I just received my Family Tree atDNA results which show 97% British Isles. This seems to be a major error because it shows my Dad's lineage (BI) but completely leaves out my mother’s lineage which is all Norwegian documented to the 1600s. But the FT DNA results show not even 1% Scandinavian! How is this possible?

The FTDNA "matches" show all of my maternal line Norwegian surnames (from both my grandmother and grandfather) and many proposed cousins in Norway. So FTDNA is picking up and recording my Scandinavian DNA, but not showing it in my Origins section.

  1. Could the results go back as far as the Viking Age when Vikings kidnapped hundreds of men and women from Ireland and brought them back to Norway as slaves to work the farms or be wives/concubines?

  2. Or did I inherit just my father's DNA and not my mother's? But why would there be matches for all her ancestral surnames?

  3. Was there a British/Irish/Scottish invasion of the Sognefjord at some point 500 years ago that is not common knowledge?

  • Welcome to G&FH SE! Thank you for having taken the Tour to learn about our focussed Q&A format which is quite different from bulletin boards, discussion forums and other Q&A sites you may be used to. Wherever possible we try to ask a single focussed question rather than multiple questions. For example I think your third question is something that may be better asked at the History Stack Exchange.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Feb 17, 2018 at 3:40
  • The closer two populations are historically and geographically, the more difficult it is to tease apart ethnicity identifications from DNA. Norway and the British Isles fall into that category. Commented Feb 17, 2018 at 5:30
  • Thank you,PolyGeo, I will comply:) Thanks also for the good response from someone named "Hatchet" (sorry if mispelled, but I can't see full screen bc my home internet went out and I have to use a laptop at Mcdonalds.) Lani Friend
    – Lani
    Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 20:31
  • Thanks, Steve, but why would Family Tree DNA have them as two separate population cluster options? Am I allowed to respond to you in the comments window? This is my first time on this site, and I have already bungled things, sorry :(
    – Lani
    Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 20:36

3 Answers 3


Ethnicity estimates are only estimates. They are based on a comparison to samples collected from modern-day reference populations, people living in the different regions who have lived in the area for a chosen number of generations.

Estimates are not 'cast in stone' and can change over time. For example, 23andMe updated their estimates in early 2019, and Ancestry updated its estimates in October 2019 -- see the post Ancestry® Expands Reference Panel to Deliver More Precise Results and New Regions on the Ancestry blog. Ancestry describes the reasoning behind their DNA Matches and Ethnicity estimates in documents called White Papers, and you can download the Ethnicity White Paper if you want to understand how Ancestry arrived at an estimate for an AncestryDNA test.

However, different companies use different methods to arrive at their estimates. For example, information on how National Geographic's Geno 2.0 project arrives at their estimates is on the page Your Regional Ancestry: Reference Populations, and 23andMe has the page Ancestry Composition: 23andMe's State-of-the-Art Geographic Ancestry Analysis. Estimates from different companies may be wildly different (see Judy G. Russell's "Not soup yet" series in the Further Reading list).

If you want to understand what's going on with your estimate at FTDNA, you need to know how they get the estimate. FTDNA has a webinar FamilyTreeDNA Results Explained: My Origins (posted on Mar 21, 2015) but it may not go into the same depth as the Ancestry White Paper. The only thing we can say with certainty is that your estimate is likely to change as time goes on.

Further reading:

The "not soup yet" series by Judy G. Russell, posted on her blog The Legal Genealogist:


I am a bit late but: My family have lived in Norway for the last 400 years and more. I came out as 59% scandinavian, 39% british isles.

My great grandfather was from Sogn.

The rest of the family is from the coastline and fjords of Tronderlag, Helgeland and Lofoten/ Vesteraalen.

There is said that a lot of Scottish emigrants came to norways west coast and the coastline in the North somewhere between 1300-1600.

My theory on why I got such high results from the British islands is that I ( like most of Norwegians) have forfathers that have been earls and kings in Orkney, the Hebrides and other parts of Scotland, + Ireland and some parts in England. This is written on my father side of the family tree.

I looked up my matches last names, and most of these names originated in the Hebrides and in Ulster, Ireland. Some of them also had norse roots.

My theory is that I have inherited small amounts of scottish and Irish DNA, from several sides of my family. It seemes like most of the Ulsters have something to do with my great grandfather from the west coast, and most of the Scottish have something to do with my grandfather from the northern parts.

I didn’t do the mtdna test, but others on my mothers line has, and this shows the haplogroup x2b5 ( which also suggest a scandinavian/ British Islands connection) and this is ( of course) from my mothers mothers line.

Then I guess the vikings took some thralls with them, to all of these parts. Because all of these parts of the country had viking aktivity.

( Sorry about my bad english)


Apparently there is a lot of common ancestry between Scandinavian and the British Isles. All 4 of my mothers grandparents came from Norway , my fathers are mostly from Cornwall. My brothers DNA test came back as nearly all "Celtic".

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