Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Thursday, December 20, 2018

I'm Shocked!!!! My Life is a Lie!!!
Apparently, the genealogical community has finally made it into the supermarket tabloid scene with YouTube videos about people's reactions to their DNA tests from,, and other large online DNA testing websites. It seems to me that the people who are shocked by their DNA results don't even know what to do about their shocking disclosure. I chose the above video at random from a long list of others with similar topics and titles.

I guess I need to start out by saying that the results from my own DNA test are entirely consistent with my genealogical research. In the case of the above video, the "shocking" results simply did not agree with family tradition passed down from an aunt. Here are a few other examples of recent online titles. I have omitted links because I don't want to encourage this type of reaction.
  • How DNA Testing Botched My Family's Heritage, and Probably Yours
  • Why You May Be Reading Your DNA Results All Wrong
  • Nearly Half of At-Home DNA Test Results Could Be Wrong
  • How Well Do Ancestry DNA Tests Actually Work?
These and similar types of articles are not just from individuals, many are from prominent news outlets and even respected scientific magazines. Almost all of these articles focus on the limitations of genealogical DNA testing and most incorporate issues from testing done years ago such as the issues with DNA testing done by back in 2013.

Those people who take a DNA test who have never made any inquiries into their family lines may indeed be surprised by the results. From my experience with both and, I see a lot of matches with people who have no family trees in either program. Without a family tree, it is only possible to estimate the degree of relationship but identifying the common ancestor is very difficult. People with extensive family trees will likely see some variations between tests and may also see connections to areas of the world that they have not found evident in their own genealogical research. 

If I examine my own Ethnicity Estimate from for example, I find the following percentages. 

These percentages are very consistent with locations identified in my own research. However, in going back more than 10 generations on ALL of my family lines, I have not identified anyone who is obviously from Western Asia, although I suspect some of my family members may have such a connection. However, considering my relatives who are more closely related I get the following results:

None of my close family members have yet to take a DNA test. But I do have 11 matches to my Extended Family. As I mentioned above, even with these people categorized as Extended Family, I find that some do not have family trees on the website and my genealogical relationship cannot be determined. I do recognize some of the names and so I do know our common ancestor but that is due solely to my own research. These relationships are not at all controversial and are well documented so there are certainly no surprises. In fact, they are all from my Tanner line. 

The number of identified Distant Relatives is so large that the information may be valuable but it is daunting to think about trying to identify common ancestors for such a large number of people. 

If you were one of those people who had no family tree and had spent little or no effort to determine the identity of their relatives, you might be surprised to learn that you had so many relatives. What the articles that criticize DNA testing per se usually fail to address is that the close family connections that are identified have a very high degree of accuracy. In addition, the general ethnicity estimates are evolving as the number of people in the data pool increases. 

Yes, if you take a DNA test on a whim and without any particular prior knowledge of your family, the results may be surprising, but with some effort and by using the resources of the family tree websites, you can almost always discover that tests have found some of your relatives. At that level, what else are the tests supposed to do? 

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