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:

Origins of my ancestors in France
Origins of my ancestors in France

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


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.


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.


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.


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

28 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.

  3. Your Living DNA results make sense if you are primarily Northern French with some Corsican ancestry. Living DNA base their results on autosomal DNA PCA plots. Northern French people cluster with Northern Germans, and Southern Germans as well as some English people.

  4. Thank you for this article!!! It certainly relieves my cinfusion. I had my DNA tested without knowing that France (where my entire background is from on both sides) has a ban on DNA testing. My results are almost identical to yours! lol
    I’m half Corsican so I was told that I’m Tuscan Italian and my other side is from South Eastern France and Paris region, so I’m told I’m German, Scandinavian and British.
    But then I have 1% from the Middle East, and then, weirdly Sri Lankan, Columbia and Peruvian!!! and a minuscule amount… Chinese!!! WHAT??? LOL… Where did those come from!!!
    Your explanations make perfect sense.
    I was going to get retested, but not anymore. Although, I would like to know my Neanderthal percentage, my company didn’t tell me.
    Thank you again, great explanation!!!

    1. Europeans and other people in the rest of the world go back to the middle-east after leaving Africa 200000 years ago So it’s no wonder that a very tiny percentage would show on your DNA. Also, farmers from Anatolia/Turkey and the fertile crescent between 9000 and 5000 years made their way into Europe and the British Isles displacing hunter-gathers.

  5. I have looked at every angle available on the major ancestry sites and found approximately 40% French. I cross-referenced with my family tree that has so many French surnames that 49% seems on the low side.

  6. Hi, I am English and recently had a dna test with 23 and me. The results came back saying I was 48% French dna which totally confused me until I discovered that Ancient Britons are classed as French dna. I also have 0.1% North African dna, is that just noise or maybe the original Hunter gatherers to enter Northern Europe after the last ice age? Chris

    1. This helps me out, as far as I know from my tree and being told I’m American with Irish, English, some Scottish, and some German Ancestry but 23andme gave me 46% French German and 36% British Irish and 15% eastern europe

      1. My full dna percentages are 48.7% french dna, 45.5% british irish dna, 5.4% north western european, 0.4% Scandinavian and 0.1% north african dna. Three of my grandparents come from essex in eastern england and one from county durham in north England. Hope this helps. Chris

  7. The Corsicans, Sardinians, Maltese, Sicilians, the Balearic islanders, and mainlanders from Southern Europe throughout, mixed in ancient times with the Phoenicians who sailed from Lebanon and created settlements and cities throughout the Mediterranean, (Marseille for example before it became hellenized, and Corsica and its original inhabitants was first colonized by them) so your “middle eastern” DNA percentages are probably 3000 to 2500 year old genes of the premier ship building and maritime culture of the ancient world that originated in Lebanon and established cities throughout the Mediterranean. It is estimated that 1 in 17 Mediterraneans throughout have some Phoenician origins.

  8. Thank you for sharing, could the ‘middle eastern’ DNA be as a result of the 8th. century invasion of europe by the moors?

  9. Hello, I am quite late to this post but I wanted to include that if you happen to be someone like myself (half Spanish and half English) you may even get as I did on my DNA test which showed over 70% French. I already figured that it was an error due to being 50/50 ethnically mixed. The mistake of ethnicity estimates can be totally understandable if we know our paper history well enough and consider these countries are very close too 🙂 I have also tried gedmatch with my raw dna and it shows my closest population being French still, second to that was Galicia (Spain) and so on. Thank you for the detailed breakdown in your post.

  10. Very Interesting Post. I did a DNA test with Ancestry about a year ago. Both my parents are from Quebec. I traced my family to late 1500’s France on both sides. All French surnames. My results were France 100% for the last year. A few weeks ago I received an update, 98% France and 2% Wales. I’m skeptical. Not sure how Wales wasn’t detected initially and suddenly it appeared.

  11. Does this go vice versa, can British Ancestry appear as french/German on 23andme ? Also what part of the British isles, specifically? Ireland Scotland or England? Thank you for your time.

    1. Hello and Happy New Year!
      I believe this is possible that British ancestry appear as French/German, as the DNA of these populations are close. However I don’t know for which part of the British Isles specifically.
      Best regards,

    2. Yes. Ancient Britons are french dna and they inhabited all of the british isles including all of ireland. After the Romans left the saxons which i believe is the British dna migrated into England. Chris

  12. I took a DNA test on MyHeritage at the end of 2021. I am half Scottish (possible with a bit of Scandinavian), a quarter Welsh (with a very small amount of English), and a quarter Belgian. Yet MyHeritage came up with 35% Irish/Welsh/Scottish, 32% English, 29% Italian, and 4% Scandinavian. Doesn’t make much sense. If my Belgian ancestry is coming out as English, where is the Italian from? And if the Belgian is coming out as Italian, where is all the English from?

    1. Hello,
      I am not an expert on the subject, but your English DNA could also partly come from your Scottish or Welsh ancestry?
      When looking at DNA estimates, we should always keep in mind that DNA estimates are only reliable on a continental level. On a sub-continental level, they usually lack precision.
      Maybe people at MyHeritage could provide you with some explanation.
      Best regards,

  13. Thank you so much for this!! I was told that my great grandparents had French ancestry. I believe I have accurately traced my great grandmother to the Kings Daughters but my ancestry results do not even have a 1% reference to France.

  14. Thank you for this explanation! My family are being identified as “English” for our 25-50% French ancestry. This includes all cousins and immediate family. We were all mystified. Our French ancestry is very well documented and is mostly in the Nantes area. Your explanation very much cleared up the discrepancy for our family. Thank you.

  15. I’m so glad that you wrote this article. I too have had the same type of results as you. My paternal grandmother was French whose father and the rest of the Nicolle family came from Calvados. While my paternal great grandmother and her family, all came from Wallonia, Belgium. Yet , in my DNA results, I have a miniscule of French. What I had, was determined to come from North East France! I used Ancestry and also uploaded the results to 23&Me which game me the same kind of results. I do know, with Ancestry.com, they lump part of Normandie into the British Isles. So maybe that is the reason.

    I love your website, it offers so much varied articles and information on French Genealogy. Please continue to write!


  16. Hello

    Thank you for this blog. Im from Switzerland and have a swiss mother and southitalian father.
    The surnamen of my mother is Nobel and is a descendent from Noble/Lenoble of the area of Alsace who came across as vagrants in the end of the 18th centory to switzerland. I aslo found out that a brother of this ancestor established in Liebsdorf Alscace. They are born as Lenoble or Lenoblegano and died with the Name Nobel. It seems anyway that many of the Lenoble changed they’re surname to Nobel. Im also speculating if they originaly from a other place more of the north of france.

    Im tested my DNA with MyHeritage 2 yrears ago and shortly with Ancestry (shortly aviable in Switzerland).
    Acording MH im 18 % scandinavian (my mother is 56 % N W Europe).
    we are both in the genetic group of Fribourg (french speaking part of Switzerland) and Bern. This is exaclty where the ancestors of my mother lived the last 200 250 years after emigration from France. Also her maternal ancestors comes from the french speaking area of Switzerland.
    As i finally got the results from Ancestry im recived 40 % French and 14 % german DNA. The other half is how i expected from southitaly similar what i got from My Heritage). Im absolutely fascinated that i got that much french cause im only half swiss. Acestry has as reference group of over 3000 people where lived (and proofed with documents that) in France since centurys.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *