Ancestry Blog » AncestryDNA The official blog of Ancestry Mon, 20 Apr 2015 17:58:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Exploring our DNA – Europe West Fri, 10 Apr 2015 10:00:39 +0000 Mike Mulligan Read more]]> Our Western European DNA
When I was a child my grandmother used to tell me how her family descended from Black Forest Quakers who fled to Ireland to escape religious persecution in Germany in the 1700s. Like all the best family stories there was a kernel of truth, as I would later learn about my Palatine ancestors. I’ve often wondered what life must have been like for the 13,000 German refugees camped out in Camberwell and Blackheath in the summer of 1709 with no idea what future lay in store for them. I was reminded of this recently as I was looking at a map showing Europe West ethnicity estimates across the UK & Ireland.


Europe West is one of the 26 global regions that we have built up using a group of individuals known as our AncestryDNA Reference Panel. The region geographically spans France and Germany but also takes in several other countries including the Benelux countries, Austria, Switzerland and parts of Denmark, Poland, Italy and the Czech Republic. A common question we get asked is why such a big area? Is it not possible to  tell French from German? The answer is that the people in this region moved around a lot and mixed with each other and with those from neighbouring regions. The term we use for this is admixed and the people living in the Europe West region are among the most admixed of all of our regions.


Europe West and Great Britain
The map above shows average Europe West ethnicity estimates of those who have taken the AncestryDNA test and were born in the UK and Ireland. It does not use any historical migration data; it is based only what is in our DNA. So, for example, I was born in Dublin and my Europe West estimate is 1%. On the other hand my friend Bryony, from Berkshire, has an estimate of 45%. When you average the Europe West ethnicity across the thousands who have taken the AncestryDNA test in the UK and Ireland you end up with a map like the one above.


The distribution of Europe West ethnicity goes from a high of 26.84% in Kent to a low of 11.28% in Scotland. Broadly speaking the average ethnicity decreases smoothly as you spread out from the Kentish coast, but there are exceptions. London is lower than the surrounding regions. This is common in London as it is a very diverse area with a wide range of ethnicities. One of the biggest surprises we often see when people get back their results is just how high their Europe West estimate can be. It should be remembered that the estimates show influences of ancestors 500-1000 years ago. Your paper trail may go back 300 or 400 years showing all English ancestors. But your AncestryDNA ethnicity estimate is taking you beyond that and hinting that their ancestors in turn may have had Western European heritage.

The Europe West estimate for Wales and Scotland is lower than for England, as we might expect. The ethnicity estimate for Southern Scotland is actually lower than Northern Scotland. Once again we are perhaps seeing the connections reflecting the close history of Southern Scotland and Ulster.

Europe West and Ireland
The picture in Ireland is somewhat simpler. There is a fairly low level of Europe West ethnicity across the country reflecting less inward migration from continental Europe. We do see Ulster being slightly higher than the other provinces of Ireland, mirroring the figure we saw in Southern Scotland. We also see Connacht showing the lowest average Europe West, again reflecting the low level of inward migration over the centuries.

What we don’t yet see in the provincial breakdown is potentially higher Europe West ethnicity in the South East of Ireland reflecting the Norman influence on that part of Ireland. Our initial trial did show individuals from Wexford and Carlow with higher Europe West than others on the trial. We don’t yet have detail at county level that would enable us to see if that is a result that holds in general. euwest4

People have been migrating across the channel to Britain for many thousands of years. From the Angles and the Saxons. From the Jutes, the Frisians and the Franks. All the way to the Normans, Huguenots, and Palatines. They have all come and become part of the tapestry of the British and Irish peoples. And now through modern science and AncestryDNA we can see that they have also become part of the tapestry of our DNA, part of the very essence of who we are.

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New Ancestor Discoveries: Clues (Not Proof) to Your Past Thu, 09 Apr 2015 18:13:03 +0000 Kenny Freestone Read more]]> Last week we announced an exciting new AncestryDNA feature called “New Ancestor Discoveries.” The response to this feature launch has been very interesting to watch—we’ve received lots of feedback breathless with praise because we “proved” a relationship, and some feedback that dismisses the feature because it does not “prove” relationships. As we consider feedback from both of these extreme positions, it seems appropriate to explain more clearly what this feature is and is not.

What is a New Ancestor Discovery?

  • What it is: A New Ancestor Discovery is a suggestion that points you to a potential new ancestor or relative—someone that may not be in your family tree previously. This beta launch is our first step toward an entirely new way to make discoveries, and a way to expand how we do family history.
  • What it isn’t: This is not proof, or a guarantee, of a new ancestor. They’re called New Ancestor Discoveries, and many may be your actual ancestors. Some will be other relatives that fit somewhere on your family tree, and some will be people that you may not be directly related to.
  • It’s a starting point to further research. We’ll show you a New Ancestor Discovery if you share significant amounts of DNA with multiple members of a DNA Circle—which means you might also be related to the ancestor that the DNA Circle is built around. These hints can be a great starting point for your research and help you connect to other family members you didn’t know you had.

Why do we think you are related to this person?

  • The short answer is that we don’t know for sure. What we do know is that you share significant amounts of DNA with others who are likely descendants of the ancestor, which leads us to believe that there is a good chance this person could also be either your ancestor or a relative.
  • When considering if you might be related to a potential ancestor or relative, we combined several pieces of information to make that determination: the number of people in the DNA Circle with whom you share DNA, the amount of DNA shared with each DNA Circle member, the number of generations back to the ancestor for each individual in the Circle, and our confidence that you and each member of the Circle share only one common ancestor.
  • The number of members of a DNA circle that you match directly influences how strongly you appear to be a descendant of an ancestor. Also the size of the DNA Circle (in terms of the number of members) can also influence how you interpret your confidence in the potential relationship. A small group of say 3 – 5 members might potentially grow in size as more people participate in the DNA test, but should be considered as an emerging evidence of a genetic relationship until it grows further.
  • A New Ancestor Discovery is created as we detect that you share significant amounts of DNA with several members of a DNA Circle—which means you might also be related to the ancestor that the DNA Circle is built around.

What is the confidence you are really related to this person?

In general, the confidence that a New Ancestor Discovery really fits in your family tree is pretty good—about 70%. However this can vary in each individual case. Also it is important to understand that while some New Ancestor Discoveries lead to a direct ancestor, some suggested ancestors end up belonging in your family tree as a collateral line relative, and some won’t be closely related to you at all—but they likely lived at the same time and place as your actual ancestors so they could be a helpful clue to point you in the right direction.

In addition, the ratio of new ancestor vs. collateral line relatives can vary based on how many DNA Circles you are already connected to through your family tree. We find that people who have stronger family tree connections (and so generally have more connections to DNA Circles) will see a much larger proportion of collateral line relatives or suggested ancestors that don’t clearly fit in your tree, but lived at the same time and place as your actual ancestors. The reason for this is that when you have an extensive family tree, we typically have already identified your direct ancestors in a DNA Circle.

Because of all this, it is important to apply traditional family history research methods to each potential ancestor suggested by a New Ancestor Discovery in order to determine more specifically how you might be related.

Expected frequency of different types of new ancestor discoveries. A: Hint for direct-line ancestor about 50 percent of the time (for a user with no tree). B: Hint to a circle where you share multiple common ancestors with other members about 30 percent of the time. C: Hint for collateral-line relative about 20 percent of the time. Note that for users with large trees and many direct-line DNA Circles, B and C may be more frequent.

Expected frequency of different types of new ancestor discoveries. A: Hint for direct-line ancestor about 50 percent of the time (for a user with no tree). B: Hint to a circle where you share multiple common ancestors with other members about 30 percent of the time. C: Hint for collateral-line relative about 20 percent of the time. Note that for users with large trees and many direct-line DNA Circles, B and C may be more frequent.

How is the confidence determined?

To determine this confidence percentage we performed tests of our algorithm on a massive set of DNA tests where a nearly-complete and deep pedigree is known. We remove each individual’s pedigree data in our analysis and find New Ancestor Discoveries for each DNA test. Then we look again at the pedigree information we previously ignored and compare what New Ancestor Discoveries we found versus what actual ancestors exist in the pedigree, and what collateral-line relatives are observed. This analysis gives us confidence that, in general, if you have an empty family tree, the ancestors and relatives we suggest in this process are likely to belong in your family tree as a direct ancestor or as a collateral-line relative about 70% of the time.

An exciting journey of discovery

We are very excited about the many family history discoveries that are being made now and will be made in the future as the New Ancestor Discoveries feature continues to grow and improve. Please keep sharing your feedback with us — we are definitely listening. And if you haven’t taken the AncestryDNA test yet, now is a great time to begin.


Related Posts

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The Interconnectedness of the Human Family Wed, 08 Apr 2015 12:00:19 +0000 Ancestry Team Read more]]> By Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Julie Granka, Ph.D., Population Geneticist for AncestryDNA

I am taking part in the DNA test from Ancestry because it is going to be super exciting just to find out my ethnicity. Is there anything I can do that would help me locate possible living relatives? Thanks for your time!   —Thomas

Dear Thomas,

It used to be that the only way to find long-lost relatives on our family tree was to follow the paper trail.  And unless your ancestry connected to early American colonists or to European royalty, it was very difficult to find paper documents older than the last few centuries.  And what about your relatives who didn’t leave a paper trail?  In the past, these ancestors were doomed to disappear.  But not any longer.  Now we can locate both ancestors you never even dreamed that you had, plus cousins of yours who are alive today—all by taking a simple and inexpensive DNA test!

Some of us were born into large nuclear families. And some of us could hold a family reunion around a kitchen table without even adding any extra leaves.  But regardless of how many brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, and first cousins you might have, your extended family—the people with whom you share recent ancestors over just the last few hundred years—is enormous, far larger than most of us realize.

This is where genetic testing is so valuable. By identifying your distant cousins who are alive today, genetic genealogy tests can dramatically lengthen your dining table—and enable you to invite to your family reunion some surprising and totally unexpected relatives. Simply by taking a test, odds are very good that you will find additional family members, especially as genetic databases grow. Here’s why.

You have a lot of distant cousinshuff po

Let’s start with a little, simple arithmetic.  (Don’t panic; it’s just multiplication!)  If each of the ancestors in your family tree had 2.5 children (on average), you’d have about eight first cousins and more than 110,000 seventh cousins.  In other words, your seventh cousins alone could make up the entire population of Berkeley, California, or Ann Arbor, Michigan! And if your ancestors averaged four children instead, you’d have over 6 million seventh cousins—more than two Chicagos.

This is not just an astonishingly impressive statistic. Just think: if every one of the 300+ million people currently living in the United States each had their own separate, distinct, Berkeley-sized circle of relatives, you’d run out of living people!  And this means, if you think about it, that we all must share living cousins—our sets of relatives have to overlap.

Of course, the 7 billion people populating the earth today are all connected through our common human origins back in Africa a long time ago, but we’re linked more closely and more recently through the exponential growth of human populations over the last several centuries.

You have a lot of ancestorsand you share those ancestors with others

huff po 1We can illustrate this with a few more numbers.  The number of ancestors (or branches) on your family tree doubles with each generation. If you keep going back from your two parents, your four grandparents, and your eight great-grandparents, you’ll find that just over 400 years ago or so, you have more than 100,000 ancestors. And so does the person sitting next to you on the train or bus this morning, or standing next to you in the elevator. Is your distant cousin right beside you?

Do any of your ancestors overlap with the ancestors of any of these total strangers? In other words, do you and your fellow passengers have any overlapping names on your separate family trees, which would mean that you two are related?

The answer just might be yes.  That’s because there are two mathematical forces at work here. As you look back in time, you have more and more ancestors, because the number is doubling each generation back in time; but the pool of ancestors you could be related to actually gets smaller and smaller, and that’s because the total human population was so much smaller back then. (The world’s population has been steadily growing since those people on the upper branches of your family tree were alive.)

That means the further you look back in time, the more likely it is that you and that random person on the subway or in the elevator share an actual ancestor!  It’s fascinating, isn’t it?

As an example, fewer than 3 million people lived in the American colonies before the Revolutionary War, compared to more than 300 million today. So if you and a total stranger both had ancestors living in Colonial America, you might actually share the same person on your family trees, simply because there weren’t that many people around back then. And while you’re less likely to find that common ancestor so easily if your fellow commuter hails from Shanghai instead, you just have to look further back in time to find a link even with them.

Genetics confirms these connections

With genetics, we see this interconnectedness of the human family move from a mathematical formula to reality, from statistical probabilities to the identification of actual individuals that you share in common with another person’s family tree.

Genetics allows us to turn a theory into ancestry.

In addition to providing an estimate of where your ancestors once lived and when, genetic genealogy companies identify your potential relatives by looking for other test-takers who share identical stretches of DNA with you. If two people share a long stretch of DNA, it’s likely because they inherited that DNA from the same ancestor; in other words, because they’re related.  And often, these shared ancestors lived in the last 500 years—since the time of Columbus—which in human history is a bit like yesterday.

How many relatives could you find?

Even without a researched family tree, a DNA test can connect you with hundreds or even thousands of living relatives whose DNA was automatically matched against yours in the testing database. And the number of relatives you could find grows daily as genetic testing databases get larger.huff po 3

For example, when only 100,000 people had taken an AncestryDNA test, the average test-taker found about 20 fourth cousins in this database. Now, with more than 800,000 participants, a person finds on average 150 fourth cousins.  In other words, each new person who takes a DNA test could be a long-lost relative!

