Posted by Kristen Hyde on February 8, 2017 in AncestryDNA


What if from your DNA, you could find out that you’re not just Irish, but related to the Ulster Irish who migrated in droves to the U.S? Or that you’re descended from Jewish individuals from Belarus? Or that your ancestors hailed from the West Midlands of Britain? What if you could see the people, places and migration paths in your family story?

Genetics has long been used to understand human history and migrations. However, due to limited samples or methods used, very few of these methods have shed insight into more recent human history over the last several hundred years.

After years of hard work, and a lot of rigorous statistics, we developed a novel scientific methodology that looks at how specific groups of people are connected through their DNA, what places they called home, and which migration paths they followed to get there – allowing genetics to reveal the history in a more recent time period than ever before.

Today, the science team is thrilled to announce that our work on identifying finer grain population structure was published in Nature Communications, “Clustering of 770 thousand genomes reveals post-colonial population structure of North America.

The new research leverages the powerful combination of family history and genetic data unique to Ancestry to surface a more concrete and detailed genetic portrait of how our recent ancestors responded together to historic forces like politics, famine, war and immigration.

Figure 3 | Distribution of ancestral birth locations in North America associated with IBD clusters. Points show pedigree birth locations that are disproportionately assigned to each cluster. Only birth locations with OR > x within indicated generations y–z are plotted, in which parameters x, y, z are chosen separately per cluster to better visualize the cluster’s historical geographic concentration; full distributions of ancestral birth locations in the US, Europe and worldwide are given in Supplementary Figs. 18–20. For each cluster, points are independently scaled by the number of pedigree annotations. See Fig. 2 and Table 1 for more details. Note that clusters are separated into two maps only for clarity. Also note that the concentration of Puerto Rican ancestors in Hawaii probably reflects their arrival there in the early 1900s65.


How does the science work?

We first created a network of genetically-identified relationships — based on DNA alone — among over 700,000 individuals who consented to research. Using network analysis techniques, we identified clusters of individuals in the network: groups of individuals who are slightly more related to one another than to individuals outside their cluster. In other words, from genetic data we identified novel “population structure” – subtly different groups of individuals within a larger population.

Having such a large genetic dataset allowed us to uncover these clusters, or communities, that would have not otherwise been possible.

We then added context to these clusters of genetic communities with family tree data to understand the origins of these groups of people, and to uncover the groups’ migration patterns and ancestries. From this we uncovered, in great detail, the historical explanations for the patterns observed in the genetics.

For example, certain groups of individuals corresponded to descendants of Scandinavian or French Canadian immigrants to North America, and we even identified groups of descendants of settlers such as the individuals with ancestry in the Appalachians and in New Mexico who experienced geographic or cultural isolation within the US. The data also depicted movements and settlements across east-west and north-south gradients within the United States – and remarkably matches known history.

Figure 4 | Genealogical data by generation trace migration of French Canadians (magenta) to the US and origins of Cajuns/Acadians in Atlantic Canada (blue). Map locations are plotted if OR > 10 within the indicated range of pedigree generations (date ranges give the 5th and 95th percentiles of birth year annotations). Points are scaled by number of pedigree annotations, separately for each of the 6 maps. Note that not all current political borders are shown. See Fig. 2 for more details.


What does this research mean for me?

This research has exciting implications for current and potential future customers of AncestryDNA. Recall that this research identified clusters, or genetic communities, of individuals, as well as their histories – where their ancestors may have lived, where they migrated to and from, what were their last names, and more. Inversely, that means that we can identify the genetic communities that an AncestryDNA customer belongs to. That in turn means that we can use an individual’s DNA to provide them with an extremely detailed historical portrait of the lives of some of their recent ancestors – more recent than previously possible. For example, we could tell someone where some of their ancestors might have lived and moved throughout their life, as well as potential historical reasons for those migrations, during the last several hundred years.

This work was made possible by the contributions thousands of customers who have researched their family trees, taken the DNA test, and agreed to participate in scientific research. In the coming months, we’re excited to share these findings with each of you in a personalised experience.

Kristen Hyde

Kristen is Ancestry's Social Media Manager for the United Kingdom.


