Posted by Jessica Morgan on March 15, 2019 in AncestryDNA, Holidays, Ireland

Looking for your Irish ancestors can be like trying to put together a puzzle with only half the pieces. Many Irish records have been lost or destroyed, and oftentimes Irish ancestors who came to America left too few clues about where they came from. Fortunately, DNA can now provide much-needed puzzle pieces that can help complete the picture of your Irish ancestor.

When I started my search for an elusive Irish woman who immigrated to Pennsylvania, I was working with only a handful of puzzle pieces. Bridget Doherty braved the trans-Atlantic trip as a young woman in the 1800s, and her 2x great-granddaughter – let’s call her Maggie- was eager to find out where Bridget came from in Ireland. We scoured countless records in Pennsylvania, but they said nothing about Bridget’s origins. To make matters worse, Doherty is a common surname in Ireland, with many different spellings (Dougherty, Docherty, O’Doherty, etc.). With a common name and no good place in Ireland to start looking, it seemed our puzzle would stay half-done.

But then we looked at Maggie’s AncestryDNA results. To our delight, they gave us a whole new set of pieces to work with. AncestryDNA linked Maggie to a region in County Mayo, Ireland. This region was only 12 miles wide! Also, Ancestry told us that Maggie had over forty 4th-6thcousins with roots in this same place; this implied Maggie had a recent ancestor (within five generations) who came from that area. We knew Maggie had other Irish lines in her tree, but they came from County Cork; none that we knew of came from County Mayo. This 12-mile spot was likely where Maggie’s 2x great-grandmother Bridget came from.

Now that I had a place in Ireland to start looking, I went through the baptismal records of the local Catholic church. Sure enough, I found a Bridget Doherty who was born in Lecarrow Townland, right in the center of those 12 miles. This Bridget and her family matched up with what I knew about Bridget’s family in Pennsylvania. I confirmed this was the right Bridget Doherty. Thanks to DNA, Maggie now has a new connection to Ireland and more names to add to her Doherty family tree.

Lack of helpful records can make the search for an Irish ancestor’s origins difficult, even frustrating. The next time you go looking for your Irish ancestor, try including DNA in your search. It can point you in the right direction and give you the right pieces to complete your puzzle.

Jessica Morgan

Jessica Taylor is an Editorial Researcher at Ancestry. She received a Masters in history at the University of York and has worked as an accredited genealogist for many years. She's presented at genealogy conferences and performed research for the hit TV show, “Who Do You Think You Are?” Jessica loves history and helping people discover their past.


  1. Willis Kirkpatrick

    I’m new at AncestryDNA but it’s fun and very meaningful in many ways. I was amused when finding I DIED in 1956 when reviewing someone’s family tree. Son of Dr Merle & Mabel Kirkpatrick, Caldwell Canyon County Idaho , Willis Frederick Kirkpatrick 1931 – 1956. I will be 88 on April 29 2019.. I’m sure there’s a way to correct the data but I’m not there yet. Any advice would be great.

    • The content of the family trees on Ancestry is controlled by the owner of the tree. Many of these owners are inexperienced genealogists and it is very common to find major errors in Ancestry trees. You should never trust what you see on an tree without verifying first by either contacting the owner and asking them how they know it’s true, or looking for historical records on Ancestry that support the claims.

      In your situation, I would recommend contacting the owner of the tree that has you as deceased and politely ask them to correct this. If they don’t reply or refuse I would contact Ancestry and insist that they override the owner to protect your privacy. You should realise that since your entry in that tree is marked as deceased it is public information and anyone with an Ancestry subscription can see your birthdate etc as recorded in that tree.

    • Gary Armstrong

      I think you can make corrections through the Family History Library/Mormon Church. Also, make contact w/person who created the tree. can also
      Explain how to correct errors.

      • Alec van Helsdingen

        The “Mormon” Church has their own Family Tree which is completely separate from those at

  2. Jonathan

    I got a good deal on My Heritage for a DNA test. Can that info be uploaded to Ancestry, or do I need to take the Ancestry test as well? The Comments about Irish Ancestry, is especially compelling. My 4th great grandpa was Caliph Conner (my 106 year old aunt says family legend states the O was lost in the ocean) fought in the Revolution and had a son born in Susquehanna, PA.

