Friday, August 18, 2017

Are Ethnicity Percentages and Ancestry Calculators from DNA Tests Accurate?

The media has blasted headlines this week that show an incredible ignorance of DNA testing for ethnic percentages.  One, which could have been pulled out of a 1980s tabloid for its ridiculousness, screeched, "Neo-Nazis are taking genetic tests and are deeply upset by the results!"

Neither of the two writers delved too deeply into the subject, and that is because shorthand reporting is easier.  As we've posted, again and again, most of the three major DNA testing sites disclose quite openly that their science is far from perfect.  For example, that if one is German, French, Dutch, Belgian, Austrian, or Swiss, that they cannot discern your ancestry 92% of the time.  (With the US having more people of German ancestry than even English or Irish -- that's a big deal).

In fact, it's quite common for someone taking a test from three different websites to receive three different results!  And as the post beneath this one shows, trying the 40 or so other "ethnicity calculators" available for free on Gedmatch produced...40 different results.

As I often say: if 5 different scales produced 5 (vastly different) weights, you would know that at least four of 'em don't work!  :-)

Anyway, for those looking for perspective, we shouldn't highlight the bad, so we've decided to highlight the good -- or the excellent, rather.

One of the best posts we have seen on the topic comes courtesy of a blog called The Legal Genealogist.  It's called, "Those Percentages If You Must" -- and is a Must Read for people curious about whether ancestry calculations from DNA tests are accurate.

It first, rather hilariously, goes into the various myths and misperceptions about DNA and human history.  Concepts like, "black Irish" or "I have some Native American in me."  Concepts that plague the world of pop-DNA-testing.

After it goes through the science (in easy to understand terms), it reveals what I have posted here time and time again:

DNA testing IS GREAT and REMARKABLY PRECISE for finding you cousins.  It CAN tell you if you are a third-cousin, once-removed (with that kind of precision).  If you don't know your heritage, and that cousin is, for example, 100% Native American -- then it follows that you too have a pair of Native American great-great-great grandparents.

DNA testing IS NOT good at ethnicity percentages and ethnic calculation.  As if anything could be so precise as to tell you that you are "4.2% Jewish."  The science is still just not ready for prime time, and many underrepresented populations, even in Europe, still confound the tests.

(As an aside, ancestry calculators should all produce nice and even results when people get back to the pre-travel era."  In other words, if you had 64 ancestors that were alive in 1500 AD, you should only see multiples of 1.56% chunks, right?  Since no one is half a human!)

The article succinctly concludes with:

DNA testing is a wonderful tool. It can connect us with cousins we’d have never found otherwise to help us reconstruct our family histories.

But in terms of “am I Native American?” “what tribe did I come from in Africa?” “am I 25% Irish?” No. No, no, no.  That’s the absolute weakest aspect of DNA testing. 

Indeed.  Well said.

Friday, July 21, 2017

AND THE WINNER IS... (Comparing Admixture/Heritage Tests on Gedmatch)

Methodology:


  • We ran exhaustive tests of several commercial and free DNA-testing labs and ethnicity calculators.  
  • To test the sites, we used only individuals with well-documented, double confirmed, 100% known ancestry.  
  • We tested multiple males from multiple lines to assure as much as humanly possible no extra-parental events (bastardy) occurred.  
  • We even tested minor nobility with documented ties to geographic locales.  
  • We used individuals who do not come from cities or places of cosmopolitanism (influx of foreigners).  
  • We tested only people with all four grandparents from the same locale.  
  • We tested multiple people from different countries in Europe.
As we've posted before, of the commercial labs, 23andme takes first prize, and Ancestry.com is the worst.  23andme provides the most conservative and accurate ethnic ancestry approximations.

We have also completed our testing of all of the ancestry composition tests available on GEDMATCH.  Below is a summary, the results, and the rankings.

  • First of all, the specialty labs, Ethiohelix, Gedrosia DNA, puntDNAL, etc. do not even come close to being accurate, at least for individuals of European heritage.
  • None of MDLP's tests passed our accuracy gauntlet and correctly called west European DNA.
1. The overall winner, and the clear winner of all the tools currently available on Gedmatch, is the Eurogenes K13 test.  It was pretty darn good at distinguishing DNA from various western European lands, for people of "purebred" ancestry.

2. Coming in second was Eurogenes EUtest K15 v2, which also had a pretty darn good record of accurate calls.

3. An honorable mention, and a close third, with accurate calls roughly as close to the second-place finisher, was Dodecad's K12b test.

