People often want to know, can you find out your ethnicity dna test and how accurate are they.
This guide will accurately answer these questions. We also have reviews to show you the best dna test for ethnicity
The basics of how accurate an ethnicity dna test is
General ethnicity regions
For general regions like Asia, Africa, Continental Europe, South America they are accurate to on averate 5%.
When you break this down further, for Western countries like Europe they are accurate to about 3%, but for Africa and Asia they can be 7% out.
This is because, the more sample test results of each ethnicity the ethnicity dna test has, the more accurate they can be.
More people in Western countries have used these kits and it is where they are based, as a result they have more data for those countries.
Ethnicity for specific countries
Ethnicity dna test results for countries, are for smaller areas than regions.
As a result they are less accurate, because they are a smaller target to hit.
For some Western countries the ethnicity test kits have lots of data. People also have not moved around so much.
As a result, on averages country estimates are 20% inaccurate.
For countries such as in Asia and Africa, the test kit companies have a lot less data so they can be 50% out.
The ethnicity dna tests that we like, show in the test results how accurate their tests results are.
We have found that it is good to have this information. When it says that an ethnicity exists, is does. So it is saying things that you probably did not already know. However the exact percentages are to be seen as approximate.
The way to get the best results, is to do with more than one ethnicity dna test company. Then look at what each of them finds and work out averages of the results. This is because each kit has it’s own data and will have different ethnicity sample data to compare your genetics with.
How wrong and right, can even the best ethnicity dna test kit be
To say the tests are wrong is a more complicated story, because of factors to do with DNA. We go into this elsewhere on this site, so this is not just us trying to avoid the issue.
For simplicity here, the best way is to compare results from the different companies and see how they differ.
In statistical analysis, this is called variance analysis. It is a good way of seeing if something needs attention. It highlights if something is different from everything else.
Let us say there is a courier company. Most of the couriers deliver 175-225 packages a day, but one delivers 300 and onother only 100.
For the fast courier, could it be that they are doing the job properly and all the rest are lazy. Could it be though that they are serving an area that is easier to do deliveries in, or not doing the deliveries properly.
Same with the person who only delivers 100, could it be that they are lazy. Couuld it also be that they are in a countryside area where all the homes to deliver to are very far away from each other.
We have done loads of tests and this is what we found.
There were some tests that were rubbish, which is why we have the best ethnicity dna test kit reviews. However for the ones we like.
For small ethnicity percentages, even the best ethnicity dna test kit will say 0-2%. That means some will not notice it, others 1% and others 2%.
Even something as high as 7%, some test kits will not even detect it, or put it at 2%.
For something really broad, such as just saying which continent your ethnicity is from and that is over 90% of your ethnicity. A test may say you are between 90% and 96%.
So it really is quite approximate. Asian and African ancestry seems to be the cases where the variance is widest.
Does it matter how approximate, even the best ethnicity dna test kit can be
Most of the joy of doing an ethnicity dna test kit, comes from finding ethnicity that you did not know you had.
We have found no evidence of best ethnicity dna test kit saying that someone has an ethnicity that they do not have.
We have only found evidence of them saying a person has a different percentage, than maybe they do have.
This differing percentage only really matters for the ethnicities they have, that make up the smaller percentages of their ethncity.
So from our point of view, as a person is not told they have something they do not. They just are told that they may have it more or less than they do, it is not a disaster.
People are correctly finding out, they have ethnicities they never dreamed of and that is good.
A person just has to be aware of this, before they make massive judgements about themselves. They test results are just estimates.
Using words like ‘very likely’, ‘approximately’,’and about’, are a good idea.
If it is important to someone, they may like to do use an ancestry dna test kit from lots of different companies, then take the average to be what they really are.
You might also see other trends and patterns. For example if two companies have the same estimate and the third is very different. Maybe the third ethnicity dna test kit, has a better DNA data for that ethnicity than the others, such as for Africa or Asia. Maybe that company is just more wrong.