      • Karen

        I submitted an Ancestory DNA saliva sample via their kit last October, 2018, but have never back. How do I contact Ancestory to get my results?? Any suggestion?

    • Joyce

      Free uploads can be done @ GEDmatch and FTDNA. In FTDNA you can upload autosomal ANC (and other companies) DNA raw data. 23andme also does not take DNA transfers of data as far as I know.

      The key thing with DNA is you want to be where there are trees…now you might need to re-research the trees you find due to “operator error”…but usually if I poke around a bit I can find one good, well documented tree on somebody.

      On GEDmatch and FTDNA there are very few trees, on 23andme there are none. In my opinion, you will get a lot more results through ANC than their competitors because you can get useful info and hints via the trees you find on matches. I look at matches and matches of those matches. Search from someone else’s tree if anyone is visible and even if that tree is poorly documented, you can figure out the answer usually.

      I started on 23andme for a health report, then a cousin got Y-DNA on FTDNA and I did a test there to catch common matches. I’ve utilized all the big sites, and ANC is where I recommend people have a test due to the # of family trees and documents for research.

  3. Marion Gardner

    Why is this site always about USA? There are other countries in the world, believe it or not.

    • C.A. Preece

      This site is available to all who can access it. Numerically, I think you will find Americans are in the forefront because of our large population.

  4. Dale Reed

    In my opinion. unless you have a database of names via public trees the DNA results are not helpful. The DNA results thru Ancestry are helpful only to the extent tat someone in their tree matches your DNA. It is interesting to find that my daughter and my son may be related to me as a parent! They got it right, but they were already in my Ancestry tree! IO am hopeful that my DNA may someway match with an area in Ireland that is Protestant. In the 1700’s the Church of England took over in Northen Ireland and ran a lot of Knox followers out to end up in the Carolina’s. Look up the Rev. Martin in the 1700’s! Also what is ANC as mentioned above?

  5. Dale Reed

    In my opinion. unless you have a database of names via public trees the DNA results are not helpful. The DNA results thru Ancestry are helpful only to the extent tat someone in their tree matches your DNA. It is interesting to find that my daughter and my son may be related to me as a parent! They got it right, but they were already in my Ancestry tree! IO am hopeful that my DNA may someway match with an area in Ireland that is Protestant. In the 1700’s the Church of England took over in Northern Ireland and ran a lot of Knox followers out to end up in the Carolina’s. Look up the Rev. Martin in the 1700’s! Also what is ANC as mentioned above? I have a possible fit to a Robert Reed who arrived in Charlestown SC in 1773 on a ship with 51 total passengers. They came from Larne in Ulster N.Ireland. If anyone is working on this contact me please. I need a lot of help!

  6. jackson ewart

    My ancestors are from Scotland. Does ancestry have an equivalent specificity like Irish????

    • janet ruddy

      What do you mean..? Im from scotland but dad grandad etc etc are all irish mums side scottish..123 and me hit all my irish places were my grands came from also scolland which by the way comes under britain in 123 and me gave me all detinations to my mums family. I. Scotland..

    • janet ruddy

      123 and me has ireland and scotland so im 100 % shows you the map exactly were your from and were you dna shows matches who your related to people in ireland or scotland in the map

    • McDermott james

      So imagine a lot of people that don’t know how to pimp im the pimpthat makes u the jon plant a seed n follow the chatter so seems their is a knew biz partner any one understand how this is gonna be ill not b having no plea 4 mercifully treatment for the direct distribution of my unsane private property and my life is not for anybody else to be in and this is nonsense and shall be the reason for the direct impact of my earthly existence to be in my life is not so good if u aint me so newyratseve was the tee off nd that ts bs was just for u mopes

      • McDermott james

        Let’s see who’s rreadyy to go the see on the phone is not a way 2 discusss so please approach me so it can be delt with in a manor which is completely pleasant and easy oh sorry i was just wondering if you are going to get the full understanding of what you doing not to me but doing it to yourself by thinking
        Im not ready to defend defeat and disregard all of the phone tag so read n see how he feels about the woman who is always 100 nd so I can see that I can n will not waver for i have been living for years and I am not going anywhere without my compensation for the dishonest and lame attempt to take my property

  7. Debbie Oxby

    I certainly don’t have any areas that narrowed down in my results. I wonder how many people do. I have things like Scotland or southern England. Not much help really.

