Dec 23, 2022

(+) DNA results are Imprecise

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Many people who are unfamiliar with DNA will have a test conducted and then will believe the results are exact. Unfortunately, that isn’t true, especially when it comes to the ethnic origins of their ancestors. DNA estimates of ethnic origins are ESTIMATES or perhaps we should call them PROBABILITIES

If your DNA test says you have 60% Irish ancestry, then we can assume that you undoubtedly do have a lot of Irish ancestry but it probably isn’t exactly 60%. If your DNA test says you have 2% Middle Eastern ancestry, that means that you MIGHT have a little bit of Middle Eastern ancestry but even that is not guaranteed. It could be more than 2% or it might be zero.

First of all, any DNA test that says you have a specific percentage of ancestry from another country is to be taken with some skepticism. For instance, your  test results might say you have 60% Irish ancestry. While it is true that you do probably have a lot of Irish ancestry, the percentage will vary from one testing company to another. Even more confusing for newcomers to DNA is the fact that your brother or sister might have a DNA test taken and the results might report a different percentage of Irish ancestry. Once you understand how DNA works, the reasons are obvious. However, it is confusing for newcomers.

In the case of siblings, both of your parents contributed to the family’s gene pool. (I assuming both have the same father and mother. I am ignoring half-brothers and half-sisters. That’s a different topic.)  You and your brother or sister each got SOME of your DNA from your father and SOME from your mother but it is rare for both siblings to inherit exactly the same percentages from both parents. You never get exactly 50% from either parent. Instead, you might get 35% of your ethnic DNA from one parent and 65% from the other parent. The percentages are variable but obviously always add up to 100%.

One common analogy is that DNA ethnic origins are like vegetable soup. The soup contains a mix of different vegetables. When you dipped your ladle into the soup bowl, you might have pulled out 25% potatoes, 35% carrots, and 40% beans. Your brother or sister then dipped their ladle into the same soup bowl and pulled out the same vegetables, but in a somewhat different percentage of each.

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