The New Ancestry Report

The reference panel

To find your ancestry, we start with a reference panel of 6238 monoethnic[2] individuals from 151 places organized into 40 populations. This gives us a pretty good — but not complete — coverage of the world’s ethnicities. Our algorithm then looks for similarity between your DNA composition to individuals in the reference panel.

we encourage you to look at the the lists of samples that underlies each definition

In some cases it gets a little more complicated. For example, we have fifty or so samples each from the English, Scottish, Orcadian, Icelandic and Norwegian peoples. The differences between those groups are small compared to the variation within them. Therefore, we cannot reliably tell them apart. We therefore group them into a category called “Northern European”.

An example of population definitions.

The new map

Now that we understand what the populations mean, the challenge is to convey it. No one is going to read the label “Cambodian/Thai” and immediately understand that it means “Closer to Khmer than to Kinh, Dai, Han or Telugu”. This is why we have been reluctant to display such a label in the past. We need to make clear what our categories mean without swamping you in verbosity.

The new map

A Hierarchical View

In addition to details and maps, we have introduced the concept of taxonomic hierarchy. It looks like this:

Mock data used for testing

Rather than guess or give up, we place DNA in the category we can with the label “Ambiguous”.

Second, if she is not fond of mental arithmetic, she can still see how her ancestry breaks down into European, African and Native American.

What Comes Next

In the near future, we hope to get your feedback to our ancestry report. While Facebook is great to compare results with other people, we would like to encourage you to send us emails to, because then we have your username and can take a deeper look at your results. We are aware that the reference panel is not complete. We need more reference populations such as Cree, Ojibwa, Algonquins in North America, the Afar and Oromo in East Africa, and the Czech in Europe.


[1] For a more general discussion see our previous post: “What is ancestry”.





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