Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Ancestry Launches New Genetic Communities

North American Genetic Communities map from AncestryDNAAncestry launched Genetic Communities last week. “Think of the AncestryDNA ethnicity estimates on steroids, and you’ll have a sense of what this is,” Tim Sullivan told RootsTech attendees last February. While ethnicity estimates show your genetic origins from hundreds to thousands of years ago, the Genetic Communities feature shows groups of people you are related to in the last few hundred years. Ancestry defines a Genetic Community as “a group of people who are connected to each other through DNA, most likely because they share a common history or lived in the same places.”

Kendall Hulet said, “Applying rigorous statistics and scientific development, we’ve created a unique experience that can connect you through your DNA to places your ancestors called home and the migration paths they followed to get there.” This doesn’t necessarily pin your particular ancestors to a particular place, since your ancestor may have been an outlier. Chances are good, however, that Ancestry will nail part of your ancestry to a particular region and timeframe.

AncestryDNA has identified over 300 communities with plans to release more in the future. Brad Argent of AncestryUK says that most people are members of at least one Genetic Community, some people are members of two, and, rarely, some are members of three. In my case, I am a member of one.

My ethnicity map now shows my ethnicity estimates on a dark azure map. (Can I just say, I don’t like this new color scheme?) Notice that Ancestry has narrowed (not!) my Native American ancestry to the entire Western hemisphere. Not very helpful in determining my tribal origin (Massachuset).

The Ancestry Insider ethnic origin map from AncestryDNA

But notice the small Orange spot on Utah? That’s my genetic community, “Mormon Pioneers in the Mountain West.”

The Ancestry Insider ethnic origin map from AncestryDNA with a Genetic Community noted

While my genetic community is of no surprise to me (I’m 5th generation Mormon on every single line—my ancestors all being good genealogists—I was born into a completely full, 7-generation pedigree), a Genetic Community could be very interesting to someone vaguely aware of—say—Germanic roots.

Your Genetic Communities are listed beneath your ethnicity pie chart on the left side of the page. The way statistics work, AncestryDNA can’t say with 100% confidence that you are a member of a community.

Ethnicity estimate pie chart and Genetic Communities list

When you click on your community, you are given an overview of the community.


Scrolling past the overview reveals migration time periods with commentary.

Migration time periods for an AncestryDNA Genetic Community
Migration time periods for an AncestryDNA Genetic Community
Migration time periods for an AncestryDNA Genetic Community

Selecting a time period shows a migration map, different for each time period. Orange dots show birthplaces from community members’ Ancestry Trees during that time period. Pins show birthplaces from your own tree. Animated lines show the direction of migration.

AncestryDNA Genetic Community time period migration map and commentary

AncestryDNA Genetic Community time period migration map and commentary

Did you notice, I’m aboot one-fourth Canadian, eh?

Beneath the community name, two buttons select between the default Story view, which I’ve shown above, and Connection view. Connection view states that they are 95% confident that I am a member of the Mormon Pioneers Genetic Community, and that it has 89,000 members. Connection view provides a link to see all 737 of the ones that I am related to. It also lists common surnames in the community:

Last names associated with my genetic community

Hmmm. Anything jump out at you?

To see Genetic Communities, you don’t need to have a tree or a paid Ancestry subscription. It is available for free to everyone who has had an AncestryDNA test.


  1. The map of Western Europe needs to be larger and a lot of the Ancestry info at the bottom eliminated.

  2. While this may be useful for the beginner, I have not found it useful at all. Of all the ethnicities I have it only keyed in on my Sicilian roots, (which I already have BMD's for from Italy) It did not pick up any of my Irish, English, Swedish and several others.

    With my husbands report it also picked up info that I already had and again the map was SO general as to be useless UNLESS someone really does not have a clue where their ancestors came from.

    For beginners this might be useful. For folks who have been doing genealogy a longtime, it gets a thumbs down from me.

    BUT one thing that is also in Beta testing with ancestry DNA is that they are looking for common ancestral matches in your DNA matches.

    My husband is adopted and I had no clue what to do with all the French names (that turned out to be French Canadian folks) so THIS new Beta test gets a HUGE thumbs up from me. I was actually able to pin down who his birth father was.

    This is a HUGE + for adoptees.


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  4. I found this new feature interesting to play with but nothing new until I read your post. I had not noticed the 'Associated Last Names'. When I saw that on your post I went back & found it. Then I clicked on the names in my family and found all that related information. One of my Genetic Communities was Southern Mississippi. I clicked on the surnames & found Civil War military information, for that surname all in one place. Thanks of your post!

  5. This genetic community idea by Ancestry is like many such ethnicity tests > aimed towards people who know little of their ancestry. These people oftentimes know even less about culture & history. But as someone said on another blog belonging to "something" is better than belonging to "nothing".

    The unfortunate truth is anyone who knows their ancestry well, or knows the unlikeness of them belonging this X community or Y group due to religion, ethnicity, etc. or because they are Europeans rather than the mixed up background of Americans, will find such ethnicity tests lacking or just completely mind boggling.

    As someone said on another blog the chances of him belonging to X community was as likely as him being a little green man from Mars what with him being European. But as he pointed out the chances of admixture between these groups happening in the Americas was greater thus why he was erroneously placed in X community. "Mutt" Americans had labelled themselves as such either due to family lore, surnames, etc. but they weren't authentic.

  6. May I ask what happened to the map we used to have that showed our DNA? It had the various regions in different colors.
    Secondly, I have a difficult time believing that there are no communities for me. I have been an Ancestry member since 2004, continuously. I have always had a tree on the site and in fact, currently have 3 trees. My primary tree has over 4,000 people. And, I work on it daily.
    Yet, the DNA for my husband and my brother, have communities.
    What is up?


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