Discover the fascinating world of genetic genealogy! Written for the non-scientist, YGG is the best source for unbiased news on the major genealogy DNA testing companies.
Written by CeCe Moore, an independent professional genetic genealogist and television consultant.
Living DNA uses a swab for sample collection, as shown here. There are two in each kit. The collection process is relatively easy and involves no liquid. Although Living DNA is a British company, the mailing address for my kit was Eurofins Genomics in Louisville, Kentucky. (Eurofins is one of their partners according to the website, and the testing is done in Denmark.) The decision to use swabs for DNA collection instead of saliva, undoubtedly, makes shipping the samples to the lab from the United States, and internationally within Europe, simpler.
I received my results on February 7th, just as I was leaving for RootsTech. Now that I am home, I have had a chance to finally look them over.
My results include an admixture prediction (percentages of overall ancestral origins based on autosomal DNA) and my mtDNA haplogroup (which was correct - U5b1b2). Males will also receive their Y-DNA haplogroup.
Currently, there is no relative matching feature, but it is expected to be added in the near future, which will be essential for genealogical and unknown parentage applications. This will be a terrific addition to the U.S.-based databases we already use in our research, since it will have a unique British, and presumably, European market.
I was excited to receive these results since I have recent English ancestry and they promised to provide a very detailed breakdown of ancestral origins within the British Isles, with 21 separate categories. You can see the descriptions of those categories here.
Reportedly, this test is only looking back to where your ancestors were about four to five generations ago, but the What you are made of section on the site states, "A typical profile provides your genetic ancestry going back about six generations." Either way, this is not a deep ancestry analysis and should reflect what we know about our recent ancestors. (Edit: The site has been updated to reflect a ten generation reach, which makes more sense to me.)
Like 23andMe's former version of Ancestry Composition, the admixture results are presented at three different levels: Global, Regional and Sub-Regions.
At 23andMe, I am 24.8% British/Irish and 22% Finnish.
At AncestryDNA, I am 0% Great Britain, 10% Irish and 21% Finland/Northwest Russia.
At Family Tree DNA, I am 27% British Isles and 23% Finland and Northern Siberian.
It is immediately obvious that something is off with the Living DNA estimate, since my grandmother was of full Finnish ancestry and all three of the other companies accurately detect that (21% - 23%). Conversely, Living DNA only estimates 12.6% in their Europe East category for me, which includes Finnish DNA. (On a side note, I consider this a misnomer. Finland is generally not considered to be part of Eastern Europe.)
On the "Your Family Ancestry" page, in the How the Science Works section, Living DNA states this:
I do not accept that explanation and I hope their other customers will not be misled by it either. It is absurd to claim that it is realistically possible to inherit 0% of a grandparent's DNA.
LivingDNA estimates that 81.7% of my DNA comes from Great Britain and Ireland. That is a significant overestimate. I have one great grandfather of full British ancestry (~12.5%) and one second great grandmother of full British ancestry (~6.25%). All of the rest of my known British ancestry, with the exception of two possible Irish 5th great grandparents, is Colonial American. I do have some genealogical brick walls, but my matches on those lines do not indicate that behind any of them is a recent British ancestor. The other reputable companies estimate I am between 10% - 27% British/Irish.
CeCe's Family Tree, British Ancestors in Red
Click on Image to Enlarge
I also have a great grandparent of full Norwegian ancestry as well as a significant amount of German ancestry.
So, let's look at my Sub-regional estimates:
Click on Image to Enlarge
According to these results, my ancestors came from many different areas of England, which is certainly possible if you look very deep into my pedigree, back to my immigrant ancestors in the 1600's. Focusing on my more recent English ancestors, let's see if these estimates are consistent with their known origins.
My great grandfather, George Henry Allen was born in Australia, but both of his parents, George Allen (b.1851) and Flora Chitts (b.1849) were born in Gloucestershire, England, as were their known ancestors. So, I should have inherited about 12.5% of my DNA from this area. According to this page, Gloucestershire ancestry would fall into the South Central England sub-region. I have an estimated 8% from this category. So, a little low, but not impossible when taking into account the randomness of recombination.
My third great grandfather Thomas Armstrong was born 1801 in Cumberland (as were his known ancestors). I would have inherited approximately 3.125% of my DNA from him. The area that was once Cumberland is now part of Cumbria. According to Living DNA I have 6.4% in the Cumbria category.
My third great grandmother Dorothy Hudspith was born 1811 in Northumberland (as were her known ancestors). I would carry about 3.125% of her DNA. Northumberland would be in the Northumbria category. 0% of my DNA is predicted to have originated in Northumbria.
As I mentioned, I have two unconfirmed fifth great grandparents from Ireland (on different lines). One of them was reportedly born in County Armagh. If this is accurate, then I would expect to have about 1.56% of Irish DNA. I have 2.1% in the Southwest Scotland and Northern Ireland category, so this appears to be roughly consistent.
What does that leave?
14.5% South Wales Border - no known recent ancestry from this area
14.1% Central England - no known recent ancestry from this area
12.4% Southeast England - This category could be representative of my German ancestry. The site states this about it:
5.8% Cornwall - no known recent ancestry from this area
5.1% South Yorkshire - no known recent ancestry from this area
1.3% Northwest England - no known recent ancestry from this area
1.1% Devon - no known recent ancestry from this area
11.5% Unassigned Great Britain and Ireland
12.6% Finland and Western Russia - expected ~25%
4.2% Scandinavia - expected ~12.5%
Due to my large amount of distant Colonial American ancestry, my overall British DNA is likely a challenge to specifically categorize. Focusing on my last six generations, these results were not consistent with my known ancestry. Failing to recognize half of my Finnish ancestry and significantly underestimating my Norwegian/Scandinavian ancestry does not inspire confidence. The site explained that German ancestry could be included in the Southeast England category, so that may explain why none of mine showed up elsewhere. Even with this caveat, however, this does not accurately portray my ancestral origins.
I suspect that I am not the only one who will see over-inflated British percentages, but that remains to be seen when more results are delivered and reviews published.
This test's launch has been highly anticipated and has definitely been getting a lot of buzz, but I think it is important to recognize that any time a company is claiming to provide very specific sub-regional percentages, we must take it with a big dose of salt. As always, I support and appreciate the efforts to advance our field. It has to start somewhere and we can't expect perfection. I look forward to improvements and the future of this exciting company.
If you are interested in seeing what Living DNA will predict for you, you can order your kit here.