Have you heard about the latest Ethnicity Estimate tool called SideView™? AncestryDNA launched this new feature on 13 April 2022, and it has features that I think you will really like!
SideView™ uses your DNA matches to help assign ethnicity estimates to two profiles representing your father and your mother. This is exciting news! This new feature, found in the “Ethnicity Estimates” section of AncestryDNA, shows you the ethnicities you inherited from each side of your family. The SideView report displays images representing the DNA from specific countries or regions that both of your parents inherited from many generations of their ancestors.
This new feature, SideView™, has been under development for some time. Previously, AncestryDNA reported an estimate of the percentages of your DNA that you inherited from ancestors who lived in specific countries or regions. “Underdog,” the genotype phasing algorithm that AncestryDNA developed, was described six years ago in an AncestryDNA Matching White Paper. Underdog is a computer program that assigns your DNA segments to the copy of your chromosomes that you inherited from your father or your mother. 
SideView™ is based on the technology described in a new paper entitled “Accurate Genome-Wide Phasing from IBD Data,” published in bioRxiv, which describes the method of phasing or separating DNA inherited from your father and from your mother.  The enormous size of AncestryDNA’s database, with over 20 million DNA tester’s data, enabled the development of this particular technology. An excerpt from the Author summary explains the following:
“We present a method for phasing, separating the DNA inherited from each parent, of an entire genome using short segments of DNA that are shared between the genome of the person we wish to phase and those of distant cousins. Essentially, if we have enough of these distant cousins’ genotypes available, we can piece together overlapping segments until we have phased the entire genome.
We have developed a method that can phase large numbers of individuals, and that makes special considerations for potential close family and potential genotype errors in data.”
Each parent passes on 50% of their DNA to their child. They give a different 50% to each child, which means that each sibling (who is not an identical twin) has a different mixture of genes and ethnicity estimates than their other sibling(s). Each child inherits one copy of each chromosome from their father and one copy from their mother after the DNA recombines during meiosis – when an egg or sperm is made. Each generation, the amount of DNA passed on from ancestors is cut approximately in half. This image illustrates DNA inheritance and how DNA segments from grandparents are recombined and passed on to parents, then recombined again and passed on to children.
Each succeeding generation inherits an average of half of the DNA from previous generations. While the exact percent of DNA inherited from each ancestor varies, the averages are listed below.
Generations Away from Ancestor
Average Percent DNA That a Descendant Inherits from an Ancestor
Ethnicity estimates are possible because mutations arose among populations from specific locations at some point in time. The information from the mutations can point back in time to general locations where some of a person’s ancestors originated.
Suppose you haven’t already researched your family history and discovered your ancestors’ countries of origin by finding documents that tell you where they were from. In that case, you may have taken a DNA test to suggest something about your ethnicity estimate. If one or both of your parents passed on before Direct-to-Consumer DNA testing became widely available, you might find it challenging to discern which parent passed on country or region-specific DNA segments.
Could you do this on your own?
Think about it this way – you can generally sort your DNA matches into four groups using the Leeds method, which Dana Leeds developed. The family trees that belong to your DNA matches likely indicate the birth locations of some ancestors. However, many matches do not have family trees, and some family trees have only a few people in them. That makes it a challenge to discern the ancestral homelands of your DNA matches. SideView™ takes a lot of the uncertainty away by separating the ethnicity analysis in two and attributes it to one or the other of the test taker’s parents.
To access SideView™, open Ancestry.com and click on “DNA” in the top bar. A drop-down menu will open; select “Your DNA Story.” This is a section of the page that will open next:
Click on “Discover your DNA Story,” and the next page that is personalized to you will open. In this example, you can see the Ethnicity Estimate broken down into specific countries or regions. AncestryDNA states, “We compare your DNA against a worldwide reference panel to see which populations your DNA looks most like.” To learn which regions each parent passed to you, click “Discover now.”
When the following image opens, you will see a personalized multi-colored circle indicating the DNA that each of your parents passed on to you.
AncestryDNA knows how to separate the ethnicity estimates and assign them to your two different parents.
However, they do not know if it was your father or mother that is Parent 1 or Parent 2. You decide which parent is parent one and which is parent two and assign the designations “Maternal” or “Paternal.”
Using SideView™ to Answer Questions in a Research Project
In the Research Like a Pro with DNA Study Group 4, I focused on settling the question of the identity of Sparks Shiflet’s father, who was named differently on two of his sons’ death records. After a thorough search of Greene County, Virginia’s birth records, no birth records were found, and it appears that no birth records were created for Sparks or any of his four siblings. It was difficult to discern who Sparks’ father was from historical records. As a side note, Sparks changed the spelling of his surname. He said that Shiflet sounded the same as Shifflett, but it was more efficient to spell it with one f and one t.
Another aspect of the research project was a question about the designations in the race column for Sparks and his relatives in the 1860, 1870, and 1880 censuses. As far as Sparks’ descendants knew, they had European heritage, and the census records were puzzling.
The descendants of Sparks’ great-grandmother, Nancy Shifflett, who was described as white in the census, had some African heritage. The designation “M” was given in the race column in the 1850, 1860, and 1870 censuses. In 1880, the designation “Mu” was given. Both M and Mu stood for Mulatto – or what the census instructions described as a person with mixed Caucasian and African heritage. The 1900 census showed different information in the race column. Sparks, his brother, and his mother were all marked W for white.
To learn more about their heritage, three of Sparks’ grandchildren took DNA tests, which indicated that they each had some African ancestry.
Looking back in time and considering the race information in the census records, we can calculate the estimated amount of African heritage for the three DNA testers. If Nancy had children with a man who had 100% African heritage, then five generations later, her descendants would have an average of 3.125% African heritage. One of Nancy’s third great-grandchildren had an estimated 7% African heritage, the second had 2%, and the third tester had 1%.
Did the third great-grandchild with 7% African heritage inherit that ethnicity estimate from Nancy Shifflett’s partner via her mother, or did she inherit African heritage from both her mother and her father?
SideView™ launched in April 2022, around the time this question arose. By looking at the information presented by SideView™, the question was quickly and easily settled. The tester inherited African heritage from just one parent. The 7% amount was obviously higher than the 1% and 2% the other cousins inherited. Still, it is not out of the question because it fits within the average estimated amount of DNA that she could have inherited from a third great-grandparent.
This image shows that the DNA tester inherited 4% ethnicity from Cameroon, Congo & Western Bantu Peoples, and 3% Mali from her mother. She inherited 0% of the same ethnicity from her father.
Sparks Shiflet’s father was Meriwether Lewis Snow. When considered with the body of evidence found in vital records, newspapers, census records, and DNA, the information given in the SideView report helped clarify the identity of Sparks’ father.
This research project has significantly benefited from the new feature from AncestryDNA. You may have a similar question about ethnicity that can be applied to your research, or you may be curious about how the DNA will show where different relatives’ ancestors originated. Try it out! I would love to hear about your experiences with this new feature from Ancestry DNA and how it has helped you solve your family history mysteries.
 “AncestryDNA Matching White Paper,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/dna/resource/whitePaper/AncestryDNA-Matching-White-Paper.pdf : accessed 26 May 2022).
 Keith Noto, Luong Ruiz, “Accurate Genome-Wide Phasing from IBD Data,” 12 April 2022, bioRxiv (https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2022.04.11.487932v1 : accessed 27 May 2022), this article has not been peer-reviewed.