Posted by Anna Swayne on October 12, 2016 in AncestryDNA

People from all over the world are curious to know where they come from and who has contributed to who they are today. DNA testing can shine some light on those questions though the ethnicity portion of your DNA test results. At AncestryDNA we compare your DNA test to 26 geographic regions around the world we have population data on and then give you your unique ethnicity estimate. Here’s an example:

ethnicity_sample

How can AncestryDNA tell you you’re 43% Scandinavian? We’ve assembled one the of most comprehensive DNA datasets in the world, with thousands of DNA samples from people with deep roots in each of our 26 different regions. This dataset makes up what we call a “reference panel.” Each person in the reference panel is from a specific location and has a documented family tree indicating deep ancestry in a particular region. To estimate your genetic ethnicity, we compare your DNA to the DNA of the people who make up the reference panel and then upload the results to your Ancestry account. These results can go back 500+ years and are an estimate based on current research. You can expect them to change and become even more refined as we do even more population genetic research.

The map below shows all 26 regions.

AncestryDNA 26 Regions

 

Your ethnicity results are a record of what you inherited randomly from your two parents and are unique to you. That’s why your siblings’ DNA results may look a little different. Your brother, for example, didn’t inherit the exact same DNA from your parents that you did, so your ethnicity results may not include all the regions or the same percentages from any region that your brother has. This is what makes DNA a powerful research tool and allows you to discover connections to your past and learn more about the people and places in your family story in a way only you can.

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

If you have not taken the test yet, you can order it now.

Already have results? Learn more about the science behind the ethnicity estimate here.

Learn how your results could be different from a sibling.

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.

37 Comments

  1. Linda

    I have so many matches with ‘no tree’. Several of these have indicated that they don’t know that they should attach their tree, or are confused about how to do it.
    A friendly reminder might help.

  2. Joyce

    Years ago when I first took an Ancestry DNA test the results were much more detailed than they are today. I got important information from it that I was able to determine where various specific results came from in my ancestral heritage. It showed middle eastern and some other info relating to Spain that I waas able to determine came from my Sicilian heritage due to various invasions there over a long period of time. NOW the results are so generic as to be pretty much worthless.

    WHY did ancestry do this?

    I recommend people upload their raw DNA to GEDmatch these days to get a much more detailed and accurate report of their ethnicity. It was only there that I was able to confirm a family story of Native American ancestry…which was only 1.03%…which I figure ancestry did not report years ago as the percentage was so small.

    Ancestry DNA testing has certainly declined over the years though. I used to have results that included KNOWN descendants in lines that go back to the Pilgrims…I was able to help those people get beyond their brick walls as I recognized the names in their trees…NOW those matches are gone.

    Then we come to the incredible # of DNA tests occurring in the last year or so that say no tree is associated with the test and no tree is available –yet if you click on the match you see there IS a tree–just not specifically assigned to a specific person. They should be but of course that is the customers choice.

    I can only think that ancestry is not explaining fully how important it is to assign a DNA test to a specific person to get the most out of a DNA test and they DON’T explain that a living person’s name will not be disclosed–only their initials—which is probably what is causing this mess.

    When ancestry started letting people who were not ancestry customers, and they changed their reporting of ethnicity and changed the thresholds of reporting matches they totally messed up DNA for many of us…

    We run across test after test where people refuse to answer emails because they do not want to share their results–they ONLY want to get information from other people-yet WE have NO WAY to block these people from seeing OUR results–there are only 2 options tree or no tree. I would like to block people who don’t share their info on their tree on an individual basis–they are using MY research but I cannot see theirs!!! There are exceptions in the case of adoption of course BUT most of these people who don’t assign their DNA tests to a specific person are NOT adopted–they just don’t want to assign the DNA results to a specific person! Probably because ancestry does NOT make it clear that the full name will not be shown!

    THEN there is NO WAY for me to set aside the results of matches that I have already looked at–I cannot see any notes I have made unless I open up the match which TOTALLY defeats the purpose–I should be able to see my notes when I look at a person’s match. The whole reason for making notes is so that I know I have already viewed the match BUT I should also be able to see the note I made without having to open up the match—the way it is set up is not saving us any steps!

