I took an Ancestry Test and as a Pakistani, I learnt little

I am a British Pakistani born in London. Both my mother and father were born in Lahore, Pakistan. I can’t speak my mother tongue and I know little to nothing about my ethnic culture – what can I say? They didn’t bring it with them when they came. As I got older I became curious about who I was, what my parents grandparents were like, how they survived partition, what led them here and who is running through my veins.

I was excited to get confirmation on things I had wondered about my whole life. My skin is kinda fair, my eyes green or amber depending on the light. My mother has traditionally Indian looks – deep bronzed skin, large brown eyes, lashes to match, wild ringlets falling around her face in the rare moments she hasn’t straightened them. My father has small brown eyes framed by dark circles (which, judging by everyone on his side of the family, is certainly a genetic trait – great) that contrast so with his pale complexion – we have the same thing, when we are sick or tired, we go as pale as a sheet. When my mother used to take me out people would look at me and assume her husband was of European heritage.

The older I got, the more curious I was about my genetic make up. People have insinuated in conversation that European heritage had to be in my blood – where else would I get my eyes from? I was told this so often I was almost made to believe only European people could have eyes that were blue, green, hazel, grey, amber.

me with unbrushed hair because of course

This year I was lucky enough to get to try not one, but two DNA tests – one with Ancestry DNA and another with 23andMe. So, after spitting alot into two little tubes, I sent my saliva off in their packets and waited a couple of months…

Ancestry DNA Results

ancestry dna

The results said I am… *drumroll* – 95% Southern Asian. Well, no shit Sherlock. What does South Asian include exactly? Allow Ancestry DNA to elaborate.

“Primarily located in: India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka.” This list was so broad, it’s useless.

They expanded on what South Asia is, in case you were unsure. “Our Asia South region reaches from the modern-day nation of Afghanistan through India to Bangladesh and is home to approximately 20 percent of the world’s population. The mighty mountain ranges of the Himalaya, Hindu Kush and Karakoram were formed here around 75 million years ago when the floating Indian tectonic plate smashed into southern Asia, giving birth to the world’s tallest mountains peaks. These include Mount Everest, known to the Nepalese as “Sagarmatha.”

Admittedly, reading that back I did find it interesting – but it wasn’t information personal to me.

The other 5% said I was from Western and Central India. They wrote of that region: “Our Gujarat region includes the Kathiawar Peninsula and stretches eastward into modern-day Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh. It is a land of both seaports and deserts, with a history that stretches back to the ancient Indus Valley Civilization. Empires have come and gone, but for centuries, its people have been fabled traders and merchants, and their keen sense for business has spread their descendants throughout much of India and the wider world.”

Alongside this information, they provide you with a list of people who shared my DNA – I had 38 4-6th cousins, to be exact. I didn’t bother contacting any of them – what am I meant to say? “Hey, we have the same great-great-great grandparent!” I don’t even know the names of my great grandparents.

So, the cost of being provided a list of my fourth cousins and to be told I am broadly South Asian cost £79.

23andMe Results told me something slightly different.

My results were: 98.8% Broadly South Asian. They added: “We predict you had ancestors that lived in Pakistan within the last 200 years.” I sighed for around five minutes. They had a small break down of their definition of ‘broadly South Asian’ meant for me personally – It looked like this.

23andme breakdown

I didn’t know what that meant, given Pakistan and Afghanistan both have a match strength of five as opposed to India for example, where I have three dots out of five. They don’t elaborate.

According to 23andMe, I’m also 1.0% Western Asian and/or North African. Their description of this is: “From the Caucasus to Iran, western Asia is an important crossroads in the human migration out of Africa, and the genetics of this region reflect that role.” They were unable to pin down what country my ancestors came from, but could tell me they were alive from around 1720 to 1840. That’s pretty cool.

western asian

I had 0.1% of my DNA unassigned. 23andMe explained: “There is a wide range of human diversity out there, and sometimes our algorithm can’t pinpoint a region of your DNA to a specific population. Bear with us as our data and resources continue to expand. We expect the amount of unassigned ancestry our customers see to decrease.”

So, I had two DNA tests that told me slightly different things. Ultimately I was disappointed with how little I learned, although I don’t know what I expected. But a ‘broad’ perspective was not enough to satisfy me. In fact, I think it’s really not right that they don’t inform you of how vague your results could be if you are of a certain ethnicity before you pay for the service.

23andMe also cost £79, although you can pay £149 to also access health reports. If I had to choose, I would chose 23andMe – apart from DNA results you find out your maternal haplogroup (mine is W, wbu?), which pinpoints where your maternal ancestors came from over 150,000 years ago. Reading about this was fascinating – my story allowed me to envision my ancestors trying to cross the Red Sea from Africa, battling over Bab-el-Mandeb to make it to the Arabian Peninsula before eventually entering present-day Pakistan at the end of the ice age to survive in a warmer climate.

23andme map

If you are male you will also get your paternal haplogroup – but since women don’t get the ‘Y’ chromosome from our fathers (‘Y’ OH WHY indeed) it means women can’t access this unless you get your brother or father to do the test. 23AndMe goes on to tell you about your Neanderthal history, which is also vague, but mildly interesting (look, I’m grasping at straws here). It also provides you with some information on your DNA relatives, as does Ancestry DNA.

My conclusion is that if you are not European, these tests are probably not worth the money. Who wants to pay a large amount of money to be told what you already know?

