Posted by on October 24, 2013 in DNA, Science

A small tube of your saliva can reveal a lot about your family history hundreds and even thousands of years ago.  At AncestryDNA, we study the DNA in that saliva – using sophisticated science – to reveal your ethnic origins.  We recently announced an update to our ethnicity results which provides customers with a more in-depth look at where their ancestors once lived.

How does the DNA in your saliva record your family history in the first place?

To understand how, we’ll turn to language, since there are quite a few parallels with genetics.

Language and Geography

You “inherit” your dialect, using similar phrases, sayings, and words as your parents and the people around you.  For example, there are a number of words people use to describe a “sweetened, carbonated beverage.”  The colors in the map below show how often people living in the U.S. use each of three particular words.

Pop soda coke

You can see some clear geographic patterns. Based on their term for soda (I’m a Northeasterner), coke-drinkers from the South cluster together, as do pop-drinking Midwesterners.

So if we met a person who called the sugary drink in their hand a “coke,” we could feel confident in guessing he was from the south.  If he used the word “pop,” he is probably from somewhere in the Midwest.

Back to DNA

When AncestryDNA estimates your genetic ethnicity, we use a similar approach – but instead of comparing your language patterns to those of other people, we’re comparing your DNA.

Just like certain regions of the U.S. appear different based on dialect, human groups can often be distinguished based on lots and lots of genetic data.  By finding the clusters of human groups to which you are similar, based on your DNA (rather than your dialect), we can estimate your genetic ethnicity.

Both DNA and language can help to trace someone’s origin, since both DNA and language are inherited.

But unlike language, which you can “inherit” from people around you, you only inherit DNA from your parents, who inherited their DNA from their parents, and so forth. Thus, our DNA is a mosaic of the DNA of our ancestors.  That DNA tells us about where our ancestors came from.

This is due to the fact that the variation in our DNA represents ancient and modern migrations of humans as we populated the globe.  As humans moved from Africa, to Europe, Asia, and the Americas settling new areas, groups split apart, taking with them their DNA.  By chance, the DNA of groups settling one area could be different than the DNA of those that settled in another.

Over time, individuals from a group of people usually had children with people from the same group.  In so doing, they passed their DNA to their children – generation after generation.  And if a group of people remained relatively isolated from other groups, there wouldn’t be much new DNA entering that group from others.  In this process, the DNA of human populations becomes slightly differentiated.

Going back to our analogy, southerners may have started to say “coke,” and in passing the word to their neighbors and kids, have continued to do so generation after generation.  Similarly, chance movements of humans across the world allow us to see DNA evidence of this history.

At AncestryDNA, we leverage the fact that the DNA of individuals from across the globe shows evidence of human population history.

We examine DNA samples of thousands of people from all over the world who have deep ancestry in a specific global location – for example, individuals whose grandparents were all born in SpainWe then cluster their DNA into 26 overlapping  worldwide regions based on DNA patterns observed between and within the regions.

More simply, we construct a DNA map, similar to a soda/pop/coke dialect map. Some DNA samples represent the Great Britain region, some represent East Asia, and others represent North Africa.  


Then, we compare your DNA to these individuals to identify from which of the 26 regions you are likely to have ancestry.  When you have DNA that is similar to the DNA of people with deep ancestry in a specific location, you very likely also had ancestors from that same place.  Similar to the linguistics map, we have a good idea of where you might be from if we hear you say “pop.”

In the most recent update to AncestryDNA ethnicity results, we have increased the number of individuals to whom we compare you as well as the amount of your DNA used in the comparison – allowing us get even more specific in certain regions.  This gives us a highly refined estimate of your genetic ethnicity.

It’s important to note that DNA differences between human groups are subtle: the DNA sequences of two random people are on average 99.9% identical.  But, that still means that two random individuals differ at about 3 million DNA positions.  This makes for an often difficult, but exciting challenge in determining ethnicity.

Interpreting your genetic ethnicity

There are a few other important parallels and differences between the linguistics example and a genetic ethnicity estimate.

Let’s say you currently live in the Midwest, but since your parents grew up in the Northeast, you use the word “soda.”  While you identify as a Midwesterner, your dialect might indicate that you’re a Northeasterner instead – like your parents.

Similarly, your genetic ethnicity estimate tells you about your historical origins, not about where you live today.  AncestryDNA estimates go back hundreds to a thousand years, when “populations” and their boundaries were very different than those we know today. This might cause you to have a different genetic ethnicity estimate than you might expect.

But while an individual’s dialect may change when he or she moves to a new location, an individual’s DNA doesn’t.  This also affects your genetic ethnicity.  For instance, if the ancestors of your Italian ancestors migrated from Eastern Europe hundreds of years ago, you might show up as having Eastern European ethnicity instead of Italian.

Pop soda coke

Take one final look at the linguistic map and notice that there are areas that appear to be a mix of others.  For instance, in Oklahoma, people use a combination of “pop” and “coke,” influenced by the regions around them.  This means that it would be difficult to identify someone specifically as an “Oklahoman.”

The genetics of human populations can be similarly affected by migrations between neighboring groups.  This makes it harder to disentangle genetic ethnicity from some regions, like Western Europe, where people and borders have moved quite a bit in the past thousand years.

All of this – estimating someone’s ethnicity from genetics – involves cutting edge science.  By looking at more data, developing novel methodologies, and discovering new patterns in our DNA, we continue to advance AncestryDNA.

That means that the AncestryDNA science team will be up late, drinking pop, soda, coke, and, according to the British scientist on our team, fizzy drink.

About Julie Granka

Julie has been a population geneticist at AncestryDNA since May 2013. Before that, Julie received her Ph.D. in Biology and M.S. in Statistics from Stanford University, where she studied genetic data from human populations and developed computational tools to answer questions about population history and evolution. She also spent time collecting and studying DNA using spit-collection tubes like the ones in an AncestryDNA kit. Julie likes to spend her non-computer time enjoying the outdoors – hiking, biking, running, swimming, camping, and picnicking. But if she’s inside, she’s baking, drawing, and painting.


Joe Orfant 

It’s still “tonic” here in Massachusetts…

October 27, 2013 at 5:29 pm
Barbara Chace 

Yes, in Boston it’s always tonic.

