With the holidays around the corner, many people are considering genetic ancestry tests as gifts. However, these tests are not all created equal, particularly when it comes to Hispanic ancestry. This guide will offer an overview of genetic ancestry tests and help you to choose the best DNA test for Hispanic ancestry.
What is Hispanic ancestry?
What is Hispanic ancestry? This question may sound simple, but the answer is actually fairly complex. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanic or Latino refer to “a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.”
Hispanic and Latino are an ethnicity rather than a race; a Hispanic or Latino person may be a member of any racial group. The Census uses the terms Hispanic and Latino interchangeably; however, these actually have two different definitions.
Hispanic refers to anyone who originates from a Spanish-speaking country, whereas Latino refers to someone of Latin American descent, regardless of spoken language (4).
For example, a person from Spain is Hispanic, a person from Brazil is Latino, and a person from Mexico is both Hispanic and Latino. From a genetic perspective, it can be difficult to trace Hispanic or Latino ancestry since it is not a racial category and has origins all over the world.
There is no such thing as “Hispanic DNA,” “Latino DNA,” or “Mexican DNA.” For this reason, you will typically never see Hispanic or Latino listed as an ethnicity option on genetic ancestry tests; instead, the results may point to several specific populations, such as the Iberian Peninsula or the Indigenous peoples of Central or South America.
Latinos living in the U.S. have an average of 65% European ancestry, 18% Native American ancestry, and 6% African ancestry, reflecting the influence of Spanish colonizers in the Americas (5).
What determines your percentage of Hispanic ancestry?
If you identify as Hispanic, you might be surprised that “Hispanic” never appears on your genetic ancestry results. This is because Hispanic is not a single cohesive ethnicity but a diverse collection of peoples originating from Spain, the Americas, and Africa.
Hispanic and Latino people are united by a common language and/or culture, rather than a common genetic or geographical history. These populations have been highly dynamic over history due to the influences of colonization and migration.
Many Hispanic individuals can trace their paternal linear via the Y chromosome to Spain, while their maternal lineage via mitochondrial DNA may trace to one of the Indigenous peoples of Central or South America (6).
This is because inter-breeding (sometimes voluntary, but often forced) was common between Spanish conquistadors and Indigenous women during the 16th century. Your proportion of European and Native American history can vary based on what country or region you originate from.
For example, Puerto Rican ancestry is around 80% European from the paternal lineage and 60% Native American from the maternal lineage, which would be reflected on a Puerto Rican DNA test (7).
Meanwhile, Cuban ancestry is approximately 80% European paternally and 33% Native American maternally, so Cuban ancestry results would likely reflect a combination of these two categories (8).
How do Hispanic DNA tests work?
After purchasing a genetic testing service, the company will send you a kit that includes a sample vial and a pre-paid shipping container. First, you will collect a tissue sample. In most cases, this will involve spitting into a small tube.
Some other tests may require you to swab the inside of your cheek or to collect a few drops of blood from your finger. From there, you will package your sample and ship it to the lab. Once they receive your sample, the lab will begin running genetic tests and analyzing the resulting data.
This process typically takes anywhere from four to eight weeks. The company will then notify you when your results are available online. They will provide a series of reports that include details on your genetic ancestry.
In some cases, they may include other information like health risks, physical traits, or possible relatives. Some companies also allow you to download your raw genetic data in order to conduct additional analyses with other services.
Challenges of Hispanic ancestry DNA tests
Unlike many other ethnic identities, Hispanic people cannot trace their origins to a single country or geographical region.
For this reason, you should not expect to see terms like “Hispanic” or “Latino” in your genetic testing results since these terms describe peoples with a common language or culture but not necessarily a common genetic origin.
Instead, you will likely see a mix of European, Native American, and African ancestry. Most genetic tests have a wealth of information on European ancestry but much more limited information on Native American or African ancestry.
As a result, you may find that your results are less specific or accurate than they would be for a person of only European ancestry. Additionally, Hispanic people are less likely to take a genetic ancestry test than white people.
There are multiple reasons for this disparity, including lower average wealth to pay for the tests, increased distrust in medical institutions, and greater concern about the privacy of genetic data among Hispanic individuals (9).
Since Hispanic people are underrepresented in genetic databases, you may find it more difficult to construct accurate family trees or identify distant relatives.
What to expect from Hispanic DNA tests?
There are many uses for a Hispanic genetic ancestry test. One possibility is that you could identify relatives who you’ve never met before, allowing you to interact with your extended family and learn more about your family history and cultural background.
In some cases, genetic services can help you to build your Hispanic family tree and learn about your ancestors through archived historical documents, such as passport photos or marriage licenses. You may even find that you are distantly related to a famous historical figure.
You can also learn about your geographical origin, allowing you to gain a greater understanding of your own racial and ethnic identity.