In my opinion, I gained more speaking to my grandparents and hearing their stories. I’d ask them so much about where they were born I can visualize it when I close my eyes. Speak to any living relatives you can. Ask your parents what their childhoods were like. Ask where their names came from. My father’s name means ‘Landlord’ in Persian. My mother’s name is a Sanskrit word that means ‘The Sun’. I spoke to my grandmother recently, and she started telling me about when she arrived in England in 1964. My granddad insisted she went out alone to gain independence. She ended up in the chemist searching for bread. She still laughs at how little she knew. She still has a sparkle in her eye when she talks about her youth in Pakistan. I never feel more connected to my heritage when I am having these conversations – they’re priceless.

That being said, one certainty came out of my DNA test – the origin of my eye colour is 100% Asian, baby.

Me, about to ride a camel in Morocco lol.


For more info, check out 23andMe.com and Ancestry.co.uk.


  1. Hello. I came across your blog while searching for South Asians who had taken both of these tests. Mildly disappointed but not surprised at the results. From looking around a bit there is a website called GEDMatch where you can input your results from either of these services into a calculator called HarappaWorld. It won’t help you find any relatives or anything but it should give more insight into the finer detail of “South Asian”.


    1. Are you from a jatt background (they have high eurasian steppe(so u actually have some old european dna which is still high today due to intermarrying with the same group)

      your haplogroup is W? so is mine specifically got it deeply tested W1c – you have to have certain mutations to match someone with the same mutations! GD- 0 🙂 you can get it tested at familytree dna and find people who are directly related to ur female line 🙂 same with your father line got him tested to find out haplogroup

      check out gedmatch – youll see more results in there along with DNA Matches who tested with other websites – and YES YOU CAN FIND MATCHES lol… because i have. majority of asians have steppe (european and caucasian) ancestry so that gene of your may have passed down to u from these old days. which does make u full south asian!

      i get the same results too but through dna matching i also found out more to my family background – u need dedication time to dna to find answers you need…:) good luck!

  2. Wow. I really thought you’d get a significant amount of European judging your eye colour lol. As a Pakistani, I had unusual blonde hair as a baby and I got 7% European in my results…

      1. I tried Myheritage, which said that i’m 90.6% South Asian, 7.5% Irish, Scottish and Welsh, 1.1% Nigerian and 0.8% Italian. Have you uploaded your raw DNA data to Myheritage, DNA.land or Gedmatch? You may get a larger vision of your ethnicity.

  3. 23 and me is a program which wants to collect everyone’s DNA so they can use it later and also google invested 3.5 million dollars in this. they only collect dna of young people below 30. google wants to know everything about you, they know when you eat or even shit. There is some deep shit going on. 23 and me has a soul purpose of collecting everyones dna. you should believe me. because why the hell they don’t collect dna of older people duhh because it wont be useful in the future.

    1. I heard about the conspiracies after I did the test. I have no doubt there is some shady stuff going on with peoples data on reflection. But it’s not like I can get my DNA back now, is it? OR CAN I

      1. lol at the conspiracy stuff going on… HOSPITALS have your blood there dna in there too not just saliva. u could have spat on the floor and someone must have picked it up. its all crap we use technology that got CONSPIRACY stuff on there with camera and voice recording… they going to get what they want either way. so it snot companies its also the government controlling. you cant do anything without your passport either they have your identity. people will say this to scare you. or they dont trust it themselves ive tested with almost every company. companies are companies no one on this earth can be trusted 🙂

      2. Well the collecion of data to make profiels of each of us is not a concipiracy. I’m a PhD student studying just this, and it is definitely why they are collecting. Have you ever thought about why google is free, facebook is free, twitter etc.? Because we are the product not the consumer. Netflix came out with a documentary recently, you should watch it. Shoshan Zouboff ( a harvard professor) wrote a book recently about this very thing, it’s actually crazy what big tech is doing to collect our data.

  4. You need to get your mum or dad tested. I’m British born Pakistani, I get asked if I’m mixed race. I got my DNA test done, I came out 95% south again, the rest was far east asian and melanasian. I decided to get my dad tested as he looks mixed, he came out with 10% Irish, Scottish, and welsh.

  5. Most North West region South Asians are mostly made up of Neolithic-Iranian-related ancestry, some form of Southern Russian Steppe ancestry and ancient South Indian ancestry.

    The furthet north you go the Iranian/West Asian and steppe ancestry becomes dominent.

    The further south you go the South Indian ancestry becomes dominant.

  6. I have a similar issue. I took Ancestry DNA test. I have hopes of finding my father one day. He was from Pakistan. That’s all I know. Not sure if he was born there. Long story short I was adopted here in the USA (Brooklyn New York) when I was like three. I am a mixed lady. My mom fully American. My matches for South Asia was 35% and western and central India 13%. Together 48% southern Asian. 41 percent total for African region. And some other countries which I dnt know could either be related to both sides. I’m not sure why India is singled out. But I literally got no matches for my paternal side. A PI agency cannot take my case until matches come up. I searched different questions “can I find relatives in different countries…is it possible etc…. I came across this article. Do anyone have any advice please. I would really like to know the other side of me …I always get the question are you mixed? Are you Indian? I want to be proud and confident when I speak.

  7. It clear says, Your history in South Asia is from the time of the British empire. I would guess you were brought in like many others from the Gujarat port. South Asia was created. It didnt exist!

  8. Interesting. Was planning to take a Nutrition Genomics test to understand which part of my genes are prone to unhealthy habits I need to mould. Wondering if these existing tests help with that?

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