Eureka: The Value of Ethnicity Testing

Once in awhile you hit a goldmine.

My grandmother Leona has taken me on a wild genealogical journey.  When it started twenty-five years ago, I only had the names of her grandparents and two great grandparents.  Since then, I have learned the names of all eight of her great grandparents, and many, many more.  By exhausting the written record, I have also learned that her Norwegian family hails from Gran, Oppland, and her “German” family from what is now Poland had deep roots in Belgard and Wollin Island.

However, and it is a gigantic ‘however’, the real breakthrough has come with genetic genealogy.

FTDNA’s Family Finder autosomal test gave Leona a very basic ancestral breakdown:

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Fortunately, for those of us who find the results a bit too general or otherwise flawed (see Hey, FTDNA Pass the Saltshaker), there is the option of admixture, or ethnicity testing at

For those using the admixture tools at you will get more out of them if you are aware of what population they are intended for.  For Europeans I generally suggest using the Eurogenes K13 tool.  Detailed information can be found about the project here.

For Leona, who according to her paper trail is 50% Pomeranian, 25% Norwegian and 25% French Alsatian her Eurogenes K13 results looked ok:

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Her results became a little problematic when I ran the oracle tool, which breaks down the data and attempts to find the populations with which the tester’s DNA is most similar. The closer the number, or genetic distance, the closer the tester’s data matches the population.

Using 4 populations approximation:
1 Belorussian + Norwegian + Southeast_English + Spanish_Cataluna @ 1.636326
2 Belorussian + North_Dutch + Norwegian + Spanish_Valencia @ 1.697896
3 Belorussian + Norwegian + Orcadian + Spanish_Valencia @ 1.737609
4 Belorussian + Norwegian + Norwegian + Spanish_Valencia @ 1.739878
5 Belorussian + Danish + Norwegian + Spanish_Valencia @ 1.767539
6 Belorussian + Norwegian + Orcadian + Spanish_Cataluna @ 1.770994
7 Estonian + North_Dutch + North_Dutch + Spanish_Valencia @ 1.773238
8 Danish + Estonian + North_Dutch + Spanish_Valencia @ 1.797363
9 Estonian + North_German + Southeast_English + Spanish_Cataluna @ 1.824932
10 Belorussian + Southeast_English + Spanish_Cataluna + Swedish @ 1.848615

Why would her data show Spanish or English populations?  I have heard that Germanic populations throw out English results due to historic settlement patterns, and of course the Orcadian values were coming from her Norwegian line. Perhaps her Alsatian or Norwegian might have an affinity to the North Dutch. The Spanish simply did not fit with any known genealogy and the French Alsatian was entirely absent.

Knowing that the MDLP Project specializes in Lithuania, I decided to see how her data fared with the MDLP k32b tool, which would be more suited to those with an Eastern European background.

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The k32b results also looked ok, but it was the Oracle that took my breath away and handed me the keys to my grandmother’s pre-paper ancestry:

Using 4 populations approximation:
1 French_South + Frisian + Kashub + Ukrainian_East @ 1.567389
2 Don_cossack + French_South + Frisian + Kashub @ 1.585187
3 Don_cossack + French_South + Frisian + Ukrainian_West @ 1.593364
4 French_South + Irish + Kashub + Ukrainian_East @ 1.622383
5 French_South + Frisian + Kashub + Russian_South @ 1.665935
6 French_South + Frisian + Ukrainian_East + Ukrainian_West @ 1.683914
7 Don_cossack + French_South + Irish + Kashub @ 1.688092
8 French_South + Frisian + Kashub + Ukrainian_Center @ 1.694843
9 English_Cornwall_GBR + French_South + Ukrainian_East + Ukrainian_East @ 1.708500
10 Basque_French + Croat_BH + Kashub + Mordovian @ 1.708919

Although my grandmother had insisted her mother was German!!!, there is no denying that she was far and away more Slavic. When I learned my 5th great grandfather Johann Gottfried Potratz was a commissioned officer in the Ruitschen Regiment in Warsaw I suspected we might be a little less German than Granny was letting on.  When my own DNA results came back and Ukrainian began appearing, my suspicions deepened.  Thanks to the MDLP k32b tool and genetic testing, we have been taken where the church records could not bring us.

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As the wife of Johann Potratz carried the mtDNA haplogroup W3, as do I, I know our ties to the East are deep, and measured in thousands rather than hundreds of years.  If you too are a W3 or have Eastern European ancestry, I highly recommend uploading your raw data  to and trying the MDLP admixture tools.  You may also be treated to a Eureka moment.

3 thoughts on “Eureka: The Value of Ethnicity Testing

  1. Pingback: Cousin Collaboration: It Works! | IowaDNAProject

  2. Pingback: Unravelling A Pomeranian Mystery | IowaDNAProject

  3. Pingback: Deciphering DNA’s Astrology: Admixture Tools | IowaDNAProject

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