- Ben most likely had a parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent who was 100% British & Irish. This person was likely born between 1890 and 1950.
- Ben most likely had a great-grandparent, second great-grandparent, or third great-grandparent who was 100% French & German. This person was likely born between 1830 and 1890.
- Ben most likely had a third great-grandparent, fourth great-grandparent, fifth great-grandparent, or sixth great-grandparent who was 100% Scandinavian. This person was likely born between 1740 and 1830.
- Ben most likely had a fourth great-grandparent, fifth great-grandparent, sixth great-grandparent, or seventh great (or greater) grandparent who was 100% South Asian. This person was likely born between 1710 and 1800.
- Ben most likely had a fourth great-grandparent, fifth great-grandparent, sixth great-grandparent, or seventh great (or greater) grandparent who was 100% Iberian. This person was likely born between 1710 and 1800.
How to interpret this result
- This module uses Ben's Ancestry Composition results to estimate the generation range where he is likely to have had a single relative who descended from a single population.
- These results may be helpful for learning about one's genealogy, in figuring out from which ancestors a particular ancestry may have been inherited, or for piecing together the history of their likely migrations.
- For technical details on how this feature works, read our white paper.
Middle Eastern, North African, Broadly Middle Eastern and North African
EuropeanSouthern European, Italian, Balkan, Sardinian, Iberian, Northwestern European, British and Irish, French and German, Scandinavian , Finnish, Ashkenazi, Eastern European, Broadly European
Sub-Saharan AfricanWest African, East African, Central and South African, Broadly Sub-Saharan African
Broadly Native American
Japanese, Korean, Yakut, Mongolian, Chinese, Southeast Asian, Broadly East Asian, Broadly East Asian & Native American
Broadly South Asian
To determine your Ancestry Composition, we use an algorithm that looks at short, non-overlapping segments of your DNA. We compare each segment of your DNA to reference DNA sequences. We have defined 31 ancestry populations from around the world using reference datasets that include over 10,000 individuals with known ancestry. When a segment of your DNA matches the reference DNA from a specific population with a high degree of certainty, the segment is assigned to that population. Sometimes the segment matches reference DNA from several populations, in which case it is assigned to a broad ancestry (e.g. Northwestern European). The results of all of these assignments are then tallied across your genome to determine your Ancestry Composition. Read more about how we assign your DNA to different ancestries
Understanding Ancestry Composition
Why do I have "Broadly" assigned or "Unassigned" ancestry?
Some segments of your DNA may match reference data from many different places around the world. If a segment of your DNA matches reference DNA from many different European countries but not from outside of Europe, then we label your DNA "Broadly European." If a segment of your DNA matches a wide range of the 31 Ancestry Composition populations (or it doesn't match any of them), then we label it "Unassigned."
Broadly assigned ancestry tells a different story about your genetic history than narrowly assigned ancestry. Your DNA segments with broadly assigned ancestry match reference individuals from a relatively wide range of ancestry populations.
Our Ancestry Composition algorithm looks at short pieces of your DNA one by one. For each piece, it calculates the probability that the piece belongs to each of the 31 different Ancestry Composition populations. When that probability is high for a single ancestry (or for one of the "Broadly" ancestry categories), we "assign" that ancestry to that piece of DNA. If none of the 31 populations tested have a high probability, then that piece of DNA has Unassigned ancestry.
There are two reasons why a region of your genome might have Unassigned ancestry. The first reason is that a segment of your DNA matches many different populations from around the world. The second reason is that the segment of your DNA does not match any of the Ancestry Composition populations very well, which can happen when an ancestry is not well described by our reference datasets. We are constantly working to improve our algorithm and collect more reference data. As the science continues to get better, we will be able to report on and distinguish more and more ancestry populations.
I have 0.1% of an ancestry. What does that mean?
Small amounts of ancestry can mean different things for different people, and you may have to do some digging to learn what your 0.1% means for you.