So far, AncestryDNA has connected more than 60 million pairs of fourth cousins—more pairs of fourth cousins than there are people in California and Florida combined. (This is even more impressive when you compare that number to only 22 million pairs of fourth cousins that we were able to identify when the database was just half its current size.)

Even though the AncestryDNA database primarily represents people in the United States, what we know about human history tells us that other populations are just as interconnected. And to a lesser degree, this interconnectedness spans continents because of our common human origins back in Africa and the manner in which those original ancestors colonized the world.

More than just numbers

Genetic testing has been expanding those family reunion dining tables by the day—and some tests have led to discoveries with huge personal impact.

For example, in an earlier post, we told the story of an adoptee who found an unknown second cousin—and eventually met his birth family. Kevin Bacon and Tina Fey were astonished to learn, as guests on Finding Your Roots, that they were distant cousins, because they share a long identical segment of DNA on chromosome 20.  And though they look nothing alike, Jessica Alba and Alan Dershowitz are also distant cousins, sharing an identical segment of DNA on chromosome 7.  We were also able to find the identity of Derek Jeter’s third great-grandfather, who fathered a child with a female slave.

Even if we can’t explain the connection through two people’s family trees, long shared segments of DNA are not random; the tests reveal an ancestral connection, and that is one of the most exciting practical applications of modern genetics for those of us in search of our roots.

As all genetic testing databases continue to grow, life-changing, personal discoveries are becoming more and more common. And in aggregate, these genetic relationships—which science only recently could prove—will continue to reveal more mind-boggling statistics about the connections between all of us: how much human history, and how much of the human family, we all share on the branches of our own family trees.

Do you have a mystery in your own family tree?  Or have you wondered what family history discoveries you could make with a DNA test? Send Henry Louis Gates Jr. and his team of Ancestry experts your question at

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Member Spotlight: Family Folklore Proven True with AncestryDNA Fri, 03 Apr 2015 20:00:53 +0000 Jessica Murray Read more]]> Most families have interesting stories handed down over the generations. Ancestry member Heidi had heard stories of a baby given up for adoption at birth because the child’s father, her cousin, and the mother were young. She learned her aunt, the baby’s grandmother, had been searching for the child for years, but had little to no information to work with so her efforts always resulted in dead ends. Until, AncestryDNA.

Heidi received a message via Ancestry’s messaging center that made her quite curious. She shares the story with us below:

What was your inspiration in researching your family history?

Heidi: My inspiration to start researching my family history was the fact that I do not have any children of my own and really felt like I wanted to leave my mark on the world. I also enjoy a good mystery and there is nothing more satisfying than solving a family tree mystery.

How would you describe your level of personal family history knowledge before getting started on Ancestry?

Heidi: Before joining Ancestry, I had a very basic knowledge of my family tree. My maternal grandfather had done a lot of research back in the 1970s and I had access to his notebook and pictures. My paternal side was more of a mystery for sure!

How many years have you been working on your family tree? 

Heidi: I have been working on my personal tree for over 5 years.

What has been the biggest mystery or brick wall you’ve encountered or are currently working on solving? 

Heidi: The mystery and most exciting story to come out of my research is still unfolding. I had taken the AncestryDNA test, but never had any matches closer than 4-6th cousins. It was always fun to connect with distant relatives.

One day, about a month ago, I had a message from someone who said my DNA was showing up as a 1st or 2nd cousin match! Her name was not a name I had ever heard before in my family. We started corresponding and figured out that she must be related somehow on my paternal side. She was adopted as a baby in 1965 and while she knew she was adopted, she had no information at all on her birth parents. We collaborated via email and phone calls, talking late into the night, excited to find where this news would take us. She said she just wanted to let her birth family know that she had a wonderful life and to try to find any medical information since she has children.

I contacted several of my late father’s living siblings to see if any of them knew of a baby being born and given up for adoption. The information I received was that one of my 1st cousins had fathered a child when he and the birth mother were 17 years old and that the mother’s family made her give the baby up. The baby’s father was killed in a terrible motorcycle accident when he was 24 years old. My aunt had also passed away. We could not find the name of the mother. Several relatives were sure it was one person, others were sure it was a different woman, and we actually have three viable possible mothers at the moment. Two of the three possible mothers are now deceased. My “new cousin,” Anne has just this week submitted a request to have her birth records released. So now we wait!

What were the reactions of your family members when you shared the information you discovered?

Heidi: Everyone in my family is so excited to hear how the story of “the baby” turns out and to get to know our newest relative. This is one of the most exciting things to ever happen to me!!

We are pleased to see Heidi and her new cousin Anne explore this path together and wish them all the best as they continue to unravel this mystery.


Have an Ancestry member success story? Share it with us by visiting and you may be featured in a future member spotlight. 


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Ask Ancestry Anne: Answers 5 DNA Questions Fri, 03 Apr 2015 16:50:11 +0000 Anne Gillespie Mitchell Read more]]> fan chart with DNA hints

We get a lot of questions about DNA.  Here are 5 of the most common and the answers:

1. Is it true that only men can take the test?

AncestryDNA is an autosomal DNA test that tests 22 pairs of Autosomal testing allows you to find family across all lines in your family tree. That means both men and women can take the test, and the results are not limited to just the direct maternal or paternal lines.

2. I’ve done my DNA test and I’ve seen my ethnic breakdown.  Now what?

Check out the information on the history of these regions by clicking on each ethnic region and explore the history of the people your DNA matches. Remember these results can go back 500-1000 years ago.

Start building your tree. And build it wide.  If you work on only one branch you may be missing cousin hints from all those other branches.  And be patient.  You never know when that cousin you need to make a breakthrough will take the test and show up in your hint list!

3. I’ve been told where my ancestors come from, but AncestryDNA tells me something different. How do I know what to believe?

Your family tree stretches back hundreds of years, and AncestryDNA can reach back hundreds, maybe even a thousand years, to tell you things that aren’t in historical records—things you might never have known otherwise.  And if you’ve been told that you were Irish or German or some other background, it may be so far back that those markers didn’t make their way to your DNA.

4. My sister and I have different ethnic percentages. How can that be?

This is actually very common.  You get about 50% of your DNA from your mom and 50% from your dad. But which segments of DNA make up that 50% are completely random, so the odds are actually against you and your sibling getting exactly the same segments of DNA from each parent.  You’ll match as being a very close family connection, but your ethnic breakdowns can, and will, be different.  And you may also connect to different people with DNA hints.  That’s why testing more people is always a good idea!

5. I’ve always been told that I am Native American.  But your DNA test says I’m not.  What gives?

There are a few possibilities.  First, maybe that is simply a family myth. Second, it is possible that your Native American ancestry is far enough back that not enough of it was passed down to you for the test to detect.  If your parent didn’t receive any Native American markers in the 50% of the DNA that came from his parent, then you can’t have it either.  Third, you may come from a Native American ancestry that isn’t being identified by our tests.  Don’t ignore good old-fashioned research.  There is always more than one way to get to an answer.

Happy Searching!

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Introducing a Breakthrough in DNA Thu, 02 Apr 2015 12:15:15 +0000 Anna Swayne Read more]]> AncestryDNA is turning family history inside out with our latest innovation in DNA science and technology. Within your DNA, you carry a history that goes back hundreds, even thousands of years. Today, we are pleased to announce New Ancestor Discoveries, a revolutionary new way to discover, preserve and share your family history. Now, by just taking the AncestryDNA test, you can instantly find ancestors you never knew you had, going back generations in your family. This represents an entirely new way to get more of your story, whether you’re an expert genealogist, hobbyist, or beginner.

Meet the Next Generation of Family History

New Ancestor Discoveries, the patent-pending innovation only available with AncestryDNA, can take you down a new path of your story. Do you have a brick wall on a family line? Maybe you haven’t been able to go very far back in your family tree, or maybe you were adopted and are hoping to find the missing pieces of your story. New Ancestor Discoveries are here to help by using your DNA in a way that has never been possible—until now.

Imagine that you know nothing about your 3rd great-grandmother on your father’s side. You haven’t been able to find her name, you’ve never seen a picture of her, and you don’t know where she was born. Now by taking the AncestryDNA test you may finally discover that piece of your story. This is the power unlocked by New Ancestor Discoveries as we push technology and DNA science to the next level.

So, how is this possible?

New Ancestor Discoveries are made through a unique combination of AncestryDNA results and the millions of family trees shared by Ancestry members. First, living cousins of each AncestryDNA member are found and organized into family networks called DNA Circles™, which bring together groups of people who are all related to the same ancestor. From there, New Ancestor Discoveries are found when you are a strong genetic match with members of a DNA Circle but you don’t already have that ancestor in your tree. It’s an innovative new way we are combining DNA, family trees, and historical records to help you make the next breakthrough in your story.


Where can New Ancestor Discoveries take you?

  • Find ancestors you may have never known, even if you know absolutely nothing about your family history, through this high-tech combination of DNA, family trees, and family history expertise.
  • Cross the pond in your research with new ancestors from England, Ireland, Germany, Denmark, and more.
  • Go back as far as the 1700s in an instant through your AncestryDNA test.
  • Find relatives that you may never have been able to find with family trees or historical records alone.
  • Grow your family tree with genetic evidence.

Our DNA members are receiving New Ancestor Discoveries pointing them to ancestors born as far back as the 1700s in both in the United States and abroad.

What if I’ve already taken the AncestryDNA test?

If you are already an AncestryDNA member, good news, you don’t have to take a new test to get this great new benefit. Watch for your own New Ancestor Discoveries. They will appear on your DNA results page just below the ethnicity and matching section. If you don’t have any yet, keep checking back; new connections are being made every day, and as the database continues to grow, you will have more chances for New Ancestor Discoveries.


Every time I find another piece of my story, a new ancestor name, fact, or picture, I realize I am here today because of their choices. I am who I am because of them. And I carry their DNA inside of me. If you haven’t taken a DNA test, now is the time. Your DNA holds pieces of your story—it’s time to discover it.


Stay tuned for more helpful information on getting the most from New Ancestor Discoveries and how to improve your likelihood of getting them, if you don’t already have one.







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What does our DNA tell us about being Irish? Mon, 16 Mar 2015 15:32:14 +0000 Mike Mulligan Read more]]> Saint Patrick’s Day is a time of year when those with Irish heritage around the world celebrate being Irish. With the launch of AncestryDNA in the UK & Ireland we have an opportunity to show a different view of Irishness using genetics.

Using DNA

With AncestryDNA, all customers receive a unique estimate of their ‘genetic ethnicity’ – where in the world their ancestors may have lived hundreds to thousands of years ago, based on their DNA. For example, an AncestryDNA ethnicity estimate can tell someone how much of their DNA likely came from Ireland – anywhere from 0% to 100%.

As the first results of UK & Ireland tests come through we can start to build up a picture of ethnicity estimates not just for individuals but averaged across all those born in the UK or Ireland*. What is particularly fascinating about the map below is that it has been compiled using just AncestryDNA results. It does not use historical data about migration patterns or self-reporting from customers about how Irish they think they are. What we are seeing on the map is just what the DNA tells us.

AncestryDNA Irish Ethnicity

Irish Ethnicity in Ireland

 RegionIrish Ethnicity

Average Irish Ethnicity Estimate across Ireland

Not surprisingly, the highest average Irish ethnicity estimates are found in Ireland. However, within Ireland we are seeing some provincial differences. Historically inward migration to Ireland has come from the south and east through Leinster and Munster. The genetics appears to agree with the history here. The highest estimates found anywhere in the UK & Ireland are found in Connaught with 76.7%, with Munster and Leinster on 71.4% and 71.8%

The ethnicity estimate for Ulster is lower than the other provinces around 51.9%. This also is what you might expect but attributing the different estimate in Ulster to the 17th century plantation is perhaps too simplistic. The connections between Ulster and Scotland are deep going back many centuries and continuing to the present day. As a child growing up in Donegal, one of the best parts of the summer was the influx of Scottish cousins home for the holidays (it made for some epic football matches).

Irish Ethnicity in Scotland & Wales

RegionIrish Ethnicity
Southern Scotland


Northern Scotland




Isle Of Man


Average Irish Ethnicity Estimate for Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man

Moving across the Irish Sea we see those areas with close historical ties show higher Irish ancestry. Echoing the results in Ulster, Southern Scotland shows the highest Irish ancestry across Great Britain with an average of 46.6%. The short distance from Ireland to Scotland, 13 miles at one point, makes it a natural destination for many Irish emigrants. Glasgow, Paisley, Dumfries, are all places well known to Irish emigrants over the centuries and into modern times.

Travelling down from Scotland we see Wales has the next highest Irish ancestry. Showing once again the close ties of the Celtic nations, the average Irish ancestry across Wales is around 31.3%. Let us not forget the most famous Irish immigrant from Wales was Maewyn Succat, who is perhaps better known to us today as Saint Patrick.