October 27, 2013 at 5:37 pm
Sharon Prellwitz 

It’s soda here in Fond du Lac in east central WI. I work in a drive thru, and people are most likely to order Pepsi or soda. We only carry Coke products, so that’s just an interesting nugget of information that probably means nothing! Or just a lot of Pepsi drinkers!

October 27, 2013 at 5:39 pm
Pamela Marie Galvan Tamez 

In my ancestry I am Native American. My first cousins, whose mother is my father’s sister are registered with the Kiowa Apache and Lakota Sioux tribes. I am in the process of registering, my parents say the ancestors left the reservation many ancestors ago, because they became educated and bought their own land and did not want to claim being Native, so on the census they always claimed white, but I am a little confused, will there ever be a way to tell through DNA what tribe? I wondered has Ancestry tested DNA on any Native American tribes and from the tribe’s DNA, will they be able to start matching up people to their particular tribe?
Thank you

October 27, 2013 at 5:39 pm
    Julie Granka 

    Thank you for your interest, Pamela. Currently, AncestryDNA identifies whether an individual may have Native American genetic ethnicity from North and South America. However, we do not identify particular tribes from which you may have ancestry.

    October 28, 2013 at 10:55 pm

OK, this explains why when I took the quiz, I was identified as being from California, but have never lived there. Actually, many of my ancestors came from the New England states, which identifies the same as California! I’m also searching for the answers to the family legend of ‘Melungeon’ Ancestry and a combination of Ottawa NA, French-Canadian, Spanish & Gypsy! Was really surprised to find the large percentage of Viking ancestry, but knew about the German, French, Great Britain, Ireland, Scotland ancestry.

October 27, 2013 at 5:58 pm
Ruthann Gray 


October 27, 2013 at 6:02 pm
Kimberly Morgan 

I recently received my DNA ethnicity results and when they were refined, the results were (I think) much different than the first batch two weeks ago. My German immigrant great-grandparents — two sets — didn’t show up at all. Nothing from Western Europe. The most recent results have it listed at 10% now. Strange.

October 27, 2013 at 6:05 pm
    Julie Granka 

    Thank you for your comment, Kimberly. For your updated AncestryDNA genetic ethnicity estimates, we look at a greater amount of your DNA and compare your DNA to an even larger set of individuals from around the world. We believe that this update gives a better estimate of your genetic ethnicity – and because of this, your results can change. Keep in mind that our estimates of your ethnicity from DNA go back thousands of years, beyond the end of your pedigree paper trail. In this time, your German ancestors may have migrated from elsewhere, which could explain your results.

    October 28, 2013 at 10:59 pm
Bob Martínez 

This is a great explanation. I remember when I was in the military, some of the airman would call the sodas, soda pop.

October 27, 2013 at 6:10 pm
Delores Barnett 

My mother and I both took the DNA tests. My question concerns some of our matches. I compared the leaves (common ancestors) we both have. I have some leaves on my maternal side that she doesnt have. I dont understand since I inherited that part of my DNA from her.

October 27, 2013 at 6:17 pm
    Julie Granka 

    Thank you for your comment, Delores. If you have a DNA match to a person that your mother does not have, it may mean that the DNA match is due to a relationship on your father’s side. If this is the case, then the “common ancestor hint” leaf may be pointing you to the wrong place. This happens more often than you might expect. You may just happen to have a common ancestor match with an individual from your mother’s side, even if that is not the common ancestor that led to your DNA match. Also, please note that we do report the confidence of your matches — this might also occur if this match is low-confidence. You may also want to make sure that both you and your mother are linked to the same tree to make the most of your results.

    October 28, 2013 at 11:45 pm

Here in Australia we call your soda/pop/coke – “soft drink”. Unless, of course, it’s coca cola which is coke.
Pretty sure that’s all over the country although I live in Sydney, New South Wales.

October 27, 2013 at 6:23 pm
Rita Remp 

Do you have to be a member of ancestry to get this done?
If you are a member of ancestry, do you only judge from the saliva itself
or do you judge by who the member claims to be related to as well as their saliva?

Thank you,

October 27, 2013 at 6:29 pm
    Julie Granka 

    Hi Rita, thank you for your interest. The AncestryDNA test is based only on your DNA. Please visit for more information.

    November 1, 2013 at 5:12 pm
Linda Groover 

I grew up in Michigan…and we drank pop. I moved to Maryland and started calling it soda. Have lived in South Carolina for 16 yrs now and still call it soda. Good analogy, though. When I rec’d my new results, my 7% undecided became traces of less than 1% European Jewish and 1% Caucasus. Interesting. Now that I’ve found my paternal grandfather’s line in Kentucky there is also a strong possibility of some Melungeon genes in there, too. All very interesting. After 4 separate experiences doing yDNA, I believe you can get better results (in terms of matching potential family members) with the atDNA test. Three of the yDNA tests have provided no matching at all. The other one proved 100% that my great grandfather’s father was not a Native American (as family lore said), but was from a family that lived across the road.

October 27, 2013 at 6:47 pm
Juanita Stephens 

My DNA also is so confusing I have been trying to see if my Native American Ancestry is from the Tiwa Tribe in Albuquerque New Mexico. I have traced my grandparents death to New Mexico where my mother grew up and my grandmother was baptized at St Augustine Church at Isleta New Mexico . Her mother’s name I have but no more. I can not even get my mothers birth record from Arizona I received a Non Birth Record from them. I know where she was baptized and have that record but that is all. My mothers family also did not want to be called Indian and left early in the ancestry how to I connect again just for genealogy ? So you see Pamela I have the same issue.

October 27, 2013 at 6:48 pm
    Julie Granka 

    Thank you for your interest, Juanita. Currently, AncestryDNA does not identify particular tribes from which you may have genetic ethnicity. We instead estimate whether an individual may have Native American genetic ethnicity from North and South America.

    October 28, 2013 at 11:00 pm

I actually had a question I never knew my father could yall help me find him

October 27, 2013 at 7:12 pm
Ken Martin 

I’ve taken the DNA saliva test four times. Each time I have been told there was not enough of a DNA sample to read my results. Can we expect you to improve of this? I would much prefer a blood test anyway. Any help or suggestions from anyone?

October 27, 2013 at 7:15 pm

I am Oklahoman born and bred but use the term Soda.

October 27, 2013 at 7:39 pm

I have had the kit for a year. I have not taken the test. I am reading and hearing that a new test is more accurate. My dilemma is do I buy a new test or simply use the one I have. My paternal grandparents left Eastern Europe in or around 1910. They would not and to their death talk about THE OLD COUNTRY. Nothing about their family of origin. I am somewhat reticent to
Take the test given their extreme measures to hide it??
What do you or others think?

October 27, 2013 at 7:47 pm
    Julie Granka 

    Hi Lynn. Even though we have updated our ethnicity prediction, you can still use the exact same kit that you already have purchased. When you send in your saliva sample, the results you receive will be the updated results.

    October 28, 2013 at 11:02 pm
Barbara J Rutz 

The original results of my Ancestry DNA test made no sense to me. Three of my four grandparents had German parents. My fourth grandparent had all English/Scottish ancestry. My DNA showed 69% Scandinavian. I am now 94% West European and 6% West Asia. Scandinavia is down to 15%. Still NO English/Scottish. Frustrating.

October 27, 2013 at 7:56 pm
    Julie Granka 

    Hi Barbara. We believe that the latest ethnicity update gives a better estimate of your genetic ethnicity – and because of this, your results have changed. Keep in mind that our estimates of your ethnicity from DNA go back thousands of years, beyond the end of your pedigree paper trail. Your estimate may reflect that your English/Scottish grandparent may have had genetic ethnicity from another region.

    October 28, 2013 at 11:06 pm
Patricia Bowen 

I have encountered people–I think New Englanders–who prefer to drink “tonic.”

October 27, 2013 at 9:21 pm

I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and always said pop, but my grandparents were from Mobile, AL. They used to say soda water. My daughter was born in SoCal and raised in Oregon. She says soda.

October 27, 2013 at 9:26 pm

In Australia we generally call fizzy drink ‘soft drink’ and Coca Cola is ‘Coke’ but in Tasmania fizzy drink is called ‘cordial’ and cordial (the concentrated drink that is watered down) is called ‘soft drink’……go figure!

October 27, 2013 at 10:48 pm
Karla Marie Phillips 

I had a DNA test done outside of Ancestry. And it came back 100 % European. Is there anyway to get those results put into my tree on Ancestry ??

October 27, 2013 at 11:00 pm
Susan P. Wright 

My family (originally from Roanoke, VA) and neighbors in Fredericksburg VA, call the drink either soft drink, coke or sometimes cola. I think soft drink is used because it’s a non alcoholic drink.

October 27, 2013 at 11:01 pm
Judy Polk 

According to family bibles and other family lore, I’m supposed to have Native American blood on both my father’s and my mother’s sides….. and yet the DNA test claims I have 0% Native American DNA. How can that be? I’ve seen several others saying the same thing – is there a problem identifying Native American DNA, or what?

October 27, 2013 at 11:04 pm
    Julie Granka 

    Hi Judy. Please see the reply below to Lillian. Thank you for your interest.

    October 28, 2013 at 11:10 pm
Lillian Gareis 

Judy Polk. I’m with you, both my parents have Indian bloodlines, yet the DNA test shows no Native American.
I hope Ancestry gets back to us on this. It is very frustrating to find they don’t identify Native Americans

October 28, 2013 at 12:20 am
    Julie Granka 

    Judy and Lillian, thank you for your interest. AncestryDNA can in fact identify Native American ethnicity by comparing your DNA to the DNA profiles of individuals from North and South America. The reason why you might not have Native American ethnicity is that DNA is inherited in a random way. If you have a great-great-grandparent with Native American ancestry, you would expect to have 1/16th Native American ancestry. However, the pieces of DNA that you inherited from this great-great-grandparent are random. When the DNA was passed from your great-great-grandparent, to your great-grandparent, to your grandparent, to your parent, and then to you, some pieces of DNA from this great-great-grandparent that may help to identify you as Native American may have been “lost.” Since you might not have a lot of DNA from that great-great-grandparent, you might not show up as having Native American genetic ethnicity.

    October 28, 2013 at 11:10 pm
Dawn King 

In eastern North Carolina we used the term “soft drink” to refer to Pepsi, Coke, and simiilar beverages.

October 28, 2013 at 1:05 am
Angi Lamb 

Pop is used in Angus, Scotland (and elsewhere in Scotland) as the term for a sugary drink!

October 28, 2013 at 1:17 am

I sometimes use all 3 depending on my mood and I even use soda-pop together or sometimes cola as a generic. My mother’s side was from Indiana (Hungarian) while my dad’s side was from New York (Irish).

October 28, 2013 at 1:29 am
Sandra Knopf 

I got the results for my DNA test and it was not what I expected. My grandfather was from Switzerland and I have his ancestry straight from the Church Books yet there was no DNA evidence that could be construed as Swiss. Then just recently I received an updated test results that had Entirely different results than the 1st. I now have Swiss but where did the Irish come from??? I have NO indication from my rather extensive genealogy research that there could be any Irish much less 29%. I guess I’ll wait for update 3.

October 28, 2013 at 3:41 am
    Julie Granka 

    Hi Sandra. For your updated AncestryDNA genetic ethnicity estimates, we look at a greater amount of your DNA and compare your DNA to an even larger set of individuals from around the world. We believe that this update gives a better estimate of your genetic ethnicity – and because of this, your results can change. Keep in mind that our estimates of your ethnicity from DNA go back thousands of years, beyond the end of your pedigree paper trail. This could explain the Ireland region appearing in your results. Note also that genetic ethnicity from the Ireland region is also found in neighboring areas, and is not entirely unique to Ireland.

    October 28, 2013 at 11:13 pm
Patti Champion 

When I was growing up in MA we all called soft drinks “tonic”. Don’t know if this a just a regional thing or not. It got confusing when I went to college in MI, then have live in various places in the U S. I just have to listen to what everyone else asks for.

October 28, 2013 at 2:06 pm
Lianne McNeil 

I grew up in western Oregon, as did my dad. My mom’s parents grew up in western Oregon and Wisconsin. (My mom grew up in India). I always called it pop. I never heard it called soda until I was an adult. I now call it soda pop, for clarity.