We report Ancestry Composition results as small as 0.1% because our algorithm does a very good job estimating ancestry for each small piece of the genome. We believe that sharing your exact results allows you to get the most information—even though sometimes interpretation of those results isn't easy.
Do I really have ancestry from this population?
Unfortunately, there's no one-size-fits-all way to answer this question. You can learn more by looking at your Chromosome Painting. Your 0.1% ancestry is more likely to reflect a real genetic history (and less likely to reflect random chance) if it is still assigned at the higher confidence levels. Another way to gain confidence in your ancestry estimate is to connect with close relatives and see whether their results also include small amounts of the same ancestry.
How long ago did I have an ancestor from this population?
There is randomness involved in how much DNA you receive from each of your ancestors, especially your ancestors from many generations back, so it's impossible to pinpoint this exactly. If you have 0.1% of an ancestry, you probably had an ancestor from that population at least seven generations ago, and possibly much further back. Check out your Ancestry Timeline result for an estimate of when your most recent ancestor from each Ancestry Composition population lived, based on your genetics.
I don't understand my Chromosome Painting.
Your Chromosome Painting is a cartoon picture of the 23 pairs of chromosomes that make up your genome. Each chromosome is one long string of DNA—if you think of your genome as a book, the chromosomes are like the chapters.
You can see from the Chromosome Painting that your chromosomes come in pairs. Each pair of chromosomes is represented as a pair of colorful horizontal bars, labeled with numbers (1 through 22) or letters (X or Y) and colored by ancestry.
You inherited one of each pair of chromosomes from your mother, and the other from your father. Unless at least one of your parents is also a 23andMe customer, we can't tell which chromosomes you inherited from which parent. But if you connect with one or both of your parents, then your Chromosome Painting will update so that the top chromosome in each pair is the one you inherited from your mother, and the bottom chromosome is the one you inherited from your father.
Your Chromosome Painting contains a huge amount of information to explore. Take a look at this list of suggestions to get you started, or check out the blog post for even more information.
- The Chromosome Painting uses colors to show which pieces of your genome came from which of the 31 Ancestry Composition populations. You can hover your mouse over the different populations to highlight where they are found in your DNA.
- Talk with relatives or connect with them on 23andMe to compare which ancestries you have in common. If your parents are 23andMe users, you can connect with them to learn which chromosomes you inherited from which parent. See the Frequently Asked Question, How can I learn more about my ancestry by connecting with family members? to learn more.
- The color of the DNA segments in your Chromosome Painting tells you about your Ancestry Composition, but the number and size of those segments is meaningful too. The shorter a segment is, and the fewer segments you have from one ancestry, the more generations since your most recent ancestor from that population.
- Change the confidence levels to see how they impact your Ancestry Composition. See the Frequently Asked Question, What do the different confidence thresholds mean? to learn more.
Why don't my Ancestry Composition results match what I know about my ancestry?
We have extremely high confidence in the accuracy of your results and the science behind them. But 23andMe is a genetic testing service, which means we can only show you what is found in your DNA. We recommend that you use your genetic reports together with your family history to build a complete understanding of your ancestry.
There are a few common reasons why your Ancestry Composition might not match what you expect based on historical records or family stories:
- Some genetic populations are especially difficult to tell apart because they share common history. If you have genetic ancestry from one of these populations, it may be assigned to a broader category. For example, Italian ancestry may be classified as a combination of Italian and Broadly Southern European.
- Ancestry Composition populations are defined by genetically similar groups of people, not by the political borders of countries. In some cases, your ancestry may highlight the differences between population history and political history. For example, if you have ancestry from a part of France that is very close to the border with Spain, your DNA may be classified as Iberian (the population that includes Spanish ancestry) instead of French & German.
- The time scale reflected by Ancestry Composition may be different from the time scale of your records. The reference datasets that we use to calculate your Ancestry Composition are designed to reflect distinct, genetically similar populations that existed before transcontinental travel and migration was common (at least 500 years ago). For example, if recent generations of your family lived in Latin America, you are likely to have some Native American and some Iberian genetic ancestry because most mixing between those two populations happened within the past 500 years.
