Nanalyze

A Review of the GPS Origins DNA Ancestry Test

There is an incredible amount of information that can be found within your DNA, and we’re only beginning to understand it all. While some applications like DNA fitness tests have a questionable value, a more popular application has been that of DNA ancestry tests. It’s easy enough to find out if the results are just another variation of astrology by looking at an actual case that involves a subject with some concrete knowledge about his ancestry. We did just this, and tested a subject with known ancestral ties to particular regions in Europe. We then did a comparison of four popular DNA ancestry tests (AncestryDNA vs 23andMe vs FamilyTreeDNA vs Living DNA) and compared all the results to see which test provided the most information. Overall, we concluded that each of these tests provided some value that justified the purchase price. Since then, we’ve had various other companies approach us about taking their particular type of DNA test. One such company was HomeDNA with their GPS Origins ancestry test:

The company was kind enough to pony up a kit for us to test so we did the deed and sent in the results. Since we already have a foundation of four other DNA ancestry tests to provide a decent comparison, here’s what we found out.

If you’re not familiar with HomeDNA, we covered their products a while back. The company that provides these products is DNA Diagnostic Center (DDC), and they’ve analyzed 10 million DNA samples from 168 countries offering tests for paternity, immigration, and other family relationships. Their GPS Origins test claims to be one of the most specific ancestry tests on the market today with 1,000 different “reference populations” around the globe. Watching the introduction video which explains how to interpret the results gives us the feeling that this is more about your ancestors from way, way back as opposed to a few generations ago.

Now before we go on, you should first read our previous article about where the test subject’s relatives originated from noting the general accuracy of the prior tests in pointing this out. Long story short, we’re talking about some Italians and Lithuanians. With that said, here’s what the results of the GPS Origins test tell us about which gene pools our subject’s DNA belongs to:

So 53.5 of our subject’s origins are explained by the above swaths that cover Scandinavia minus Denmark and Sweden, then a big chunk of Northern Europe. Cool. Let’s move on next to the more detailed “migration map” that shows through which region our subject’s ancestors traveled through:

The first things we want to know here is which pattern matches our subject’s maternal or paternal sides. The test doesn’t tell you that, so you’ll need to guess. In our case, we know that the subject’s grandfather came from a small village in Lithuania. It’s entirely conceivable that his DNA could have originated at some point from a village outside Moscow. His people then passed through the “Venice of the North” where we then learn that “at some point after 836AD your ancestors moved to Finland”. We’re also given another date of 1473AD which means that our subject’s ancestors arrived in Finland some time during a 637 year period of time. Knowing what we know now, these ancestors would have then crossed over to Talinn on a cruise ship for a cheap week of boozing it up in Estonia, then decided to make their way south to the great country of Lithuania where everyone is tall, remarkably smart, and incredibly good looking. This all makes sense so far, so let’s move on to what we assume is the maternal migration line.

Looks like our maternal ancestors started out in a small seaside town in Sweden where they started to grow bored with the whole fishing thing and decided to head inland in a straight line until they reached the coastline again, this time south of the beautiful city of Bergen. There, they realized that while the fjords were incredibly beautiful and the fish abundant, the price of alcohol was incredibly high, so they stopped drinking and then planned a move to Italy at some point in the distant future where the vino did flow. Again, we see a pretty big window of more than 1,000 years during which these individuals would have arrived in Norway. That’s not incredibly helpful, but interesting nonetheless.

That’s about it. So how might this information be useful? Well, if you’re a hardcore genealogist, you may find this sort of information useful as you build your tree over at Ancestry.com. After you go back about 3-4 generations, it does get really tough to find out where you came from. Our subject found this out the hard way as he navigated his way through the historical records archive in Vilnius trying to find his great granddad’s birth certificate.

Lastly, we were chatting with the folks over there at HomeDNA about a new DNA test for pets that sounds pretty cool. One of our MBAs ponied up for a lovely rag doll cat so we may be swabbing its cute little gums and finding out whether or not that $1,000 price tag was justified. Stay tuned. In the meantime, if you want to give the GPS Origins test a go, it’s currently being offered at $50 off so you can find out where your ancestors mingled way back when.

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