The Ancestry Composition Report uses two types of reference populations to uncover your ancestry:
- Regional populations that represent ancestry from several hundred years ago
- Country populations that represent more recent ancestor locations
Our regional populations are based on reference datasets representing 45 populations. When selecting these 45 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 45 Ancestry Composition regional populations are organized in a hierarchy, which reflects the genetic structure of global populations. For example, British & Irish is a part of Northwestern European, which is part of European.
In April 2018, we added over 115 new recent ancestor locations which reflect specific countries where your ancestors likely lived during the last 200 years. These recent ancestor locations are noted in each of the regional populations below. You can learn more about recent ancestor locations here. Currently, there are over 150+ recent ancestor locations in the Ancestry Composition Report.
The global populations available in Ancestry Composition are:
- Central & South Asian
- East Asian & Native American
- Sub-Saharan African
- Western Asian & North African
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.
British & Irish
The British Isles have been continuously occupied by humans for the last 11,000 years, but more recently, the people of the Isles have left their genetic fingerprints around the world, following centuries of nautical exploration, colonization, and immigration. In the early 20th century, the Republic of Ireland won its independence from the United Kingdom, but the people of these nations share a common genetic heritage rooted largely in Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, and Viking migrations from northwestern Europe.
The British & Irish population has the following recent ancestor locations:
- United Kingdom
Finland was peopled by multiple waves of colonization, including a migration of early Uralic peoples from Eastern Europe or western Siberia. Modern Finns are genetically and linguistically distinct from their Nordic and Slavic neighbors, despite centuries of Swedish and then Russian rule. Today, there are up to seven million ethnic Finns worldwide, with over 600,000 living in the United States, concentrated in Minnesota and northwestern Michigan.
French & German
“French and German” people descend from ancient Alpine-Celtic and Germanic populations, and inhabit an area extending from the Netherlands to Austria – roughly corresponding to the extent of Charlemagne’s Frankish Kingdom in the Middle Ages. Estimates place Charlemagne himself in the family trees of all modern Europeans, possibly many times over. Genetically and geographically, the French and Germans are at the heart of Europe.
The French & German population has the following recent ancestor locations:
Scandinavians – represented by the people of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland – owe much of their linguistic and genetic heritage to North Germanic tribes who established settlements around the North Sea during the late Middle Ages. Many Scandinavians, like the Sámi people in the far north, are descendants of early Scandinavian hunter-gatherers. In the United States, Scandinavian ancestry is most common in North Dakota.
The Scandinavian population has the following recent ancestor locations:
- Faroe Islands
Broadly Northwestern European
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. Broadly Northwestern European DNA matches several specific populations and cannot be assigned to just one. This shared heritage may be the result of extensive migration, possibly including the Germanic invasions of the early Middle Ages.
Between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, Eastern Europe was heavily influenced by Imperial (and then Soviet) Russia, but the genetic heritage of Eastern Europe traces back to peoples living southeast of the Baltic Sea as well as to a more recent influx of Slavic-speaking peoples from north of the Black Sea. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, millions of Eastern Europeans migrated west in search of economic opportunity. In the United States, Eastern European ancestry is most common in the Midwest.
The Eastern European population has the following recent ancestor locations:
- Czech Republic
Southern Europe, which includes the Iberian, Italian, and Balkan peninsulas as well as the island of Malta, is a region defined in great part by the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean has provided transportation routes, keeping these regions connected culturally and genetically.
Greek & Balkan
The Balkan Peninsula is nestled in the southeastern corner of Europe and serves as the geographic and genetic crossroads between Europe and western Asia. Despite broad cultural and religious diversity, the people of the Balkans are genetically similar to one another, descending from early Mediterranean and Slavic peoples. Island Greeks lack this ancestral Slavic influence and are similar to southern Italians.
