When you get your DNA test results back, use this guide to learn about the Iberian Peninsula ancestry you have and what it means.
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It wasn’t that long ago that many people associated the idea of a DNA test with trashy tabloid shows, but those kits can now help you learn about your ancestors. You probably heard people talk about these tests on “Maury,” which the host uses to determine the paternity of children. While you may want to take a test to make sure that your father is your biological father, you’ll likely want to take one to see where your family came from and what they did as they migrated to different countries. AncestryDNA is the most popular test now available, which explains why it has such a large database of test results and samples. Both this DNA test and others determine your ancestry based on how many genetic markers you have in common with other users and what genes they can confirm came from specific regions.
DNA tests break your ancestry down into set categories and assign a percentage to each category that corresponds with how many genes you have in common with people from each region. One region you may see on that test is the Iberian Peninsula. We’ll use this article to go over what that region is and why you might see it in a DNA results summary.
The Iberian Peninsula is one of the two largest peninsulas in Europe and has a population of more than 50 million people. Located in southwestern Europe, it primarily consists of territories ruled by Portugal and Spain. The name comes from Iberia, which the Ancient Greeks adopted from a similar Latin word. Ancient books and stories mention the peninsula as both Hiberia and Hispania, which described both the region and the people who lived there. Archaeologists found artifacts that show people lived here at least 1.2 million years ago. Some of your ancestors may have lived there in ancient times.
Around 7,000 BC, the Neolithic expansion of Europe began, which led to people on the Iberian Peninsula building stone structures and monuments. It wasn’t until 3,000 BC that residents of this region began mixing with other cultures and developing the time of civilization that we recognized today. North Africa, the Baltics and the Middle East were among the people who traded and worked with locals. One of the cultures in this region created a drinking vessel with a bell shape and became known as the Beaker culture. They would also become bronze workers around 1800 BC and create some bronze pieces that still exist.
Among the first people who lived in the Iberian Peninsula were the Romans. They moved into the region during the Second Punic War in 218 BC. The Roman Republic would first call this region Hispania and later divide into two territories. Romans used people in the region to supply its republic with wine and other supplies. During the fifth century, the peninsula became home to Germanic invaders who later took control of two provinces in the peninsula and several islands. The eighth-century saw the peninsula taken over by Muslims who invaded with an army of troops. Often called Moors during this era, they commonly lived in the southern region.
The Iberian Peninsula went through other changes over the years. When Gothics invaded and attempted to take control, the Muslim armies combined forces with Christian soldiers and went to war in a long and bloody battle that lasted for many years. The Kingdom of Portugal and the Kingdom of Aragon were just some of the kingdoms that formed. Spanish soldiers battled the Muslims and drove them from the region, gaining control for the country. From 1580 to 1640, it functioned as a union between the Kingdom of Portugal and the Kingdom of Spain. During the 17th century, those two nations split and divided the peninsula. Some of the islands that belong to those countries are not in the peninsula, including Gibraltar and the Canary Islands.
If you take a DNA test and receive results that show the Iberian Peninsula, you’re far from alone. Archaeologists refer to this region as a crossroads due to the number of people and different cultures who once lived there. More than 3,000 years ago, the peninsula was home to ports that let locals and people from around the world trade supplies and get access to new things they never saw before. Muslims and North Africans later lived here and control most regions before losing their spot to Christian invaders. Your DNA results may show a certain percentage of Iberian Peninsula ancestry because your Muslim, African, Germanic or European ancestors once lived there.
Scientists began testing the DNA of skeletons from the Iberian Peninsula in the late 2010s. They found more than 400 genomes, which is greater than those found in skeletons from other regions. In similar projects, they found only eight genomes that were unique to Japan and more than 170 that were unique to the UK. In 2010, archaeologists uncovered a skeleton in an ice cave from the Iberian Peninsula. Testing revealed that the skeleton was female and that she had genes from both hunting and gathering groups in Europe. Experts now believe that the Goyets from Belgium moved to the Iberian Peninsula during the Ice Age and that others came from Italy around 14,000 years ago. No other region in the world has proof of such early ancestors.
As millions of people lived in the Iberian Peninsula since the beginning of time, it’s not surprising that many DNA test kit users find that they have ancestors from the region. Many of the kits such as those from 23andMe and Family Tree DNA simply state that you have a percentage of Iberian Ancestry in your DNA. This can make it confusing as you research because you aren’t sure if your ancestors came from there originally or if they were from other regions. If you want to find exact information about this region, you’ll want to choose the AncestryDNA test. It’s one of the only tests on the market that breaks your genes into several parts of the peninsula, including:
Another reason to choose this test is that it will update your results later. People who took the test during its early days received results that listed all Iberian Peninsula genes under the same header. When they logged in more recently, they saw that the test now assigned a percentage to the three major regions in the peninsula. As more users submit samples and the database grows, AncestryDNA can do an even better job of identifying your ancestors and their connections to the Iberian Peninsula.
A common reason why people use the web to search for the Iberian Peninsula and how it relates to DNA is that they get their results and instantly freak out because they’re not Spanish. You might think that the test is wrong because you know that one side of your family came from Africa and another came from Europe before they settled in the US. The Iberian Peninsula DNA that one of these tests can identify may include regions on the outskirts of the peninsula and those that surround Portugal and Spain. Even if you have family from southern Europe or northern Africa, your test may show that you have Iberian Peninsula DNA. The tests can also identify this type of DNA if you have ancestors from Italy, France, Algeria and Morocco.
Another thing to consider is that even people who are native to the region are not 100% Iberian. One study found that residents have an average of 51% Iberian genes. Their remaining genes come from ancestors who moved there after living in other countries. This can include men and women who moved to the Peninsula to marry their spouses, soldiers who settled there after battles and even those who headed south to escape the dangers of the Ice Age.
Those native to the Iberian Peninsula may have genes from other regions and countries too, including:
After learning about the Iberian Peninsula and why this region can pop up in your DNA results, you might wonder if others have an increased chance of sharing your genes. People who live in select areas and those who meet certain criteria have an increased risk of having this DNA. You might have Iberian Peninsula DNA because you:
If your genetics show that you had ancestors who belonged to a Native American tribe who once lived in southwestern Kentucky, you can easily find relatives online. Everyone who lived in that region and belonged to that tribe will share some genes. The same is true for people who lived in any other region. During the colonial times, a large number of people migrated to the Iberian Peninsula from Ireland and Great Britain. Even if your ancestors moved away several generations ago, you’ll likely still have markers relating to the peninsula in your DNA. British people who came to America during the Revolutionary War and the surrounding years likely passed their Iberian Peninsula DNA markers to other generations.
Taking a DNA test is the only way you can prove that you have Iberian ancestry, but your chances of having that ancestry increases if your family came from the following regions:
AncestryDNA and similar tests divide Great Britain into regions that include the United Kingdom, Scotland and Ireland. The UK often includes any Welsh ancestry that you have too. A popular theory that genealogists came up with explains why so many people with British ancestry also have Iberian ancestry. They believe that a group of people living in the Iberian Peninsula immigrated to Great Britain during ancient times. Some may have left to escape the bloody battles or because they didn’t approve of the new rulers. If you have family who once lived in the UK, you likely have some Iberian genes.
Another theory states that Iberian people mixed with British people as they came south to fight in those wars. This might explain some of the other ancestries that you have too because your ancestors had children with people from outside of the region. During the early parts of European history, the peninsula served as a major spot on the trade route. You may have ancestors who came to buy supplies and stayed because they fell in love with other people or wanted to establish homes there. As you keep tracing your roots and going deeper into history, you’ll find where your family came from before they moved to the Iberian Peninsula.
If you have Iberian Peninsula ancestry and want to learn more, you can contact the Catholic Church found in different regions. They often maintain records and can give you information about your family as long as you have a name and possibly a date of birth.
When you view the results of a DNA test, you will see regions or areas listed with a percentage next to each one. Adding up those percentages will help you reach 100. No one in the world is 100% anything. Even someone born and raised on a Native American reservation won’t have 100% ancestry. Your percentages depend heavily on when your family moved to the United States and how long they lived there. Native American tribes have special programs and benefits for those who can prove they belong to the tribe, including casino profits and school scholarships. If you have a parent or grandparent who is 100% Native American, you’ll have an easier time proving your ancestry.
With Iberian Peninsula ancestry, your results can show that you have as little as one or two percent in common with people from that region up to 20% or more. If your results fall below 10%, this usually means that one person on your family tree lived in the peninsula at least five generations in the past. It may indicate that an ancestor lived there several hundred years ago. When your percentage climbs to 20% or more, it shows that at least one of your grandparents lived in the Iberian Peninsula.
If both sides of your family tree have ancestors from the Iberian Peninsula, your percentage will be much higher. This does not necessarily indicate that your family lived there recently but can show that you still have family there.
