Decoding Parent 1 and Parent 2 on Ancestry DNA: Understanding Roles and Relationships in Genetic Testing

Are you having difficulty understanding how your parental names on Ancestry match with those on both the maternal and paternal sides of the family? Here are a few simple strategies to assist with this endeavor.

Ancestry offers two strategies for identifying parents on Ancestry. Your ideal strategy will depend on how much information you know about both of your parents, the state of your family tree and whether any close relatives have taken an Ancestry DNA test themselves.

Identification of Parents Through DNA Matches
An easy way to determine who your mother and father are is by studying your DNA match list. Your list is automatically divided into two parental groups; all that remains for us to do is determine which group belongs to which side of our family.

If you already know much of your family tree or have many relatives from both sides who have taken DNA tests with Ancestry, this part will likely be straightforward and you might even recognize some faces from within both parent groups!

This person has over 7300 matches for Parent 1 and 2,600 matches for Parent 2.

If the faces and surnames in either match group don’t ring any bells for you, click on Parent 1 or Parent 2 match groups to see if any DNA matches pop up that may be familiar.

As soon as we identify any DNA matches from Parent 1 as coming from your mother’s side of the family, this helps us realize that they belong on either side. All we need to know which side consists of who we need is one parent identified in order to know which side it falls under.

If you don’t recognize any close relatives from either side of your family and are familiar with your genealogy, conducting some DNA matches research could help narrow down what your closest ones might be. By finding out which DNA matches belong in which group (either Parent 1 or Parent 2) and studying their relationships to you will help identify which may or may not be family.

Some individuals may struggle to identify their relationships with their DNA matches, especially if they know little or nothing about their ancestry. If this proves unsuccessful for you, try using ethnicity estimates or the DNA Story instead to figure out who are Parent 1 or Parent 2.

Your ethnicity inheritance detailed comparison calculates which ethnic regions were passed from Parent 1 and Parent 2, assigning percentages that belong to each. With this knowledge of your family tree in hand, it should be easy for you to establish who represents either your paternal or maternal side.

Below is an image from my Ancestry DNA results, showing three of my mother’s grandparents have solely German, Polish, or Slovak ancestry while one grandparent from Ireland Scotland England had some connection as well.

At first, it seemed clear to me that my mother’s family tree and likely contribution to my ethnicity estimate fit well with Parent 2. When this feature became available for DNA matches as well, I could verify my analysis was accurate.

Look at your ethnicity estimate comparison and identify regions which you suspect were passed on from one parent and not another. Sometimes we can detect small percentages that match up to where our ancestors lived – this can also provide important clues.

What If My Parents Share the Same Ancestry or Ethnicity? It could be that both of your parents have shared an ancestry or ethnicity; and you don’t know much about either side’s tree. While this presents additional challenges, more research will likely lead to positive results and help overcome them.

Below is an example of a DNA tester with two parents that clearly had Indigenous Americas – Mexico in their family tree; 46% was inherited from one parent while 47% came from the other; however, you can also see they inherited DNA from both parents in very low percentages (1%) matching various regions around the globe.

One person only knows their parents and grandparents on both sides, making it impossible for them to determine whether one side had greater probabilities of distant ancestry such as Northern Africa, Cyprus, Sweden & Denmark, Spain, Senegal Portugal or Ireland ancestry; with only 1% of their DNA matching all these regions it has proven difficult.

Our DNA tester could use one of two approaches to identify who Parent 1 or Parent 2 may be. The first would involve creating their family tree as far back as possible in order to gain enough information on one side of their family in order to establish how related they are with some of their close DNA matches.

An Ancestry DNA customer has taken steps to take advantage of this service by asking his maternal half-brother to take a DNA test, with hopes that when his results arrive and his matches have been reassigned he can easily ascertain which parent group (i.e. 1 or 2) his brother belongs to.

Triangulation, reserved only for serious researchers, can be an intricate and time-consuming way of establishing your relationships to groups of DNA matches. Many use triangulation to trace immediate family of their biological parents – this method could also be applied when trying to determine which parent on Ancestry DNA match list belongs to which parent.

How to Alter Parent Labels
Did you know that changing Parent 1 and Parent 2 labels into Paternal and Maternal labels, or vice versa is simple and will make viewing DNA results less confusing.

Once again, changing labels won’t matter if you lose track of who is Parent 1 and Parent 2, since the labels will serve as an easy reminder. Furthermore, assigning maternal and paternal labels makes your DNA match list much less complex.

Change the label on either your DNA Matches by Parent page or Ethnicity Inheritance breakdown by Parent page in just seconds! Undo any mistakes or make changes later as necessary.

No matter which of the instructions below you choose to follow, any time you modify labels on your DNA match list they will automatically change on your Ethnicity Inheritance Breakdown and vice versa.

Change Label for Parent 1 and Parent 2 on DNA Match List
On your DNA match By Parent page, you have the ability to alter which label corresponds to Parent 1 and Parent 2, as well as how many matches are unassigned from each parent.

On this screen, you will notice there is a blue Edit Parent link located next to both Parent 1 and Parent 2 matches. Simply click this blue link in order to assign labels for both parents.

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