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WHEN THE GENEALOGY company Ancestry released the latest update to its “ethnicity estimates” last month, a lot of people suddenly became more Scottish. Since 2012, more than 18 million people have mailed their spit-filled vials to the company, which analyzes the genetic material for markers that indicate regional heritage and sends back reports on the geographic areas from which each customer’s ancestors hail, broken down into percentages. The revision to these estimates elicited elation, panic—and no small amount of confusion.

“Greater understanding of why I like whiskey,” tweeted one customer.

“Yes!” crowed another. “There’s nary an animal alive that can outrun a greased Scotsman,” the Tweet continued, punctuated by a meme of a shirtless Groundskeeper Willie, the cartoon embodiment of Scottish stereotypes from The Simpsons.

An American woman blamed her Scottish ancestry for her loud mouth, while another man seemed more distressed by the news: “Help before I go out and buy a kilt!,” he tweeted @Ancestry.

Jokes, jokes, jokes. And yet, they reveal some popular misunderstandings about what these tests really mean. Of course, nobody actually became more Scottish... see more