Which is more accurate AncestryDNA or 23andMe?

I've been researching my ancestry, on and off, for about 30 years. That included interviewing elderly relatives, family histories, photographs, documents, etc. It progressed onto BMD certificates, Census, and many, many visits to local record offices, churches, and archives across Britain in order to examine parish registers, transcripts, minute books, etc.

These days I have the luxury of online genealogical resources, and the ability of searching online data bases. To cut a long story short, I have accumulated a family history that includes the names of 279 recorded, direct ancestors, 277, of which lived in South East England, particularly in the East Anglian County of Norfolk (the other two were a Swiss 3 x great grandparent and his named father).

At Generation 6 (3 x great grandparent), I can say that on paper, I am 97% South East English (including 75% East Anglian), and 3% Swiss. In other words, pretty much of local East Anglian ancestry. Here is a map showing my recorded ancestors - blue via my father (minus the few in Switzerland), red via my mother:

Okay, I will still have some mistakes in my genealogical research, particularly on more distant lines, where records start to be come more scarce and have less survival. There would also be some NPEs (non parental events). However, if I compare my pedigree with DNA matches / cousins that share common ancestors both in segments and on paper trails, I get this (shaded areas verified with DNA matches to paper trails):
So there is a reasonable verification there.

That is my background. The results? Remember, Generation 6:

97% English
3% Swiss

Well before phasing, 23andme gave me:

100% European: 94% NW European. 3% Southern European. 3% Broadly European. Broken down to:
32% British & Irish
27% French & German
7% Scandinavian
29% Broadly NW European
2% Broadly Southern European (including 0.5% Iberian)

After phasing with a surviving parent, it adjusted to:

100% European: 96% NW European. 2% Southern European. 2% Broadly European.
38% British & Irish (23% from father, 15% from mother)
24% French & German (13% from father, 11% from mother)
0.8% Scandinavian (from mother alone)
34% Broadly NW European (22% from father, 12% from mother)
2% Broadly Southern European (1% from father, 1% from mother)

Not very impressive is it?

AncestryDNA gave me:



Still way off, but a lot closer and more precise than 23andme. They also assigned me both to the Southern England Genetic Community, and to the East Anglia & Essex Genetic Community, perfectly correct.

Therefore in summary - I've come to the conclusion that NO current autosomal DNA test for ancestry is capable of accurately predicting your ancestry below a very large region, such as NW Europe - unless your ancestors belong to a particularly well defined population that avoided medieval admixture. They are all inaccurate. More important to me now is that they have fat databases of testers, with a system of searching them alongside family trees, ancestor locations and surnames. However, side by side - for my results, and weighed simply against recorded family history, I have to pronounce AncestryDNA/.com to be more accurate than 23andme.

Genetic Genealogy - DNA Relative Matches

I have new DNA cousin "matches".  This is a very important avenue of DNA testing for genealogy and ancestry that I have simply missed until recently.  Up to now, I've concentrated on DNA testing for general ancestry (or ethnicity as some businesses will call it).  The problem was that I first tested with 23andme, and simply, using their heavy USA customer base, and user unfriendly "experiences", I couldn't find any DNA relatives that actually had paper trails that could correlate to my own.

One of the problems is I feel, is that an awful lot of Eastern English migration to the Atlantic Coast of North America, occurred very early - late 16th to early 18th centuries AD.  As a result, although some generous matching systems (such as 23andme's) suggests much more recent shared ancestry, in reality, our links to our distant USA cousins are so old, that all they do is reflect that my distant cousins have Puritan, New England, and Virginian ancestry from Eastern England.  Even for those that do claim to trace ancestry to those pilgrim fathers - I can't.  Certainly not for the thousands of my direct ancestors for Generations 11 - 14.  I don't think any of us can.  Chuck in a bit of genetic folding, and all that these distant relationships is really telling us is, that we both have some ancestry from south east England between 300 and 600 years ago.

Then I tested with Ancestry.com, Ancestry.co.uk, AncestryDNA or whatever you want to call that genealogy mega-business.  Their matching system is dumbed down to the frustrating level.  No chromosome locations or chromosome browsers for painting.  Instead however, they have the fattest database of testers and customers - some of whom, will like myself, be subscription slaves to their family tree and documentary genealogical services.  Their matching systems may cut out chromosome data - but on the flip side, you can browse trees, surnames, ancestral locations, of your DNA matches.  As a consequence, I've found 14 matches that share DNA, with predicted relationships - that correlate to a paper trail relationship.

In addition I am now scouring GEDmatch, 23andme, and FT-DNA Family Finder for more relative DNA matches.  I'm recording everything (including chromosome locations when available) onto a spreadsheet.  The image at the top of this page demonstrates my DNA matches where they share ancestry so far.  The darker the shade, the stronger the verification.

I'm starting to see how this is a better tool to understanding, or verifying ancestry, than any stupid ethnicity / ancestry composition by DNA.  Family isn't always biological.  However, finding a genetic correlation is the ultimate evidence to strengthen a tree.  It's fascinating to see actual paper research turning up as segments of inherited DNA on matches.