    • janet ruddy

      With a dna report they show you how many people are related to you and by how much dna if that person also took a dma test . It shows you graphs of how much dna you share with people i found cousins i didnt know existed in canada. And im scottish ..

  8. Linda Sparks

    How did it narrow the location all the way down to the county? Nothing on mine is that specific, even for areas that I know ancestors were from.

  9. Elizabeth M Cavlan

    I had my DNA done a long time ago and it didn’t give me any area of Ireland. Can I get any more information from my old test?

  10. Patricia Purcell Farmer

    I started a family which combined with a previous tree I forgot about and it is a mess. I would like to delete it and start over. It would be easier. I can’t seem to find a way to do that. The Thru Lines on the DNA are correct as far as I can tell and very helpful. It is my tree that is wrong. Any help would be appreciated.

    • janet ruddy

      Cant you just delete the people going back to the begining. Jist a thought. I done it coz i made a mess learning.. the wicki tree people in geanology are great. So helpful ..i was able to download my dna th wicki tree and it helped me out a lot..asking questions they have genologists that help you.

    • critesgirl1

      Go to list of all people and the duplicate of each person will be close or next. Verify dob, DOD, etc. Sometimes I put a X when I verify this is the right/wrong person then I delete the other person.

  11. James Ellott

    Born abt 1705. Pensioner & Farmer. Srouse: ANN. Private in Army of UK. Died Dec 1870 and buried in Belfast City Cemetery.

  12. Kevin

    Hi,there is fact that your algorithm have real problem to infinity German ancestry and almost always merge that ancestry with England ancestry.The only question is do you have any plan for updat to fix that problem?

    • Alec van Helsdingen

      As you may be aware, Ancestry updated their ethnicity percentages last September. Given that the update before that was in 2013, I wouldn’t expect a new update anytime soon.

      As for the subregions/genetic communities/migrations, Ancestry said when they launched new subregions in Ireland and for Africans in the Americas that more regions in Europe would be released over the coming months.

      It’s worth considering that German DNA is so similar to the surrounding areas such as France, Netherlands, Scandinavia and Britain. Across all the companies this has been an area of the world with many inaccurate results in customer’s ethnicity estimates.

  13. priscilla

    My brother and i both had our DNA done by 2 different CO’s, his came back much different than mine with 2 countries that i dont have. Does this mean we are not full siblings.

  14. Leslie Stubbs Hanks

    Both parents are deceased and I have no siblings. Grand parents are deceased. How do I search?

  15. Patrick McMeekin

    I’m not sure but hoping I don’t have to invest a whole lot of money on very little results. Thank You

  16. Brenda Karol Buss

    I have sent my DNA in twice and haven’t heard any thing back yet. How long does it take to get some thing back to let me know you received it?

  17. Brenda Karol Buss

    I sent my DNA in and haven’t heard any thing from How long does it take before I hear something.

  18. Donna Reed

    I’m not getting any where on my family. I’m not sure how to find any thing. I need help

  19. Nancy Hoffman

    I am said to be 20% Irish 72% England, Wales and Northwestern Europe – I can find tons of English affiliation but not one surname that has an Irish or Scot birthplace. How can I find why they say I’m 20% Irish?

  20. Richard Eugene Gilbert Sr

    My father marroed a pregnant women ie Fitzgerald at the oncomong docks to get her onto country approx dates 1916-1925

  21. Sherrill Annette Harper

    Was told that my maternal grandfather was a twin. Can’t find a record. Was also told that my maternal grandmother was Native American and can’t find anything.

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