The Ethnicity of the Iberian Peninsula: DNA Examined

More often than not, the Iberian Peninsula DNA ethnicity shows up on DNA results when it is not expected.  Whether you have only a trace of Iberian, or a whopping 20% Iberian on your DNA results, you might be interested in learning more about the ethnicity of the people of the Iberian Peninsula. 

There is a lot of misinformation floating around out there on the great world wide web – and the goal of this post is to help dispel some myths, as well as add some factual content to the mix.

This post will contain the answers to several common questions about the Iberian Peninsula, such as:

  • What nationality is the Iberian Peninsula?
  • What race are the people of the Iberian Peninsula?
  • Iberian Peninsula physical features
  • Is Iberian Hispanic?
  • Is there Iberian DNA in Britain?
  • Is there Iberian DNA in France?
  • Do French Canadians have Iberian Peninsula?
  • Is the Iberian Peninsula Native American?
  • Is there such thing as Irish Iberian DNA?

Before I continue, I want to make sure that you know about my DNA Tools Page.  It’s just a resource page that I am compiling for my readers, and it includes my most popular and helpful blog posts, information about DNA testing, and lots of other great information.  Check it out!

What nationality is the Iberian Peninsula?

The Iberian Peninsula is made up of Spain, Portugal, a tiny country called Andorra that is between Spain and France, as well as the British Crown colony of Gibraltar.  Residents of any of these countries can call themselves Iberians, if they would like to, though I am sure that the prefer to align themselves with their national identity.

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What race are people of the Iberian Peninsula?

The people who have deep roots in the Iberian Peninsula, are descended from the ancient inhabitants of the area called Iberians.  The Iberians were descended from the original early human inhabitants of the peninsula, who arrived from southern France about 40,000 years ago. 

The most common haplogroup in Spanish and Portuguese males is R1b, which also happens to be the most common Y DNA haplogroup in Western Europe.

The modern natives of the Iberian Peninsula are considered to be Caucasian, just like the rest of Europe.  The Iberian Peninsula, however, just like the rest of the continent, is made of of made different ethnic groups, or descendants of distinct ethnic groups. 

There are several groups in Spain, for example, that are descended from the ancient migrants to the region.  The Asturians, Basques, Castilians are just a few of the many groups.

What are Typical Iberian Physical Characteristics?

I should start by saying that there is no “typical” way that a person who lives on the Iberian Peninsula “looks”.   However, as with most parts of the world, there are certain physical characteristics that appear to be more common than in others. 

I am not a fan of distinguishing between people by their outward appearance, but I know that this question comes up a lot in genetic genealogy.  People are often curious about where their “looks” come from.

In my own family, family lore attributed my paternal grandmother’s darker hair and “olive” complexion to hidden Native American ancestry, but when her DNA test results came back, it was clear that we were wrong. 

My grandmother had no Native American ancestry, but did show 15% Iberian.  While we don’t really know where my grandmother’s physical characteristics come from, her Iberian is one possible explanation.

“Catalan man of classic Iberian type” By Augustus Henry Keane – Man, Past and Present, Public Domain

I haven’t tried it with my grandmother’s DNA yet, but I did get a report from Gene Heritage which showed me which alleles of the OCA2 gene had the biggest influence on me having light eyes.  It won’t help you with family history research, but it is fun to know why we look how we do.

Is Iberian Hispanic?

Since the definition of Hispanic is “relating to Spain or to Spanish-speaking countries, especially those of Latin America,” and Spain is on the Iberian Peninsula, you could say that Iberian is Hispanic.  Portugal is not considered to be Hispanic, however. 

If you have Iberian Peninsula in your DNA results, and you would like to know if you should consider yourself to be Hispanic, you would really have to work on your family tree to find out where your ancestors were born.

I always love to build my family trees on Ancestry – it’s very quick and easy, especially if you have a subscription, which I recommend.

If you use the following sponsored link, you can get a two-week free trial on Ancestry – perfect for adding records and documents to your tree:  Ancestry Free Trial

Is there Iberian DNA in Britain?

About 24% of natives of Britain will show at least some Iberian Peninsula.  It is conceivable (and probable) that the average amount of Iberian DNA inherited by the average Britain has fluctuated over the centuries, especially during periods of intense conflict, invasions, and migrations. 

Many people with Colonial US roots find that they have higher than expected amounts of Iberian DNA.  I’ve written a post based on a hypothesis that the amount of Iberian DNA in Great Britain was actually much higher during colonial times than it is now.

Is there Iberian DNA in France?

Because of the geographical proximity to the Iberian Peninsula – it’s literally right next door, and you don’t even have to cross any water to get there – it is logical that there was admixing between the residents of the two countries. 

As evidence of this admixing, we see Iberian DNA in about 18% of the residents of Western Europe DNA region, which covers the area from France to the most eastern parts of Poland. 

As far as I’ve seen, there haven’t been any major studies on how French the average French person is, but we can deduce that since a typical native of Western Europe only has about 48% Western Europe DNA, the rest of their DNA is made up from nearby regions- including the Iberian Peninsula. 

Since France is geographically and genetically an integral part of Western Europe, yet located directly adjacent to the Iberian Peninsula, people in France are likely to show Iberian DNA.

Do French Canadians have Iberian DNA?

Since most French Canadians can trace most of their ancestors back to France, then it would seem that we could expect to find Iberian ethnicity in the DNA results of French Canadians. 

Anecdotally, based on the results I’ve seen and what my readers have reported, someone with recent French Canadian ancestry should expect to see Iberian in their DNA results, but the exact amount will depend on their unique genealogy.

Is the Iberian Peninsula Native American?

There is no genetic link between the Iberian Peninsula and Native Americans, so the answer is no.  One of the most common reasons for people to ask this question is because they have both Native American and Iberian Peninsula DNA ethnicities show up in their results, which can imply – though not always – Latin American ancestry.

Read more about Iberian Peninsula plus Native American in DNA results.

Is there such thing as Irish Iberian DNA?

There is some evidence that the ancient peoples in Ireland were descended from groups that migrated there from Iberia.  This makes sense, since we know that the people from Ireland had to come from somewhere! 

The  most reliable evidence that I have personally seen that this might be the case is from a study that was completed in 2015.  Thousands of residents of the British Isles did a Y-DNA test, and the largest majority of the test takers shared the strongest genetic connection with people who live in Southern Europe – specifically, the Iberian Peninsula.

This is great, but there is one major caveat:  The “Irish” genome, as the study names it, was established at least 4,000 years ago.  The type of DNA test that we generally do in genetic genealogy is an autosomal DNA test, which typically only can show ancestry based on the past 300-500 years. 

While it is conceivable that ancestry from slightly further back than 500 years might be discovered from an autosomal DNA test, when you consider that it is possible for ancestry to fade away after only 5-7 generations, it seems a fanciful idea that after 150 generations many people would still show this ancient Iberian connection.

Also important from this study was the fact that not all Irish (or the rest of the British test subjects) showed this genetic connection with the Iberians.  The researchers were able to find corroborating evidence to theories about migrations from other parts of Europe, and many of these test takers showed genetic links with these other groups.

If you have Irish roots and show Iberian DNA, I would encourage you to consider the possibility that you inherited it from one or more more recent (300-500 years) ancestors.


I hope that this post has helped you learn a little bit about the ethnicity of the people of the Iberian Peninsula, and what it means to have Iberian in your DNA results. 

If you have any questions about something that you read here, or would like to share your own experience about finding Iberian in your DNA ethnicity estimate, I would love to hear from you in the comments.

Thanks for stopping by!

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