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Finland/Northwest Russia on Ancestry DNA: Ethnicity Explained

Did you find out that you have Finland/Northwest Russian in your Ancestry DNA results?  Are you wondering whether this means you have a recent ancestor from the area?  You have come to the right place. 

In this post, you’ll learn:

  • Where the Finland/Northwest Russia DNA region is located
  • Which countries have the Finland/Northwest Russia DNA ethnicity
  • How far back you need to look in your family tree to find your Finnish or Russian ancestor
  • Whether you can trace your Finland/Northwest Russia DNA to the ancestor you inherited it from
What does it look like in Finland?
A beautiful Finnish forest. This stunning photograph was taken by Ninara and generously shared with the CC by 2.0 license

Where is the Finland/Northwest Russia DNA ethnicity region located?

The Finland/Northwest Russia DNA ethnicity region is located in Northern Europe, and includes Finland and a northwestern portion of Russia.  People have been living in this part of the world for more than a hundred thousand years. 

Languages spoken in this DNA region include Finnish, Swedish, Sami, Estonian, Russian, and Latvian.

In the image below, you can see the portion of Europe that includes this DNA ethnicity:

Where is the Finland/Northwest Russia Region located?
By NuclearVacuum – File:Location European nation states.svgThis vector image was created with Inkscape., CC BY-SA 3.0,

Cool fact:  St. Petersburg, Russia, falls within the range where the Finland/Northwest Russia DNA ethnicity is commonly found

Where is the Finland/Northwest Russia DNA ethnicity found?

The Finland/Northwest Russia DNA ethnicity can be found all over the world (for reasons you’ll learn later on in this post), but is most commonly found in:

  • Finland
  • Russia

In addition, people who live in the following countries generally have at least some Finland/Northwest Russia DNA:

  • Estonia
  • Sweden
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania

If you don’t have known ancestors from this region, you are probably wondering how in the world you ended up with Finnish or Russian DNA.  Below, I’ll discuss what it might mean to have this ethnicity in your DNA results, and how you might have inherited it.

What does it mean to have Finland/Northwest Russia DNA?

What does it look like in Finland?
A snowy Finnish landscape. This breathtaking photograph was generously shared with the CC BY 2.0 license by Tero Taakso

If If you have more than just a few percent Finland/Northwest Russia DNA on your DNA results, there is a good chance that you had an ancestors, or many ancestors, who lived in the area that makes up Finland or Northwest Russia. 

If your percentage is very small (less than 1-2%), then there is a strong possibility that you had ancestors from this region.

People who are native to the Finland/Northwest Russia region tend to be less admixed (sharing little to no DNA with neighboring regions – the average native has about 99% Finland/Northwest Russia DNA), which could mean that a test is less likely to mistake DNA from another region for Finland/Northwest Russia. 

Basically, if you have this DNA region on your results, you probably have an ancestor who lived there, though it could have been several generations ago.

Where else can you commonly find Finland/Northwest Russia DNA?

Helsinki Cathedral and Senate Square in August 1947
Helsinki Cathedral and Senate Square in August 1947. Taken in Helsinki, capital of Finland Photo: Ruth Träskman/Yle.

It’s most common to find Finland/Northwest Russia DNA in nearby region.  For example:

  • 25% of people in Scandinavia will show at least some DNA from Finland/Northwest Russia
  • 10% of Eastern Europeans will show DNA from this region
  • 5% of Western Europeans will show DNA from this region
  • 3% of people in Great Britain will show DNA from this region

When you are thinking about your ethnicity results in terms of how to trace that ethnicity, or find the ancestor who might have passed that ethnicity down to you, it is important to know that it’s possible that the ethnicity came to you through an ancestor from a third DNA region, like one of the areas listed above – which is also not a comprehensive list.

How did Finland/Northwest Russia DNA get in your results?

For centuries, Finland was dominated by foreign powers.  First it was the Swedish, who ruled Finland for about 600 years until a war between Sweden and Russia brought their domination in Finland to an end. 

Finland became a relatively autonomous part of Russia, and was called the Grand Duchy of Finland from 1809-1917.

More than 1 million people left Finland between 1860-1996.  More than half of them went to Sweden, which is important to know. If you have Swedish ancestors, it’s entire possible that your Finland/Northwest Russia DNA arrived through an immigrant from Finland to Sweden.

Other popular places for Finnish migrants during the 130 years after 1860:

  • United States received about 315,000 Finnish immigrants
  • Canada received about 90,000 Finnish immigrants
  • Oceania (including Australia and New Zealand) received more than 20,000 Finnish immigrants
  • Asia and Africa received more than 5,000 Finnish immigrants each
  • Latin America, including Mexico, received several thousand Finnish immigrants

Even though most Finnish immigrants came to the United States during the later half of the 19th century, it’s important to know that people did come from Finland to North America prior to those years.  The exact number of Finnish people who came to America before 1860 is unknown, but there were at least several hundred Finns living in what would become the United States as early as the 1600s.

Is it possible to trace Finland/Northwest Russia DNA?

If your Finland/Northwestern DNA came into your family line within the past 200 years, you have an excellent chance of being able to trace it.  Depending on your unique family circumstances, your family’s religion, where they have lived over the past several generations, and how diligent they were at keeping records, it could be easy – or you might have to spend some time on your research.

The first step in tracing your Finland/Northwest Russia DNA is to put together a basic family tree, if you don’t already have one.  I recommend starting by interviewing your parents, grandparents, and other older relatives and learning as much as you can of the family stories about where your ancestors traveled from, languages they spoke, and religions that they practiced.

To keep all of my family tree records organized, I use Ancestry.  It’s free to build a tree and upload photos and documents, and you can always access your tree (and share it with family, too!). 

The reason that I like Ancestry is because I can connect it with my DNA results to unlock some really neat features, and I can also access lots of documents and other public family trees that help me learn more about where my ancestors lived.

In order to access documents and family trees, you’ll need to have a subscription.  If you use the following link, you can get a two-week free trial.  If you end up subscribing at the end of your free trial, I may receive a very small commission at no extra cost to you – so thank you for using this link to get your free trial:

Here are some tips for building your tree back to your Finnish/Russian ancestor, using the basic family tree you have already built, and your DNA results:

  • Locate your ancestors on each US Federal Census to figure out where you should look for immigration and travel records
  • Once you figure out where your ancestors came from, start researching where you can find online records in that country
  • Starting with your closest DNA match, determine how they are related to you
  • Work through as many of your DNA matches as you can, making sure to spend time trying to figure out your connection
  • Upload your DNA to other places, like My Heritage DNA, Family Tree DNA, or Gedmatch, in order to get DNA matches
  • Use a site like DNA Painter to “paint” your matches and figure out which DNA segments you inherited from which ancestors


I hope that this post has helped you understand a little bit about the Finland/Northwest Russia DNA ethnicity, how you might have inherited it, and how to go about beginning to trace your Finnish or Russian roots.

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

Thanks for stopping by!

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