23andMe DNA Ancestry Composition

06 Dec

In 5th grade, I had done a project on where my ancestors originated from before they eventually came to the United States. Of course I did not know what country in Africa, where my ancestors came from. Had no clue, unlike Alex Haley who had oral history that at least one branch of ancestors were Mandinka. There was no oral history about Africa in my was just assumed due to our appearance, and the history of slavery my ancestors originated in Africa. I chose Kenya for my project. I am sure my decision was based on their flag.

Now had you ask me what country in Africa would had I picked three years ago, due to my testing  with 23andMe DNA. I would have chosen Ethiopia due to my mitochondrial haplogroup  L1b1a, which is found exclusively among in Ethiopia and Sudan today. It appears to have arrived in those countries about 15,000 years ago. Somewhere in the area of Ethiopia and Sudan is my motherland. My mother’s mother’ mother’s and so on motherland. But that is only one branch, my DNA states that I am 62.5 % percent Sub-Saharan African. So where did my other African branches come from?

Yesterday I just got an update on my 23andMe ancestry composition.

43.5% West Africa, 0.9% Central Africa and South Africa, and 18.1% Nonspecific


Map of overview of slave trade out of Africa 1500-1900

On 23andMe, there is Ancestry finder portion which tells me my possible  23andMe cousin’s grandparent location.

One unknown cousin who has 4 grandparents from Nigeria.  My mother has 2 unknown cousins/4 grandparents.

One known cousin with minimum conversation who has 4 grandparents from Cote d’Ivoire. (Paternal)

One known cousin who has 4 grandparents from Columbia. (My maternal side)

One unknown cousin who has 4 grandparents in Dominican Republic.

One known cousin who has 4 grandparents in Mexico. (Maternal and Paternal)

One unknown cousin who has 4 grandparents in Jamaica. (Maternal and Paternal)

My maternal uncle has one cousin who has 4 grandparents in Belize.

My paternal aunt has one cousin who has 4 grandparents from Tanzania.

Paternal aunt has one cousin who has 4 grandparents from Chile.

Luckie Daniels has been corresponding with 23andMe: Lucky asked the AAGSAR members to post any questions that we might have for 23and me

23andMe QUESTIONS/ANSWERS: Alright folks, here we go:

Hey Luckie,
Apologies for the length of this email, I wanted to address all of the questions fully. I hope this helps clear up some questions you and your readers might have!

1. When will the Ancestry Composition be updated for everyone?

In order to receive results that include the new populations, profiles will be enqueued for computation on the updated version of Ancestry Composition. These computations will occur on a rolling basis, so there is no specific timeline for receiving these updated results. Some customers will see these results before others.

2. Since the FDA changes currently prevent some activities, can we expect more updates and changes with our Ancestry tools, and presentations, etc.?

We will continue to improve our Ancestry product, with projects like the African Ancestry Project. Stay tuned to our blog, for any future announcements on specific projects or developments. 

3. How many participants in the African Descendants Project?

The African Ancestry Project is currently around 200 participants from a wide range of countries. We are currently focusing on recruiting from some countries that are underrepresented in the project right now, including Benin, Togo, and Guinea. 

4. How many samples do they think they’ll need to further differentiate ethnic groups, not just regional groups for SSA?

We don’t have an exact number for that. Currently, reference populations vary greatly in size. Our smallest reference population is the Yakut people (eastern Russia), with only 25 samples. Currently, we have 621 samples included in the sub-Saharan African reference population. 

Our reference populations come from within 23andMe and from public sources, including the Human Genome Diversity Project, HapMap and the 1000 Genomes project. 

Populations may be inherently difficult to distinguish because of historical mixing, or we might not have had enough data to tell them apart. As we obtain more data, populations will become easier to distinguish.

Read all about Ancestry Composition and how we create reference populations.

A tool that I would recommend is the Countries of Ancestry feature. 

