A Curious Surprise on My DNA Journey


The Surprise of No Surprises

I started my genetic genealogy journey almost a decade ago. It has been a remarkably unsurprising journey.

Lately, I’ve been working on a couple of big research projects and I have been focused on a few uncommon surnames. Most of my DNA research time has been spent looking for matches who are related to these surnames. I haven’t had much success yet, unfortunately.

But I did have a completely unrelated surprise yesterday.

Confirming What I Already Knew

The first company I tested with was Family Tree DNA. I started with the mitochondrial DNA test back in 2008, and later upgraded to the Family Finder test when it became available. FTDNA informed me that I was 98% “British Isles,” which was not exactly a surprise, based on my 2 decades (at that time) of documentary research.


In 2010, I tested with 23andMe. My “ancestry composition” results were, once again, pretty much what I expected. 23andMe lumped me into the broad “Northwestern European” category, but they broke it down a bit more than Family Tree DNA: 68.8% British and Irish, plus, a bit of French, German, Scandinavian, and Finnish.

Yep, completely predictable.


I eventually tested with Ancestry DNA. Their results really just confirmed what the other 2 companies had already told me: 99% “Europe,” which included 59% Great Britain and 26% Ireland. 

Where Did That Come From?

So, last week, I downloaded my raw DNA data from Ancestry and uploaded a copy to MyHeritage DNA (there is no cost to do this). MyHeritage reported that I was 84.7% North and West European. The breakdown was a bit different, but overall, it didn’t seem unusual, based on my results from the other companies.

A Curious Surprise on My DNA Journey

The surprise came in the form of 15.3% East Europe: Balkan. Say what? 😯

None of the 3 companies at which I had previously tested indicated that I had any form of Eastern European ancestry. Plus, I have never, in 30 years of genealogy research, found an ancestor who came from that part of the world. I even downloaded another copy of my raw DNA data just to double-check that I didn’t accidentally upload the wrong file (I didn’t). 

Now, I know that these ethnicity results should often be taken with a grain of salt. However,15.3% seems to be a pretty significant chunk of DNA to have been missed in the previous tests. 23andMe noted that they think I have 0.9% Southern European — which includes Balkan heritage — but that’s still quite a bit less than what is showing up with MyHeritage.

Have you noticed significantly different ethnicity results from one company to the next? Is there one company that you feel is more reliable than the others?



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