Irish Ethnicity in England

RegionIrish Ethnicity


South Border


North West Midlands






South East


South West Midlands




Home North


South East Midlands




South Central


North East Midlands


South West




West Anglia


East Anglia


 Average Irish Ethnicity Estimate across England

Finally looking at England we see generally the lowest Irish ancestry across the UK and Ireland. Across England the average Irish ancestry ranges from 26.7% in Lancashire down to 15.4% in East Anglia. Once again perhaps we are seeing the echoes of history. The cities of Liverpool and Manchester have long been a destination for those leaving Ireland. Just as Scotland was natural destination for emigrants from Ulster, so too the ‘boat to Liverpool’ was a common refrain for many Dubliners seeking new opportunities.

As I mentioned before, it is early days for these results. As more people take the AncestryDNA test in the UK & Ireland we will gain a much better understanding of the genetic makeup of these islands. It is certainly an exciting time with much to learn.


If you would like to learn more about AncestryDNA, or to order your kit, click here.

Have you taken the AncestryDNA test? Please share your stories with us on Facebook and  Twitter or email



*All AncestryDNA users in this study consented to participate in research.

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Behind the scenes! Find out what’s in our DNA here in the Ancestry office Fri, 13 Mar 2015 12:00:29 +0000 Mike Mulligan Read more]]> As we prepared for the launch of AncestryDNA in the UK and Ireland we offered the people working in the Ancestry offices in Dublin and London a chance to take the DNA test. As people took the test and got their results we were on hand, observing and learning more about how the experience for those over here might match or differ from our cousins in the US.

Without exception the first thing everyone did when they got their results was check their Ethnicity Estimate. This is not surprising, it is something we saw often in the US.  We were especially interested in what our group would find in their Ethnicity Estimate and how they would react.


The team in the Ancestry offices here in Dublin and London is very international.  We have people from right across Europe.  What we found was, as you might expect, that the Irish, Swedes, Spanish, and East Europeans showed higher Ethnicity Estimates for those regions. We also found that our people from Germany or Italy have more mixed results than those from countries around the edge like Spain or Ireland. Regions with historic ties also showed up around our office.  So you see Italy showing up among the Spanish or Great Britain showing up among the Irish.


Because of the number of UK & Irish people in our offices we were able to look a little closer there. It was interesting to see here that our estimates echoed what we knew in terms of our family histories. Those whose background was in the bigger cities like London or Dublin had much more mixed ethnicity than those from rural backgrounds.

Among our Irish team we saw larger presence of Great British ethnicity along the East and South East.  In general Irish ethnicity increased as we moved North and West reflecting the fact that migrations into Ireland tended to come from the South and East.

In the UK we saw more complex results. A few of our London team are second or third generation Irish or Asian and this showed up in their results. As we moved out from the capital we saw that those in the North East showed higher Scandinavian while those from more southern backgrounds showed higher Western Europe. In terms of Great British ethnicity it did seem to rise the more north the family background (the highest was 89% in Lancashire).

Finally we were interested in what the AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimate might mean to people here. In the US people taking the test have generally come from a blended background.  When we look to the UK & Ireland, people have more specific ideas about their ethnicity.  How would they respond to the test results?  As it turns out most people got quite excited with what they found.  A common reaction was people were hoping to see mixed results. It pointed to a richer family heritage, it gave them a story to tell.

Our trial has been an interesting way for us to see up close what an AncestryDNA test might mean to people in the UK & Ireland. The results we’ve found among our employees are just a small selection of what you might find. I would certainly encourage you to understand how we arrive at the estimates using our reference panel. And one final request.  After you have taken in your Ethnicity Estimates, get stuck in on your DNA Matches. Anyone who has taken an AncestryDNA test and shares any DNA with you will show as a cousin match. Build out your family tree. Contact your matches. View their family tree. Respond to matches if they contact you. That moment when you connect to a DNA cousin you never even knew is a fantastic feeling that will stay with you.


If you would like to learn more about AncestryDNA, or to order your kit, click here.

Have you taken the AncestryDNA test? Please share your stories with us on Facebook and  Twitter or email

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Origin of “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” Saying Fri, 06 Mar 2015 19:24:00 +0000 Anna Swayne Read more]]> To get you ready for St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th, we wanted to share the story behind that famous phrase and discuss how the luck of the Irish might be in your DNA. And, this St. Patrick’s day might just be the right time for you to try AncestryDNA, if you haven’t already.

Kissing someone who is Irish is pretty much the next best thing to kissing the stone in Blarney Castle, which is likely where this famous saying comes from. According to legend, kissing the stone will give you the power of eloquent and persuasive speech. Two different stories relate kissing the stone with luck.

