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    Tracing Your European Ancestors

    When it comes to European ancestry, there are four common ethnicities that DNA testing labs look at, including northwestern, southern, eastern, and Jewish European. 

    Given that many Europeans migrated to other parts of the world, it’s common to uncover this ethnicity even if your family lived for a substantial period on different continents.

    People who migrated to North America from Europe are known as Euro-Americans. The term primarily describes Americans with European geographical and cultural ancestry. 

    Which DNA Test Is The Best For European Ancestry?

    At-home DNA testing kits make it easy to find information about familial relations and ancestors with a swab or a spit. If you think you have European DNA, the good news is most of the large DNA testing companies have already developed detailed databases for this ethnic DNA background. 

    An estimated 90% of European descendent Americans will be recognizable in just a few years thanks to the genetic material collected via these companies alone. Therefore, if you’re an American with roots across the Atlantic and haven’t done a DNA test, you’ll still be identifiable due to your relatives who completed DNA tests. 

    Approximately 60% of Euro-Americans may be pinpointed with the data already available from DNA testing platforms. Most brands have more massive reference points for EU ancestry relative to other ethnicities. 

    When you compare different brands, MyHeritage tops the list for these Euro-centric ethnicities because it's a European company. Thanks to its humble beginning as a service for compiling family trees, the company currently features detailed historical records from 56 countries in Europe that can help pinpoint an individual’s ethnic origin. 

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    Northwestern Europe Ancestry DNA 

    Northwestern European DNA refers to the ancestry of a unique pan-ethnic group of people. 

    St. Patricks Day

    • According to historical records, New York City’s population was primarily comprised of individuals with Northwestern European ancestry in the late 18th century
    • The countries included in this group are Great Britain, Sweden, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Northern Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, and Northern France. Being a multi-ethnic group, this group may also include migration from European countries such as Switzerland, Finland, Southern Germany, and Austria 
    • An enormous wave of migrants with Northwestern European ancestry DNA arrived between 1821 to 1880 when people from Ireland, France, Germany, and Britain reached the East Coast. However, the total immigrants from Northwestern parts of Europe to the US also decreased by 41% between 1901 to 1920
    • Other countries with high concentrations of this European ancestry within their populations include Australia and New Zealand

    Southern European DNA 

    Another pan-ethnic group, individuals with this ancestry from the geographical region also commonly referred to as Mediterranean Europe.

    Italians

    • About 2% of Euro-Americans hail from Southern Europe. This specific population is divided into subgroups, including Italian Americans, Czech Americans, Greek Americans, Albanian Americans, Spanish Americans, Portuguese Americans, and Yugoslavian Americans 
    • Per historical records, Southern European migrants settled primarily in Mexico, Florida, and the Caribbean islands 
    • The modern-day nations in this ethnicity include Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia, Southern France, Greece, Spain, and Yugoslavia. This geographical region also contains small countries such as Monaco, Malta, Vatican City, San Marino, Serbia, North Macedonia, and Andorra 
    • A high-degree of colonization occurred in the late 15th century, followed by another wave in the 1900s 
    • Outside North America, large populations containing Southern European DNA are found in South Asia, the Balkan Peninsula, Eastern Alps, UK, Canada, and Australia 

    Eastern European DNA  

    Eastern Europeans are described geographically by British historian Andrew Wilson as East Slavs, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Russians, and Moldovans. 

    Eastern Europe

    • Estimates show Eastern European ancestry in North America constituting around 4% of the total US population
    • Two central regions where Eastern Europeans settled upon reaching North America were Pittsburg, Kansas, and Cleveland, Ohio. Among the mining community In Kansas, members of this group were nicknamed ‘Little Balkans’
    • The nations that are part of the Eastern European diaspora include Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia 
    • Historically, the largest immigration wave from Eastern Europe to North America happened between the 1880s and 1890s. Another substantial emigration of Eastern Europeans also occurred from the 18th to 21st centuries to various parts of the world besides North America 
    • Reports confirm that large concentrations of individuals with Eastern European DNA are found in modern-day Great Britain, Canada, China, and Australia 

    European Jewish DNA 

    While the immigration of Jews to America resulted from economic opportunities at the outset, the rationale for leaving Europe shifted to anti-semitism by the 20th century. 

    Jews in Krakow

    • The estimated amount of the US population with Jewish DNA in their background is approximately 1.7% to 2.6% of the total
    • Popular locations of Jewish enclaves in North America include New York, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio, California, Louisiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Minnesota
    • Note that Jewish ancestry doesn’t refer to a specific geographical region but instead points to individuals connected to the religion. The European population of this ethnicity includes, but isn’t limited to Ukraine, Belarus, Turkey, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania, Baltics, Greece, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Italy, France, Ireland, the UK, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Austria, and Russia 
    • Historically, North America witnessed a 100-fold increase in Central European Jewish immigration from 1820 to 1880. During World War I, over 2,000,000 Ashkenazi Jews from Europe migrated to America. The Jewish population in Europe dropped by 60% in the last 50 years, primarily due to the collapse of the Soviet Union 
    • Ethnic European Jewish populations outside of North America primarily reside in Israel, France, Germany, Spain, Ukraine, Russia, Austria, Hungary, Poland, India, Australia, and New Zealand 

    How Accurate Are The Test Results? 

    In terms of accuracy, your European ancestry test results are as reliable as the brand you select because labs compare your genetic material with their global reference populations first. Accordingly, the provider assesses the similarity of DNA patterns with their unique algorithms to finalize its ethnicity estimate in percentage form. 

    While your results may differ between companies, none of them are necessarily wrong. For example, because ethnicity estimates refer to your ancestry’s probability, one company might indicate your ethnicity as 27% Irish, while another might say it’s 25%. 

    Bear in mind that no ethnicity results are 100% accurate, but instead just estimates. These are interpretations of data and subject to change over time as DNA databases expand.

    The process of testing European DNA origins begins with collecting and digitizing the specimen to create raw DNA data. The sample is compared to the reference profiles in the DNA testing company’s database to determine your ancestral roots. 

    There isn’t one test that can deliver absolute accuracy. Instead, accuracy is measured by analyzing the precision of each step involved. Accordingly, it’s smart to opt for a brand with the largest ethnic database that correlates with your known ancestry. 

    Here’s a list of different genetic testing companies with their rate of accuracy so that you can pick the best one: 

    • Ancestry.com reports 99% accuracy for every tested marker
    • 23andMe claims above >99% precision in terms of Genetic Health risk category  
    • FamilyTreeDNA offers a 99.9% accuracy-rate when it comes to ancestral DNA tests 

    What Does It Mean That I Have European Ancestry?  

    If you submitted your test a few weeks ago and just received results indicating European ethnicity, it means that your ancestors originated from Europe. If you look further, you may find families around Europe sharing the same surname or patrilineal history. 

    A more in-depth look at the results can reveal where your family came from in Europe, be it the northwestern, southern, or eastern regions. Next, learn more about the geography and culture of your ethnic mix. It’s bound to explain more about your physical traits, such as red hair or blue eyes. 

    In addition to your research, there are other avenues available for further exploration of your ancestral story. 

    • Look for matches to your DNA by uploading the data to a platform like GEDmatch 
    • Search for lost relatives through the testing lab you used 
    • Submit your genetic information for surname studies 
    • Hunt for relatives by adjusting privacy settings on the platform you tested 
    • Find your most recent common ancestor from Europe 
    • Study the migratory map of your ancestors to discover where they came from in Europe 
    • Book a ticket to the places where your ancestors lived
    • Uncover more information regarding the citizenship records of your ancestors