East Asian & Polynesian results

Introduction

As the name already implies this blog is dedicated to Tracing African Roots. However many if not most Afro-descendants actually also have additional non-African ancestry. And for some people this part of their DNA might also be interesting to explore further. I have therefore started a new survey featuring the AncestryDNA results of persons from all over Europe, Asia, the Pacific as well as Native Americans. In order to improve correct interpretation of AncestryDNA’s regions by comparing results with persons from verified backgrounds.  Obviously my survey findings are not intended to reflect any fictional national averages. They should rather be taken as mere indications given individual variation, limitations of sampling, over-representation of certain migrant areas of provenance etc. etc. Follow these links for more details:

***Chart 1 (click to enlarge)

Stats (PH=16)

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Selection of Northeast Asian AncestryDNA results 

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KORCHI

 

Selection of Southeast Asian AncestryDNA results 

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VIETLATHAI

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CAMINDO

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PINOY

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On this page I will mostly feature the AncestryDNA results of people with a Northeast Asian & Southeast Asian background. In addition i will also post a few Polynesian & Madagascar results as they might be illuminating on how to judge the minor but consistent “Polynesian” scores reported for Northeast Asians & Southeast Asians as well as Afro-Diasporans. These unexpected Pacific percentages seem to confuse and mislead many people. For continued discussion see the very last section of this page where i summarize some of the main implications for Afro-Diasporans of partial Malagasy, Southeast Asian or Chinese descent.

As shown above the “Asia East” region is reasonably predictive but much more so for Northeast Asians than for Southeast Asians. It turns out that generally speaking AncestryDNA describes East Asian DNA as being a combination of “Asia East” plus “Polynesia”. This goes especially for Southeast Asians but in fact also for the Chinese. All according to a gradient which increases going southwards. Only for Koreans and Japanese it seems that the socalled “Asia East” region is a perfect fit. Often to the full 100%.

Using common sense of course the socalled “Polynesia” scores among East Asians are not likely to point towards any recent ancestral ties with the Pacific. Rather these scores are much more likely to be explained through genetic similarities as a result of ancient Polynesian/Austronesian migrations originating in East Asia and branching out to the Pacific. Socalled Austronesian speakers are also found in presentday Indonesia, the Philippines and as far west as Madagascar! Because Austronesians ultimately hail from southern China, also present day southern Chinese are reported with this genetic similarity.

Despite some degree of shared origins Pacific Asia obviously is home to many distinctive ethnic groups and displays a wide span of genetic diversity.  Not surprising given the many migrations and blending of invaders and aboriginal populations which has been taking place since early prehistory. Too much diversity to be captured in just one single lump category.  For a greater understanding of East Asian & Polynesian genetics follow these links:

“Asia East” region peaks for Japanese & Koreans

***Chart 2 (click to enlarge)

HDGP & 1k samples

***Chart 3 (click to enlarge)

Stats (MG=3)

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Chart 2 displays the median AncestryDNA admixture proportions for several East Asian sample groups from the HGDP database as well as the 1000 Genomes database. I copied these results  from an attachment to a recent paper done by the Ancestry research team and published in Nature (“Clustering of 770,000 genomes reveals post-colonial population structure of North America”, 2017).  Their group averages are quite similar to my own survey findings. Combining with chart 3  it seems that on average both Koreans and Japanese people might score close to 100% “Asia East” when tested on Ancestry. Which is also in line with the information provided by Ancestry about the “typical native” from East Asia (based on 645 unspecified samples).

To be sure this does not mean that “Asia East” is an indicator of actual Korean or Japanese lineage! This peaking of the “Asia East” region among Japanese as well as Koreans (two closely related populations) does seem to suggest that a widespread genetic similarity is being detected which is based firstmost on shared origins with Northeast Asians. Therefore the increased “Polynesia” scores among Chinese and Southeast Asians do make more sense when you regard them firstmost as a mislabeled expression of deviations from the Korean/Japanese “benchmark” set by the “Asia East” region. Despite overall a great deal of shared origins across eastern Asia such genetical variance is to be expected for both geographical and historical reasons.