October 28, 2013 at 2:06 pm

The link in the first paragraph is broken, and I would like to read that announcement. When changed how it portrays the DNA results, my ethnicity changed dramatically. Before, I had a lot of Irish and no German. Now, I have only 2% Irish and a lot of German. Why would this have happened? It makes me distrust this process. Please explain! Thanks!

October 28, 2013 at 2:23 pm
    Julie Granka 

    Hi Cathee. Thank you – we have revised the link in the first paragraph. The new AncestryDNA ethnicity update has greatly improved our methods for estimating your genetic ethnicity. We now compare your DNA to a larger set of individuals from around the world as well as use a larger amount of your DNA to estimate your genetic ethnicity. We believe this version to be a better estimate of your genetic ethnicity, and as a result, your results can change.

    October 28, 2013 at 11:14 pm
Genealogy | Pearltrees 

[…] Unraveling the Science Behind Ethnicity Estimation […]

October 28, 2013 at 3:10 pm
Lisa Robinson 

Julie, My revised results came in as 85% European (broken down into 6 ethnic groupings), plus 8% native american (with a range of 6 – 10%) and the remaining 5% a mix of trace ethnicities from various parts of Africa and Asia.

My question is: why do virtually all six of my European ethnicity ranges start at 0-1%??? This makes no sense to me. How valid are they in such a situation? For instance, the results say 20% Scandinavian, but the range is <1-39%. And the range for Europe West is 0-38% with an estimate of 17%. My range for Iberian Peninsula is the only one that starts with something other than 0 or 1%, and it starts only at 3% and goes up to 30% with an estimated percentage of 16%.

So, how should I interpret these results? I was really excited to see the revised numbers until I saw these odd ranges which I'm concerned render my results meaningless. Are these results unusual, or did a lot of people get ranges like these?

Thanks so much for your input!

Lisa Robinson

October 29, 2013 at 12:21 am
    Julie Granka 

    Thank you for your interest, Lisa. Please refer to the help pages and the White Paper for a detailed description on how we determine the ranges for your ethnicity estiamtes. Many factors can influence the genetics of populations, and thus your estimates of genetic ethnicity. In Europe in particular, military invasions and changing boundaries has meant that individuals have moved around quite a bit, taking with them their DNA.

    October 29, 2013 at 4:35 pm
Lisa Robinson 


I do have one other question. I noticed that I have a range of 0-1% for European Jewish, but the countries listed don’t include Spain or Portugal. I have been wondering if I have Sephardic Jewish ancestry by way of my Spanish ancestors (due to numerous surnames in my tree with Sephardic connections). Where would any Sephardic Jewish ancestry show up in the results?

Thanks for your great article by the way!

Lisa Robinson

October 29, 2013 at 12:35 am
    Julie Granka 

    Hi Lisa. Sephardic Jewish genetic ethnicity would be represented by the European Jewish region.

    October 29, 2013 at 4:35 pm
Lynn McLaughlin 

The new results say I’m 44% Ireland, 2% Great Britain and 49% Western Europe. I see that the map for each area shows 3 encircling lines and that Scotland is within the second line for both Ireland and Great Britain. Does this mean that if I’m actually more Scottish than Irish, you really can’t tell from the DNA analysis you’ve done so far? Also, I know that a lot of my ancestors came from England in the 1600s. Does the low amount for Great Britain and the large amount for Western Europe mean my English ancestors were like descended from the Norman invaders?

Thanks, Lynn

October 29, 2013 at 3:42 am
    Julie Granka 

    Thank you for your comment, Lynn. Please note that Scotland is listed among the “Primarily found in” countries for both Great Britain and Ireland. On the polygons on the map, the more darkly represented regions represent the more likely physical locations of a customer’s ancestors, while the weakly shaded portions represent other possible locations of origin. In regards to your last question, please refer to the region description for the Europe West region on your results page.

    October 29, 2013 at 4:37 pm
AncestryDNA: Ethnicity Update 

[…] are interested in the science behind the ethnicity estimates and how we analyze your sample, read, “Unraveling the Science Behind Ethnicity Estimation” by our population geneticist, Julie […]

October 31, 2013 at 9:33 pm
Gayle Cook 

I just sent for a DNA kit for my brother. Won’t his test results be a more accurate indicator of my ancestors than my test results since I’m female?

November 1, 2013 at 12:53 am
    Julie Granka 

    Hi Gayle. Unlike a Y-chromosome DNA test which can only be taken by males (since only males have a Y chromosome), the AncestryDNA test looks at autosomal DNA. This means that both men and women can take the test, and that both yours and your brother’s DNA test will give information about your ancestors. That being said, having both you and your brother tested can give you extra information about your ancestors. Unless you are an identical twin, since DNA inheritance is random, your brother received a different mix of DNA from your parents than you did. While results can be similar between siblings, your genetic ethnicities can vary, and your brother’s test may connect you to a DNA relative that you do not have. Learn more about testing additional family members at:

    November 1, 2013 at 5:02 pm
Paula Tillman 

Hi, Julie. I love the new ethnicity results! I was happy to discover that my Italian side was represented this time at 18%. I was surprised though to see 4% European Jewish until I read a little more about Southern Italians and realized this could be from an ancestor that came to Italy hundreds of years ago from Eastern Europe. Also, my mothers side of the family has colonial roots but I was again surprised that I had only a trace amount of Great Britain DNA! I am 20% Irish by DNA, something my mother had never told me we were. No surprise to me was the 44% Western European. I have a lot of French ancestry from Quebec tracing back to France on both sides of my family. Now, I am looking to get my mother tested….she was always told there was some Native American heritage on her father’s side, but I did not receive any on my results so if it is there it would be trace amount on her side.

At some point in the future, another goal would be for my husband to get tested as well. He is of Nigerian descent, but his mother’s family were descended from slaves in the South who moved to New Brunswick, Canada to gain their freedom. There is at least one British ancestor in his family tree and I suspect more than a few Native Americans as well. My son is a beautiful mix of the both of us!

November 2, 2013 at 1:41 pm
Janice Truelove 

Does Native American DNA ever show up as Asian or West Asian? When my husband Joseph’s DNA was originally done, it failed to show Native American heritage, as family lore indicated that it would. When the new results came, it still did not show Native American, but there were < 1 % each of Asia Central and W. Asia (Caucasus.) I have read your explanation about why Native American may not show up in a given member of a family, but wondered if trace amounts of Asian DNA might be another indicator. There was supposed to be that "Land bridge" from Asia to the New Worls, after all! Thanks! Janice

November 4, 2013 at 12:48 pm
    Julie Granka 

    Hi Janice — thank you for your interest. Some Native American individuals may have trace amounts of Asian ethnicity. So while we cannot rule out the possibility that you raise, our current testing reveals that Native American ethnicity is primarily represented by the Native American genetic ethnicity region. Also, keep in mind the ranges of your estimated ethnicity percentages.

    November 5, 2013 at 1:19 am
sheryl willard 

my ancestry includes india and northern africa–does that imply a gypsy heritage? it is a very small percentage

November 4, 2013 at 1:18 pm
    Julie Granka 

    Hi Sheryl, thank you for your question. Please review the descriptions on the ethnicity region description pages to learn more about the different ethnicity regions. Also, keep in mind the ranges of your estimated ethnicity percentages.

    November 5, 2013 at 1:14 am
Roxanne Mikkelson 

I thought it was interesting when I had a husband and wife dna match, he refused to believe I was a dna match with him because he said he wasn’t related to his wife…It was a very odd response because I still can be related to both of them on different sides of my family. He thought there was a mistake made by Ancestry.

November 7, 2013 at 6:54 pm
    Julie Granka 

    Hi Roxanne, you bring up a good point — you could be related to each of them along different lines of your family, and they would not necessarily be related.

    March 18, 2014 at 5:54 pm

Hello – My maternal grandmother was British and at least one of her grandparents was from Ireland. My other 3 grandparents were Eastern European Jews. I have traced (via my grandmothers family back to the mid 1500’s in England. However, My DNA came back: <1% Great Britain (though 9% Ireland, 17% European-West & 69% European Jewish). Does Europe-West DNA include (as the map seems to indicate) the southern part of Great Britain? Or, is this evidence of the displacement of true Brits by all those invaders over the years? Thank you-

February 21, 2014 at 1:09 am
    Julie Granka 

    Hi Rob. You’re correct in that individuals from Great Britain often also have some ethnicity from the Europe West region. Genetics does not always fall neatly along country lines. You may also review the descriptions on the ethnicity region description pages to learn more about your different ethnicity regions.

    March 18, 2014 at 5:57 pm

RE: Australian Clancy Walker, we in New Orleans, Louisiana must have more then Irish ancestry because we most certainly do not call beverages COKE —- they are called SOFT DRINKS— COKE IS COKE and SOFT DRINKS is the whole spectrum. Heaven forbid if someone brought me a COKE for my gin!

February 22, 2014 at 9:17 am
Arlene Halsen 

My husband’s father and grandparents came to the US from Norway and I have the family back many generations there. His maternal grandfather came from Norway and his maternal grandmother came from Sweden to the US. I also have this family research back. However, his DNA test showed him
to be only 41% Scandinavian. He also showed 25% West Europe and 23% Great Britain with 9%
Finnish/Russian. I can understand Scandinavian showing up in DNA around the world since they were great travelers/invaders but why would his DNA be mixed since his ancestors were all Scandinavian and came directly from those countries to the US?

February 23, 2014 at 6:24 pm
    Julie Granka 

    Hi Arlene. First, keep in mind the ranges that are paired with your ethnicity estimates. As you mention, many factors can influence the genetics of populations, and movement within Europe was not all uni-directional. Take a look at the detailed descriptions and maps for each region, particularly Europe West and Great Britain, to learn more about why your husband might have ethnicity estimated from these regions.

    March 18, 2014 at 6:04 pm

Hi, I had my dan results to return with some interesting surprises, as well as what I would have expected. However, I have Native American ancestry on my tree,but had no indication of that according to dan. The area of the Caucasus was interesting in that I had 84% West African ancestry, 13% European, and 3% West Asia. I am wondering about the emigration routes that may have led to the admixture of ethnicities that I possess.
Can you please help me answer this question? Thank you

March 2, 2014 at 12:34 am
    Julie Granka 

    Hi Wanda. Thank you for your interest! You may not have Native American ancestry in your genetic ethnicity estimate because of the random nature of DNA inheritance. As DNA was passed from your Native American ancestor, to your other ancestors, and then to you over many generations, you may have lost pieces of DNA from that ancestor that would have helped to identify you as Native American through DNA. For information about the other regions you see in your estimate, refer to the detailed region descriptions in your results, as they may reveal some interesting historical information.

    March 18, 2014 at 6:41 pm

Hi Julia,
This is Wanda! I meant DNA, not dan!!!

March 2, 2014 at 12:36 am
Franca Wallace 

I was born in Toscana, Italy and lived there for 23 years. Can I request a DNA or not? if not, where can I order it? Thanks

March 17, 2014 at 5:10 pm
    Julie Granka 

    Hi Franca, if you live in the United States, you may order a test from Thanks for your interest!

    March 31, 2014 at 8:31 pm

I just got the results for my husband, and I’m still confused on the Native American being 0 %. We know that his maternal Great Grandfather was full blooded. At different times he lived in North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. I’m not sure if he was ever part of a tribe or lived on the reservation in Cherokee N.C. My question is, shouldn’t some percentage of Native American show up in my husband’s DNA?

March 24, 2014 at 10:49 pm

I just received my DNA results this morning. I was just curious if there’s any way to receive info on what percentages come from Paternal vs. Maternal lineage. I have a great grandfather that was adopted which opens all the variables but a percentage of Italy/Greek showed up that isn’t anywhere else in my tree. I’ve done a lot of research but I just wanted to hone this down to possibly his DNA or an error on my part in other ancestors.

March 25, 2014 at 8:11 pm

Thank you very much Julie, this thread is approaching a year old before we know it and I appreciate you responding still. I’ve thought about that actually, in approaching older relatives being my grandparents have since passed. You are beautiful I have to add :)

March 26, 2014 at 3:12 am

I just got the results for my great uncle ( my father his father brother ), and the DNA test does not show the Native American. The test show he had 89% Europe and 9% Africa, same as my father 92% Europe and 6% Africa and my 98% Europe and 2% North Africa, so what does that mean?

We know that his grandmother ( her name is Nancy Pressley and it his father mother ) and his grandmother sister ( her name is Summerfield Pressley) was Native American. My Uncle grandfather ( is white ) meet his grandmother Nancy on the reservation at Cherokee mountain near Tazwell,Tennessee. I got photo’s of his grandmother Nancy, her children and husband, also my uncle, grandfather and rest of their sibling have the Indian feature. Does this mean they were never been Native American and they are part North Africa, Mali and etc?

Myself, my father, my mother and my great uncle had took the AncestryDNA and find out that the test we took is not a complete test as there no Chrom Y?

What is the different the AncestryDNA test for $100 vs. other DNA test Ancestry offer for $180 material test and other paternal test for $180?

March 31, 2014 at 3:07 am
    Julie Granka 

    Hello, thank you for your comment. The AncestryDNA test is a full test of the DNA that you inherited across all of your ancestral lineages, and thus it gives you the most complete picture of your ancestry. The maternal and paternal tests only look at DNA that you inherited from your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother (etc), and your father’s father’s father’s father (etc), respectively. You can read more about this distinction at: Reviewing the region descriptions in your great uncle’s estimate may help to interpret his results.

    March 31, 2014 at 8:46 pm
Jerry Carr 

I want to respectfully ask a question regarding DNA research and “private” family tree holders on Ancestry. Why are they allowed to view the information of those of us with public trees, but withhold their own data? Yes, some of them do share when requested, but in my experience about half of them ignore polite requests for access, or even just the name of a common ancestor in a DNA leaf hint. Part of the whole philosophy of genealogy is sharing, but Ancestry seems in this case to encourage a lot of people to mine everyone else’s data without providing anything in return. A simple requirement of reciprocity would seen reasonable for DNA database access. Thank you, Julie, for all that you do to help with our research. I am posting this because I know of many others who experience this frustration.

April 5, 2014 at 6:57 pm

Just received my DNA results. No surprise for the 99% European. Big surprise showing 1% Senegal. Could you provide a perspective on this odd 1%?

April 13, 2014 at 4:32 pm

In Texas, even a Dr. Pepper was called coke. Took me a while to adjust to college in Massachusetts. Had never heard anyone order a tonic without gin, much less something called Moxie. (-:

April 17, 2014 at 1:32 pm
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April 29, 2014 at 3:28 pm
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May 10, 2014 at 8:27 am

My follow up question is related to my grandmother on my paternal side. Her last name was Marshall which is identified as an Iberian Peninsula surname. Our family has been told that she was Jewish. I took the DNA test and got 0% European Jewish, and 4% Iberian Pen., My sister got 0% Jewish as well and got 8% Iberian Pen. A cousin with the exact same great grandparents got 0% Jewish again and 2% Iberian Pen. Any ideas?

May 29, 2014 at 8:33 pm

I had my dna done via ancestry. I expected to be higher in the Irish side but the Scandinavian that showed up lowered my Irish bloodline. I never really showed really high in any markers (that was my biggest disappointment). I called to see why Scandinavian showed up and it was explain to me that it with along with the Irish due to the vikings being travelers. Right now I am trying to find out why I show Scandinavian in my dna. Both my parents family are from Ireland. My family in the earlier years had some intermingling marriages. My mom’s birth parents were third cousins. Due to this fact I was very surprised how little my Irish numbers were but it was the highest. By my results I am bag of European mix and less than one percent of Native American and less than one percent of America (which showed no area and was totally like confusing). I knew I had NA in me and was surprised it even showed up on the ancestry dna. I am still researching but I still wished I had showed up something that would have been 50 percent or higher. I am ready others and talk to others and most at least have 50 percent of something in them. We have traced the McCarty lineage long ago and I am determine to find where Scandinavian lineage came from.

June 3, 2014 at 3:48 pm
jurate mcgarry 

Can DNA test determine if a person have Gypsy blood?

June 10, 2014 at 11:48 pm
Deirdre Harris 

My question is my DNA results showed that I was 21 percent mali. What does that mean? also it says that I am 6% european. how may generation would I hav to go back to collaborate the results? maybe my 6th grandmother back was white?

June 15, 2014 at 4:01 pm
Danielle E. 

This has been a fascinating and useful process. I recently tested positive for the BRCA-1 genetic mutation. Before I was screened by my doctor for this, my mother had taken the DNA test here at and had come back 2% Jewish. When I took the same test, rather than being halved, my results were a little bit higher for Jewish DNA. I had to conclude that my father also had hidden Jewish ancestry. Looking at my family history, my mother’s side has no cancers associated with this mutation. My father’s side, on the other hand, turned out to be riddled with these cancers! My paternal grandmother died at only 48 of ovarian cancer, and both my aunt and my half-sister have had breast cancer. Seeing that we have Jewish ancestry from our father AND a positive family history led both of my half-sisters to be tested as well. Two of the three of us have tested positive for the BRCA-1 mutation. I doubt I would have ever requested the BRCA screening test from my doctor if I hadn’t been able to make the connection between my Jewish ancestry and the sad history of cancer in my family. Before I took the Ancestry DNA test, I had only the vaguest notion that my mother had some Jewish ancestry and I had absolutely no idea that my father was also part Jewish! This information has enabled my sister and me to arm ourselves with knowledge and take preventative steps with our health. Thank you and thank you modern science!

June 17, 2014 at 8:47 am
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July 28, 2014 at 1:03 am

I wanted to know something about the ancestry DNA: so I have Native American ancestry on my mom’s side. It says on my DNA test that I am 3% Caucuses region of West Asia. Everything made sense, except this one ethnic group. I know supposedly Native Americans and some Asian groups were similar. Wanted to know if this could possibly be my Native American ancestry instead?

September 21, 2014 at 9:32 am
nathaniel chance 

I already did the DNA test. So what you are saying is if i do another test out will refine the results and give me a more accur picture

October 15, 2014 at 8:41 am
Elizabeth Judd 

I recently consulted my DNA results and it states I have 21% Native American. What does that mean? Which tribe is it connected to?

October 31, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Liked the “soda, pop,coke” analogy. My term is soda-pop. Born in Oregon, mother from California, and father from Washington state. Makes sense.

