Ancestry updates their ethnicity yet again

As of November 13, 2019, everyone’s AncestryDNA results were updated.  Back in late October, only a few people have been getting the new update and all new testees.  Now we are all on the same page.

They did several changes which include increasing the number of genetic communities for various populations, increasing the size of their reference samples, renaming of categories and adding in a few new categories such as Guam, Samoa and Tonga.

We are going to concentrate on Samoa and Tonga, which they attempted to split off from the rest of Polynesia.

When AncestryDNA created the Polynesia category back in December 2013, it only consisted of 18 Polynesian samples which included at least one (or possibly more) of the samples that have distant European ancestry.  They updated their category and rolled out the new update to everyone back on September 12, 2018 with an additional 40 more samples increasing to a total of 58 for Polynesia.

In June and December 2018, I had the opportunity to speak to David Turissini, Ph.D who is a population geneticist at AncestryDNA.  I expressed my concerns with him regarding more specific categories among Polynesians.  Basically splitting eastern from western Polynesia.  I also explained why I thought that would be much better for us particularly for matching as we all tend to match each other at a very closely predicted relationship.  And that I thought the low number of reference samples could possibly affect the way we get our results.

He told me that I already understood how Polynesians lack genetic diversity so increasing the number of samples would not make any difference.  But then I pointed out how it was not that difficult for me to distinguish a western Polynesian (Samoan, Tongan, Tokelau, Tuvalu) versus an eastern Polynesian (Maori, Tahitian, Cook Island Maori, Hawaiian, Marquesan, Rapa Nui).

Despite all that was said, I was surprised to see how they increased the number of reference samples for Polynesia along with adding in Samoa and Tonga.

New categories & increase of samples for Polynesia

You can read more about it here:

https://www.ancestry.com/cs/dna-help/ethnicity/estimates

So their reference samples of 16,638 has increased by 23,379 samples to a total of 40,017.  Of that amount, they added 130 more samples to the Polynesia category and creating Samoa with 73 and Tonga with 97 samples.

While I have not noticed a lot of Tongan results yet, I have seen several Samoans.  Most of the ethnicity results I have seen are either Hawaiians or Maoris.  For the most part, eastern Polynesians are getting either Samoa and/or Tonga in the range of 1% – 4%.  For Samoans, I’ve seen about 60% – 70% Samoa and the rest Tonga.  A few Cook Island Maoris seem to have a higher percentage of Samoa compared to other eastern Polynesians but that may be due to the fact that they have ties to Aitutaki or its neighboring islands versus Rarotonga.  Or maybe Cook Island Maoris just have a higher percentage because of another group of people that settled earlier and/or it could be due to the original people who just so happened were genetically more like Samoans.

This whole classification, while it cannot be accurate as it is nothing but an estimate, really makes it interesting and gives us a bit more of an insight as to the settling of Polynesia.  Of course we can also see this as more people are getting Y-DNA tested and mtDNA and we slowly learn more about these different migration patterns which no surprise, confirms our oral histories.

My results have changed throughout time since I tested with AncestryDNA back in January 2014.  The biggest breakthrough came last year as they actually created the Philippines category which correctly allocated my Filipino side from Polynesia, therefore decreasing my amount.

But what does my tree look like compared to my current DNA results?

 

With the latest update it made my color scheme more difficult to accomplish but in the tree I do point out the foreigners.  While my father was born in Lahaina, Maui, Hawai’i, both of his parents were from the Visayas region in the Philippines.  For my maternal grandmother’s mother – Rose Holbron, her paternal grandfather was from Hull, England while her maternal grandfather was from Queens, New York, U.S.A.  And for my maternal grandmother’s father – Frank Kanae, he had distant American ties.  His great-grandfather Isaac Lewis Kanae was the son of Captain Isaiah Lewis.  I still have not pinpointed his origin yet.  And Isaiah Lewis’ father-in-law Oliver Holmes arrived in the Hawaiian Islands in 1793 from Plymouth, Massachusetts.  At the time Oliver Holmes left Plymouth, there were only 15 states in the U.S.A.

So what I did was place their ethnicities under a continental level and compared it to my DNA results, which all adds fairly nicely, taking in random inheritance.  My mother gets 17% European compared to her sister who gets exactly 15% which is consistent with the genealogy.  And in turn my mother gave not one but both of my brothers about half of her European – 8% and 9% for them while I ended up with the higher percentage – 11% which appears as about 11% – 12% at different testing companies.

And while I show 2% Samoa, my mother ended up with 1% of both Samoa and Tonga.

 

For my cousin who is not admixed, it was interesting to see, despite the erroneous genetic communities that would come up, how hers changed.  Because we match other Polynesians at a very closely predicted relationship, and the fact that my cousin is not admixed, she matches a lot of part Polynesian people who fall into a specific genetic community among others of whom she also matches.  So she ends up with the same genetic community.

 

 

With this latest update, they finally got rid of the Native American category for both my cousin and my mother.  But now with Samoa and Tonga, it is no surprise that they would give us a small percentage of that.  And having gone through several of these 1% – 2% categories of Samoa and Tonga, they all seem to range the same – 1% – 4%.  Interestingly for my mother, her range for Tonga was 1% – 3% while her Samoa was 1% – 4%.  But the way it ended up was both 1%.

I have also been witnessing those who previously had small amounts of Polynesia now being reclassified as Samoa, Tonga or Guam.  Usually, these are people with either Melanesia or some other Southeast Asian from various parts of Indonesia.  I would be really interested in seeing more results who have ties to that area.

So while I was told the number of increase of samples would not do anything, it obviously did quite a bit.  If only they would have renamed the Polynesia category by specifying Eastern Polynesia.  They should also do the same renaming their genetic community.  It would make more sense as we know that both Samoa and Tonga is part of Polynesia and of course, their map for Polynesia would include Samoa and Tonga within that area.  I would have expected western Polynesia as I mentioned to them versus eastern Polynesia, but they really got very specific.  And in the end result, Samoans will see that they are about 30% Tongan and probably the same for Tongans where they will see a smaller percentage of Samoa.  These people do get about 0% – 1% Polynesia in their results.

We will just have to wait to see what the future updates would bring.

Previous entries about AncestryDNA’s Polynesia category:

https://hawaiiandna.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/polynesia-category-ancestrydna-com/

https://hawaiiandna.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/polynesia-category-ancestry-com-part-2/

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