What Dutch DNA Looks Like – 2018 edition

In 2016, I wrote a blog post comparing the ethnicity predictions between the three largest providers of DNA tests. Since then, some companies have changed their algorithms and I’ve tested with two more companies. Time for an update! I’ve kept the original article as-is so we can compare how the predictions change over time.

To recap, according to my tree, I’m mostly Dutch with a bit of German. DNA matches confirm that my tree is correct for the past several generations. I have some French Huguenot lines in the 1600s and some supposed noble lines in the 1200s and earlier from different parts of Europe. But in general, I’m about as Dutch as they come. How do the different testing companies show my ethnicity?

Ancestry

Ancestry's ethnicity estimate: 94% Western European

Ancestry’s ethnicity estimate

Ancestry’s ethnicity estimate hasn’t changed since 2016, and shows me as 94% Western European, and low confidence regions Great Britain (2%), Iberian Peninsula (2%), Ireland/Scotland/Wales (1%) and Scandinavia (<1%). I know that Ancestry is rolling out their new ethnicity prediction algorithm, but it hasn’t reached me yet so these predictions are the same as two years ago.

New since 2016 are “Genetic Communities.” Ancestry places me in the community “Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium & Luxembourg” which is spot on. When I click on that community, it shows that I most likely belong to the subgroup “Netherlands.” That’s pretty impressive!

23andMe

23andMe ethnicity predictions

23andMe ethnicity predictions

23andMe predicts me to be French & German (39.3%) and even suggests that’s probably from the Netherlands. That’s an improvement from two years ago, when they did not go down to the country level. But it also predicts a significant British and Irish component at 28.9%, probably from the United Kingdom, which is not corroborated by my tree, and neither is the 6.8% Scandinavian or 1.4% Eastern European. The percentages are slightly different than those in 2016, but with the same two large predicted regions. Apart from the addition of the country-level predictions, the results are pretty similar to 2016, and similarly incorrect.

What’s new since 2016 is a timeline view, which shows how these predictions translate to my family tree. 23andMe predicts I “most likely had a parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent who was 100% British & Irish. This person was likely born between 1890 and 1950.” Similarly, it suggests I had a Scandinavian ancestor 3-5 generations ago and an Eastern European ancestor 5-8 generations ago. My tree is mostly complete back that far, and there are no Brits, Scandinavians, or Eastern Europeans in these generations.

23andMe timeline prediction

23andMe timeline prediction

FamilyTreeDNA

FamilyTreeDNA Ethnicity predictions

FamilyTreeDNA Ethnicity predictions

FamilyTreeDNA had the worst prediction in 2016, completely missing my Western European DNA, and it’s gotten worse. It now thinks I’m 89% British, 4% Southern European and 2% Middle Eastern. It did not pick up any of my North-West European DNA.

In contrast, FamilyTreeDNA thinks my mother is 61% West and Central European, and my paternal uncle is 59% West and Central European, so there’s something about my kit which makes them completely miss the mark.

MyHeritage

MyHeritage ethnicity predictions

MyHeritage ethnicity predictions

I uploaded my raw FamilyTreeDNA file to MyHeritage and got a prediction there too. Even though the raw data is the same, each company has different reference populations and ethnicity prediction algorithms, which explains the differences in the results.

MyHeritage predicts me to be 64.2% North and West European, 32.8% Irish, Scottish, and Welsh, 1.8% Ashkenazi Jewish, and 1.2% Middle Eastern. Except for Ancestry, it has the highest prediction of North-Western European DNA, which according to my research should be 100%. I have no idea why MyHeritage determined I have Ashkenazi Jewish or Middle Eastern ancestry, but these amounts are so low that they’re probably just noise. The Irish/Scotish/Welsh they predict is a subdivision of the higher-level North and West Europe group. At that higher level they predict me to be 97.0% North-Western European, which matches my tree.

LivingDNA

LivingDNA ethnicity predictions

LivingDNA ethnicity predictions

LivingDNA predicts me to be 94.4% British/Irish, 1.1% North-Western European, 2.5% North Turkish, and 1.9% North-Western Caucuses. The British is way too high, the North-western European is way too low, and I have no idea where the Turkish and Caucasus comes from.

Living DNA - Detailed predictionsLiving DNA - Detailed predictions

Living DNA – Detailed predictions

Living DNA even breaks down my supposed 94.4% British further into 21% South Central England, 17.3% South Yorkshire, 15.1% East Anglia, 13.6% South England, 13.1% Lincolnshire, 5.2% Central England, 3% Cornwall, 1.7% Northwest Scotland , 1.7% Aberdeenshire, 1.6% Devon and 1.2% Southeast England. It thinks my North and West European is Germanic (1.1%).

Clearly, LivingDNA suggests a level of detail for their ethnicity predictions they can’t deliver. If they get it this wrong on the parts-of-Europe level, there’s no use in splitting the groups up further into shires and regions.

Conclusion

Like in 2016, the ethnicity estimate that most closely resembles my tree was delivered by Ancestry. They not only got the largest group right, but even suggested that I might belong to the “Netherlands” genetic community.

