The subject of yesterday’s post was the information about ethnicity said to be derivable from a person’s DNA, mine in this case.

Today I thought I would look at the ethnicity conclusions extracted from my husband Greg’s DNA data to see whether these are consistent with what we know independently about his family tree: to see how Greg’s DNA ethnicity compares with his documented descent. I have enough tested matches between his known cousins and people with whom Greg shares DNA to be reasonably sure his paper-trail tree matches his genetic tree for several generations back.

I know the birthplaces of all of Greg’s great-great grandparents. Twelve were born in England, two in Ireland, one in New Zealand of English parents, and the other in Australia of English parents. Most of his English forebears were from the south of England. There is no hint in what we know of their surnames, religion, or occupations to suggest that Greg’s great-great grandparents were recent migrants from outside the region.

AncestryDNA reports Greg’s genetic ancestry as 100% European:

  •  78% Great Britain 
  •  11% Ireland 
  •  7% Europe West 
  •  3% Iberian Peninsula 
  •  1% Europe East
Greg’s ethnicity estimate as predicted by AncestryDNA 22 July 2017 (click to enlarge)

Greg’s mother, who believed that some of her Cornish ancestors had come from Spain, would have been very interested in this. The ethnicity results seem to suggest that there was indeed an Iberian connection of some sort (though not necessarily through Cornwall).

MyHeritage also reports Greg’s ethnicity as 100% European:

  •  North and West Europe 96.4% 
    •  Irish, Scottish, and Welsh 46.0% 
    •  North and West European 29.5% 
    •  English 16.5% 
    •  Scandinavian 4.4% 
  •  South Europe 2.6% 
    •  Iberian 2.6% 
  •  Ashkenazi Jewish 1.0%
Greg’s ethnicity estimate from MyHeritage as at 23 July 2017

AncestryDNA has recently added a new feature, which it calls ‘Genetic Communities’. Ancestry predicts at the 95% confidence level that Greg belongs to the ‘Southern English Genetic Community’. This certainly matches his family tree. 71 people with whom Greg shares DNA, including Greg’s first cousin, several second cousins, and known third cousins, have also been linked to the Southern English Genetic Community.

Greg’s connection to the Southern English Genetic Community

AncestryDNA attempts to provide support for its notion of a ‘Southern English Genetic Community’ with a brief history of the region, noting that in the early nineteenth century London was the largest city in the world, that many people emigrated from London and southern England to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the U.S.A.

The Ancestry website links people in Greg’s pedigree to the ‘Southern English Genetic Community’ through their birthplaces, broadly indicated on a large-scale map.

screenshot showing Greg’s pedigree and associated birthplaces overlaid with the Southern English community data for the early 19th century
screenshot showing Greg’s family tree data combined with the Southern English genetic community pedigree. Many of Greg’s forebears from Southern England did indeed migrate to Australia in the 1850s and siblings or cousins migrated to America and Canada (Immigration in the 1850s was by sea).

I think that when it is placed in context with genetic relatives and historical events, the ‘Genetic Community’ interpretation of family history specific to our family tree is impressive and convincing. It agrees with what I have found in my own family history research.

Greg, however, is being difficult. He says his ethnicity is dinky-di Aussie, and the best thing you could say about all these Southern Poms is that they were (unwittingly) proto-Australians.

Related posts

Further reading

  • AncestryDNA have provided a white paper on ethnicity testing. It is dated October 2013. It talks about reference panels based on 3,000 samples from “individuals alive today who can trace their ancestry to a single geographic location.” https://www.ancestry.com.au/cs/dna-help/ethnicity/whitepaper
  • MyHeritage also provide information about how they calculate the ethnicity estimate: http://helpcenter.myheritage.com/DNA/Ethnicity-Estimate/. MyHeritage compares my DNA with the DNA of living people around the globe whose genetic ethnicity is known and refers to these people as the Founder Populations. MyHeritage claims that they have sampled the DNA of thousands of people and have a data set of more than 100 ethnicities and the ability to show ancestral roots with far greater resolution than any other DNA service.