I have received a complimentary test from Living DNA, and the results I am reporting here are based on testing done on the new Illumina Global Screening Array. In this article I will focus on the family ancestry maps. I will write about other aspects of the test, including the Y-DNA and mtDNA reports, in a separate blog post.
Only a handful of people have received their results so far, and I'm privileged to be one of the first people to receive results from this new test. Further results are slowly being rolled out but most people won't get their results until early or mid-February.
The Living DNA platform allows you to view results at different levels: a global, regional and sub-regional level. The results are reported in three different modes;
- Cautious - Similar populations are grouped together "in order to provide the highest certainty of results possible".
- Standard - The company highlights "the sources of your ancestry estimate that they are most certain about. Ancestry that cannot be attributed to one of these sources is shown as being "unassigned"."
- Complete - This provides their "best estimate of your overall genetic makeup".
The family ancestry maps show me the areas of the world where I share my genetic ancestry in recent times (4-5 generations).
Here is my map at the global level which shows that 98.4% of my ancestry is from Europe with 1.6% unassigned.
By clicking on the + symbol I can access the submenu to view my genetic ancestry at the regional and subregional levels.
Here are my regional results in standard mode which place 98.4% of my ancestry in the British Isles with 1.6% unassigned. In my case the global and regional maps are identical because all my recent ancestry is from the same place.
(I've adjusted the contrast on the above map to make the regions stand out more clearly.)
Here are my subregional results in standard mode in a tabular format:
South Central England
South Wales Border
British Isles (unassigned)
I have also been given an advance preview of my subregional results in cautious mode. These results are subject to change:
South West England
South Central England
North Central England
North East Scottish
Unassigned British Isles
This is a full list of the 21 regional groups within Britain and Ireland identified by Living DNA: Aberdeenshire, Central England, Cornwall, Cumbria, Devon, East Anglia, Ireland, Lincolnshire, North Wales, North Yorkshire, Northwest England, Northwest Scotland, Northumbria, Orkney, South Central England, Southeast England, South England, Southwest Scotland and Northern Ireland, South Wales Border, South Wales, South Yorkshire. Descriptions of the regions can be found here.
Comparing with known genealogical ancestry
So how do these results compare to my known genealogical ancestry? I've provided a chart below showing the place of birth of all my ancestors going back for five generations. (The chart is inspired by the #Mycolorfulancestry meme started by J. Paul Hawthorne over at the Geneaspy blog.)
My genealogy is probably not ideal to be used for a comparison because I have so many unknown and London ancestors. However, I was very pleased to see that my Devon ancestry was reflected in my results. The average amount of DNA inherited from a great-great-grandparent is 6.25%. My Devon ancestry has come out at 16.2% which is higher than expected, but it could be that some of my unknown ancestors are from Devon. This high percentage might also reflect my Somerset ancestry. Somerset is not identified as a specific region with the Living DNA test.
I was intrigued by the 1.7% from South Yorkshire. One of my London ancestors, my great-great-great-grandmother Elizabeth Horton, was born c.1806 in Hackney. I have some matches at 23andMe with a couple of people with the surname Horton in their family trees who have ancestry from Yorkshire. I've since discovered that Horton is a Yorkshire surname. This is a case where DNA testing has the potential to be used to inform genealogical research.
I don't have any documented ancestry from either Wales or Cornwall but these percentages could be explained by my Bristol ancestry. It's also important to remember that ancestry is not strictly defined by country or county borders. For example, during the nineteenth century many people from Devon moved to South Wales to work in the coal and copper mines so you could have people with four grandparents born in Wales who actually have a lot of ancestry from the South West. Conversely there are a lot of Welsh patronymic surnames that are found in North Devon.
I do not have any ancestry assigned to Ireland with the Living DNA test, whereas at AncestryDNA I came out with a surprisingly high percentage of Irish ancestry (20%). Living DNA are currently recruiting people with four grandparents born in Ireland to improve the Irish estimations so it may be that my results will be updated in the future and my Irish ancestry will be reflected in my results.
The big surprise is the high percentage (17.5%) assigned to Lincolnshire though I'm told that the region labelled as Lincolnshire also extends into North London. The Lincolnshire component could possibly be a reflection of my ancestry from Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, two counties to the north of London that are en route to Lincolnshire. Alternatively it might perhaps be a clue to the origins of some of my unknown ancestors or it could represent deeper ancestry. It's very easy to speculate but with any DNA test it's important not to take the results too literally and to interpret the results in combination with the genealogical evidence.
The rest of my results broadly correlate with my known genealogical ancestry, though I have come out with more ancestry from the north of England than I expected.
Although I've only focused on my own results, Living DNA can also provide regional breakdowns for other countries, though not currently with such fine-scale resolution as for the British Isles. For example, in one set of results I've seen for a British individual with some Italian ancestry he was assigned ancestry from Southern Italy and Sardinia. Jewish and Aboriginal ancestry is not currently covered by Living DNA but should be added in the future. We can expect to see the results change over time as more studies are published and more reference populations are added to the database.
A comparison with my results from other companies.
I also have biogeographical ancestry results from 23andMe, AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA and GPS Origins.
23andMe aims to provide a representation of our genetic ancestry within the last 500 years. My speculative results at the subregional level match 56.1% of my ancestry with Britain and Ireland.
At Family Tree DNA the MyOrigins results from my Family Finder test match 57% of my DNA with the British Isles. FTDNA do not give a timeframe for their results.
At AncestryDNA 21% of my DNA is matched with Great Britain and 20% is matched with Ireland. AncestryDNA do not claim to show genetic ancestry within the last 500 years and state that the results can "reach back hundreds, maybe even a thousand years, to tell you things that aren't in historical records". The Irish component of the AncestryDNA test seems to be elevated in people of British ancestry, and the Irish cluster actually extends into Wales and Scotland. Most English people are coming out with at least 15% "Irish" at AncestryDNA. For further details see the AncestryDNA blog post What does our DNA tell us about being Irish?.
For a detailed comparison of my results from 23andMe, Family Tree DNA and AncestryDNA see my blog post Comparing admixture results from AncestryDNA, 23andMe and Family Tree DNA.
The GPS Origins test does not have any British or Irish components and instead matches 19% of my ancestry with Fennoscandinavia, 12.9% with Western Siberia, 12.4% with Sardinia, 11.8% from Orkney, 11.3% with Southern France and 11.2% with the Basque Country, with smaller percentages from other regions. For further details see my blog post A review of the GPS Origins tests: four ethnicities and four reports.
The Living DNA test has given me the most accurate results of all the biogeographical ancestry tests I've taken so far, placing 98.4% of my ancestry in the British Isles which is a true reflection of my documented ancestry within the last few hundred years.
For the first time I have been given a subregional breakdown of my results which shows the regions within Britain where my ancestors possibly lived in the last few hundred years. Because I have lots of ancestors who went through the melting pot of London and Bristol my British ancestry is very mixed as people migrated to these cities from across the country. This also makes pre-1837 research in big cities before the beginning of civil registration in England and Wales very challenging. I also have some gaps in my family tree because of illegitimacies. However, my Living DNA results correlate very well with what I have been able to document about my ancestry, and might even have provided me with some clues to break through some of my brick walls. I was particularly pleased to see that my Devon ancestry had been picked up and was intrigued to see the small traces of my possible Yorkshire ancestry.
My results only provide a sample size of one and it is very easy to interpret results post hoc and make them fit with your expectations so I shall be very interested to see results from other people, and especially people who have more defined ancestry than me from specific regions.
Biogeographical ancestry testing has entered an exciting new era and we now have a test that provides a fine-scale breakdown of our genetic ancestry at a subregional level.
My DNA: Living DNA results by Emma Jolly, 14 January 2017.
Hey D (2004). Journeys in Family History. London: The National Archives, p.183.
© 2017 Debbie Kennett