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And it’s still not soup

The Legal Genealogist was delighted earlier this week to discover that AncestryDNA has now, once again, found the Germans.

Not all of them, mind you, not even as many as there were the first time around, but at least some of them — and a lot more of them than the last time around.

Yes, we now are in the process of getting yet another set of those ethnicity estimate percentages that DNA testers love so much. It’s rolling out now for those who’ve tested with AncestryDNA and, when yours updates, you’ll see it as a option to preview an updated estimate:

ADNA preview 1

Click on that and it will take you to the new percentages:

ADNA preview 2

If memory serves, this is the third set of numbers from AncestryDNA and, for many people, each iteration has gotten at least a little bit better in terms of more closely approximating what we know of our ancestry on a paper-trail basis.1

For those of us with German ancestors, well, maybe not so much.

My ancestry is roughly 50% German and 50% British Isles-France mix. My father was born in Germany and I can trace his ancestry back there as far as there are church records. No Scandinavians that we can find — all solid Germans. My mother’s side is a colonial American mix of English, Scots-Irish and French Huguenot all blending in the North American melting pot since about 1670 or so.

The essential problem, it seems, is that there’s not a huge amount of difference between the ethnic signature of southern and southeastern England and that of northern Germany (and probably much of France and the low countries of The Netherlands, Belgium, etc., as well). And northern Germany may look a great deal like, say, Denmark. Or Sweden.

Which is why, in three iterations, my own percentages have gone like this:

Version 1
Central European 43%
British Isles 35%
Scandinavian 15%
Finnish/Volga-Ural 7%
Version 2
Great Britain 49%
Scandinavia 31%
Trace region: Europe East 4%
Trace region: Europe South 4%
Trace region: Europe West 4%
Trace region: Iberian Peninsula 3%
Trace region: European Jewish 2%
Trace region: Ireland/Scotland/Wales 1%
Version 3 (as above)
England and Wales 66%
Germanic Europe 19%
Norway 7%
Sweden 6%
Ireland and Scotland 2%

It’s better, yes. But it’s not soup yet.2

Remember what these numbers are: the only way to get these percentages is by comparing the test results of folks like you and me — alive today — to the test results of other people who are alive today (and not to the actual DNA of our ancient ancestors!!). Because of that, it’s all a numbers game based on one fundamental assumption: that people who live in an area today (say, modern Englishmen and -women) and who have all four of their grandparents born in that area are typical of the genetic signature of that population generations ago.

The numbers are terrific at the continental level: Europe versus Africa versus Asia.

But — particularly for those of us with western European and German ancestry — not soup yet below the continental level.


  1. See generally, for the change from version 1 to version 2, Judy G. Russell, “AncestryDNA begins rollout of update,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 13 Sep 2013 ( : accessed 10 June 2018). Also, see ibid., “Those pesky percentages,” posted 27 Oct 2013.
  2. The reference, for the youngsters in the crowd, is to the old Lipton Soup commercials in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The mother in the ad would begin preparing Lipton soup, a child would ask, over and over, “is it soup yet?” and the mother would answer “not yet” over and over until finally she’d say, “It’s soup!” So “not soup yet” means “not finished” or “not ready.”
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