What do Mexican Ancestry DNA Results Look Like?

If you are looking to take an Ancestry DNA test and want to know what the Mexican Ancestry DNA results will look like, this article will cover exactly what you can expect to see and whether "Mexican" can be shown on a DNA test.

Every year on September 16th people of Mexican heritage celebrate their country of origin's independence day. They are proud of their heritage and have worked alongside many people from South and Central America they do not like people to get their place of origin wrong.

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I have had clients who were disappointed to discover when they took their AncestryDNA tests that the results did not indicate Mexican ethnicity. This is not to say Mexican is not an ethnic group because due to a shared culture, language and history it is. The issue is that Mexico is such a diverse country that there isn’t a specific Mexican ethnicity in terms of DNA.

The closest thing to Mexican DNA would be that of Indigenous Americas – Mexico. As with the entirety of the American continent, all of the ethnic DNA regions relate to the native peoples. So then, what exactly would the DNA look like for a modern-day inhabitant or descendant?

Indigenous Americans

It was around 13,000 years ago that the first humans arrived on the North American continent. During the last ice age, a huge proportion of the planet's water was tied up in glaciers. As a result, sea levels were about 100 feet lower than they are today.

The lower sea levels meant that the body of water between Alaska and Russia which we know today as the Bering Strait was actually dry land. This would serve as a land bridge that allowed a group of ancient Siberians to cross to the North American continent.

These hunter-gatherer tribes who migrated south from Siberia into the North American continent gradually over time moved away from the glaciers to warmer, more habitable regions. Due to the conditions, they could only survive in small groups.

These groups would eventually spread out throughout both North and South America. It is not clear exactly when early humans arrived in the region known today as Mexico but we do know something of their early civilizations.

The Olmecs

The first known society in Mexico, the Olmecs, flourished in the region between 1200 – 900BC. This society left its mark in the form of giant head sculptures and was mainly located around San Lorenzo and later La Venta in Tabasco.

The Olmecs held on as a society until about 600 BC but gradually declined and separated. It was by 300BC that agricultural villages sprang up in southern Mexico.

Later Civilizations

Over the centuries civilizations rose and fell in Mexico including the Mayans (250 – 900 AD), Toltec (900 – 1520AD), and the Aztecs (1300 – 1521AD). These were impressive, advanced and sometimes brutal cultures all arising from those original humans who had crossed the land bridge.

The First Europeans in Mexico

It was in 1519 that Hernan Cortes first arrived in Veracruz from Spain. When Cortes arrived the Aztec King Moctezuma II initially mistook him to be the serpent god Quetzalcoatl and invited him to Tenochtitlan. This would prove to be disastrous for the Aztecs as on his way to the city Cortes found new allies and in 1521 he attacked Tenochtitlan, conquering the Aztecs.

Cortes proceeded to colonize the area renaming it Nueva Espana (New Spain). Within just a few decades the majority of the indigenous people in the region had been enslaved under the new Spanish rulers. The influence of European diseases also decimated the indigenous population killing an estimated 24 million between 1521 – 1605.

Other Europeans in Mexico

Over the centuries it wasn’t just the Spanish and Portuguese that settled in Mexico. During Spanish rule, an estimated 1 million other Europeans migrated to the country from nations such as:

  • England
  • Scotland
  • Wales
  • Ireland
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Russia
  • Poland
  • Ukraine
  • Bulgaria
  • Romania
  • Hungary

This is just a short list but it is possible to find a wide variety of surprising ethnicities in the region due to this extensive immigration.

African DNA in Mexico

The slave trade in the United States is a well-recorded but unfortunate part of that nation's history but what many people forget is that Mexico also had African slaves. Beginning in the early 16th century until 1829 when slavery was finally abolished in the country there were African slaves within Mexico. The earliest came as part of the military expeditions by the early Spanish settlers.

This has left an indelible mark on the DNA of the region which many likely do not realize is there. Around 1.5 million Mexicans identify as Afromestizos. A term used to denote someone of Spanish, African and Indigenous descent.

Essentially speaking it would not be unusual for a DNA test from anywhere in South or Central America to show some African ancestry. It may not be known where it came from but based on the ethnically diverse nature of the region it would certainly be possible.

