I know that when I first started this blog I mentioned that I wanted to post occasionally about my genealogy research. Which, of course, I haven’t done. A part of this is due to privacy- I mean, do I really want strangers to know all about my family history? Also, would you even care?
And then I go and read other people’s genealogy blog posts which proves that there is at least (1) weirdo who likes prying into other people’s family history. (Seriously, most people who know me understand that once we get to level 2 friendship, the first thing I’m probably going to ask is, “Hey? So where does your family come from? Do you know?”)
Anyway, I’ve been contemplating doing one of those ancestry DNA tests for years. I haven’t before this because 1) they are expensive and 2) do I really want my DNA stuck in a database somewhere? I mean, if I was an evil super-villain, I would attack an ancestry DNA database to get DNA to build clones who could do crimes for me. Wouldn’t you?
But then Ancestry had a sale. I like sales. I like genealogy research. Therefore, my qualms did not stop me from spitting into a vial so a mysterious entity could examine it for profit.
I’m starting to think I would not last long in a sci-fi novel.
A lot of people question the accuracy of these tests, but since I already had a pretty good idea of what my ethnicity is (or should be, according to my research) I thought it would be interesting to see how it would match up. All of my mother’s ancestors came to America no earlier than 1910, and while my dad’s family has been in the U.S. longer, I’ve gone back pretty far on that side of the family, enough to know that he should be about 50% German and 50% Irish/English. So based on that, I was judging that my results would roughly come out around these percentages:
25% Eastern European (Polish)
25% Scandinavian (Danish)
25% Western European (German)
12.5 % Irish
Now, while we get 50% of our DNA from each parent, I know that what we get is shuffled around and not evenly divided (for instance, Mom might give me more Polish DNA than Danish, while Dad might give me more German than Irish. Since I think I look more German and Polish than anything else, that’s what I would have expected.) I also have one ancestor on my paternal grandmother’s side who was possibly Native American (Wampanoag, to be exact); however, short of time travel, there’s not really any way of knowing. Being my 9th great-grandmother, it would be doubtful that I would even share any of her DNA, so while I had a slim hope that something might come up to tell me one way or the other, I wasn’t really counting on it.
And….I got my results back. I AM SO GERMAN. Everything except 2 of my “low confidence” regions were the ethnicities I was expecting, but the percentages –except for the Eastern European, which at 23% is almost on-the-money accurate– was way off. Also, I would need to get my mother tested, because unless she has some western European in her, there’s no way I can really be more than 50% “Europe West.” (as Denmark borders Germany, I’m thinking that some ethnic mixing might possibly be why that category is so high in my DNA- the areas even overlap on ancestry’s map. Meanwhile, since my great-great grandmother on my Danish side was actually Swedish, that may be where the stronger Scandinavian DNA is coming from.)
But where is the British and Irish in me? Where? Poor Nanny. I did not inherit much from her, I’m afraid. Except for the >1% Finnish/Northwest Russia (which was a surprise, and something I assume comes from the Scandinavian side) I think everything in the low confidence region is coming from her. Including the biggest surprise: 2% Iberian Peninsula.
The Iberian Peninsula was even more befuddling that the <1% South Asia! I’ve heard before that sometimes trace amounts of Native American DNA can come up as Asian (though usually East Asian), and more research has also suggested that it might also be evidence of a Romani connection, both of which seem more likely than an ancestor from India, especially because, with my other grandparents’ DNA generally accounted for, my paternal grandmother seems the most likely source. I have her English side going back to early colonial America (early as in the ship they came over from in the 1600s) but the Irish side of the family is the one that’s the most mysterious. I know my great-great grandparents were born in Ireland and came to America sometime around the 1870s. But before that, I have no earthly idea. I don’t even know where in Ireland they were from- I just know they were Quinns and O’Briens. Apparently, from what I’ve learned after much googling (not always the most reliable method of information gathering, but a very convenient one) there is a genetic connection between Ireland and the Iberian Peninsula and so that’s the only guess I have as to where that ethnicity is coming from.
Additionally, the percentages themselves are a little shaky, as even ancestry admits. All together, each percentage only adds up to 97-98%. When I click for more information, each ethnicity gives me a range. On all the portions of my DNA tested (40 of them in total) I got different percentages. The range is between the lowest and highest percentages they got; the ultimate percentage they give me is the average. For instance, on one portion of DNA, my European West heritage was as low as 34%, on another, as high as 88%.
You can read more about Ancestry’s method of testing here. Some of the ranges for me were quite large; Scandinavia was between 0% and 25%; Europe East between 12% and 33%. In the low confidence regions, Great Britain got up to 7%, while the Iberian Peninsula and Ireland/Scotland/Wales got to 5% and 4% respectively. The two lowest, Asia South and Finland/Northwest Russia, both started at 0% and got as high as 2% and 3%.
Ultimately, I found the whole thing fascinating, but it’s also made me want to get my parents and grandparents tested so I can narrow these ethnicities down a little more. Though I doubt I’ll ever pinpoint which ancestor it’s from, the Finnish/Russian connection was interesting! And it’s made me even more eager to uncover more from my ever-elusive Irish side.
So, if you’ve read through all of this, I think that makes us level 2 friends? Which means I get to ask: what countries are your family from? Have you ever taken a DNA test like this? What did you find out?