How to Understand Your Ancestry DNA Results

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I’ll go through an example here of Ancestry DNA results to show you how to understand them a little better.  Also, if you haven’t tested and you want to see what you might get if you do test, this might help nudge you off the fence.

(This is the first post of a TWO part series… you can read the second post here.)

You did what you’ve been talking about doing for a few years:  You spit in a tube and had your DNA analyzed.  You waited between 4-8 weeks, on average, and they sent you an e-mail with your DNA results.

…  Now what?

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How to Access the Different Sections of Ancestry Results

When you log into Ancestry, click on the “DNA” tab at the top of the screen.  This will take you to a page that looks like the screenshot below.  Believe it or not, some people feel overwhelmed at all of the information even on this small section of the page any never explore further.  Don’t be one of those people; there is still so much to learn about your results!

Example of Ancestry DNA Results

Scroll down a bit to get to the good stuff.  Your test will give you ethnicity results and relative (we call them “cousin” matches) matches who have done the test, as well.  In addition, you can view “DNA Circles”.  I’ll talk about each one in more detail later in this post.

Now, we will explore each of the three sections one-by-one.

Genetic Ancestry

This is a relatively new aspect of DNA testing, but it is very exciting.  Have you ever heard a story in your family about a Native American great-great grandmother?  Do you feel like a fraud on St. Patty’s Day because you don’t really know if you are Irish or not?  Well, your DNA ethnicity results can do a lot to help you figure this all out.

How do they calculate your ethnicity?

Every company or research organization that offers these estimates (because they are only estimates, even though they are fairly accurate) uses a reference population.  They collect DNA samples from people all over the world who can reliably say that their families have lived in the same area for several generations.  Then, they compare your DNA to the reference populations for all of the different regions.

If you click on “View Your Genetic Ancestry”, it will take you to a new screen where you’ll see much more information.  It will look something like mine, but of course the percentages will be different.  Also, please note that the screenshot above is NOT from my test, but the screenshot below is.  Just for those who are really paying attention 😉

This first section gives me a basic breakdown of my ethnicity.  I wasn’t at all surprised when I saw it, since I knew that some of my mother’s ancestors were from Poland and Slovakia, and my father’s ancestry was primarily British and Dutch.  Dutch sometimes can show up as Scandinavia since there was so much migration/trade between those areas because of geography.

Trace Regions in Ancestry DNA Results

Even though I wasn’t really surprised, I knew that there might be some secrets hidden in those results, and there might in yours, too.  Click on the “Show 6 More Regions” link.  Yours may have more or less regions, depending on your own results.

(Note:  Click on the little plus sign next to Low Confidence Region in order to expand this section.)

These results were surprising for me.  I didn’t have any Irish ancestors that I was aware of.  I actually had expected to find more European Jewish, since there was a rumor about my grandmother being Jewish (completely unsubstantiated, as many family rumors go).  I had also thought that I might find some Native American DNA, since one of my great-grandmother’s had “looked” like she might be Native American, according to other family lore.  Additionally, I knew that I had a ton of German ancestors, but where was all their DNA?

I had a lot to learn about all of this!  And the things that I learned will be topics for other posts, since I just want this one to be a basic overview of how to view and understand the results.  There really is a lot of nuance to this, however, so for those who are interested there will be more.

I am a very stubborn person by nature, and I don’t like to take “no” for an answer.  I really had been expecting some Native American to show up in my ethnicity report.  It turns out that if you click on the little box next to “Show All Regions”, you can look at all of the regions that they test for and see the results.

There are several reasons why I was expecting to find Native American in my DNA results, which I will definitely talk about at another time.

If there is something that you are expecting to find, you can expand to all of the regions and scroll to look at that exact region.  The results will give you a range.  For example, according to Ancestry, my range for Native American is less than 1%:

Believe it or not, I saw this is as a glimmer of hope that I had been right… maybe.   And when I click on some of the others, like Polynesian, it gives me a range of ZERO percent.  I was hopeful to see the range of “less than 1%”.

After I saw my ethnicity results, I knew that I wanted to set out to find out how I got all of these different ethnicities.  For some, it was easy for me to find.  I still have ancestors to find, and hopefully they will help me finish telling my story.


If you find anything interesting or unexpected in your DNA results?  It’s very common to find an unexpected trace ethnicity – or even a major ethnicity.  Many people also find new family members when they check their family matches.

Read the second post in this two-post series by clicking here.

If you want a more complete, in-depth guide about how to understand and use your DNA results to find family and build your tree, click HERE to learn about my ebook guide to your DNA results.




How to Understand Your Ancestry DNA Results
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How to Understand Your Ancestry DNA Results
Just got your DNA results in? Read here about how to understand the information in your results, and what you can learn.
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Who Are You Made Of
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