  1. Beth

    This is fascinating! My parent’s DNA shows South Africa and European Jewish and I would love to know more about those migrations.

  2. Harish Chandra Singh

    Hi iam originally descendant from a Hindu family and I was born in Fiji as I can recall having my grandparents born in Fiji so hope this could narrow things down for you. Cheers Harish

  3. Karen B Rush

    I have just sent my DNA sample in for analysis and eargerly await the results. As a historian, I am fascinated with the work you are doing. My particular research interest has been looking at waves of migration in particular to the US and then to Australia from Europe in past 500 years. I have just retired and have time in front of me to explore with you these wonderful developments. I applaud your work and am glad to participate. Regards

    Karen Rush, Canberra, Australia

  4. Phill

    Family tradition has always said members of our family came to England as part of the Norman invasion. Are patterns likely to give support to migrations this far back.

  5. Gary Parker

    Definitely interested given the results from the recent DNA tests and the gap I still have on my mothers side, as she was fostered before being adopted.

  6. Jill Dykstra

    I look forward to unpacking my heritage Particularly from the Irish side as my family was recluctant to share information about this side of the family

  7. Sue

    I am looking forward to information from this research. I live in Australia but have noticed that most of my DNA connections live in USA. Unfortunately, most of them have not contributed family trees.

  8. Lyn Joines

    Would love to join the group. Have a great grandfather who said he was born in Liverpool but there is no record of this.

  9. Linda Cartmill

    Fantastic work. I’d love to see you do some work on Australian migration patterns.

  10. Jane

    I have wanted to do this since reading Brian Sykes’ book on it 18 years ago, can wait to get my results back !!

  11. Tracey Pogson

    This is incredibly exciting to me! I have always had an affinity for Ireland although born and bred in Australia. I was so excited to get my DNA results back and find I am mainly Irish which shows genetic memory is valid. I am very much looking forward to the progression of DNA scientifically and what it will mean to those interested in our origins.

  12. Raymond Newton

    Any improvement to DNA accuracy would be helpful. My DNA results did not correspond to my family tree ,i.e., 25 percent of known German ancestry did not appear at all

  13. I’m so pleased I joined the DNA project. I have made many fabulous discoveries that could not have been possible through traditional means. With technology advances, this new look at how we link together is most exciting. I’m keen to hear more……….

  14. Deborah Williams

    What does that mean for people who had already had a test? Will you be sending them more information?

  15. Stuart Purvis-Smith

    I notice that the focus so far appears to be on North American populations, probably reflecting the size and distribution of the data. I look forward in the months ahead to seeing information on population flows out of Europe to other parts of the world.

  16. Nadia

    This is so exciting! I was already fascinated with my basic DNA profile this will be the icing on the cake! I am presuming from what I am reading that we won’t have to give another saliva sample, that the information will be collected and collated from my current DNA profile, is this right? Will there be a cost involved?

  17. Glenda Smith

    My maternal ancestors emigrated from England to New Zealand in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Interesting research. My DNA shows Irish, Great Britain, Scandinavia & West Europe.

  18. Maria

    Will we need to do anything further to access information like this – would be fascinating to dig deeper into the migratory travels of ancestors

  19. Maria

    My background is spanish italian. Born in Uruguay. Date of birth 12 January 1969.
    Name before marriage: Maria Mercedes Duarte Lopez

  20. I am very excited about this new innovation. I was born in Australia, my fathers line thought to be English but YDNA results and many of our autosomal matches are suggesting we have connections with Essex MA in the mid 1600’s. I am hoping this new communities innovation might help me untangle our connection somehow. When is it being rolled out, can’t wait!?

  21. salvador nunez

    This is very important for me. I am looking for these results and be able to find more about my ancestry

  22. John Angelini

    I recently had DNA testing done by Ancestry. Can this data be used to produce this migratory history. Thanks. Regards John

  23. Dennis

    Hi, I am interested in my daughter’s heritage from south-west China.
    Will the current data be applicable,
    thank you

  24. Lyneve Amoore

    Exciting news indeed! It came as quite a surprise that I had predominately Irish DNA – I knew about the Scottish connection but having looked at the location of where the family lived in Scotland it’s just a hop, step and jump from Ireland. I look forward to future updates – thank you!

