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Ancestry Composition: Reference Populations

The Ancestry Composition report uses reference datasets representing 31 populations. When selecting the 31 reference populations, we attempted to make the population or geographic region represented by each dataset as small as possible. We experimented with different groupings of country-level populations to find combinations that we could distinguish between. There are some populations that are inherently difficult to tell apart, typically because the people in those regions mixed throughout history or have a shared history, or we might not have had enough data to tell them apart. As we obtain more data, populations will become easier to distinguish, and we will be able to report on more populations in the Ancestry Composition report.

The 31 Ancestry Composition populations are organized in a hierarchy, which reflects the genetic structure of global populations. For example, Britain and Ireland are part of Northwest Europe, which is part of Europe.

The global populations available in Ancestry Composition are:

All_populations.png Europe South Asian East Asian & Native American Sub-Saharan African Middle Eastern and North African Oceanian Unassigned

Go to your Ancestry Composition report.

 

European

Northwestern European | Eastern European | Southern European 

Ashkenazi Jewish | Broadly European

Northwestern European

Northwestern_Europe.png

Northwestern Europeans are represented by people from as far west as Ireland, as far north as Norway, as far east as Finland, and as far south as France. These countries rim the North and Baltic Seas, and have been connected throughout much of history by those waters.

Below is a list of our Northwestern reference datasets; click on the population of interest to learn more about the history and location of the region:

    • British & Irish
    • French & German
    • Scandinavian
    • Finnish
    • Broadly Northwestern European
British & Irish

British___Irish.png

When modern humans first arrived in the regions now known as Great Britain and Ireland tens of thousands of years ago, these two regions were physically joined to one another. Today the people of the islands of Great Britain and Ireland descend from Celtic, Saxon, and Viking ancestors.

The British & Irish reference dataset includes people from Ireland or the United Kingdom (which includes Scotland). At this time, this dataset cannot be broken down further because the people in those regions mixed throughout history or have shared history, or we might not have had enough data to tell them apart. As we obtain more data, populations will become easier to distinguish, and we will be able to report on more populations in the Ancestry Composition report.

French & German

French___German.png

Connected to the British Isles, Scandinavia, southern Europe and eastern Europe, France and Germany have seen myriad peoples come and go over the last ten thousand years. Genetically and geographically the French and Germans are at the heart of Europe.

This dataset includes people of Austrian, French, German, Belgian, Dutch, or Swiss ancestry. At this time, this dataset cannot be broken down further because the people in those regions mixed throughout history or have shared history, or we might not have had enough data to tell them apart. As we obtain more data, populations will become easier to distinguish, and we will be able to report on more populations in the Ancestry Composition report.

Scandinavian

Scandinavian.png

The earliest people of Scandinavia hunted reindeer and seals and fished for salmon. By 4000 years ago these hunter/gatherers had been joined by cattle herders from the south. Although at the northwestern periphery of Europe, Scandinavia has never been completely isolated from peoples to the south and east.

This dataset includes people of Danish, Norwegian, or Swedish ancestry. At this time, this dataset cannot be broken down further because the people in those regions mixed throughout history or have shared history, or we might not have had enough data to tell them apart. As we obtain more data, populations will become easier to distinguish, and we will be able to report on more populations in the Ancestry Composition report.

Finnish

Finnish.png

Finland has been occupied continuously since the end of the last ice age. Despite their proximity to Scandinavia, many Finns speak a language more closely related to Hungarian than to most Scandinavian languages, which have similarities to English and German.

Genetically distinct populations, like the Finns, have their own reference population in Ancestry Composition.

Broadly Northwestern European

Broadly_Northwestern_European.png

Northwestern Europeans are represented by people from as far west as Ireland, as far north as Norway, as far east as Finland, and as far south as France. These countries rim the North and Baltic Seas, and have been connected throughout much of history by those waters.

Sometimes a piece of DNA matches a regional population but cannot be assigned to a more specific population. In such a case, we assign the DNA "broadly" to that regional population rather than a specific one.

