DNA admixture vs papertrail admixture

+6 votes

I've posted before that my current project is working on my 4th great grandparents' profile and down. I get so many 4th cousin matches and not many closer, so it's my way to try to work down to where they may match me. I just noticed I got the June 2018 100 Club, which is completely due to this. Another fun thing is that I can compare where my 4th great grandparents are on paper to the familyfinder's DNA based admixture.

On paper, I have birth locations for all but 17 of my 64 4th greats (I dont even have names for all of them, so birth locations for a good chunk surpised and impressed me, I have an idea for a few of the 17, but no records yet) It's 6 Germany, 8 Ireland, 8 Poland (technically Prussia, but Posen Poland before and after), 2 Canada (the ones that were on the British side of the American Revolution), 23 in the United States (11 Ohio, 5 NewYork, 2 Michigan, 2 North Carolina, 1 Massachusetts, 1 Maryland and 1 Coneticut) and then the 17 unknown or unprovables

So how do my paper trail locations compare to my DNA estimates for an admixture report?

FTDNA= 96% European, 0% everything else (the last 4% is "not statistically significant" European) Broken down it's

2% British Isles

<2% East Europe (Poland is supposed to be in here, but is borderline for their regions' breakdown)

<2% Finland

94% West and Central Europe (Germany should be here)

Putting my papertrail into percents would be

12.5 % British Isles (Ireland)

9% West and Central Europe (German)

12.5 % East Europe (Poland)

3% Nonnative European Canadian (I know there's at least some German DNA here)

36% Nonnative European US American


The three things I get from this- one, all of those Americans pretty much had to mostly be German/Western Europe, or I just was the pair of gametes (egg & sperm) that had an overwhelming selection of that DNA out of all the options.

Two, Most of our Polish ancestors were very patriotic and adamant about being Polish, and left Posen Prussia when political tensions were getting bad with the Germans, so it's kinda odd to see expected "Polish" appearing as "German", However I know it really depends on which genes I inheirited from who, if they were if fact genetically more Eastern or western Europe regardless of culture, as well as the accuracy of today's test population that build the ethnicity groups to historical populations.

and third, I did not get a whole lot of that potential Irish DNA, or they came to Ireland from Europe.

Also breaking down that 26.5% USA into states

17% Ohioan

8% New Yorker

3% Michigander

3% North Carolinian

and the last three states fall under the statistically significant mark FTDNA shows of under 2%

1.5% Marylander

1.5% Massachusettsan

1.5% Connecticotian 

and yes, I did have to google the last two terms for state resident names.

Can anyone tell I'm getting really impatient for the auDNA results for my mom and grandma? I keep telling myself to do more 4th great's descendants to help with matching, but Im getting antsy.

How do you guys compare on papertrail vs DNA admixture? I arbitrarily selected my 4th greats as a group I had a decent amount filled out, before my knowledge ends before many of my 5th greats, but that also got me a ways back.

in The Tree House by Allison Schaub G2G6 Mach 1 (14.6k points)

6 Answers

+6 votes
Hi Alison!  that is a fun exercise, isn't it!  Back when Ancestry was telling me that i was about 26% Scandinavian, i even made an excel spreadsheet trying to figure out how that could have happened.  I was able to squeak it through by counting my French-Canadian side as originally Norman (Normandy); my Scottish side as having a bit of the Orkneys maybe, my Cambridgeshire side as being influenced by the Danelaw (I do have one Scandinavian surname there: Ingrey) and my Devon side as being affected by raiding.  

But then Ancestry re-did their calculations, and now i am 88% England and Wales, 12% Ireland and Scotland.  That makes a lot more sense when 3 of my 4 grandparents were born in England, not to mention 13 of my 16 ggs.

My siblings' mixes are each a little different, though! .  My brother got 97% English/Welsh with 3% Scottish/Irish,  My sister got the most Scottish/Irish at 22%, and also 2% Norway!

One thing i have wondered is if we will get to the point where we can look at shared DNA segments, run a match through Eurogenes or something similar with the ethnicity painting tool, and predict where to look, geographically speaking, on our shared matches trees...
by Shirlea Smith G2G6 Pilot (174k points)
Eventually, possibly generations from now, maybe enough people will have tested that larger percentages of DNA can be walked back up the known trees and we could sort of partially  phase ancestors, particularly ones with good paper records, then use those ancestors as our base populations.from that you could then estimate ancestors without records better as well, and maybe have that as a clue of where to look for records as well.