  25. Lisa

    I’d love to explore my Yorkshire fathers less than 1% North American Indian dna and whether it’s a link to the Vikings discovery of Vineland.

  26. graham madsen

    is it possible to know which common dna members are from the Danish/irish/gb/west Europe origins. I am struggling to find the common ancestors for other members of 6-20cms in one segment. This is particularly relevant for us members who have common dna with me but it is back at least 9 generations and they generally don’t know where they came from!

  27. Sue

    I am very interested in this exciting development. I always though I was Scottish, English but my DNA showed Irish Scandinavian!

  28. Diana Lea

    I have read this through twice with interest, but feel obliged to write and say that I have had my DNA done, but after much trying to connect to supposed relatives, I have given up, and am not at all happy with it considering the amount of money I spent! The most likely first 4 are all people that I have been in contact with for many years, so nothing new there at all. The rest, where I am able to check are as likely as a chicken hatching a dinasaur!
    Sorry, but I am very very disillusioned!

  29. Ellie ritchie

    Looking forward to finding out about my totally unexpected Eastern European heritage!

  30. Margaret Lawrence

    This is exciting! I really would love to know more about my family, as my ancestors seemed to have travelled to many points around the world without leave a trail, especially my mothers family.

  31. Michael Kitchin

    I am slowly connecting all my dots,my great grand father was a Jew from London,rounded up off the Streets with two brothers and thankfully transported to Ruatoria NZ where they were put ashore in 1857, he was 13 years of age and married Heni Te Rongo at 17 tender years, He died in 1932, Heni died in 1928,they are buried in Gisborne NZ. I want to do the DNA thing as soon as. Look forward to hearing from you. Please don’t charge much. Regards,Michael.

  32. Therese Long

    This research helps the pathway of understanding. One can feel rather lost in the journey.

  33. Marcia gibbs

    I am interested to do the DNA .Just want to ask about a question
    I am a carrier of a rare cystic fibrosis gene which my children have .It took yes to find it through medical research they said my rare cystic fibrosis comes from the northern part of Europe.So does that mean my family gene is from there . As u said previous I will be getting the Dna done from you guys

  34. Julia

    Looking forward to being involved in the discussion. I have always wondered by people made the long migration journeys. Looking forward to hearing about the latest migrations to French Canada. Julia

  35. Mary

    If is able to identify DNA so precisely, I’m wondering why Australian Aboriginal DNA isn’t able to be detected?

  36. Teresa

    How exciting! I had expected that my DNA reading would be mostly Italian – Greek (75%). The surprising bits were the West Asian (Middle East & Caucasus) ‘connections’ (23%), plus the South Asian (1%) & European Jewry (1%) ‘connections’! I have already shared this information with my immediate family!

    • Paul T. Williams

      I have done ancestry DNA & Familytree Dand. And find out any connections. Both tests are so impossible to read
      I aimed several matches,only to have everyone say, no match

  37. John

    I was surprised to find so much Irish. Not surprised about the British but thought it might be less than 53%. I thought the European Jewish would be much more than 2%. 9% Polynesian would be Tahitian. I’m wondering if that could be further compartmentalised into a specific region of the Tahitian Islands?

  38. Leigh

    Hello l am trying to find out what and who my family are, they were full of lies and subterfuge l am intrigued to find the truth

  39. Leigh. aka Lesley

    I know nothing about my mothers side of the family it was all secrets and lies it would be good to know what they did and why

  40. I had a DNA done ancestry they told me i had about 56 unnone cosions but I like to look a lot further I see weather I might have a ancestor out their some
    Were I would love to know Christine l hunt

    • Keith Philip Mawer

      This looks to be a marvellous refinement of the DNA analysis and look forward to what it may reveal.

    • Lesley Treweek

      This sounds very exciting. I am a New Zealander.My Ancestry DNA test showed a predominantly British/Irish ancestry. Unsurprising given that the Treweek surname that originated in Cornwall. My Irish side migrated to Scotland around 1826, I would love to discover their county of origin.