Many people take a DNA test and can’t wait to show off their results. They want to excitedly talk with their friends and loved ones about where their families once lived and the connections they made online. As more samples appear in the system, your results can change. You might find that you go from 10% Irish and Scottish to 5% Irish. When it comes to the Iberian Peninsula, some of the people who took the tests in the early days had a high percentage of ancestry from this region and saw their numbers drop later. You may log into the system and find that you have no Iberian Peninsula ancestry listed anymore and wonder where it went.
If you use AncestryDNA, you will receive a notice every time that the site updates your DNA percentages. When you scroll to the bottom of the page, you can see your original estimates and compare those to the ones you’re now missing. This often occurs because the system found that what it originally thought was Iberian Peninsula ancestry is now Spanish or Portuguese. Though you get half of your genes from each of your parents, you can inherit more of the genes that they got from their parents and grandparents. With new updates, the test may simply find that your genes no longer relate to the peninsula because you have more genetic markers in common with people from other areas.
DNA tests will either look at your y-chromosomes or your mitochondrial DNA to determine your ancestry. Though some tests may offer both types, they will usually charge you extra to perform two rounds of testing. The mitochondrial DNA that you have comes from your mother and the females in the generations of her family that came before. Whether you’re a son or daughter, you can choose this type of testing. Only sons can opt for y-chromosome testing because it looks at the genes that a father passes to his sons and that the sons pass to their future male children.
If you look at the image/map above, you will see the male haplogroups found across the Iberian Peninsula. Haplogroups refer to genetic markers that appear in a group of people. The term can apply to individuals within a large group and to the groups who lived in specific regions at different points. Looking at your haplogroups can help you see when your ancestors lived in northern or southern Spain and when they moved to Portugal or somewhere in the Baltic Sea. Most DNA tests give you the option of viewing the haplogroups at different points to see the migration patterns of your ancestors.
No matter which DNA tests you want to use, you’ll have the chance to connect with people who share your genes and took the same test. AncestryDNA lists anyone it finds who has the same genetic markers and will show you how they’re related to you. You might find siblings, half-siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and second, third or fourth cousins.
All ancestry DNA tests let you download your raw data. Instead of keeping that data in a zipped drive on your computer, you can upload it to other sites. MyHeritage is just one site that accepts the raw data from 23andMe and AncestryDNA. Once you upload the data, it can take a few weeks before the site finishes comparing it to other samples.
GEDmatch makes it easy for people who have similar genes. This is a free service that accepts the raw data provided by most DNA tests. It takes just a few minutes to create an account and upload your data, but it can take days or weeks before you can use all the site’s features. The site also has a forum where you can ask questions and a premium package that costs $10 per month.
Taking a DNA test is the only way you can prove that you have Iberian ancestry, but your chances of having that ancestry increases if your family came from the following regions:
Eupedia and Living DNA launched the One Family One World program as a way to trace Iberian Peninsula ancestry. Even if you didn’t take the Living DNA test, you can still upload your data to this project. It can trace your ancestry to specific regions, including Old Castile, Beira, Catalonia and Valencia.
FamilyTree DNA is another DNA testing company that has a project designed for those with Iberian ancestry. It has more than 4,000 members and asks them to share geographic and cultural information about their families. This project is a good way to connect with possible family members.
You’ll also find quite a bit of information available on the Ancestry.com forums. The forums are only accessible for registered members, but the site offers a free seven-day trial that lets you use all features. Not only will you find posts and groups from people who have Iberian DNA, but you can post questions about your family name or people you might belong on your tree.
If you were adopted as a small child, you probably don’t have any memories of your biological parents. Before you marry or have children, you’ll want to find out who they were to make sure that there aren’t any medical issues you need to know about or harmful genes that you can pass to your kids. DNA tests are suitable for more than people who were adopted though. They can also help you learn about a father who walked out on your family, a grandparent no one talks about or loved ones you don’t even know belong on your family tree.
With AncestryDNA and all the other top DNA tests, you have a high chance of showing Iberian Peninsular ancestry if you have parents or grandparents who are Spanish, British, Portuguese, Italian or French. This is a region that includes parts of Spain and Portugal as well as some outlying islands. Your ancestors likely lived there because they traded with merchants or moved during the Ice Age. The percentage of this ancestry that you have can vary based on how many of your closest relations lived there and whether both sides or only one side was Iberian. DNA tests let you see how Iberian you are and how many of your genes relate to this peninsula.