This week Ancestry announced that all DNA accounts will now have the update to their new Ethnicity Estimate. This is an ethnicity only update, there have been no changes in DNA matching (ie your DNA cousin matches). To get the update, log into your DNA page and open your DNA story – you will first get asked to complete a survey and then your new results will show. At this time you can choose to accept the new update in which case your DNA home page will get updated, or you can choose to update it later. No matter which you choose you can still go back and see your previous breakdown.
It’s left some people scratching their heads, as is often the case when changes are made, and others happy that their ethnicity looks more “accurate”. In accurate they generally mean matches their family lore and/or matches their traditional genealogical Family tree.
Ethnicity estimates are only as good as the algorithm used (the process used to create your estimate), and the reference group (or reference sample, or reference population) that is used. A reference group is a group of living people who meet the testing companies criteria to be a reference person. This usually involves proof of ancestry in specific regions, sometimes criteria such as having 4 grandparents born within 50 miles of each other. Ancestry explain their reference population, and how they are selected, in their documentation about the update (see links below).
In this update Ancestry have changed and updated their algorithm and also increased the reference group of people they use from 3,000 to 16,000. In theory this should make your ethnicity estimate a little more “accurate” than in previous iterations. I’m sure they’ll be many future updates in years to come … as science improves and algorithms become more complex.
Updating estimates doesn’t mean the old ones were “wrong”, it means that the estimate has been tweaked and improved by using new information and improved calculations. To update the way of calculating things is progress, even if for some it might initially look like a step backwards. In general, over the last 24 hours, it seems to me that comments are tending to be positive.
Below you will find links to resources giving more detail, help and support to users regarding this update.
For my own family, I’m finding the update seems to make a lot more sense. In the past my sister (proven full sibling) and I had very disparate results, so much so that I used our comparison in presentations to show how the ethnicity part of the DNA test was merely an estimate, not something to be taken too literally.
You can see that after the update we look more similar, and this seems to make more sense, given we have the same parents! Of course in real life nothing has changed, we are still full sisters and we still have an identical family tree (and sometimes we even get asked if we are twins!)
Here are links to some support pages and blogs that give more details about the update:
- Ancestry blog and announcement
- Ancestry ethnicity FAQs regarding the update
- Ancestry Announcement (includes video)
- Ancestry White Paper (update)
- Updated Ethnicity Estimates now available for everyone at AncestryDNA (Debbie Kennett)
- The GeneticGenealogist’s blog on this topic (Blaine Bettinger – The Genetic Genealogist)
- AncestryDNA ethnicity estimates updated (Judy Russell – The Legal Genealogist)
- Major Enhancement to AncestryDNA’s Ethnicity Estimates (Leah Larkin – The DNA Geek)
- AncestryDNA updates ethnicity estimates 2018 (Family Tree Magazine)
- Ancestry 2018 Ethnicity update (Roberta Estes – DNAeXplained)