    I have many matches on my DNA that are proven to be 3rd cousins by tree–yet ancestry reports them as 4th cousins or more–because they have changed the thresholds…When I look at GEDmatch I am able to see a MUCH more specific range of relationships.

    Ancestry–all these changes to DNA have made your DNA tests all but useless…the problem is that ancestry has more tree data than anyone else in a good format that is easily understood–so we keep our DNA there–but we are getting LESS from our DNA results than ever before.

    Ancestry you need to re-think all the changes you have made–they are NOT helping is–in fact you have rendered your DNA testing all but useless and rarely correct on the assignment you make for probably relationships to people.

    All in the name of greed for all the tests you are cranking out–which will not even be accepted for upload of Raw Data by FTDNA due to your poor standards of testing.

  3. Joyce

    PS many results that say NO tree actually HAVE trees—but you have to look for them–so ancestry is not only confusing the people with DNA tests but they are confusing their matches. I found out that trees exist in MOST cases by accident!
    Get it together ancestry. You are NOT helping anyone with all this–you are JUST confusing people.

  4. Joan M Young

    I understand how these estimations are arrived at and I understand about reference populations. I also understand about migrations of populations even before many of us with Colonial American ancestry can trace our immigrant American ancestors.

    That said, I am having a hard time grasping what happened to my Germanic ancestry in AncestryDNA’s estimate. I come out with nearly half Great Britain, slightly less Scandinavian, 10% Italian and the rest is smaller percentages. Where does my Germanic ancestry fit in? I could buy a small percentage having Scandinavian origins perhaps, or a small percentage Great Britain. I don’t know if my Swiss Mennonites might be from far enough south in Switzerland to account for the Italian or not…but since I can trace my Germans back to what is present day Southwestern Germany and Switzerland back to the mid 1500s and earlier I just can’t buy that NO German shows up in the ethnicity–and only a small percentage that shows broadly Western European. I’ve also been tested with 23andme and also transferred my raw data to FTDNA. FTDNA is even less accurate (and less specific) than AncestryDNA with regard to ethnicity. However, 23andme is dead on target. Between German/French and Broadly Western European they come up with around 55% of my total ethnic heritage.

    I don’t find issues with the rest of the predictions but I think AncestryDNA needs to refine their reference population with regard to what they consider German or German/French. I think you missing many of us. I want to tell Kyle (the guy in the ad) not to throw out his lederhosen just yet.

    I also find that many of my DNA matches that I know to be on my 100% Pennsylvania German side also show NO German in their ethnicity.

  5. Alan

    I too have a case of missing German Ancestry (under represented in my DNA results compared to my documentation). Not convinced Ancestry has their science or sample groups quite right… Also I totally agree with the poster above that Ancestry needs to add many more BASIC TOOLS to their DNA site to help us efficiently go through the results.

  6. Donald

    Joan and Alan,

    Your Germanic DNA might be calculated as British as the British are primarily from Anglo-Saxon German stock. This is why most DNA companies are about to change the ethnicity estimate to combine Britain with Western Europe. You basically have to get a grasp on human migrations to understand why you may not be showing certain ethnicities. Speaking of which, when will we see the Ethnicity 2.0 update Ancestry?

  7. Ala

    Thanks Don, I’m aware of the migration patterns but in that case Ancestry should use some sort of “Germanic” group as opposed to assigning those with German ancestry in a “Great Britain” group. And thumbs down to Kyle (in the ad) who so easily ditches his heritage based on a questionable DNA ethnicity assignment. He is right up there as one of the most annoying characters on television!

  8. Susan

    Please, please, give us chromosome #s and segment lengths. I like to keep my results on a spreadsheet sorted by # and length. Needless to say, there are no Ancestry Dna matches on it unless they downloaded to GEDmatch.

