As of September 2016 there is a new DNA testing company battling for consumers money, Living DNA. They offer a single, €159/£120/$159 , 3-in-1 test, covering autosomal, male-line yDNA (males-only duh) and maternal-line mitochondrial DNA. Even though I’ve already taken a bunch of DNA tests there are still some things that make this test interesting for me.
- There is a a heavy focus on genetic heritage – where in the world do your ancestors come from. Currently they aim to match your DNA against 80 worldwide reference populations (see fig. 1). More importantly LivingDNA follows on from the People if the British Isles project and breaks Great Britain into 21 regional areas, (see fig. 2 below).
- The company is British, I’m British, so I like to support British companies. More seriously, the company has a very structured, privacy-orientated approach to your data, security (they are ISO:9001 certified for quality controls and ISO:27001 for information security) and how your data is used.
If you are interested in the technical details of the LivingDNA test, then this paragraph from their launch PR probably covers most of the stuff you will be in interested in:
“Living DNA’s test itself is run on a custom-built “Living DNA Orion Chip”. It is one of the first bespoke DNA chips in the world to be built using the latest GSA technology from market leader Illumina, and tests over 656,000 autosomal (family) markers, 4,700 mitochondrial (maternal) markers and 22,000 Y-chromosomal (paternal) markers.”
This is the most exciting part of the testing for me. Would the LivingDNA test provide any new insights into my genetic ancestry ? To see how well my paper-trail ancestry matches LivingDNA’s genetic ancestry it’s probably best to have a quick introduction to my ancestors.
To understand my genetic ancestry it’s best to have a look at my great-grandparents. They mostly came from small villages that you’d be hard-pressed to identify on a map, such as Gt. Broughton (N. Yorks), Hawnby (N.Yorks), Lissan (Co. Derry) and Santon (Norfolk), the later village being too small for Google to find.
Only a couple came from larger towns, specifically York and Darlington. My York-born ancestor, Sarah Sturdy, actually had all four of her grandparents born within 5 km of each other near Masham, a Yorkshire village famous for it’s breweries (Theakstons and the rebel Black Sheep breweries). My Darlington ancestor, Maria Singleton Armstrong was probably the most cosmopolitan of the 8 great-grandparents, but her ancestors were weavers and wool-combers, although the name Armstrong is linked with the Border Reivers.
In preparation for these results written up some more details on my great-grandparents and their grandparents. This can be read at “32 Ancestors – The people who didn’t move much” but it might be easier to look at the following map. The black markers show my great-grandparents, the coloured markers my ggg-grandparents. Of the 32 ggg grandparents I know 29 and have reliable birth/baptism records for 23.
An alternative way to visualise my ancestors is to use the methodology that created the #MyColorfulAncestry pedigree chart. This is my version, adapted to both LivingDNA’s 21 regional populations and their colour scheme. I’ve added a little more information to the chart to help people get a sense of the social background of these people.
As you can see all but one of my great grandparents represents a block of 4 people, all from the same LivingDNA region. The one exception is Robert Hall, who was an ancestor of Robert Smith. Robert Hall was born in the village of Whorlton, which is situated on the Durham side of the river Tees. LivingDNA rather inconveniently has a border between North Yorkshire and Northumbria somewhere around the Tees. I personally believe that there wouldn’t be much genetic distance between people on the north and south banks of the Tees. In addition, I have other examples in my family where people moved between villages on the north and south banks of the Tees. On this basis I’m happy to simplify things and include Robert Hall in the North Yorkshire population. Once this is done (and assuming equal inheritance from each ancestor) we get a very simple regional “recipe” of my ancestors, as follow:
1/2 North Yorkshire
1/4 East Anglia,
1/8 Southwest Scotland and Northern Ireland.
LivingDNA Family Ancestry (aka your Ethnicity)
Lets start with the most basic news. The LivingDNA test has me down as British. I’m down as 94.1% British, with a slightly anomalous 1.7% Southern European (actually assigned as Basque). I’ll leave the Basque part out of any further commentary since I try not to worry about any trace ethnicities (say under 5%).
LivingDNA further split out my Great British and Ireland ancestry out into British regions (or sub-regional in LivingDNA terms), and this is where it gets interesting. These are their results.
It may be easier to see how these results compare with my expectations in a simple table (see below). As you can see there are some unusual results. Specifically the results vary from expectations as follows:
- The low representation of my North Yorkshire ancestry.
- The lack of any reported Southwest Scotland and Northern Ireland ancestry, where I would have expected to see my Ulster Plantation ancestors.
- The introduction of LivingDNA regions Southeast England, Lincolnshire, Cumbria, South Yorkshire and North Wales.
|Region||Expected Result (%)||LivingDNA Estimate (%)|
|Southwest Scotland and Northern Ireland||12.5||0|
Regarding the first and third irregularity (low North Yorkshire representation), I think there are two main ways we can interpret this. Obviously one possibility is that there are errors in my research, for example NPEs (Non-Parental Events), or errors in my identification of my ancestors. I don’t exclude this option.
The alternative may be to say that LivingDNA is challenged to separate out the relatively homogeneous central and eastern English cluster. Indeed the original People of the British Isles report bulked this group together as one category, that represented roughly half of the PoBI sample group.
Regarding the lack of any Southeast Scotland and Northern Ireland ancestry I must admit I’m a little surprised, especially given that two of my confirmed DNA relatives are from my Stewart line. I know that the Ulster Plantation was not just a Scottish affair but I would have expected to see something. Clearly an area that needs further research.
The addition of South Yorkshire ancestry is interesting. The PoBI study suggested this may be a trace of the Brittonic kingdom of Elmet. Perhaps this represents my Masham-based ancestors, who perhaps more connected with the other Yorkshire Dales folk than with the Vale of York.
Prior to my LivingDNA tests I’ve had a couple of yDNA tests. At FamilyTreeDNA I did the yDNA 37 marker test and have been categorised as I-M253 (I1 in the old money). On top of this I did the Geno 2.0 test from the National Geographic Society’s Genographic Project. I transferred the Geno 2.0 datat to FamilyTreeDNA. In both cases they gave me the downstream (i.e. more refined) haplogroup I-Z138 (I1a2b).
In addition I’ve been part of the I1-Z138 Project. With their assistance (and with information from nevgen.org) I’ve done further SNP testing at yseq.net which brings me forward to haplogroup I-S2268. This SNP has a Time to Most Recent Common Ancestor (TMRCA) of 2100 before today.
My LivingDNA yDNA result is consistant with my other testing and has me down as:
I was hoping to see if the yDNA test included any of the downstream SNPs (S2293, Z2541 and S2268 in my case). There is a feature within LivingDNA that allows you to download your results, but this feature has yet to be enabled. I’ll update here when I know more.
The yDNA test results, as well as the mtDNA results both have Haplogroup distribution maps (similar to the ones at eupedia), Haplogroup histories, a Migration Map and the relevant Phylogenetic Tree. Sadly the tree doesn’t have any TMRCA (Time to Most Recent Common Ancestor) information.
Mitochondrial DNA results
I’ve already done the full mitochondrial sequence (FMS) test at FamilyTreeDNA. My results are written up here. Bottom line is that I’m mDNA haplogroup I2 with the addition of the rather rare mutation in HVR1 C16259g. The net result of this is that I’ve no matches within the FamilyTreeDNA database at either the HVR1 or HVR1+HVR2 levels.
LivingDNA again produce the same result: