Posted by Anna Swayne on July 11, 2014 in AncestryDNA

Today is World Population Day. Did you know that there are more than 7.2 billion people living today? The five most-populous countries are:

  • China, 1.39 billion
  • India, 1.27 billion
  • United States, 333 million
  • Indonesia, 253 million
  • Brazil, 202 million

So how did all these people end up living where they live? Population geneticists are researching this very thing. Think of your own personal migration. I currently live in the United States. How did I end up where I am today? Where were my people before? I can trace back from Idaho (where I was born) to my ancestors who were born across the U.S. — Missouri, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.  But those ancestors came from somewhere. I can follow certain lines back to England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. So those are populations that I will be celebrating this year. But that’s only what the written record says.

What does the record of my DNA say? In addition to those populations/countries I already know from written records, my DNA indicates that I also have Scandinavian roots. What does that mean? It means that if we go back 500+ years, I probably had ancestors living in Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Denmark) or people from the region came into the British Isles and mixed with the population there.

It doesn’t necessarily surprise me that I have Scandinavian roots, but it is something I didn’t know before. As I learn more about this particular population, I can turn to history (which I can find on my AncestryDNA ethnicity results page after clicking the region of Scandinavia) to learn more about the many voyages of the Vikings. The map below charts Viking travels and territories between 793 A.D. and 1066 A.D.

scandinavia viking routes

This gives me some perspective into a migration and a population in my personal history that I didn’t know much about until my DNA discovery. Scandinavia, Ireland, and Great Britain all show up in my results, but there are other populations that come up in my parents’ DNA results that didn’t show in mine, including Russia, Western Europe, and Italy/Greece.  Most individuals who get tested will have three or four different ethnicity regions represented in their DNA results, depending on their background and which DNA was passed down. (You can read more about how you inherit from each parent in this blog post.)

This map shows the 26 different ethnicity regions in the AncestryDNA database:


To celebrate World Population Day this year, take another look at your own DNA ethnicity results. Click on the ethnicity region and read more about the history of the people who you share DNA with. If you have Scandinavian DNA like me, read about the history of the Vikings. After I learned about my Scandinavian ancestry, I shared some of what I read with a few of my nieces and nephews. My 8-year-old nephew decided, “Well, that must be the reason I am very good at navigating on the water.” (He was referring to his paddle-boarding and canoeing skills.) Must be in his DNA because he think he is ready for his own voyage across the waters.

What have you learned from your DNA results? Share with us on Facebook or in the comments below.

Don’t have results yet? Don’t wait. Find out which populations you connect with through your DNA. #wpd2014

Anna Swayne

Anna Swayne has 9 years of experience in the DNA genealogy world. At Ancestry, she leads efforts in developing education to help our community maximize their experience with AncestryDNA. She believes there is real power behind DNA and the story it can unlock for each of us. When she is not talking DNA you can find her hiking or cycling in the mountains or cooking at home.


  1. R.K. Newell

    Thanks for the article. It was very good reading. I got my Ancestry DNA test results and was surprised by the results. I am African American so I knew that my ancestors came from some place in Africa during the slave trading era. But I was surprised to find 18 % of my DNA came from Great Britain. My dad always said we were mixed with Scot-Irish traits. Yes, there was some Irish but only a 1%-a trace.

  2. catcrazykid63

    Interesting! It seems that all of my ancestors came from Europe, with roughly 1/2 British DNA, 1/4 Irish, and 1/4 from other unspecified European countries.

  3. Zach W

    Thats very interesting R.K. Newell, and catcrazy, I find it so amazing what a melting pot the world really is. I am according to AncestryDNA about half British/UK, about 30% Western Europe, about 10% Scandinavian, and about 10% Eastern European with 2% Bantu African. This did not come as a surprise for me due to the fact that unfortunately my father’s family had slaves and owned plantations in NC and GA. I was actually able to discover that my five and six times great grandfathers were African American through the census records.

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