  9. Jeani

    I had made ALL of these complaints/comments in the recent past. Some of the bloggers ‘dissed’ me for not wanting to ‘share’ my findings. I blogged back just about all of the comments here; especially, the comments from ‘Joyce, Oct 13th’. I think I know at least part of the reason for Ancestry’s making the results, etc. ‘obscure’ as well as much of the information we had in the past to just ‘disappear’! Greed … one has to continue to pay for the subscriptions which I have done since 2009 when I started here; and especially, since 2012 when I had my DNA tests done. I agree … Ancestry is the most user-friendly format and the immense library of pictures, citations, etc. is wonderful! I also had my raw results copied to GEDmatch – thank you for the reminder. I will check it out once again later today.

    FYI – I have printed out almost all of my findings on Ancestry and have the results filed in ‘boxes’. I have made a resolution that these will be perused and filed properly by end of next year!

  10. Jeani

    Another comment on a tip/comment posted here – I also have happened on the ability to peruse ‘trees’ on DNA matches that show there is no tree. It is at the bottom of the block of information and states something like you can check ‘person’s’ tree(s) here. Just click on the tab, and the tree(s) will show up. Today, I had the option to click on three (3) trees in a 2nd – 3rd cousins information block, and only one of them was related to our cousin relationship. However, I agree totally with Linda (see my previous comments today) that many of the anonymous and/or persons without a tree or those who keep their tree ‘private’, don’t want to expend time and effort to dig and research the information for themselves! It is very time-consuming, te3dious work, as we all can agree, and most of us, if not all, are more than happy to share our findings. But, it doesn’t seem fair if others are not willing to share theirs with us!

  11. Miall

    I’m wondering if it’s worth having a DNA investigation. I’m as sure as I can be that my paternal ancestors were farmers or farm workers in Wales, and my maternal line is SE Midlands English. Would a DNA test tell me anything more than that I’m (probably) British Isles? Would it identify any Irish or Scandinavian elements?

    • Member Services Social Support Team

      @Miall If you have inherited and Irish or Scandinavian DNA this will be reflected in your ethnicity estimate.

  12. Elin Owen

    What do these terms mean? Irish means Irish, Welsh and Scots? British means Anglo Saxon? Surely lrish should be called British and British should be termed Anglo-Saxon?

    • Member Services Social Support Team

      @Elin DNA matching those on our Ireland reference panel is commonly found on the island of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and northern English counties. DNA matching those on our Great Britain reference panel is commonly found across the island of Britain.

  13. Miall

    What an unhelpful site! All I want to know is if someone’s ancestors have, so far as one can tell, lived more or less in the same places for generations, how clearly can those places be identified. I wouldn’t be too surprised if a dozen or so generations back there was some from outside those communities, of course.

    And for those with questions about errors, I would suggest recalling the old adage about a wise child knowing it’s own father.

    • Member Services Social Support Team

      @Margaret: Trace regions are regions where you seem to have just a trace amount of genetic ethnicity — there is only a small amount of evidence supporting the regions as part of your genetic ethnicity. Because both the estimated amount and the range of the estimate are small, it is possible that these regions appear by chance and are not actually part of your genetic ethnicity. When there is very little evidence that a particular region is part of someone’s genetic ethnicity, it is labeled as “Other Regions Tested”. You can see these regions by selecting “Show all regions”. These are regions where the percent estimated ethnicity is less than 0.5%, and where the range does not exceed 2.5%. Although there might be some signal from these regions in our genetic ethnicity prediction, we believe that there is not enough evidence to support you having any of this genetic ethnicity. Since DNA can be a bit complex to explain we have a number of helpful articles available from the DNA results page. These can be accessed by clicking on the question mark icon located in the top right of either of your results pages. There are 8 great articles here (on the ethnicity page) and one is called “Trace regions”. We hope you will find these helpful.