Understanding your racial background can be useful for health purposes; certain genetic variants that predispose you to a disease can be more common in particular ethnicities, so identifying your ethnic background may help you understand your risks for particular diseases.
Additionally, some genetic services will allow you to directly test for genetic variants related to health and disease, potentially providing important insights that could influence your future medical decisions.
How to choose a Hispanic DNA test?
With so many options out there, how do you choose a Hispanic heritage DNA test? Here are a few important points to consider:
If you’re squeamish about blood, you’ll want to avoid TeloYears Advanced Ancestry since they require a few drops of blood from your finger. All of the other tests require a saliva sample or cheek swab. There are both easy and painless to acquire, with no reported differences in testing accuracy.
The more genetic markers a test includes the more information it can tell you about which genetic variants you possess, which can improve accuracy for ancestry predictions. Most tests include between 600,000 and 700,000 genetic variants.
If you want even deeper genetic information, opt for TeloYears Advanced Ancestry, which allows you to sequence your entire genome rather than relying on a limited number of genetic variants.
Since most Hispanic people have a combination of European, Native American, and African ancestry, it’s important to choose a test that does not focus on a single geographical region.
While Native American and African populations tend to be underrepresented in all tests compared to Europeans, the tests with the most comprehensive geographical data include AncestryDNA, 23andMe, and MyHeritage DNA. These would all be the best DNA tests for Latinos.
If your goal is to identify potential relatives, it’s important that the genetic test’s database is as large as possible. MyHeritage DNA stands out as the clear winner here, with over 90 million genetic profiles in their database.
Family tree integration
Many genetic tests, including AncestryDNA and 23andMe, allow you to construct family trees. However, if you want the most detailed family tree possible, MyHeritage DNA wins here as well. Their impressive database of 4.2 billion individuals within family trees can allow you to identify even extremely distant relatives and plot them on your family tree.
Why take a DNA test for Hispanic ancestry?
There are five main reasons to take a DNA test for Hispanic ancestry.
Identify potential family members
Many genetic testing services allow you to use your results to search their database of customer genetic profiles. This can allow you to identify family members, from estranged siblings to distant cousins. Connecting with these people can be a great way to learn about your extended family and heritage. You may even find that you’re related to a modern celebrity or historical figure!
Learn about your geographical origins
Since Hispanic people tend to have a diverse background originating from Europe, the Americas, and Africa, it is often interesting to discover the complex mixture of peoples who form your unique ancestry.
Trace your maternal and paternal lineage
For services that include the mitochondrial DNA, you can trace your maternal lineage through many generations and track where your great-great-great-great grandmother might have lived or migrated over time. Additionally, if you are a biological male, Y chromosome analysis can identify your paternal lineage, providing similar data on your great-great-great-great grandfather.
Track the migrations of your ancestry throughout history
Based on your unique combination of genetic variants, particularly those in the mitochondria or Y chromosome, genetic testing services can often predict where your ancestors may have migrated throughout history. This can provide a fascinating snapshot of your family’s ancient history.
Learn about your physical traits and disease risks
Certain genetic tests will not only provide ancestry information but also tell you about your own physical traits and risks for certain diseases. This information can be valuable for informing your future lifestyle and medical decisions.
How does Mexican show up on ancestry DNA?
The average Mexican DNA has a lineage that combines European, Native American, and African ancestry. Some Mexican ancestors can also be traced to Asia. As a result, a Mexican DNA test would reveal a combination of all these geographical regions.
Which DNA test is best for Hispanic ancestry?
23andMe is the best test for learning about your geographical origins. MyHeritage DNA is the best test for finding potential relatives and building family trees.
What is the ancestry of a Mexican?
Mexican ancestry is complex, with most people having a combination of European, Native American, and African origins. Some Mexican DNA results can also trace to parts of Asia, which may explain why some Hispanic or Mexican people appear slightly Asian.
Are Native Americans Mexican?
Many Mexicans can trace their genetic makeup to the Native American peoples of Mexico. However, not all Native Americans are Mexican, and not all Mexicans are Native American. The ancestry of Mexicans is unique and cannot be traced to a single population.
Are Mexicans Hispanic or Latino?
Mexicans are from a Spanish-speaking country in Latin America. Therefore they are both Hispanic and Latino.
What are the Hispanic common ancestors?
Hispanic ancestry cannot be traced to a single origin. Most Hispanic people living in the Americas have a combination of European, Native American, and African ancestry.
Who is a Hispanic person?
A Hispanic person is anyone who originates from a predominantly Spanish-speaking country, such as Mexico, Cuba, or Spain.
Are Filipinos Hispanic?
No. The U.S. Census Bureau officially classifies people from the Philippine Islands as Asian.
Is someone from Spain Hispanic?
Yes. Hispanic simply refers to anyone from a Spanish-speaking country, so people from Spain would be considered Hispanic.