minor at FTDNA are three reasons why FTDNA myOrigins is the worst of them all.

    Overall, 23andme matches her genealogy the closest even though she put the wrong amount of Broadly Southern European in the spreadsheet.

    https://dnaexplained.files.wordpress...me-amounts.png

    https://dnaexplained.files.wordpress...geno-table.png
    Last edited by ArmandoR1b; 01-13-2017 at 03:16 PM.

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    I can tell you that you get a set of ethnic % from 23andme ..........

    which was
    22% Italian
    3% Balkan
    1% iberian

    others broadly

    15% french/german
    8% british

    etc

    then , when my son joined 23andme in early 2015, my numbers went to

    26% Italian
    4% Balkan
    0% iberian

    others broadly

    11% french/german
    4% british

    Then when my father was added in october 2015, my numbers went to

    widespread migrations of the past few hundred years.
    99.2% European

    Southern European
    34.3% Italian
    3.4% Balkan
    2.4% Iberian

    12.5% French & German
    2.2% British & Irish

    Clearly a person cannot have a reliable system based on how many members of their family are included...............where do they get the numbers from if you are solo


    My Path = ( K-M9+, TL-P326+, T-M184+, L490+, M70+, PF5664+, L131+, L446+, CTS933+, CTS3767+, CTS8862+, Z19945+, BY143483+ )


    Grandfather via paternal grandmother = I1-Y33791 ydna
    Great grandmother paternal side = T1a1e mtdna

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  17. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArmandoR1b View Post
    For certain ethnicites, estimates are real and can be very useful.

    Native American at 2% or above at 23andme, AncestryDNA, or FTDNA is real and should not be ignored. People without 2% Native American at AncestryDNA or 23andme are extremely unlikely to have an ancestor in the past 7 generations that was 100%. I find it funny that the blog poster and so many people on so many forums are so hung up on finding their Native American DNA that they complain about it not being found in DNA tests. The minute amount that Roberta gets could in fact be misassigned as NA even with the documented Native American ancestry but if it were 2% or more there would be no question that it is real. FTDNA myOrigns does under report the actual amount of Native American so 23andme and AncestryDNA are better in that order.

    West African at 2% or above is probably real too when it shows up in the tests. Roberta doesn't get any West African and there is a reason for that.

    Iberian at 10% or above at 23andme is real. Only Latin Americans, Iberians, and Basques get at or above that amount. Roberta did not get any Iberian at 23andme which is no surprise. Her Broadly Southern European was only 1.6%.

    Notice that Roberta got 11% Eastern European with FTDNA myOrigins but she did not with AncestryDNA and only 1.9% at 23andme. That, the inflated amount of Scandinavian, and the 3% Asia Minor at FTDNA are three reasons why FTDNA myOrigins is the worst of them all.

    Overall, 23andme matches her genealogy the closest even though she put the wrong amount of Broadly Southern European in the spreadsheet.

    https://dnaexplained.files.wordpress...me-amounts.png

    https://dnaexplained.files.wordpress...geno-table.png
    I've been curious about this because I have around 1% "Native American" on various calculators, but I've never really thought it was "Native American" (I'm British) possibly something of Asian/Steppe origin. It keeps showing up, so maybe there is something there. I thought maybe it could be Hun related, but it could be even further in the past.
    A contributor on another site claimed that around 1% "Native American" isn't uncommon in Northern Europeans reflecting these early Asian/Steppe origins.
    I keep getting "Basque/Iberian" showing up in more significant percentages too but I'm pretty sure I have no recent ancestry in this region so it must be something "old". John
    Last edited by JohnHowellsTyrfro; 01-13-2017 at 07:50 PM. Reason: additional information

  18. #10
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    I can agree with the Scandinavian matches at 6+ generations. i have many Swedish and Finnish matches that start to show up at this level (most between 10 and 8 cms).
    Paternal Line: Rhineland Germany (J2-Z387) - Confirmed
    Maternal Grandfather - (Škofja Loka, Slovenia) - R1a1 - Y2613 - Confirmed
    Paternal G-Grandfather - Germany - R1b - U106 - Confirmed
    Maternal G-Grandfather - Briano, Caserta, Italy - Possible R1b - L51

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