Posted by Anna Swayne on August 12, 2014 in AncestryDNA

Didn’t know you had Spanish in your family? If your AncestryDNA results delivered up a few ethnicity regions you weren’t expecting, it’s alright. It happens. This portion of your DNA results can provide you insight into where in the world your ancestors came from 500-1000+ years ago. DNA is helping connect the dots.

How is the Ethnicity Estimate Determined?

Your DNA is compared to one of our 26 global regions to see how similar you are to each region. Depending on how much DNA you have in common with each region we will predict an estimate. You may have a random combination of Eastern European, Great Britain, Italian, Greek, Scandinavian and Iberian Peninsula and you might be wondering how that is possible if you only know of ancestors from Poland, Ireland and Italy. Remember, these results can go back 500+ years and is just an estimate is based on current research today and may change or update depending of further population genetic research.


What It Means to Have Scandinavian Ethnicity

If you have Scandinavian ethnicity (or any other group) it means that you had ancestors living or mixing with people from these regions 500+ years ago. The ethnicity portion of these results most often goes beyond the paper trial. Like in the previous example, how do you have so many groups represented if you only know that your ancestors were from Poland, Ireland and Italy? Because these results can go beyond the paper trail, perhaps we can say my Irish ancestry that dead ends in the 1800s really came from Great Britain and or Scandinavia. Using the ethnicity results with our paper records to build out a tree helps us to navigate where we have come from and understand better our own personal migration.

Your DNA Results Show a Piece of Your Unique History

Your ethnicity results are unique to you. It is a record of what you inherited randomly from your two parents. Your siblings’ DNA results may look at little different; for example, your brother didn’t inherit the exact same DNA from your parents that you did. Your ethnicity results may not include all regions your brother has. My sisters have one ethnicity group more than I do (West Europe). I didn’t inherit any of that DNA that would give me that group. In the matching portion of the results where it shows relationship, we show as immediate family but her ethnicity results are slightly different because of the DNA she inherited that I didn’t from our two same parents.

DNA has the power to help us change the way we look at ourselves as we discover how unique we really are and understand more about our personal history. Thanks for being a part of the AncestryDNA legacy.

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. True enough. And I know your Great Britain ancestry area includes part of continental Europe. But….. I don’t have a lick of British or Irish ancestry and yet AncestryDNA lists me as 45% Great Britain and 1% Irish. I do have 25% Belgian (Walloon) and 25% NW German Saxon ancestry, however, and my genealogy work generally shows those roots going deep. So I very much doubt some of my elder ancestors came from Great Britain back to Germany and Belgium. However, I’m fairly sure that some of the same Belgae and Saxon tribal backgrounds exists for the British and my mainland European ancestors.

    So I ask which is more important to label some western Europeans from the mainland incorrectly, or correctly point to the deeper roots of many British? I’ve seen this British bias in genealogy since I started tracing my family roots in 1984. The bias now exists in the relative amounts of persons in your database to determine ancestry. I showed that here:

    Comparing percentage for the reference populations to the percentages of the populations of Europe East, Europe West, Great Britian, and Scanadanavia shows that Europe West is grossly under-represented in your samples. I am hoping AncestryDNA Ethnicity v3 helps to fix some of that inequity.

  2. Alfred West

    I am having trouble location marriage and death certificates for members in the Alfred West or West Family Tree. Can you offer any suggestion ? Thanks.

  3. DNA results acceptance. If one has been a student of history there may be a better comprehension of how the tribal groups moved about in the old European, Asia and other areas or other lands available thru portage or sea. travel.

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