A friend of mine recently took a DNA ancestry test using one of these mail-order services.

Sadly he did not provide the name of the company used.

According to his results, he has partial Native American ancestry.

Honestly, it seems exceedingly unlikely to me that a White Englishman with no known ancestral links to America would have Native American ancestry. I do not know what the historic Native American population of England and the broader UK is, but I am willing to bet that it was completely negligible in proportionate terms, and probably would have been clustered around the Court and high society in London, not in the provincial parts of Northern England that this guy and his family hail from. I am more inclined to be sceptical about the provenance of the companies providing these tests.

There are also various examples on YouTube of participants in chat shows being told that they have surprising ethnic origins on the basis of these tests. Usually these have a theme where someone expresses hostility towards a particular group, only to be shocked when - very conveniently - they turn out to be "17% Black" (in the case of a White American who allegedly expressed hostility towards Blacks) or "24% Indian" in the case of a Muslim Pakistani who expressed distaste for India. (as an aside, how could a test like this determine nationality, as opposed to ethnicity? From the little I know about the racial origins of the people who today are Pakistanis and Indians, there was considerable overlap - grounds for further scepticism).

How reliable are the claims of these tests and the companies who proffer them?

  • "How reliable are the claims of these tests and the companies who proffer them?" that would be almost impossible to answer: some companies will be rigourous in their handling and reporting, and some companies are likely to simply be opportunistic and have a much lower reliability - I don't think there are any legal standards in many jurisdictions governing their practice at this time.
    – user2276
    Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 23:30
  • As for the Pakistani/Indian question on nationality - there are fairly clear ethnic distinctions between these populations and there will be enough and genetic markers to help with this, although it might get a bit muddy along border regions. Genetic tests are good enough to pick Scottish heritage from English, so why not Pakistani from Indian?
    – user2276
    Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 23:34
  • 2
    Without any specifics it's impossible to answer this conclusively. If your question is more akin to "what's the current state of the art" in this field, then please ask this on Biology
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 23:56
  • The problem is not these companies' reputation, but how the database that they use to make these tests was compiled. Nearly all of this data was collected from European and American people, strongly skewing any test designed to tell your racial heritage. I strongly doubt the veracity of such tests. If you are already white and want to see if you're English, German, Polish, or whatever, then it's probably accurate. Until the database is grossly expanded to included the many heritage varieties in the world, it cannot be used to determine comprehensive world racial heritage.
    – user11643
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 3:58
  • 2
    Don't forget that the so-called "Native Americans" migrated from central Asia. Some of that genetic material moved westward. A look at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… shows that at least some genetic markers that are prevalent in the Americas are present in southern Scandinavia and, indeed, northeastern England. The reliability of the claim may depend on how precise it is: If they say he is descended from Native Americans that would likely be less accurate then if they said he had some degree of "Native American/central Asian" DNA.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 16:42


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