Average British DNA

+10 votes
Ancestry is now trying to sell DNA to Brits.  According to their sign-up page

"The average British person’s DNA is only 36% British"

The rest is

23% Irish, 19% Europe West, 9% Scandinavia, 3% Iberian Peninsula, 10% Other.

Would anybody like to try to give any meaning to this at all?
in The Tree House by Living Horace G2G6 Pilot (572k points)
Jennifer, I have read your posts here with fascination. You know your stuff and I like your attitude about the whole issue of what’s true in it’s deepest sense.

I, too, had a “Cherokee princess” myth, my wife, too, and neither panned out. The paper trail and DNA did not show it for either of us. I was pretty sure the myth was false, and set out just to prove it wrong. Not that I would have minded having a Amerindian descent, I just got tired of hearing all that unproven stuff. I still hear it from nearly every Southerner who’s not done the leg work to prove it one way or another.

Actually, when I had my DNA test, I was kinda hoping for at least something a little exotic. I don’t know how accurate the study was, but Sykes stated that descendants of slave owners (I have several ancestors who were slave owners) should probably look for an African trace, but no such luck. I was kinda hoping for that, too, as my ancestry is pretty bland. English and Scottish farmers nearly all. So, my DNA test was hoping to disprove one thing and hoping for another. (A side hobby for me is looking at other folks’ trees here and enjoying seeing all the different nationalities.)

Fortunately, my two daughters married two fellas that will add a new DNA dimension to my descendants. One has a Puerto Rican father, the other with mixed ancestry out of SE North Carolina. I’m excited, except more genealogy work for me!
Can't see how Sykes figured that.  Slave-owner's wife produces a brown baby, he's hardly likely to get away with passing it off as his own.

Hi RJ. I think you missed what Pip was saying.

Pip was saying "Sykes stated that descendants of slave owners (I have several ancestors who were slave owners) should probably look for an African trace, " Nothing about the child of a slave owner and a slave being passed off as white.

Planters routinely impregnated their slaves, as mulatto's brought a higher price on the market, and of course mulatto's were desirable sexual targets of planters, for sexual gratification and for economic purposes. Over time and eventually intermarriage, many wound up passing for white or rather they wound up as white (predominantly caucasian).

Actually such was the case with the descendants of Edward Mozingo, some went on to intermarry with caucasians, some went on to intermarry with persons of African ancestry. Thus Black Mozingo's and White Mozingo's

True in the case of one of my sons-in-law. In the 1800s one lines of his ancestry was “mulatto” in the census records in S. Carolina and the law at that time didn’t differentiate between degrees of Native American and African American. I think it likely that his line had a little of both, coming as they did from SE N. Carolina. This line moved a few counties over in SC and suddenly they appear as “white.” That’s what I meant about Southerners looking for those traces of mixed ancestry, and I think this is what Sykes was talking about. He also said that somewhere around 30% of African Americans would find European DNA.

Without endorsement on my part here is a link that might interest you: https://indianancestry101.wordpress.com/2017/06/12/indian-mulattoes-exceptions-that-defy-the-rule/

On July 15, 1833 the Quality Superior Court of Norfolk County entered the following minutes: “The Court doth certify upon satisfactory evidence of white persons produced before it, that Asa Price, Wright Perkins, Nathan Perkins, Pricilla Perkins, Nelson Bass, Willis Bass, Andrew Bass, William Bass son of William Bass,   Joseph Newton, and Henry Newton, & Allen Newton, Polly Newton, Sally Newton, & Hestor Newton are not free-Negroes or Mulattoes, but are of Indian descentand that each of them have a certificate separately thereof …”

Again on July 20, 1833, the same Court again addressed the issue of certain persons’ race:  “The Court doth certify upon satisfactory evidence of white persons produced   ;before it that Andrew Bass and Lavina his wife, Elizabeth Bass wife of William Bass son of William Bass, Jemima Bass Sr., Peggy Bass, Jemima Bass Jr., Elizabeth Lidwin, Mary Anderson, Priscilla Flury, Jerusha Bass the wife of ; William the son of Willis, Frances the wife of James Newton, Lucy Trummelwife of William Trummel, Andrew Bass Jr., Patsy Bass, William Bass, William Newton, Betsy Weaver, Nancy Weaver, and Sally Weaver, that they are not FreeNegroes or Mulattoes, but are of Indian descent and that each of them have a certificate separately thereof…”

Even withstanding these public declarations by the County Court, the same individuals named above were recorded as “M” in the 1850 census and beyond.

Fauquier County, Virginia

The 1860 census of Fauquier County, Virginia, Thoroughfare Post Office includes the entry for Lydia E. Cole, who is marked as “M” in the race column and the enumerator handwrote “Indian descent” beside the entry.