  14. Nathaniel Gray

    Isn’t it interesting that the Member Services Support Team chose to answer, among ALL comments shown since October 13, the one related to “Trace regions”? There were several very specific and meaningful comments (including criticisms) – such as the one made by Joyce, dated Oct. 13 – which the Support Team chose to ignore. They even chose not to answer the simple question, “When will we see the Ethnicity 2.0 update?” by Donald on 10-13. Even if Ancestry doesn’t have any idea when that update will be made, then ADMIT that to those of us who expect support from what is called “Member Services Social Support Team”.
    Although I have a number of complaints (including those raised regarding the vast number of DNA tests showing “no tree” but, in reality, there are trees associated with those tests), I will post here my primary one:
    I have paid for my Ancestry membership for over a year and it has been almost that long since my paternal (surname, Gray) uncle and I took the Ancestry autosomal DNA test. Although we have received numerous matches with 3rd-4th and distant cousins related to us but with different surnames due to marriages among our ancestors, we have had only TWO Gray surname matches out of 140 “Shared Ancestor Hints” (leaf symbol) which displays a comparison of both members shared common ancestor. I have been told by support staff by phone that it sometimes takes years for someone with your same last name to take the test which will then reveal that paternal (Y chromosome) match. In fact, that is the reason I chose to take a Y DNA test via FTDNA – because no paternal ancestors with my last name were showing up on Ancestry. After my results were finally returned, FTDNA has shown (over only 4 months) five Y matches with men whose surname is Gray and are descended from a common ancestor!
    I also recommend uploading Ancestry raw DNA data to GEDmatch for various reasons most people are aware of. It has been a much more useful tool than Ancestry’s “Circles” in helping connect me with previously unknown distant cousins.
    I’m sure Ancestry’s Support Team will ignore my comment as they have so many others.

    • Member Services Social Support Team

      @Nathaniel unfortunately, without a potential match actually taking an AncestryDNA test, there is no way for them to appear as a match. This is what appears to be happening on your paternal line. Can you please provide us with an example of one of these DNA tests that are appearing as having no family tree associated but in reality do have a tree associated.

  15. Pamela Sutterfield

    I am not impressed with Ancestry’s DNA. If my grandfather, his parents and on back were Irish and Irish does not show up in my DNA, it makes me wonder. I see that linking a tree to DNA is a huge topic but that makes a tree public and defeats the reasons of keeping it private. I am willing to share information but not the whole tree. There are way too many people who more interested in numbers than in having proper information. Also, there is no way to know who you are related to. I contacted Ancestry and was told they look at the trees and see how many names are shared in each tree. Then, they take the name that is shown the most and say this is the name you are probably related to. I realized then that was the probably the reason so many match’s didn’t work. People were using that name as a match and it was another name and no clue on who it was.

    I think DNA works fine with close cousins as you may recognize a name but as they become more distant , I think then you need to work with numbers like with FTDNA.

  16. Ani

    I whole heartily agree, downloading one’s results to Gedmatch for free has been an invaluable tool, as Gedmatch tells one the exact generation one is overlapping in, rather than the ranges Ancestry tells one. I have them to be dead on when assessing a relationship. I am awed that it is a free service, as I would gladly pay for it. I have’t devoted the time to understand the additional info they provide that tells one exactly what side of one’s tree a match is occurring in, so have not been able to employ that aspect of it. I like Ancestry DNA a lot, but paring it with what Gedmatch does for free is a great combination. It only takes a few minutes to down load your Ancestry. Com DNA results to get match and is not that difficult to down load those raw scoreless to Gedmatch. I now have almost every one of my lines tested on Ancestry so it’s extremely helpful being able to run those cousins against other cousin matches on Ancestry to see what line they are matching, as Ancestry’s Cousin Match function can be a bit hinky at times and who it tells me I match as a shared match with one of my cousins is not always who it tells them we share as a match. Again, in this respect Gedmatch works more efficiently, and gives one every single shared match. Does anyone know why Ancestry DNA can’t do what Gedmatch can do free of cost? It would be great if Ancestry could some how make that interface between the two sites easier, as together they are an extremely complimentary tool for researching one’s ancestors.

  17. Olivia

    I want to upload my dna results to ged but can’t figure out how to do it. Is there a place in the ancestry site to transfer the results?

  18. Michael Munko

    If you have “Irish” DNA and that region lists the countries of Ireland, Wales, Scotland, northern England, are these countries listed in descending order of the “Irish” DNA profile? Likewise, Europe East listing of Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Austria etc …. ?