  • No other tests besides those three were even close to "often accurate."
  • No tests, including those three, were much use for accurately calling the ancestry of European "mutts."  We found that the same tests that were accurate with individuals with 100% heritage from one country, were of limited value for serving as an oracle (predicting accurately) the ancestry of individuals of mixed European heritage.



Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Will Tim Sullivan and Ancestry.com Continue Its VIRTUAL Ethnic Cleansing of Germans?

23andme discloses right off the bat that it cannot identify German or French ancestry 92% of the time.

Ancestry doesn't seem to be able to discern German ancestry too well either, but it doesn't tell its customers that.

Noted: Yet another reader of this blogger just wrote in and shared her experience.  She is 100% German, born in Germany, from a small town, not a big city.  Her ancestors are documented in the region she's from for the last 400 years.  Several of them were well-known and documented.

Ancestry.com called her ancestry as about 50% Scandinavian, 25% Italian, and 25% generic European.  What an epic fail.

How many "white bread" regular Americans, with German ancestry take one of these tests, and misleadingly, their German ancestry is literally wiped away?

We note Germans are America's LARGEST ethnic group, but their ancestry is also often hidden, because German surnames Americanize so well.  For example, Kohl becomes Cole; Schmidt becomes Smith, etc.

As an experiment, with our reader's permission, we ran her raw data through Gedmatch.  Both MDLP (the Magnus Ducatus Lituaniae Project) and Eurogenes were able to call her likeliest ancestry as German.   Dodecad, which specializes in Mediterraneans, was able to call her as German in about half of its tests.

So the question remains:

1.  If the amateurs can call German DNA with reasonable regularity, why the heck can't Ancestry.com?

2.  If Ancestry.com is so bad at identifying America's biggest ethnic group, why doesn't it do the decent thing and tell people?

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Genetics of the Ancient Romans

As we've noted before, there are a bunch of charlatans in the world of Ancient DNA.  The worst offender, perhaps, is a pseudonymous Belgian named Maciamo Hay, who runs a site called Eupedia.  This uneducated man knows just enough to sound knowledgable, and to delude himself and some of the similarly ignorant.  In the world of Ancient DNA, he is probably the best example of Dunning-Krueger effect out there.

Many of these Ancient DNA practitioners spend their time trying to digest the most recent DNA studies, but don't ever come close to picking up a history book, much less to acquiring the deep, big-picture understanding of ancient history that is needed to explain the population movements that have occurred in places like Rome and Italy over time.

In this post, we go over those population movements, to review claims made by fools like Maciamo on Eupedia.

Let's start with his baldest misstatement: "In all logic, the ancient Romans, from the original founders of Rome to the patricians of the Roman Republic, should have been essentially R1b-U152 people."  This laughable statement was directly pulled from Eupedia on the same day that this post is dated, and as far as I can tell, it's still up.  (I just refuse to link to it, lest any more misinformation be circulated).

As Maciamo's own maps show! -- the distribution of U152 in Italy is centered in the ALPS, and radiates outward to all the parts of Italy that were previously inhabited by CELTS.

So: Where to begin?  How does one even start to explain history to someone so uneducated?

Let's start with something most people know.  The saying, "he's crossed the Rubicon" is a reference to Caesar crossing the Rubicone river.

Why was that so significant?  Because the Rubicon was the traditional BORDER of Italy at that time.  (49 BC.)  In other words, it was an act of war for Caesar to cross that border.  Where is the Rubicone river?  It's just south of modern Ravenna!

For 700 years, the "Italy" of Roman times -- that which was populated by Italians (versus Gauls) -- was the true peninsula parts (sticking out).  Never forget that.  The distribution of U152 clearly corresponds to where the population was Gaulish versus Roman!  U152 is the OPPOSITE of a Roman marker.

Southern Italy, on the other hand, was considered the most desirable real estate for much of the Roman Republic and early empire.  When Cicero listed the most beautiful and prosperous cities in Italy, most were in Southern Italy.  Places like Reggio Calabria and Capua.  When Mark Antony and Augustus' veterans demanded land, they demanded it in Southern Italy.

Furthermore, Rome devastated places like Samnium (modern Molise/Campania) and modern Cosenza, destroying most of the inhabitants, and then seizing the territory for Roman citizens.  Anyone who knows Roman history knows this.