  41. Pilar Perez - Hill

    ancestry offer is great. If I done my DNA with your Ancestry programme, I need to know if I can use your offer

  42. Pilar Perez - Hill [Conejeros ]

    I already sent a comment, and it was found abusive and unrespectful. I asked a question only.

  43. Wendy Kennewell

    My Fathers Ancesters (Boughey) were French they went to England around 1750/60.
    During or after the French Revalution. I have had my DNA test which also indicates that area and beyond.

  44. Marilyn Farrier Falzone

    Looking forward to researching family further in hopes to overcome obstacles and joining the discussion group. Thank you for invite.

  45. Miranda Russell

    Hi. I am fascinated to know more about my Iberian DNA. My family history is quite well researched but there is nothing to indicate Iberian heritage. It is a small amount of DNA but I would like to know more about it.

    • Janice Mulligan

      Miranda: I also have about 6% Iberian and I was expecting that as one of my birth family told of the tale of being Black Irish that included Spanish sailors shipwrecked from the Spanish Armada. Tjere was no way they could get home in those days, so survivors took up with Irish girls plus Cornish and Devon girls in England. I have a large percentage of Irish DNA plus I have ancestors from Devon and Cornwall.

  46. Nancy

    Very intresting progress. I took the DNA test but I can’t recall if I agreed to participate in scientific research.

  47. Kerryn Maxwell

    This is really interesting and looking forward to seeing any outcomes from this research

  48. Leigh aka Lesley Hartley

    This is the only way I will find out anything about my family and who they really were

  49. Chris Aplin

    My family seem to be welsh by name contraction of Ap’llewellyn in 12th/13th century in Somerset (black death & pressure from Plantagenate Kings). Interesed to see if DNA confirms or denies this hypothesis and whether the DNA of Neolithic etc remains in Celtic Europe are likable or indeed linked to my family regards Chris Aplin

    • Helen Griffiths

      I have looked at the “categories” listed on this page and if I am interpreting thihs correctly it seems that there is a “category” for Ireland and Scotland but not Wales. Does this mean that when I am tested, my Welsh ancestry will be listed simply as United Kingdom?
      Thanks for any input here. Helen (Griffiths)

  50. Mary Beaumont

    Any chance you could duplicate the same research on Australia. We are only 230 years old and all of our ancestors (except full-blooded indigenous people) were migrants. and/or refugees.

  51. Ann-maree Davey

    My father has always stated we are descendants of Napoleon Bonaparte. Is there anyway to confirm this?
    My fathers side is French, English, Irish…
    Plus I came up as 75% Irish, red hair white skin & very blue eyes.
    Yet my brothers dark skin, black hair, dark brown eyes. We are totally different.

  52. Memorita Livapulu-Heremaia

    I am really interested in researching my DNA origins; how do I go about doing this?

  53. Alan Collins

    Fantastic news. As an Australian I was wondering if and when this may be extended to include Australian heritage. My DNA test reveals mainly Irish/English but I would love to be able to track the more obscure races in my make up and their arrival in Australia.

  54. kathryn cremona

    My mum is name shirley insley and her mum name is violet may Roberson and her nan is name is violet may rose and she was one of the stolen children of the aboriginal my name is kathryn cremona

  55. Defyd Williams

    You have done my DNA, but not my wife Joan Williams. We paid for both. Is it coming or should we get a refund? I have had mine for three weeks.

  56. Tricia Mancuso

    I had my mtDNASCAR done through “Blood of the Isles” 7 years ago. What more could your analysis show me?

  57. Cynthia Richards

    I took the DNA Test, but not sure if I signed up for further research. I would love to know more. My DNA suggested that I was 47% Irish 21% Western European 20%Great Britain 7%other regions trace Asian.

  58. Bob Waller

    Brilliant! Very exciting. We are really looking forward to seeing the results. It will certainly help build a comprehensive picture of our Ancestors.

  59. Christine Phelps

    I am supposed to be mostly Irish, but according to my research it should be more Scandinavian [viking via Yorkshire]. Could the Irish be actually Celtic – ie my Dorset/Devon connections. It is fascinating!

