What does it mean when you have a DNA match that doesn’t share any ethnicity regions with you? In this post, find out how this can happen and what it means.
When we have a DNA match and we would like to figure out how we are related, every single detail can be useful to help work out the connection. One detail we can use is ethnicity regions that we share in common with our match.
In other words, we can examine parts of the world that show up in both our ethnicity estimate and that of our DNA match. If we see a region on their estimate that matches what we know about our family, it might mean that we are connected through those lines of our family tree.
However, what does it mean when we are working on a DNA match that does not appear to have DNA matching any of the areas that showed up on our results? It can be kind of confusing when this happens.
Does it mean we aren’t really related to this person? Or, if we have figured out how we are related, does it mean that our ancestor from that line of the family didn’t really come from where we think they did?
Let’s jump in and find out.
Can you still be related and share no ancestry regions in common?
Yes, you can have no ethnicity or ancestry regions in common with a DNA match. This is most commonly seen when examining DNA matches who are distantly related to us.
We can also see this happen with closer cousins who show up as DNA matches.
How is it possible to share no ancestry with a DNA match?
There are a few common reasons why we might not see any countries or regions in common with people on our DNA match lists.
The DNA segment you share is not assigned to any particular ethnicity
A very small percentage of our DNA, typically less than 1%, might not match well with any of the regions defined by our chosen DNA testing company. However, these small regions in our genome may be a family match for other people in the database.
Even if our DNA does not match an ethnicity region, it can still be used for matching.
23andMe shows these small percentages of DNA as “unassigned” on our Ancestry Composition Reports. Sites such as Ancestry do not specifically address potentially unassigned regions, but you will note that each region on your report has a range of percentages, leaving open the possibility for a non-zero percentage of unassigned DNA.
A region on one of your ethnicity estimates is incorrectly assigned to a region
It is possible that a region on the ethnicity estimate of you or your DNA match is incorrect. This “mix-up” occurs most commonly between neighboring geographic regions, especially when there has been significant movement of people between the areas over a long period of time.
For example, we might see someone with extensive Scottish ancestry show up with Ireland on their DNA results because Ireland and Scotland are very close to each other and there has been a lot of intermingling between the populations of these two areas for a very long time.
We would be less likely to see someone with extensive ancestry from Scotland show up with a mistaken Eastern Europe & Russia percentage on their results.
In this case, if the only regions that you can your DNA match could share in common is Ireland, and you are Scottish, you could consider that there has been a small, insignificant error in the ethnicity algorithm. Most likely, you and your match are related through an ancestor on your Scottish lines.
You might not really be related
There is a possibility that you and your DNA match are not really related, especially if you share a single, small DNA segment. In this case, “small” would mean less than 15 centimorgans in length.
It is possible for larger segments to be false, but as the length of the DNA segment increases, the probability of a false match decreases exponentially. DNA segments larger than 30 centimorgans are almost always valid segments, even if we can’t figure out how we are related to our match.
Even with segments that are fairly large, such as those segments that are 30 cMs and longer, the common ancestor could be many generations back in our family tree. If both DNA matches don’t have extensive trees on all lines, it may not be possible to determine with certainty that the match is false.
What does it mean if your relative doesn’t share any ethnicity or ancestry regions in common with you?
Ethnicity estimates are best used as a quick way to see where in the world our family likely lived. We can also use these estimates as clues as to how we might be related to our DNA matches.
However, because the science behind the estimates is still developing, we should be cautious about using our ancestry or ethnicity estimate determine how we are not related to someone. An extreme example of this would be using an ethnicity estimate to determine paternity, which is something that should never be done.
The ethnicity estimate is only an estimate, and so we should only use it as a clue about how we are related to someone, and never as a guide to how we are not related.
Fortunately, there are lots of other great strategies that we can use to help us figure out how we might be related to our DNA matches. The ethnicity estimate is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the information that we have available in our DNA results.
I hope that this post has helped you understand more about whether not sharing an ethnicity region with a match has a significant bearing on the likelihood of being related, and any other detail that you were curious about on this topic.
If you have any question about something that you read in this post, or if you would like to share an example of a DNA match that doesn’t share an ethnicty/ancestry region with you, I would love to hear from you in the discussion below.
Thanks for stopping by today!