MyHeritage and 23andMe recognized significant North-Western European contributions to my DNA, although they also attributed significant amounts to the British Isles.

The worst predictions for my ethnicity came from FamilyTreeDNA and LivingDNA, that both thought I was predominantly British. It is interesting that FamilyTreeDNA recognized Western European in my mother and paternal uncle’s DNA but not in mine, which shows that one person’s results should not be used as a benchmark.

The predictions haven’t changed that much since 2016: companies that got it right then still do, and companies that missed the mark then still miss it today. Of the two new companies I’ve tested with, MyHeritage’s prediction best matched my tree and picked up a large part of my North-West European DNA. LivingDNA’s incorrect prediction of me as a Brit was disappointing to me, since they marketed themselves as specialists in ethnicity predictions rather than finding matches.

I’m intrigued that FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, and LivingDNA all picked up some Middle Eastern/Turkish/Caucasian DNA, while this was not picked up by 23andMe and Ancestry. My tree does not have any indication for ancestors from that area, apart from a Byzantine princess that supposedly married one of my ancestors in the Middle Ages, more than twenty generations ago. Her contribution, if that line proves to be correct, would be negligable after so many generations. For now, I will dismiss these results as an anomaly of the prediction algorithms.

I can see how these types of predictions could lead people astray who don’t already have a good tree. An adoptee getting these results could easily think they’re half British or more. People often think that low percentages are noise, but my results show that even 94.4% can be wrong. To quote Judy Russell, it’s still not soup. At the continent level, however, all companies agreed that I’m mostly European, so my recommendation is to take anything below that with a bucket of salt.

Have you had your DNA tested? How did your ethnicity predictions match the known information from your tree? Please leave a comment to share your experiences.

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink is a professional genealogist in the Netherlands. She has been doing genealogy for almost 25 years. Her expertise is helping people from across the world find their ancestors in the Netherlands. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.

Comments

  1. Bart Lenselink says:

    FTDNA: 78% West and Central Europe, 22% British Isles
    MyHeritage: 67.1% Scandinavian, 17.3% North- and Western European, 8.9% Balkan, 6.7% Italian.

    According my pedigree: Almost all from the provinces of Gelderland and Overijssel (The Netherlands) and a few moved in from adjacent Westphalia (Germany). So I would expect to see 100% Western European.
    I wonder what the Benelux project of Living DNA will produce.

    • Interesting! I’m especially intrigued at your high Scandinavian prediction from MyHeritage, which mine didn’t have though my father’s half of the family is from the same part of the Netherlands as yours.

      • Jeff Langerak says:

        ,My DNA was 50 percent dutch German from the Netherlands as my family is last name is langerak, 15 Scandinavian and 15 Irish 15 English as my other side was from hull England with 3 percent Iberian mine seemed to match as viking spent large a.ount of time in hull England and so did the Spaniards.

  2. Sieger Witvoet says:

    I did a DNA test with MyHeritage. It shows that I’m 48.1% English, 36.5% North and Western European and 15.4% Scandinavian. My ancestors mostly are from the Northeastern part of The Netherlands (Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe) and part German. Don’t know where the English and Scandinavian come from 🙂

    • There was a lot of back-and-forth between Scandinavia (Vikings), England (Angles, Saxons), Germany, and Friesland in the Middle Ages and before so it is not that surprising that it’s hard to tell a difference in the DNA of descendants from these regions.

  3. Matthew Newbold says:

    Yvette,

    I had my DNA tested by Ancestry a couple years ago. It showed 39% Western Europe, 35% Ireland/Scotland/Wales, 12% Scandinavia, 6% Europe South, 4% Europe East, 3% Great Britain and 1% European Jewish and Iberian Peninsula.
    My family tree shows is about 64% English, 21% Dutch, 6% German, and smaller percentages of Swiss German, Scotch Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Belgium, French, Italian and Ashkenazi Jewish.
    While the percentages from Ancestry don’t appear to jive with my family tree especially 3% Great Britain I wonder if this shows that most of my English Ancestry come from Celtic stock rather than the later Anglo-Saxon migrations. Who knows?
    One thing that gives me high confidence in Ancestry is that it listed my father and mother as my parents and my brother and sister as immediate family (who have all now had their DNA tested with Ancestry).
    I also had my mtDNA tested thru familytreedna with a result of H1b1. I still haven’t figured out how to use the results.
    Yvette, have you had your mtDNA tested?

  4. Gary Bouwkamp says:

    I tested with FamilyTree DNA and the results somewhat matched my tree, showing me as western Europe (Netherlands, Germany, Austria, France) My documented tree is Netherlands and Germany with a little Irish. I uploaded the results to MyHeritage and they showed north west Europe, plus Scandinavian, and British)

    But, just as your results, my LivingDNA results were way off, showing 84% British and only 14% western European. I have no documented British, only one Irish Gr-Gr-Grandmother. Those inaccuracies cause me to question the Haplogroup info that was provided by LivingDNA.

