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What French DNA looks like

A few years back, in 2016 and 2018, Yvette Hoitink from the blog “Dutch Genealogy” published posts about her DNA ethnicity estimates to show what Dutch DNA appeared as.

Following her example, I decided to do the same with my DNA results, to show you what French DNA looks like according to different DNA companies.

Note: I have tested with Family Tree DNA and uploaded my results to My Heritage DNA and Living DNA. But I have tested neither with Ancestry (not available in France), nor with 23 and me.

My “paper” ethnicity estimate

My known ancestors are almost all from France. The few who weren’t French came from Belgium and Luxembourg.

To be even more precise, my French ancestors came mainly from the Northern half of France, except for a great-grandfather who was allegedly from Corsica.

Although Corsica is in France, it’s closer to Italy, so it might appear as Italian DNA.

Here is where my ancestors were from according to my research:

Therefore, my DNA should appear as either 100% French, or around 87% from France and Belgium, and 13% from Corsica or Italy (or less if my great-grandfather wasn’t 100% from Corsica).

Ethnicity estimates by DNA companies

FamilyTreeDNA

According to FamilyTreeDNA, my DNA is 100% from Europe, with:

  • 81% from West and Central Europe (which includes France, Germany and Belgium);
  • 12% from Scandinavia;
  • and 4% from the British Isles (which includes the West of France).

Overall, it seems quite coherent: it covers all the places where my ancestors lived, except for Corsica. But it might be included in the West European region. And I also have some trace results from the South-East of Europe.

Scandinavia appears higher than expected. I am not surprised to have some Scandinavian DNA as Vikings invaded the North of France. However, even with some distant Viking ancestors, 12% seems quite high.

MyHeritage DNA

My results from MyHeritage DNA are quite close to the ones from FamilyTreeDNA. According to them, my DNA is:

  • 81% from North and West European;
  • 8% from the British Isles;
  • 8% from Italy;
  • and 3% from the Middle-East.

These results even seem a little more coherent: no Scandinavian ancestors and a small percentage from Italy, which could be linked to my Corsican great-grandfather.

The only part that raises an eyebrow is the 3% DNA from the Middle East. Such a small percentage could be just noise. But it actually also appears in my father’s results (with 7% from the Middle East).

It’s interesting to note that Yvette’s results also showed some DNA from the Middle East in both FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritageDNA, although she is 100% Dutch. So, it probably is DNA from Western Europe that is mistakenly seen as coming from the Middle East.

LivingDNA

Being a European company, I expected LivingDNA to be more accurate on French DNA. However, their results seem to be the least accurate.

According to LivingDNA, I have absolutely no DNA from France. All my DNA comes from neighboring countries, with:

  • 50% from the British Isles;
  • 40% from Germany (which includes a part of Belgium);
  • 7% from Scandinavia;
  • and 3% from Sardinia (which includes Corsica in their estimates).

So it appears that my DNA from the North of France shows up as a mix of British and German DNA.

Paper vs DNA estimates

None of the companies are completely accurate. However their results remain coherent.

In a nutshell, French DNA can appear as:

  • British;
  • German;
  • Scandinavian;
  • Italian;
  • and even as DNA from the Middle East.

I see three main reasons for this.

First, there has been a lot of population mixing between France and neighboring countries over the centuries.

Thus, French DNA can be very hard to distinguish from its neighbors. That is why DNA companies often gather French and German DNA together.

French DNA may also be considered as British, because a lot of people from the British Isles had French ancestors.

Second, France it is not a very homogeneous country. Each region has different influences due to geographical and historical reasons:

  • if your ancestors came from the North of France, they may appear as British or German or even Scandinavian;
  • on the contrary, if they came from the South, they may show up more as Iberian or Italian.

Moreover, the results greatly depend on the studies that the companies have done: French DNA may not have been studied enough due to the ban on DNA tests. So French DNA can easily be misinterpreted as British or German DNA, that have been more studied.

We can hope that the results will get better and better as more French people test their DNA. FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage DNA apparently have updates planned so I am eager to see if their results become more accurate. I’ll do an update of this post when their updates come out.

Conclusion

Therefore, having no French DNA doesn’t mean that you don’t have French ancestors. And you cannot rely only on ethnicity estimates to know if you had French ancestors.

If you want to know more about the DNA you inherited from your French ancestors, the best thing to do is to look for French DNA matches. And then try to find the connection through archives and family trees.

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4 thoughts on “What French DNA looks like

  1. Bonjour
    My Heritage has given me several matches in my French DNA. My Mother’s side of the family is from Poitiers area.

  2. I have found similar results in my testing with different companies. I even got a tad of Middle Eastern from MyHeritage. I think most of German is often categorized as British, or at least it was for me and some matches that also have common German ancestors.

    1. Yes, I have uploaded to Geneanet. They only provide matching so far (no ethnicity estimates). I don’t have a lot of matches yet (a little less than 50), but I regularly receive new matches.

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