You have more than 16,000 living relatives but you don't know them

If you're sitting in Wembley Stadium with 90,000 people, two of them could be your long lost cousins. Credit: PA

Imagine spending bank holiday weekend with 16,895 family members - that's the number of relatives the average Briton has, according to a study from genomics company, AncestryDNA.

This means the genome of each person born in the UK matches with around 16,000 other people in the world.

Unsurprisingly, however, 99% of these relatives are unknown to us.


Of the 16,895, only 1,200 live in the UK.

  • 16,000 is a big number, what does this mean for me?

The company puts these figures in context of the 90,000 capacity, Wembley Stadium.

If you're watching a match in the arena, at least two people in the crowd could be your "long lost cousin."

  • How closely related can you be to 16,000 people?

Based on Ancestry DNA's calculations, these distant relatives would be eighth cousins.

A large model of a chromosome, which is the structure that houses our genes. Credit: AP
  • So, where do I find these long lost cousins?

Of the 16,895 connections, around 1,200 are likely to live in the UK.

The figure may come as a shock to people as the average Briton believes they only have six cousins.

However, the ease with which these relatives are found may depend on where you live.


The number of cousins the average person living in Scotland has.


Each person living in the North West is connected to 20,000 people.


People in London typically have fewer than 15,000 cousins.

  • How accurate is this number?

AncestryDNA conducted this study by analysing genetic material from more than seven million people who took their DNA test.

While it would be more accurate to analyse DNA tests results from everyone in the world, the organisation's conclusion is an extrapolation of what it found using its own database.

  • Do people care about having cousins unknown to them?

According to AncestryDNA, more than a quarter of adults in the UK think being related to hundreds of people is an "amazing" thought.

Russell James at AncestryDNA said: “Even in the fast-moving modern world, family remains a priority in life for most and while Ancestry wouldn’t necessarily expect Brits to contact all 16,000 of their cousins, it might be that striking up a relationship with even a few could end up being a life-changing experience – and it all starts with your DNA.”


The human genome has 3.2 billion letters.

  • What is the human genome?

Everyone has a set of biological set of instructions contained in their DNA, which makes up their genome.

Put simply, the genome has 3.2 billion letters and if written out, it would take up 200 telephone directories that are 500 pages long.