DNA Inheritance Is Passed Down Randomly. So Randomly That I Am 24% More Irish Than My Brother.

DNArec (1)I bet you thought that you were 100% related to your full biological siblings.


Siblings share, on average, about half their DNA. The reality is, however, we can actually be anywhere from 0 – 100% genetically related to our siblings! When looking at DNA test results, you could, theoretically, be totally unrelated to a sibling, though the percentage usually falls in the 50% range.

To confuse you more, your ethnicity results in an Autosomal DNA (atDNA) test can be quite different from sibling to sibling, as we each inherit unique combinations of DNA from our parents that present different parts of our genetic history.

Photo credit- www.genetics.thetech.org

DNA recombination from parents to their children. Photo credit- www.genetics.thetech.org

This stems from how DNA is passed from one generation to the next for the majority of our genome. You are unique, having received 50% your DNA from each of your parents. Your parents received 50% from each of their parents, and so on. The 50% passed to you from each of your parents was a shuffled combination of genetics so, unless you and a sibling are identical twins, you can expect your results to be different than your siblings. Recombination is purely random, so one sibling could inherit substantial chunks of DNA that the other sibling did not inherit—or vice versa. Sometimes, the differences in results can be surprising.

My brother and I each tested with AncestryDNA, a company that offers the Autosomal DNA SNP test (we have also tested with competitive companies, which offer different types of tests and differing abilities to analyze resulting data). A genealogical DNA test studies a person’s genome at specific locations, and several different types of tests are available. The Autosomal test utilizes DNA from the 22 matched pairs of autosomal chromosomes we all have, or “autosomes.” For the record, you actually have 23 pairs of chromosomes. The remaining pair, called the sex chromosome, determines your gender, male or female. An Autosomal DNA test may be taken by either a male or female, and is often used to search for relatives (on either side of the family tree), called “DNA cousin matches,” up to a maximum of 6 – 8 generations back.

The Ancestry test also provides participants a colorful pie chart, which gives you a percentage breakdown of your ethnicity by region. It is called an Ethnicity Estimate or an admixture test. Ancestry, the company, divides the world into about 25 modern reference populations, or regions, and the approximate percentage of DNA inherited from each is provided. Sections of your DNA are identified that best match the reference databases. However, the reliability of the results is dependent on a number of variables, such as comparative population size (which can be limited), the number of markers tested, and the degree of admixture in the person tested. Distinguishing between populations within continents can be difficult; as well, genetic ancestry does not respect country borders, which change often, or the migration of ancestors long ago. A person with “known” German ancestry may find zero German DNA in his/her results. This issue, most likely, is that at some point in history the ancestors of this family, who did not originate in Germany, moved to Germany and “became” German. But that does not make them genetically German.

Fortunately, as science and technology improves accuracy of the ethnicity reports continues to improve and to provide greater depth of detail. For example, results previously defined as Western European are now being broken down into subgroups such as English and French or Irish, German, etc. Results only defined as African previously are starting to break down into specific countries. Southern Europe is broken off from the Iberian Peninsula. As new algorithms are developed providing more accurate results, these improved results will show up in your account at no additional charge.

The test results for my brother and me state that we are “immediate family”—in other words, full bio brother and sister. That’s good to know! But then the results follow different paths. My brother’s DNA test results provided the following Ethnicity Estimates:

91% Great Britain; 5% Ireland; 3% Trace Regions (Italy/Greece)

According to the current AncestryDNA algorithms, my ethnicity admixture results are:


My Ethnicity Estimate from AncestryDNA

37% Great Britain; 29% Ireland; 21% Europe West; 8% Italy/Greece

Since I now know that I’m 24% more Irish than my brother, I will celebrate a bit harder at St. Patrick’s Day this year!

My admixture notes a 21% Europe West contribution, which doesn’t show up in my brother’s estimates at all. Europe West is defined as primarily Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein. On our maternal side, we have three lines that trace back to France and two lines tracing back to Germany. Somehow, more of our maternal line DNA was passed to me versus my brother. I guess random genetics at work.

The bottom line of those results: Ethnicity estimations remain a science that are still a bit fuzzy. Humans have moved too far over too many thousands of years for it to be reliable history of where ancestors originated. And as each parent may pass a different and variable percentage of an ethnicity down to their children, results can be surprising. So, be open minded to the results received. As well, get as many of your siblings tested as possible. Doing so opens up new insights into your full ethnicity story, as well as the possibilities of finding additional cousins.

Do you have any unusual or surprising ethnicity estimates between you and siblings? If so, let me hear about them!


  1. Lisa

    Hello –
    Thanks for writing this. I do not have my own experience but this helps explain a LOT as it pertains to DNA testing. I told my father that he didn’t need to do a test because his brother did it, but now I think I will go ahead and have him move forward on it.
    Thanks again – I will try to stop back and let you know how it goes!

    1. Julie (Post author)

      Oh please do! I’d love to hear what you find out. And thanks for stopping by and commenting. It’s nice to know that my humble little blog is helping people discover their heritage.

      1. Vicki Hill

        My full blooded sister and zi took the test and she got 5% Germanic Europe and I got 0%.. she also got 5% Norway and I got none..I got 15%French and she got 5%.. the others were pretty close except for Scotland..I got 19% and she got 11%..

        1. Vicki Hill

          It did say we are sisters…

    2. Anne

      Now I better understand how my brother only has 46% Irish and larger amounts of odd ancestry vs. My 80% Irish and 20% Great Britain.
      Wow amazing.

  2. Anne

    Beautifully explained in laymans language. Your blog post should be required reading for anyone who does the AncestryDNA ethnicity test. Apparently there have been incidents where children accused their mother of having affairs because they failed to understand the complexities of DNA. Well done.

    1. Julie (Post author)

      I’m humbled– thank you for the kind words! I’m always happy to hear that my blog is being read, is helpful to those who stopped by, or is distributing accurate information!

  3. Jess

    I just recently got my results and they look completely different than my brothers.. completely different regions and all..also i have 22% italy/greece and he only has 7%..
    I don’t know what to think..

    1. Julie (Post author)

      Those percentage differences aren’t that unusual. It’s amazing how different two siblings can be.

    2. Maureen

      Well Julie, I am amazed at how different my sister’s and my DNA are:
      SISTER: ME:
      Europe 98% 99%

      Great Britain 40% 3%
      Scandinavian 30% 12%
      Ireland 12% 34%
      Europe West 10% 48%
      Italy/Greece 4% 1%
      Iberian Pen. 1% 1%
      European Jewish <1% 0%
      West Asia Caucasus 2% 0%
      South Asian 0% 1%

      When one takes the two most common DNA origins composing the majority of our DNA, my sister is basically British/Scandinavian and I am Western European/Irish. If siblings, on average, share 50% of their DNA, we share only 39% of our DNA.

      1. Anne

        Yours is extremely different for full siblings. While ‘possible’ it seems statistically very unlikely. I would contact the lab and explain the situation and see if they can give you a deal on a re-test. (Small percentages can be virtually ignored with these tests, and probably should be except for conversational value perhaps.)

        1. Julie (Post author)

          Anne, thank you for your advise back to Maureen. I agree with it.

        2. Maureen

          Thanks Anne for your comments. Ancestry did identify my sister as a first degree relative, however. I think that means a full sister… The results are surprising though. My first cousin was closer in composition to me!

          1. Gianna

            If you click on to your sister and then click the compare, there is a tiny i for information next to compare. Click that and it will tell you if you are FULL siblings or not by the amount of centimorgans you share with her. Around 3400 full anything 1700 or less half.
            Good luck.

  4. Sue

    Well, I feel a bit disappointed. I had been very excited and looking forward to my results, but if it isn’t going to tell me my ethnicity I wish I had saved my money! I am super bummed. I had thought I would be able to tell my son that he had half my dna.??? But he may not? I could be Irish and my son not Irish? Guess I am just stupid. I feel like I spent a hundred bucks for something I doubt I will even look at now.

    1. Julie (Post author)

      Oh, please look at it! Depending on what test you took, you will receive a breakdown of your ethnicity; that pie chart will provide an estimate of what locales your ancestors came from and approximately what percentage you inherited from each region. Yes, your son inherited 50% of your genetic makeup but WHAT 50% can’t be controlled. But he will still have fun learning what his own personal ethnicity is likely to be.

      1. Tony Boisvert

        Ethnnicity is NOT a genetic trait. Ethnicity is cultural. He is just as Irish as you are, even if he has more (or less) Irish DNA than you do. The “ethnicity” breakdowns are really not about what someone’s ethnicity is, but where their ancestors are from.

        1. Julie (Post author)

          So true. Thank you for clarifying that!

    2. LaNell Barrett

      Yes, I wish I had sent my money for 2 tests to Hurricane Harvey victims. How absolutely worthless. 23&Me and Ancestry.com have several family surnames sand states I submitted and have completely different results than I have from here.

    3. Linda Ross

      I’m so sad too. My Ancestry DNA came back 53% Scot and 11% Irish. I know all our family history & remaining “accents” & birth certificates from 1850’s Scotland. My son came back 47% European Jewish and <1% Scots Irish. Should I ask for a re-test? The difference just seems too extreme !!

      1. Gianna

        That all depends. That’s only 64% of you dna what is the remaining percentage? If you have European Jewish as your dna then that’s where he got it from. Or perhaps the paternal side.

  5. Diana

    We just got the results of my children, and one of our kids has more Western Europe than my husband and I combined. How can THIS happen?

    1. Presley

      I’m wondering the same thing. This happened to me as well. I’m 8% Irish, my father is 3% Irish, and my mother is <1% Irish.

    2. Lori

      I have the same thing for my oldest daughter. She got 66% Irish. I only had 3 or 4% Irish. So, even if my ex-husband was 100% Irish, she still got too much of it. I took into account the ranges though. Her range was from something like 54 to 80% and my range was somewhere from 0 to 9%. So, if I was in my high end and she was on her low end of the ranges, then it all works out. Just out of curiosity though, I have her taking a second test with a different company.

    3. Ava

      Please do reply. I too am struggling to understand how according to Ancestry.com DNA , my mother and her siblings have no Germanic dna, my bio father has only ~ 10% yet I have 24%.

  6. Diane Board

    I’m trying to understand how my daughter is 4% Irish when I am 0% Irish and her father is <1% Irish. So.. Where did that Irish DNA come from?

  7. Fran Christopher

    My two sons and my husband and I all tested Family Finder. The results have us very confused. The youngest has 8% Iberian. Neither my husband nor myself have any Iberian. How can we see this result in a child? His older brother does not have any Iberian. I thought one parent or the other must have Iberian to pass it to a child. Thank you for helping us with this mystery.

  8. Jeanene

    And while having more children increases the chances of passing on more of your DNA, if you look closely, you’ll see that even with three children, not all of EDWARD and ANGELA’s DNA segments made it to the next generation.

  9. Nigel

    Hi me and my brother recently recieved our ancestry results back through Ancestry.com
    Mine were surprising as didnt aline with the family tree recently completed.
    My brothers were more surprising making everything seem unbelievable.
    Irish. 32 3
    English. 13 92
    West Europe. 51 2
    Finland/ Russian. 2 2
    Iberian. 1 1
    Italy. less 1
    We shared the correct amount of centimorgans for full siblings at 2551 well into the correct range.
    I asked for my brother to be retested but was denied. Was told by the branch manager that it was wothin the realms of possible but was the most diverse between full siblings he had ever seen.
    I was dissapointed they wouldn’t retest my brother as we recently lost of parents and wanted to kind of reconnect through this dna experience.
    I had read all information and literature on there website try to find an answer.
    Had a retest on myself using 23andme the results were the opposite from my ancestrydna results.
    70 British Irish.
    7.2 French German.
    16.5 Broadly Northern European.
    4.4 Scandinavia.
    1.1 Broadly European.
    .6 Southern European.
    .1 unassigned.
    Anyway its from the se region and inline with with the family tree.
    But Ancestry.com is the bigger supposedly more acurate just really confused with there results ase and my brother only have around 20% in common through ancestry.com for regions which isn’t possible correct??

  10. Diogenes

    unless you and a sibling are identical twins, you can expect your results to be different than your siblings.

    Not even then … Doctors TV tested 3 triplets (you can google it) and the results were also all over the place

    1. Michele

      Apparently they weren’t identical.

  11. Nigel

    Hi Diogenes.
    Not sure if your reply was directed at me but i recieved it as a reply to my question.
    Doesn’t relate to my question and what you have stated is common knowledge.
    My question was the corrilation to ethnicities and centamorgans.
    I have less than 20% in common around 14% ethnicities as was retested yet we are full sibblings with the correct amount of centimorgans.
    Ancestry.com representative said we were the most diverse he had seen bordering on impossible to recieve full sibling status.
    So what if we had no common ethnicities in common can we still be full sibbings and how if taking after different ethnic dna?
    Different companies come up with different results who is most accurate?

  12. Naomi johnson

    This article explains a lot, my brothers DNA was a lot more different than I expected. I thought the lab had got it wrong. I am 41% Irish, and my brother is 17%.

    1. Julie (Post author)

      Thanks for letting me know that you found the post helpful!

  13. Sharon Lanni

    I am completely perplexed after receiving my results from MyHeritage DNA. I always knew I am 100% Italian. I have my family tree with all the Italian names dating back to the 1700’s. My results: 49.8% Italian, 30.2% Greek, 14.8% Western Asia?? And 5.2% Turkey/Iran! I can understand the Greek as my mother and her family are from Sicily, but the Western Asia and Turkey/Iran makes no sense. Help, please!

    1. Tony Boisvert

      I think it is helpful to remember that, by definition, ethnicity is not a genetic trait, but a cultural one. These DNA tests can’t measure culture, only DNA markers that tend, in the aggregate, to accompany particular ethnic heritages. So if you dig a little deeper into Italian history (long before the 1700s)—especially Southern Italy and Sicily—and also Greek history—I think you will find that the Near Eastern heritages are not actually that surprising.

  14. Sharon Lanni

    I am completely perplexed after receiving my results from MyHeritage DNA. I always knew I am 100% Italian. I have my family tree with all the Italian last names dating back to the 1700’s. my results: 49.8% Italian, 30.2% Greek, 14.8% Western Asia?? And 5. 2% Turkey/Iran! I can understand the Greek as my Mom and her family are from Sicily, but the Western Asia and Turkey/Iran makes no sense. Help, please!

  15. Randall Olson

    When you say you are 29% Irish….have you noticed that if you click on that number in your AncestryDNA report, it links to another page where it shows your actual Irish percentage could be anywhere from maybe 7% to 50%. The 29% they give you on the main page of your ethnicity report is just the midpoint of the possible range.

    1. Julie (Post author)

      Very true. I was using their numbers as suggested figures from which to start my conversation!

  16. Mary Winkler

    I am so glad I found this!!! I got my Ancestry DNA results last night and they are:
    29 % Great Britain
    26 % Italy/Greece
    16 % Scandinavian
    13 % West Europe
    12 % East Europe
    3% West Asia

    Today my sister (full sister) got hers:
    25% Great Britain
    16% West Europe
    14% Italy/Greece
    14% Scandinavian
    12% East Europe
    10% Iberian Peninsula

    My 95 year old aunt also got hers:
    32% Italy/Greece
    31% West Europe
    14% Iberian Peninsula
    11% Scandinavian
    3% Great Britain
    3% East Europe
    3% Ireland
    2% Caucausus

    I was freaked out because I don’t have Iberian Peninsula and the joke has always been that I was adopted but after reading your info, I know I just don’t have that mix. But I had no idea of British or Scandinavian heritage. I grew up believing I was German/Austrian/Italian. I need to do one of those commercials for the company. I would love your opinion on our tests. Thank you!!