I know I have Native American ancestry. Why doesn't it show up in my results?
We have extremely high confidence in the accuracy of your results and the science behind them. But 23andMe is a genetic testing service, which means we can only show you what is found in your DNA. If your Native American heritage cannot be seen through your DNA, that doesn't mean that your understanding of your family heritage as passed down through the generations is incorrect, only that your genetic heritage does not reveal Native American ancestry.
There are a few common reasons why you may not see the Native American population in your Ancestry Composition results:
- If your most recent Native American ancestor was more than five generations ago, you may have inherited little or no DNA directly from them. The farther back in your history you look, the less likely you are to have inherited DNA directly from every single one of your ancestors. This means that you can be directly descended from a Native American without having any Native American DNA.
- Your Native American ancestry may be assigned to the Broadly East Asian & Native American population. Even using state-of-the-art science, the Native American and East Asian populations are genetically similar, and sometimes they can't be distinguished from each other with high confidence.
- Throughout American history, people without a genetically Native American background have claimed Native American heritage for a variety of social reasons related to the shifting politics of race and indigeneity in the United States. As a result, many families without any genetically Native American ancestors have passed down stories about Native American ancestry. For examples, see this article or the book, Becoming Indian: The Struggle over Cherokee Identity in the Twenty-first Century, by Circe Strum.
Why don’t my Ancestry Composition results match the results I got from a different company?
We have very high confidence in the results we share with you and the science those results are based on. We cannot make statements about the quality of your results from a different company. But if your results from 23andMe don't match the results you got from a different test, that could reflect differences in how we calculate your genetic ancestry.
Genetic ancestry calculations can disagree with each other for a few different reasons:
- Different companies rely on different reference datasets. The 23andMe reference datasets are made up of over 10,000 people with known ancestry, many of whom are 23andMe customers, and we use them to define our Ancestry Composition populations.
- As people migrate, the genetic patterns associated with a specific place can change over time. The 23andMe reference datasets were designed to reflect distinct global populations that existed before the widespread international travel and migration of the last 500 years.
- There are different ways to calculate your ancestry from your DNA. 23andMe uses a phased approach, which means we calculate your mom's and your dad's contribution to your ancestry separately (although we can only tell which ancestry comes from which parent if you connect with a parent through the Share and Compare tool).
- At 23andMe, we calculate your ancestry separately for small pieces of your genome one by one, using advanced machine-learning techniques. This piece-by-piece calculation creates powerfully informative results, including your Chromosome Painting and your Ancestry Timeline from each ancestry population, which contain a wealth of information to help you explore how you inherited your ancestry from your genealogical ancestors.
Why is my Ancestry Composition different from my sibling's?
Even though you have the same parents, you and your sibling only share about half of your DNA. Your Ancestry Composition may be different in the half of your genome that you don't share.
Why does it work that way? For simplicity, let's focus on your mother. You inherited half of your mother's DNA, and your sibling also inherited half of your mother's DNA. But which half you inherited is the result of random chance because of a process called recombination. Through your mother, maybe you inherited a little more of your DNA from your maternal grandmother, and a little less from your maternal grandfather. Maybe for your sibling, it was the other way around. If your maternal grandmother and grandfather had different genetic ancestries, then your Ancestry Composition would be closer to your grandmother's, and your sibling's Ancestry Composition would look more like your grandfather's.
The science behind Ancestry Composition
How do you determine my ancestry? Do you use other information, or just my DNA?
We determine your Ancestry Composition using only the information in your DNA and the DNA of other people with known genetic ancestries (our reference datasets). Your 23andMe reports are always based on your genetics. If your results describe you perfectly, that just goes to show you how much your DNA really tells about you!