Also if it is really important to the person and they have a lot of Asian or African ethnicities, then use the more expensive and specialist ones from HomeDNA.
Digging deeper into the accuracy of ethnicity dna test kit results
The best ethnicity test kits will come back with data such as saying you are 25% German ancestry, plus percentages from other countries. The less good ones will be more approximate and just give continents or more general global areas.
Like many things though, this is just the beginning. By learning how they get this information and how it all works, the all important context of the information can tell you a lot more. Including it’s limits.
It is very easy to see the very slick and well polished graphics that your results will come with. Then from this think that all is perfect and 100% accurate.
That is marketing and not the fact that even the best ethnicity dna test kit is a new and evolving science.
Some tests results will say things like 0.5% or 0.3% and the results may have come back with this percentage. That is because it is done by a computer calculation and that was the result that came back from the computer.
However that does not mean your actual ethnicity is that precise.
In part they cover themselves by saying ethnicities are a prediction.
The information behind the percentages in an ethnicity dna test kit
The technical terms used for the percentages that you in your report are:
- Admixture: Means something that is mixed with something else. Also means the action of adding an ingredient to something else.
- Biographical estimation: This term is not in official dictionaries, but is more self explanatory
You can probably see why marketing people do not use the word admixture, it is not so fun and easy to understand.
For your results, it means matching you up with you up with populations in different places around the world. The reason the tests are so cheap, is that it is all done on a mass mechanised scale and by computers.
A person at the ethnicity dna test kit has probably not even seen you results, or at most just checked they do not say anything stupid.
They have a database of recent populations DNA and are comparing your results to that.
An ethnicity DNA testing kit currently looks at about 800 000 of the 6 billion genomes you have. This amount is increasing all the time.
Just before the start of the 21st Century, even the best and most expensive systems, which were just for universities and other such establishments, could only look at 100.
The limitation is that they have normally have most of their DNA samples to compare you with, from recent times. They have having to work things out from that.
Ethnicity DNA test kit results showing countries as opposed to continents
Sometimes an ethnicity DNA test kit will give back results based on countries, some of them will just be continents. These are the reasons that they separate the two:
From afar, countries can look the same
It is a common thing that someone sees their country as very different from neighbouring ones. However people from the other side of the world see them as almost the same.
People in America may see Korea as being like China. To someone in Hong Kong, China is totally different.
People in Asia may see almost all European countries as being the same. To someone in Germany, the Spanish are totally different.
This is a small issue and is reducing in importance as more work goes into the test kits. Also the science is looking at the genes so it is looking more at the real differences than people’s perceptions.
Countries may not be genetically different
There are cultural differences and genetic differences. A German person will have a different look to someone that is from the Mediterranean further south.
So the issues with separating out countries, as opposed to continents can be
1, The country may have people who are culturally different, but genetically they are very similar.
2, The country maybe new. It takes many thousands of years for ethnicity to change. Countries are normally hundreds of years old or a little more. This is because their borders change, they split apart, join together and so on.
An example is Yugoslavia, that through a bitter and divisive war, split up win 1992 and now no longer exists.
America is only hundreds of years old. Even seemingly old countries like France, can only be seen in their current form for hundreds and not thousands of years, as so much history has changed.
People in countries can vehemently say they are different, but they are not. This can be the irony of tribalism which creates un real views, which DNA can help to make clear.
3, The countries are closely related and so people mixed between each other a lot.
An example of this is the Scandinavian countries.
So people can expect that an ethnicity dna test kit should be able to see people by countries, but this is sometimes not so easy. As a result even if one does give a result based on countries, it should be seen as less accurate than just looking at the totals from each area of countries.
To what level can I be sure the best ethnicity dna test kit will be accurate from
You can be sure of the accuracy of data when it says you have ethnicity percentages from the following areas. That is down to this area size.
