How Far Back Can You Trace Your Ancestry?

A pair of glasses on an open notebook

We all know people who tell tall tales about being related to historically famous figures. Most of the time, we don’t really give their claims much attention, but things change drastically when we know they’re into genetic genealogy or family research—the claims start to look slightly more believable.

But really, though, how far back can you go? That is the question most family researchers wonder about at one point or another. Is it possible for everyone to trace their family tree as far back as the Chinese Kang family, or would you have to stop at around 8 generations because that’s all the current genealogical DNA testing would allow?


Here are the answers to some of those questions.


Some Crucial Factors That Affect Your Family Tree Research

Simply put, there is no sure-fire way of building a family tree that goes back several generations. The success of your family research depends on a lot of different factors. Here are a few examples.


Country of Origin and Its Record-Keeping Practices

One reason many of the oldest bloodlines we know originate from China is that the country has a meticulous record-keeping system, and it has been that way for centuries now. On the other hand, younger countries like even the US, for example, did not have a proper system in place for vital records until the 20th century. So, the few records we found before that time aren’t all that reliable.


Ancestors’ Religion

Most religions have different record-keeping customs, but these would vary based on culture. In a lot of places, religious institutions were the only ones keeping records for specific areas and their populations. So, many genealogists agree that church records are generally the oldest types of genealogy records they can find. Therefore they act as crucial resources for family research. Of course, the records only pertain to people following that particular religion.


Ancestors’ Socioeconomic Status

Today, most of us are equal citizens when it comes to record-keeping. The important events in our lives are recorded just the same regardless of our race, wealth, or social status. However, things didn’t always work this way. Back in the day, some people were better documented than the rest due to their social status or other factors. For instance, you’re more likely to find details about a king rather than one of their ministers.

How Does DNA Testing Help?

DNA double helix

We all want to believe that DNA testing answers all our genealogy-related problems, but that’s just wishful thinking. The fact is that the scope of the application of DNA testing is limited when it comes to traditional genealogy; however, its limited scope does hold a lot of significance.


Generally, most DNA testing might take you back 6-8 generations or a few more if you’re lucky. Also, it helps you break down brick walls in the more recent branches of the family tree while laying the groundwork for some solid research, but that’s about it.

So How Far Back Can You Really Trace Your Ancestry?

As stated earlier, the answer to this question depends on a lot of factors, but it also depends on luck. An average person is likely to be able to trace their tree back to the 1600s; however, if you’re lucky, it might be possible to trace the tree a little further back to maybe the 1400s.


Of course, that would take some serious skills and professional assistance. At DavisDNA And Family Research, we offer genetic genealogy services and expert DNA Detective online to help trace your ancestry as far back as possible.

Explore the options we offer and choose one that suits you best.