This entry is a perspective on Ancestry.com's new DNA test from someone of European Jewish descent. This may apply to similar tests from other companies, but not having taken those tests, I am unable to say.
I believe Jews of mostly European descent will find the test less useful for them than for others. I found the results mostly useful for my 25% non-Jewish ancestry.
This is the test that determines one's DNA ethnicity breakdown. This of course can differ significantly from the breakdown of ethnicity of your ancestors in your genealogy database. Each child receives 50% of their DNA from each parent, but it's a roll of the dice which 50% is passed on.
Theoretically, someone could have none of the DNA from one of their four grandparents. For example, the 50% from your father might be just the DNA your paternal grandfather passed to him.This is unlikely, but it is also probably unlikely that one has exactly 25% of their DNA from each of their four grandparents. And it's even more unlikely that one has exactly 12.5% of their DNA from each of their eight great grandparents. As one goes further back on their genealogy chart, it becomes more likely that significant portions of your ancestors aren't represented in your DNA.
With that in mind, here are the results I received after submitting my saliva sample recently
There are no Scandinavians in my family tree, but that's probably because I haven't gone back far enough. My mother's Mitochondrial DNA test categorized my matrilineal line as Clan Ursula - which certainly has Scandinavian roots.
Ancestry does note:
Your genetic ethnicity reveals where your ancestors lived hundreds—perhaps even thousands—of years ago. This may update over time as new genetic signatures are discovered.and
The rise of the Viking culture spread Scandinavian ancestry far throughout Europe. Their earliest coastal voyages took them to Scotland, northeastern England and established the settlement of Dublin, Ireland. As their power continued to grow, the Vikings spread farther afield, down the Volga River in Russia, to the coast of France and Spain.So 17% of my DNA comes from some Scandinavian ancestors who migrated to either Britain, the Netherlands, or Germany. The 11% uncertain might contain what little Native American DNA I have, and perhaps some of the Alien DNA some of my friends suspect.
In their FAQ Ancestry explains:
Some people may have a percentage with ‘uncertain’ in their genetic ethnicity results. This means that small traces of a specific genetic population have been found in your DNA, but the probability levels were too low to pinpoint it to a specific ethnicity. This is not uncommon, and as more genetic signatures are discovered with a higher confidence level, we may be able to update this ‘uncertain’ percentage of your ethnicity over time.This may mean that the 11% is a combination of different ethnicities, none of which are large enough to identify with certainty.
So the breakdown for me wasn't very helpful. Others have had significantly different results. Judy Russell of The Legal Genealogist was very pleased with the specificity of her results.
One of the key selling points of the AncestryDNA test is that they will connect you with others who are potential matches. And Ancestry provides a LOT of matches for me...
Unfortunately, there is a high number of false positives for those of European Jewish descent.
Despite their encouragement, at least for now, with the number of likely false-positives, it doesn't make much sense to me to contact the dozens of potential cousin matches. Unless there is a shared surname in their online trees, which so far there hasn't been. (I am contacting the Scandinavian matches. There are less of them.)
I also understand that it may be complicated and science-y (is that a word?) - but I'd like to see the complicated, scientific explanation. It might confuse me, but I consider myself intelligent. I'd like Ancestry to include the scientific explanation on their website.
- Those of mostly European Jewish descent may not find Ancestry's DNA test very useful due to the over-abundance of false-positive cousin matches, and the lack of specificity in ethnic origins. I am unsure if the results are similar on the tests provided by other companies.
- I did find my results interesting, and I am in the process of contacting some potential cousins.