DNA of the nation revealed...and we're not as 'British' as we think

  • Study looked at the nation’s ethnicity dating back 500 years from 26 global regions[i]
  • Reveals the genetic make-up of the average UK resident, and variations in English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish genetic make-ups
  • Average UK resident is 36.94% British, 21.59% Irish and 19.91% Western European (French/German)  

The genetic make-up of the nation has been revealed – with Yorkshire proven to be the most ‘British’ region in the UK, while London is the most ethnically diverse and the East Midlands the most Scandinavian region in the UK.

This is according to new analysis of the genetic history of two million people worldwide by Ancestry, the leader in family history and consumer genomics, based on data collated from the AncestryDNA home DNA test that examines a person’s entire genome at over 700,000 different genetic locations.

The results reveal the genetic ethnic make up of the ‘average’ person in the UK and what countries and/or regions they can trace their ancestry back to over the past 500 years. They found that the average UK resident is 36.94% British (Anglo Saxon), 21.59% Irish (Celtic) and 19.91% Western European (the region covered today by France and Germany).

Following these top three regional ethnicities in the average UK resident are Scandinavia (9.20%), the Iberian Peninsula (Spain/Portugal) (3.05%), and Italy and Greece (1.98%). For more information on these regions see Table 2 below.

Interestingly, breakdowns of the data also reveal differences between residents of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and even within English regions.

  • English people have significantly less Irish ancestry (just 20% of their genetic make-up) on average compared to people living in Scotland (43.84%), Wales (31.99%) and Northern Ireland (48.49%). English residents do however have the highest amount of Scandinavian (9.39%) and Western European (French/German) (20.45%) ancestry.  
  • Scottish residents have the highest amount of Finnish/Northwest Russian (1.31%) heritage, which is explained by their geographic proximity.
  • Welsh residents have the highest proportion of ancestry from the Iberian Peninsula (Spain/Portugal) in the UK (3%).

Within England, London is the most ethnically diverse region, having the highest amount of heritage from 17 of the 26 regions[ii] analysed. Yorkshire was found to have the highest percentage of British (Anglo Saxon) ancestry (41.17%). The East Midlands has the most Scandinavian ancestry (10.37%) as well as the most Eastern European (2.47%).

The East of England has the most Italian/Greek (Southern European) ancestry (2.53%) and Western European (French/German) (22.52%) ancestry, as well as the highest amount from the Iberian Peninsula (Spain/Portugal) (3.43%). Within England, the North East is home to people with the most Irish (Celtic) ancestry (27.58%).

The AncestryDNA test uses microarray-based autosomal DNA testing, which surveys a person’s entire genome at over 700,000 locations via a simple saliva sample. Analysis of the data provides a prediction of the locations of ancestors from 26 separate worldwide populations including Great Britain and Ireland, Europe, Scandinavia, Asia and South and North Africa.

In contrast to Y-chromosome or mitochondrial DNA tests, which only test one line of your family and generally provide information about ancestry several thousand years ago, the AncestryDNA autosomal test targets the last few hundred or thousand years. This enables people to learn more about their more immediate ancestral history.

Brad Argent from AncestryDNA said:

“At a time when the concept of British identity is at the forefront of many people’s minds, it’s interesting to see that when it comes to our ancestry, we’re not as British or Irish as we may think. The UK has been a cultural and ethnic melting pot for not just generations, but centuries, and our DNA data provides a fascinating glimpse into our ancestors, including hints of immigration and emigration. While it’s fascinating looking at this data on a national scale, the fun really starts when you test your own DNA and begin to delve into your own family history.

“AncestryDNA revolutionises the way people can discover more about themselves and their family and also connect with relatives they previously didn’t know existed.”

Tests are available for purchase at www.ancestrydna.co.uk. AncestryDNA is offered by Ancestry – the leader in family history and consumer genomics. When combined with Ancestry’s existing database of over 17 billion records and 80 million family trees, this creates the ultimate family history resource.



