Comparing DNA Testing Companies: Ethnicity Estimates


As genetic testing for ethnicity and genealogy becomes more popular, potential test-takers are wondering which company to test with. What’s accurate? Who has the largest database for matches? And so on… In this post, I’m going to explore my ethnicity test results and share what company I have found most accurate for me.

I’ve previously discussed my paper trail in great detail but, in summary, I’m about 75% English, 19% Scottish, and 6% Irish. When I DNA-tested for the first time I was really interested in what the test would show about my ancient heritage and how it would match up with my paper trail. I also had an interest in how DNA testing would help with genealogical research, however, this interest mainly grew after receiving my test results once I was able to work with my genetic matches.

I originally tested with AncestryDNA. Since then I have uploaded to Gedmatch and DNA.LAND, as well as transferred results to FamilyTreeDNAMyHeritage, and Wegene. I have also tested immediate family (parents and brother) for comparison and uploaded their results to some of the aforementioned sites.

[See ‘Conclusion’ for any disclaimers.]


The AncestryDNA results attempt to break down ones genetic makeup into two categories ‘Thousands of years ago’ (the ethnicity estimate) and ‘Hundreds of years ago’ (Genetic Communities, which I have analysed in detail here). I have found that theScreen Shot 2017-04-19 at 2.17.32 pm ethnicity estimate slightly overestimates my Irish-ness (which, despite its name, encompasses Ireland, Scotland, and Wales) as well as the Europe West region. However, this is impossible to verify since, as Ancestry claim, they are looking into a persons deep ancestry, which is beyond what can be confirmed from a paper trail. Moreover, my Great Britain assignment has been underestimated at only 9% as compared with the 75% recorded in my paper trail. Overall, it is impossible to know for sure how accurate the ethnicity estimate is since they are identifying deep ancestry, although I cannot say that it would be reliable to depend on for determining ones recent ancestry as the amounts are so skewed compared with the paper trail.

On the other hand, the [new] Genetic Communities feature is very reliable for identifying recent ancestry, though it still has some way to go in identifying more regions and assigning more communities.

Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 2.20.36 pm.png

Despite all comments that may imply otherwise, I believe AncestryDNA is the best company to test with. This is due to their customer database, which is currently at four-million, the largest database out of all the testing companies. This is significant for genealogy and adoptees as, through the DNA Matches feature, you are enabled to search a larger database of DNA cousins and their family trees, hence improving your own genealogical research.


Gedmatch have a range of different admixture reports authored by different people. Different reports are recommended for people of different ethnicities, as they can be more reliable for one ethnicity and less reliable for another. One method, created by Cordue, uses a couple of different gedmatch calculators in conjunction to reliably identify IndigenScreen Shot 2017-05-31 at 9.05.19 pmous Australian ancestry.

I was advised that given my British ancestry, Eurogenes K13 would be the best admixture utility to use. The most obvious issue with this report is that it altogether assigns me 5% Asian and it leads me to believe I have Amerinidian ancestry (which is almost impossible). The latter assignment is especially problematic since many Americans hope for Amerindian ancestry and being told by a report that they have it is misleading and potentially problematic.

One stand out of the Eurogenes K13 report is that it picks up on my “1.78% Northeast African”, which is not recorded on my paper trail but has been picked up by other ethnicity tests. This consistency suggests the report is semi-reliabile.


The DNA.Land ancestry composition is very vague. Like AncestryDNA’s ethnicity estimate, it appears to search into a person’s deep ancestry, and, as a result, it is difficult to ascertain the accuracy of the composition. In some ways, the vagueness seems to imply a lack of confidence by the company in which if they use broad definitions for regions they cannot go wrong.

Also, DNA.Land is not worthwhile using for DNA matches. I know of definite matches using the system that don’t show up on their “find relatives” feature.

However, DNA.Land’s trait prediction report is interesting and worth taking a look at. Particularly, if you want to learn about your circadian rhythms, coffee consumption, education attainment, etc. While probably not so accurate, these are fun to look into.

Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 2.38.55 pmFamilyTreeDNA

Pre-update I would have said FamilyTreeDNA’s ethnicity report was far from accurate. FromScreen Shot 2017-04-19 at 2.40.58 pm falsely assigning Jewish ancestry to my dad to assigning us very little British Isles. However, post-update I believe it’s one of the most accurate reports. Their placement of me as 85% British Isles, which includes England, Ireland, and Scotland, is so much closer to the 100% I should have.

[N.B: I have read elsewhere that Amerindian genetic markers are very similar to Siberian markers. I question if the Eurogenes K13 (aforementioned) misidentified me and, instead, the Siberian identified by FamilyTreeDNA is probably more likely a true representative of those markers.]

Yet, I have noticed in DNA groups that I’m part of a minority of satisfied customers with the new update. I would suggest that Familytreedna are probably very reliable when it comes to people of British origin but maybe not so reliable with people of other ethnicities.