    • Kaniel Outis says:

      Switzerland comes under Western Europe, whereas Austria comes under Eastern Europe. Austrians have an 81.5% genetic similarity with Czechs. Western Austria is Western European, as the Y-haplogroup R1b is dominant, whereas in Eastern Austria R1a is more common.

      The reason British comes up for North West Europeans is because autosomally they are extremely close to British autosomal DNA. If one looks at European genetic clusters, one sees that they are divided into quadrants (North West (UK, Eire, Benelux, Germany, Switzerland, Scandinavia, France), North East (Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Baltic States, Finland, Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine), South West (Iberian Peninsula, Italy, Malta), and South East (Balkan peninsula)). People who are Dutch can actually show up as British quite easily.

  5. Ad Vermue says:

    Most of my family both father and mother from Zealand. Where came they from 1400?

    • As this article does, DNA predictions for ethnicity are pretty poor so the only way to find out whee your ancestors were from in the 1400s is be doing genealogical research. Most lines in the Netherlands can be traced back to the 1600s or late 1500s. Going back to the 1400s may be possible depending on their social status and the sources that are available for the area where they lived.

  6. Nice blog Yvette!. But as I understand one gets his or her atDNA from their parents, grand parents, great grand parents and so on. Random pieces of atDNA. But how far does the origins predictor looks back in time? After 8 generations, like 8 x 30 years = about 250 years no real atDNA comes from those ancestors I guess. So if you can proof that 8 generations of ancestors lived in the Netherlands, where does the British DNA come from? Or are pieces of atDNA inheretit from 10.000 ybp when there was no North Sea but Doggerbank connected the UK, Netherlands and Scandinavia? I cannot imagine atDNA to be past on all those years… Still there are a lot of Dutch people with British origins witch on paper are not real. Are Algoritmes like these and others to be found at Gedmatch (Europgenes etc) not really to be taken seriously?

  7. Doris Waggoner says:

    Yvette,

    My brother did his DNA through Ancestry early in 2017, I did mine about six months later, and sometime since then, our sister did hers, both through Ancestry. Interestingly, when he first did his, the ethnicity showed him as 38% Scandinavian, though the research I’ve done has shown our mother’s family is completely Norwegian as far back as the church records go, into the early 1600s and in a few cases the late 1500s. As you say, the Vikings got around, so some of the English in Yorkshire who emigrated to Massachusetts in 1638 may have had Scandinavian genes as well. We also have New Netherland ancestors, some there as early as the late 1620s. I found one man who was born in Norway, emigrated to Amsterdam, married there, then to New Netherland. So the “original” Scandinavian should be well over 38%. Indeed, over time, the Ancestry percentages from Scandinavia have crept up, and now show closer to the 50% that my tree shows. I know we have some German ancestors, and Scots-Irish, and a few whose ethnicity we haven’t accounted for yet. But Ancestry still shows the strange 1% from Southern Europe, and <1% from the Caucus, both of which seem highly unlikely. Another quote I like from Judy Russell is that at this point the ethnicity estimates are good for "cocktail party" conversation. Your comparison of what yours look like across various companies really makes that point well.

    Doris

  8. As long as there is no equal worldwide reference method to rely on, I will never have my DNA tested. I read a lot about people having very different results from their DNA matches. So what is it worth?
    And, we weren’t there when a person was conceived, so it could also have been the foreign butler who made the ancestor pregnant.
    We can have our trees all worked out, we can have our DNA tested, but according to all documents (which are just pieces of paper), and the DNA techniques we have (which is no worldwide standard), we will never know for real where we come from.

    • DNA tests give you two types of results: ethnicity predictions (highly speculative, as you can see in this article) and DNA matches, people you share DNA with. Those are accurate and very useful for genealogical research. I’ve used those results to verify parent-child relationships and to correct situations where the biological and legal father did not turn out to be the same person.

  9. Stephanie Fifield says:

    Hi Yvette, I just got my Dad’s DNA back. I started with Ancestry and also uploaded to My Heritage.
    I have his family tree go back to the 1500’s. They basically spent the past 500 years in Noord Brabant (Dussen, Breda and Tilburg). Apparently my Dad is 80% British! That is more British than my mother who is actually British haha! They said it was from 12,000 years ago when the sea was low enough to walk between England and Western Europe.

    • Personally, I think it’s more plausible that Dutch and British DNA are similar because they descend from the same migrations (Saxons into England and into the Netherlands). Another great example that we be careful with these predictions below the continent level.

  10. Kaniel Outis says:

    Switzerland comes under Western Europe, whereas Austria comes under Eastern Europe. Austrians have an 81.5% genetic similarity with Czechs. Western Austria is Western European, as the Y-haplogroup R1b is dominant, whereas in Eastern Austria R1a is more common.

    The reason British comes up for North West Europeans is because autosomally they are extremely close to British autosomal DNA. If one looks at European genetic clusters, one sees that they are divided into quadrants (North West (UK, Eire, Benelux, Germany, Switzerland, Scandinavia, France), North East (Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Baltic States, Finland, Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine), South West (Iberian Peninsula, Italy, Malta), and South East (Balkan peninsula)). People who are Dutch can actually show up as British quite easily.

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