    • Member Services Social Support Team

      @Michael, @Donna: We create your genetic ethnicity estimate by comparing your DNA to the DNA of people in our reference panel. The AncestryDNA reference panel contains 3,000 DNA samples from people in 26 global regions which go back up to 10 generations. The test goes back 500-1000 years. We would also note that Ethnicity does not necessarily respect National boundaries so it is not possible in all cases to distinguish between certain countries (England, Scotland and Wales for example). If you have your results already then you can click on the region in your DNA results it will also show you more information here. We attached a link to an article here that explains more: http://ancstry.me/1On7OIu. We also have a number of helpful articles available from the DNA results page if you received your results. These can be accessed by clicking on the question mark icon located in the top right of either of your results pages. There are 8 great articles here (on the ethnicity page). We hope you will find these helpful and you might also find this article interesting: http://ancstry.me/1wZl5y4.

  19. Donna

    Is it possible to separate out the groups within the Great Britain DNA? Such as English, Scottish or Welsh? If not, is that in the foreseeable future? Thanks

  20. Charles Hayward

    I was of diappointed when I got my DNA results as I was always told that my Maternal Grandfather was 1/4 Wampanoag Indian, and there was no indication of any Native American Ethinticity and when he disappeared in 1924 he went back to the Reservation before actually leaving the local area on Lower Cape Cod. His Mother I was told was half Wampanoag and half African American. I cannot put my tree online due to the proprietary Native American Tribal files it contains. HEPL!!!

    • Member Services Social Support Team

      @Charles: The DNA test can show if you inherited the markers for Native American. But you do not inherit every trait or marker from your Ancestors so even if you are a direct descendant it might not show up in your DNA test. The results do not provide a specific tribal affiliation, however. Please see the following articles that explains more about this: http://ancstry.me/23Yktn5 and http://ancstry.me/1Yrotvv.

  21. Eralia

    Ala-Kyle also found no German ancestors in his tree. It wasn’t just a commerical for DNA; but also the family tree and record part which people don’t seem to pay attention. I also think Great Britain has nothing to do with Anglo-Saxons; but the Britons. This is why Europe West is separated. In reality, some DNA is so similar, it is hard to really separate. Also people forget about migration patterns, etc…

    The test was pretty accurate for me; but I was also more aware about history and had my records knew more about what to expect. Native American had no problem showing up as it was actually there. The Europe West was in a separate category than Britain DNA (I do have German and Dutch ancestors). I gotten a lot of Irish as I have a lot of ancestors who were from Northern Spain, North Italy, Wales, as well quite a bit of Great Britain. Basically a lot of my ancestors were once Celts and Native Americans with a bit of Eastern European, Scandinavian, etc…records helped back that up.

    GEDmatch was the least helpful as the results kept saying I matched Romanians more and other weird and random results. It couldn’t even separate my Native American right (they came different tribes from Mexico and the Southwest). Which test is even the most helpful and accurate for someone who is mixed? MDLP World 22 felt off. I am not Romanian, Swedish nor Miwok as my family didn’t come from Northern California where the tribe is from, so why is telling me that? Am I part Saami like the tests says? That is news to me. The problem is, if people don’t understand how each test works and what results are false or not, they will get confused. I had some people help to confirm some info to see what is correct or not. Most people have no Native American; but some tests will say it but often times it is a false positive and not actually and so many people are claiming something that they are not as a result.

  22. Betty Ralph

    I have been doing genealogy for over 40 years, and have traced both maternal and paternal lines. My 14 DNA matches are of people I have never heard of, checked their lineages still have no names in common. Then I picked one person and started researching that line, guess what they are in one way or another related to each other, but not to me. Should I delete the 14 matches, and how can I do so. Thanks.

  23. M. Larose

    Just received my DNA results.
    Shock! My French ancestry goes back about 350 years for all 4 great-grandparents. Yet I am Irish, Italian/Greek, Iberian, Scandinavian, etc. NO FRENCH at all!
    How can that be?
    Merci.

  24. Annmarie

    I am thinking about get the Ancestry DNA. From reading the comments, I am unsure if the results are going to be specific enough for me. Do the results actually say “Joe Blow” is your cousin or do they just take an educated guess by looking at other trees? I already know where my family roots are so I guess I am looking for more than that and am wondering if the DNA will give me more.

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