Have you been attracted to those glossy ads to find out who you are by doing a genealogy DNA test?
Roberta Estes wrote this interesting article where she figured out her estimated ethnicity percentages from her traditional genealogy research and then compared them to results from several genetic genealogy vendors: Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages.
I was inspired to play with this idea myself, though I simplified things a bit. For example, I have only used one testing company. I took my 16 great-great grandparents and what I know about where they were born and their heritage (based on decades of traditional genealogy research) and estimated ethnicity percentages. I tallied my parents separately to make a clean comparison since I tested them separately and put them on the left side of the table. Then I put the ethnicity percentages from the Family Finder test from FamilyTreeDNA in to my table on the right side.
Discussion of Results
What Came Through as Expected (or close to expected)
- Mom is 50% Finnish through both methods.
- Family Finder reports 44% West & Central Europe compared to my estimate of 50% when I combine French, German and Dutch for Mom.
- For Dad, we see Family Finder’s 75% British Isles matching with my 75% for English.
What was Unexpected
- Family Finder’s Scandinavian at 8% seems very low. (And is funny since Estes had a strangely high Scandinavian percentage.) Relatedly, the Eastern European at 16% seems too high. My 25% Norwegian estimate is pretty solid. I have connected with a cousin in Norway who has done research. The ancestors seem quite Norwegian at least back to my great-great-great-great-great grandparents. And 16% would be roughly 1 great-grandparent or two great-great-grandparents who were half East European or a bunch of ancestors further back. There are no family stories about someone coming from East Europe.
- Family Finder reports 3% Southeast Europe, which is news to me, but Estes talks about how Germans tend to be 30% Mediterranean, so the 3% Southeast Europe here is plausible.
- The trace amounts could be noise or something from very far back. We may never know.
As Estes says:
“The science just isn’t there yet for answers at the level most people seek.”
“Ethnicity estimates are not a short cut to or a replacement for discovering who you are based on sound genealogical research.”
I agree with Estes. Most people want more detail than “West and Central Europe” or “British Isles” or “Scandinavia.” Traditional genealogy research is still important in order to understand our heritage.