Rome planted dozens (almost a hundred) of colonies (of Roman citizens) in Southern Italy.  Entire towns (like Vibo Valentia) were populated by tens of thousands of transplanted Romans.  These colonies were stocked BEFORE Rome became an empire, i.e., before it became cosmopolitan.  The people who founded these towns were of "pure" Roman stock.

Why does this matter?  Well, this blog is no Southern Italy apologist.  Southern Italy was a backwater for years.  Isolated and insignificant.  But from a genetic standpoint, those qualities ARE significant.

If you wanted to study the genetics of the Romans, would you go to a place where lots of people had passed through?  A place that was a successful and world port in the Middle Ages?  A place where people wanted to move to from elsewhere?  OF COURSE NOT.

You would WANT a backwater; a place unchanged over millennia.  The towns of South Italy (many of which who have never been invaded by anyone, thank you very much), are where you can find the descendants of Romans, unadulterated.

Well before modern genetic studies, very intelligent, very thorough researchers did large-scale demographic studies on Rome.  These folks, mostly British historians from Oxford, scoured records in churches and cemeteries, in abbeys and books -- everywhere, -- to estimate the population demography of Rome.  This much we know: at the dawn of the empire, "Italy" was Italy south of the Rubicon, well south of the Po.  The population was a mix of the local Italic tribes and Roman Latins, placed there as colonies.

Want to know the genetics of the Romans?  Look at which towns started out as Roman (not Gaulish, Maciamo!) and which towns have largely been untouched since.

Professor Chris Wickham produced exhaustive studies of Italy from 400-1000 AD.  He provides real numbers of the "others" in Italy.  He concludes the Goths and Lombards (German tribes who ruled large parts of Italy from 476 AD - c. 1000 AD) never were more than 2%-9% of the Italian population, and he believes aside from pockets in the South, they were clustered mostly in the North.  Again, it's the NORTHERN Italians with the non-Roman influences, not the Southerners.  Again, this skews the DNA of the North.  Don't assume the Southern differences from the North are from Southern exoticness.

Chances are, Northern Italian DNA is different because it started with a large dollop of Gaulish (Celtic) genes, and they received a small smattering of Germanic genes.  Southern Italian DNA, for the most part is not different because of subsequent influences.  Southern Italians are generally darker (although not by much) because of the absence of Gaulish and Germanic influences.  But those southerners more closely represent Roman DNA as it was.

Wickham also studied the Byzantine (Eastern Roman empire, Greek-speaking), Norman (French Viking) and Saracen (Arab or North African) occupying forces in Italy, and concluded that for peninsular Italy, these forces were tiny, much less than 1% of the population, and that they left no real  permanent traces.  Again, this is because these were occupying armies not settlers.  Please note contrary to popular belief, much of the towns and villages of Southern Italy were never physically occupied by ANY of these groups, even though suzerainty and tax payments did change hands.  Was Paris after the Nazis any less French?

Folks like Maciamo also greatly UNDERESTIMATE the effect of Roman colonies throughout the Mediterranean.  Rome, through much of its thousand-year history, was a population EXPORTER.  Romans bred like crazy -- there was never enough land to go around -- and they, as the most powerful people of their era, felt it was their prerogative to seize lands of the conquered and place their citizens' families there, to live long and prosper.  It wasn't like now, where middle class families have 2.5 kids.  Then, (aside from the patricians), a family had as many kids as it could afford -- as many kids as it could feed.  Romans had many kids...

A look at the map of Roman colonies shows just how widespread this practice was.   Note the concentration in Italy and Spain, followed by France and Romania.  Yes folks, there's a reason why the Latin language survived in those regions, and why Romance derivatives are still spoken there today.

Despite the Romans exporting so many people, I have never seen one of these modern, unschooled-in -history geneticists raise the question as to whether the similarities between South/Central Italian DNA and that of say, Greece,or North Africa is due to Roman OUTFLOW of genes.  These idiotic (and perhaps racist?) people only repeat the Quentin Tarantino-esque claims that the similarity between such genes must be from exotic INFLOWS into the population of Italy.

It's really idiotic if you think about it.  Rome locates a colony of 25,000 Italian FAMILIES in some town in backwater Greece (or North Africa), and the town prospers for 1000 years and still exists today.  A Byzantine (or Saracen) garrison of 1000 men holds an Italian town for 100 years and then departs.  But many people online ascribe the similarity between Italian and Greek (or North African) genes to the latter?  Incredibly myopic.

Anyway, in conclusion:

Maciamo Hay is an idiot.  He should read some JB Bury, some Ronald Some, and some Chris Wickham.