The Greek & Balkan population has the following recent ancestor locations:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- North Macedonia
The famously boot-shaped Italian peninsula has been home to modern humans for over 30,000 years. In the early Middle Ages, Germanic invaders brought about the fall of the Western Roman Empire, and a northern European genetic signature persists in modern Italians to this day. This influence is strongest in the north, while southern Italians share a rich genetic heritage with island Greeks. Over the millennia, a number of migrations from around the Mediterranean brought North African and Western Asian ancestry to Italy as well.
The Italian population has the following recent ancestor locations:
Sardinians are outliers in the genetic landscape of Europe, thanks to the geographic isolation of their rugged island home off of mainland Italy. Over the centuries, Sardinians resisted assimilation by occupying forces and have managed to preserve a few unique traditions, including Cantu a tenòre, a haunting style of overtone singing practiced to this day.
Spain & Portugal
The genetic landscape of the Iberian Peninsula – represented today by the people of Spain and Portugal – was influenced by several Mediterranean civilizations, including 800 years of Arabic North African rule. Now, a small North African genetic signature is present in Spanish & Portuguese DNA, and over eight percent of Spanish words carry Arabic origins. Conquistadors from Portugal and Spain colonized parts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, and this ancestry is now relatively common in Latino peoples from Central and South America.
The Spain & Portugal population has the following recent ancestor locations:
Broadly Southern European
Southern Europe, which includes the Iberian, Italian, and Balkan peninsulas as well as the island of Malta, is a region defined in great part by the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean has provided transportation routes, keeping these regions connected culturally and genetically. Broadly Southern European DNA matches several specific populations and is difficult to assign to just one.
Ashkenazi Jewish people settled in Central and Eastern Europe in the late Middle Ages, but their modern descendants remain genetically more similar to other Jewish populations than to their European neighbors, reflecting shared western Asian origins. In the twentieth century, many Ashkenazi Jewish people immigrated to Israel or to the Americas in search of greater cultural and religious acceptance. Today, over five million ethnic Ashkenazi Jewish people live in the U.S.
Although not a country or region, they have their own reference population in Ancestry Composition because Ashkenazi Jews are so genetically distinct.
Much of Europe was buried under miles of ice ten thousand years ago. As the glaciers receded over millennia, Neolithic farmers from western Asia joined Paleolithic hunter-gatherers to settle Europe. Some European DNA is difficult to assign confidently to one population and receives a ‘Broadly’ designation.
Central & South Asian
Central Asian, Northern Indian & Pakistani
The people of northern India, Pakistan, and Central Asia have a shared genetic history influenced by the southward migration of peoples from Central Asia around 4,000 years ago.
Bengali & Northeast Indian
The people of Bangladesh and northeast India share an ancient genetic history in the region where the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers meet. Tens of thousands of years ago, hunter-gatherers arrived from the west. Later migrations of Austro-Asiatic, Tibeto-Burman, Dravidian, and Indo-European-speaking groups brought additional genetic and linguistic diversity to the region. Compared to other South Asian populations, the people of Bangladesh and northeast India generally have more East Asian ancestry, reflecting the region’s role as a genetic crossroads.
The Bengali & Northeast Indian population has the following recent ancestor locations:
- India (northeastern regions)
For thousands of years, Central Asian peoples have lived at the crossroads between eastern and western Eurasia, and their genetics reflect that history. Bounded by the Caspian Sea and China’s Taklamakan desert, the region has seen the empires of Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and Soviet Russia come and go. Today, Central Asia is home to over 100 million people, and their DNA contains varying degrees of similarity to East Asian, South Asian, or western Asian peoples.
The Central Asian population has the following recent ancestor locations:
Gujarati Patidars are members of a genetically distinct community from western India who descend from primarily agricultural and merchant classes. (Patel is the most common last name in this community and is related to the name Patidar, which means landowner). Over the centuries, as Patidars married within their community, a distinctive genetic heritage developed. Today, people with the last name Patel represent around 15% of the population of Gujarat and almost 10% of people of Indian descent in the United States.