    1. Julie (Post author)

      Keep in mind that maps change all the time, and people groups have migrated throughout history!

  17. Jeanne mckenzie

    I was wondering if every child inherits every ethnicity of their parents or is it possible not to inherit one of the ethnicities at all?

    1. Lori

      You definitely do NOT automatically inherit every area that your parent has. I have one daughter that happens to be made up from the exact same six countries/regions identified through ancestry dna, but my other children have different results…and therefore my one daughter likely doesn’t have everything her father has.

    2. Jean

      My results from AncestryDNA came back as 63% British, 22% Ireland/Scotland/Wales and 9% Scandinavian but my daughter came back with 24% Scandinavian, 27% Southern Europe ( dad is 48% Italian primarily and he did the 23 and me dna) and 20% British and 12% Ireland/ Scotland /Wales. How could she be so much more Scandinavian?

  18. Steve

    I have a question more than a comment. MY DNA results from MyHeritage DNA percentages are: 62.2 European, 36.3 African , 1.5 American. I have always known that I was mixed race. I have curly hair and dark complexion. When I was born 62 years ago in a small community in south Alabama you were either black or white. My birth certificate says I’m white and I looked more white on my baby pictures than I do now. In the community where I live, we were called Cajuns by the white and black people. About 20 years ago we applied for Native American status, but have not been approved by some governmental branch. Most of us have lived here in the same place for generations, mainly because we were never accepted by whites or blacks. My question: In your opinion, based on my DNA results, what is my race/ethnicity and what should I tell people what I am? I get asked that sometimes when I travel outside of my community. Thank you and I have enjoyed reading your blog.

    1. Julie (Post author)

      You can only have one race, so you would most likely claim your race as White. As for ethnicity: It is totally acceptable to claim multiple ethnic affiliations. Of your 62% European heritage, what countries are found in the list and which of those do you culturally identify with? Those are your ethnicities.

      1. Tedi M Bell

        Um, Julie, what do you mean by saying you can only have one race? I don’t think that’s a true statement, but I’m not sure evidence you’re basing it on.

    2. Steve

      Thank you Julie for taking time to answer my question. All of this race/ethnicity stuff is so coimplicated.

      Thanks again,

    3. Maureen

      Hi, Cajuns are actually Acadians who migrated to NA from France, so I don’t think that has anything to do with a darker complexion. You are a mix of European and African, lucky you. You should be proud. I would love to be less ‘vanilla’, haha

  19. Virgil Whitaker

    Family tree DNA found that I and my blood brothter had a genetic distance of 1 on their 37 site DNA test. Possible?

    1. Julie (Post author)

      Yes, possible. Genetic Distance doesn’t necessarily refer to a relative period of time back towards an ancestor. Is is a number of the total differences between the two tests (yours and his). You can be biological siblings and have a distance of 1.

  20. samantha

    what is the copyright date for this paper

    1. Julie (Post author)

      It was published here on this blog on Feb 20, 2016. Can you please let me know why you ask?

  21. Amy Buffone

    Hi Julie! Thank you for explaining all of this. My husband, myself and our daughter had 23andMe testing done. She has ethnicity percentages that are different than each of us. He’s 80% Italian, she’s only 20%. She’s 10% French/German, I’m only 2%. He doesn’t believe that she can have such a lower percentage of Italian than he does. Thoughts? Thanks!

    1. Lori

      I get what he’s saying, but there are ranges at work here. I would say that she should be between 30 and 50% Italian. If it was 30, that would mean that she got all 20% of whatever else he is that isn’t Italian. But, she is lower than he is. So, it is most likely an issue with the ranges. See if his low and her high range make more sense to him.

  22. April

    My son and I both tested with Family Tree DNA. I came out 45% British Isles, but he came out with 0% British Isles. Is this even possible? He was also 9% Scandanavian, which I think comes from my side of the family, but I showed 0%. Something seems off to me. What do you think?

    1. Lori Gallagher

      It is theoretically possible that he could come out 0% when you were 45%. That just means that you should have given him basically ALL of whatever else you are made up of :).

  23. Cheri

    We are confused ….my husband and sister in law DNA.
    79.6 N & W Euro. 65.4 English
    20.4 English. 17.2 Iberian
    8.4 Balkn
    8.1 Scadinavian
    0.9 N & W Euro

  24. Cheri Foglesong

    That didn’t print well. Husband is the one that only has 79.6 N & W Euro and 20.4 English. SISTER IN LAW has everything else.