 

Eastern European

Eastern_European.png

Eastern Europe, represented by people of Ukraine, Russia, Poland and Hungary, is bordered on the east by the Ural Mountains. Although there are no such geographic borders to the west, eastern Europe has been distinct from European countries to the west in terms of cultural and linguistic affiliations.

The Eastern European dataset includes people of Belarusian, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Russian, Slovak, Slovene, or Ukrainian ancestry. At this time, this dataset cannot be broken down further because the people in those regions mixed throughout history or have shared history, or we might not have had enough data to tell them apart. As we obtain more data, populations will become easier to distinguish, and we will be able to report on more populations in the Ancestry Composition report.

 

Southern European

Southern_European.png

Southern Europe, including the Iberian, Italian, and Balkan peninsulas as well as the island of Sardinia, is a region defined in great part by the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean has provided transportation routes, keeping these regions connected.

Below is a list of our Southern European reference datasets; click on the population of interest to learn more about the history and location of the region:

    • Balkan
    • Italian
    • Sardinian
    • Iberian
    • Broadly Southern European
Balkan

Balkan_2.png

Located in the southeastern corner of Europe, the mountainous Balkans are rich in both cultural and linguistic diversity.

This dataset includes people of Albanian, Bosnian and Herzegovinian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Greek, Macedonian, Maltese, Montenegrin, Romanian, or Serbian ancestry. At this time, this dataset cannot be broken down further because the people in those regions mixed throughout history or have shared history, or we might not have had enough data to tell them apart. As we obtain more data, populations will become easier to distinguish, and we will be able to report on more populations in the Ancestry Composition report.

Italian

Italian.png

The peninsula of Italy is home to a genetic legacy not only of the Roman Empire, but also of groups from both Northern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean that occupied Italy at various points in its history.

This dataset includes people of Italian, Northern Italian, or Tuscan ancestry. At this time, this dataset cannot be broken down further because the people in those regions mixed throughout history or have shared history, or we might not have had enough data to tell them apart. As we obtain more data, populations will become easier to distinguish, and we will be able to report on more populations in the Ancestry Composition report.

Sardinian

Sardinian.png

Sardinia is relatively isolated from the rest of Europe. The island is home not only to several bird and reptile species found nowhere else in the world, but also to people who are genetically distinctive, despite occupation by a series of groups from across Europe and the Middle East.

Genetically distinct populations, like the Sardinians, have their own reference population in Ancestry Composition.

Iberian

Iberian.png

The peninsula of Iberia is represented by the people of Spain and Portugal. Genetically these people have a deep connection to the rest of Europe, but have also been influenced by their proximity to North Africa.

This dataset includes people of France Basque, Portuguese, or Spanish ancestry. At this time, this dataset cannot be broken down further because the people in those regions mixed throughout history or have shared history, or we might not have had enough data to tell them apart. As we obtain more data, populations will become easier to distinguish, and we will be able to report on more populations in the Ancestry Composition report.

Broadly Southern European

Broadly_Southern_European.png

Southern Europe, including the Iberian, Italian, and Balkan peninsulas as well as the island of Sardinia, is a region defined in great part by the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean has provided transportation routes, keeping these regions connected.

Sometimes a piece of DNA matches a regional population but cannot be assigned to a more specific population. In such a case, we assign the DNA "broadly" to that regional population rather than a specific one.

 

Ashkenazi Jewish

Ashkenazi_Jewish.png

Ashkenazi Jews are thought to have settled in Central and Eastern Europe about 1,000 years ago. DNA shows clearly the connections among those who consider themselves to be Ashkenazi Jewish: two Ashkenazi Jewish people are very likely to be "genetic cousins", sharing long stretches of identical DNA.

Although not a country or region, they have their own reference population in Ancestry Composition because Ashkenazi Jews are so genetically distinct.

 

Broadly European

Broadly_European.png

Sometimes a piece of DNA matches a regional population but cannot be assigned to a more specific population. In such a case, we assign the DNA "broadly" to that regional population rather than a specific one.