  60. Madeline Smith

    I would really like to know more about my Irish and Swiss Ancestors (DNA = 15% Italian / Greek and 16% Irish)

  61. Yvonne Pratt

    How do I find out as to whether I consented to having my DNA used also for research? Thank you.

  62. Linda Jenkins

    When I took the DNA test I was very surprised with the results. I am half Great Britain and the other half Irish. My family tree goes back 5 generations on both sides of my parents living in England so I am really excited to find on what side of my parents came from Ireland and the amazing results we will now be able to access the exact locations.

  63. Christina Johnson

    My DNA results said I was half Irish, but my mother’s family is pure Scottish for hundreds of years. Will this show the Celtic results from Scotland?

  64. Wendy

    This is very exciting news…can’t wait to dive into this next research phase! Thank you, Ancestry.

  65. Yvonne McRae (Pindsle)

    Fantastic. Even though I thought I was 100% Scottish I found out I had 64% Irish, 34% British and 2% trace regions (Scandinavia/North Russia). I am fascinated by these results and would love to know about my Irish ancestors – my suspicion is they came from ‘both sides’ of the border so would love to know if I’m right.

  66. Rosemary Cope Elsom

    Looking forward to learning more as my DNA test held some interesting surprises ! Not what I had been told growing up at all !

  67. Caroline Ratajczak

    I am deterred from buying the DNA kit as, for the most part, the concentration appears to be connected with migrations to north America. At the same time I appreciate that participation is the key to expanding results. Can I and others feeling the same way be convinced of finding DNA matches within the closer confines of Britain/Ireland/Europe? That is the burning question. I would love to do the DNA test if I thought it would enhance my already extensive family history research. Such a bonus having a starting point instead of a brick wall. It would be such a boost to your advertising campaign if verified individuals were to say categorically that their DNA testing brought positive results and what they were. With these points resolved I would not hesitate in joining the DNA community. Thank you for allowing my comments which I hope will be well received.

  68. Donna Evans

    Dear Ancestry, I have DNA tested and discovered I have 17 ethnicities instead of the 4 I knew of. I am very much interested in the migration of my Ancestors and how they came in contact with one another along that journey. dme

  69. Christina Williams ( nee Moore) (Irish descent)

    I have a huge reason for being interested in DNA testing. I had a child adopted over 40 years ago. Can my DNA find the biological connections around the world?? Thanks v much.

  70. Deborah Rogers

    This is very exciting and I cannot wait to learn more about my ancestors as I was surprised to learn I am 73% Western European!

  71. Barbara

    I look forward to learning more about my Irish/Celtic roots. The examples seem to focus on North America so I am hoping that this will be as exciting for those of us whose migratons were inside the UK.

  72. Lorraine Oneill

    Hi In order to contribute to discussion do I need to have completed a DNA test? Thank you in anticipation of reply Lorraine O’neill ( Bancroft)

  73. Patricia cannon

    My adopted name is Patricia Lillian Cannon, but I was born Patricia Amy Patterson, but my Dad Patrick Brennan ive done DNA 64% Irish ive never met him or his side of the family. Very frustrating don’t know where to start.

  74. Tom Browne

    Not able to find my family on either of my parents family tree. Browne or Carroll both I believed if Cashel, Co. Tipperary

  75. Paula Perfitt

    So as I’ve already had the results back from my DNA kit, will my results be updated after March?

  76. Susan Vaughan

    I am totally miffed as to my 31% Irish DNA as we have no known Irish relatives also the 19% Iberian peninsular. So welcome any insight to how this came about.

    • Janice Mulligan

      I am taking a guess that your 19% is connected to the sailors shipwrecked after the defeat of the Spanish Armada. I have a small percentage, 6% so I am looking forward to results.

  77. Val

    My DNA revealed I had a large percentage of Irish ancestry, I am really looking forward to finding out which areas. This may help with my research.

