Ethnicity Estimate Comparison Pie Charts…or DNA Doughnuts

Yesterday, in a guest post on the DNA Geek blog, Erik Schaefer used Excel pie charts as a fun way to visually compare different ethnicity estimates, with examples comparing paper records to DNA testing.

I gave it a try with my own data. I was able to use Erik’s instructions pretty well, though on my Mac version of Excel, it was a little different for me to nest a pie chart inside a doughnut chart (see Note below).

Here’s a plot of my own paper trail estimate (in the inner pie chart), compared with my AncestryDNA estimates in the outer ring.

Ethnicity estimates for myself, comparing data from paper records and from my AncestryDNA ethnicity estimates.

I labeled almost half of my paper record-derived ethnicity as “Colonial,” meaning that, so far, I have paper records only within the United States (or British Colonial America), and not going back to an immigrant ancestor in all of those branches. For some branches, I don’t have records going back to Colonial times, but rather to the early 1800s, so I’m being a bit liberal in my use of “Colonial” as a label.

Since my own DNA a sample of that from each of my parents, and since I’m lucky enough to have DNA test results for both of my parents, I did a second chart where the AncestryDNA ring is the percentage using the combination of their results; essentially an average of their two estimates.

Ethnicity estimates for myself, comparing data from paper records and from the combination of AncestryDNA ethnicity estimates from my parents.

The two results are similar to each other; though the combined ethnicity estimates of my parents has even more Scandinavian ethnicity than I would expect from my own. We have no paper records (so far) tracing back to Norway or Sweden; perhaps this DNA came in through admixture with Irish or British ancestors.1

Now, we know that DNA-based ethnicity estimates are just estimates, and that we shouldn’t rely too much on the details, but I like to think of this as suggestive evidence to go along with every other piece of evidence I can get.

With that in mind, my DNA estimates (for myself and my parents) generally support the documentation I have so far. For my ancestors in the “Colonial” group, family legend leads me to believe that some branch(es) will turn out to be Scottish (any other Sterlings out there?), and many other branches will be English in origin. The DNA estimates certainly don’t provethat, but they are consistent with it.

Note: Nesting a pie chart inside a doughnut chart in Excel for Mac:

When making my own charts, I couldn’t find a way to plot one data series as a doughnut with a nested on in pie chart style. If I plotted both as doughnuts, though, I made a tweak to end up with the same result:

  • Right click on plotted data and select “Format Data Series…”
  • Click on the bar chart icon
  • Under Series Options, Slide Doughnut Hole Size to 0% (circled in red below) 

[1]Anna Swayne, “Are you part viking?,” Ancestry( accessed 24 February 2019).


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