MyHeritage DNA

MyHeritage DNA’s ethnicity report, though new, has really impressed me. The “Irish, Scottish, and Welsh” is the closest to accurate out of all tests. In fact, considering my Irish and Scottish ancestors would have shared DNA with Scandinavian, English, and European, it is probably most likely tScreen Shot 2017-05-31 at 7.17.51 pm.pnghat I’d have less rather than more “Irish, Scottish, and Welsh”. With that in mind MyHeritage DNA’s estimate of my Irish-ness should be more accurate than Ancestry DNA’s. The “English” estimate appears to be a lot less than on paper, however, when the “Scandinavian” and “North and West European” percentages are read in conjunction with the “English”, MyHeritageDNA is again very accurate (arriving at 79.6%).

[At this point, it is also important to note I have a brick wall on my maternal grandfather’s paternal grandparents, who could be French due to having a possibly-French surname; though are most likely English. In the case that they are French, this report would be spot on. Regardless, I still think MyHeritage DNA are spot on considering the English genetically overlap with North and West Europe in many historic cases, such as the Normal invasions.]


Wegene is a Chinese testing company. They are probably very reliable for the Asian market. However, they gave me the least accurate estimate. [The 0.04% represents “Chinese”.] Having seen all my other estimates and what I’ve said about my paper trail, it’s quite apparent how off Wegene has been.

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 9.57.15 pm.png

The one advantage of this company is that they attempt to identify ones mitochondrial DNA using some markers that are on the Ancestry chip. They placed me in U5a1. While I have never had my mtDNA tested, I do have reason to believe this is correctly identified.


Of course it is important to remember that the ethnicity reports generated by these companies are nothing more than estimates. Due to genetic admixture, it is scientifically very difficult to identify ethnicity with 100% reliability.

I also want to clarify that everything I have written is my personal opinion, I have not been paid by any companies to positively review their product or negatively review another company’s product. Furthermore, the accuracy of each company will vary depending on an individual’s heritage as each company has strong and weak reference populations.

Sneddon Surname Research PT. 2

As mentioned in my post Sneddon Surname Research pt.1 I have been awaiting my dad’s y-DNA results before continuing research on my paternal line. I bought the 67-STR y-DNA test for my dad just after Christmas and had it for about a month before it was final sent off. The results arrived on 23/03/2017 (almost a month ago) and have presented more questions than answers!

Firstly, his haplogroup:

Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 3.42.31 pm

[A haplogroup is a genetic population of people who share a common ancestor on the patrilineal or matrilineal line. Y-DNA refers to the patrilineal line, therefore, my father’s father’s father’s father etc.]

This is the most common haplogroup in Europe and is carried by approximately 110 million European men (as reported in 2010). It is more common in Western Europe and, due to such, has been associated with the Neolithic Expansion. According to Wikipedia (a great source I know):

“The frequency is about 92% in Wales, 82% in Ireland, 70% in Scotland, 68% in Spain, 60% in France (76% in Normandy), about 60% in Portugal, 53% in Italy, 45% in Eastern England, 50% in Germany, 50% in the Netherlands, 42% in Iceland, and 43% in Denmark. It is as high as 95% in parts of Ireland. It is also found in some areas of North Africa, where its frequency peaks at 10% in some parts of Algeria. M269 has likewise been observed among 8% of the Herero in Namibia.

As the name suggests, this haplogroup is defined by the presence of the M269 SNP marker.

More questions than answers:

I had expected my match list to be comprised of Sneddon’s, Snowdon’s (the name my surname originates from), Snow’s, etc., however, majority of my dad’s matches were Irwin’s (and spelling variations), some Armstrong’s, some other names, and only one Snowden. What has confused me the most is that the Snowden isn’t my top match. He’s sixth on my list, though he is at GD=1 (Genetic Distance of 1). [This is where I clarify that genetic distance ranges from an exact match to a match separated by 7 steps.] Some explanations I have considered to explain these match results are: there has been an NPE (non-paternity event), a surname change, ancestor took mother’s surname, adoption, etc.

I think an NPE is most likely the case since I have documented my paternal ancestry 8 generations (including my dad) and according to the TiP report (a comparison chart) with my dad’s top y-DNA match, our likelihood of sharing an ancestor in the past 8 generations is 98.96% (in other words pretty damn high!).

Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 4.55.10 pm.png

However, I am struggling to work out where the NPE is. I am very certain the first 5 generations are genuine as I have had autosomal DNA matches on the 5th generation’s maternal line. Past that I cannot be certain about. I would like to think the NPE takes place after my 8th generation since that’s where my genealogical brick wall is (so maybe there isn’t even an NPE but another explanation?). Through correspondence with one of my ‘Irwin’ matches, I have learned that his ancestors were coal miners (as were mine), which I think supports the idea of an NPE as it suggests a common neighbourhood. Furthermore, the Irwin clan originated in Scotland as does my family, which also supports our relation.

