Father to Son documented genealogy V LDNA test results

I received my son Edward's Living DNA results yesterday, 26 days before the deadline (albeit second sample as first failed. Edward was born severely disabled with severe development delay and doesn't always want to give a swab sample). Here I review all of the Living DNA results against what I believe ancestry is based solely on documented genealogical sources. These documented sources are supported only by family history, interviews, thirty years of documentary research - much of it very local, photographs (likenesses), social background (mainly rural working class, many very localised), local social history, and also in my case by DNA cousin matching:

NPEs and genealogical mistakes (particularly over six generations ago) are possible. However, bearing in mind the above factors, I feel that I have a reasonably good documented record to compare DNA-tests-for-ancestry against.

The two tests in the table below, are my son Edward (left), and myself (right). We are both British by nationality and English by ethnicity. We live in East Anglia, home of many of our documented ancestors. I am mainly of East Anglian ancestry, but with some Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Northants, and Swiss lines. Edward's mother by ancestry is half English (Berks, Wilts, East Anglia, Beds, Somerset) and half Irish.

The "actual documented ancestry" are percentages divided into LDNA sub regions, based on Generation 6 (32 x 3rd great grandparents) with some references to Generation 7 when noteworthy.


Living DNA has made great commercial headway through the use of the POBI dataset, that had been acclaimed by the original team, as demonstrating a distinguishable pattern that aligned well with the Anglo-Saxon period British kingdoms. The reference samples were well chosen, with geographically local born grandparents, and a bias to rural testers over urban (that see more mobility). However, LDNA, we know, have made lot's of alterations with their sub regions.

In both the case of Edward's and my documented East Anglian ancestry, the LDNA saw less than 50% of what I'd expect. I believe that some of our EA went elsewhere - Lincs, SE England, Germanic, Scandinavian, etc.

Edward got a big chunk of Lincs and SE England that I just do not think is real.

I got 10% Tuscan that I don't believe. Something could however correlate to a Swiss 3 x great grandparent. But that percentage? I know it is possible. Edward got no Tuscany.

Edward, with his 25% actual Irish ancestry received 98% GB & Ireland. His father, myself, although 97% actual, received only 70% GB & Ireland. I think that rather like with other test companies - Ireland, Scotland, and Wales look more "British" than do the English on tests. Yet Edward only received a mere 2% Irish on the test! That is an even more serious underscore.

Before I tested with Living DNA, I really was starting to lose faith in autosomal DNA testing for general ancestry. When Living DNA launched, my hopes were raised that with the right references, computing power, and chips, that one day, they could be much more accurate and meaningful than they have been up to now.

After Edward's results, I'm starting to lose a bit of faith again. I feel that these tests are good for pin pointing a corner of Europe at best. Beyond that, there may be average PCA plots, but they are far too fuzzy to base "ancestry composition", my origins", or "ethnicity estimate" percentages on with any degree of certainty or accuracy. Fun yes. Useful to build a personal DNA "ancestral population flavour and PCA plot" yes. But that's all. Beyond that is a roll of the dice. Too many testers take their results far too literally. Too many testers also display brand loyalty.

As for haplogroups, Edward's results were disappointingly basic.


mtDNA H (only 4 mutations listed on the csv file).

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.

Living DNA - June 2017 updates

Living DNA produced their first update.  An update by a "DNA for Ancestry" business can sound like an admission of failure.  To some, it could sound like a recall due to product failure.  "Your previous ancestry was a mistake".  This only applies if you have bought into some marketing campaigns, that autosomal DNA tests for ancestry actually work even close to 100%.  Surprise, they don't!  They are cutting edge, in development, and far from accurate below a Continental level. They are still somewhere in the twilight between being nothing more than a genetic lottery, and actually becoming a tool that is useful.  Therefore "updates" are to be welcomed.  They are a sign that the business wants to improve the test accuracy.  That is to the credit of Living DNA.

My latest results?  First of all, a quick recap on my actual ancestry, as supported by family history, local history, ethnicity, and by a traditionally researched record based family tree that includes over 270 direct ancestors over the past 380 years.  I'm English.  Indeed, all of my direct ancestors, appear to have been South East English.  More precise, I'm East Anglian.  On family history and recorded genealogy, I'd suggest that between 75% and 85% of my direct ancestors over the past three centuries were East Anglian, almost all from the County of Norfolk.  Others on my father's side, if not in East Anglia, still in Southern England.

That I feel, makes me an interesting subject for ancestral auDNA testing.  You see, my ancestry is very localised here in South East England.  DNA tests such as 23andMe that claim to accurately plot ancestry over the past 300 - 500 years should get me.  But they don't.  This is because their algorythms, and reference data set designs fail over different ages.  They also (although they sometimes deny it), fail to discriminate against older population background.  We East Anglians and South East English have been heavily admixed with non-British populations on the European Continent.  Not so much over the past 500 years, so much as over the past few thousand years.