Northern Indian & Pakistani
Today, around one-seventh of the world’s people live along or near the basins of the Indus and Ganges Rivers. Most northern Indian and Pakistani people speak Indo-European languages brought to the region from Central Asia around 4,000 years ago during the decline of the Indus Valley civilization. More recently, this region was home to a series of powerful empires, including the Sikh, Gupta, and Mughal empires.
The Northern Indian & Pakistani population has the following recent ancestor locations:
- India (northern regions)
Southern Indian Subgroup
The marriage restrictions imposed by a millennia-old caste system in India have resulted in a unique genetic landscape. There are many genetic clusters within India formed by caste, including groups in both northern and southern India who identify as Brahmin. Of these many groups, we were able to identify a genetic signature that reaches high levels among people with ancestry from southern India who say they are Brahmin. This group, labeled “Southern Indian Subgroup,” was probably identified in our Ancestry Composition analysis because members of these communities migrated to the United States at higher rates than others and are therefore more genetically represented in the 23andMe customer database. In the future, we hope to identify additional genetic communities within India that are more representative of the population as our database grows.
Southern South Asian
The genetic similarity within southern South Asia may be due in part to migrations of Dravidian-speaking peoples within the past few thousand years.
Home to the Malayali (meaning “people of the mountains”), Kerala has been at the heart of a thriving international spice trade for millennia, becoming one of India’s most diverse and prosperous states. This genetic signature reaches high levels among Christian communities who live in Kerala, a large number of whom immigrated to the United States during the last century.
Southern Indian & Sri Lankan
Humans first arrived in Sri Lanka and the southern states of India as early as 70,000 years ago. Within the past two millennia, southern India saw great Hindu kingdoms come and go, including the Chola and Chera Dynasties as well as Vijayanagar — whose capital, Hampi, was among the largest cities of the medieval world. This genetic signature may be related to the spread of Dravidian languages, although the majority of Sri Lankans now speak Sinhalese, an Indo-European language.
The Southern Indian & Sri Lankan population has the following recent ancestor locations:
- India (southern regions)
- Sri Lanka
Broadly Southern South Asian
The genetic similarity within southern South Asia may be due in part to migrations of Dravidian-speaking peoples within the past few thousand years.
Broadly Central & South Asian
Central & South Asia are represented here by diverse populations from India and Sri Lanka in the south to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in the north. Some Central & South Asian DNA is difficult to assign confidently to one population and receives a ‘broadly’ designation.
The Broadly Central & South Asian population has Mauritius as a recent ancestor location.
East Asian & Native American
Chinese & Southeast Asian
From the expansive plains of central Asia to the islands of eastern Indonesia, the people of China and Southeast Asia share genetic similarities dating back to the arrival of humans in the region over 40,000 years ago.
Present-day Vietnam was the cradle of one of the world’s earliest civilizations, and one of the world’s first regions to develop rice-based agriculture. A tropical country on the Indochinese Peninsula, Vietnam is bordered by China to the north and by Laos and Cambodia to the west. The country has 54 ethnic groups, the largest being the Kinh, who make up more than 85% of the population.
Filipino & Austronesian
Many indigenous Filipinos, including the Aeta, Batak, and Mamanwa peoples, are likely descended from one of the earliest dispersals of modern humans out of Africa. However, most Filipinos can trace their ancestry to a much more recent and widespread migration of Southeast Asian seafarers related to the indigenous people of Taiwan. Today, this genetic signature – called “Austronesian” (meaning “southern island”) – is common across the islands of the Pacific, from the Philippine Sea to Hawaii, and can be found as far away as Madagascar.
The Filipino & Austronesian population has the following recent ancestor locations:
- American Samoa
- Northern Mariana Islands
Indonesian, Khmer, Thai & Myanma
From Myanmar to Indonesia, the people of Southeast Asia are genetically diverse, reflecting the legacies of several migrations beginning over 40,000 years ago. More recently, the region has been heavily influenced by Hindu, Buddhist, and Islamic cultures. Before its fall in the fifteenth century, the Khmer empire – encompassing modern-day Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia – was the largest land empire in the region’s history.