Aside from almost always predominant (>60%)  “Asia East” amounts as well as considerable secondary “Polynesia” scores also socalled “Asia South” & “Asia Central” are reported as minor genetic components by AncestryDNA for many native Southeast Asians.  These regions can be puzzling at first sight for people who according to their own knowledge are fully Southeast Asian. It can even be misleading without correct interpretation. In fact in absence of any supporting evidence these socalled “Asia South” and “Asia Central” scores are usually not indicative of recent lineage but rather to be considered as (mislabeled) DNA markers which have been present within the Southeast Asian genepool for hundreds or even thousands of years. In order to avoid any jumping to premature conclusions i highly recommend that you atleast browse through some of the topics mentioned in the following links:

The basic lesson to be learnt is that the regional labeling by AncestryDNA is not always intended to be taken literally! The regional percentages reported by AncestryDNA firstmost signal close genetic similarity to the samples taken from the countries or areas after which the regions have been named. And not actual descent or some kind of blood quantum as is too often assumed.

Ethnicity is a construct which evolves across time due to ethnogenesis. Generally speaking therefore ethnic groups do not possess unique DNA markers. Especially in comparison with neighbouring ethnic groups or from within the same wider region. The most common scenario being a genetic gradient which causes ancestral components to gradually fan out. As can be verified from my survey findings.

However by closely studying the regional combinations being reported for Northeast Asians and Southeast Asians we can still learn a great deal. Inspite of individual variation group averages do tend to provide more solid ground to make meaningful inferences when specifying someone’s ancestral origins. Also finding out where a specific region is most prominent or rather most subdued holds valuable lessons.

For a second opinion on your Asian AncestryDNA results you might want to upload your raw data into GedMatch or any of the other freely available autosomal DNA tools. Also 23andme provides a much greater granularity for their Asian breakdown which eliminates the socalled “Polynesia” percentages reported by Ancestry.  It includes a separate Southeast Asian category for example. Even so (based on my own observation of Asian 23andme results) it does still have other unresolved issues. For example for southern Chinese people minor amounts of “Polynesia” are now being replaced by minor amounts of “Southeast Asia”. Also making the distinction between Japanese and Korean DNA turns out to be very difficult. Furthermore while island Southeast Asians (Indonesia & the Philippines) will receive quite accurate results because of 23andme’s Southeast Asian category. This doesn’t go for mainland Southeast Asians who will usually receive substantial Chinese percentages in addition. Even when there’s no genuine Chinese admixture. All of this does make more sense though if you take into account inherent limitations of admixture analysis as well as ancient migrations and shared origins across East Asia.

See also:

As far as I was able to verify all of the following screenshots below are from persons of fully Northeast Asian or Southeast Asian descent. But naturally i did not have absolute certainty in all cases. Practically all results have been collected by me from public websites or social media.1 I like to thank all my survey participants for having tested on AncestryDNA and sharing their results online so that it may benefit other people as well!

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Northeast Asian results

I have ranked the screenshots below based on the amount of highest to lowest score for “Asia East”. The Korean results are impressively accurate and consistent. Generally speaking Northeast Asia is already known to be very homogenous, both ethnically and culturally. Some of the Chinese results are from Taiwan. I have indicated so whenever  i had the information but possibly more of them are Taiwanese as well. Either way sofar all of them seem to be in the same range as the southern Chinese samples from the 1000 Genomes database (see chart 2). Just to reiterate all of the socalled “Polynesian” scores being reported are merely artefacts of AncestryDNA’s analysis. This is mostly due to the lack of Southeast Asian samples in Ancestry’s Reference Panel, see also discussion in the previous section.

KOREA

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KOR100c

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KOREA

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KOR100b

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KOREA 

KOR100

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CHINA  

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CH94

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CHINA 

CH93b

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CHINA

CH93

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CHINA (Taiwan)

CH93 (TW)

 

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CHINA (Taiwan)

CH92 (TW)

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CHINA  

CH91

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CHINA (Taiwan)

CH91 (TW)

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CHINA (Taiwan)

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CH90 (TW)

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CHINA 

The less than 1% “Native America” is obviously a misreading for DNA which might be similar to Siberian or Central Asian DNA.

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CH88

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CHINA

This Chinese person sofar showed the highest percentage of socalled “Polynesia”. Interestingly i also have this person’s 23andme test results. It doesn’t show any Pacific DNA anymore but instead an even greater amount of socalled “Southeast Asian” is showing up. This outcome should be carefully interpreted and not taken too literally!  Most likely it merely represents an inevitable shift to the south when comparing southern Chinese with northern Chinese.

