23andMe Test Kit

23andMe Test Kit

As we speak, 23andMe’s ancestry report traces your genetic roots back to 31 populations. That makes the result far off precise, which is why some end up with very different results than expected, while getting contradictory results from other DNA test brands. 

Now, the company is updating its methods on its $99 genealogy test to trace ancestry back to 120 more populations, for a total of 151. The test will include more countries, which is far more specific than regions. So rather than learning that you’re a little bit Scandinavian, 23andMe will inform you that you’re 25% Norwegian, or Swedish, for instance.

“DNA Tests For Ancestry Are More Toys Than Scientific Tools, And The Industry Knows It”

“We can do this by looking for exact DNA matches between a customer and over 130,000 individuals of known ancestry from 120 regions across the globe,” the company said in a blog post. “If a person exactly matches with five or more individuals from one of those specific regions, that region is assigned as a ‘recent ancestor location.’ We also report the ‘strength’ of the match, which is determined by how much DNA a customer shares with people from that region, adjusted by how many people are in the reference population.”

23andMe Ancestry Compositon

23andMe Ancestry Composition (Image: 23andMe)

“We’ve asked a lot of customers where they’re from and this has allowed us to build up a database of genetic diversity,” said Robin Smith, 23andMe’s product manager, speaking to CNBC.  

Beyond increasing the number of regions, the update also includes improvements to the map and the experience of panning and zooming into the geographic regions we’re linked to through our DNA. 

Another feature, that hasn’t been offered by other DNA testing companies (as of yet), demonstrates the ability to formulate the percentage of our Neanderthal ancestry. 

This new update is a great example of how rapidly genetic technology is improving, and how larger datasets improve accuracy.