AncestryDNA uses two different approaches to figure out the regions in your DNA Story. In one we compare your DNA to the DNA from people in a reference panel. (The second uses Genetic Communities™. Read more about Genetic Communities.)

Using a Reference Panel

A reference panel is made up of people with a long family history in one place or as part of one group. To make it into the AncestryDNA reference panel, these folks need two things. First, they need a paper trail that proves their family history. Then, they must have their ethnicity confirmed at the DNA level. It is not easy to make it into the panel!

To tell your DNA story, we compare your DNA to the people in the reference panel and look for DNA you share. If some of your DNA is similar to the DNA of folks from Cameroon, for example, we assign that part of your DNA to our Cameroon region. And so on until we have looked at your whole DNA sample.

On your results list, regions based on the reference panel have a solid-circle icon that looks like this:

Building a Reference Panel

The current AncestryDNA reference panel has 16,638 DNA samples that divide the world into 43 overlapping regions and groups.

Our samples came from these sources (approximate numbers):

• 500 from Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP) samples • 800 from One Thousand Genome Project samples • 4,400 from AncestryDNA proprietary samples • 10,800 from AncestryDNA customers

The first two of these are public sources. The third set was collected by the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, and the final set comes from Ancestry customers. If two people were closely related, we removed one of the two samples. We also removed people who were not the ethnicity claimed or did not meet other criteria. We used the samples that made it through these tests to create our final reference panel.

Here is the breakdown of how many individuals are in each of the 43 regions:

Region Number of Samples
Northern Africa 41
Africa South-Central Hunter-Gatherers 34
Benin & Togo 224
Cameroon, Congo, & Southern Bantu Peoples 579
Ivory Coast & Ghana 124
Eastern Africa 82
Mali 169
Nigeria 111
Senegal 31
Native American—North, Central, South 146
Native American—Andean 63
Central & Northern Asia 186
Southern Asia 600
Balochistan 53
Burusho 23
China 620
Southeast Asia–Dai (Thai) 80
Western & Central India 65
Japan 592
Korea & Northern China 261
Philippines 538
Southeast Asia–Vietnam 159
England, Wales & Northwestern Europe 1,519
Baltic States 194
Basque 22
Ireland & Scotland 500
European Jewish 200
France 1,407
Germanic Europe 2,072
Greece & the Balkans 242
Italy 1,000
Norway 367
Portugal 404
Sardinia 30
Eastern Europe & Russia 1,959
Spain 270
Sweden 372
Finland 361
Middle East 271
Iran / Persia 459
Turkey & the Caucasus 101
Melanesia 49
Polynesia 58
Total 16,638

Still curious to understand more? Cool--we're glad you're as interested in genetics as we are. Check out our white paper on ethnicity prediction.