Anyway, this is where I am at with my paternal research. I have been in correspondence with various matches and joined the Clan Irwin DNA study but, it seems, the onus to solving this mystery seems to rest on my shoulders and it looks like it’s going to be a difficult road ahead.

Ancestry’s Genetic Communities

When I first heard about Ancestry’s Genetic Communities feature (due to be released next week on the 28th March 2017) I thought it was primarily aimed at Americans as the academic paper and advertisements seemed to point to as much. However, to my delight, it includes Europeans as well! And, to add to my excitement even further, I was invited to beta test the Genetic Community results.

To begin with, I’ve already spoken about my paper trail here, if anything I write in this post about my ancestry is confusing then please refer to this post as it may resolve that confusion.

For those who don’t know, the Genetic Communities feature was created to represent an individual’s recent family history as opposed to the ethnicity feature which reflects ancient ancestry. AncestryDNA created the new feature by comparing members’ family trees and DNA results; doing this at such a number as to avoid potential errors in individual family trees.

AncestryDNA offer Genetic Communities in the following regions:



  • Finns
  • Eastern Norwegians
  • Swedes
  • Western Norwegians
  • Central Norwegians

United Kingdom & Ireland

  • English Newfoundlanders
  • Southern English
  • Northern English
  • Scots
  • English Midlanders & Northerners
  • The Welsh & English West Midlanders
  • Ulster Irish
  • Connacht Irish
  • Munster Irish

Western Europe

  • Jews in Central Europe
  • Germans, Netherlanders, Belgians & Luxembourgians
  • Germans in the Midwest
  • Portuguese

Southern Europe

  • South Slaves
  • Southeastern Europeans
  • Northern Italians
  • Southern Italians
  • Sicilians
  • Portuguese
  • Spaniards, Cubans, Dominicans & Venezuelans

Eastern & Central Europe

  • Jews in Central Europe
  • Jews in the Russian Empire
  • South Slavs
  • Eastern Europeans
  • Central Europeans

Western Russia

  • Germans from Russia

North America

United States

  • Northeastern United States

–New England

–Mid-Atlantic States

  • Southern United States

–Gulf States

–Southeastern States


–Southern Atlantic States

  • Midwestern United States

–Early Settlers of the Lower Midwest & Virginia

–Germans in the Midwest

–Early Settlers of the Ohio River Valley, Indiana, Illinois & Iowa

–Early Settlers of Pennsylvania, Ohio & Indiana

–Germans from Russia

  • Western United States

–Early Settlers of New Mexico

–Mormon Pioneers of the Mountain West

–Mexicans in Chihuahua & Durango


  • English Newfoundlanders
  • French Settlers Along the St. Lawrence
  • Acadians
  • French Settlers of Gaspe, New Brunswick & Maine


  • Mexicans in Northeastern Mexico & South Texas
  • Mexicans in Chihuahua & Durango
  • Mexicans in Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon & South Texas

South & Central America


  • African Caribbeans
  • Spaniards, Cubans, Dominicans & Venezuelans
  • Puerto Ricans

South America

  • Colombians
  • Colombians & Ecuadorians
  • Portuguese

*These regions usually also have a few branches within each of them that Ancestry attempt to identify. I will further explore this when explaining my results.

Genetic Community Results

The beta was released to all the kits I manage (mine, my parents, and my brother’s) and I was very impressed by the accuracy of the results. However, I would have liked to have seen more than 1-2 communities in the results (I’m hoping more genetic communities will be attributed to my kits once the feature is fully released).

My mum’s results correctly identified the area that correlated with the largest part of her DNA: Yorkshire & The Pennines. As you may have noticed, Yorkshire & The Pennines wasn’t on my list of communities above… This is because it is a branch within the English Midlanders & Northerners region. While my mum’s DNA is mostly from the English Midlanders & Northerners community on the paper trail, her great-granddad was from Middlesex, which would make up approximately 12.5% of her DNA. This should, in my opinion, be significant enough to show as a genetic community, which would be represented as one of the Southern English communities. Nonetheless, I was pleased to see Ancestry identify my mum’s Yorkshire-ness, since it’s so prevalent I would have been upset if it wasn’t identified.

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 12.04.30 pm

My dad’s DNA, on the other hand, according to the paper trail consists of about 38% Scottish, 12% Irish, and the rest English. Ancestry, however, only identified his Scottish DNA (even though his English is much more prevalent). Don’t get me wrong, I’m probably most proud of the Scottish heritage and I’m so glad Ancestry did identify it, but I’m again a little disappointed they didn’t pick his English or Irish. If they had identified his English and Irish I think he would’ve been placed in the following Genetic Communities: The Welsh & English West Midlanders, Ulster Irish, and maybe English Midlanders & Northerners.

Dad’s placement in the community ‘Scots in Northeast & Central Scotland’ accurately fits in with the Scottish on our family tree, which shows ancestors from Ayrshire, West Lothian, Elginshire, and Lanarkshire.

