Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ancestry DNA Update

My original ethnic summary
When Ancestry DNA first became a service available at, I was eager to jump at the chance to unlock the ancestral information hidden in my genetic code. I was very hopeful that Ancestry DNA would become a helpful tool in my quest to fill in the holes and mysteries in my family tree. Therefore, I spit into a little tube and sent my saliva in for analysis. Like many, I was not super blown away with the results, which had come back as 93% British Iles and 7% Uncertain. 

I knew I had a great deal of Irish ancestry, but was pretty surprised my known Belgian, French, and Italian ancestry did not seem to make an appearance. By my estimation, Western Europe, at the very least, should have popped up in my family DNA.

Of course, the service also matched my genetic code with users whose DNA was close to mine. At first there were few matches, but eventually I had pages and pages of fourth cousins and distant relatives. Unfortunately, I can’t really say I have unlocked any mysteries with these matches yet. The real mystery was knowing how we were related at all, as a fourth cousin only shares a great-great-great-grandparent. Never mind all the fifth through eighth cousins that matched as well. I still have hopes that this tool will be useful.

However, months ago, Ancestry DNA updated the ethnic estimations for all users. The new information specified areas previously only listed as unknown and diversified general areas like the British Iles. I found the new info pretty interesting and was eager to share it with my family. Below is a picture of my updated ethnic breakdown.
The new ethnicity estimations show a lot more detail
The update showed that I was mostly European, identifying Ireland as the largest percentage at 70%. This time Western Europe was included, showing 10%, and Great Britain clocked in at 5%. I’m a little unclear about how British DNA is calculated vs Irish DNA. Perhaps I showed a little Anglo-Saxon.
Map showing the 3 largest percentages in my ethnic breakdown
In addition, my DNA showed trace amounts from the regions of Italy/Greece (5%), Iberian Peninsula (3%), Finland/Northwest Russia (2%), Eastern Europe (2%), and Scandinavia (<1%). Of the bunch, my Italian ancestry is the only part I can prove through records and research.

However, the biggest surprise was the amount of Western Asian and Southern Asian DNA that I apparently carry around. Though the amounts were less than 1% for both regions, I had no indication I had any Asian ancestors at all. As a history teacher, I automatically think of Mongol invaders, who spread their DNA pretty heavily from China to Poland. At the moment, I don’t have another great explanation.

In light of the new information I uncovered regarding my paternal grandfather’s biological ancestry, I also recently ordered the Y-DNA kit from Ancestry DNA, which is obviously strictly paternal ancestry. I figured, since that is the area in my research with the biggest mystery, and I am carrying around a potential key in my own Y-DNA, why not see what results I get from an additional test?

All in all, I have had mixed results with using DNA as a genealogical tool. I found the information pretty interesting, but not yet really useful. Using an additional DNA test for my father and a male relative we believed should have been his half-cousin, I was able to disprove a parentage theory for my grandfather. However, my DNA tests have not so far given me any new info. Rather, any new discoveries I have made recently have come from birth records, newspaper archives, tax records, wills, cemeteries, and census records. More or less the same old stuff I have been doing for years.

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