Thursday, February 13, 2014

Thursday Thoughts: Fun with AncestryDNA

As I've mentioned before, I enjoy family history.  While my research will never be "done" (family history involves not only grandmas and grandpas, but their brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, in-laws, etc.), I do know quite a bit about my ancestors.  I've spent most of my research time on my dad's line, and my mom and grandma have worked extensively on my mom's side of the family.  

 
Many of my dad's ancestors have been in the United States from its colonial beginnings, and proved instrumental in the establishment of towns (Hartford, New Haven) and Yale University.  It is clear from family history research that I have quite a few ancestors from England.  
 
Even though I know I have ancestors from England (on both sides of the family), and I know some of the other countries from which relatives emigrated, I was still curious about my own genetic makeup.  

*I recently took an AncestryDNA test.  My mom had taken one, and I thought it would be interesting to take one and compare our results.  Well, my results came in yesterday!  Ancestry did a great job identifying that we are mother and daughter, but I think we were more amazed at some of our differences.  

Here's the breakdown:

Me:  100% European                    Mom: 100%European
Scandinavian: 28%                         Scandinavian: 33%
Europe/West 28%                          Ireland: 26%
Great Britain 20%                          Great Britain: 15%
Iberian Peninsula 17%                    Europe/West: 14%
Ireland 3%                                     Italy/Greece: 5%
European Jewish 2%                      Iberian Peninsula: 4%
Europe/East <1%                           European Jewish 3%
Italy/Greece <1%

 

Ancestry.com explains why results might not be what we expected:

1. Your genetic ethnicity results go back hundreds of years. In some cases, the markers in your DNA may reveal ethnicities that go back hundreds, even a thousand years. This could differ from what you have documented in your family tree. So keep in mind that there may be some ethnic differences in your more recent family history as compared to generations ago.
2. Ethnic groups moved around. Because people move over time, (and when they do they take their DNA with them), a group may contribute DNA to other groups at different times. So ethnic groups can be defined by time and place—not just location. For example, if you have German or British ancestors in your family tree, it’s a possibility that your genetic ethnicity may be partly Scandinavian. The Viking invasions and conquests about a thousand years ago are likely responsible for occurrences of Scandinavian ethnicity throughout other regions. And there are similar examples for other ethnicities. With your results, we provide historical information describing migrations to and from the regions to give you a broader picture of the origins of your DNA.
3. Your DNA is inherited through the generations. Each parent gives each of their children exactly half of their DNA. But the assortment of genes or markers is going to be unique to each child. That’s why most siblings look and act differently. Similarly, your parents will give you a different assortment of the markers that we use to predict your ethnicity. So if you factor this out over the course of several generations, the relative contribution of any one ancestor to your genetic make-up (for height, eye-color or ethnicity), can vary and may not be detectable.

 Apparently, we must be of Viking descent.  The difference between our Irish percentages was striking, especially because my mom always just assumed the red tint in my hair came from the Irish genes.  Nope; my dark brunette mom has more Irish in her than I do.  Probably the biggest surprise was my Iberian peninsula percentage, though.  Neither one of us have any idea who came from there, but I certainly got a bunch of those genes!  

I would be curious to see what results my dad and siblings would have.  My sister and I, though not twins, look enough alike that our children sometimes get us confused.  I'm curious if our genetic profiles would be quite similar.  Our brother, on the other hand, has his own look.  Who knows?  Maybe he'd have even more Iberian Peninsula genes than I!

Have you ever taken a test to determine your ethnic background?  Were the results surprising?

*This is an unsolicited post.  Ancestry.com did not contact me to write it, nor did I receive complimentary tests nor compensation in any form from them.  That would be cool, but it didn't happen. :-)

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Thanks for technology, that gives us insight into our family history.

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3 comments:

  1. That would be really interesting to do and I would be curious how close your sister and your own test results would be. I would love to have had mine and my own sister's done as we were SO different in our own lives and looked nothing alike.

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  2. Red hair came from the Vikings! When my mother visited Norway, the land of her father, she was amazed at all the redheads and said I would have fit in there perfectly. What a fun thing to learn about your family. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. That would be so interesting to do that. I really know nothing about my father's side of the family. My mother's side, from a distant relative's search, is suppose to be direct descendants of John and Priscilla Alden. It would be fun to know more. My grandfather was 1/4 Cherokee. Yes, this could be very interesting!

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Thanks for making this a conversation. I love to hear your comments!