(N.B: John Peters is a pseudonym, which my dad goes by for privacy reasons):

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 12.03.38 pm

For comparison, the following are mine and my brother’s results:

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 12.03.16 pmScreen Shot 2017-03-20 at 12.04.10 pm

A Review of Genetic Communities

As I’ve already said I love the accuracy of the Genetic Communities feature. I wish Ancestry identified more communities, although, perhaps that’s a possibility for the actual release of Genetic Communities next week or another time in the future. Furthermore, once you click into the genetic communities Ancestry offers an overview of the area and a timeline of its history. I haven’t yet explored this in much depth but I look forward to it and I love that this is included.

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 1.29.38 pm.png

I also love that when you zoom in on the area, they show circles over the main genetic clusters.

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 1.33.34 pm

Though the maps show the capital cities, I think it would be helpful to customers if Ancestry included a list of counties included within these circles since not everyone is familiar with the geography of certain areas.

On the other hand, I noticed that there are no genetic communities for Africa or Asia and I’m assuming this is due to there being less test-takers from these areas. I feel like this is a massive gap in the system, which I hope will be updated as more people test.

All in all, I love this new feature! I think it’s going to be very beneficial to adoptees and to people with many brick walls in their research. I love how easy it is to use. And, I think it’s great that Ancestry are keeping up with their competition since the release of this feature is in lieu with the release of LivingDNA’s new test. I think the Genetic Communities feature has added to the benefits of test-taking with AncestryDNA over other companies and I would definitely recommend AncestryDNA.

Edit: 18/04/2017 Updated information and terminology to be more accurate.

Heritage by County: Paper Trail Data

In lieu of AncestryDNA releasing their ‘genetic communities’ feature as well as the new LivingAncestors test I have mapped the specific counties from which my ancestors were born (all ancestors born within UK and Ireland). I have drawn the information from my ggg-grandparents. I explain the process I followed and show the final result.

Charting Ancestors

If you were to complete this exercise you should have sixty-four ancestors (I have sixty-two due to a couple of my ancestors engaging in consanguinity). We inherit approximately x 1.56% of DNA from each of our sixty-four ancestors (where my ancestors’ consanguine relationship was I attributed x 2.38 % to all four affected individuals). Using this data, I made a chart including the ancestors name, their county and country of birth (where unknown I entered the county and country of their child and indicated the uncertainty with the word ‘probably’- which will later place these percentages into another table), their family line within my pedigree, and their score (since not all of my ancestors received a x 1.56% score).

Here is a snippet of my chart showing how all of this looks:

Name County, Country Ancestry 1.56% score
1 Alexander Sneddon Stirlingshire, Scotland Sneddon paternal line 1.56
15 John Clarke Unkown, probably County Down, Ireland Roberts maternal line 1.56
27 Unknown Proudlove Probably Staffordshire, England Perkins paternal line 1.56
49 John Chambers Unknown, probably Yorkshire, England Chambers paternal line 2.38


Calculating County Percentages

I then used the data above to calculate how much of each county would contribute to my DNA. I counted how many ancestors belonged to each county (know and estimated) and multiplied those numbers by 1.56 to arrive at the percentage I would then attribute to that county. Here is a snippet of how this looks in the format I used:

Location: Stirlingshire, Scotland Percentage
Known 5
Estimated 0
Total 7.8%
Location: Lanarkshire, Scotland Percentage
Known 3
Estimated 0
Total 4.68%
Location: County Down, Ireland Percentage
Known 1
Estimated 3
Total 6.24%
Location: Forest of Dean, England Percentage
Known 0
Estimated 4
Total 6.24%
Location: Yorkshire, England Percentage
Known 11 + 1(x2.38)
Estimated 4 + 2(x2.38)
Total 30.53%
Location: Middlesex, England Percentage
Known 0
Estimated 4
Total 6.24%
Location: Derbyshire, England Percentage
Known 5
Estimated 0
Total 7.8%


Final Results

This is the pie chart I produced using those percentages as a way of visualising all the data nicely:

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 3.43.31 pm.png

I then placed colour-coded stars (corresponding to the pie chart) over a map to help see where all the places are:

Genealogical Geography Chart:Map.png

Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree- Futurelearn -Notes

I have just completed the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree on The course ran over six weeks and was hosted by the University of Strathclyde. I have found this course to be incredibly useful and as such would like to share some of what I have learnt. I definitely recommend anyone interested in learning more about genealogy to look into taking the course next time it’s run. My notes follow this structure: definitions, evidence, research methods, and presenting research.

Course description from course page:

This free online course will help you develop an understanding of basic genealogy techniques and how to communicate your family history. We will consider how to effectively find and analyse sources and explore the potential of DNA testing as applied to genealogy. We’ll help you add historical context to your family history and discuss how to record and communicate research findings in a clear fashion. The course is primarily designed for people at beginner to intermediate level.

