My Known Ancestry
First, let's take a look at what I know of my ancestry:
12.5% Scandinavian (Norway)
12.5% British (England)
~25% Colonial New England (presumably mostly British)
~15.63% Unknown (due to brick walls and immigrant ancestors of unknown origins)
|CeCe's Ancestry Percentages |
You can create your admixture pie chart here.
Family Tree DNA's Population Finder
FTDNA's Population Finder (comes with Family Finder) was one of the first commercially available admixture tests based on chip technology.
I am listed as 98.93% Western European (Orcadian) with a 1.31% margin of error. Surprisingly, none of my substantial Finnish ancestry was detected. In my case, Population Finder is not very informative so I am glad that FTDNA will soon be updating this feature. Of course, many people's Population Finder results will be much more detailed than mine, so my experience may not be a typical representation of this feature's capabilities.
AncestryDNA's Genetic Ethnicity
Just a couple of weeks ago, AncestryDNA's admixture tool was the newest entry into the market, but times are changing fast.
23andMe's Ancestry Composition
23andMe started out with a very conservative three population breakdown called Ancestry Painting. Customers had long been requesting an updated version. Happily, the brand new Ancestry Composition is much improved. There are three different views and a number of resolution and confidence settings. I prefer the most granular (Sub-regional Resolution) and lowest confidence (Speculative) of those.
This version matches my known ancestry the most closely and is also in line with the ancestral origins represented in my Relative Finder/Family Finder/AncestryDNA match lists. It was fun to see that even my tiny amount of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry was detected. Although this tool is definitely the most informative and flexible, it isn't without problems in this early version. For example, on the Split View, all of my Finnish should be from my maternal side, but you can see that 4.6% of my estimated 21.5% Finnish is erroneously assigned to my paternal side. Conversely, almost all of my Scandinavian is correctly assigned to my paternal side. Since my deceased father wasn't tested at 23andMe, they had to compute the Split View without my father's results, which makes it more challenging. However, since I have tested both of his siblings there (they don't have any Finnish), advancements in the future may help in this regard. I have many relatives tested at 23andMe and the vast majority of them have results very much in line with their family trees. Both of my sisters' Ancestry Composition results seem even more accurate than mine, as do my mother's, both of my aunts' and my uncle's. (I may just be a bit of a mutant!)
National Geographic Geno 2.0's Who Am I?
As most of you know, the new phase of the Genographic Project started returning results a couple of weeks ago. Screen shots show the different components that make up my ancestry according to these results.
Then, they list the two reference populations that match the combination of my components the most closely. Interestingly, even though I am only one quarter Finnish, they chose Finnish as the first one.
Next, they choose Iberian (Spain and Portugal) as the second population, which doesn't fit with any of my known ancestry.
This admixture tool is different than the other ones reviewed here because it is looking at deep ancestry from thousands of years ago. Personally, as a genealogist, I don't find it as informative or as satisfying as the admixture results that reflect more recent ancestry. I also don't really like how each person's unique combination of ancient components is essentially forced into a single (more recent) population label. This, no doubt, works very well for those whose ancestors have been in one geographic region for hundreds or even thousands of years, but it does not result in highly relevant results for those of us who are highly admixed with ancestry from many different regions. I find the tools that analyze and attempt to categorize small portions of my DNA separately, giving percentages of each region or ethnic group that add up to my total ancestry more meaningful.
At this point in time, for those interested in the origins of their ancestors in the last couple hundred to few hundred years, 23andMe is the best choice in my opinion (especially at the new price of only $99). If your interests are more focused on deep ancestry and anthropology, then Geno 2.0 would be my recommendation. (Remember though that this review is focused on admixture features only. There is much more to take into consideration when purchasing a DNA test for genealogical purposes!)
All of these companies would be well-advised to focus on improving their admixture results for those with non-European ancestry. (Obviously, the majority of their customers have been of primarily European ancestry so far, but optimally everyone will have the the same opportunities of self-discovery in the future.) 23andMe has publicly stated their plans to do so and I'm sure that the other companies will address these shortcomings as well. AncestryDNA's acquisition of the Sorenson database and National Geographic's vast collection of indigenous population samples puts them in the best position to advance in these areas in the near future, but as 23andMe has demonstrated, customer samples carefully vetted with genealogical information can be utilized with great success as well. As more people are tested, particularly internationally, there will be improvement across the board.
It is important to remember that as intriguing as these admixture predictions are, none of them are 100% accurate at the granular level. We still have a long way to go before anyone can honestly claim to be able to tell a person exactly where their ancestors once lived based on their autosomal DNA alone. However, we are making progress and in a couple of years we will likely be amazed at the advances. In the meantime, the ever-increasing competition between the major companies is proving to be beneficial, spurring all to improve their offerings. So, don't count any of them out quite yet. In a short time, my opinions regarding the "best of" may have completely changed again!
*For more information on these features, please see:
[Disclosure: I have relationships with all of the companies reviewed above. I received complimentary Geno 2.0 and AncestryDNA kits for review purposes. I occasionally receive complimentary 23andMe test kits through my work as a volunteer "23andMe Ancestry Ambassador". Additionally, I have affiliate relationships with Family Tree DNA, 23andMe and AncestryDNA and own a small amount of Ancestry.com stock. I always strive for complete objectivity - none of these relationships have affected the opinions stated in this blog in any way.]