  25. Cheri

    How can a sister and brother have such different ethnicity? Brother: 79.6% N and W European 20% English Sister: 65.4% English 17.2% Iberian 8.4% Balkan 8.1% Scandinavian and 0.9% N and W European

  26. Leila

    I have confusing DNA results. I have had my mom and grandmother tested. Unfortunately the men in my family tree are no longer living, my father and both grandfathers (I wish these tests had been around for me to at least have tested my father…)My dad’s parents came from Finland. My maternal grandfather from Ireland.
    This is confusing for me, is if you get 50% of your DNA from your dad and 50% from your mom, how did I get such different results from my mom. She had very little Finnish and no Europe West. Did I get this all from my dad? How is this possible?
    My results were
    Finland/Northwest Russia 54%
    Europe West 26%
    Ireland/Scotland/Wales 8%
    Great Britain 7%
    European Jewish 2%
    Scandinavia < 1%
    Iberian Peninsula < 1%
    Europe South < 1%

    My Mom's were
    Great Britain 67%
    Ireland/Scotland/Wales 15%
    Scandinavia 12%
    European Jewish 1%
    Iberian Peninsula 1%
    Finland/Northwest Russia < 1%
    Europe East < 1%

    My Grandma's were
    Great Britain 73%
    Scandinavia 13%
    Europe West 7%
    Europe South 3%
    European Jewish 2%
    Ireland/Scotland/Wales < 1%
    Iberian Peninsula < 1%

    1. Lori

      Your results do seem strange. Given that your two top areas are 81% combined and your mom’s combined of those two are less than 1%, unless you were adopted and your mom didn’t tell you which would make no sense because she wouldn’t likely do the DNA thing with you then, I’d guess that there is something wrong with your test. The areas aren’t even close when comparing. For example, in my tree, I have a lot of ancestors that are verifiably from an area that overlaps between Scandinavia and Western Europe. So, I had one test result come back that said I was 33% Scandinavian and a second one that came back 12% Scandinavian and 21% Broadly Northern European. I am just assuming that Broad part is what was combined to make the other website’s 33%. I’d be curious to know what you find out or if you decide to take another test. My oldest daughter’s results didn’t make sense to me either, so I had her retested. I’m waiting for the results (I paid for testing from another site).

    2. Marie

      You mentioned your dads parents were from Finland therefore they – and your dad – would have likely had a lot of Finish DNA markers and you have inherited half of this from your dad, also a tiny amount from your mum too. You haven’t inherited her GB markers, however you have all the other things. We inherit roughly 50/50 from each parent. Please ignore comments saying you must have been adopted, it seems to me you have inherited dna from both your mum and dad. X

      1. Julie (Post author)

        Marie– Thanks for helping Leila!

  27. Jodie

    Hi! So my entire family took Ancestry DNA. Quick question: my dad showed 9% Western Europe & my mom showed 0%. However, my brothers ancestry dna showed he was 25%. Is this possible? Maybe I’m missing something.

    Thanks in advance!

  28. Adrienne

    Thank you for your post, it is very helpful to understand. Last year I inadvertently ordered what I thought was Ancestry DNA for my husband and son, and found out when the results came back that it was Ancestry BY DNA- completely different- and the results showed my husband to have Indigenous American. He were spinning since his 4 grandparents all immigrated in 1800’s from Poland. Retested with Ancestry showed his high percentage with Eastern Europe and 2% Pacific Island- which made more sense in understanding the Indigenous reference.

  29. Sue

    I was wondering if you can explain how my Ancestry DNA results show I have more than 50% Eastern European, which only my father had. My mother’s dna was all British and Irish, no Eastern European. I thought I could only receive half from each parent thank you!

    1. Julie (Post author)

      The answer that I can suggest is this: As a female, you inherit 50% of your nuclear DNA from each of your parents; however, fathers pass down a bit more nuclear DNA to daughters than to sons because they give the much larger X chromosome to their daughters. I don’t know if this helps answer your question.

    2. Lori

      My additional possible explanation lies in the idea of “ranges” for DNA. My daughter has 66% Irish while I only have 4 or 5%. Her range was something like 54 to 80 and my range was from 0 to 9. So, if she was actually at the lower end of her range and I was at the higher end, then it works for my family. But, that doesn’t seem to make sense for you since you have 0%…

  30. Heather

    I have nothing in common with my siblings whatsoever in DNA results, I’m still waiting for my parents. I am 70 percent Scottish, 16 percent Finish, and 14 percent Basque. None of it matches the stories or the genealogy that we have put together either. My siblings are Swedish, Norwegian, Italian, and German.

  31. M

    Despite being a descendant of two very old and distinguished Mississippi and Louisiana “white” families, based on my appearance alone, I was not surprised to find some non-White DNA. Just didn’t know it would be so much….3% Sub-Saharan and Western African! And 3% Sephardic Jew! The rest, also interesting: 92% British Isles. Woah! I’m simultaneously WAY more British than anyone I know who’s gotten this done, and also, wouldn’t have passed my state’s now defunct “one drop of African blood” racial separation law! Who knew I’ve been passe blanc all my life! My longtime motto, “I don’t look white enough to be a white supremacist” now certainly takes on a deeper meaning.

  32. Melissa

    Hello! I had myself, my husband, and my son tested. My dad, mom, and maternal aunt were also tested. My son who is my husband’s child came back with an ethnicity that nobody has. My son also came back 20% Irish while I am only 5% and my husband is only 4%.