The Indonesian, Khmer, Thai & Myanma population has the following recent ancestor locations:
China is home to one of the world's earliest and most enduring civilizations, with over 50 officially-recognized ethnic groups. The Han ethnic group makes up 92% of the country's population, and includes nearly one-fifth of all humans in the world. Over 50 million ethnic Chinese live outside of China, with over 20 million in Thailand, Malaysia, and the United States alone.
The Chinese population has the following recent ancestor locations:
- Mainland China
The Dai people of southern China belong to the larger Tai ethnolinguistic group that currently lives in parts of China, Burma, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. In China, the Dai are one of over 50 officially recognized ethnic minority groups, and are united by unique cultural traditions anchored in Dai folk religion or Buddhism. Most Chinese Dai live in southern and western Yunnan Province, and are genetically more similar to their Vietnamese neighbors than they are to the Han Chinese.
Broadly Chinese & Southeast Asian
From the expansive plains of central Asia to the islands of eastern Indonesia, the people of China and Southeast Asia share genetic similarities dating back to the arrival of humans in the region over 40,000 years ago. Broadly Chinese & Southeast Asian DNA – likely driven in part by the spread of agriculture within the last few thousand years – matches several specific populations and is difficult to assign to just one.
Japanese & Korean
The people of Japan and the Korean Peninsula share a genetic heritage that dates back to the first arrival of Stone Age hunter-gatherers from Siberia, and to later migrations of Iron Age rice farmers from the south.
The Japanese Archipelago, composed of a whopping 6,852 islands, was colonized by multiple waves of immigrants beginning as early as 30,000 BCE. Modern Japanese people can trace most of their ancestry to the Stone Age Jōmon and late Stone Age Yayoi cultures. Yayoi DNA is concentrated in the center of Japan, while Jōmon ancestry persists to the north and south among the culturally distinctive Ainu and Ryukyuan peoples.
The Korean peninsula was first inhabited by hunter-gatherers who were genetically similar to Stone Age peoples living near the Amur River in eastern Russia. These early Koreans were later joined by Bronze Age rice farmers from southern China or Vietnam. By the 10th century, Korea was politically and culturally unified and remained so until the establishment of a communist north and a democratic south after the Second World War. Although North and South Koreans are politically divided, they remain genetically similar to one another.
Broadly Japanese and Korean
The people of Japan and the Korean Peninsula share a genetic heritage that dates back to the first arrival of Stone Age hunter-gatherers from Siberia, and to later migrations of Iron Age rice farmers from the south. Broadly Japanese & Korean DNA is a remnant of this ancient population history and is difficult to assign to Korean or Japanese ancestry alone. More recently, the region has been shaped by a rich history of artistic, literary, architectural, and scientific exchange.
The first humans to reach the New World populated much of North, Central, and South America within just a few thousand years following their arrival from northeast Asia around 15,000 years ago. Despite drastic population losses over the past 500 years as a result of exposure to Old World diseases and genocide at the hands of European colonizers, the genetic legacy of these early American trailblazers persists to this day, primarily in Central and South America.
Northern Asian ancestry reflects a history of rapid, widespread human migrations across the vast Central Asian plains, and along the plateaus and waterways of Siberia.
Manchurian & Mongolian
The Manchurian and Mongolian population includes ethnolinguistic minorities like the Daur people — who speak a language related to Mongolian — and the Oroqen people, who speak a Tungusic language and live near the Amur River basin. These groups reside at the juncture of the Central Asian plains, boreal forests, and the Gobi Desert. Linguistically distinct but genetically similar, Mongolian and Manchurian peoples generally practice shamanism and Tibetan Buddhism.