  78. Jackie Youngs

    I know very little about my family history and found out that my DNA traced 75% Irish. I would love to trace my migration path from Ireland to England

  79. L appleby

    My DNA test result showed Irish ancestry and there was question over my having different father to siblings, Ireland was the country of possible father!
    So sibling DNA test is necessary to confirm full or half relationship.
    I have no surname for this person. So the ancestry DNA test proved very interesting for me and I look forward to more information.

  80. Jennifer Shepherd

    My grandfather Micheal Springer est birth 1799,was born in Portondon, Jamaica, we have only found him on one cencus in England 1851, know he died in Ireland. but we cannot trace his parents, or his wife Catherine.In 1851, their surname is down as Spreng

  81. Jen

    I have already had my results of my ancestry DNA. Will I still find out the areas in detail?.. I was disappointed in the initial results as we thought they were really vague. For example I’m 19% Asian. Asia is a big place and I would have liked to pinpoint an area.

  82. Mandy Clarke

    I have done the DNA test but can’t remember if I ticked the research box. How do I find out?

  83. Jo-Anne Gannon

    Oddly enough, I was surprised to see a 13% Irish connection in my DNA results! After researching for 30+ years and not finding an Irish link, I was taken aback. I guess two of my direct ancestor surnames should have been a sign
    …Joyce and Haley!
    Really looking forward to Genetic Communities! Way to go Ancestry!

  84. Wyn Jones

    My current Ancestry analysis includes a significant chunk of “Irish”. Based on much other information my family is extensively “Welsh” or indeed Britanic celt (Welsh, Brecon, Corniche, old British) rather than Goidelic (Irish/ Scots). Is the new analysis available on existing DNA submiscion or just new? Will it separate Britannic and Goidelic cells? (Both have probable common Ice Age refuge origins in Iberia but that is a long time ago and attempting to source Welsh ancestry back to Ireland is a bit myopic)

  85. Bob Osborne

    Would be fascinated to learn how close my 15% Irish DNA is to me…not to mention the 8% Iberian.

  86. Jill

    I have just received my Dads dna which mentions Ireland. How do i find out where in Ireland his family are from?

  87. Jamie Kennedy

    This is fascinating! I received my results at the start of the month and would love to see which areas of Ireland my ancestors came from. Can I participate even though I’ve already got my results?

  88. Tylden Reed

    I have an account with Ancestry and have taken the DNA Test. To get the benefit of the new DNA Results you write about do I need to pay more money or is it a free upgrade to the existing agreement? Thank you.

  89. Barbara

    My father was adopted in 1920 other than his mothers name I do not know anything! I hope DNA might help me find out more

  90. Michelle Barber

    I believe this may be particularly helpful with Irish research as I am often left floundering due to a lack of census records. I don’t want to sound over excited but I really am counting the days.

  91. Valerie Morgan

    I would love to learn more about my 48% Scandanavian ancestry. Is there something extra I need to sign up for?

  92. Terri Laverick

    I’m looking forward to learning more. My family tree is completely English going back to the 1700’s, but apparently I’m 45% Irish, part Iberian and Western Europe and a few other parts as well. Interesting.

  93. Dave barry

    The genome samples used in the “Nature” paper has only 14000 of 432000 being born outside the US. Understandable, given that the paper addresses US communities. As you’re now going “worldwide”, how worldwide is the sample set being used? I’d have more confidence if the bias was more worldwide.

  94. Joy Millman

    I had a DNA test done last year and it finally solved the brick wall as to who my maternal Grandfather actually was. Years of being unable to trace him, the DNA finally gave my cousin and I the link we needed. Such a story as he told shows that truth is stranger than fiction. The point being is that the science does not lie.

  95. Charles Le Breton

    I am keen to further DNA research and have to wonder why some people are so reluctant. It is less than a year since I had the Ancestry test but so far I have 7 confirmed connections. If only everybody would submit their trees and make them public as actual proof can only come from complete disclosure and communication.

  96. Gina Jacobs

    Hello, this is indeed exciting news. Please tell me that I am correct in thinking that some remote areas( Ffestiniog, North Wales. My family go back into the mists of time in the Ffestiniog area. Will this show in my D N A. It is vastly different to G B which in the past covered Scotland and Wales. Thank you.

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