Robeson County, North Carolina

In 1857, William Chavis was arrested and charged as “a free Negro” with carrying a shotgun, a violation of North Carolina state law. Chavis was convicted but promptly appealed on the legal basis that he was “of Indian descent” and thus “a free person of color” not subject to the restrictions of “free negros”. The appeals Court reversed the lower Court, finding that “Free persons of color may bethen, for all we can see, persons colored by Indian blood…”

Though William Chavis fought hardily to prove that he had no “Negro ancestors”, he still appeared on the 1850, 1860, and 1870 census with the familiar “M” in the race column.

Excellent stuff. It confirms much of what I know of Jxxxx’s ancestry. Census takers didn’t care. They just put down whatever they thought, whether the law was applied in each case or not. Really good digging, Jennifer. You’re sharp.

Jennifer, just for you....

A census taker told his wife he was off and would be back late as he had to go up into Balsam Grove (Transylvania County, NC). He came back around noon. His wife asked him why he was home so early. “Well,” he responded, “I got up nearly to Balasm Grove, and came to his little path, and I thought I oughta take it. Well, there was a home up there, and the man said he was so-and-so Galloway. He said there were several more homes up this rugged little path, so I headed up. The next home was so-and-so McCall. And the next was so-and-so Galloway. The next one was so-and-so McCall, and ‘bout halfway up that path I came to a shack. A man came to the door, and when I asked him what his name was, he said, ‘Galloway McCall.’ So, I quit and came home.” There probably is some truth to this story, it’s so popular up here.

About your surname. I have a large line of collateral Farrars who pronounced their surname with emphasis on the first syllable, fair’ uh. One of these, my second cousin, became a preacher and ended up in a church in Culpepper, Virginia, where they pronounced it with emphasis on the second, fuh rar’. He finally gave in when he couldn’t get them to say it his way. 

Hilarious anecdote, and totally believable , especially in the backwoods of the south where endogamy is a way of life.

I've done exhaustive research on the pronunciation of my surname.It varies from community to community, state to state, region to region.

I don't know to phonetically display all of the variations.

I received this from a wealthy English kinsmen, albeit very distant kin,

apart from obvious regional accents I would argue there are two main pronunciations here in the UK; the differences are probably slightly class based and whether you view the name as aristocratic/french in origin or common/english

 they two variations would be:

 Faar-raarh or faar-reer with emphasis on the vowels

fa-rerr or fa-rarr with short guttural stops and emphasis on the er or ar at the end

 I pronounced it Fairer when I lived in the south, but Far Rar in the north, with pronunciation of the final R, not the slurring of ah,  uh or ow as you might hear in Massachusetts or the south..

In the military it is pronounced FarRar (again the final R has a definite R sound). My Dad was a Marine, retired from the service, and though born and raised a Fairuh, he pronounced the name the way that he used and heard it in the Marines.  

This tends to be the way the name is pronounced in the North (South of New England) and on the west coast..

I always answer to anything reasonable, and when asked how to pronounce I reply"your choice".

Anway sorting through census and legal documents in pursuit of a paper trail can be frustrating, and if a sense of humor, entertaining.

So many variations of spelling of all kind, but the simplest of names.

In 1780's Pittsylvania County, VA there is an Indenture in which members of my family sold their inheritance, one of the members, the oldest was tutored before his father died, and thus could read and write, his younger siblings were not and thus were illiterate.

This document has the parties and witnesses spelling their names Farrar and Farrow, and in two cases the same person spelled two ways.

In subsequent documents the name was spelled Farrow until they reached Alabama and filed Homestead claims, apparently aided by an educated cousin, (the son of the educated older brother of their father) they filled out the paper work by spelling their names Farrar.

One needs an understanding of the culture, the times, the region to make sense of it all.

The white descendant of a slave-owner and a slave wouldn't know he was descended from a slave-owner unless he knew the whole story.  He'd hardly need to be told to look for a bit of African.

The advice seemed to be that a person of supposedly all-white descent, on finding a slave-owner in his tree, should look for a trace of African.  But how would that happen?
True enough, but we don't know what family history is passed down the generations. In the days before electronic media, and in the rural areas where print media was scarce or a luxury.  Family history was passed down generation to generation, including names of long gone ancestors, uncles, aunts cousins, especially as they hovered around the fireplace on a cold winters evening.

Such was my life in southeast Arkansas. In the evening with quilts wrapped our shoulders, and rotating like pigs on a spit aournd the pot belly stove in the living room, my grandmother regaled us with jokes, gossip and more important family history as passed on to her. She was born in 1882, yet I learned from her as though it was yesterday, of two cousins caught spying on the Federals around Vicksburg, chased home, hid in the barn, flushed out and shot down as they ran across the field.