Course link:


Abstract- Abstracts summarise important bits of information within a document. Abstracts can contain extracts from documents; these are exact quotes from a document and should be enclosed in quotation marks.

Descendant Chart- Shows one couple and all of their descendants


Direct evidence is evidence that stands on its own to prove an alleged fact.

Documentary evidence is written evident of an event or relationship. (Including: Censuses, BMD certificates, church records, diaries, letters, etc.)

Indirect evidence is evidence that establishes immediately collateral facts from which the main fact may be inferred

Negative evidence is evidence for a theory provided by the non-occurrence or absence of something

Family History- integrates genealogical data with social, economic and political contexts to develop a narrative or story

Genealogical databases- Collections of official data, collections specific to a geographical area, collaborations with data owners, collections of user data, online family trees, variable veracity

Genealogy- the retrieval of vital and familial data from records of various types and its ordering into meaningful relationship patterns.

Index- An index in a book is an alphabetical list of names, subjects, etc. taken from the text of the book which serves as a guide to the page(s) on which that name, etc. can be found. In a genealogical database an index is a set of keywords transcribed from documents or records which can be searched to reveal information of interest.


Primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during or close to the event or time period in question. These can also be original, first-hand accounts of an event or time period. Primary sources are typically deemed to be the most reliable for providing quality information however; they can contain errors so any information should be corroborated.

Derived primary source is a source based in a primary source but with a level of intermediation; for example, a transcription of a census record, an abstract of a will or an obituary. There is a good deal of discussion in the genealogical world over what exactly constitutes a derived primary source. However, the main thing to realise is that any time someone copies information from one source to create another source (as in a transcription of a birth certificate) there is the chance that mistakes will be made. With the best will in the world wrong information can be copied and unless you can check the original document, there is no way to be totally assured that the transcriber has not made a mistake.

Secondary source interprets and analyses primary sources and may be based on primary sources, other secondary sources or a mixture of the two. Secondary sources are one or more steps removed from the event and are often written at a later date than the events being described. However, secondary sources may present pictures, quotes or graphics from primary sources.

Spinster- Someone who’s single

Transcription- A transcription is a copying out of words (and information from) a document; this copying out can be done by hand, by using word processing software or onto a Internet based platform. There are different styles of transcription, such as full diplomatic, a faithful word-by-word reproduction of what is found in the document including misspellings, grammar errors and so on. Semi-diplomatic transcription style allows the transcriber to expand contractions and update spellings into a modern format.


Basic information to include when researching an individual:

  • Date and place of birth
  • Names of parents
  • Date and place of marriage
  • Date and place of death
  • Names and birth dates of children


In-depth information which can be included when researching an individual:

  • Occupations- What, where, changes?
  • Environment- Housing, neighbourhood, etc.
  • Hobbies, past-times, what did they do for fun?
  • Character of a person


Three major source types to use for evidence on individuals:

Church: created by a religious body (churches, mosques, synagogues, etc.) to record the events of its members such as baptisms, marriages and burials . However, they can also include other types of records such as pew rentals, records of rabbis visiting the sick, the calling of marriage banns, pilgrimage records, religious court records, congregation membership lists and so on

Civil: Created by government entities to record the vital events of its citizens. These events most typically include birth, marriage and death but can also include divorce, adoption, legitimisation, annulment of marriage, and foetal death.

Census: created by government entities to count (or enumerate) the people living within a particular area. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a census as, ‘an official count or survey, especially of a population’. They can include information on occupations, parental origin, year of migration, ability to read and write, religious affiliation and much more.


Questions to consider for each source are:

1) What information can be gained from this source?

2) How reliable is that information? Can we trust that the source is telling the truth?

3) After looking at the source what research could we undertake next?


Adding context to family history

  1. Useful types of secondary sources: local histories, ‘regular’ books on history, film, etc.
  2. Other sources of context: newspapers, maps, images
  3. Finding these sources; useful online databases.


Research Methods

A Boolean search is when you refine your search using particular phrases, which can combine or limit your search terms. Below are some of these phrases:

AND- requires all terms to appear in a record

OR- retrieves records that include either term searched for

NOT- excludes terms found within records


Similar to the Boolean search, wild cards aid in fishing out the relevant information.

* shows name as spelled to fish out spelling variations, for example M*CDONALD for MacDonald or McDonald

? shows names that are only different by one letter so Johns?n for Johnsen and Johnson

*is a query for up to 5 unknown letters. Bolan* returns Bolander, Bolanger, Bolandre, etc.


The FAN (Friends Associates and Neighbours) technique is, as is implicit within the title, where you search for friends, associates, and neighbours of an individual to gain more information about said individual. This is especially helpful when you’re stuck at a brick wall in your research. The FAN technique reveals much about an individuals social and economic relationships.


Mindmapping a single record can visualise all the evidence given in the record. Furthermore, it can be used to expand research on individual pieces of evidence found. The mindmap can become like a path used to follow a particular research interest.