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CH86

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Southeast Asian results

I have ranked the screenshots below based on the amount of highest to lowest score for “Asia East”. We can observe a predictable but also useful pattern of decreasing “Asia East” scores going from Vietnam to Cambodia as well as from the mainland to the Philippines and Indonesia (see also chart 3).  Just to reiterate in absence of any supporting evidence all of the socalled “Polynesian” scores being reported are merely artefacts of AncestryDNA’s analysis. This is mostly due to the lack of Southeast Asian samples in Ancestry’s Reference Panel, see also previous discussion.

As an extra reminder in regards to the minor “Asia Central” and especially “Asia South” scores it’s well advised not to take the labeling too literally! The “Asia Central” scores are rather tricky to figure out at this moment but possibly suggest some ancient Siberian shifted DNA markers not found among Japanese and Koreans and therefore causing a deviation from “Asia East”. The “Asia South” scores might in part be genuine as afterall Southeast Asia has very longstanding cultural but also some minor ancestral ties with South Asia by way of trading as well as missionary (Buddhism & Hinduism) diasporas. However these South Asia – Southeast Asia connections go both ways! As in fact eastern parts of South Asia have been influenced by ancient Austroasiatic migrations originating in Southeast Asia. So it could very well be that the socalled “Asia South” scores (peaking in Cambodia and western Indonesia) partially also reflect these ancient shared origins and genetic similarity, rather than any South Asian geneflow from the historical period.

It’s interesting to also take note of the minor but quite numerous reporting of African Trace regions for Southeast Asians. Usually only around 1%. With some imagination a more or less historically plausible scenario could be valid in individual and atypical cases (Africans and mixed Africans are known to have traveled in the colonial timeperiod along with Europeans to Asia, especially with the Portuguese). However given inevitable dilution across the generations this explanation does not seem suitable to account for any generalized pattern. Just speculating i would assume these outcomes are rather caused by a type of Negrito DNA marker absorbed within the Southeast Asian genepool since ancient times. But which is currently not recognized as such because of the lack of Southeast Asian samples in AncestryDNA’s Reference Panel. You might have expected it would be reported as “Melanesian” then instead but quite likely the Melanesian samples used by Ancestry are divergent from remnant Negrito DNA as found in Southeast Asia. Some minor “Melanesian scores do show up however for especially Cambodians but they seem to be mostly correlated with “Asia South” scores.

See also:

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VIETNAM

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VT83

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VIETNAM

The less than 1% “Native America” is obviously a misreading for DNA which might be similar to Siberian or Central Asian DNA.

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VT83b

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VIETNAM

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VT82

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VIETNAM

 

VT82b

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LAOS (Hmong)

 

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LA82 (Hmong)

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LAOS

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LA78

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THAILAND

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TH77

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THAILAND

TH67

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CAMBODIA

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KH70

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CAMBODIA

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Highest African score observed sofar for native Southeast Asians. I’m doubtful it’s genuine but who knows (counterchecking by testing with 23&me might provide more clarity). Notice also the quite elevated level of 3% “Melanesia”.

KH65c

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CAMBODIA

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KH65b

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CAMBODIA

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KH65

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CAMBODIA

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KH64b

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CAMBODIA

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KH64

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PHILIPPINES

Possibly some distant Chinese ancestry for this Filipino. Judging from both surname as well as increased “Asia East”.

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PH74 (CH)

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PHILIPPINES

PH69c

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PHILIPPINES

Highest socalled “Asia Central ” score reported for Southeast Asians sofar. Intriguing to speculate what it might imply. But really not to be taken too literally as it may just reflect a deviation from the Northeast Asian samples used by Ancestry to define their “Asia East” region. On the other hand also notice the minor 2% “Iberian Peninsula”. The labeling of this region is this time very appropriate because it seems likely to signal distant Spanish admixture.