Many ethnolinguistic groups call the northern reaches of Asia home. Among them are the Yukaghir, the Nganasan, and the Turkic-speaking Yakuts, who migrated North and East from southern Siberia between 700-900 years ago to escape encroaching raiders. Today, the Yakuts are a large ethnic minority in northeastern Siberia and share genetic similarities with other indigenous groups in the region including the Evenks, Evens, and Buryats. Indigenous Siberians are often well adapted to climate extremes, as they face some of the largest annual temperature fluctuations in the world.
Broadly Northern Asian
Northern Asian ancestry reflects a history of rapid, widespread human migrations across the vast Central Asian plains, and along the plateaus and waterways of Siberia. Genetic markers associated with northern Asian ancestry may be relics of these far-reaching migrations, and cannot be confidently assigned to a specific region or group.
Broadly East Asian & Native American
The peoples of East Asia and the Americas have a shared genetic history. Their common ancestors left western Asia over 50,000 years ago, migrating east across the continent. The ancestors of Native Americans began to cross into the Americas 12,000 to 15,000 years ago. Broadly East Asian & Native American DNA is a relic of this ancient population split, and reflects shared roots in central and northern Asia.
For over a millennium before European colonization and the Atlantic slave trade, West Africans were united under a series of powerful empires, resulting in broad similarities in music, clothing, art, and cuisine. A gradient of genetic similarity extending from Senegal to Nigeria reflects a richly complex population history in a region home to over 350 million people who form hundreds of distinct ethnic groups.
Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean
A continuum of genetic diversity stretches from Senegal to Nigeria, but the people of the coastal countries above the Gulf of Guinea — Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ghana — share a genetic similarity distinct from neighboring regions. The Temne people, who constitute the largest group in Sierra Leone, call this region home, as do the Mende people, who reside across West Africa. In neighboring Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, the Akan peoples predominate.
The Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean population has the following recent ancestor locations:
Nigeria’s population is the largest in Africa and one of the most diverse, with over 250 ethnic groups. The country's arid north is home to people of mostly Hausa and Fulani descent, while the Yoruba people are concentrated in the southwest, the Ijaw people in the tropical south, and the Igbo people in the southeast. As much as two thirds of African-Americans' Sub-Saharan DNA may trace back to Nigerian ancestors, due to the disproportionate impact of the Atlantic slave trade on the people of the region.
Broadly West African
For over a millennium before European colonization and the Atlantic slave trade, West Africans were united under a series of powerful empires, resulting in broad similarities in music, clothing, art, and cuisine. A gradient of genetic similarity extending from Senegal to Nigeria reflects a richly complex population history in a region home to over 350 million people who form hundreds of distinct ethnic groups. Broadly West African DNA may match several populations, making it difficult to assign to just one.
The Ghanaian, Liberian & Sierra Leonean population has the following recent ancestor locations:
Northern East African
Northeast Africa, which here spans from Sudan in the northwest to Ethiopia and Somalia in the southeast, is home to both Afro-Asiatic and Nilo-Saharan ethnolinguistic groups. The entire region has a rich history of genetic and cultural exchange between indigenous East Africans and immigrants from the Arabian Peninsula.
Sudan and South Sudan share a distinct genetic heritage dating to early agricultural civilizations, including the Nubian Kingdoms of Kush and Meroë that once flourished along the banks of the upper Nile. Today, the people of Sudan and South Sudan are ethnically diverse, following a long history of intermarriage between indigenous East Africans and migrants from the Arabian peninsula. However, this Arabian genetic legacy is less common in the south of the region.
The Sudanese population has the following recent ancestor locations:
- South Sudan
Ethiopian & Eritrean
Despite recent conflict, Eritreans and Ethiopians were united under the powerful Kingdom of Aksum for almost 1,000 years until its collapse in 940 CE, and their DNA reflects that shared history. The region has also served as a crossroads between Africa and the Arabian Peninsula for tens of thousands of years. Today, most Ethiopians and Eritreans have both East African and Arabian ancestry and speak Afro-Asiatic languages, including Oromo, Tigrinya, Arabic, and Amharic.