November 7, 2014 at 1:53 am

So does it actually tell you what your ethnicity will be ? Or is it just going to tell you soda. Pop coke

November 22, 2014 at 5:43 am

Cause if so im not buying it

November 22, 2014 at 5:45 am
Whitney Moore 

Hello Julie Granka, thank you for all your research, and for the answers to so many questions posted here.

I gleaned from the above blogs, that there is the ‘all inclusive’ DNA test, and two others, one that will help with the paternal line, and the other that will follow the maternal line. SO three DNA tests YES?

Also, I think it is wonderful and amazing what you (and staff) have done being able to analyze the DNA points in common of so many ethnic groups.

My question is : in the future, will DNA results be able to give an indication of personality traits, such as: shyness vs gregarious, adventurous vs home-body, night-owl vs early riser…. criminal tendencies vs upright tendenacies. Just curious .

I live in Sacramento, CA, and have ancestors from Mexico on my father’s side which I find difficult to find data for, and ancestors from Greece on mother’s side, also little ancestry . com information.

I plan to do my DNA tests in Jan 2015.
Thanks again for all that you do. :)

November 24, 2014 at 8:56 pm

I have been very eager to learn my true ethnic background since I found out this existed, although after reading the reviews I am a little unsure. I am now questioning whether or not the results will be accurate after learning there were many people whose test was different after retaking it, or not having certain ethnicities people are sure of showing up. I need 95% or better accuracy, when will that become available? When it does I’d love to use this product fo myself and other members of my family.

November 25, 2014 at 11:00 pm
Kim McCulley 

I agree with Jennifer. It seems that their is no real certainty. When you have this to at least 95% I’ll be ready.

November 30, 2014 at 9:01 pm

Just wondering why is limited to USA residency? I have not researched ancestry,com, but is that restricted to USA residency also? I am vacationing in the USA and saw the commercials on t.v. for the dna site and decided to check it out! :)

November 30, 2014 at 10:38 pm

Hi I’m just sending my kit back. when you did the groupings of the 26 regions, Was this a static period in the past ? if yes what period do the 26 regions represent

December 17, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Julie, does the DNA test show your ethnic background only or does it also try to match the ethnic background with your actual ancestors/names? Would help to see an example of the results.

December 22, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Does the test actually link your ethnic background to your actual ancestors and list their names?

December 23, 2014 at 8:20 pm
Rick Smolarek 

The DNA samples that are being analyzed are being compared to DNA samples of current inhabitants of a certain region. Those inhabitants have a “confirmed”? pedigree of ancestors endemic to that area, “for example all the grand parents lived in that region”. Doesnt that really limit the accuracy of the results? How can the results reflect an ancestry origin possibly going back 1,000 years if you can’t compare my DNA to DNA from1000 years ago, or at least find markers that match DNA from 1,000 years ago? Your qoute: ” When the DNA was passed from your great-great-grandparent, to your great-grandparent, to your grandparent, to your parent, and then to you, some pieces of DNA from this great-great-grandparent that may help to identify you as Native American may have been “lost.” Since you might not have a lot of DNA from that great-great-grandparent, you might not show up as having Native American genetic ethnicity.” If my DNA can lose an identifier for a certain ethnicity after 4 or 5 generations, to me that just means this test probably generates a lot of info about an individual, the ability of to take that info and somehow match it seems to bee lacking. The “matching” process should somehow involve DNA samples from the past, anthropologist do this when they exhume human fossils. Anyhow it seems that by your above response quoted here, there is too much “generic drift” to draw any concrete conclusions. Need a better comparison model. I still ordered a test, I’m hoping in time the comparison process improves.

January 4, 2015 at 4:21 pm

As Rick Smolarek above quoted from your prior answer to another question, “some pieces of DNA from this great-great-grandparent that may help to identify you as Native American may have been “lost.” What “pieces “of DNA would identify one as an Indian American?

January 4, 2015 at 8:13 pm

My sister recently did her DNA test and it shows as cousins a part of the family we are not really related to. My ggmother had a different father then her half sisters but yet their surname is showing as distant cousins. How does that work?

January 6, 2015 at 4:41 pm

After reviewing others DNA results, I’m now somewhat unsure. Although still want to follow up with process. Theirs just so much scams going around it’s just difficult to tell who really is legit.. They really can tell you anything cause anything is possible. Everything is about $$$$$$ Then again could be legit..???

January 10, 2015 at 2:00 am

My oldest sister had 82% Native American but, i’m second oldest and my DNA showed 99% Native American. Why is that?

January 25, 2015 at 10:48 pm

If we are an subscriber and have an organized tree, can you parse our DNA down to our family line so that we know for sure our tree is accurate? I want to make sure my DNA matches my tree and not just a broad region.

January 31, 2015 at 5:09 pm
troye mowrer 

will be testing more native americans in the future to create a larger gene pool?

February 4, 2015 at 10:02 pm
Bill Creel 

pop, soda, etc. has nothing to do with genetics. We are a very mobile society. I wasted my money and time by testing at one place. I had been traveling to known areas of family foot prints for years searching courthouse, library, history books and cemetery records records. I found paper records such as LWT back to 1756. After posting my efforts on the blogs I got bombed with hundreds of inquires asking if I had African relatives. I replied at first but the more I did the inquires increased until I refused to reply to any more. Then I was labeled as a racist and it got so bad I ask that my account be cancelled and all info deleted. I then tested with another Lab and the results and blogs were very meaningful. I had my DNA sample refined to 111 markers and determined I was 30% Irish, 30% Scot and 30% Brit. the other 10% was an extremely small mix of about all other European nationalities ( i.e. .0001% ). People seem to think that testing at the first and lowest level will reveal all the family connections that they seek, but it does only get one started in the long journey ahead that they must travel and pay for….it gets expensive having each test refined to the next level. There is so much “junk genealogy” on all these sites that I hardly fool with it any more. Thirty years, thousands of miles and untold dollars expended is enough for me. Good luck to you beginners!

February 5, 2015 at 2:00 am
Sean Dixon 

Please forgive me if this has been answered already, but just how is Ancestry determining what makes a person ethnically British as opposed to Western European? Are you using markers for the Welsh or some other ancient British people?