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PH69b

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PHILIPPINES

PH69

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PHILIPPINES

PH67

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PHILIPPINES

PH66

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PHILIPPINES

PH65

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PHILIPPINES

PH63d

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PHILIPPINES

PH63b

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PHILIPPINES

PH63c

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PHILIPPINES

PH63

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PHILIPPINES

PH60

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PHILIPPINES

Highest European admixture observed sofar for Filipinos. This is rather atypical but still a few other Filipino results also showed smaller amounts of European admixture. This person wrote an interesting blog post about his results:

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PH53

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PHILIPPINES & INDONESIA

Highest “Melanesia” score reported sofar among Southeast Asians for this person who has one Indonesian and one Filipino parent.

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PHIN60

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INDONESIA (Sumatra?)

IN67

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INDONESIA (Batak) 

IN61 (Batak)

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INDONESIA (Sulawesi)

IN61 (Sulawesi)

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INDONESIA

IN60

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MALUKU (eastern Indonesia)

Maluku or also the Moluccan islands are part of Indonesia. But based on several criteria it arguably fits better into Melanesia.  Although basically displaying a balanced blending of various ancestral components the “Melanesia” amount being shown below is highest. Such an outcome might also be obtained for other eastern Indonesians, but not so for western Indonesians who are more strictly of Austronesian stock. Still the “Polynesian” score is also impressive. However the “Asia East” amount is clearly no longer predominant (>50%) as it is for practically all other Southeast Asians.

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ML39

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Polynesian results

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Typical Polynesian

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As can be seen in the chart directly above the prediction accuracy of the “Polynesian” region on AncestryDNA is impressively high: 100% for the “typical native”! This is also showing up in the few results i have gathered sofar. Even for mixed Polynesians the predicted “Polynesian” share is quite accurate. As a testimony of the close genetic kinship among Polynesians despite dispersed geography this is apparent in results from New Zealand all the way to Hawaii. However this prediction accuracy is only valid for people of confirmed Polynesian background!

Most likely due to (very) ancient shared origins the socalled “Polynesia” region is also consistently reported for Southeast Asians & Chinese. In secondary place after “Asia East” but still with substantial amounts. This is a clear case of mislabeling of ancestral categories. As actually the gene flow would be the other way around. Due to migration patterns going from north to south and also west to east it is generally assumed in genetic & linguistic studies that Polynesians have (ancient) East Asian origins. Probably departing from Taiwan but either way ultimately originating from the Asian mainland.

For more background information:

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TONGA

TG100

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TONGA

TG99

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TONGA (1/2 Tongan & 1/2 European)

TG46

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 SAMOA

Possibly some distant Chinese ancestry for this person but i have no certainty about it.

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SM91

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SAMOA (1/8 African American?)

This person is aware of distant African American ancestry. It probably also explains the minor European score. Remarkable how the African breakdown is dominated by “Southeastern Bantu”.

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SM88

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NEW ZEALAND (1/2 Maori & 1/2 European)

For another Maori result showing a staggering 98% Polynesia follow this link

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NZ45

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HAWAII (1/2 native Hawaiian, 1/2 European American) 

 

HW50

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Madagascar results

***Chart 4 (click to enlarge)

Stats (MG=3)b

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The people of Madagascar, a.k.a. Malagasy, are known to have both Southeast African (Bantu) and Southeast Asian (Austronesian) ancestry.  It is also historically known that Madagascar was involved in both the Trans Atlantic as well as the Indian Ocean Slave Trade. That’s why i have also included their results on this page. Even when the Malagasy are technically speaking not Asian. Sofar i only have a minimal number of samples to go by.  But already these Malagasy results are highly relevant for Afro-Diasporans trying to make sense of especially minor “Polynesia” scores on Ancestry. And actually also “Asia East” amounts might be inherited by way of a distant Malagasy ancestor.

As can be verified from the above chart when scaled to 100% the Asian breakdown of my Malagasy samples is proportionally speaking very similar to that of Indonesians and Filipino’s, fellow Austronesian speakers. This also includes minor “Asia South” scores. I have ranked the screenshots below based on the amount of highest to lowest score for “Asia East”. In line with the most recent genetic studies the highest “Asia East” and “Polynesia” amounts are being obtained for a person who is most likely Merina and from the highlands. The other two results are coastal Malagasy who are known to have more African ancestry, on average.

Follow these links for more details:

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MADAGASCAR (Merina?) 