Asian DNA in Mexico

It wasn’t just the indigenous peoples and Africans who the early Spanish held as slaves in Mexico, there were others as well. Spain’s global influence also saw them transport slaves from Asia including citizens from Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Cambodia, the Philippines, and China.

It is estimated that as many as 120,000 immigrants and slaves from Asia came to Mexico during Spain’s rule. The reason this is a somewhat forgotten aspect of the DNA heritage of the region is that these Asians were often urged to identify as indigenous people of the region. This was because the Indigenous Mexicans were at that time protected against being born into slavery.

What Can Potentially Show up in Mexican DNA?

The long history of settlement in Mexico means that there are multiple ethnic groups who may contribute DNA to any modern-day individual from the region. A large number of people of Mexican descent will likely exhibit some amount of indigenous Americas DNA.

Heavy settlement from Spain and Portugal means that it would not be unusual to find DNA from the Iberian Peninsula. Also when you consider high levels of immigration from elsewhere in Europe you might find a wide variety of other potential DNA sources.

The unfortunate trade in slaves also brought African and Asian DNA into the region which also might show up in the DNA of someone of Mexican descent. It is a common misconception that most people from Mexico are a mixture of indigenous and Iberian.

The truth of the matter is that there is the potential for multiple ethnicities to be found in typical Mexican DNA. This is so much the case that there isn’t even an average ethnicity makeup that could be termed Mexican.

Indigenous Americas – Mexico

As mentioned there is a region on the AncestryDNA world map that does mention Mexico although its connection is ancient in nature. The massive amount of historic settlement and conquest in Mexico essentially means the modern-day Mexicans genetically are not a distinct ethnic group.

If we go back to before Columbus and Cortez, however, we do find the true roots of the region in the form of the first indigenous inhabitants of Mexico. It is the DNA that comes from these people that make up the Indigenous Americas – Mexico region.

This region is made up of some 87 subregions which actually can help pinpoint where in Mexico an indigenous ancestor may have come from. A reasonably high result from one of these subregions would indicate that person has a historical connection to Mexico.

The ancestors of this person were on that land before Cortez arrived and their descendants stayed in the region marrying into the vast swaths of European immigrants. This in reality would be the closest genetic indication of Mexican heritage.


As a country, Mexico has a rich diverse heritage and those with a connection to it are often very proud of that. This heritage comes from their culture, language and religious practices and it combines to define what it is to be of Mexican descent.

The DNA of most people with Mexican heritage is generally diverse and may feature multiple small matches from around the world. It is impossible to look at a DNA test and conclusively say that a person is from Mexico.

The only result that would indicate definitive descent from Mexico would be a high percentage of DNA from Indigenous Americas – Mexico. This would indicate that this person was largely descended from the first people who inhabited the region.

Only around 20% of Mexicans have high levels of indigenous America’s DNA but about 95% of people from Mexico do have at least 20% native DNA.

Neil Edwards

Neil Edwards

Genealogist and family-tree research specialist

Neil was born in Shropshire, England surrounded by centuries of living history. His interest in the past has been a lifelong passion leading to undergraduate degrees in both Economic History & Geography and History & Politics.

This interest in history quickly translated to family history when he moved to the U.S. in 2010. It was here that he began working on his own family tree as well as that of his American wife. That research allowed him to gain a wealth of experience working with both U.S. and European genealogical documents and studying their best uses in researching family history.

Following 9 years of honing his genealogical research skills, Neil was proud to have earned a certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University in late 2019. Neil also took part in the research process for a Duke University study into the families of 19th Century UK Members of Parliament.

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  • "What do Mexican Ancestry DNA Results Look Like?". NameCensus.com. Accessed on May 19, 2024. https://namecensus.com/blog/what-do-mexican-ancestry-dna-results-look-like/.

  • "What do Mexican Ancestry DNA Results Look Like?". NameCensus.com, https://namecensus.com/blog/what-do-mexican-ancestry-dna-results-look-like/. Accessed 19 May, 2024

  • What do Mexican Ancestry DNA Results Look Like?. NameCensus.com. Retrieved from https://namecensus.com/blog/what-do-mexican-ancestry-dna-results-look-like/.