February 9, 2015 at 9:43 pm
Susie Michael 

I do not know my biological father who I was told is from the USA. Without knowing his name, can I be able to do a DNA testing to finding out?? What is the process involved?? Please let me know.

February 15, 2015 at 2:56 pm
Dwight Vesty 

How many generations back are measured through this test? In other words, if my son is tested, will his report on the paternal side (my side) be less detailed than my report?

February 22, 2015 at 2:12 pm
William Lucas 

How does Irish DNA differ from Western Europe DNA as a specific components of an individual? Is the Western Europe just more mixed and less specific?

April 16, 2015 at 11:00 am

I would like to know were I go to get my testing in Albuquerque to see what I have in me and how much you have to pay for it

April 18, 2015 at 1:20 am
Recent University of Oxford study sheds light on estimating Great Britain ethnicity 

[…] we estimate the ethnic origins of their ancestors from their DNA sample—what we call a “genetic ethnicity estimate.” AncestryDNA customers can currently trace their ancestral origins to specific parts of the […]

April 21, 2015 at 12:10 am

Hey so I had my parents and myself tested. Both of my parents got high amounts of Irish, at least as a main region. We were aware of my mom’s distant Irish identity already, however my father got 10% Irish (along with 72% Native American). Keeping in mind that my father is from Bolivia and categorized as a Mestizo, I would like to know how that makes sense. I’ve been hearing lot of the genetic similarities between the Basques of Northern Spain and the Irish, so maybe it’s that? I know for sure that the Basques had a much more notable presence in Bolivia than the Irish or anyone from the British Isles if you exclude the tin investors of the 19th century. Anyways, I just want to know if the Basque and Irish genetic confusion could be reflected here

May 7, 2015 at 5:28 am

I sent off my test 7 days ago so I’m still waiting for the results. I was told I’m 1/16 Native American and from England. I’m curious to see. Also, as a native Texan, I remember as a child on vacations asking the waitress ‘What kind of cokes do you have?’ and my parents having to translate to ‘soda’ or ‘soft drink’ for the waitress. Then I would typically order Dr Pepper. 😉

May 8, 2015 at 4:55 pm

I did an ancestry dna. It came back saying I was 46% Great Britain. What does that mean. I live in the USA and have a German last name and been told I was Irish and German.

May 16, 2015 at 2:01 pm

I just received my results and it came back 48% Euopean Jewish, 31% Italian/Greek, 12% Caucasas.sp? Anyway, my father was Jewish, my mother Italian so Im wondering why the percentage of Jewish would be so much higher than of Italian? Thanks

May 24, 2015 at 1:04 pm

We have a definitive line here in Western NY for pop and soda…. it’s about half way between Rochester (pop) and Syracuse (soda) everything west is pop.
I think a lot of folks fail to remember that their parents and grandparents sometimes didn’t tell the whole truth and didn’t expect to get caught, either. My mother wanted to be 100% Irish. So much so that she told me her mother’s maiden name was Clancy. It was Morthorst. NOT Irish. My mom was half Irish. And not even. Lots of British in there.
My husband’s results showed him to be about 1% African. His dad is off the boat from Belgium. A surprise until I remembered that Billy Joel Song, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” where he sings about Belgians in the Congo. We have NO information on his paternal grandmother. Nothing. Like she didn’t exist until she married her Belgian husband. Thinking perhaps there is a connection. So interesting!!!! My husband’s mother has passed away, but we tested her mother and her dad’s sister. No African on their side. Love that the DNA can teach you things about history.
Remember, grannie sometimes lies… they never counted on DNA. I love finding common ancestors with other DNA testers. Like “proving” a line, right?

June 11, 2015 at 5:29 am

My mother was adopted. I know who her birth mother was, and family lore has suggested two possible fathers: one German and the other Dutch. I was hoping the DNA test would help me decide between the two, but in addition to my 16% from Ireland and 33% from England (both of which make sense) my 44% from “Europe West” is no help at all. Why is “Europe West” such a broad area? I assume German and Dutch natives will share a lot of DNA, but can’t you at least distinguish between German and French? My 44% “Europe West” could come from anywhere between the Netherlands and Switzerland. I see others say they have French DNA or German DNA, why isn’t my result more specific?

June 23, 2015 at 2:34 pm

Anyone with Senegal and Iberian Peninsula showing up in genetics at near same levels need to research the possibility of the Moor connection.

July 11, 2015 at 3:01 pm

Hi Julie I have a question for you. when you have population’s like eastcoast natives who are genetically mixed going back 400yrs, but have been culturally homogeneous as well as consistent with intermixing within the same group for equally as long, does this not present a problem when you have a small sample size and identify their deep ancestry as being non native American. If you had a larger sample size consistent to the area does that change the perception of how the genetics is read. Would they then be classified as a unique native group or would you simply identify that as familial connection of a group of people?

August 21, 2015 at 3:33 pm
Bill Creel 

Names change for several reasons,i.e. marriage, adoption, etc. but DNA is here to stay.

September 18, 2015 at 11:13 pm
Bill Creel 

And so, the blog ends.

October 19, 2015 at 4:07 pm

I came with some trace region 0%-5% European Jewish 2% what does that mean ….detail please Thank you Blog..

October 20, 2015 at 11:40 am 

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November 4, 2015 at 1:54 pm

Is it necessary to analyze Asia? I wonder because we do not learn English until we enter primary/ or, in some remote areas, even high school. But the word “coke” is taught for the concept of soda. People may usually learn English from the textbook, which basically is the authors opinion on what you learn.;)
Anyway the idea of linking language with DNA as well as statistics and data mining is very inspiring. Good luck on that!

December 7, 2015 at 8:54 am

Do Finns and Sami have the same ethnicity (All Finland/Northwest Russia)?

December 9, 2015 at 11:18 pm

Hi Julie,
received my DNA results and found that I am only 1% European Jew was interested in the Jewish ancestry since my relatives come from the New Mexico Hispano area. I have been told by other geneticists that Sephardic Jew DNA does not show up because they have not been able to isolate the genes, something about Sephardic Jews intermarrying. Contacted they told me they are working on this I have been told Iberian peninsula, Italy/Greece, North African, and Middle Eastern would equal Sephardic Jew since they are components within these above genetic components.

December 31, 2015 at 6:51 pm

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