One dates back to 1440s when the builder of the castle, Cormac Laidir MacCarthy, was in a lawsuit and needed some extra luck. He sought out Clíodhna (goddess of love and beauty) and she told him to kiss a stone on his way to court. He did, and he won his case. Later he took that same stone and installed it into the castle.

Another legend suggests that Queen Elizabeth I wanted the land rights from Cormac Teige McCarthy. Cormac set off to try and convince the queen to change her mind, but was worried since he wasn’t a strong speaker. While traveling he ran into an older woman who suggested that if he kissed a particular stone in Blarney Castle it would give him the gift of eloquent speech. Cormac did just that and went on to persuade the queen to allow him to keep his land.

Nowadays, the stone gets millions of visitors at Blarney Castle, outside Cork, Ireland, with the hope the stone has the same impact on their own lives.


Does the Irish luck run deep within you? Find out how Irish you are — or somebody else is — with an AncestryDNA test. So far two out of three test takers have come back with at least five percent Irish in their ethnicity results.

How’s that for lucky?

Buy AncestryDNA for you or your lucky family member and find out how Irish you are. And make sure you share your Irish results by downloading our “Kiss Me” badges below to use on your social media profiles. Enjoy!

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How AncestryDNA has added new life to my family history research Tue, 17 Feb 2015 21:42:28 +0000 Brian Gallagher Read more]]> Intl_UK_DNA_250x250_Badge

I am privileged to work for a company that genuinely makes a difference to the lives of many thousands of people around the world. I have seen first-hand the breakthroughs, connections and family reunions that have been made possible by the records and trees available on Ancestry. Obviously, like many of you, I have used Ancestry to research my own family tree. I am Irish and my family has not left our home place for as far back as I can research, given the limitations of Irish records. Many of my grandparents’ siblings did leave. They traveled, as many Irish emigrants did, across the globe to the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa. As a consequence I am more familiar with being found, than I am with finding others. Year after year throughout my childhood and in recent years too, family after family would arrive in Ireland to see the house where their ancestors were born and from which they had to leave in order to find a future in a foreign land. Thanks to resources like Ancestry these families were able to trace their family history right to my doorstep.

Being unable to go further back than I have with records, I have been anticipating the launch of AncestryDNA to see if it can give me that sense of discovery that I had seen so many times on the faces of my relatives as they returned to the birthplace of their ancestors. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect from my AncestryDNA results. My parents are both Irish, as are their parents and their parents before them. Would it tell me anything?

After carefully reading the instructions, providing my saliva sample and activating my kit on the Ancestry website; I waited. When I got the notification email to advise the results were back I was a little nervous. What would they say? Am I 99% Irish as I suspected? Will I have any cousin matches? I rushed to open my Ancestry account and see my results.

To say I was overwhelmed was an understatement! It was difficult to take it all in at first glance. Not only did I have a cousin match, I had many cousin matches! I had expected to see matches at 4th cousin or more distant but I had a possible 3rd cousin match! Wow! I have since contacted this person and she is my mother’s second cousin. When I told my mother of this discovery, she was astounded. She was aware of her cousin’s name, but the families had lost touch many years ago and my mother had never met any member of that family. That changed yesterday when they spoke on the phone for over an hour. AncestryDNA made this reunion possible. What was previously just a name on a family tree is now a relationship in the real world.

I also had matches on my father’s side of the tree too, at 4th 5th and 6th cousin. I have not had the chance to go through all my cousin matches yet, I have over 50, but so far on my father’s side we have managed to finally find the answer to an old question. My father and a neighbour had always believed that our families were related, but neither of them knew how. Thanks to AncestryDNA I was able view the family tree of one of my matches in the United States and we have finally found out where the link is! My father could not believe that a simple saliva sample could hold the answer to a question he had been unable to find for decades.

Cousin matches are only half of the results process. AncestryDNA also gives you your ethnicity estimate. I was expecting to find out that I am somewhere around 95% Irish based on what I already know from my family tree. I was in for a surprise. I discovered that I am 85% Irish, 7% British, 4% Eastern European and some trace results from Scandinavia, Northwest Russia and Asia making up the remainder. Not what you might describe as a typical Irishman!


While AncestryDNA has answered many questions and solved some mysteries it has also raised new questions for my family history research. Not since I started my family tree have I been this excited about all the discoveries that lie ahead. I would recommend AncestryDNA to everyone who wants to learn more about their family history, not because I work for Ancestry, but because it is truly a revolutionary product that can take your research to the next level.

If you would like to learn more about AncestryDNA, or to order your kit, click here.

Have you taken the AncestryDNA test? Please share your stories with us on Facebook and  Twitter.


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