Thursday, June 8, 2017

DNA & Various Ethnicity Estimates

DNA Testing & Ethnicity Estimates
While I did not take DNA tests to get my ethnicity estimates or ancestral origins (I took them in hopes of deconstructing genealogical brick walls), it's still interesting to see how the different companies break them down for me.

Growing up, I would ask and the answer was always, "We're English." The end. That was just on my father's side, though. I knew nothing about my mother's side until I turned 18.

So when I started digging into the family history at that age, I realized my father's side wasn't simply "English." There was also a spot of Irish and Scottish in there. Same area of the world, but very different cultures, of course.

When I went to my maternal grandmother for information, I found out my ancestry was pretty similar on that side - English, with a smidge of Irish. But then I found out that my maternal great-grandmother was 100% Italian.

That was news to me and it was really neat to have a little something beyond that concentration of England, Ireland and Scotland. My Nana gave me something one of her aunts wrote up about the family and it explained that my great-grandmother's maiden name originated in France - not with her father, but either her father's parents or grandparents.

So if you broke it down in what I expected to be the largest proportions, I saw at as something like:

English - from both sides, definitely more than any of my other ethnicities combined

Italian - I quantified it as "1/8", but I'm sure it's less than that, given how DNA is passed down

French - perhaps, depending on how far back my great-great grandfather's surname came from France to Italy



That was just what I had in mind as greatest concentration to lowest, give or take. Other than the Italian ancestry, which was more "quantifiable" than the others, I never really assigned percentages to them.

Only now am I looking at the ethnic origins assigned to me by Family Tree DNA and my upload to MyHeritage, and curious about them. I'm waiting on Ancestry DNA results, which I don't expect to see until the end of July (test was received May 30).

The My Origins estimate from Family Tree DNA did not surprise me. It gave me 95% European broken down as follows:

British Isles - 67%

Southeast Europe - 20%

East Europe - 8%

The remaining 5% is trace amounts from the Middle East and Asia.

Family Tree DNA's "My Origins" map shows that British Isles encompasses England, Scotland and Ireland, of course. No surprise there.

Southeast Europe covers Italy and Greece. Another non-surprise given my confirmed Italian heritage.

East Europe, however? I can't make a connection there, so I'm guessing it's distant or on my Italian side, where I haven't made it beyond my 3rd great-grandparents' names.

Earlier this week, I uploaded my DNA to My Heritage. In fact, I finally bit the bullet and invested in both a My Heritage and membership, despite trying to avoid paying for any website subscriptions. But the lure was powerful. ;)

So what did My Heritage give me as an Ethnicity Estimate? 100% Europe as follows:

North and West Europe - 83.9% further broken down as North and West European at 54.9% and English at 29%.

South Europe - 16.1% further broken down as Greece at 16.1%.

Hmm... methinks the Greek estimate is a tad off and needs to cross the Adriatic Sea to get to the proper country. However, the map shows that northern Italy, which is where my maternal great-great grandparents are from, is encompassed in their "North and West Europe" estimate. So that's pretty interesting. It may be that there's something to the Greek estimate lying, again, behind a brick wall somewhere.

As Randy Seaver explains at GeneaMusings, the difference in matching from company to company is:

...probably because they have different sub-regional groupings, and different reference groups (persons tested and assigned to each grouping), on which they are basing their estimates.

When we get these estimates from different countries, I think it's good to keep this in mind. They won't match exactly and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's just because they do things differently.

I'm very curious now to see how Ancestry breaks down my ethnicity based on my DNA sample. They've already given an ethnic breakdown based upon my surname, but as it is my married name, it's inaccurate. And if it was my maiden name, it would be even more bland. :)

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan


  1. Hi Wendy, I am a transplant from New England living in Omaha and love genealogy! I am working on verifying a Callahan connection to Worcester, MA. Do you have one from that area? Beth

    1. How funny is that? :)

      My husband's Callahans are from Galena, Illinois and then Roslea, Ireland before that. They emigrated to Illinois sometime before 1846.