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Can You Be 100% Of An Ethnicity on DNA results?

Have you ever wondered if it is possible to be 100% of an ethnicity on your DNA results? In this post, learn whether it is possible to show DNA matching 100% to a particular region of the world.

Many people first view their ethnicity estimate with a bit of surprise and skepticism. This is especially common when most or all of a person’s ancestors come from one place, yet their DNA seems to match regions where they have no known ancestry.

Can You Be 100% of an Ethnicity

If all of someone’s ancestors come from the same place and they received many different regions on their ethnicity estimate, it could make them wonder if it is even possible to be 100% of an ethnicity? Does everyone have a strange collection of regions on their DNA results?

What does it mean to have an ethnicity?

Before we really jump into this topic, I feel like it is very important to first discuss the definition of ethnicity. It is a word that is often confused and misused.

Ethnicity is generally understood as belonging to a group of people, often described a social group, that is connected by a common culture. The common culture could include language, beliefs, traditions, religion, and many times, ancestry.

Ethnicity is not the same thing as the non-biological social construct called “race“, and it also has little to do with our physical appearance. Depending on how ethnicity is described or determined, there are likely a thousand or more different ethnicities around the world, and some people might identify as belonging to more than one group.

It is also important to know that ethnicity is not always the same as nationality. For example, the word “American”, often used to describe people who live in the United States, is a word commonly used to describe the nationality of someone from the United States.

However, there are people of diverse ethnicities living in the United States. These individuals have an American nationality, or sometimes even a dual nationality, but might identify as having a cultural affinity with a specific ethnicity.

Excellent. Now that those definitions have been discussed, and the scope of this post set, let’s get started.

Our ancestors’ ethnicity may be different than our ethnicity

Since ethnicity is a complicated mixture of genetics, language and culture, and sometimes even religion, we can have a different ethnicity than that of some, or even all, of our ancestors. For example, someone who lives in Poland with a grandparent from Romania, might identify as being ethnically Polish, even though 25% of their ancestors were from Romania.


This could be because they live in Poland, speak Polish, eat Polish food, and practice Polish customs and traditions. This hypothetical person could feel a cultural affinity with the Polish people, and also likely has Polish nationality and even citizenship.

When we examine our DNA results, what we are really seeing is the ethnicities of our ancestors. We may or may not identify as having the same ethnicity as they did, since many times we live in entirely different countries – or even on different continents, thousands of miles away from the place where they called home.

In the context of this article, what we really wonder is if it is possible for someone’s DNA to match only one ethnicity? In other words, could a person have inherited only DNA matching one region from all of their ancestors?

Can you have 100% ethnicity from one region?

Yes, it is possible to have 100% ethnicity matching one region on DNA results. This is most commonly seen in individuals who have a deep ancestry in one region of the world.

For example, the DNA tester whose results you see below showed 100% Native American on their Ancestry DNA ethnicity estimate, which was not surprising to them because they speak an indigenous language, have a cultural affinity to an indigenous group, and have no known ancestors in their family tree who were not from the Americas.

does Ancestry DNA test for Native American

Over the course of the past several years, I have seen many other examples of DNA results matching only one region. Some specific results that come to mind, specifically from Ancestry DNA, are results matching the Philippines, European Jewish, and Eastern Europe and Russia.

We can see ethnicity estimate matching 100% to a particular region from any of the most popular autosomal DNA testing companies.

100% matching a region might change later

As companies provide more detailed and refined results, we could find that “100%” results become less common. This is because many of the regions currently reported on ethnicity estimates are what are sometimes described as “panethnicities“, which is sort of like a broad group of ethnic groups that whose cultures and traditions share a common originn.

Take, for example, someone who shows that 100% of their DNA is from Eastern Europe and Russia, yet has parents from Slovakia and Poland. On Ancestry, this region currently covers several countries, and most people with ancestry from this region likely only have known ancestry from only a few of those countries.

Over time, results will likely become more specific, since Ancestry, like the other testing companies, periodically updates ethnicity estimates based on new technology and research. This is great news for those of us using our DNA results to learn more about our family tree, since having more detailed data can help us narrow down where we should search for ancestors.

So, our hypothetical person with heritage in Eastern Europe may eventually show Slovakia and Poland, as an example, which would mean that their “100%” might become broken into different percentages matching those areas.

What if you were expecting 100% of an ethnicity on your estimate?

