Chromosome Mapping Opinion

My painted populations: comparing 23andMe, AncestryDNA and FamilyTreeDNA

Following the release of the AncestryDNA Chromosome Painter, I thought it would be interesting to compare the offering of each company that now offers segment data for their ancestral composition (aka “ethnicity”) estimates.

My family’s estimates are probably more interesting than they will be for those who have fewer different ancestries in their background. You can view my shared map here.


At 23andMe, I’m 24.6% Ashkenazi Jewish, 71.4% British and Irish, 2.2% French and German, and 1.8% “Broadly Western European”.

I also have both parents tested there, and they’ve used this to phase my population segments, which I can download from the Scientific Details tab within my 23andMe account. As you can see from the picture below, my paternal Jewish segments are consistently on the second copy of each chromosome.

My ancestral composition painting at 23andMe
My ancestral composition painting at 23andMe

Although it’s not clear in the graphic above, I am able to isolate which segments they believe are French and German, which is a useful feature for anyone who is mapping their chromosomes.

However, the downloaded segments can be slightly confusing because they include segments for both the parent level (e.g. “Northwestern European”) and its children (e.g. “British & Irish”).


At AncestryDNA, I’m 27% Jewish Peoples of Europe, 46% Scotland, 18% England & Northwestern Europe, 3% Ireland, 2% Norway, and 2% Wales, with tiny 1% assignments for Portugal and Germanic Europe. AncestryDNA seem to have successfully phased this to each parent.

Just like at 23andMe, in places where the estimate is quite specific, this makes the segments particularly interesting. On my mother’s side I can see the few segments that look “Irish” as opposed to the majority of my maternal DNA, which is “Scots Irish” and therefore characterised by AncestryDNA as Scotland. On my father’s side I’m not surprised to see the Wales section appears to align with my Jones line on the border of Wales and the English county of Shropshire.

My AncestryDNA Chromosome Painter segements
My AncestryDNA Chromosome Painter segements

I look forward to AncestryDNA making the segment coordinates available. In the meantime you can use the tool I wrote for this purpose.


At FamilyTreeDNA I’m 23% Ashkenazi Jewish, 1% Mizrahi Jewish, 33% England, Wales and Scotland, 26% Ireland and 17% Central Europe.

FamilyTreeDNA introduced their Chromosome Painter back in September 2021. While this is a very welcome addition, there are a couple of important updates that would vastly increase its usefulness:

  1. I have both parents tested at FTDNA, but when I look at the Chromosome Painter output I can see this is alas not being used to phase the data correctly. For example, Jewish segments appear sometimes on copy 1 and sometimes on copy 2.
  2. The Chromosome Painter segments do not have granularity below “Super population” level. This means for example that I have “Western Europe” segments but not “Ireland”, “England, Wales and Scotland” and “Central Europe” segments.
My FamilyTreeDNA Chromosome Painter segments
My FamilyTreeDNA Chromosome Painter segments

My DNA Painter Population Map

The process for importing 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA segments into DNA Painter is described in the recent article Painting your populations. For AncestryDNA, it’s described within this post about the new chromosome painter feature.

I’ve made my map public so you can view it here if you’re interested.

My populations in a DNA Painter chromosome map.
My populations in a DNA Painter chromosome map.

I made a few edits to streamline the map:

  • I added dividing lines within ‘edit group’ to separate companies and maternal/paternal
  • I deleted large geographical 23andMe groups from my paternal DNA (I left them in for my maternal side because they were all I had!)
  • I also deleted the FTDNA ‘Western Europe’ group since it is unphased and therefore not very instructive.

To analyze the map I’m making use of the following features a lot:

  • clicking on the coloured squares in the key to show and hide groups
  • dragging and dropping groups to change the order and display
  • clicking on the chromosome numbers to expand the chromosomes and see stacked segments

My next steps will be:

  • Download this map as a CSV file via the link at the top left of the ‘All segment data’ table…
  • ..and then import it into a copy of my main map via the Import segment data tool.


My maternal DNA is clearly more homogeneous and therefore harder to draw conclusions from:

  • 23andMe is able to tell me only that every maternal chromosome is “European”, “British and Irish” and “Northwestern European”
  • AncestryDNA does offer some intriguing hints: if chromosome 8 looks Norwegian and chromosome 17 looks Irish as opposed to Scottish, perhaps this information can help me when tracing people who match me here.
  • FamilyTreeDNA can only confirm “Western Europe”

On my paternal side, there is clear delineation between DNA from my Jewish paternal grandfather and my English paternal grandmother.

  • Each company seems to broadly agree on which segments are “Jewish,” although FamilyTreeDNA seems to add breaks where the other companies do not
  • AncestryDNA adds some interesting lines of inquiry with the assertion that chromosome 12 is Wales
  • As for the ‘trace’ populations, I note with interest that the segment that AncestryDNA labels Portugal overlaps with the one that 23andMe call France & Germany

Finally, neither FamilyTreeDNA nor AncestryDNA provide any data for the X chromosome, which seems a shame.

As we’ve seen, the usefulness of this feature can vary. But I’m delighted with the few clues it has given me and look forward to exploring it more.

Contact info: @dnapainter /