Irish DNA Ethnicity

Diahan Southard

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How does Irish DNA ethnicity show up in your AncestryDNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage DNA, Living DNA or Family Tree DNA test results? Here’s a comparison.

Irish DNA ethnicity AncestryDNA MyHeritage Living DNA 23andMe Family Tree DNA IO.pngHow well your DNA testing company represents your known family history is based on a lot of factors. But one of those is the locations to which you are trying to genetically tie yourself. Some places are just easier to identify in your DNA than others. In this article, we will take a look at all the ways our five major DNA testing companies are reporting your genetic connection to Ireland through your Irish DNA ethnicity estimate.

First, let’s talk about what Ireland has going for it, in a genetic sense. First, it’s an island. That’s a genetic plus. It means that there weren’t all kinds of people traipsing though the area willy-nilly. But those who came likely stayed, and stayed for the long haul. Of course, you do have close neighbors to the north (Scotland) and to the East (Great Britain) so you can expect that there was some genetic intermingling there, which will for sure complicate our DNA ethnicity estimates.

OK, let’s jump into an analysis by testing company.

Irish DNA Ethnicity Estimates

Family Tree DNA

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At Family Tree DNA,* they do have a category for Ireland. That means they have confidence in their ability to separate your Irish DNA from nearby areas, but not break it down any further.

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Living DNA

Living DNA test kit.jpgSimilarly, Living DNA will place you in the larger category of Great Britain and Ireland, but will tell you how much of that larger percentage they ascribe to Ireland as opposed to other areas in Great Britain.

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These next three companies have two parts to their ethnicity results. They all have the broad, general “Irish” category, but they also have the ability to break down your heritage to more specific locations within Ireland. These sub-locations can often be very valuable in determining your ancestral county of origin.


MyHeritage DNA

MyHeritage DNA test kit.jpgWhen you click on your Irish category at MyHeritage DNA, you will get the typical historical rundown of the area. But if you are in an Irish genetic group (of which there are currently 156, a few are shown here), clicking there will reveal all kinds of relevant information to your family history research. This includes the dates and locations corresponding to other individuals who are in your genetic group. Because these groups are so specifically categorized, often the migration patterns revealed in these results can give you clues as to where your ancestor may have come from, and to where your ancestor’s other descendants might have traveled.

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Note: If you’ve already tested elsewhere, and you transfer your DNA to MyHeritage for free, you can only get access to your ethnicity and Genetic Groups when you pay a $29 fee to unlock these and other DNA tools. Here’s why it’s worth it.

Transfer to MyHeritage


AncestryDNA test kit.jpgIf AncestryDNA assigns you a percentage in the Irish category, get ready to explore! You will first want to click on your Ireland percentage, which brings up the first image below. Notice that this individual has been assigned 15% Irish, but the range is reported as 0-21%. See, when our companies determine your ethnicity, they run your sample through their algorithm multiple times. This range reflects all of the values they saw over the thousands of times they ran your sample. What does this mean for you? It means you could be 0% Irish, or even 21% Irish. But their best guess is 15%.

Irish Ancestry.png

Clicking on “Learn more about this map and ethnicity” will give you the second image. This image can really help you gauge how well this genetic category matches up with the genetics of the individuals who currently live in the area (and have lived there for generations).


23andMe DNA test kit.jpgAt 23andMe, your Irish result will fall under the broader category of British and Irish. Clicking on that category will expand it to show locations that are relevant to your family history within the last 200 years. You can see the confidence that 23andMe has in your assignment, as well as explore the most likely regions on the heat map (where darker colors mean it is more likely that you have ancestors in that area). 23andMe breaks up Ireland into its 26 administrative regions, which will give you some good starting locations for you to look for records about your Irish family.

Irish 23andMe.png

How accurate are DNA ethnicity results overall?

Our DNA testing companies continue to refine their DNA ethnicity predictions—but it’s still not easy! Our free downloadable guide to your DNA ethnicity results tells how they’re calculated, so you can better understand how accurate yours are.

Get A Free Guide to DNA Ethnicity Results

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<a href="" target="_self">Diahan Southard</a>

Diahan Southard

As founder and CEO of Your DNA Guide, Diahan Southard has been teaching people how to find family history answers in their DNA for several years, and she's been in the genetic genealogy field since its infancy. Diahan teaches internationally, writes for popular magazines, consults with leading testing companies, is author of Your DNA Guide–The Book, and producer of Your DNA Guide–the Academy, an online learning experience.


  1. Paniaa

    "… there weren’t all kinds of people traipsing though the area willy-nilly." That is not correct. Apart from the Vikings constantly attacking, the Brits making war and overcoming the Irish, there were probably hundreds of scholars visiting Ireland in medieval times to study at their centres of learning from all over the known world.

    • Diahan

      Perhaps. But not nearly the traffic that other parts of Europe saw.

  2. Dragan

    My heritage DNA result shows 11% Irish, Scottish, Wales ethnicity and It is clear it should be from fathers side as other relatives from that side have the same group in almost similar percent (1th-2nd cousin about 18%) …I have been researching if any British/Irish soldiers or any craftsmen could migrate to the Balkans in the past 100 years but there was no any useful paper on it so far…my father side ancestors have been in Szabadka Austro Hungarian Empire (now Subotica,Serbia) since 1686 led there from Ottoman occupied Dalmatia by brave Franciscan priests… Any idea how I could find some clue to connect this data with my origins? thanks in advance for any info

  3. DeeDee

    I tested 59.6% irish with 23 and me. I think of my self as being over half Irish. Is this correct and I think it came from my mom, many generations back. Perhaps 5 or 6.

  4. Anne Marie McDonagh

    My Ancestry DNA shows 30% Irish on my maternal line (my grandfather was Irish)
    On my paternal line I have 31% Irish DNA but don’t come across anyone Irish till my 3rd great grandparents. How can this be?


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