DNA Testing is great for proving relationships as well as discovering new ones. Furthermore, once a relationship with a cousin genealogist has been discovered it can be beneficial to work together to explore family history.


Genealogical Proof Standard-

  1. that at least two independently-created sources are in agreement
  2. that you have looked at all sources competent genealogists would examine for that particular question
  3. that you have included some primary information
  4. that you have included some original records (ie. you have looked an image of a birth certificate instead of just viewing the transcription of that certificate)
  5. that you have used the primary and original documents where these are findable instead of relying on transcriptions or secondary sources which refer to these sources.
  6. that you use all findable sources listed in an index or mentioned in a related source.


Presenting Research

Conclusions- There are three options for presenting a conclusion and which one you choose will depend on the complexity of the question and answer.

  1. A proof statement: this could be a sentence contained within a larger report on a family or a piece of data.
  2. A proof summary: this could be one or more written pages containing lists or narratives stating facts that support or lead to your conclusion
  3. A proof argument: this is a documented narrative that contains an explanation of why the answer given to a problem should be considered to be proven.


Common conventions on charts and reports

  • an = mark denotes a married couple. Example: William Blount = Julia Herrick
  • proved ancestral links are shown with a line, those that are conjectural are shown with a dotted line.
  • illegitimate children are often shown by dashed lines decending from the known parent or parents. Dashed lines – – – are also often used to show ‘non-marriage’ relationships. Example: William Blount – – – – Elizabeth Wonder
  • question marks are used to show that the information is in question. Example: born 1846?
  • use b. for born, c. or bp. for christened or baptized and bur. for buried. Example: bp. 6 November 1945.
  • Dates If you only have an approximate date for an event, add “about” (abt.) or “circa” (ca. or c.) before the date. Examples: c. 1851, ca. 1873, abt. Nov 1881.
  • You can use before (bef.) or after (aft.) a specific date; for example when you know someone was still living at some time, or was born after a certain date Examples: aft. 12 Jan 1880; bef. 9 Apr 1881


Final Notes

There’s a lot more that I gained from the course that I didn’t take notes on, which is why I recommend anyone who’s interested to look into taking the course. The course isn’t difficult and there’s no assignments- just an easy (and optional) weekly quiz. Furthermore, I haven’t included any of the resources they provided over the course, which have been AMAZING.

Sneddon Surname Research pt.1

I have always been proud to carry this surname though I haven’t always known either the meaning or the history behind it. It hasn’t helped that little research has been conducted into the name. Therefore, I’m sharing my research in the hope that it might help a distant cousin who wanders upon the same journey as I have. This post will be followed by further research once my dad’s y-DNA test results come back.

The Name


Snowden, Snawdone, Sneddan, Snedden, Snaddan. Sneaton, Snodden, Snoddon, Sneddoun, Snoughton, Snowton, Snoughden, Snewton, Snoton, Snudden, Snowdur


The Sneddon name is a regional name taken on from the place Snowden in West Yorkshire. The place name itself is derived from the Old English words “snaw,” meaning “snow,” and “dun,” meaning “hill.”

Blazon of arms:

Argent on a fess azure between three escallops gules, as many mullets or.

(Translation: Argent represents the colours silver or white and indicates harmony and sincerity)


A peacock in his pride proper.



A noodo duw a noddir

(Translation: Who supports God will be protected)

Interesting Facts:

  • Held a family seat in Snawden, Lauderdale, Berwickshire
  • Historian William of Worcester suggests that King Arthur kept the Round Table in the castle of Stirling, otherwise known as Snowdoun-west-castle.
  • The surname appears in English documents from at least the 13th century when Henry de Snewedon is mentioned in the Feet of Fines in Essex in 1277AD.
  • Also around this time Matthew de Sneddon appeared on the Assize Rolls of Somerset in 1278.


My ancestors originally came from Polmont in Scotland. They came to Australia as coal miners and resided in Minmi (near Newcastle).

N.B: A good explanation of the history of mining, including another Sneddon family:


  1. Natasha Sneddon (me)

01 January 1996- present

Hornsby, New South Wales, Australia


  1. David Trevor Sneddon (father) –Karen Ann Russell

24 August 1966- present


  1. David Owen Sneddon (grandfather) –Pamela Shand

14 October 1924- 10 July 2016

Cardiff, New South Wales, Australia – Port Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia


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  1. David Sneddon (2xgrandfather) –Corrall Leticia Blenda Ann Roberts

05 October 1885- 01 April 1968

Minmi, New South Wales, Australia- Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia


  1. Richard Grant Sneddon (3xgrandfather) –Margaret Haddow

27 April 1862- 15 August 1896

Polmont, Stirlingshire, Scotland- Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia


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  1. Alexander Sneddon (4xgrandfather)- Elizabeth Grant

