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I’m Not so British After All? New Methods Yield New Results

October 10, 2018

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LOWELL -- As it turns out, I may not be so British after all.

As I’ve always been told, I’m actually a majority French -- 78 percent, based on the latest estimates provided by AncestryDNA. My previous 25 percent Great Britain component, renamed England, Wales & Northwestern Europe, has been reduced to only 6 percent.

In recent weeks, the genealogical DNA testing arm of Ancestry.com has rolled out updated ethnicity estimates for its members, leaving many scratching their heads and wondering if they’d placed too much stock in their previous results.

Before I go much further, I will say this: We were all warned that our results can change as the database grows and testing becomes more accurate. The earliest members have probably seen this happen before.

Since my initial ethnicity estimates were calculated in July, AncestryDNA has made many changes to its testing methodology -- now examining wider sequences of DNA rather than single markers -- and greatly increased its reference sample database from 3,000 to 16,000.

These additional reference points have assisted AncestryDNA in better distinguishing very similar ethnic groups from one another. Many of the old ethnic groupings have been divided into smaller, more specific categories, and some countries and regions have been regrouped with others. The overall number of regions has increased from 363 to 380 worldwide.

Under my earlier results, I’d figured the 25 percent Great Britain, 15 percent Iberian Peninsula, 10 percent Europe South and 6 percent Europe West components were all tied to my French Canadian and Acadian (Canadian Maritimes) heritage. Each of those ethnic regions overlapped with different parts of France, which previously did not have its own ethnic region with AncestryDNA. I also figured the 13 percent Ireland/Scotland/Wales may have been related to my Acadian heritage, but it was still perplexingly high.

The 21 percent Europe East component made sense due to my Polish maternal grandfather. The 10 percent Scandinavian component didn’t, and never quite sat right with me.

Under the new results, all of the pieces that were most confusing to me are now gone. What I have now is actually much more in line with what I had expected -- and the rest, based on the genealogical research I’ve done in conjunction with my DNA testing, generally falls into place.

When I saw that I’m now estimated at 78 percent French, my initial thought was it was a little high, and that AncestryDNA may have overshot it a bit. But then I thought about it more.

Just because we each receive 50 percent of our DNA from our mother and 50 percent from our father, it doesn’t mean that we each receive a neat 25 percent from each grandparent. DNA is funny like that.

My new 11 percent Eastern Europe and Russia, 3 percent Germanic Europe and 2 percent Baltic States all likely came from the aforementioned Polish grandfather, given the parts of Poland that I am now aware my Polish great-grandparents came from, thanks to Ancestry’s genealogical records. That means I inherited more than twice as much DNA from my maternal grandmother than my maternal grandfather -- unless my late grandfather had some other ancestry unknown to my family.

In reconnecting with a few of the people I’d spoken with for my previous DNA testing stories, I found they also experienced a further refining of their results.

So here’s to the latest information -- and to whatever new details will come next.

Follow Alana Melanson at facebook.com/alana.lowellsun or on Twitter @alanamelanson.

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