DNA.land’s DNA analysis tool’s major improvement

Ok, so I’m known for having picked apart quite a few online DNA analysis tools and services. This is especially true when it comes to my African-related results. So it seems only fair that I share some kudos.

I don’t know what’s been happening over at the Columbia University DNA analysis project, DNA.land…but it looks like the team behind this project have been very busy bees indeed. I, for one, am very, very pleased with the increased accuracy this free service now provides. By and large, it is beginning to reflect the results I received via the paid testing service, Genebase. It’s also substantially more accurate than the results provided by AncestryDNA as far as my African genetic ancestry is concerned.

In its first incarnation, my African genetics were the standard West African and Bantu-speaking. I’m proud of my 8% West African and Bantu speaking genetic heritage (via Genebase). There is a huge difference between being 8% of something and 60% of something.

Now my DNA.land results look like:


The West African results can be more accurate. I know that some of what is being classed as West African here is actually Tuareg and Berber. I’m pretty confident that if DNA.land continues to tweak its datasets, that these parts of my African genome will begin to emerge. At the moment, my guess is that my Berber results are hidden under the Lower Niger Valley category. I suspect that some of my Tuareg results are lost under this heading as well.

However, keeping things positive, ‘East Africa’ finally makes an overdue appearance. 

As for that 1.2% ‘Ambiguous’? That’s where some of my Sephardic Jewish and Middle Eastern results are.

And for my family, let’s not get too excited about the Native American heading. Native American results on any of the DNA analysis services I’ve used remain at 0%. The 1.3% shown here actually represents Amer-Indian genetic matches from Central and South America.  In other words, this has more to do with the pre-historic Eastern nomadic migration into the Americas thousands of years ago.Sorry guys! No Cherokee or Powhatan to be found. This may be due to genetic wash outs…or all those tales amount to myth (Finding Your American Indian tribe Using DNA: https://dna-explained.com/2015/03/31/finding-your-american-indian-tribe-using-dna)

There are a few things to remember when using DNA analysis services and free analytical tools:

  1. Your results will depend on the amount of DNA that the service or tool you’re using has sequenced.  Don’t think that your entire YDNA, mtDNA or autosomal DNA has been sequenced…unless the service you use guarantees this. If you’re paying anything less than thousands of dollars, trust me, only a portion of your genome has been sequenced.
  2. Few DNA testing services are transparent about how much of your genome has been sequenced and analyzed. The more that’s sequenced the better the analysis. It’s a pretty simple equation.
  3. Free DNA analysis tools tend to use free DNA datasets produced by 3rd paties. The quality and accuracy of the data sets used are beyond their control. These data sets are produced by 3rd parties who are not answerable to the services who use them. If this particular topic interests you, you should surf on over to Berkeley’s Drosophilia Genome Project via http://www.fruitfly.org/sequence/human-datasets.html )
  4. DNA anlysis is an evolving science. As more global populations undergo DNA studies (and their results are added to data sets), and as science continues to finesse its understanding of the development and evolution of admixtures, dataset accuracy will continue to improve.
  5. Take early results as an indication of the global cultures you might be connected to. These results will not be definitive. See Point #4.

Keep up the great work, DNA.land!

21 Sep 2016 note: Regular readers will be familiar with my Congo and Central African DNA results, which I should have mentioned here. These too are lumped in under “West Africa” (Why I struggle with ‘West Africa’ as a genetic classificationhttps://genealogyadventures.net/2016/03/04/why-i-struggle-with-west-africa-as-a-genetic-classification/). I sometimes forget that it takes time for new readers to read previous dna-related posts on the site

25 thoughts on “DNA.land’s DNA analysis tool’s major improvement

  1. I’m curious why you “know” the West African is Berber and Tuareg versus other ancestral groups there. Berber and Tuareg are somewhat more outliers in West Africa aren’t they?

    1. My dna test with Genebase. I’m not saying the Berbers and Tuareg represent all of my West African results. They merely constitute a substantial amount of it.

      1. I won’t belabour the issue, but wouldn’t the Berber and Tuareg segments approximate North African/Arab/Middle Eastern (not sure of the terminology) versus West African….I know they populate West African countries, but I’m confused why those admixtures would be considered West African…

      2. I’ve looked at a dozen or so of free datasets. They class West Africa from Western Sahara in the north, to the Congo in the East, and then down to around the Ivory Coast. It’s a rediculously huge area. This is what skews results on some of Gedmatch’s analysis tools, for example.

      3. You look like you could be my Brother, and I am Tuareg as well. My family came off of Pinckney plantation in South Carolina, where they grew indigo, so yes, it probably is Tuareg.