 

South Asian

South_Asian.png

South Asia is represented here by the diverse populations of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Scientists believe that when modern humans first left Africa they traveled along the coast of southern Asia, reaching South Asia very early. During the last few thousand years South Asia has been influenced by both Europe and eastern Asia.

This dataset includes people of Afghan, Balochi, Bangladeshi, Brahui, Burusho, Hazara, Indian, Kalash, Makrani, Nepalese, Pakistani, Pathan, Sindhi, Sri Lankan, or Uygur ancestry. At this time, this dataset cannot be broken down further because the people in those regions mixed throughout history or have shared history, or we might not have had enough data to tell them apart. As we obtain more data, populations will become easier to distinguish, and we will be able to report on more populations in the Ancestry Composition report.

 

East Asian & Native American

East Asian | Native American | Southeast Asian | Broadly East Asian & Native American

East Asian

East_Asian.png

Eastern Asia encompasses Japan, Korea, China, Mongolia and the Yakut people of eastern Russia. The people of Northeastern Asia most likely arrived using a different, later route than the settlers of Southeastern Asia. They eventually crossed Beringia 12-15,000 years ago to become the ancestors of Native Americans.

Below is a list of our East Asian reference datasets; click on the population of interest to learn more about the history and location of the region:

    • Korean
    • Yakut
    • Mongolian
    • Japanese
    • Chinese
    • Broadly East Asian
Korean

Korean.png

Mostly composed of mountain ranges, Korea sits at the south of the Korean Peninsula, between China and Japan. Korea was first unified during the seventh century, and the inhabitants of Korea, the Koreans, form a highly homogeneous ethnic group.

This dataset is made up of people of South Korean descent. Genetically distinct populations, like the Koreans, have their own reference population in Ancestry Composition.

Yakut

Yakut.png

Yakuts are a Turkic people that live across huge territories of eastern Russia. Originally living around Lake Baikal, Yakuts migrated north along the Lena river during the thirteenth century. Traditionally, Yakuts are hunters, fishermen and herders.

Genetically distinct populations, like the Yakuts, have their own reference population in Ancestry Composition.

Mongolian

Mongolian.png

Once the largest land empire in world history, the Mongol empire extended from today's Ukraine to China and Korea. Today, Mongolia is situated between China and Russia and is the world's most sparsely populated country. Ethnic Mongols compose more than 95% of Mongolia's population.

This population includes people of Daur, Hezhen, Mongolian, Oroqen, Tu, or Xibo ancestry. At this time, this dataset cannot be broken down further because the people in those regions mixed throughout history or have shared history, or we might not have had enough data to tell them apart. As we obtain more data, populations will become easier to distinguish, and we will be able to report on more populations in the Ancestry Composition report.

Japanese

Japanese.png

Composed of 6,852 islands, Japan was colonized by multiple waves of immigrants, the first of which arrived as early as 30,000 BC. Most of its current populations originated from migration events dating back to the eighth century BC. Long periods of isolation throughout its history gave the Japanese culture its distinctive features.

Genetically distinct populations, like the Japanese, have their own reference population in Ancestry Composition.

Chinese

Chinese.png

China is the world's most populated country and the third largest by area. One of the world's earliest civilizations, China is home to at least 56 distinct ethnic groups. The Han ethnic group makes up more than 90% of the population.

This population includes people of Chinese, Han, Hong Kongese, or Taiwanese ancestry. At this time, this dataset cannot be broken down further because the people in those regions mixed throughout history or have shared history, or we might not have had enough data to tell them apart. As we obtain more data, populations will become easier to distinguish, and we will be able to report on more populations in the Ancestry Composition report.

Broadly East Asian

Broadly_East_Asian.png

Eastern Asia encompasses Japan, Korea, China, Mongolia and the Yakut people of eastern Russia. The people of Northeastern Asia most likely arrived using a different, later route than the settlers of Southeastern Asia. They eventually crossed Beringia 12-15,000 years ago to become the ancestors of Native Americans.