I heard the story of my 3rd great grandfather Sion B Sanders, a doctor in a wagon train on it's way to Texas in 1836, when it hauled up at the ferry crossing at Rodney, MS (now a ghost town as old Miss changed her course) because of an outbreak of cholera in St Joseph on the opposite bank, of how an emissary of St Jo, having heard there was a doctor in the wagon train,  was sent over to ask for help. Dr Sanders, obliged, but came down with cholera himself, as he lay dying he told his wife to turn around and go back home to Leake County, MS.

She relayed these tales with detail as though it were fresh in her mind, and that is how generation to generation the mother was the family historian, could re create family Bibles and people knew details of their families history, as well as names of long dead ancestors and relatives.

9 Answers

+8 votes
Best answer

From https://support.ancestry.com/s/article/Viewing-Ethnicity-Results-from-AncestryDNA-US-1460088591488-2556 :

Predicting ethnicity: To discover where you come from, we compare your DNA to the DNA of people with known origins from around the world. This group of people is called our DNA Reference Panel.

 . . .

References panel: The AncestryDNA reference panel is a database of 3,000 DNA samples from people selected for their deep regional roots and documented family trees.

So seems likely that they take segments of your DNA results and then look to see which region's modal values your segment matches up best with and then say that segment comes from that region. I'm not sure how meaningful these results are, particularly if you are assigning a segment to, say, Great Britain, which is clearly a mix of peoples from various other places. Almost as silly as if they had created a region called "American" and assigned a % to that.

by Chase Ashley G2G6 Pilot (253k points)
selected by Living Horace

I found this rather enlightening. Especially how few people are actually used in the panel. Other companies might have even smaller databases.

For now I would take any ethnicity predictions with a grain of salt, since they can vary a lot depending on the company you use. For instance here are my results for FTDNA and MyHeritage (for all practical purposes my ancestors are all Dutch, so FTDNA got closest):

FTDNA: 74% west+central Europe, 15% Scandinavian, 11% British Isles

MyHeritage: 58.6% Scandinavian, 22.4% Iberian, 19% British

+6 votes
I'm in the UK and did my Ancestry DNA test a couple of years ago ( also done my mum's, children's and step dad's DNA with Ancestry) Initially their ethnicity estimates were very broad as they hadn't refined their matching pool, however they are refining and updating their estimates, which are now getting closer to expected percentages.

However - they are still estimates - and most of the UK was invaded by Europeans at some point, so it is expected for the estimates to reflect that.
by Michelle Wilkes G2G6 Pilot (142k points)
I have also found that there is a large cross-over between Scotland and Scandinavia, and a lot of crossing between West Scotland & Ireland - which accounts for the previously high Scandinavian and Irish estimates..with the new updates my amounts of Irish and Scandinavian has decreased (I'm a quarter Scottish).
Michelle, I’ve got that kind of dna , too, and am waiting for the refinement. My %sges haven’t moved, yet. When they say Scottish, what in the dickens is that supposed to mean? Just like you said, it can also mean Irish and Scandinavian. And even a little Saxon in the southeast, too.
On 23 and me my ancestry is apparently 59% British and Irish, UK..The rest , broadly  N.W European ,French/German, Scandinavian,  Europea  and then an odd 0.1% Ashkanazi Jewish.

Both parents were born within 40 miles of each other as were all but one line (which ventures into Wales) for the past 200 years. The paper trail, at least on my mother's side seems to be confirmed by matches with common ancestors.

My fathers DNA was also tested. He had far less Scandinavian than my mother. My slightly tongue in cheek response is that his ancestors came from the west of Watling St ie not in the Danelaw  and my mothers from the east. (In the Danelaw)

But then my husband has 62% British and Irish.He has half the amount of French/German to me. One of his gg grandfathers was an immigrant from Prussia
The Danes (what are often called Vikings) raided into and settled in England, mainly the east coast, and especially the north which the Angles called the Kingdom of Northumbria, today Yorkshire, Durham, and Northumberland)

Norse Vikings raided and settled into Northern Scotland,  Orkney and the Shetlands and from their into the Western Isles and Ireland, settling in the black swamp, (Dublin), and from there back into southern Scotland (Galloway) and up the river Clyde, then overland into Northumbria. Were in York Kingship swung between Norse and Danes.

I recommend this Book:https://www.amazon.com/Scandinavian-Britain-W-G-Collingwood/dp/B002ZRQC44/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1533045804&sr=8-1&keywords=scandinavian+Britain

and this  as well:

+5 votes

Knew I wasn't average...

My DNA (done with Ancestry) says I'm 88% British, with bits and pieces of % in other countries, the largest being 3% in Ireland/Scotland/Wales. (?)