27 September 1827- 08 May 1873

Polmont, Stirlingshire, Scotland- Shotts, Lanarkshire, Scotland


  1. Alexander Sneddon (5xgrandfather)- Elizabeth Bennie

24 Jan 1807- 28 September 1839

Polmont, Strilingshire, Scotland- Polmont, Stirlingshire, Scotland


  1. Andrew Snaddon (6xgrandfather)- Janet Snaddon

22 March 1767- 1800

Polmont, Stirlingshire, Scotland


  1. Alexander Snaddon (7xgrandfather)- Margaret Mitchell

1740- 1800

Polmont, Stirlingshire, Scotland

Issues with the reliability of DNA testing for phylogeographical research

Issues with the reliability of DNA testing for phylogeographical research

Natasha Sneddon


Why is it that the various major DNA testing companies ascribe differing ethnicity results to a single genome and how is this a problem for phylogeography? One explanation is the genomic similarity of people with different ethnicities due to genetic admixture caused by migration (Jobling et al. 2016). This renders it difficult for researchers to isolate the ancient DNA from the modern inhabitants. The diverse results of different testing services can be accounted for by the different algorithms they use, which interpret single nucleotide polymorphisms as representing a particular lineage or population (Jobling et al. 2016). The main problem with these algorithms is that they are developed using interpretive rather than methodological means (Nielson & Beaumont 2009). The consequential unreliability of ethnicity, resulting from diverse and converging practices, impacts on anthropological research due to problems identifying historical demographic groups, their size, the location of refugial areas, the extent of migration and gene flow, the extent of fragmentation, and the sequence of events leading to their genomic influence on the present geographic distribution of genotypes (Emerson & Hewitt 2005). Other issues with the reliability of genetic testing for phylogeography include: genetic ‘noise’, lack of sample groups for some ethnicities (such as Indigenous Australian), and established cultural preconceptions (Jobling et al. 2016). Researching genetic heritage is vital in understanding the roots of humanity and how humans have come to be who we are today. Furthermore, such research aids us to understand our traits, the origins of these traits, and the nature of heredity; which could potentially lead to the elimination of negative traits such as genetic diseases, disorders, and defects. Hence, the need to develop a reliable genetic test, in order to accurately research phylogeography, is important.

All of these issues regarding the interpretive method of genetic testing for phylogeographical purposes can be avoided by using a systematic approach. One such approach is the Nested Clade Phylogeographic Analysis (NCPA) designed by Alan Templeton, based on an earlier cladistics approach called the Nested Clade Analysis (NCA) (Nielson & Beaumont 2009). However, the NCPA was found by Knowles and Maddison (2002) to be inaccurate, due to Templeton’s inference key, which seems to neglect inference patterns that do not fit the key and often give incorrect inferences (Nielson & Beaumont 2009). Another line of research for phylogeography is based on coalescent theory and tools from computational statistics (Nielson & Beaumont 2009). Though, coalescent-based methods often have issues with models being too simple (Nielson & Beaumont 2009). Yet, if models of population histories could be constructed and tested to induce a scientific hypothesis of a single phylogeographic model with reduced interpretive inferences, resulting in a cohesive and shared genetic testing system, then genetic anthropological research would be greatly improved. In order to accomplish this, it is necessary to create a model which tests as much of the genome as possible, as Emerson and Hewitt (2005) state, one that includes “…nuclear, cytoplasmic, sex-linked, autosomal, conserved and neutral sequences, including examples with high and low mutation rates.” Thus, issues with the reliability of DNA testing for the identification and research of genetic heritage would be expelled.


Reference list:

Emerson, B.C & Hewitt, G.M. 2005. Phylogeography. Current Biology, 15(10): 367-371.

Jobling, M.A, Rasteiro, R., & Wetton, J.H. 2016. In the blood: the myth and reality of genetic markers of identity. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 39(2): 142-161.

Nielson, R. & Beaumont, M.A. 2009. Statistical inferences in phylogeography. Molecular Ecology, 18(6): 1034-1047.

DNA Testing Tips for Beginners

I recently took an AncestryDNA test because of my interest in genealogical research. I read up on DNA testing before taking the test yet still missed crucial tips and notes on understanding results. I am writing this blog post so that anyone interested in a test can make the most out of it from the get-go. (Please note: I do not have an affiliations with any of the companies I mention or suggest. Comments with further advice are welcome.)

After ordering the test, I received my kit within a couple of days. Further on that, my results arrived after about 8 weeks. If you have trouble spitting into the tube, I advise you to softly bite the inside of your cheeks or tongue as that will produce more saliva.

My Ethnicity Results

On paper, I am 75% English, 22% Scottish and 3% Irish. Because of this I was expecting a high amount of Great Britain, some Scandinavian and some Irish. However, the ethnicities I got and the proportions were entirely different to this. (Which, for me, made the money spent so much more worthwhile!)