If someone was expecting to see 100% matching a specific region on their ethnicity estimate, they might be surprised if their results come back showing that they may have had ancestors from a variety of areas. This is a very common experience, and it doesn’t mean that the test results are incorrect.

The most likely explanation for not showing 100% on an ethnicity estimate when all known ancestors were from one part of the world is simple. Our ancestors were more diverse than we believe that they were.

We often imagine that our ancestors lived in relative isolation from neighboring geographic areas. Even though it certainly was more difficult to travel or migrate between regions, it happened all of the time.

Humans are excellent travelers, and they always have been.

We inherit DNA from many of the ancestors of our known ancestors, which equals a great number of possible ancestors. Almost no one has a family tree going back 500 years on all lines of the tree, which could equal over 1 million ancestors, assuming no pedigree collapse, so how sure could we really be about what should really be on our ethnicity estimate?

My grandmother, who would have expected to see 100% English on her results based on her extensive, verified known family tree, only showed 80% matching England and Northwestern Europe. No doubt, the other regions that show up on her results are due to distant ancestors that she has that hailed from somewhere other than Britain.

Conclusion

I hope that this article has helped you learn why it’s possible to show 100% ethnicity matching one particular region on DNA results, but why most of us won’t see that on our results. Ethnicity estimates can be fun and interesting and they can help us discover distant ancestry we never knew we had.

If you have any questions about something you read here, or if you would like to share your story of expecting 100%, yet not seeing that on your results, I would love you to join in the discussion below.

Thanks for reading today!

Share the knowledge!

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Bradley

Thursday 12th of May 2022

I am 100% European Jew according to my ancestry DNA profile. I guess it makes sense based on what I know, but it makes the whole dna experience pretty boring. Honestly with the exception of bragging rights, it makes it kind of useless.

Justin Wilkes

Friday 29th of April 2022

How rare is it, percentage wise, to be 100% same ancestry. I’m 97% and just curious to how rare it is

Curtis Williams

Sunday 27th of February 2022

Great blog article.

I'm very into genealogy so I'm passionate about topics like this.

As far as being 100% an ethnicity: Let me preference this by saying that I identify as a Black American though I'm not 100% African.

My test results depending on the company that I tested with are 74-78% Sub Saharan African, 21-24% European and 1-2% Indigenous. So when I'm saying that I identify as "Black" which I understand that is usually used to define race which is different than ethnicity, I'm speaking in the context of the racial history of the US that shaped a racial ethnic community; Black Americans--a community that collectively(there are exceptions to this. There are Black Americans who are 100% West and West-Central African but this isn't common) are an African and European(with minimal Indigenous) admixed genomed population dating back to at least The US Civil War. Most of our ancestors weren't able to identify because of the impact of US Chattel Slavery.

How we identify is due to the history of the US and how we were shaped by this. My last African ancestors came to the US in colonial times, same with my European ancestors but in relevance to my African ancestors when they came to the US, most of the countries that they came from didn't exist nominally so they only identified by their tribe and before coming to America.

So I identify as my direct ancestors have done going back to at least the Reconstruction Period,the era after The Civil War, which is Black American and I'm 100% that ethnic community.

One of the things that I love about AncestryDNA is their DNA Communities. It's especially great for Black Americans. I have just one community, Early Virginia African Americans and of course, I share similar genomes with others in that community(West and West-Central African, Northwest Europe; i.e The British Isles).

As you said, ethnic groups are about shared cultural experiences unique to that community. So I think that this needs to be explained also. My DNA tests if using only the ethnicities that my ancestors had previous to the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade doesn't tell the whole story of my ethnic background and family history.

So again when I or any other Black American say that we're 100% our ethnic community, it's from the perspective of our history in the US wrt ethnic and racial identification.

Mercedes

Sunday 27th of February 2022

Hi Curtis! Thank you so much for taking the time to write your comment and share your perspective. I want to begin by saying that I 100% agree with you, and appreciate so much what you wrote. I see so many questions about ethnicity estimates, and most (like this one) I think extensively about before attempting to write about them, but I do see that I might have been more clear in this post as to make sure that I am not misunderstood. When people ask if it is possible to be "100% of an ethnicity", we know that it is, since really ethnicity is a matter of how an individual identifies for the exact reasons that you mentioned. You wrote such a thoughtful comment, and all I really can say is "thank you", since you have shared your honest views. I'm so glad to hear from someone who loves genealogy as much as I do. Sincerely, Mercedes

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