British DNA Isn’t Quite As British As You’d Expect


Ben Taub


Ben Taub

Freelance Writer

Benjamin holds a Master's degree in anthropology from University College London and has worked in the fields of neuroscience research and mental health treatment.

Freelance Writer

British DNA is much like tea, in that it's not actually British. John Gomez/Shutterstock

It’s a funny time to be a Brit right now, with the highly controversial Brexit vote sending shockwaves through society – presumably resulting in some upturned tea cups – and leaving many questioning exactly what it means to be British. Yet while the electorate may have chosen to isolate itself from its foreign neighbors, a new study has revealed that many UK residents are not quite as native to their small island as they may think.

According to research complied by AncestryDNA, the genetic make-up of the average Brit is just 36.94 percent Anglo-Saxon, with the remainder being made up largely of Celtic, Scandinavian, Western European, Iberian, and Southern European DNA, as well as a smattering of genes from further afield.


This is based on an analysis of the genetic history of 2 million people worldwide using AncestryDNA’s home testing kits, which harness microarray-based autosomal DNA testing techniques to create a full profile of a person’s genome.

From nothing more than a DNA sample, the test is able to analyze more than 700,000 locations within this genome, tracing DNA back over 500 years to 26 different regions around the world.

Within the UK, the people of Yorkshire – home to the likes of Game of Thrones star Sean Bean – have the highest proportion of Anglo-Saxon DNA, with an average of 41 percent. Londoners, meanwhile, were found to have the greatest mix of non-British genes, with the highest concentrations of DNA from 17 of the 26 global regions found among residents of the capital.

On average, 21.59 percent of each Brit’s genetic material is of Celtic origin, with 19.91 percent coming from Western European countries like Germany and France, 9.2 percent coming from Scandinavia, and 3.05 percent having an Iberian flavor.


Looking closer at regional differences, the people of Wales have the highest proportion of Spanish and Portuguese DNA, while Scots have the most Finnish and Northwest Russian genes and those from the east of England have more Italian and Greek ancestry than other Brits.

Commenting on these findings, AncestryDNA spokesperson Brad Argent explained that “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.”



  • tag
  • genes,

  • DNA,

  • genome,

  • ancestry,

  • European,

  • UK,

  • Scotland,

  • Wales,

  • england,

  • british,

  • anglo-saxon,

  • Northern Ireland,

  • Celtic