Ancestry Publishes New Genetic Research on U.S. Population Structures in Nature Communications

Ancestry Publishes New Genetic Research on U.S. Population Structures in Nature Communications

DNA and genealogical information from more than 700,000 AncestryDNA users gives new insight into historical events in North America during the last several hundred years

LEHI, Utah and SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 07, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Today, Ancestry published a scientific article entitled "Clustering of 770 thousand genomes reveals post-colonial population structure of North America" in Nature Communications. The article shares new research using genetic data from over 700,000 individuals from North America to uncover a detailed picture of the subtle patterns of migration and settlement in post-colonial USA. Ancestry is the leader in family history and consumer genomics with 80 million family trees and more than three million people using AncestryDNA, a combination which powered the fine-grain historical insights that have previously been inaccessible from genetic studies.

This research was led by Ancestry's Chief Scientific Officer Catherine Ball, Ph.D., her Ancestry colleagues and historian Erin Battat, Ph.D., from Harvard University.

"Ancestry is just scratching the surface of scientific discoveries that can be made when combining large amounts of genomic data with detailed pedigree information, and I'm incredibly proud of the work the team put into this research project as well as the fascinating results we've found," said Ball. "It's especially rewarding to gain insights that not only contribute significantly to genomic research, but provide a glimpse into our own personal histories and identities."

Key highlights of the paper:


  • The authors created a network of genetically-identified relationships among over 700,000 individuals, and identified clusters of individuals who were very subtly more related to one another. By using family tree information, the team identified that these clusters corresponded to detailed and subtle patterns of migration and settlement in post-colonial USA.
  • The main achievement of this research is not only the development of novel scientific methodology, but also Ancestry's use of an extremely large sample of both genetic and pedigree data.
  • This research identifies population structure in North America, shaped by many different geographical and cultural factors, which has previously been difficult to determine at such a fine granularity from genetic data alone.
  • The data depict movements and settlements across east-west and north-south gradients, and pick out groups descended from those who remained isolated after moving to the USA for geographical or cultural reasons, such as Amish populations within in Midwestern states and Pennsylvania.
  • The authors suggest that these data reveal more than our history. Some clusters of individuals have higher frequencies of gene variants associated with disease risk, which could inform future avenues of research in the field.

Ancestry is well on the way to harnessing the scientific power of its two unique data sets -- the combination of the records of history in our genetics, coupled with paper records of family history. Such research can not only provide personal stories, but also the context of ties between people, places, and human events, allowing people to understand their identities even more deeply. The Ancestry team continues to study ethnic diversity, migration patterns, human evolution, and the history of our species to uncover connections among mankind.

This work was made possible by the contributions thousands of customers who have researched family trees, taken the AncestryDNA test and agreed to participate in scientific research. The science and research revealed in the article will be made available in a product feature in the coming months.

About Ancestry

Ancestry, the global leader in family history and consumer genomics, harnesses the information found in family trees, historical records, and DNA to help people gain a new level of understanding about their lives. Ancestry has more than 2.4 million paying subscribers across its core Ancestry websites and DNA data from more than 3 million people. Since 1996, more than 19 billion records have been added to Ancestry's databases, and users have created more than 80 million family trees on the Ancestry flagship site and its affiliated international websites. Ancestry offers a suite of family history products and services including AncestryDNA, Archives, AncestryProGenealogists, Newspapers.com and Fold3. AncestryDNA is owned and operated by Ancestry.com DNA, LLC, a subsidiary of Ancestry.com, LLC.