[i] The 26 regions are: Africa North, Ivory Coast/Ghana, Benin/Togo, Cameroon/Congo, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Africa Southeastern Bantu, Africa South-Central Hunter Gatherers, Caucasus, Middle East, Native American, Asia South, Asia Central, Asia East, Great Britain (Anglo Saxon), Ireland (Celtic), Europe East, Scandinavia (Europe North), Italy/Greece (Europe South), Europe West (France/Germany), Iberian Peninsula (Spain/Portugal), European Jewish, Finland/Northwest Russia, Polynesia, Melanesia.

[ii] See footnote one.

Table 1: Top ethnicities (above 1%), by country/region


Country / Region

Ethnicities above 1% (percentage within the average resident)

The UK

British (36.94%), Irish (21.59%), Europe West (19.91%), Scandinavia (9.20%), Iberian Peninsula (3.05%), Italy/Greece (1.98%), Eastern Europe (1.84%), European Jewish (1.46%), Finland/Northwest Russia (1%)


British (37.61%), Europe West (20.45%), Irish (20%), Scandinavia (9.39%), Iberian Peninsula (3.09%), Italy/Greece (2.01%), Eastern Europe (1.85%), European Jewish (1.51%)


Irish (43.84%), British (26.18%), Europe West (13.05%), Scandinavia (7.19%), Iberian Peninsula (2.30%), Eastern Europe (1.68%), Italy/Greece (1.63%), Finland/Northwest Russia (1.31%)


British (36.15%), Irish (31.99%), Europe West (14.70%), Scandinavia (6.64%), Iberian Peninsula (3.24%), Eastern Europe (1.85%), Italy/Greece (1.50%), European Jewish (1%)

Northern Ireland

Irish (48.49%), British (23.64%), Europe West (12.11%), Scandinavia (6.19%), Iberian Peninsula (2.07%), Italy/Greece (1.24%), Eastern Europe (1.10%)

England – East Midlands

British (41.08%), Europe West (21.21%), Irish (16%), Scandinavia (10.37%), Iberian Peninsula (2.97%), Eastern Europe (2.47%), Italy/Greece (1.58%)

England – East of England

British (36.29%), Europe West (22.52%), Irish (17.46%), Scandinavia (9.71%), Iberian Peninsula (3.43%), Eastern Europe (2.03%), Italy/Greece (2.53%), European Jewish (1.61%)

England – London

British (33.60%), Europe West (20.04%), Irish (19.76%), Scandinavia (8.41%), European Jewish (3.66%), Iberian Peninsula (3.39%), Italy/Greece (2.51%), Eastern Europe (1.86%)

England – North East

British (36.42%), Irish (27.58%) Europe West (17.87%), Scandinavia (9.37%), Iberian Peninsula (2.64%), Italy/Greece (1.54%), Eastern Europe (1.34%), Finland/Northwest Russia (1.14%)

England – North West

British (37.03%), Irish (26.89%) Europe West (16.97%), Scandinavia (8.76%), Iberian Peninsula (2.54%), Eastern Europe (1.78%), Italy/Greece (1.48%), European Jewish (1.06%), Finland/Northwest Russia (1%)

England – South East

British (38.35%), Europe West (22.07%), Irish (17.09%), Scandinavia (9.90%), Iberian Peninsula (3.29%), Italy/Greece (2.15%), Eastern Europe (1.79%), European Jewish (1.18%)

England – South West

British (40.10%), Europe West (20.79%), Irish (17.95%), Scandinavia (9.16%), Iberian Pen insula (3.30%), Italy/Greece (2.13%), Eastern Europe (1.93%)

England – West Midlands

British (39.89%), Europe West (21.10%), Irish (19.21%), Scandinavia (9.65%), Iberian Peninsula (2.87%), Italy/Greece (1.53%), Eastern Europe (1.46%)

England – Yorkshire and Humber

British (41.17%), Europe West (19.65%), Irish (19.28%), Scandinavia (10.10%), Iberian Peninsula (2.66%), Eastern Europe (1.80%), Italy/Greece (1.68%)


Table 2. Additional information about the top regions


Ethnicity Region


Great Britain (Anglo Saxon)

Primarily located in: England, Scotland, Wales


Also found in: Ireland, France, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Italy


The history of Great Britain is often told in terms of the invasions with different groups of invaders displacing the native population. The Romans, Anglo-Saxon, Vikings and Normans have all left their mark on Great Britain both politically and culturally. However, the story of Great Britain is far more complex than the traditional view of invaders displacing existing populations. Modern studies of British people suggest the earliest populations continued to exist and adapt and absorb the new arrivals.