Sometimes a piece of DNA matches a regional population but cannot be assigned to a more specific population. In such a case, we assign the DNA "broadly" to that regional population rather than a specific one.

 

Native American

Native_American.png

Native peoples of the Americas have contributed genetically to today's populations in North, Central, and South America. In North America, however, Native American ancestry tends to be five or more generations back, so that little DNA evidence of this ancestry remains.

This dataset includes people of Colombian, Karitiana, Maya, Pima, or Surui ancestry. The Native American label is a single reference dataset. At this time, this dataset cannot be broken down by tribe or region. As we obtain more data, populations will become easier to distinguish, and we will be able to report on more populations in the Ancestry Composition report.

 

Southeast Asian

Southeast_Asian.png

Located at the South of China, Southeast Asia extends from Burma to Indonesia. Modern humans arrived in Southeastern Asia as early as 50,000 years ago, likely using a migration route along the coast of India. Today, Southeastern Asia is comprised of many ethnic groups.

This dataset includes people of Burmese, Cambodian, Indonesian, Lao, Malaysian, Filipino, Thai, or Vietnamese ancestry. At this time, this dataset cannot be broken down further because the people in those regions mixed throughout history or have shared history, or we might not have had enough data to tell them apart. As we obtain more data, populations will become easier to distinguish, and we will be able to report on more populations in the Ancestry Composition report.

 

Broadly East Asian & Native American

Broadly_East_Asian___Native_American.png

The peoples of East Asia and the Americas have a shared genetic history. Their common ancestors left the Near East as early as 80,000 years ago, migrating across Asia. The ancestors of Native Americans began to cross into the Americas 12,000 to 15,000 years ago.

Sometimes a piece of DNA matches a regional population but cannot be assigned to a more specific population. In such a case we assign the DNA "broadly" to that regional population rather than a specific one.

 

Sub-Saharan African

West African | East African | Central & South African | Broadly Sub-Saharan African

West African

West_African.png

Expanding from Senegal to Nigeria, West Africa composes about a fifth of the African continent. West Africans have a long shared history, and were united by large empires such as the Ghana Empire, dating as far back as the eighth century AD. Other empires later succeeded, making Western Africa a region of strong common heritage.

This dataset includes people of Bantu, Cameroonian, Ghanian, Ivorian, Liberian, Luhya, Mandenka, Nigerian, Sierra Leonean, or Yoruba ancestry. At this time, this dataset cannot be broken down further because the people in those regions mixed throughout history or have shared history, or we might not have had enough data to tell them apart. As we obtain more data, populations will become easier to distinguish, and we will be able to report on more populations in the Ancestry Composition report.

 

East African

East_African.png

Possibly the cradle of modern human evolution, Eastern Africa spans from Ethiopia to Mozambique and Madagascar. Eastern Africa harbors an incredible genetic diversity, with Ethiopia alone containing dozens of ethnic groups. Home of the famous Maasai people, the southern part of Eastern Africa was first inhabited by Khoisan hunter-gatherers, until they were displaced during the Bantu expansion.

This dataset includes people of Eritrean, Ethiopian, Maasai, or Somali descent. At this time, this dataset cannot be broken down further because the people in those regions mixed throughout history or have shared history, or we might not have had enough data to tell them apart. As we obtain more data, populations will become easier to distinguish, and we will be able to report on more populations in the Ancestry Composition report.

 

Central & South African

Central___South_African.png

Central Africa extends from the Central African Republic at its north to Angola at its south. Southern Africa encompasses Namibia, South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. While the majority of its population is now composed of Bantu peoples, Central Africa is also home to many Pygmy populations. Southern Africa was first peopled by Pygmies, San and Khoisan. These hunter-gatherer populations still live in this region today.

This dataset includes people of Biaka Pygmies, Mbuti Pygmies, or San descent. At this time, this dataset cannot be broken down further because the people in those regions mixed throughout history or have shared history, or we might not have had enough data to tell them apart. As we obtain more data, populations will become easier to distinguish, and we will be able to report on more populations in the Ancestry Composition report.

