AncestryDNA® has updated its ethnicity estimate reference panel so customers will now have the ability to see a possible genetic connection with the Indigenous communities of Australia.
Prior to this update, customers who have genetic markers in their DNA that Ancestry’s analysis associates with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander DNA would have received an ethnicity estimate for the region ‘Melanesia’. This region depicted a geographical area that included Australia and Papua New Guinea.
With this update, we have segmented the ‘Melanesia’ region into two separate regions: “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander” and ‘Melanesia.’
We deeply respect Indigenous Australians’ long, historical, and first connection to the land, and want to help ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander genetic heritage was included, but not misrepresented, within the AncestryDNA product experience.
The Science behind this update
At Ancestry, we use cutting-edge science to study the DNA in your saliva to reveal your ethnic origins. After your DNA is extracted, we analyse your genome and survey over 700,000 locations in your DNA. Then, our science team uses an advanced algorithm to compare long segments of your DNA to the DNA of people in our reference panel who have deep family histories from specific parts of the world, and have consented to research.
Unlike most of the other reference groups that comprise of people with at least all four grandparents from a single region, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander DNA reference panel has been derived from a sample of members who have mixed ancestry. This is common for many regions in the Americas and Oceania. We created this reference panel using the DNA segments that people inherited from their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestors.
Because the original populations in Australia were isolated from most of the rest of the world for such a long time, through this reference panel it is possible to distinguish sections of DNA as most likely coming from these Indigenous Australian populations.
If you receive the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander region in your DNA results, this tells you that you probably had an ancestor who was an Indigenous Australian. If you are Indigenous Australian and do not receive this region in your DNA results, this should not subtract from your identity in any way. It’s possible, depending on how distant the Indigenous Australian ancestor is, that you share too little DNA with them for our DNA test to detect it. A DNA test is not any kind of prescription of identity; rather, a person’s genetic makeup is only one part of their story.
Ancestry is confident in the data and methodology used to assign the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander region in our customers’ DNA results, but it’s important to remember that in our prediction, there will be a range of exactly how much, which is why we refer to it as an “ethnicity estimate.”
This update is provided at no additional cost. Consumer genomics is a new and evolving field and we are proud to be at the forefront. We use the latest DNA science to constantly provide updates for our members, resulting in new ways for you to learn more about yourself, so you can expect additional updates in the future.