Thursday, February 16, 2017

The New Living DNA Test: A Review of My Results

I mailed in my complimentary Living DNA kit at the end of October. The test is performed using the Illumina Global Screening Array Chip. I took some photos of the kit, so testers will know what to expect. 

The Kit

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. 

Like 23andMe's former version of Ancestry Composition, the admixture results are presented at three different levels: Global, Regional and Sub-Regions. 

Here are mine. 


At 23andMe, I am 100% European. 
At AncestryDNA, I am 99% European.
At Family Tree DNA, I am 97% European.


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.) 

 Results Map

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:

Sub Regions
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


  1. Thanks for sharing this CeCe -- I really like the fact that they automatically give you mtDNA and Y DNA -- I think the bigger testing companies could/should do that -- but disappointed in their ethnicity estimates . . . hopefully with time they will become more accurate.

  2. Thanks for reporting on this company's ethnicity results and giving the heads up that they may offer matching in future.
    PS. I think there was a "1" missing when you summarized your AncestryDNA ethnicity (I'm guessing the British was 10% and not 0%.

    1. Nope - 0% British is correct. Ancestry did not predict any for me at all.

  3. Your father and your Aunt are both matching many on my eastern European/Slavic line. Both of them are often pulling up in my database matching those from Croatia, Montenegro Serbia and Bosnia. Many are still living in the old country

    1. Hi Laura, Is there any Ashkenazi in that line? We discovered a small amount through testing and, as a result, have a ton of Eastern European matches. We also have a couple of significant brick walls on my paternal side that may have something interesting behind them, but it does not appear to be British, as mentioned above. We do show small amounts of Eastern European admixture at 23andMe, but I am not sure if it is "real." Do you know what chromosomes we are matching on? If so, I can check to see if it is either on our predicted jewish segments or Eastern European ones.

    2. Hi CeCe,
      There isn't any Ashkenazi that I'm aware of, there is a good amount of Greek, middle eastern and southern European from this line. I don't feel that my 23andme ethnic results are very accurate and their Eastern European is just too broad. FTDNA is more in line to my findings as they show part of the lower Balkans as Southern European.

      I'll check on the chromosomes and get back to you ;o)

    3. Hi CeCe,
      I took the time to look over my database carefully and here is what I came up with
      Matching your dad on Chromosome 4 @ 151.3 -164.6
      Chromosome 8 various at places matching your Dad
      Direct match on Chromosome 12 to your Dad @ 123.8 -126.1 also many others on down
      Chromosome 15 @24.4 -28 Direct match to your Dad and many others
      Chromosome 13 @ 44.9 – 51.3 this is a match to your aunt and he is a strong Slavic match to me, I don’t see this too often but he is matching your aunt all along this chromosome and pulling up others in common with me.
      A direct match to your aunt on chromosome 19 at 2,502,470 - 4,788,557,
      I’d love to know what you find ;o)

  4. You said that males will receive their Y-DNA haplogroup. Could you provide an example of that? Also, how many Y-DNA markers will the test cover. Do you know of any plans to be able to transfer the (Y-DNA) results over to FTDNA? If you do a report on someone's Y-DNA results, could you include a comparison to FTDNA Y-DNA tests? Thank you.

    1. Debbie Kennett's blog gives an example of the Y-DNA results here: I do not know of any plans to transfer the Y-SNPs to FTDNA.

  5. Hi CeCe, I am adopted and have tested at Ancestry, FTDNA, and 23andMe as well as uploaded to DNA.LAND, GedMatch, and DNAgedcom. Since my non-ID information from my adoption file says that my birth mother's heritage was Welsh (and I have found out that her surname was Lewis and my highest matches all include Jones, Davis, and a couple of other Welsh surnames), I have been looking for a test to take that will specifically match me to the UK. I looked at the Cymru DNA Wales Project but it was expansive and didn't include any DNA Match list. You said that Living DNA Ancestry does not include match lists either (yet) and that you found that your results were not quite correct as far as you know. It appears as though one of my birth parents has Colonial roots so that might compound my test results. Would you recommend that I go ahead and take the Living DNA Ancestry test just to add to my knowledge (and hopefully, later to my match list)? What do you think about the Cymru DNA Wales Project?


  6. Thanks, Cece. My recent ancestry is 100% British Isles and I have a particular mystery I'm hoping the Living DNA test might provide clues for. I just took advantage of the discounted price and I'm looking forward to the results.

    Kathleen Cooper

    1. Hi Kathleen - I am also thinking of ordering this test. What would the discounted price be for this test? I see the website lists it for $$159 at the moment. Thanks!

    2. That promotion has ended but I might be able to offer my followers a discount in the near future.

  7. From my genealogy I should be ~75% Irish/Scots-Irish and 25% Danish. I took this test as an experiment to see if it breaks down my Irish descent regions. FYI, according to genealogy I should be 25% Danish.
    FTDNA breakdowns have changed over time to now show that I am British Isles 69%, Scandinavia 27%, Finland and Northern Siberia 2%, and Eastern European 1%.
    23andMe breakdown is British and Irish 54.7, Scandinavian 10.1%, French and German 8.1%, Finish 0.2%, 1%,
    Broadly Northwestern European 10.1%, Italian 0.5%, and Broadly Southern European 1.5%

    I can't wait to see what LivingDNA shows to see if it clarifies or confuses me. :)

  8. Hi Cece,
    Thanks for this post. I really appreciated the "Technical Note" regarding Germanic and Anglia/SE UK populations. I have paper trails for my families in Ostfriesland Germany and Sweden back 6-7 generations with no English ancestors. In fact these farm people rarely moved. I have done several DNA tests that show recent UK enthnicity. Your explanation helps explain some of that perhaps. I am hoping you will do a post sometime expanding on this issue. Thanks for sharing your insights on you blogs!


  9. I have been rather disappointed with Living DNA, but perhaps your experience of this company depends on your expectation. So far I am unable to 'Download Results' as I get the message that 'This feature is currently being finalised. Please check back shortly.' When I emailed to ask about this I was told I should receive them 'this year'. As I have also ordered a book, which is promised some time soon, I am anticipating a disappointing, restricted report which is fairly generic. The LivingDNA email reply to my enquiry was also off-putting, with spelling errors that made it look unprofessional. It may well evolve over time, but my feeling is they probably went public too early, before all their systems were in place, and compared to 23&me and Ancestry DNA they don't impress - yet. Let's hope that future developments make a difference. Anne

  10. Thank you for your message. I just ordered a kit from Living DNA, so I will let you know my experience with them. But it definitely helps to know what your experience was with them. Thank you! Jessica

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  12. Hello! I have signed up with GEDmatch, ancestry, and had DNA sampling from 23&me. I have had totally contradicting results show up and mom refuses to accept the results given to me, she refuses to take the DNA sampling, and refuses to give me my original (detailed) birth certificate. I have a copy of it, but it has NO detail in comparison to what should be on the original. I have emailed the US Air Force to get a copy of my dad's entire file; especially any documents related to my being in the 'family'. Is it possible that the DNA results can still mean we are a part of the 'birth family' that is documented regardless, OR does this mean that in combination of our results, that our instinct/nature/spirit telling us ever since we could remember "I don't belong with 'this family'" is true to accept?