  33. Lee Moll

    your blog has helped me a lot glad there are so many people as confused as I am about this new and wonderful technology. Idid the ancestry dna and also my mothers. The results are me Scandinavia 49% Europe east 19% Europe West 10% Ireland Scotland / wales 6% Iberian peninsula 6% and Great Britain 5%. My mother’s Great Britain 58% Europe East 14% Europe West9% and Scandinavia 6%. I would have thought that I would have lots more British.Ancestry did link her as my mother. Thanks I really enjoyed reading your blog

  34. Angel M

    OK I got one for you. Both my husband and I as well and my daughter (8 yrs old) got our results

    Husband 61 North west European;
    43.3 Germany France;
    18.2 Irish, Scottish Welsh
    17.9 East Europe
    1.2 North African

    Me 1.6 North West European;
    4.7 Italian
    45 North African
    24 Nigerian

    Daughter 37.1 North West Euro
    7.3 Germany, France
    29.8 Irish, Scottish, Welsh;
    45 North African
    24 Nigerian

    How is it possible that my daughter can be more Irish, Scottish, Welsh than my husband? 18.2 vs 29.8?

  35. Karen Ricciuti

    Hi Julie,
    I am a bit confused.

    Karen Ricciuti
    Fri 4/27/2018 9:27 PM
    Karen Ricciuti (artist166@hotmail.com);
    Although I have spoken to a nice rep there at Ancestry, the discrepancy for mine (Karen’s) and my brother’s (Garry’s) “Ethnicity Estimate” has given us pause and so (with advice), should I request a re-test. It would appear Garry is almost right at he borderline for cM and actually could be a half-sibling rather than (as reported) possibly @50% full. I noted your comment, “Small percentages can be virtually ignored with these tests… ”
    As our ethnicities show up as extremely different for full siblings, should I obtain a re-test?
    Our results are shown as the following:
    G Britain 67/43
    Euro West. 15/40
    Scand. 9/(low confidence)4
    Lib Penin. 2/1/0
    Euro Jew. >1/0,

    I, Karen show 35+96% England/Scotland/Wales while
    Garry is 12-67% Bel/Fr/Germ/Neth/Swizt/Lux/Licht

    Thank you!

  36. Sylvia HOlland

    My son’s maternal grand or great grand mother was 100% Cherokee. However, his DNA results say nothing about this and put his ethnicity European, Iberian and Irish. I’m confused.

  37. Faye Derryberry

    I am a fraternal twin with certain Irish dna. I tested myself first and I am 60% Irish/Scotland/Wales, 11% Scandinavia, and 11% Europe West. My fraternal twin sis was close behind me with her Irish dna at 48% Irish but seemingly having a bit more of my mom’s dna with 26% Europe West, 6% Iberian Peninsula to my 4% Iberian Peninsula. One of our many Irish great grandparents, the Dolans were dark with dark hair. We believe them to have been black Irish. They were from Roscommon Ireland. I was blessed to be able to test my mom the year before she passes. She was a third Irish. I wish we’d had the technology at hand when my dad was here. Funny thing about this is that my first cousin on my dad’s side just got his results and he was surprised (almost disappointed that he was only 36% Irish. His dad was my dad’s brother with a very Irish surname and one that we know came to America directly from Ireland. Seriously, the randomness!!

  38. Brenda

    My parents are both 100% Italian as are their parents and grandparents. How is it that I am only 9% Italian and 62% Greek? How far back does the genetic testing go?

  39. Loraine Mitchell

    My sister is 48% Western Europe and I’m only 1%. How can that be?

  40. Tamasha

    You can have dna that is different than your parents and siblings. You have two family trees…the one on paper and the one displayed in your dna.
    DNA is inherited, look at all the dna that is unknown.
    My blood is rh negative, and I’m yet to find a relative who has this; it is a recessive gene, so both of my parents are carriers of the rh negative gene and they aren’t rh. Negative, they’re rh positive.
    My son has blue eyes, yet both parents have brown eyes. This means both parents have a recessive gene for blue eyes, and don’t have blue eyes ourselves.
    With genetics children can have diseases, hair or eye color, or other things their parents don’t have….just like we can have different dna.
    My dad had his dna test done and it doesn’t look like the science class lesson on 50 percent inheritance, but Ancestry says he is my father.
    Another example… your child can have trisomy 18; and you don’t have it…just another luck of the draw with genetics. This is a horrible example of how Mother Nature teaches us how things hang out I’m the family tree.
    I’ve traced my family tree all around the world and won’t be surprised if my kids and grandkids have dna to show this.

    1. Linda Ross

      Thank you for this. My DNA showed 53% Scot, 11% Irish. Gave my son the test as a gift and he is <1% scots/irish according to DNA test by same company. He is 70% eastern european (high percentage, right?) and I am 6% eastern european. I was one person who thought we would show a closer match but it looks like we are not even related! Sad. Oh, well.

      1. Julie (Post author)

        The correct way to measure genetic distance between two persons is to look at the centiMorgans (cM). Most companies use cM’s to indicate the size of matching DNA segments. What are the cM values for you and your son?