It would also be cool to eventually have admixture estimates for different time periods, with the borders they would have used. Like how I have more Ohioans than any single Euorpean group at my fourth greats. And you have either all Uk or uk and Scandinavian depending on the time period.

Possibly we could get to a point where we could look at medical studies and ancestor population genes and see how genes could have influenced certain populations or historical events.
+4 votes

Hi, Allison! Here's my breadown by surname through six generations:

   Country            Lines            Percent
Scotland 18 56.25
England 7 21.88
Wales 3 9.38
French 1 3.13
German 2 6.25
Unknown 1 3.13

Results of auDNA:

Great Britain               36%
Ireland                        24%
Europe West              23%
Scandinavia                 8%


Europe East                 4%

Italy/Greece                 3%

Finland/NWRussia      2%

By state of birth through six generations:

Tennessee          3       9.38%   (all in E Tenn)

N Carolina         24    75.00%   (all in western NC)
S Carolina           5    15.62%   (all in NW SC)

As you can see in the last table, my ancestry is very localized, making my research a little easier, except the Tennessee ones give me the devil!

Comparing the first two tables, I can make a case for the auDNA based on immigration to and around the British Isles. If  people would have just stayed put!

by Pip Sheppard G2G Astronaut (2.2m points)
+5 votes
Most mutations don't spead much, and become extinct.  A minority win the jackpot and proliferate.

Some of the mutations that happened in the Stone Age have had time to become common across a wide area of Europe,  This makes them easy to identify, but not very informative.

For a mutation to be restricted to the British Isles it'll have to be more recent, so it won't be common even in the British Isles.  That means harder to identify and pin down.

Not so long ago, the test results of Brits just said they were a mixture of European types.  Now, they have some things they can identify as British.  They'll find more, so the British percentage will increase over time.

Ancestry are currently advertising that the average Brit is only 36% British.  This is supposed to make us spit in the kit to find out what else we are.  Later, it'll turn out that most of the other 64% can be called British as well.

(What's that?  This makes the numbers they're selling meaningless?  Sorry, can't hear you)

We also have to remember that this is business.  An academic analysis of your DNA would be very complex and in the end very woolly.  But that wouldn't be a marketable product.  It all has to be boiled down to a one-dimensional pie chart with simple labels and no timescale so that people can think they understand it.

This means they have to simplify very crudely and grossly.  Customers don't want ambiguity.  So if you have a bit of Brit or German or Norwegian, they can say that all your ambiguous DNA is Brit or German or Scandinavian.  Well it could be.  Or it could be something else if they wanted it to be.  They don't have to conform to any legal or scientific or medical standards, it's an entertainment product.

Nobody is ever going to complain that their test results are too clear-cut and simple when they should be much more tentative and incomprehensible.
by Anonymous Horace G2G6 Pilot (568k points)
edited by Anonymous Horace
I'd actually be bitter and angry about how it's basically "snake oil", except for the fact that the part they DON'T advertise is really useful. Mostly, it gives us verification for genealogy, but for some people, it has actually been kind of life-changing, as adoptees and others with unknown biological relatives have been reunited.

People get these hokey estimates of ethnicity and think they have "instant genealogy", and it's all a Big Lie, but it's really not especially harmful. If I was suckered into thinking I'm a Brit, instead of mostly Irish & German, it wouldn't really hurt anybody in any direct way.
+3 votes
Mine is on AncestryDNA, but I don't suppose it much matters.

My ethnic groups basically are defined by my gt-gt-gt grandparents:

* 13 from various German-speaking places (10 of these 13 were actually immigrants, the other 3 living in German communities in America and have German surnames).

* 12 from Ireland (8 immigrants, plus the unknown parents of a married couple who immigrated).

* 7 primarily British, including some Scottish and Scotch-Irish, but almost all those lines go too far back to get a paper trail to an immigrant.

So when my ethnicity results said I was 78% Great Britain, the jig was basically up, and I was done trying to rationalize how results people were getting that didn't make sense somehow made sense anyway. Usually those rationalization included a discussion of the Roman Empire, and a critical element was that you not notice that what you were REALLY arguing was that no matter where your people actually immigrated from, and no matter what breakdown they gave you, you could still declare it somehow OK. You also have to ignore the obvious fact that this also means that the numbers they're giving you are not what you were expecting to get when you bought it.

