I recently did 23 and Me. I was primarily curious about my father's side. He passed away when I was young and his side of the family didn't keep great records in terms of where their ancestors came from.

I was surprised when I got the results back because based on the little I know about my dad's side everything seemed to line up. However my mother's side was completely not what I expected. My mother's family is from Hungary and we can trace it back several generations. However my results showed that Hungarian was not a likely match. It showed that the more likely matches on that side of my family were primarily Polish with a little bit of other European ancestry markers detected.

My question is what would be the next step into digging in here? I have some records and could build a family tree several generations back but is there somewhere else I should be digging to understand these results?

  • None of the DNA companies would recognize a Hungarian if they stepped on one. :-) (I, too, did 23andMe. All of my ancestors going back at least 250 years lived in the Carpathian Basin, and yet the "ancestry composition" report insists on Poland being a likely match, and Hungary merely a possible one. I have news for them: the probability of me having actually-Polish ancestors is effectively nil.)
    – JPmiaou
    Oct 21, 2022 at 17:45
  • I believe the reason for the misidentification is a combination of statistics and political geography: because of the dismemberment of Hungary, very few Hungarians qualify for the reference populations, because the places where their ancestors lived are now in different countries. Poles have exactly the opposite situation: their ancestral locations were different countries at the time but are all now in Poland.
    – JPmiaou
    Oct 21, 2022 at 17:54

1 Answer 1


I think the value of autosomal DNA testing is far more in the matches who share sizable amounts of DNA with you than it is for their ethnicity estimates. Even small amounts of shared DNA can be useful if you have a sizable tree.

I find the ethnicity suggested by my AncestryDNA to be interesting and only broadly in line with what I would expect, but when I compare my shared matches with what I know of my sizable tree, developed mainly from online transcriptions of paper records, they largely reinforce it.

I would recommend setting your ethnicity estimate aside for now and focus instead on turning the "several generations" you have traced for your mother's ancestry into as many as you can, using the many available genealogy and family history websites, and see how that lines up with the shared matches on your mother’s side of your tree.

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