The new Results.

Below are my Living DNA regional ancestry, based on Standard Mode.

Below are my Standard Mode results broken down into sub regions.

Below is a table, comparing my recorded ancestry, with my early Living DNA results in Standard, now my revised results.

Living DNA has now introduced two new modes of confidence called complete and cautious modes.  First the Complete results:

Below are my Complete Mode results in regional:

Below are my Complete Mode results for sub-regional:

Now the Cautious results:

Below are my Cautious Mode results in regional:

Finally, below are my Cautious Mode results for sub-regional:


No auDNA test, by any DNA-for-ancestry company has yet come close to assigning me 100% English or even British.  They don't get me.  23andMe gives me 32-37% "British & Irish".  FT-DNA gives me "36% British".  Therefore, to be fair, Living DNA, giving me 70% "Great Britain or Ireland", give me the best result.  However, Living DNA has started out with the largest, best quality British data-set of any DNA-for-ancestry company, and is often accused of a bias towards Britain in it's results.  If so, then my 70% still looks weak.  They are planning on producing similar quality data sets soon for Ireland, Germany, then France. Therefore any results, will as I started out saying at the beginning of this post, be perpetually progressive.  Businesses that do not improve data sets or algorithms, will not get any better.  They are not progressive.

I get Southern European in other tests besides this one.  Living DNA points to Tuscany.  FT-DNA before a recent update gave me 32% Southern European, although they have revised this down to a little noise from South-East Europe!  23andMe gives me 2% Southern European - but this appears nothing unusual for an English tester.  None-the-less, I am interested in trying to better understand, why some of these tests give me this "Southern European" admixture, for which my family history, local history, and recorded genealogy has absolutely no account.  It equally reflects in ancient calculators that give me a little bit more Neolithic Farmer than for other English, which on average, already have a little more Neolithic Farmer than other British or Irish populations do.

The New Complete and Cautious Modes

How do I feel about these?  At Sub-Regional level, the Complete mode starts to get silly.  For the first time, Living DNA at this level, starts to even suggest some ancestry from Wales, SW Scotland, and Northern Ireland.  Only small percentages - but I just don't buy them.

However, the Cautious Mode, I start to like.  My British ancestry doesn't increase, but it looks more realistic, although with strange enigmatic suggestions still of Italian ancestry in the mix.  At Sub-Regional level, Cautious Mode also looks a little more likely.  My East Anglian remains at 37%, I however, lose Lincolnshire (which does exist in my record), but retain Cornwall.  I think Cornwall unlikely - however, there is just a small hint that something could be there, in surname evidence of a brick-walled great great great grandparent.  So maybe, just maybe.

East Anglia

I seriously doubt that my East Anglian ancestry over the past 300 years genuinely falls much below 75%.  Living DNA only appears to recognise a half of it at 37% - but they claim to be easily able to identify East Anglian DNA.  They call it "Distinct" because of it's high levels of Continental admixture.  They have admitted that based on their early data sets, that it was hard to separate from Germanic.  I don't know why it isn't stronger in my results.  I honestly do believe that the test underplays it on my results, even though it is the strongest of any population in my test results.  My East Anglian ancestors lived mainly in Eastern, Central, and Southern Norfolk.

Living DNA also provide a chart of the Continental "contributing regions" to East Anglian ancestry:

Finally, a chart breaking down their proposal of my British ancestry at Cautious mode:

I'm not disappointed with Living DNA.  That it does identify me as 37% East Anglian is I believe, incredibly good, and far advanced over any other DNA-for-ancestry test.  I'm looking forward to more updates in the future.  Well done Living DNA.

Thoughts in understanding ancestry DNA

Above image.  My Global 10 Genetic Map coordinates:  PC1,PC2,PC3,PC4,PC5,PC6,PC7,PC8,PC9,PC10 ,0.019,0.0272,0.0002,-0.0275,-0.0055,0.0242,0.0241,-0.0033,-0.0029,0.0015.  The cross marks my position on a genetic map by David Wesolowski, of the Eurogenes Blog

The above map shows genetic distances between different human populations around the planet.  Look how tightly the Europeans cluster.  Razib Kahn recently blogged on just this subject.  The fact of the matter is that the greatest diversity exists between populations outside of Europe, particularly within Africa, and between African and non-African populations.  However, we obsess over tiny differences within European populations, when in truth, most Western Eurasians are very closely related.  We share ancient ancestry from slightly varied mixes of only three base ancestral groups, with the last layer arriving only 4,300 years ago.  This obsession in the Market drives DNA to the consumer businesses to largely ignore non-European diversity, and to focus too closely on differences that blur into each other.

