Wednesday, April 12, 2017

My "Improved" FamilyTreeDNA Ethnicity Estimates

FamilyTreeDNA recently improved their ethnicity estimates, based on user's autosomal DNA test results.

1)  After signing into FamilyTreeDNA, I clicked on the myOrigins button on the home page.  My myOrigins page looks like this:


I have 96% European ancestry and the rest are Trace Results.  I clicked on the European category and saw two colored areas in Europe:


This indicates that I have:

*  90% British Isles
*  6% Southeast Europe

I clicked the "Trace Results" line and saw:


This indicated that I also have:

*  < 2% Finland
*  < 2% Oceania
*  < 2%  North and Central America
*  < 2% West Middle East.

I clicked on the "Show All" link below the Ethnicity estimates to see:


2)  I saved the earlier Ethnicity estimate from earlier this month, before the change in the estimates, and it was:


 The previous ethnicity estimate was:

*  45% Scandinavia
*  32% Western and Central Europe
*  19% Southern Europe
*  4% British Isles

Look at the differences between the old and the new FTDNA ethnicity estimates:

*  British Isles goes from 4% to 90%
*  Southern Europe goes from 19% to 6%
*  Scandinavia goes from 45% to 0%
*  Western and Central Europe goes from 32% to 0%.

3)  So how does the FTDNA ethnicity estimate match the estimates from other DNA test companies?

a)  My AncestryDNA ethnicity estimate is:

*  66% Europe West
*  18% Ireland
*  9% Great Britain
*  3% Scandinavia
*   1% Italy/Greece
*  < 1% Iberia
*  < 1% America
*  < 1% Pacific Islander

b)  My 23andMe ethnicity estimate is:

*  47.9% British and Irish
*  26.0% French and German
*  2.0% Scandinavian
*  21.0% Broadly Northwestern European
*  1.3% Broadly Southern European
*  1.1% Broadly European
*  0.4% Native-American
*  0.1% Broadly East Asian and Native-American
*  0.1% North African
*  < 0.1% Unassigned

This is really baffling to me.  How can the ethnicity estimates be so different from the three largest autosomal DNA test and analysis organizations?  The answer must be the "reference populations" used by each company.

c)  As I've stated before, my "paper trail" ethnicity estimate is, based on residences about 500 years ago, is:

*  ~ 65%  British Isles (almost all England)
*  ~ 34%  Western Europe (Germany, France, Netherlands)
*  < 1% Scandinavia
*  < 1% Native-American (probably in Quebec).

Of course, 500 years ago is not 2,000 years ago.  No doubt several significant populations populated the British Isles.

4)  My opinion, which probably doesn't have much value, is that the new FamilyTreeDNA ethnicity estimate is the most inaccurate of all of them, and that the 23andMe estimate is the most accurate of all of them, and comports fairly closely to my "paper trail" ethnicity estimate.  
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Copyright (c) 2017, Randall J. Seaver

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