Posted by Julie Granka on April 25, 2015 in AncestryDNA

While we often celebrate the discovery of the structure of DNA on DNA Day, today we’ll celebrate those who we got that DNA from: our ancestors.  We can also celebrate all of the people with whom we share DNA from those ancestors: from our siblings to our distant cousins.

AncestryDNA DNA Circles™ recognize both our ancestors as well as all of the connections we’ve made with distant relatives through our shared ancestors.  That’s because a DNA Circle is a group of people who all share DNA with others in the group, and who all also share a particular ancestor in their family trees.

Who are those myriad ancestors connecting more than 30% of AncestryDNA customers?

  • The average birth date of all ancestors of DNA Circles is about 1800, and roughly half of all ancestors of DNA Circles were born between around 1780 and 1820.
  • In the map below, we can see that most DNA Circle ancestors were born in the eastern half of the United States – but also abroad in England, Ireland, and Western Europe.
Approximate birth locations of ancestors of DNA Circles in the AncestryDNA database.  The birth location of each ancestor of a DNA Circle is indicated as a green dot.
Approximate birth locations of ancestors of DNA Circles in the AncestryDNA database. The birth location of each ancestor of a DNA Circle is indicated as a green dot.

In other words, most ancestors who have DNA Circles are people who left a lot of documented descendants living in the United States today.  That’s because most AncestryDNA customers live in the U.S., and in order to have a DNA Circle, an ancestor must have left many descendants – at least three of whom have independently taken an AncestryDNA test. Furthermore, given that the average DNA Circle ancestor was born in 1800, descendants of that ancestor must have extended their family trees at least that far back to include that ancestor, too.

With that in mind, it fits that we see a higher concentration of DNA Circle ancestors born in the eastern U.S., where more people living in the 1700’s and 1800’s had enough children to now have many descendants in the U.S. today.  With regards to DNA Circle ancestors abroad, it also makes sense that we see many born in England, Ireland, and Western Europe.  Many ancestors from these regions of Europe migrated across the Atlantic (or had descendants who did), subsequently leaving a lot of U.S. descendants who can now trace their roots back to them.

While these patterns explain the general distribution of DNA Circles across the globe, a closer inspection of the map shows that we also find DNA Circle ancestors in other parts of the world – for example in Russia, China, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.  These diverse origins of DNA Circle ancestors emphasize the power of over 850,000 AncestryDNA members and their family trees to connect us to both our ancestors as well as our living relatives.

Even better than this map of birth locations of DNA Circle ancestors is the fact that every day, the map looks different.  As we expand into new markets, new individuals take DNA tests, and AncestryDNA members build out their family trees, we’ll discover new DNA Circles.  Some of those new Circles may even be centered around ancestors born in places where we’ve never before found one, because we didn’t yet have enough of those ancestors’ descendants tested at AncestryDNA.

These new discoveries will be more than just new dots on the map. Over time, they will allow DNA Circles and their associated New Ancestor Discoveries to connect even more individuals, with diverse family histories from around the globe, to their ancestors and distant relatives.  That too is something to celebrate on DNA Day.

In honor of DNA Day, AncestryDNA is extending 20% off AncestryDNA kits thru Monday, April 27th. To learn more and purchase an AncestryDNA kit visit here.

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.

10 Comments

  1. It is ‘interesting’ that there are no circles in Canada seeing as how many French Canadians emigrated to the US. This is at least partly, IMO, because Ancestry falsely eliminated a huge chunk of matches during last year’s algorithm changeover. Some French Canadians simply had dozens of offspring who had dozens of offspring who married folks related to their own ancestors thus perpetuating segments. I don’t believe their algorithm properly handles inbred populations.

  2. Paul

    Kassandra, there are circles in Canada, including many in Quebec, in the map above and in my own tree. In fact, I only have circles from Quebec…and several of them.

  3. Annette Kapple

    I’ve noticed that when I attach different versions of my tree to my DNA results I get different Circles.This should be rectified by the new DNA only matching, but, it hasn’t helped. I’m hoping these glitches are being worked on in the beta phase?

  4. Ann Turner

    I’m curious about the blobs in the western states. There’s one that looks right for Salt Lake City and other cities along the corridor. There’s another more surprising one that looks like it would be in northern New Mexico. What would account for it? Early Spanish settlements?

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