Geneticists should realize if they want to find Roman genetics, they should try to discern the similarities between backwater (untouched/remote) towns in Southern Italy and Spain, which were settled around the same time with Roman colonists.  There, you can detect and isolate the signal of Roman genetics.

And genetic similarities between Italy and the rest of the Mediterranean could just as easily be due to pre-Roman factors or Roman OUTFLOWS as they are to post-Roman inflows into Italy.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Banned from Anthrogenica, Censored by Eurogenes, Laugh at Eupedia

Several posters at Davidski's Eurogenes blog have noted that they've been banned from Anthrogenica for challenging the Kool-Aid drinking orthodoxy that infects that website.

The pattern almost always goes as follows.  A regular Anthrogenica poster says something like, "Isn't the Kool-Aid grand?"  A newcomer says, "I don't want to drink your Kool-Aid."  The Anthrogenica regular says, "I'm right, you idiot."  And then the newcomer says, "You're the idiot" -- and yep, you guessed it, only one of them gets banned.

It's gotten so bad that some of the best citizen-scientist minds, and almost all contrarian voices, are gone from that website.  In the old days, the orthodoxy sought to excommunicate Galileo from the Catholic faith.  Now they excommunicate posters from the major discussion websites.  No dissent allowed.

With Dienekes inactive, Eurogenes is where many go for discussion.  But Davidski has been very heavy with the censorship button there too.  Post something he disagrees with?  He removes your comment.  It's really sad.

I myself have tried to post my most recent thread, about applying simple demographics to his "Conquest and Warfare" fantasies, and he always removes my comments asap.

What does that leave?  Eupedia?  Maciamo is a reductio ad absurdem idiot, who also doesn't hesitate to ban people with any contrarian viewpoint.

So, this is it.  This is your thread.  This thread (and this website) is for anyone Banned From Anthrogenica, or Censored by Eurogenes.

Post away.  You will not be censored here.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

When Is A "Conquest" Not A Conquest?

When Is A Conquest Not A Conquest?

You are a scientist living in the year 4017, specializing in the ancient civilizations that existed between 1492 and 2200 A.D.  Various cultures came and went, but alas, most written records were lost in the intervening centuries.  So you study DNA.

Your fellow scientists know that in many different regions, the DNA record shows profound change over time, both in autosomal percentages and uniparental markers (Y-Chromosome, mtDNA).

Unfortunately, arrogant bloggers still exist in 4017, and three of them, one called Davidski Futurski (who blogs at Eurogenes-ski), a fellow named Maciamo-Futuriamo, and another named Rocca Futura, are examples of "a little knowledge can be dangerous."  

They blindly state that all changes in DNA indicate evidence of conquest by some superior culture of badass men.  (Nevermind that they all believe they descend from the people they assert to be superior; that's irrelevant, we're sure).

Your boss at the university, someone who sees nuance better than the bloggers, asks you to model the record and various types of human interactions, and answer the question:

"When Might A 'Conquest' Not Really Be A Conquest?"  

So you come up with the following four models, and re-create as best as you can some historical examples for the clueless:

1.  Refugees from a war-torn area flood into a nearby land (and even some faraway lands), overwhelming the demographics.  The bloggers post that a people called the Syrians conquered the Lebanese, starting in 2011, but you're not so sure.  Your research finds the opposite: that there was a horrendous war in Syria, causing 11 million people to lose all their belongings and flee.  Therefore, you don't think these people were conquerors, but refugees.  Nevertheless, the stubborn bloggers point out how the record shows a massive DNA shift in Lebanon, where the Syrian markers went from 5% to 25% of the population in just three years.  

"It had to be conquest" they write, of powerful, rich, sophisticated men conquering the weak Lebanese.  

Alas, you tell them: it was the opposite: a beaten-down people streaming into a nearby land (and also places like Sweden), altering the gene pool.  In fact, Lebanon started with 5 million people, and absorbed an influx of 2.5 million refugees.  Thus, the autosomal genetics and uniparental frequencies were both significantly changed.  It's really as simple as that.

2. Disease.  In 1598, slaves from Africa were brought to a place called Puerto Rico.  They brought with them Yellow Fever, something the native American inhabitants did not have exposure or antibodies to.  

Although the natives were, under the caste system at the time, a couple of rungs higher than the African slaves, and although the natives had better sources of food and systems for dealing with the native landscape, they were killed off in the thousands simply because they didn't have antibodies to the new disease.  