The Ethiopian & Eritrean population has the following recent ancestor locations:
Most ethnic Somalis live in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, or Djibouti, and speak Somali — a member of the larger Cushitic language family spoken from southern Egypt to northern Tanzania. While united by strong religious traditions rooted in the spread of Islam from the Arabian Peninsula, almost all ethnic Somalis harbor ancient ancestral roots in northern east Africa and share genetic similarities with other Cushitic-speaking groups, like the Oromo people of Ethiopia. With a deep history of pastoralism, many Somalis continue to rely on goat, sheep, camel, and cattle herding for their subsistence.
Broadly Northern East African
Northeast Africa, which here spans from Sudan in the northwest to Ethiopia and Somalia in the southeast, is home to both Afro-Asiatic and Nilo-Saharan ethnolinguistic groups. The entire region has a rich history of genetic and cultural exchange between indigenous East Africans and immigrants from the Arabian Peninsula. As a result of both ancient and recent migrations within the region, broadly Northeast African DNA may be difficult to assign to a specific location.
Congolese & Southern East African
Starting around 3,000 years ago, Bantu speakers carried metallurgy and agriculture from the highlands of Nigeria and Cameroon in two major streams – one southward and one eastward – resulting in ancestry that transcends geopolitical borders. “Bantu” is a term widely used to describe the largest of Africa’s ethnolinguistic families.
Angolan & Congolese
Beginning around 3,000 years ago, the genetic tapestry of the western Congo basin was transformed by the influx of Bantu-speaking peoples from the highlands of what is today Nigeria and Cameroon. More recently, Bantu speakers in the western Congo region established the historical Kingdom of Kongo, which flourished for over 500 years until its collapse at the hands of colonial powers in 1914. Today, Bantu-speaking peoples (such as the Kongo, Teke, Mbochi, and Sangha) are significant majorities in the countries bordering the Congo River.
The Angolan & Congolese population has the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a recent ancestor location.
Southern East African
Within the last 3,000 years, metallurgy and agriculture arrived in Southern East Africa with the migration of Bantu-speaking peoples from the highlands of what is today Nigeria and Cameroon. The historical center of this Eastern Bantu migration lies in the African Great Lakes region that runs along the Western edge of Kenya and Tanzania. Today, the largest ethnic groups in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda all speak Bantu languages.
The Southern East African population has the following recent ancestor locations:
Broadly Congolese & Southern East African
Starting around 3,000 years ago, Bantu speakers carried metallurgy and agriculture from the highlands of Nigeria and Cameroon in two major streams – one southward and one eastward – resulting in ancestry that transcends geopolitical borders. “Bantu” is a term widely used to describe the largest of Africa’s ethnolinguistic families. Likely as a result of these rapid and widespread expansions across Central and Eastern Africa, it is difficult to assign a specific location within Sub-Saharan Africa to some chromosomal segments with a high degree of confidence.
African hunter-gatherer populations — including the Pygmy and San peoples of central and southern Africa — represent some of the oldest and most genetically distinct branches in the human family tree. The historically semi-nomadic San peoples of the Kalahari and the closely-related Khoe herders in Namibia, Botswana and South Africa, speak languages characterized by click consonants rarely found in other language families. Pygmy peoples of the central African rainforests, on the other hand, have lost their distinct linguistic heritage, but have preserved many unique cultural traditions.
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
The genetic diversity of Sub-Saharan Africa reflects both the deep history of humans in the region and the recent migrations that have carried people from western Africa to both southern and eastern Africa. As a result of this ancient and complex population history, it is difficult to assign some DNA to a specific population within Sub-Saharan Africa.
Western Asian & North African
Arab, Egyptian & Levantine
The region bordering the Red Sea and the eastern Mediterranean has served as an important crossroads of human migration out of Africa over the last 100,000 years. More recently, the Arab conquests of Egypt and the Levant have reinforced this shared genetic heritage.