Living DNA says I'm 92.3% British/Irish, the rest from 'Europe'.  And 31.5% of that is from Devon, and 12.7% from Cornwall.  I *knew* there was a reason I liked clotted cream... laugh

by Ros Haywood G2G Astronaut (1.5m points)
Hello Ros, glad to see I'm not the only one with what I had begun to think of as an "unusually" high percentage of British.  Got mine a year and a half ago from Ancestry and spent a bit of time trying to figure it out.  All of my lines that I have traced got here before the Revolution and I figured there would be more of an average mix in that time period.  I have wondered if it has something to do with most of them having come into southern colonies and working their way across the south to Texas.  Wierd but interesting.
Art, Wilbur Cash in The Mind of the South made a statement that would back up your comment about clannish movement across the South.
Hi Ros

My Heritage makes me what I see as an almost impossible 99.2% English - no Irish or Scottish. Oh and the other 0.8% is South American. Must be the most pure breed Englishman in the world. I say man because I did manage a female match that had the exact same mixutue.
+5 votes

I guess that makes me above average then RJ smiley

Ancestry reckons I am 92% Great Britain. That is based on the 3000 reference populations, so I expect it will change when the update to 16000 rererence populations gets rolled out to my account. 

by Lynda Crackett G2G6 Pilot (633k points)
+5 votes
by Peter Roberts G2G6 Pilot (606k points)
But how does this apply?  Who is supposed to have mixed with who to produce this average modern Brit?  And in what sense could they be described as 36% British, 23% Irish etc, as opposed to 40% North European, or any other breakdown you could make up off the top of your head?  What are the numbers saying if they can't tell us what they mean?

If I get my numbers, what will I know?  Will I be any the wiser?  Will I have got value for money?
It has been my experience that admixture has little meaning (and is next to useless) for genealogy. Admixture gets an inordinate amount of attention.
Hear hear.
Marketing hype driven by greed not science.
+5 votes
You have to keep in mind here in the UK we have been invaded by waves of different  peoples and some of that DNA still exists in the current UK population. With Dane law a  great deal of the country was rulled by " Vikings" and it still shows in peoples DNA, We had the same with  Saxons  and when the Romans invaded there were many different people from around the Republic and then the Empire here.I found that the best DNA company for British Isles testing is Living DNA and matches more with my paper trail . It breaks down where in the UK  your ancestors are likely to have come from  in the 8-10 generations.Just my opinion - I'm sure others will differ
by Norma Farnhell G2G4 (4.7k points)
+3 votes
FT DNA said I was 72% British (And 22% East European but I think that's wrong).

My Heritage was better. They said I am 75% Irish/Scottish/Welsh and 22% Scandinavian - which matches the Scotttish and Orkney ancestry that the paper trail says I have.

 So where's all my English ancestry? I do have several lines from the west country.

I might need to consider Living DNA to get an accurate estimate.
by Robynne Lozier G2G Astronaut (1.0m points)
+2 votes

The annoying thing is that there is no meaning without dates to the reference samples. There is guaranteed to be some stage when the population of Britain was zero.

At the extremes, I can use GEDMatch to give me some numbers that tell me I am 25% from mammoth hunters around Lake Baikal (should I choose to interpret admixture that way).

 At the other extreme we can look at the People of the British Isles project, which created a reference sample set from only a small number of generations ago.

In my recorded history (mostly late 1700's) I am one eighth from Aberdeenshire and the rest from a region from West Midlands to Yorkshire.

Ancestry offers me two "Ethnicity" views: the first says I am 62% "Great Britain", (which somehow covers all of the Netherlands and most of Belguim) together with 32% west Europe. I take that to mean we might be looking at 1000 years ago, or is it 4000?  Their help says it covers possibly "hundreds to thousands" of years ago

But buried in that is a focus on "Northern England and the Midlands" and "Wales and the West Midlands", with no percentages. These fit very well with my known tree. These are their "genetic communities"

If I then click on "1800" in the timeline I get these two regions highlighted with lots of circles.  It looks like Ancestry have used their extensive DNA database and selected ancestries to make their own approximate PoBI dataset. One question is - did they rely on customers' own trees? That might explain why some of the "Wales and West Midlands" circles are in London and Kent.

And I have finally worked out that these circles are not locations of ancestral people that my DNA matches, but are probably locations at that time of the ancestors of the people whose DNA was identified in that reference cluster.

So, for me there seems to be some value in their genetic community analysis, although in my case it is only confirming what I already knew.

by Cameron Davidson G2G5 (5.5k points)
And Cameron, I’d say that is about exactly how my DNA was interpreted by Ancestry, without the localization.
+4 votes

Another reason Brits should consider a DNA test.  More than 100,000 British orphaned children were sent to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Many of their families are searching for family connections with little or no information.  Your DNA might be that missing link. 


by S Stevenson G2G6 Pilot (141k points)

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