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Upon receiving the ethnicity results, I began trying to understand why I came up with the unexpected ethnicities that I was marked as. I found this article ( to be the most helpful, explaining my Europe West, Italy/ Greece, Iberian Peninsula, and Finland/ Northwest Russia DNA. Furthermore, I read elsewhere that 1% of Scottish descendants have Berber (North African) ancestry (


The Average Brit:


Reading the Results


Cousin Matches

Top tips I have found online (

  1. Write the relationship between you and your match in the notes. This saves you from having to click away from the home page to see the match, and in case your cousin removes or changes their tree.
  2. Put a star next to each of your confirmed ancestors. This is for the purpose of knowing whether an NPE (Non-Paternal Event) has occurred or not.

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3. For each cousin match there is a little ‘i’ next to the confidence bar. Hovering your mouse over that shows how many ‘centimorgans’ of DNA you share. Divide this number by 68 and that is how much % DNA you share.


Beyond AncestryDNA

  • Uploading your raw data to gedmatch can increase your chances of finding cousins who have tested with other companies.
  • It is also useful for chromosome mapping (attributing your inherited chromosomes to particular ancestors based on your cousin matches).
  • You can run your data through various ethnicity simulators to see how the results differ to what Ancestry has ascribed you (however, these are apparently unreliable in comparison).
  • Gedmatch can guess your eye colour (and it’s pretty accurate)
  • Gedmatch can guess whether your parents are related or not

Genetic health report

  • I used Promethease for $5. I believe it was accurate as it told me I had genes for things that my grandparents and parents have had. Promethease was sometimes confusing and messy as you will have one gene for something (i.e. cancer) and other genes that contradict that gene, yet Promethease doesn’t summarise your actual chances of having it vs. not having it.
  • Livewello is apparently good and it costs about $20, however I have not used it. Some people commented issues regarding subscription to see full results.

y-dna & mitochondria

  • Again, not something I have used yet though I plan to, Family Tree DNA is apparently the best website for testing y-DNA haplo groups and mitochondria. These are your direct paternal and maternal lines and the results go back hundreds of thousands of years.




Admixture: Ancestry from more than one recent population group. Many people today have ancestry from more than one population and/or location.

Autosomal DNA: Autosomal DNA is DNA from one of our chromosomes located in the cell nucleus. It generally excludes the sex chromosomes. Humans have 22 pairs of autosomal chromosomes and a pair of sex chromosomes.

CentiMorgan (cM): A measurement of how likely a segment of DNA is to recombine from one generation to the next. A single centiMorgan is considered equivalent to a 1% (1/100) chance that a segment of DNA will crossover or recombine within one generation. For humans, one million base pairs (bp) average about one centiMorgan. However, the rate of recombination is highly variable.

Centromere: One of the parts of each chromosome. It is a dense area that joins together the two chromatids (arms) of each chromosome.

Chromosome: A chromosome is a structure found in the nucleus of a cell that contains genetic material. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes: 22 pairs of autosomes and one pair of sex chromosomes.

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid): The genetic code that makes each of us a unique individual. Humans inherit about one half of their genetic code from each of their parents. Our genetic code then holds the story of our heritage that has been passed down through the generations.

Gene: A region of DNA which codes for a protein or part of a protein.

Genome: The entire complement of an organism’s genetic material. This may refer to the DNA of a gamete, organelles (mitochondria and chloroplasts), organism, or species.The human nuclear genome is composed of 46 chromosomes (23 pairs). They contain a total of 3 billion base pairs.The human mitochondrial genome is composed of a single circular DNA sequence that contains 16569 base pairs.

Haplogroup: A major branch on either the maternal or paternal tree of humankind. Haplogroups are associated with early human migrations. Today these can associated with a geographic region or regions.

Heterozygous: two genetic code values (alleles) at a point in the genetic code are different.

Homozygous: two genetic code values (alleles) at a point in the genetic code are identical.

IBC (Identical by chance): A false cousin match

IBD (Identical by descent): A segment of inherited by two people through a common ancestor without recombination.

IBS (Identical by state): Not identical by descent.

Mitochondria: Specialized subunits (organelle) within cells. In humans, mitochondria are responsible for cell respiration and for producing energy. They evolve into their current state from separate organisms that form a mutually beneficial (symbiotic) relationship with the larger cell. Because they were once independent, they have their own mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) genome. This genome is passed from human mother to child.

Mitochondrial Eve: The common matrilineal ancestor of all living humans.

Mutation: A heritable change that occurs in genetic material. It may lead to a different number of repeats of a certain sequence or a change in one of the bases in a sequence.

NPE (Non-Paternal Event): An event which has caused a break in the link between the surname and the Y-chromosome resulting in a son using a different surname from that of his biological father (eg, illegitmacy, adoption, maternal infidelity).

Polymorphism: A change in genetic code (mutation) that has reached a greater than 1% frequency in a local or global population. In genetic genealogy, we most often use it to describe backbone branch defining mutations. These are related to backbone haplogroups.

Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP): a change in your DNA code at a specific point.

Triangulation: A method of determining the ancestral haplogroup of an ancestor using the DNA results of direct line descendants.