Making up over 10% of Egypt’s population, Copts are a Christian minority who share an ancient history with non-Coptic Egyptians that predates the first pharaohs. However, after the seventh-century conquest of Egypt by the Rashidun Caliphate, the Christian Copts began to become genetically distinct from the Muslim-majority population, while the Coptic language was replaced by Egyptian Arabic outside of a strictly religious setting. Today, most Copts live in Egypt or Sudan, but there are also large Coptic communities living in the United States, Australia, and Canada.
Ancient Egyptians began harvesting crops over 7,000 years ago along the fertile banks of the Nile, relying on annual floods that were believed to be the tears of the goddess Isis. Following the Dynastic Period, Egypt was ruled at various times by Nubian, Persian, Greek, and Roman empires, though these centuries of foreign rule had little impact on Egyptian DNA. Since the seventh-century Islamic Expansion — which brought additional linguistic and genetic diversity to the Nile River basin — a uniquely Egyptian genetic signature emerged.
The Levant — comprised of modern-day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, and Palestine — has been an artery of migration between Africa and Asia for over 100,000 years. By 2,500 years ago, the seafaring Phoenicians of the central Levant, whose script gave rise to most modern alphabets, founded coastal colonies across the Mediterranean. In the centuries since the fall of Phoenicia to the first Persian Empire, the expansions of Islam and the Ottoman Empire have brought additional genetic diversity to the region. Today, large Jewish, Lebanese, and Syrian diasporas are found beyond the Levant, from Turkey to South America.
The Levantine population has the following recent ancestor locations:
For over 100,000 years, humans have lived in the Arabian Peninsula — a bridge between Africa and the rest of the world. Around the same time as the rise of dynastic Egypt, a handful of Arabian civilizations and kingdoms emerged, facilitating trade between Africa and Eurasia. But it wasn’t until the birth of Islam in western Arabia that the Arabic language — along with an Arab-like genetic signature — spread across much of western Asia and North Africa. Today, the peninsula is home to over 75 million people and the world’s second largest subtropical desert.
The Peninsular Arab population has the following recent ancestor locations:
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
Broadly Arab, Egyptian & Levantine
The region bordering the Red Sea and the eastern Mediterranean has served as an important crossroads of human migration out of Africa over the last 100,000 years. More recently, the Arab conquests of Egypt and the Levant have reinforced this shared genetic heritage, making it difficult to assign some DNA to just one population with confidence.
Humans lived along the southern shores of the Mediterranean as early as 300,000 years ago, but the genetic heritage of most North African people today reflects a mixture of North African, southern European, western Asian, and Sub-Saharan ancestry. Today, indigenous North African ancestry peaks in the Berber people of the Maghreb, while the genetic legacy of the Arab conquest of North Africa and the 16th-century expansion of the Ottoman Empire can be found throughout the region as well.
This dataset includes people of Algerian, Libyan, Moroccan, Mozabite, Tunisian 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.
The North African population has the following recent ancestor locations:
Northern West Asian
Roughly bounded by Anatolia in the east to Iran in the west, northern West Asia has a shared genetic heritage going back tens of thousands of years. Domestication of grains and livestock emerged 11,000 years ago in this region, sparking the agricultural revolution that spread to parts of Europe, Africa, and other parts of Asia.
Anatolia, a fertile peninsula above the eastern Mediterranean, has served as a genetic bridge between Asia and Europe for over 40,000 years. Early Anatolian farmers laid the groundwork for powerful civilizations like the Bronze Age Hittite Empire, followed by centuries of Persian, Greek, and Roman rule. The Eastern Roman Empire, Byzantium, survived in various forms until falling in the 15th century to the Ottoman Turks, who introduced a Central Asian-like genetic signature.
The Anatolian population has Turkey (western provinces) as a recent ancestor location.
An 11,000-year-old settlement on Cyprus’s southern coast was home to some of the island’s first people who processed grain, made jewelry, and lived with domesticated cats and dogs. By 3,000 years ago, Cypriots were speaking a form of Greek, which remains the language spoken across half of the island, even after long periods of Egyptian, Persian, Venetian, Ottoman, and British rule. In spite of a 1974 attempt to annex Cyprus to Greece and an invasion of the island by Turkish forces in response, most Greek and Turkish-speaking Cypriots remain genetically similar to one another.