Ireland (Celtic)

Primarily located in: Ireland, Wales, Scotland


Also found in: France, England


A variety of internal and external influences have shaped Ireland, as we know it today. Irish culture remains deeply rooted in the Celtic culture that spread across much of Central Europe and into the British Isles. Along with Wales, Scotland, and a handful of other isolated communities within the British Isles, Ireland remains one of the last holdouts of the ancient Celtic languages that were once spoken through much of Western Europe. Though closely linked to Great Britain geographically and historically, the Irish have fiercely maintained their unique character through the centuries.

Europe West (France/Germany)

Primarily located in: Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein


Also found in: England, Denmark, Italy, Slovenia, Czech Republic


The Europe West region is a broad expanse stretching from Amsterdam's sea-level metropolis to the majestic peaks of the Alps. Geographically dominated by France in the west and Germany in the east, it includes several nations with distinct cultural identities. From the boisterous beer gardens of Munich to the sun-soaked vineyards of Bordeaux and the alpine dairy farms of Switzerland, it is a region of charming cultural diversity.

Scandinavia (Europe North)

Primarily located in: Sweden, Norway, Denmark


Also found in: Great Britain, France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, the Baltic States, Finland


Perched atop northern Europe, Scandinavians are referred to throughout history as “North Men.” Separated from the main European continent by the Baltic Sea, the Scandinavians have historically been renowned seafarers. Their adventures brought them into contact with much of the rest of Europe, sometimes as feared raiders and other times as well-travelled merchants and tradesmen.

Iberian Peninsula (Spain/Portugal)

Primarily located in: Spain, Portugal

Also found in: France, Morocco, Algeria, Italy


Separated from the rest of continental Europe by the Pyrenees, the Iberian Peninsula lies between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Gibraltar, at the peninsula’s southern tip, is just a little over nine miles from the north coast of Africa. This proximity would play a major part in the history and identity of Spain and Portugal.

Europe South (Italy/Greece)

Primarily located in: Italy, Greece

Also found in: France, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, Serbia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Austria, Croatia, Bosnia, Romania, Turkey, Slovenia, Algeria, Tunisia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo


This Mediterranean region gave rise to some of the most iconic and powerful cultures the Western world has known. The Greeks were first, with their pantheon of gods, legendary heroes, philosophers and artists. They subsequently influenced the Romans, whose vast empire spread its ideas and language across Europe.

Eastern Europe

Primarily located in: Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Austria, Russia, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Lithuania, Latvia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia

Also found in: Germany, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Estonia, Bulgaria


The Europe East region stretches from the Baltic Sea in the north to the borders of Greece in the south. Throughout history, the region has stood at the crossroads—and often in the crosshairs—of Europe and Central Asia. Despite constant invasions and occupations over the centuries, the hardy inhabitants have, nevertheless, managed to persevere.

European Jewish

Primarily located in: Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Hungary, Israel

Also found in: Germany, France, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Romania, Bosnia, Serbia, Estonia


The European Jewish region is not geographically defined in the same way as most other ethnic regions. The historic dispersal of the Jewish population from its origin in the Levant on the east coast of the Mediterranean resulted in insular communities scattered throughout Europe, North Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East. Although some Jewish communities enjoyed positions of relative peace and prosperity, many more were segregated from mainstream society by law, custom and prejudice, experiencing sustained persecution and discrimination. Jewish populations from northern and eastern Europe are often known as “Ashkenazi.” “Sephardic” refers to Jews who were expelled from Spain during the Inquisition and mostly settled in North Africa and southeastern Europe.

Finland/Northwest Russia

Primarily located in: Finland, Russia (northwest)

Also found in: Estonia, Latvia, Sweden, Lithuania


Finland is one of the Nordic nations, straddling the Arctic Circle north of continental Europe. Although it shares long borders with the Scandinavian nations of Sweden and Norway, Finland stands apart in both language and ethnic identity. Politically controlled by its neighbours Sweden and Russia through much of its history, Finland today is a strong, independent nation with a unique, ancient heritage.

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