Within this feature, we combine information from your DNA Relatives matches (regardless of whether you have made contact or revealed your identities to one another) and those matches’ answers to the Where Are You From? ancestry survey. Say you have a DNA Relatives match who shares a 14.3 cM stretch of chromosome 20 with you. If that person said that all four of their grandparents were born in Nigeria, Ancestry Finder will mark that segment with four colored strips (one for each grandparent).

As participants from the African Ancestry Project start to answer survey questions and get their results back, they will be included within the pool of potential DNA Relative matches. Existing 23andMe customers will be able to see if they share segments of DNA with these individuals.

5. Are they asking questions about ethnic groups, not just 4 gps from the same country? 

Yes, we ask participants to name any tribal, ethnic or linguistic affiliations that they may have. We recognize that some participants may have 4 grandparents of the same tribal background, who might not be all from the same country. We have included these participants within the study. 

6. Why is there a large segments of Nonspecific sub-Saharan African with the majority of people that have the updated changes. Will 23andMe eventually updated these segments? Are we still waiting from samples of East Africa/ non North Africa?

First, let me clarify what the term “non-specific” means.

If a piece of DNA is found all over Sub-Saharan Africa, like in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, but not outside Sub-Saharan Africa, Ancestry Composition will label that DNA “Nonspecific Sub-Saharan African.” 

It is possible that these segments may be assigned to a more specific group in the future, perhaps within the next Ancestry Composition update. As we obtain more data, populations will become easier to distinguish.

7. Why the significant shift in numbers? I’m happy with my increase in other ethnic compositions, I noticed my sub-Saharan African numbers dropped from 89.9% to 88.2%

As we update our reference data, it will not be uncommon to see slight shifts in your Ancestry Composition over time, such as a shift of 1.7%.

Keep in mind that the knowledge of ancestral genetics is also continually evolving. The field is not static and new discoveries are being made every day. At 23andMe we strive to keep pace with the current science and keep our customers up to date on new findings.


Posted by on December 6, 2013 in DNA


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8 responses to “23andMe DNA Ancestry Composition

  1. MyLuckieGroove

    December 7, 2013 at 12:39 am

    Amazing breakout of you & your cousins! The science really is unreal & shows how complex the slave trade logistics were! Surreal the distance a drop of blood can travel. Your DNA is all over the globe!:)

    • Stephani

      December 9, 2013 at 1:17 am

      Yes that one drop of blood is showing me how mother’s children were stripped from them and placed all over the trans Atlantic slavery ports and the nameless crewmen who left a part of themselves with the females on the ship. I will try my best to reunite some of these famlies back where they belong!

      • MyLuckieGroove

        December 9, 2013 at 1:41 am

        I think at the core for me Stephani this is why my heart still sways towards the Ancestors & not the blood sample. I do find it personally interesting & curious in the years to come how it will affect our discussions on race. But really I know my genetic mix is a bi-product of the experience. My work is for those who came through the experience & were lost.

  2. My Ethiopia Trips

    December 7, 2013 at 4:28 am

    I’m so jealous!!! How did you find out???

    • Stephani

      December 9, 2013 at 12:12 am

      Thank you for reading my post, to your question if you are asking about how I found out about Ethiopia, it is because I did my DNA with the company 23andMe. The site informed me of my motherland haplogroup of L1b1a as I stated in the posting. But we as African Americans have many ancestors from different countries of Africa, so even if Ethiopia is not your motherland per se…your other ancestors are passing the natural gravitation to Ethiopia to you…embrace it and enrich yourself with it’s beautiful culture.

  3. Coco Elysses

    February 13, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    I am a part of this haplogroup. My mother is deceased, for her 80th birthday, we completed this. My niece used 23andme as well.

    • Stephani Juleeana Miller

      February 13, 2015 at 3:34 pm

      Hello Coco, tell your niece to download her data for free on and she can see other DNA cousins who use Ancestry DNA and Familytee DNA companies. To answer the second question…yes 23andme has been very informational for me. It has confirm lineages that would of been impossible before the testing.

  4. Coco Elysses

    February 13, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    I am curious, did you use 23andme to find these relatives all over the globe?


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