        1. Linda Ross

          Jeez. This is exciting – I’ll dig into it and, if I may, I’ll get back to you. Thank you for helping me to better understand i didn’t understand. 🙂 I look forward to doing some further research and will be in touch. Thank You

  41. Judy Doman

    Hi Julie,

    I am at a loss with the results of my father and his only sister, my aunt.

    It is so hard to prove whether they are half or full siblings from their DNA percentages to their ethnicity (they seem to fall into both categories).

    They share 33.5% (2430.9cM) with the largest segment being 219.5cM. My father and I share 48.5% DNA and my aunt and I share 21.9%.

    This is their ethnicity report:

    Father: Aunt:
    English 72% North & West
    Scandinavian 18% European 62%
    North & West Scandinavian 38%
    European 10% (no English)

    I have done my family tree and my grandparents (their parents) history goes back hundreds of years in the Netherlands with typical Dutch names.

    As my grandparents are no longer here, I can’t test them to help find out what is going on. So then, I decided to upload their and my own DNA file to Gedmatch.

    What I got was more confusion. I used the relationship tree projection utility where I inserted all relevant information including their ‘one to one’ and their x ‘one to one’ results. The conclusion was that an Aunt/Uncle to Niece/Nephew relationship is indicated (equivalent to half sibling?).

    The plot thickens. When I uploaded my DNA file to Gedmatch and went through the same procedure to compare my father and my relationship tree projection, it came up as I expected. A parent/child relationship. However, when I did the same with my aunt, our relationship came up as the same as my father and aunt’s! An Aunt/Uncle to Niece/Nephew relationship. (Which sounds right for me but not my father)

    Do you think that I need to ask for a retest or is there a simple explanation?

  42. Bob McD

    I am confused about my DNA results. Have talked to an Ancestry representative, but am still confused.

    My paternal line is Irish. All 4 paternal great grandparents immigrated from Ireland. My maternal line is German. All 4 maternal great grandparents immigrated from Germany (SW Germany and West Germany). I have tracked my German ancestors back to the 1600s in Baden-Württemberg and Saarland. My Ancestry DNA matches include numerous individuals with whom I have confirmed common German ancestors, back to 6th great grandparents.

    But, my DNA results say I am 59% Irish. How can I be more than 50% Irish since that ethnicity derived solely from my father?

    And they say my other 41% is from England and NW Europe, but does not show any specifically German ethnicity. How can I show no German ethnicity after centuries of German ancestors? How is it that my 41% ethnicity is indistinguishable from English ancestry?

    So I then took a MyHeritage test to see what they would show. They say I am 76% Irish (even though my Irish ethnicity seemingly derived from only 1 parent). And they say I am 18% East European (Poland, Latvia, Ukraine, Russia, etc.) even though I have found no ancestors from that region. They say my remaining 6% is from Scandinavia and West Asia. They say I have 0% German or English ethnicity.

    I should not be more than 50% Irish. How can I be 59% or 76% Irish?

    I should be about 50% German. Why does one test (MyHeritage) say I have no connection with Germany whatsoever, while the other (Ancestry) says my ethnicity is essentially English? The Ancestry rep said my maternal DNA must derive from ancient tribes who moved thru Germany before settling in England!

    1. Julie (Post author)

      Unfortunately, DNA ethnicity reports are based on statistics; they are not an exact science.

    2. Anne

      It sounds like you had a similar experience to mine, and like you I double checked it with MH only to find I had even more of the surprise heritage than Ancestry found (in my case Scandinavian) The simple explanation is that these tests type back traits as far as 1000 treasonous genetic history… So while you know you are from what is now Germany, your ancestors probably emigrated multiple times within that part of the world, over many centuries, and picked up more diverse traits (and consequently dna) than your family ever knew. Congrats! It is an adventure, isn’t it

      1. Anne

        Not ‘treasonous’ YEARS OF 😉

    3. Dan

      It’s best to ignore DNA results and keep searching through records for your ancestors. Individual DNA results even fluctuate between different companies. They’re about as much use as a fortune teller or reading tealeaves.

  43. Bob McD

    I agree with Julie’s comment that DNA reports are not yet an exact science. Much of the problem, I think, is that we want to treat them that way and therefore try to find solutions, sometimes ones verging on the fantastic, that will explain our way out of the problems we encounter.

    After a lengthy discussion with an Ancestry rep, he recommended MyHeritage as perhaps the best ethnicity test other than Ancestry. So I end up with incompatible results. 41% of my ethnicity as determined by Ancestry is completely unrepresented by the MH results. And 24% of my MH ethnicity was not found by Ancestry.

    I suspect that over time Ancestry and other companies will greatly refine their test procedures and analysis so that much of the difficulty we now find will go away.

    I’m content with knowing that I have used birth, marriage and death records to track my mother’s ancestors back to the mid-1600s in Germany, even if Ancestry insists that this part of my DNA ethnicity is the same as someone (like my wife) whose English ancestors lived for centuries in Cornwall and Yorkshire.

  44. Dan

    So taking a DNA test with different companies can produce different results? Is it possible DNA can fluctuate in the individual?