- North America
- The bit between North and South America, of Mexico down to Panama
- South America
- The bottom half of Africa
- The top half of Africa
- Southern Europe
- Central Europe
- Eastern Europe
- North Europe
Once it gets more accurate, the result percentages become less sure.
As you can clearly see, there is far more data in and near America and Europe where the companies have the most DNA samples from.
As more data comes in though, the results will get more precise.
When someone is using the best ethnicity dna test kit, they are paying for the work that went into their panel. A bit like with buying a film, music, or any other thing that a lot of work went into.
Although it also costs money to analyse the DNA, this can be outsourced to a general DNA testing lab by the company. From what we know, creating the panel is something that each company has had to do themselves and is why the quality of the results can be so different from each test kit.
Each company will state the size of it’s panel and how many different ethnicities are in it.
What we find is they also state the angle that shows them in the best light. Some will say they have the largest number of samples, others the different number of ethnicities more and so on. This is where a guide with the best ethnicity dna test kit reviews is important.
Why it is not possible for an ethnicity dna test kit, to be totally accurate
It is not possible for scientists to get a totally pure genetic sample for each ethnicity.
So when they compare your dna to each ethnicity, their samples for each ethnicity cannot be totally pure.
People often see themselves as having one particular ethnicity.
If they have parents, or grandparents that come from one particular ethnicity, they may see that they have more than one ethnicity.
However people with a careful eye, can see that even a person with a pure ethnicity of one type, actually has lots of different ethnicity traits. For example many people in the North of England, see themselves as English, but have some things that look Scandinavian and some things that do not. They are a mix of many different genetic ethnicity backgrounds.
Due to genetics more people are also becoming aware that in practice, there is hardly anyone of just one ethnicity.
However the main source of genetic samples to compare people’s results against, are other people. If everyone is a mix of breeds, scientists can never get a totally pure sample.
People have intermarried, travelled, migrated and so on. People have travelled through mainland Europe for so long, from so many different places. That the ethnicity genes in each country are hardly different. People have a mix of ethnicity genes from different areas, so it is not possible to get a sample from someone that has pure genes from that area.
An example quoted by the Ancestry dna ethnicity test kit. For people in Spain, 13% of their DNA is from Italy and Greece. It is equally hard to work out with a person from Italy or Greece, how much of their dna is from Spain.
People have been travelling between Spain, Greece and Italy all the times. Traders, politicians and so on.
Even kings and queens all over Europe, have organised marriages between their daughters and sons, with the sons of daughters of kings and queens from different countries. All for political purposes.
It is the same with all the continents of Asia, South America, Africa and so on.
So the more detailed an area a test says their results say about, the less reliable they really are. This is where a test taker needs to impartially look at themselves and their family. To see what really is, not what they have been told, or want to see. Also to have common sense.
An ethnicity dna test kit is a very useful tool, but a person also has to look at their looks, behaviours and so on.
It is interesting how everyone looks at how they may be descended from some famous royalty, not their other ancestors who were poor and lived in poverty.
Even so called stable and isolated communications still have changes over tens of thousands of years
A person may come from a community that has not moved for hundreds of years. They can trace back their ancestors to hundreds of years.
This is where it gets interesting, as they suddently find they have ethnicity from different countries.
For most people this is a fun discovery, for others this shatters their illusion that things never change.
A person can see that their ancestors lived in the North of England for many years. They can see the ancestral records going back to generations. However before these records started, the Vikings had invaded England
They then find that that they have Scandinavian ancestry and lots of other things.
In some areas which are isolated and people have not travelled into it. Their main ethnicity makes up most of their ethnicity percentages. It takes a lot of time to build this up and have it not shattered by immigration for some reason. In such areas, this has happened That is why people often find parts of the United Kingdom and European ancestry is strong in their ethnicity, because people were there for a long time.
In the United Kingdom there are more remote parts such as Devon or Dorset where the genetic ethnicities are very distinct. This is why some ethnicity dna test kits can show ethnicity from so many different and distinct parts of the United Kingdom.