The above image is from CARTA lecture. 2016. Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute. It shows the currently three known founder populations of Europeans and their average percentages.

However, at the same time the new Living DNA service seeks to zoom in closer on British populations, attempting to detect ancestry percentages from such tiny zones as "East Anglia".  They appear to be having a level of success with it as well, although that blurriness, that overlap and closeness of populations in Europe gives problems.  Germans are given false percentages of British, Some Scottish appear as Northern Irish, and the Irish dilute into false British areas.  However, I've seen enough results now to suggest that it is far from genetic astrology.  They get it correct to a certain level, particularly for us with English ancestry.  Ancestry DNA customers expect perfection.  I don't think that we will ever get that from such closely related populations at this resolution, but it does provide a new genealogical tool that can point us into some revealing directions.

Above image.  My Living DNA Map.  Based on my recorded genealogy, I estimate 77% to 85% East Anglian ancestry over the past 250 years or so.  Living DNA at Standard Mode gave me 39%.  I'm impressed by that.  That a DNA test can recognise even at a 50% success, my recent ancestry in such a tiny zone of the planet.  I have doubts though that this sort of test will ever be free of errors, and mistakes.  The safest DNA test for ancestry is still one that is based on more distinct populations, and outside of Africa, that can be as wide as "European".  23andMe for example in their "Standard Mode" (75% confidence), assign me 97.3% European, and 0.3% Unassigned.  That is a pretty safe result.

Autosomal DNA tests for ancestry, particularly for West Eurasian (European and Western Asia) descendants, are not reliable at high resolution.  If you want to get really local, then sure - do it.  However, only use the results as an indication, not as a truth.  Populations in Western Eurasia are closely related, and share recent common descent.  There has been a high degree of mobility and admixture ever since.  Some modern populations tested do not have a high level of deep rooted local ancestry in that region.  They overlap with each other.  Keep researching and meander through different perspectives of what your older pre-recorded ancestry could have been.

Above image by Anthrogenica board member Tolan.  Based on 23andMe AC results.  My results skew away from British, and towards North French.  He generated this map, plotting myself (marked as Norfolk in red), and my Normand Ancestral DNA twin Helge in yellow.  My results fall in the overlap with French.  Helge is Normand but in AC appears more British than myself.  I am East Anglian yet in this test appear more French than he does.

My Ancestral Events Mapped

Here I map the ancestral events as recorded on my Gramps genealogical database.  These events can be baptisms, marriages, census records, etc.  The larger the dot, the more events for that particular parish.  I have modified images of Southern England from OpenStreetMap.org Copyright attribution-sharealike 2.0 generic.

My Mother's Ancestral Events.

This includes the recorded events for my mother's 134 recorded direct ancestors and siblings.  As you can see, her known ancestry over the past 330 years has been incredibly localised!  All English.  All East Anglian.  Almost entirely in Norfolk - with one line drifting back to nearby Suffolk.  An incredibly dense cluster in East Norfolk, around the River Yare in Broadland.  Sure enough second cousin and third cousin marriages have been detected in her tree.

My Father's Ancestral Events

This includes the recorded events for my late father's 116 recorded direct ancestors and siblings.  A little more travelled over the past 330 years, although I feel that the events record has a bias in research to show this - as indeed, I estimate his known Norfolk ancestry over the past 330 years to amount to at least 70% of his combined heritage.  Nonetheless, some of his lines trace back temporarily to London, then back mainly to Oxfordshire and the Thames Valley.  All South-East English again.

None of this makes my family any more special than any other family anywhere else in the World, with any type of recent heritage and admixture.  Indeed, the English are a particularly admixed population. However, in testing commercial DNA tests for ancestry, I feel that we offer a good reference sample of SE English, and even East Anglian Norfolk.

I'm particularly interested in how these commercial DNA companies are failing to discriminate ancient or population admixture, from recent (350 years) family admixture.  Some populations they are able to detect with some certainty and accuracy.  However, others such as the English, not at all.  They are unable - despite their claims otherwise, to break recent autosomal admixture on lines over the past ten generations, from earlier, sometimes much earlier population admixtures.

I'm looking forward to seeing if the new Living DNA test fares any better, with it's rich British data set.

DNA.land - raw file comparison

Comparing the ancestry results of two raw files from the same tester (myself) uploaded to DNA.land.

Paper trail and family history 100% SE English, mainly East Anglian. 249 direct ancestors named in documentary research.