The technical details
The 23andMe Ancestry Composition algorithm looks at short, non-overlapping pieces of your DNA, one by one. We compare each piece of your DNA to reference DNA from populations around the world. When a piece of your DNA matches the reference DNA from a specific ancestry population with a high degree of confidence, your DNA is assigned to that population. The results of these assignments are added up across your genome to calculate your overall Ancestry Composition.
Want to learn more about the science behind 23andMe Ancestry Composition? Check out our Ancestry Composition Guide.
Why do we ask you questions about your ancestry?
We never use your survey answers to produce your ancestry results. So why do we ask questions about your ancestry? Because you can tell us more about yourself than we can learn just by looking at your DNA alone. We use your self-reported ancestry for the following purposes:
- For customers who receive Health reports, we ask questions about ancestry and ethnicity to personalize results as much as possible. We use your self-reported ethnicity to calculate your post-test risk in Carrier Status reports and to show a “typical” result for comparison in your Traits reports.
- 23andMe customers who have consented to research also have the opportunity to participate in ancestry surveys. We use the results of these surveys to improve ancestry features that 23andMe customers know and love.
- We also use survey results to advance genetic science through research studies. For example, check out this 23andMe publication about 23andMe research participants in the US who self-identify as African American, Latino, and European.
Why don't you give results for more specific countries? Why do you have the British & Irish and French & German ancestries grouped together?
Ancestry Composition is designed to distinguish between as many populations as possible, but we only include specific ancestries if we can distinguish between them with high accuracy. Some genetic ancestries are inherently difficult to tell apart because the people in those regions mixed throughout history or have shared history. As we continue to collect more reference data, we will update Ancestry Composition to include new populations.
We report a single French & German population because we have identified a single, genetically similar group of people whose ancestors lived in a region that includes both France and Germany. The same is true for the British & Irish population. The 23andMe Research team is constantly working to improve the data and algorithm underlying Ancestry Composition.
How we define Ancestry Composition populations
The 31 Ancestry Composition populations are defined by genetically similar groups of people with known ancestry. We use data from reference individuals who were carefully chosen to reflect distinct, genetically similar populations that existed before transcontinental travel and migration was common (at least 500 years ago). The 23andMe reference datasets are unique because they include a significant number of 23andMe customers.
In some cases, we don’t have enough data to tell different populations apart. As we collect more reference data, more specific ancestries will become easier to distinguish, and we will be able to report on more Ancestry Composition populations.
Because the majority of 23andMe customers are US residents with European ancestry, we have a lot of reference data from European populations, and we are able to distinguish more sub-populations from Europe than from any other continent. The 23andMe Research team is constantly working to get new data from diverse populations and to maximize the number of ancestries we can distinguish.
Historically, biomedical research has disproportionately included participants of European descent. Our mission at 23andMe is to help people access, understand, and benefit from the human genome. The best way we can do that for underserved populations is to include their genetic data in our research and our features. As we gain more diverse 23andMe customers through initiatives like the African Genetics Project, their genetic information will help to improve features like Ancestry Composition.
How do you determine my Ancestry Timeline?
Your Ancestry Timeline shows an estimate of when your most recent ancestor from each Ancestry Composition population lived. We use several pieces of information to calculate your Ancestry Timeline, including the number of DNA segments you have from each ancestry, the length of those segments, and the number of chromosomes they are found on. If your most recent ancestor from a population was very recent, you will have more segments of that ancestry on more chromosomes, and those segments will be longer, than if your most recent ancestor was many generations ago.
What is recombination?
Every time DNA is passed from one generation to another, the two chromosomes in each pair are randomly shuffled with each other in a process called recombination. This process can break up long segments of a single ancestry into shorter segments. Sometimes very short segments of ancestry are lost during recombination and don’t get passed to the next generation. This is why ancestry from your distant ancestors only shows up in a few short segments, if at all.
Why do I have a population in my Ancestry Composition that is not in my Ancestry Timeline?