MG55

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MADAGASCAR (southwest) 

MG23

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MADAGASCAR (norththeast) 

MG13

 

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Youtube Videos

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KOREA

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VIETNAM & PHILIPPINES

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PHILIPPINES

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PHILIPPINES

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PHILIPPINES

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PHILIPPINES

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INDONESIA

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THAILAND

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CAMBODIA

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SAMOA

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SAMOA

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MAORI (mixed)

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MAORI (mixed)

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MADAGASCAR

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Implications for Afro-Diasporans:

To conclude this page i will now describe some of the most important implications for Afro-Diasporans in an attempt to improve proper interpretation of their “Asia East” or “Polynesia” scores. This section firstmost reflects my own interpretation and naturally other ancestral scenarios remain possible as well. As always context is everything and solid genealogical research combined with historical plausibility should be leading instead of wishful thinking 😉

 1) “Asia East” is more predictive of Northeast Asia DNA than Southeast Asian DNA

  • The Chinese admixture for Afro-Diasporans, in particular West Indians, will generally be well described by any “Asia East” amount being reported. For Southeast Asian admixture (incl. indirectly via Madagascar) “Asia East ” will also be predictive but only in combination with other regions.

2) “Polynesia” will usually be a minor “byproduct” of Southeast Asian DNA and sometimes also of Chinese DNA

  • Both Chinese admixture but even more so Southeast Asian admixture (incl. indirectly via Madagascar) will often result in additional but minor “Polynesia” scores for Afro-Diasporans. Without any supporting evidence in both cases it can be assumed these scores are actually a mislabeling of East Asian DNA and in no way reflecting any genuine Pacific origins.

3) Trace regions=Low Confidence regions

  • If “Asia East” and/or “Polynesia” are being reported merely as a tiny Trace region (<1%). It then follows that without any supporting evidence you are dealing with an increased possibility of a false positive or misreading of your DNA.  “Asia East” does not exclusively refer to East Asian origins and neither does “Polynesia” exclusively refer to Pacific origins. Due to overlap small amounts of “Asia East” might then also actually indicate South Asian or even Native American DNA (see this chart).

Predictive accuracy “Asia East” region is only high for Northeast Asians

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As seen in the screenshot directly above the predictive accuracy of each region on AncestryDNA is variable. Therefore correct interpretation is essential in order to avoid being mislead. As plentifully demonstrated on this page the “Asia East” region indeed has a high prediction accuracy for Northeast Asians (incl. Chinese) but much less so for Southeast Asians! “Polynesia” also has a high prediction accuracy, but only for people of confirmed Polynesian background. Otherwise it is consistently showing up as a mislabeled genetic similarity for people all across Southeast Asia as well as (southern) China.

This section is intended especially for Afro-Diasporans with a plausible history of Northeast Asian and/or Southeast Asian admixture (incl. by way of Madagascar). Chinese admixture in particular is widespread among especially people from the Caribbean, Guyana and Suriname. Whenever East Asian admixture is verifiable any “Asia East” reporting on AncestryDNA is likely to be “the real thing”.  And also a reasonable approximation of its actual ancestral share may be expected.

Any degree of Southeast Asian admixture among Afro-Diasporans is historically mostly derived from Madagascar (not taking into consideration any admixture from the 20th century). The South African Coloureds and Surinamese forming a notable exception as they also have direct origins from Indonesia (Cape Malays & Javanese Surinamese). My survey is suggesting that proportionally speaking the Malagasy are likely to score in the same range for socalled “Polynesia” as their fellow Austonesian speaking Indonesians & Filipinos. Also southern Chinese show a minor but considerable amount of “Polynesia” which they may have passed on genetically to their mixed descendants (see chart 4). Therefore for almost all Afro-Diasporans any reporting of  “Polynesian” will actually be indicative of Southeast Asian (also by way of Madagascar) or else Chinese lineage.

Otherwise it will just be a misreading of small DNA patches which are difficult to classify. Genuine ancestral ties with the Pacific (pre 1900’s) seem very far-fetched for Afro-descendants in the Americas especially. I am not aware of any historically plausible and documented connections for what it’s worth. Naturally in individual cases recent and already known ancestry from the Pacific might still occur. I imagine this could be true for mixed Afro-descendants in Hawaii for example.