But all the bloggers see is that Puerto Rico went from showing Native American DNA patterns to showing African (and European) DNA patterns.  And they cry, their must have been a conquest, led by the African newcomers!  You LOL, pointing out that these newcomers were slaves and vectors.

3.  Economic Opportunity.  The bloggers now discuss Los Angeles.  They point out that the DNA record shows that in the 1950s, Los Angeles was 80% inhabited by an ancient culture called, "whites."  By 2020, it was 60% Hispanic.  The record thus showed profound shifts in autosomal frequencies and Y-chromosome patterns.  

"There must have been a conquest!" the bloggers shout from the rooftops!  War!  Destruction!  A supreme powerful tribe of men, with better tools!  

No, you quietly assert.  Your research shows that poor Hispanic immigrants simply migrated to Los Angeles, looking for better economic opportunities than what existed back home.  Alas, the bloggers still don't grasp this example either.

4.  Simple Cultural Differences in Birthrates.  Palestinian women have vastly greater birthrates than their neighbors.  In the 1960s, it was 8 children per every female.  Even now, it's above 4.0 children for every woman.  The Israeli birthrate, while still relatively high at 3.0, is not as high.  By 2045, Palestinians may outnumber Israelis.  

Our future bloggers, looking at this from the perspective of the year 4017, may try to argue that there was a conquest by the Palestinians.  They must have had superior technology, they claim!  Better weapons!  

But again, your research (and history) shows this NOT to be the case.


Taking these four examples, you explain to the bloggers that many changes in DNA frequency, cannot be explained as "conquest" even though it's tempting for the simple-minded to do so.  

There are even examples of multiple of the above factors explaining demographic shifts.  For example, the Catholic Irish replacement of Anglo Saxons in many East Coast cities in the 1800s.  That was due to the Irish being refugees, seeking greater economic opportunity en masse, and having higher birthrates.  

Somewhere in the future, the intellectual heirs of Maciamo, Davidski, and many on Anthrogenica, are arguing that the Irish immigrants of the 1800s were in fact a technologically and militarily superior, overwhelming force of wealthy males who clearly conquered the British Americans of the time.

And you, and anyone with any degree of a nuances understanding of history, is still LOL'ing.  

Saturday, December 31, 2016

On the Need for More Interdisciplinariness in "Interdisciplinary" Studies

Ah, if they were all as good as Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza.  The pioneer of interdisciplinary studies, and a Renaissance man, he would thoroughly immerse himself in genetics, demography, history, archaeology, and linguistics -- or find collaborators who could augment his knowledge.  Thus, his work SAW THE BIG PICTURE. 

A new paper out shows that modern "interdisciplinary" studies aren't so interdisciplinary at all.

It's called Mapping European Population Movement through Genomic Research by Patrick J. Geary and Krishna Veeramah.  You can read it by clicking here.

The authors show that many geneticists writing about history simply pick up some bogus two-bit history book.  That is why you get so much pseudo-science out there.

I once talked to a guy, a fairly educated scientist from another discipline, who felt he saw some marker in European genes.  So he did some google searches as to which tribe had ever moved in the rough place where he found the markers.  He then published a paper claiming he found a Cimbri-specific marker.  But he didn't read the rest of the history; had he done so, he would have grasped perhaps that that tribe was wiped out by Gaius Marius in the first century BC....

The paper also points out that there isn't enough precision in genetics, because geneticists don't bother to understand that different regions have different histories.  What good is knowing some person was French, without logging if that person is Provencal or Norman?  Very little....

Best quote from the paper: "The Ralph and Coop study, while highly rigorous at the level of the population genetic analysis, included no historians or archaeologists, and the only historical literature cited, presumably to »identify« the Hunnic contribution to European population, was a general history of Europe, a survey of Slavic history, and two articles in the New Cambridge Medieval History. The Busby et al. study also included no historians or archaeologists on its team, and the only historical literature cited was a Penguin History of the World, Peter Heather’s survey of the Early Middle Ages, and a survey of Muslims in Italy. Unlike these studies, designed and executed  exclusively by geneticists who then look through a few general historical handbooks to try to find stories that might explain their data..."

In other words, many scientific papers suffer from the same thing that plagues the Anthrogenica or even worse, Maciamo's horrifically bad Eupedia: "a LITTLE knowledge is dangerous."  They don't bother grasping the big picture in genetics, demography, history, archaeology, and linguistics...