This is How Far Back DNA Generations Go

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If you are even remotely interested in where you come from, then the thought of how far back you can trace your DNA has probably entered your mind.

There are several such tests on the market that enable us to determine our ancestry rather easily. However, many questions still remain.

Using one of the more commonly accepted DNA tests available on the market today, you can generally go back between six and eight generations.

Since roughly 25 years per generation is a guideline most people use, it is possible to go back as much as 200 years into your past with one simple DNA test.

Tracing your ancestry can be exciting and rather revealing. Since there are several different types of DNA tests readily available to the general public, doing so has never before been so easy.

This guide will help you prepare for the revelations that you can encounter along the way.

How Many Generations Back Before We Are All Related?

This is an interesting question and one that must take into account many different variables.

For this post’s purposes, we will focus only on a population that meets and breeds with one another on a random basis. This means that inbreeding is unlikely to occur.

If that is the case, most experts would agree that the average person only needs to go about 20 generations before they have a common ancestral heritage with virtually everyone in the population.

That is probably a shocking figure, given that this is only about 500 years.

Just to make things a bit more interesting, consider this: You will only need to back about 35 generations before everyone in the population comes from the same general family of common ancestors.

Related: The 7 Oldest Bloodlines in the World Might Surprise You

Which DNA Test Takes Us Back the Farthest?

Since it is not possible for us to go back 500 years and find our common ancestors, we rely on DNA testing to provide us with a more accurate picture.

The question is which test to use under certain situations to deliver the results you are looking for.

While autosomal tests are commonly available on the market today, they will only take you back six to eight DNA generations.

With certain other types of available testing, however, it is possible to go back much further. What you can do with that information, however, is often limited by history itself.

mtDNA Testing and DNA Generations

If you want to go beyond simple genealogy and look at your true ancestorial roots, you would want to consider a mitochondrial DNA test.

This is how you will discover both recent and ancient DNA generations in your lineage. Keep in mind that the test is not perfect, so the results could vary depending on your individual situation and genetic makeup.

You may discover that you are with someone on the HVR1. If that is the case, then it is estimated that you are 50% likely to share a common maternal ancestor that dates back roughly 52 generations.

In that case, you can count on the DNA to go back more than 1,300 years.

This test may also reveal that you match another individual on both the HVR1 and HVR2. In that case, there is a 50% likelihood that you share a maternal ancestor dating back 28 generations or more than 700 years.

Many people are looking for something a bit more recently when they go to trace their ancestry. In that case, mtDNA testing has you covered as well.

If you are a full match on the Genomic Sequence with another person, then you have a 50% chance of sharing the same maternal ancestor going back just five generations. That is only 125 years.

If you want to go back in time, Mitochondrial DNA testing can do that for you as well.

This is done via a process called haplogroup testing. That will allow you to find common ancestors going back well over 10,000 years potentially.

YDNA Testing and Generations

YDNA tests will also allow you to find generations in the not so distant past and going back thousands of years.

The key thing to remember is that such tests are only available for males. If a woman wants to conduct such a test, they will have to use a known first relative’s genomic sequence.

SNP Testing

This type of YDNA test enables you to find out your exact haplogroup. This is important because it makes it possible for you to discover your ancient roots.

When you talk about DNA generations, this test can take you back just about as far as you want to go, right back to prehistoric times.

STR Testing

This type of testing is effective at tracing male ancestry back to both ancient days and more recent genealogical eras.

When you match someone, you can find out how close you are connected by genealogy. The thing that many people like about this test is that it makes it possible to find out what countries your ancestors come from.

It needs to be mentioned that results from STR testing are dependent on other people being added to the massive database that is now in play.

This is why it is so difficult to determine just how many DNA generations one can trace their ancestry back.

How Far Back Does 2% DNA Take Us?

If you are looking to discover where your 2 percent DNA comes from, you will need to trace yourself back about six generations.

This means going back to your great grandparents about four times removed. It also entails you using what is referred to as the 50% DNA inheritance rule.

This rule assumes that you have 50% of the DNA from both your mother and your father.

This is due to a recombination process because your body retains two identical copies of your number of chromosomes.

Determining how many generations back you can go is not that difficult.

You might discover, for example, that you have an ancestor who possesses DNA that is entirely from the Germanic region.

Because of the process of recombination, it is understood that all of their children will have inherited 50% of the DNA.

This continues down the line.

The children of the children from that ancestor will now have inherited roughly 25% of the same DNA that goes directly back to the Germanic region.

Of course, this is all considering the assumption that no other ancestors have their origins in Germany.

How Far Back Does 1% DNA Take Us?

To make things even clearer, you can also end up with a 1% DNA result as well.

This means that you can trace your DNA back about seven generations.

With that information, you could potentially go back as far as one of your great grandparents five times removed.

On the surface, this can sound confusing. However, once you get into the testing process, it becomes quite easy to grasp.

Each generation back will reduce your 50% inheritance by half. This continues until you can’t trace your DNA back any further.

It is also how you are able to find out what regions of the world ancestors came from.


DNA generations are fascinating. It is always interesting to know where we have come from so that we can better understand who we are today.

Testing will probably become more refined in the decades to come, so who knows just how far you will eventually be able to trace your DNA back to and with how much precision.

About GYAdmin

Hi, I’m Emma. I fell in love with genealogy the second I found out my ancestor fell off the Mayflower. I started GenealogyYou to help others on this fascinating journey (and to put my History degree to some use).