Warning ! This review on DNA ethnicity estimates is not sponsored or paid by any DNA lab of any sort and the ideas and opinions attached to this review are purely my own, based on my personal observations.

DNA testing for ethnicity estimates has become more and more popular these last years especially outside of Europe.

Some serious genealogists mainly use these tests to find close or distant relatives or to trace back their Y line (paternal line) or mitochondrial line (maternal line) very far back in time.

But most of the time it is also DNA ethnicity estimates that drive millions of people to test their DNA. DNA ethnicity estimates showing percentages of each ethnicity on a colored world map with regions and countries circled is the most popular selling point for these DNA testing kits right now.

In the United States and Canada and now in Brazil too people are eagerly expecting their ethnicity estimates to know more about their origins especially when they don't know much about them.

It is rather easy for DNA labs to do this for people with just two to four different ethnicities but it is becoming a real challenge (and sometimes a total mess) for all those other people with a lot of admixture who have MORE ethnicities in their DNA.

People with a lot of admixture are thus called "ethnically ambiguous" people because of their rainbow-colored DNA chromosome segments that make it difficult to classify them in one or two or four specific country gene pools. On a world region level their ethnicity estimates are rather consistent but on a country level it's a hard guess and sometimes just a guess.

You should also know that your ethnicity estimates may vary from one lab to another because not all DNA labs use the same testing chips or have the same amount of people in their databases to compare you with or just don't test the same regions (SNPs) on your chromosomes.

You should also be aware that with time these ethnicity estimates may change and they regularly do. Some labs will tell you that your DNA does not change but that it is just that their DNA ethnicity result interpretation that is becoming more "accurate" because they are adding more regions or just have more samples of people of each region. Many of the people tested get mad when they check their ethnicity results have completely changed or look really "off" until another update is released and they are then "happier" again or "disappointed" again and so on.

So, should you trust this "ethnicity results" option in DNA testing right now or should you just take them with a "pinch of salt" ? Well, it depends on what you are expecting to discover ...

If you really don't know anything about your family background because you were adopted for example it can be of some use. On a world-regional scale if you are curious to know where you are from ethnicity estimates will give you that anyway.

But what if already have your family history told in a paper trail ?

Will DNA testing for ethnicity give you more ? or less ? or will it be even more confusing ?

Ethnicity estimates won't necessarily match your paper trail but will in many cases too.

And what if ... you know you have ancestors from many different parts of the world, like more than four different distinct regions ...Will your DNA ethnicity estimates come out the same way or not ?

And finally, if on top of many regions of the world you also have European settlers coming from different European countries at different periods of time, which one(s) is / are the most relevant ?

Why don't different tests show the same countries in a consistent way all the time ?

For "ethnically ambiguous" people the answer to the question " Where am I actually from ?" is a really tough one because the truth may not be in just one test or one ethnicity estimate but in more ... And this is very well shown in the specific example of the person tested here (whose name will be kept anonymous for privacy concerns but who totally agrees with this ethnicity estimates display).

I will just focus today on his / her European background which ranges between 66% to 70% European according to different test labs' results. The other ethnicities belong to different areas of the world : Africa, Asia and South East Asia.

Before showing you how these ethnicity estimates are displayed let me tell you that 12 different tests have been taken to study his / her European ethnicity.

And let me give you some quick facts about his / her known ancestry from his / her paper trail.

There are many same ancestors both on father's and mother's sides and some of them coming back several times in different lines, so yes ...we call this endogamy.

Ancestry from the paper trail shows :

- Many identified French ancestors.

- A few identified Portuguese ancestors.

- A few identified Spanish ancestors.

- A few identified Flemish and Dutch ancestors.

- At least 3 identified English and 1 Scottish ancestors.

- At least 2 identified Italian ancestors.

- At least 1 German ancestor.

- At least 1 nobility line traced back with all kinds of European ancestors.

- A few unknown father lines

And that's it ! for the known paper trail but that's not all ... Wait and see ...

What you are about to check next is even more puzzling ...

European DNA admixture estimates according to Gedmatch calculators

These calculators give estimates on a regional scale.

K13 calculator for 13 main regions and K15 calculator for 15 main regions have been used.

European DNA admixture estimates according to GenePlaza calculators

European DNA admixture estimates according to Ethno Gene

European DNA admixture estimates according to GPS Ancestry

24Genetics European admixture DNA estimates

24Genetics is a European lab, a Spanish one, if I'm not mistaken.

Magic trick here ? This person has more than 20% Spanish DNA and just 0.05 % Portuguese DNA ?

Is that a joke ? Undoubtedly, part of this DNA matches their region (Spain) ... but Iberian DNA can be found both in Spain and Portugal ...





23& ME European admixture DNA estimates (before update)

23& ME European admixture DNA estimates (after last update)

Look how different they are ! The French DNA has jumped up and has almost doubled while the British DNA has practically vanished ! Remember ! All these ethnicity results are for the same DNA of the same person ...

ANCESTRY European DNA estimates

ANCESTRY estimate is a varied European admixture matching the most the known paper trail, it does not leave any country behind but is it the best estimate ?

FTDNA European admixture estimates

BIG SURPRISE here with FTDNA results! More than 20% of Greek & Balkans DNA !

Note that before the update... this DNA was either called Western European or Italian DNA ...

so quite a bit of overlapping here unless the Greek component refers to one of the Portuguese gene pool components.

MYHERITAGE European admixture estimates

NEW here ! Ashkenazi Jewish DNA and Finnish DNA have appeared, French DNA has vanished and has turned to Irish, Scottish and Welsh DNA (maybe related to the Celtic component which is also prevalent in Brittany, France).

Note the big percentage of Italian DNA here, more than 25% while this person's Dad only has Iberian DNA instead and this person's Mom has this number cut in two, with the two following different ethnicities : Iberian and Italian.

Isn't there something "off " here ?

LivingDNA European Admixture estimates

Let's conclude this slideshow with LivingDNA DNA estimates . LivingDNA is a British lab which is very popular in the UK but they do not have a very big database at the time speaking.

So, they can't be really good at finding you a lot of matches.

Yet, their ethnicity breakdown is worth checking, especially at a European level and more especially at a British level .If you have British DNA they will be able to give a regional breakdown of where your British DNA is from. And this is awesome!

Look at this same person's European DNA admixture estimates.

To them, this person is definitely 35.1 % British and Irish and this DNA even matches 8 different regions in Britain (check the second image below).

12 different tests, 12 different European DNA admixture estimates ...

So, what is actually this person's European DNA ethnicity map ?

Can it be broken down on a European regional scale correctly ?

Not bad, there are some constants coming back all the time, the fact that this person has more Northwestern European DNA (40 to 43%) than Southern European DNA (25 to 27%) for instance is backed with science behind these tests.

But can it be broken down on a country scale correctly ?

Not so sure, even though some tests will point the bulk of this European DNA is British, others will label it French.

Same for Southern European DNA ! While some tests will focus on Iberian DNA others will suggest it is an Italian or Greek one.

To conclude, you can imagine what a mess it is for an ethnically ambiguous person to know where he / she comes from . And DNA testing for DNA ethnicity estimates is just at its infancy level right now and makes guesses based on segments' numbers and length on their 23 multi-colored pairs of chromosomes like those shown below.

Even with a good paper trail these DNA ethnicity estimates add up even more to the unsolved mysteries category.

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