    2. How much ancestry research did you do before taking the DNA test results. I`ve heard that the typical black American is 75 – 85% West African, 24% European and less than 1% Native American. These stats just don`t wash with me so I decided to collect as much (testimonial, documentary and physical evidence) to determine my ancestry. I was able to go back 7 generations on my father`s side and could not find one African. I knew that he was of Cherokee and Choctaw decent and my mother is of Cherokee and Blackfoot decent. I could not find oral family tradition of Africans nor does the physical evidence support African decent. My guess is that the typical black person from North and South Carolina or Virginia has pretty much the same ancestry as I do. They are telling you that you are 51% West African, you need to check that out! Remember there were very few Africans brought to America and most ended up North and South Carolina. Another thing people are missing is the majority of the slaves were indigenous people not Africans.

      1. Hi Stan. I spent a little over a decade researching before I did my first DNA test (autosomal, ydna, and mtdna) with Genebase. I’d already gone back deep into the early 1700’s on many of my Virginia and North Carolina mulatto lines – enslaved and free. I’d managed this too with a handful of my enslaved lines in SC.

        I’ve traced four African-descended lines back to the 1690s, 3 in VA and 1 going from SC back to PA (Quaker enslaver).

        In the course of research, I found 3 ancestors on my mother’s side who were from Africa. Other than a rough idea of when they were brought to the US, I know very little about them before their arrival. We’re still researching that. That’s something that’s rarely discussed. It’s one thing to find the first African in a family line, whilst quite another trying to pick up the threads of their lives back in Africa…including trying to determine which country, much less tribe, they came from. It’s quite the journey of discovery.

        This is to say I thought I’d already had a good idea of what was in my genetics before I took that first dna test, at least as far as my non-African descended ancestors. As for the African side? That was the Mount Everest of a question mark. There was only ever 1 story about 1 African ancestor, my 4x great grandmother, Venus Josey. No one knew her African name. And no one in the family could agree where she came from in Africa, or who her people were. Lol and yes, of course, she was an African princess who was kidnapped 😉 You have to love family legends. mtDNA shows a strong Benin-Cameroon result mixed with the population around Lake Chad region. There are other African populations mixed in with those two. However, Benin-Cameroon and Lake Chad make up the largest percentages. Lake Chad was the first of many African dna surprises.

        Like most African-descended Americans, I thought all of my African dna would come from the west coast of Africa. It just didnt occur to me that it could, much less would, come from any other part of that continent. Trust me, I was as shocked and surprised as anyone to see that my African inheritence was more widespread. This is something I see every day in various Facebook groups as people share the results of their dna tests online.

      2. I forgot. South Carolina is interesting for another reason. Quite a few of the enslaved who were in the Carolina territiry (before it was split into two colonies) came from Barbados. Which makes sense as the English lords who chartered the Carolina territory came from Barbados. They, in turn, marketed their new territiry to friends and family in Barbados…who brought their slaves with them.

        So a Barbados originating enslaved population mixed with a colonial enslaved population. Again, another genetic implication when it comes to the sheer diversity of admixtures in African-descended Americans.

  2. If you’re African American the likely hood of having/ being “Tuareg” is low. Tuareg is a clutural based group not a ethnic one. Many of us African Americans were taken from the coastal communities of West African ,central – west African and southeast Africa. There is nothing wrong with being related to these great African people.

    1. I didn’t say there was a problem or issue with being related to those peoples and cultures. That’s not what my DNA is saying. And, until many more African Americans do DNA testing, the West African theory is just that, a theory. Berber and Tuareg make up a significant bit of my YDNA, amongst other people’s and cultures. So no, I wouldn’t identify as either one, although both have contributed to my genetic makeup.

  3. Hmmm, I have been a student of biotechnology and a genealogy researcher for years and your theory makes no sense. It would be more likely than none that your African DNA would come from West African descent which would constitute those more from areas like Nigeria and Ghana versus North/East Africas like Tuaregs and Berbers. It sounds like you are trying to skip what is accurate for what you want to believe and again, I have studied this stuff for a number of years.

    1. I’ve studied this for years too. I know what my Genebase results which analyzed far more of my DNA than Ancestry’s. While I accept that this field continues to mature, those results are highly detailed. I’ve shared them on previous posts. What sample sets does Ancestry use? How many test subjects are in each data set? All of those questions – and more – influence the accuracy of DNA analysis results. On a last note, there isn’t one narrative for the African enslavement in America. I wish people would stop sticking to the dogma. We have no idea until so many more African Americans take DNA tests.

