Chromosomes, Markers, and Haplogroups


The Chromosomes Painting in Figure 1 is a way of viewing my ancestry composition. Its 46 chromosomes are passed between generations in the form of 23 pairs. My interest is with the first 22 because they represent ancestries I match. They are called autosomes and come in pairs of two, each represented by one of the colored horizontal lines.

The horizontal lines are colored to reflect the geographical origin of my ancestry at the continental level with a reportedly probability level of confidence of 90 percent. My Chromosome painting is multi-colored, revealing an admixture of genetic mixing of different populations. The horizontal line shown in yellow is primarily Asian (Chinese & Southeast Asian 45.6%) and the blue is European (23%), both of which colors make up the greater bulk my ancestral heritage. This gives rise to the question whether my ancestors admixture started recently or generations ago.

Figure 1
My Chromosomes Shown in Color by Ancestry

Chromosome Painting

The long, unbroken stretches of color are evidence of recent ancestry, while the short segments suggest those of many generations ago. In essence, recent sources of ancestry will have segments of that ancestry on more chromosomes. Moreover, those segments will be longer than of my ancestors of many generations ago. Of course, a major limitation is that test providers, such as 23andMe, base test their results on different databases and, as a result, may not be consistent from one provider to another.

Genetic Markers

Autosomal testing for ethnic ancestry uncovers genetic markers that locates ancestors by haplogroup. A haplogroup makes it possible to group populations with the same marker by geographical point of origin and "Admixture analysis. more properly known as biogeographical ancestry analysis). It is a method of inferring someone's geographical origins based on an analysis of their combined maternal and paternal genetic ancestry."

Figure 2
My Asian DNA

Figure 2 and Table 1 show my Asian Ancestry as the result of DNA tests conducted by 23andMe, Ancestry, DNA.Land, DNA Tribes, Family Tree DNA, Gencove, My Heritage, WeGene, and Xcode.Life.Additionally, I uploaded my DNA data to the Zuyuan DNA Lab, which captures 60% more DNA markers than do such labs as 23andMe and AncestryDNA for ethnic Chinese. And, I tested with Nebula Lab's whole genome sequencing of ~ 1.3 billion sequenced bases in the human genome, which in comparison to most other personal genomics companies, including 23andMe and AncestryDNA, that use microarray-based genotyping that reads the human genome at only ~ 500,000 positions.

Table 1
My Autosomal DNA Tests Results for Asian Ancestry

DNA Land
DNA Tribes
My Heritage

Figure 2 and Table 1 represent is my genetic ancestry at the continental level, which is generally considered to be reliable. Beyond that, there are limitations. According to genetic genealogist Baline Bettinger, "the ethnicity estimate is good on the continent level; getting down to the country or region is much more problematic." And, writing in Live Science, Ker Than adds, "Such tests also cannot account for recent migrations of peoples from their ancient homelands. "Present-day patterns of residence are rarely identical to what existed in the past, and social groups have changed over time, in name and composition." Noted geneticist, Adam Rutherford, recently wrote in the prestigious magazine, Scientific American, "For deeper family roots, these tests do not really tell you where your ancestors came from. They say where DNA like yours can be found on Earth today. By inference, we are to assume that significant proportions of our deep family came from those places. But to say that you are 20 percent Irish, 4 percent Native American or 12 percent Scandinavian is fun, trivial and has very little scientific meaning."

As for genealogical ethnicity, Roberta Estes: adds, "I've said this before, and I want to say it again. Ethnicity is the least precise and the least accurate of DNA tools for genetic genealogy. Ethnicity estimates are the most accurate at a continental level. Within continents, like Europe, Asia and Africa, there has been a lot of population movement and intermixing over time making the term “ethnicity” almost meaningless."

However, "If a test-taker is just interested in finding out where there are some people in the world that share the same DNA as them, then these tests can certainly tell them that," says noted Anthropology professor.

So, with these words in mind, I will accept my genetic ancestral findings as broadly accurate at the continental level.


Haplogroups categorize ancestral heritage. A given haplogroup is a genetic population group of people who share a common ancestor. Thus, its conceptual structure is based on the assertion, "All people alive today belong to distinct haplogroups of people belonging to the same haplogroup and can trace their descent to a common ancestor and even a specific place where that ancestor may have lived."

In my case, DNA autosomal tests place my paternal genetic ancestry in Haplogroup O, which is wholly located in the continent of Asia.


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