Understanding the Ethnic Ancestry in Your DNA Test

This is an OUTLINE of an Ethnic Ancestry presentation by Richard Hill that may be scheduled in person or online through the Contact form.

The inclusion of ethnic ancestry reports in autosomal DNA test results has greatly expanded the market for these tests. But there is considerable confusion about such reports.

This presentation is designed to shed light on the subject and provide numerous examples comparing DNA tests from different companies.


Why Ethnic Ancestry Results Don't Match Expectations

People expect “ethnicity” to match recent ancestors’ countries of origin. Instead, they get “admixture” reflecting hundreds of additional ancestors.

Contributions from four grandparents are often unbalanced

Some regions are difficult to distinguish, e.g.

  • Scandinavian vs. British Isles
  • French vs. German
  • Italian vs. Middle Eastern

Small components may be just statistical noise

Why Results Vary by Company

Different “chips” sample different locations in our DNA

Different reference populations

Different proprietary algorithms

Different regional groupings

Examples will be shown, including one person on eight tests

Why Results Vary for Siblings

Random inheritance

Examples of siblings on different tests will be shown

Why Native American DNA is So Rare

Dilution of ancient native DNA through mixing with Europeans

Multiple generations back to the Native American ancestor

Incorrect assumptions based on family stories or physical characteristics

DNA Tests to be Compared in this Presentation

  • AncestryDNA
  • 23andMe
  • FTDNA’s Family Finder
  • MyHeritage
  • Living DNA
  • Geno 2.0
  • Insitome
  • CRI Genetics


  1. DNA Testing Adviser Home
  2. Genealogy Speaker
  3. Understanding Ethnic Ancestry