 

Broadly Sub-Saharan African

Broadly_Sub-Saharan_African.png

The genetic diversity of Sub-Saharan Africa reflects both the deep history of humans in the region and the recent migrations that have carried the diversity of western Africa to both southern and eastern Africa.

Sometimes a piece of DNA matches a regional population but cannot be assigned to a more specific population. In such a case, we assign the DNA "broadly" to that regional population rather than a specific one.

 

Middle Eastern & North African

Middle Eastern | North African | Broadly Middle Eastern & North African

Middle Eastern

Middle_Eastern.png

The Middle East, represented here by people of Turkey, Iran, the Caucasus and the Levant, is an important crossroads in human history. Genetically the people of this region reflect that role, with connections to neighbors in every cultural, linguistic, and geographic direction.

This dataset includes peoples of Armenian, Azerbaijani, Cypriot, Georgian, Druze, Iranian, Iraqi, Lebanese, Turkish, or Syrian descent. At this time, this dataset cannot be broken down further because the people in those regions mixed throughout history or have shared history, or we might not have had enough data to tell them apart. As we obtain more data, populations will become easier to distinguish, and we will be able to report on more populations in the Ancestry Composition report.

 

North African

North_African.png

Over the last several millennia the Sahara has been a significant geographic barrier for the people of Africa. Although trade routes between the northern and southern parts of the continent have long existed, Northern Africa has been strongly influenced by people of the Middle East and southern Europe.

This dataset includes people of Algerian, Bahrani, Bedouin, Egyptian, Jordanian, Kuwaiti, Moroccan, Mozabite, Palestinian, Saudi Arabian, Tunisian, Emirati, and Yemeni descent. We experimented with different groupings of populations to find combinations that we could distinguish with high confidence. As we obtain more data, populations will become easier to distinguish, and we will be able to report on more populations in the Ancestry Composition report.

 

Broadly Middle Eastern & North African

Broadly_Middle_Eastern___North_African.png

The peoples of Northern Africa and the Middle East have not only genetic but also deep linguistic connections with one another.

Sometimes a piece of DNA matches a regional population but cannot be assigned to a more specific population. In such a case, we assign the DNA "broadly" to that regional population rather than a specific one.

 

Oceanian

Oceanian_2.png

Oceania, including indigenous peoples of Papua New Guinea and Melanesia, was inhabited tens of thousands of years ago by early seafaring people.

This dataset includes people of Nan Melanesian, Palauan, or Tongan ancestry. At this time, this dataset cannot be broken down further because the people in those regions mixed throughout history or have shared history, or we might not have had enough data to tell them apart. As we obtain more data, populations will become easier to distinguish, and we will be able to report on more populations in the Ancestry Composition report.

 

Unassigned

You may also see a percentage of your DNA is listed as “Unassigned.” There are two reasons why a piece of DNA might be labeled as Unassigned:

  • The piece of DNA matches many different populations from around the world.
  • The piece of DNA does not match any of the reference populations very well.

There is a wide range of human diversity out there and sometimes our algorithm is unable to assign a region of DNA to a specific population. As we collect more data and update our algorithm, we expect that the amount of unassigned ancestry seen by customers will decrease.

 

Common Questions

I received “broadly” or “unassigned”, does that mean you didn’t test me at those regions?

No, everyone is analyzed for every marker on our genotyping chip. The “broadly” and “unassigned” assignments mean we weren’t able to confidently assign the piece of DNA to a sub-population. Learn more in the Aggregation & Reporting section of the Ancestry Composition Guide.

Why isn't an expected ancestry included in my composition?

There are a few common reasons why your Ancestry Composition might not match what you expect based on historical records or family stories:

  • Some genetic populations are especially difficult to tell apart because they share common history.
  • Ancestry Composition populations are defined by genetically similar groups of people, not by the political borders of countries.
  • The time scale reflected by Ancestry Composition may be different from the time scale of your records.

To learn more, visit our Understanding Your Ancestry Composition Results article.

 

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