Iranian, Caucasian & Mesopotamian
From Armenians and Assyrians to Kartvelians and Persians, the diverse people of Iran, the Caucasus, Eastern Anatolia, and Mesopotamia share an ancient genetic history dating back to some of the world’s first farmers. Dominated at times by polytheistic, Zoroastrian, Christian, and Islamic beliefs, the region has seen powerful empires come and go. While most of this ancestry is native to western Asia, traces of Central and East Asian-like genetic signatures were introduced as a result of Turkic migrations and the 13th-century Mongol invasion. Today, there are significant Armenian, Iranian, and Assyrian communities around the world, including many in the United States.
The Iranian, Caucasian & Mesopotamian population has the following recent ancestor locations:
- Turkey (eastern provinces)
Broadly Northern West Asian
Roughly bounded by Anatolia in the east to Iran in the west, Northern West Asia has a shared genetic heritage going back tens of thousands of years. Domestication of grains and livestock emerged 11,000 years ago in this region, sparking the agricultural revolution that spread to parts of Europe, Africa, and other parts of Asia. Broadly northern West Asian DNA matches several specific populations and is difficult to assign to just one.
Broadly Western Asian & North African
The peoples of western Asia and North Africa have deep linguistic and genetic connections with one another, dating back to some of the earliest migrations out of Africa. The spread of Islam in the past 1,400 years has also dramatically shaped the region's more recent genetic landscape, making it difficult to confidently assign some DNA to just one population.
Melanesia was first peopled by seafaring voyagers over 45,000 years ago, when the ancestors of indigenous Australian and Papuan peoples reached Near Oceania from Indonesia. These early Melanesians interbred with a now-extinct hominin species – the Denisovans – and their descendants harbor traces of this ancient encounter in their DNA.
The recent ancestor location included in the Broadly Melanesian Reference Population is Fiji.
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 can't pinpoint a region of your DNA to a specific population. Bear with us as our data and resources continue to expand. We expect the amount of unassigned ancestry our customers see to decrease.
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 subpopulation. Learn more in the Aggregation & Reporting section of the Ancestry Composition Guide.
I know I have Native American ancestry. Why doesn't it show up in my results?
We are confident in the accuracy of your results and the science behind them. But 23andMe is a genetic testing service, which means we can only show you what is found in your DNA. If your Native American heritage cannot be seen through your DNA, that doesn't mean that your understanding of your family heritage as passed down through the generations is incorrect, only that your genetic heritage does not reveal Native American ancestry.
There are a few common reasons why you may not see the Native American population in your Ancestry Composition results:
- If your most recent Native American ancestor was more than five generations ago, you may have inherited little or no DNA directly from your Native American ancestors. The farther back in your history you look, the less likely you are to have inherited DNA directly from every single one of your ancestors. This means that you can be directly descended from a Native American without having any Native American DNA.
- Your Native American ancestry may be assigned to the Broadly East Asian & Native American population. Even using state-of-the-art science, the Native American and East Asian populations are genetically similar, and sometimes they can't be distinguished from each other with high confidence.
- Throughout American history, people without a genetically Native American background have claimed Native American heritage for a variety of social reasons related to the shifting politics of race and indigeneity in the United States. As a result, many families without any genetically Native American ancestors have passed down stories about Native American ancestry. For examples, see this article or the book, Becoming Indian: The Struggle over Cherokee Identity in the Twenty-first Century, by Circe Strum.
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.
What are recent ancestor locations?
There are over 150 recent ancestor locations in the Ancestry Composition Report. These regions provide information about the places where your ancestors may have lived during the last 200 years. Learn more about your Recent Ancestor Locations.
To learn more, visit our Understanding Your Ancestry Composition Results article.