Monday, July 23, 2012

AncestryDNA ~ One Jewish Result is one of the smaller players in the genealogy DNA testing business now, but it's doing its best to get itself out there and get more people to use its DNA testing.

By no means am I an expert in genetic genealogy, but very simplistically, there are three general tests that a person can do, depending on what he or she wants to learn about (and depending on how much money that person is willing or able to spend). There is mtDNA (maternal) testing, which traces a person's (either male or female) maternal ancestors (mother's mother's mother, etc.) and lets that person know what his or her maternal origins are 20,000 to 100,000 years ago. There's also Y-DNA testing, which only men can take, which traces a man's father's father's father's line, which can be used for surname studies for men trying to confirm if they descend from the same man (assuming the surname has remained the same over the years).

And there's autosomal DNA testing, which is a test that provides a breakdown of one's ethnic percentages, to find out where all your ancestors may have come from; you just don't know which ancestors make up which pieces of the pie. It's this last type of testing that AncestryDNA has been promoting recently. With a couple million users and online family trees, this is another way to help people try to find common ancestors on their trees and discover second, third or fourth (or even more distant) cousins.

After I had my autosomal DNA tested last winter during its beta test phase (and reported about it here), made its autosomal DNA test publicly available, though it still appears to be in beta. I had my husband take it and his results came in a couple of weeks ago. If you've been following my blog, you'll see that I've traced his ancestry back to Hungary (paternal grandparents), Romania (maternal grandfather), Shytomir / Zhitomir, Ukraine (maternal great grandmother), and Poland/Austria/Russia, depending on the source (maternal great grandfather).

So we were somewhat surprised when the results came in and we saw the following:

Husband's genetic ethnicity (according to AncestryDNA results)

After clicking on See Full Results, a message appears that lets me know that the genetic ethnicity prediction may not look quite right, with some ethnicities under or over-represented. AncestryDNA is expecting that their prediction models will evolve and improve over time and from what I understand, these percentages can change as more results become available. The percentages are accurate plus or minus a few percentage points and the "Uncertain" label includes ethnic regions with too little information for them to confidently predict.

The next page shows a tab for each of the ethnicities noted and by clicking on each one, there are long explanations of what they represent.

13% British Isles ancestry (which includes England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales) was NOT expected. I'm wary to even venture a public guess as to where this is from. However, the percentage would imply that one of his great grandparents was from the British Isles...

Below the graphic on the Results Summary Page and along the right-hand-side of the Results Detail page is a list of possible genetic matches. There are about 70 (!) that predict to match as 4th to 6th cousins. You can see what the start of the list looks like at the right.

At the bottom of the European Jewish tab is a (somewhat) helpful note under the heading: "Are you surprised by the number of matches?" with a brief explanation noting that
"it appears our system returns inaccurate matches for people of European Jewish descent. The good news is that our match predictions will improve over time as we grow our database of DNA signatures."
I look forward to improved match predictions within AncestryDNA. From what I've read about DNA testing for those with Jewish ancestry, Family Tree DNA and 23andMe have more participants with Jewish ancestry and are more likely to provide accurate matches to possible cousins among the participants. Now I just need to decide if I want to spend the money to have my husband tested with one of those services.


  1. Elizabeth:
    You'll have to check to see if the Ancestry test is compatible, but Family Tree DNA has an option (currently $89) to compare othe companies' autosomal type results with their Family Finder database.
    Scroll to the bottom of the page to see the description.

    I was unclear, in reading this, whether Ancestry's test is compatible. They only speak of 23 & Me. $89 is a bunch better than $289!

  2. Unfortunately you must have access to your raw data in order to take advantage of the FTDNA offer, and does not currently give you access to your raw data although it is rumored to be considering that option.

  3. Emily, from what I remember reading, The Genetic Genealogist is right (and thank you for commenting, CeCe), so I will definitely be on the lookout for the raw data from And I will continue to read blogs and articles about genetic genealogy to understand it better. It's a fascinating aspect of genealogy.