Genetic ancestry and All of Us

January 19, 2023

Photos courtesy of All of Us Research Program

Your DNA carries a record of generations past

You get half of your DNA from your biological mother. The other half is from your biological father. Because of this, your DNA can tell you about your genetic ancestors from the last few hundred years.

What you can learn

Your genetic ancestry tells you where your recent ancestors likely lived. This is based on your DNA. Before global travel became possible, people from the same region shared patterns of DNA. As they migrated and blended with others from different geographic regions, these DNA patterns became mixed. People often wonder if genetic ancestry and ethnicity are the same thing. They aren’t. Genetic ancestry is about where on the globe your relatives came from. Ethnicity means a group of people who share things like language, religious beliefs, or culture.

People of the same ethnicity often share the same genetic ancestry. But this isn’t always the case.

It’s also important to remember that your identity is about more than just DNA. Your story includes family stories passed down from generation to generation.

Historical records can also help. Together with your DNA, this information can be used to help build your family tree and to tell the story of how your family has shaped who you are.