23andMe result before phasing (spec mode):
100% European broken into
94% Northwestern Europe
3% Southern Europe
3% unassigned European

Broken down further to:
32% British & Irish
27% French & German
7% Scandinavian
29% Broadly NW European
0.5% Iberian
2.4% Broadly South European

23andMe result after phasing with one parent (spec mode):
100% European
96% Northwestern European
1.8% Southern European
2.2% Broadly European

Broken down further to:
37% British & Irish
22% French & German
1% Scandinavian
36% Broadly NW European
1.8% Broadly Southern European

FT-DNA Family Finder My Origins.
100% European

Broken down further to:
36% British Isles
32% Southern Europe
26% Scandinavia
6% Eastern Europe

Now I am comparing the two raw files for the same person, uploaded to, and analysed for ancestry, by DNA.land:

23andMe V4 raw file for myself on DNA.land:

100% West Eurasian.
77% North West European
19% South European (broken into 13% Balkan / 6.1% South/Central European
2.4% Finnish
1.3% Ambiguous

FT-DNA FF raw file for myself on DNA.land:
100% West Eurasian
75% North West European
25% Balkan

Just for more information:

My mother's 23andMe raw file on on DNA.land:
100% West Eurasian
80% North West European
10% South European (broken into 7.7% South/Central Europe / 2.4% Balkan)
6.4% Finnish
2.3% Sardinian
1.5% Ambiguous 


Phasing on 23andme suggested that I inherit (in spec mode) nearly 1% Southern European from each parent. That each of my very East Anglian parents had a Southern European ancestor within the past 300 - 500 years is highly unlikely, considering 1) the paper trail, and 2) local history in this rural area. Therefore I feel that this reflects much older background ancestry for the local SE English population. Ancient DNA calculators also predict that I have higher than average levels of ENF/EEF than other local populations such as the Irish and Scottish, and lower levels of ANE. This appears associated with my Southern European flavour that some tests suggest as a minority percentage. FT-DNA suggested 32% Southern European! Some commentators have suggested that this might indicate significant French admixture to the SE English population, perhaps during the Norman and Medieval periods, carrying a southern signal higher into lowland Britain. Earlier admixture into Lowland Britain from the south, is also possible during late prehistory and the Roman period.

DNA.land has been noted for a bias to predicting both Balkan, and Finnish ancestry for testers, and my results are no exception. I feel that as with all current autosomal DNA test/analysis for ancestry, that DNA.land has a way to go. As with the other predictors, it is very successful at recognising me as 100% European (although ironically my Y-DNA is Western Asian). It is fair at spotting me as NW European, but NOT as successful as 23andMe. Below that level, once again it falls down - but I feel that this is understandable, as most predictors fail down for anciently admixed populations such as the English. They are far more successful at spotting for example, Irish/Scottish. For the English, we tend to be ripped across different European populations. The Southern European element is a particular surprise - but all of the testers so far have been confused by this background signal. Dienekes has himself, suggested Southern European DNA coming into England with the Normans:


I'm starting to settle with this hypothesis, although I still have some interest in possible Southern European admixture earlier.

Finally... The two raw files for one person, have produced slightly different results. The FT-DNA raw file has I believe, more tested (but different?) SNPs than the 23andMe file. It would be interesting to know the differences. DNA.land, using the FT-DNA FF file, does not see Finnish, or South/Central European, but enhances the Balkan.

FT-DNA My Ancient Origins

Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) have released a new, unexpected feature to their autosomal DNA Family Finder package.  It is clearly aimed at their customers (both new and existing), of mainly European heritage.  It uses ancient DNA references to plot our ancient ancestry.  It breaks European's ancient Eurasian ancestry down into four groups:

  • Hunter-Gatherer (Western Hunter-Gatherer)
  • Farmer (Early Neolithic Farmer)
  • Metal Age Invader (Yamnaya / Bronze Age Steppe immigration)
  • Non European (Other)

First of all, I welcome this new analysis.  Combined with the latest cutting edge research into the origin of the Eurasians, and with other open source calculators of ancient origin available via GedMatch - I feel that it can help us get personal with our ancient Eurasian roots.

However... unfortunately it has faults, as the online community quickly picked up.  In particular, with the Metal Age Invader component.  FT-DNA suggests that it represents the Yamnaya admixture event - where Copper or Early Bronze Age pasturalists, mounted on their horses, expanded from the Pontic and Caspian Steppes of Eurasia, into Europe around 5,000 years ago.  But 1) it doesn't include any ANE (Ancient North Eurasian) component from the Mal'ta-Buret reference, and 2) it of course cannot distinguish it's Western Hunter-Gatherer reference from that inherited directly within Europe or elsewhere.

All that the FT-DNA Metal Age Invader reference appears to represent, is the population known as Caucasus Hunter-Gatherer.  A minority component of Yamnaya DNA as we currently see it.

For the record, as the screendump above shows, my FT-DNA Ancient Origins are:

9% Metal Age Invader

47% Farmer

44% Hunter-Gatherer

0% Non European

Now that I've got that covered, I can move onto my next blog post, which I find more interesting - how I use My Ancient Origins to try to reconstruct my ancestry from 11,000 to 4,000 years ago.