This is the question we all ask about how reliable are ethnicity estimates of the DNA testing companies?
The growth in DNA testing, and thank goodness for us adopted people, is due in large part to people who want to know their ethnicity. They saw the ad that showed this guy who always thought he was X and in fact he turned out to be Y. So he had to change his clothes to now match his new ethnicity. And so they tested.
From my research humans moved around and mated with at least Neanderthal and possibly the Denisovans and who knows who else. For the most part unless your group was cut off from any outside influences on an island or jungle that no one could easily access you are a mixture of stuff . (Stuff is a technical Genetic Genealogy term).
Although modern humans are now the only human lineage left alive, others not only lived alongside modern humans, but even interbred with them, leaving behind DNA in the modern human genome. Such lineages not only included the Neanderthals, the closest extinct relatives of modern humans, but also the mysterious Denisovans, known only from molars and a finger bone unearthed in the Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains in Siberia. [Denisovan Gallery: Tracing the Genetics of Human Ancestors](1)
(1)Neanderthals Weren’t Humans’ Only Mating Partners. Meet the Denisovans.
First I am no expert in this area. I am just an average adopted Sarah trying to figure all of this stuff out to 1. To find biological matches and 2. Am I really Irish? English? or ? just like a lot of people.
Below are my ethnicity results from the 5 companies where I have tested. I have only included the top % from each group. The two companies that do Mitochondrial DNA both agree that my HaploGroup is U5 and my Subclade is U5a1b1e.
French & German 30.1% 23&Me
Great Britain & Ireland 72.8% Living DNA
North & West Europe 65.6% MyHeritage
West & Central Europe 50.0% FamilyTree DNA
Germanic Europe 31.0% Ancestry
Ok so I am European for the most part, this is what all this testing tells me.
Blaine Bettinger a well know and respected Genetic Genealogist and DNA aficionado in discussing this issue, if I understand him correctly, says the tests are good and identifying what continent you come from.
I have found my bio parents and on my paternal side my grand parents were Transylvanian Saxon (ethnic Germans) from the Transylvanian region of Romania.
On my maternal side my grand parents were French Canadian and Irish/English.
Each testing company uses different reference populations and ethnicity breakdowns, so ethnicity results will vary by company. As an example for Eastern European Genealogy from this May 2018 article from Family Tree the reference populations companies use to determine this group were as follows:
- 23andMe: Southern European, Eastern European, and Ashkenazi Jewish
- AncestryDNA: Eastern European, European Jewish, and Finnish and Russian (see our January/February 2018 issue for information on place clues in your AncestryDNA “DNA Story”)
- Family Tree DNA: Sephardic Jewish, Ashkenazi Jewish, Finland, West and Central Europe, Southeast Europe, and East Europe
- Living DNA: Northeast Europe and the Baltics, Southeast Europe, Germanic, and Western Russia
- MyHeritage DNA: Ashkenazi Jewish, Balkan, Baltic, East European, and Finnish(2)