  45. Jerry

    Hello sir….
    You seem so knowledgeable.
    Question…We just got my mothers DNA results. 42.5% French/German 28.8 Eastern European (Poland), etc.. It says “not detected” for Hungary. My grandfather, my moms father, always said he was Hungarian. Does that make sense? Thanks you

  46. Esther

    I just had my DNA results back and I am 100% Ireland/Scotland. being Irish I knew I would have a high % but didn’t think 100%, Does that mean then my siblings will have the same results as there are no variations?

  47. Josh

    How can a child display a small percentage of Jewish ethnicity when neither parents results show any?

  48. Penny

    I’m really confused, taken the test and results were 51% English/North West Europe and 49% Irish. The reason for taking the test was because I’m often mistaken for Mediterranean (Spanish/Portuguese) I have tanned skin, dark hair and hazel/green eyes, my mums the same colouring and so was my Nan etc, my Dad’s family were Romani and French. But not even a tiny trace showed up in my results, how can that be, where does the tanned skin and dark hair/eye colour come from???

  49. Rhonda Wisner

    With this information I am trying to figure out how I could show a higher percent in a region than either of my parents ie: Father and Mother both show 3% Norway, but my results came back with 9% Norway? I am not sure if this is an error or that it can happen.

  50. Melvern (Mel) McRoberts

    My sister just got her DNA results back from 23 & Me. It indicated she is 64 % Irish. I had my DNA done by another company and it indicated I’m 65% German and only have 8 % British Isles. I’m beginning to wonder if the man who raised me was really my biological father. I’m going to use 23 & Me to see what results I get.

  51. James R Pate

    My sister and I both were tested, it showed I was 25 percent Choctaw.my sister was o percent. Since my Great Grandmother was 100 percent cheaper Choctaw, we had a big argument about it l she said we had been lied about our great grandmother. Seemed logical, since my most of family look Dutch, blonde hair,ect. However, two of her sons are darker, they both tested 16 percent Choctaw. Total confusion indeed. Finally, a friend of hers explained it to he. DNA can confusing .

  52. Theresa Emmanuel

    I had my DNA tested thru My Heritage and my two brothers also. Two of us showed brother and sister with similar DNA and no Greek heritage but Italian.
    The other brother showed 50 % Greek and no Italian and was our half brother.
    We had always thought we would be part Greek, English and Scottish since our father is Greek and mother English and Scottish.
    It appears as if we share the same mother but not father. How can we confirm.

  53. Beverly Ryfa

    I had my DNA tested through AncestryDNA. My mother is 50% Italian and 50% German. My Father was close to 100% Irish. My test showed that I am 66% Italian and 0% Irish. How is this possible?

  54. April

    I received 55 percent English , Wales and north Western European. Then 15 percent Irish, Scottish. This would be all from my moms side. From my dad side: Spanish 10 percent , native American 16 percent. Then 2 percent Baltic and 2 percent Italian which doesn’t show up on either side of my parents and yet it show my dad is my dad and my mom is my mom. Both of my parents and myself have updated are dna profile.
    1. I am not understanding why I am showing 2 ethnicity my parents don’t have.
    2. If I get 23 chomesomes from both parents why is it showing I got 65 percent of my ethnicity from my mom.

    Very confused

  55. Nancy

    Thanks for writing this article!
    I just found out that one sibling, who happens to be the black sheep, has 5% Swedish yet my brother and I have no Swedish!
    All the rest countries are the same but different percentages.
    Is it possible she’s not our sibling or half sibling?
    There’s a suspicion I’ve always had about my Mom…during and right after my said black sheep sibling was born Mom had a major nervous breakdown and was hospitalized for a year!
    Based on some of her rants I’ve always suspected she was raped…if so my parents bring catholic presented a problem.
    Mom never recovered and passed in 2014…I feel it would kill my Dad to ask for a paternity test.
    Just wondering if it could mean we have different fathers?

  56. PJordan

    Had my kids tested. First one came back and 72% of his overall 100% ethnicity is ethnicity I dont have at all. With 49.6% of my DNA, it seems odd it added up that way.

  57. LB

    My mom is 40% IRISH. I got 0% IRISH! How did that happen???

    1. Peggy Fitgerald

      My father was 100% Irish. He’s parents came from Ireland. Moran & Dyer family names. My ancestry DNA showed 82% Italian, no Irish DNA yet I have features of my Irish dad and I know he is my real dad. I am so disappointed in Ancestry. First it had me as 66% Italian and then it changed to 82% Italian. BS! I do not recommend Ancestry as it is not correct.

      1. Julie (Post author)

        Hi Peggy– Has your father been DNA tested? Please realize that just because someone is from Ireland doesn’t necessarily mean their DNA is 100% Irish. His grandparents or grandparents may have originated somewhere else. Of course, testing him will prove parentage as well. You may have inherited the Italian from your mother (and do know that all DNA companies, including Ancestry, regularly update their ethnicity percentages based on newly available information), and other ethnicities from your father that you are not aware of???

    2. Julie (Post author)

      You inherited her 60% of other ethnicities! That does happen.

  58. Jeanne

    I grew up with a French first, middle and last name, so imagine my surprise when my ethnicity indicated 91% Irish and 9% Scottish. Lol! What happened? My mother is more Irish than Conan O’Brien, and my dad was French Canadian, Scot Canadian, and Irish.

    I find this fascinating!


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