      1. Isn’t the sophistication of the analysis that Genebase did relatively limited when compared to that which is done today? While I agree that there isn’t only one narrative around African slavery and America, I too am puzzled about where you are coming from on the Berber comments. Existing narratives don’t support Berbers being brought here in large numbers but I wonder if your lense on this is being colored by the desire of exoticism (at best) and of trying to flee that which is Black or sub Saharan African idiomatically (at worse). Neither history or the science seems to tilt your way so your commentary seems a bit weak.

      2. Please read my blog. You will see nothing can be further from the truth. And the Berber and Tuareg cane from Genebase, which ranks amongst the best testing companies. It’s why I chose it and spent a small fortune getting 90%+ of my genome sequenced snd analyzed for my proposed tv series

      3. Hmmmmm. I’ve spoke to two scholars on the African slave trade and both think it highly unlikely that the Berber population was targeted for the slave trade. Instead, they indicated a role for thevBerbers – if any – as being involved in selling Black Africans. Either way both indicated that your theory seems unlikely or of minuscule chances at best. Perhaps you should dig deep into what you have “invested” in claiming Berber ancestry. Not being negative but it must be put out there. This is my final comment.

      4. And thanks for insulting years of hard work done in tandem with the recognized geneticists and genetic genealogists on my team. But hey, that’s just an opinion, right?

      5. Ok faithful readers. A free Genealogy Adventures sweatshirt (including postage and handeling) if you can point to a post I’ve written where either I or a member of my team, claims an exclusively Berber or Tuareg ancestry in terms of my African Ancestry. Brian.

  4. Please read Section 4, all of those who doubt the presence of Berbers or Tuareg slaves in the US. I would also advise you to look at various dance in the black church, rhythm patterns and the BLUES, which is Tuareg in origin, not Nigerian or Ghanian. You may also want to look at Indigo production, and which plantations in the south, cultivated Indigo, before you stick to what your “scholars” are telling you, because unless you look at obscure state laws, the economy of various states and the slaves themselves, to include old paintings, you will remain in an intellectual haze.

    The Status of the Negro, his Rights and Disabilities.

    Section 1. The Act of 1740, sec. I, declares all negroes and
    Indians, (free Indians in amity with this Government, negroes, mu- p. ^
    lattoes and mestizoes, who now are free, excepted) to be slaves: — “^^^^
    the offspring to follow the condition of the mother: and that such
    slaves are chattels personal.

    Sec. 2. Under this provision it has been uniformly held, that color
    is prima facie evidence, that the party bearing the color of a negro. Hard
    mulatto or mestizo, is a slave : but the same prima facie result does ^^^
    not follow from the Indian color. ^J^^

    Sec. 3. Indians, and descendants of Indians are regarded as free
    Indians, in amity with this government, until the contrary be shown. ^ ..
    In the second proviso of sec. 1, of the Act of 1740, it is declared son
    that ” every negro, Indian, mulatto and mestizo is a slave unless 174.
    the contrary can be made to appear” — yet, in the same it is immedi- mon*
    ately thereafter provided — ” the Indians in amity with this govern- Jg^l’
    ment, excepted, in which case the burden of proof shall lie on the ^u^
    defendant,” that is, on the person claiming the Indian plaintiff to be
    a slave. This latter clause of the proviso is now regarded as furnish-
    ing the ruie< The race of slave Indians, or of Indians not in amity
    to this government, (the State,) is extinct, and hence the previous
    part of the proviso has no application.

    Sec. 4. The term negro is confined to slave Africans, (the ancient ^J^'p,
    Berbers) and their descendants. It does not embrace the free in- J?£
    habitants of Africa, such as the Egyptians, Moors, or the negro MUi.
    Asiatics, such as the Lascars. Scot

  5. Hi, I tested my MtDNA with Genebase, and it came back with a lot of specific stuff. According to them, my mother’s side is over 50% Portuguese, over 30% French, with some Kalderash gypsy, Jewish, Slavic etc thrown in.
    I tested with FtDNA Family Finder and it’s come back as 99%European with no specifics in any particular area – and no Portuguese at all.
    Genebase had a very specific breakdown and FtDNA – nothing except a basic 99% mix.
    So I’m guessing that FtDNA did not do a very detailed test, would that correct?

  6. I love the specifics that Genebase gives as opposed to 21 ish populations that other sites use, but am disappointed that there dont seem to be any 3rd party tools such as GEDmatch that can be used with genebase. Is anyone aware of such a 3rd party tools that would work?

    1. I feel your pain about not being able to export Genebase’s DNA analyses to 3rd party vendors. I have suggested this to them a few times. i know my team of genetic genealogists are mapping out a formatting work-around. If they succeed, I’ll let you know.

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