Your Ancestry Timeline only shows narrow ancestries, which are not broken down into more specific ancestries. The broad, regional and continent-level ancestry populations and Broadly Assigned ancestries are not included in your Ancestry Timeline.
Additionally, your Ancestry Timeline is calculated using the ancestry segments on your 22 autosomal chromosomes. Ancestry populations that are only found on your X chromosome are not included in your Ancestry Timeline. This is because the X chromosome has a more complicated process of inheritance and recombination than the autosomal chromosomes, so it can't be analyzed in the same way. To see which segments of your ancestry are found on which of your chromosomes, check out your Chromosome Painting.
Getting more out of Ancestry Composition
How can I learn more about my ancestry by connecting with family members?
If you have a biological parent who is also a 23andMe user, you can improve your Ancestry Composition report by connecting with them through the Share and Compare tool. For more information about connecting, see the How sharing works information page.
If you and your parent or child have profiles under the same 23andMe account, then your profiles will be connected automatically, and you won’t have to connect manually through Share and Compare.
How will my Ancestry Composition change if I connect with a parent?
When you connect with a biological parent through the Share and Compare tool, your Ancestry Composition will receive the following updates:
- We will use the additional information we learn from your parents' DNA to improve the resolution of your Ancestry Composition, so you may see slight changes in your Ancestry Composition results.
- If you connect with one or both of your parents, Ancestry Composition determines which parts of your DNA you inherited from each parent. Your Chromosome Painting will update so that the top chromosome in each pair is the one you inherited from your mother, and the bottom chromosome is the one you inherited from your father.
- If you connect with one or both of your parents, the Parental Inheritance section in your Ancestry Composition report will become active. You will be able to see the proportions of each ancestry that you inherited from each parent.
- Note: Connecting with a child does not change the Ancestry Composition results for parents.
To learn more about how your Ancestry Composition changes when you connect with a parent, read our article on The Phasing Process.
For more information about the algorithm powering the Ancestry Composition report and why connecting with close family members improves the resolution of your Ancestry Composition result, check out the Ancestry Composition Guide.
What do the different confidence thresholds mean?
The full answer to this question gets a little bit technical. The algorithm we use to calculate your Ancestry Composition analyzes one small piece of your DNA at a time. For each piece of your DNA, we calculate the probability of that piece coming from 31 distinct populations. The confidence slider on the Chromosome Painting allows you to explore our estimates of your genetic ancestry at different probability cutoffs.
Let’s consider an example: Suppose there is a piece of DNA that is found in both Japan and Korea, but it’s more common in Japan. If you have this piece of DNA, our algorithm might estimate that it has a 75% chance of reflecting Japanese ancestry and a 20% chance of reflecting Korean ancestry. If you set the confidence slider to 70%, then that piece of DNA will be labeled as Japanese, because our 75% Japanese estimate is greater than the 70% confidence threshold.
But if you set the confidence slider to 80%, the piece of DNA won’t be labeled as Japanese because 80% is higher than the 75% Japanese estimate. Instead, because 75% chance of being Japanese plus 20% chance of being Korean equals 95% chance of being East Asian, that piece of DNA will be labeled as Broadly East Asian. This example also shows why you are likely to see more "Broadly" or "Unassigned" ancestry in the Conservative View than in the Speculative View.
Does this mean you’re not confident in my Ancestry Composition if I set the slider to "Speculative"?
The short answer is no. We are confident in all of the results we provide, and we include the confidence slider to give you as much information about your ancestry as possible. The different views can be helpful in different ways, depending on what kind of information you’re looking for. You may also learn from how the painting changes when you change the slider.
The long answer is more complicated. We strive to push the cutting edge of genetic science so that we can share as much information with you as possible. And at the cutting edge of any scientific field, it’s usually impossible to say anything with 100% certainty. Instead, scientists talk about probabilities and uncertainty. It is impossible to paint your chromosomes with 100% certainty, but we give you the opportunity to explore how your Ancestry Composition looks across the range from 50% certainty to 90% certainty.