Actually, if you look at the details, it said my Great Britain was between 44% and 100%. So even though they gave themselves a ridiculously ENORMOUS margin for error, they STILL got it wrong.

But it's even worse than THAT. If you look at my the ethnicity they estimated for my full-brother (with the same exact ethnicity I have) HIS Great Britain margin for error did not even OVERLAP mine! Even though mine chews up more than half of the entire 0% to 100% range of possibilities!

About the only way they could worse would be if they said we were from the Congo.

The thing is, don't let me rain on anybody's parade - ENJOY your DNA admixture percentages. But they are NOT accurate - if they're even close it's out of sheer luck - and should never, never, ever, ever be part of any serious genealogical effort. Basically, it's telling you "you're a white girl" (and you probably already knew that!)

For us, we got a good chuckle out of how it said my brother was 11% South Europe (basically, Italian) when it's actually a solid 0%, but his girlfriend's result came out rounding down to 0%, to the nearest percent, when she's 1/8. At the same time, they identified the exact correct region where her Italians (that they essentially said she didn't have) came from!

The thing is, these subregions, or "migrations", or whatever they're calling what they used to call "genetic communities" can be downright spooky with accuracy, as far as pinpointing where your people came from, but you don't get those for all of your ancestry, and that apparently is figured entirely differently from the admixture.

What people seem to be in denial of is that while you get exactly 50% of your genes from each parent, that's where the even breakdown ends. You don't even get exactly 1/4 from each grandparent - there's random variation. By the time you get back to your gt-gt-gt-gt grandparents, I'm not sure if you can be confident that you even HAVE any DNA from a few of them. So how could you POSSIBLY glean an accurate admixture from DNA? … EVER?
by Frank Stanley G2G6 Mach 6 (66.8k points)
edited by Frank Stanley

Yes exactly.  Since your DNA isn't evenly spread across your ancestors, your DNA breakdown and your ancestry breakdown aren't even supposed to be the same.

I wonder what they'd  make of these two


But I also wonder what we'd want them to make.  Would they be right or wrong if they came out the same?

+6 votes
The whole ethnicity thing is a marketing ploy and really not strong science.

For it to be strong science it would need more data across all of the testing programs.  The fact that you can get such a difference among the various testing labs points to the fact that this is not repeatable science.  

The most accurate ones I have found are the GedMatch admixture calculators.
by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Pilot (670k points)
edited by Laura Bozzay
+2 votes
This is a very interesting thread. Let me add my own experience. Growing up I knew about my parents' cousins and their kids for the most part. When it came time for me to do my DNA test, I saw that my results were 46% southern Italian and the rest a mix of British and French. This matched my tree perfectly.  Half of my tree is Italian and the other half is three fourth French-Canadian/Scottish and English.

I looked over my results and my parents noticed several familiar names in the matches. It turns out they were descendants of people who attended my parents' wedding or were invited. This included some 4th cousins and on that front I had an inkling of what to expect since I had been in contact with one or two before I did DNA. I even helped one find her way down the tree.

I've been told that my situation must be unique. I have a ton of paper and other things that make pinning down first through third cousins easy for the most part. Only two I had issue as they were first cousins once removed and I didn't recognize the names. They were my dad's cousins we didn't know about. THAT is a separate story.

 I put the same DNA up on Myheritage, FTDNA, 23andme and Gedmatch. I see the same people for the most part. Some differences to be sure. Same people more or less.

Like Laura said it is a marketing gimmick. But, the thing is for people like me who are half Italian it's fine. I match what they have in the database. Others may have difficulty and I hope things work out.

For me everything matches up. Sorry people have a hard time.

I compare paper trail and DNA admixtures by combining what I know to be true. Families talk. A lot of the families are still in the area and we hear about things. In my case paper trails compliment the DNA mixtures.

Sorry about the hard time you are having, Allison. As for me, I guess I'm unique. Dunno what all this says about me. Take care and I hope things work out for you!
by Chris Ferraiolo G2G6 Pilot (449k points)
edited by Chris Ferraiolo

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