Trace Regions = Low Confidence Regions

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Selected groups of Afro-Diasporans will receive considerable scores of either “Asia East” or “Polynesia” DNA. And often these will also be in line with their known family backgrounds. However for many others it seems that this type of DNA is usually reported as an unexpected trace region which catches them by complete surprise. Appropriately termed “Low Confidence” regions by Ancestry since their latest update. As a general disclaimer & reminder it pays to be very careful when wanting to make sense of your Asian/Pacific trace regions. AncestryDNA provides *estimates* and not solid claims of membership to any particular ethnic group! It is well advised therefore to take anything reported at trace level with a grain of salt unless additional clues and corroborating evidence exist.

As described in the screenshot above and in greater detail on this page,  trace regions are explicitly set apart because AncestryDNA cannot rule out that several regions could qualify at the same time when describing these small DNA patches. As can be verified from this very page Northeast Asians and Southeast Asians themselves also often receive puzzling and unexpected trace regions. At first sight it may even seem impossible or absurd when for example a person from China would show a trace region of “Native America” or a person from Indonesia is reported with a small amount of “Ivory Coast/Ghana” or a Filipino receives a trace amount of “Asia Central”. However such outcomes do usually make sense when genetic similarities & ancient migrations are taken into consideration. You will also reach a deeper understanding when you stop fixating on the regional labeling too much. You can still obtain insightful information as long as you adopt a broader perspective on genetics and aim for correct interpretation.

Admixture analysis is not perfect but if you familiarize yourself with its inherent limitations you will realize that is in fact unrealistic to expect “100% accurate” results. As abundantly shown on this page genetic diversity is a given for most populations all over the world. Receiving a multitude of trace regions does therefore not per se imply that you have a confusingly diverse background. Rather it might suggest that your ancestors were themselves genetically diverse! But still these ancestors could have been from just one or two ethnic groups only. On this page in particular it has been demonstrated that minor “Polynesian” amounts are to be expected for someone of (derived) Southeast Asian lineage and to a lesser degree also Chinese lineage

Some might say that the primary regions appearing in your results will be more deserving of your research efforts. Your research results might then be more fruitful and covering a wider span of your ancestral make-up. As afterall the regions with the biggest amounts can be deemed to be more solidly based on your most important regional origins (even when taken as mere proxies). Then again it is human nature to be intrigued by seemingly mysterious details, even at the risk of getting caught up in them. Also it seems to be not just a sign of the times that  “exotic” ancestry is often thought to be appealing 😉

And to be sure – exactly because Asian, and Pacific trace regions are suggestive of distinctive ancestors – it might in fact also be worthwhile to investigate such minor family lines. As you might find them to be more readily identifiable after performing a diligent family tree research or by combining with other aspects of DNA testing (haplogroups, IBD matches etc.). So despite their lower confidence trace regions are not to be lightly dismissed either. In case you wish to cross-check any possible East Asian or Malagasy lineage i would advise to take a 23andme test as well. As generally speaking 23andme’s Asian & Oceania categories might be more predictive than AncestryDNA when dealing with smaller amounts. Furthermore 23andme also has a separate Southeast Asian category and it tells you your haplogroups, which in some cases might suggest Asian/Malagasy lineage as well. Ultimately this will all be up to your own personal preferences. But it’s worth repeating again that without additional clues and corroborating evidence your attempts to trace back trace regions to specific ancestors or ethnic groups could very well lead to a dead end. Conjecture and unfounded speculation can then quickly turn to self deception.

In particular corroborating any Malagasy connection might be tricky given that usually this type of ancestry will be strongly diluted given the proportionally speaking low number of enslaved Malagasy who arrived in the Americas (see this chart taken from the Slave Voyages Database for an overview). Admixture results are not conclusive and particularly not so when reported as a trace amount with low confidence. In order to confirm you will have to follow up with proper research. And also search for actual Malagasy DNA cousins for example. For an excellent overview and very helpful research suggestions see:

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Notes

  1. I like to express my sincere gratitude to all the persons whose online posting of their results has made this survey possible! Almost all of my samples were collected by me from public websites or social media. As i found them to be of potentially great educational benefit for others. I have asked for prior consent whenever i could but regrettably wasn’t able to do so in all cases. I have naturally taken great care to cut away any name details in order to safeguard everyone’s privacy. Apologies in advance to anyone who recognizes their results and is not comfortable with this blog page featuring them. Please send me a PM and i will remove them right away.
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