Support My Writing

Monday, June 24, 2013

My DNA surprise: A journey of genetic self-discovery


Last year I started watching a show on NBC called, “Who Do You Think You Are?” which highlighted real-life stories of celebrities tracing their roots through a DNA test. I was intrigued. So much so, that about six weeks ago, I purchased a do-it-yourself kit from Ancestry.com. You may wonder how involved it is, because I was very curious. It’s actually very simple. You put some of your saliva into a little vial, and ship it off in a special pouch with a control number on it. 


Needless to say, it was very exciting, even though I was pretty sure, or so I thought, what the results would yield. My ethnic/cultural background seemed clear. My father is Cuban, my mother is German. They both came to the United States in the late 1950s. My father said as far as he knew his ethnic background was from Spain and the Canary Islands.

My mother said her family was German, with the slim possibility of some Scandinavian. In my opinion, nothing very exotic or diverse. I had thought perhaps there was something else, so the idea of the test was very intriguing. Little did I know how surprising it would turn out. But I am not there quite yet. Patience, I’m getting there!




So I ordered the test, which took a few weeks to arrive. I opened the test the day it arrived, submitted the sample, and rushed to the post office so that it would go out that very day. Now the hard part! The wait!!!! In the meantime, I started to compile my family tree on the Ancestry website. Not an easy task for a first generation American with little access to family documents from the “mother lands” at my disposal. My father’s family tree is especially challenging, as the government of Cuba is not exactly in the modern age right now and few, if any, people are registered on the Ancestry.com site. 





In the meantime, I was dreaming and wondering about what might turn up. I had visions of finding out something really amazing, like links to a culture we hadn’t imagined. Perhaps my father’s line had Middle Eastern blood. That would be kind of cool. My mother’s last name is Ullmann, which in Germany has some Jewish ties. Maybe I was part Jewish! That would be pretty cool, and unexpected. So many possibilities! What if I were part Asian, or African? It was like a genetic lottery, and I was wondering what I was about to win!!! But the waiting was so hard.

And then it came. The email with the results and the answer to the puzzle. But wait? What? How can this be??? 

Okay, I won’t make you wait any longer. Here is what I saw.
About your ethnicity
Your genetic ethnicity reveals where your ancestors lived hundreds—perhaps even thousands—of years ago. This may update over time as new genetic signatures are discovered.


It was truly astonishing and unexpected. From what this test is telling me, my mother is NOT Germanic. Surprising, to say the least. I wonder how I am going to break this to my relatives. And then I started thinking about how place of birth, your country of origin, and your cultural identity often have absolutely nothing to do with your DNA.

Living in the U.S. it is easy for a person to rely on place of birth as the indicator of a person’s ethnicity because we are a melting pot of races, religion, cultures, and ethnic groups. Most people self-describe by their race, but there is more to the story.

Because I am part Cuban, I self-describe as Latino or Hispanic. There is no Latino or Hispanic race. The word, “Hispanic” is defined by one source as ‘A Spanish-speaking person living in the U.S., especially one of Latin American descent.’ Another source is much more involved- ‘
the term as a broad catch all to refer to persons with a historical and cultural relationship either with Spain and Portugal or only with Spain, regardless of race. However, in the eyes of the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanics or Latinos can be of any race, any ancestry, or any country of origin.’  Confusing, isn't it.

The DNA test confirmed what I suspected on my father’s side.

 46% Southern European. That means:

Modern Day Location

Italy, Spain, Portugal

About Your Region

If you had to choose one region of Europe that has wielded the most influence over the course of western history, a strong candidate would be the land of your ancestors—an area that includes modern day Italy, Spain, and Portugal.

Migrations into this region

Southern Europe shares a substantial amount of genetic affinity with North Africa. This is mostly because the Iberian Peninsula was conquered by Moorish (Berber) invaders, from present-day Morocco, in about 711 C.E. Their legacy can still be seen in Spain and Portugal, ranging up to 15% in some individuals.

Migrations from this region

During the Last Glacial Period, beginning about 21,000 years ago, glaciers and windswept tundra made much of northern and central Europe uninhabitable. Populations retreated into the southern glacial refugia of Spain and Italy. Then as the climate warmed, these Mesolithic people expanded out of southern Europe to occupy the entire continent, as far north as present-day Finland. The south-to-north pattern of genetic differences in Europe is attributed to this post-glacial expansion. Additionally, Iberia was the historic source of migration into the Americas. Populations throughout the Caribbean, Latin America, southern USA and South America can trace their lineages back to Spain and Portugal, usually through their paternal side.


My German side seemed easier. Or so I thought. As it turns out, the DNA from my mother’s side is 21% “Uncertain.”

This means 21%
of my segments, that are used in the ethnicity results, match more than one of their reference groups; but none of those matches are high enough to cross whatever threshold they are using to assigning segments to a particular ethnicity. Got all that? 

Other than that, my DNA results say  27% British Isles and 6% Finnish-Volga Ural. 

SHOCKER! Completely unsuspected. You can hardly imagine my dismay.

About British Isles Ethnicity

Modern Day Location

England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales

About Your Region

You're from North-Western Europe, an area including the modern-day United Kingdom and Ireland. It is a group of islands separated from France and the rest of continental Europe by the narrow English Channel. It is the rolling, emerald-green hills of Ireland, the craggy, weathered peaks of Wales, the rich history of the city on the Thames, and the deep, mysterious lochs of Scotland.
The history of the region is one of periodic invasions and settlements by various groups including the Angles and Saxons from Germany, the Jutes from Denmark, the Vikings, the Normans from northern France and, of course, the Romans. English, a Germanic language brought by the Angles, is obviously the primary language spoken. But a few of the older languages spoken by the ancient Celts still exist—a rarity in post-Roman Europe.

Migrations into this region

Despite being a cluster of islands separated from continental Europe, Great Britain and Ireland haven’t been insulated from outsiders. Although they weren’t the first, the Celts from central Europe spread throughout the Northwest Isles about 2500 years ago. Then, as with everywhere else, the Romans came. After the Romans withdrew from the area, tribes from northern Germany and Denmark (the Angles, Saxons and Jutes) came to conquer much of what is now England. About this same time, the mighty Vikings also left their imprint, particularly in southern Scotland, Ireland and western England.

Migrations from this region

Religious and political upheaval in 17th and 18th century England played a critical role in establishing and defining early American history. Called the Great Migration, religious dissidents including the Pilgrims, Quakers, and Puritans left England seeking religious freedom and a new way of life. Although the migration was not large in overall numbers, it laid the foundation for American culture, including the concepts of church-state separation and religious tolerance.

About Finnish/Volga-Ural Ethnicity

Modern Day Location

Russia, Finland

About Your Region

You have a genetic signature that is found in people of far northeastern Europe, which includes modern-day Finland and western Russia. The region includes the broad Volga River basin, its eastern boundary being the Ural mountains, generally considered the border between the European and Asian continents. Like most of Europe, it is a region of diverse ethnic and linguistic groups. Bordering the Baltic Sea, it has a long, entangled history with Scandinavia, while the vast Eurasian steppe to the south has brought many waves of invaders and settlers including Huns, Turks, and Mongolians.

It is believed that around six thousand years ago the people of the Pontic Steppe domesticated the horse. Archeological evidence includes ancient burial grounds containing elaborate jewelry depicting horses as well as horse bones found buried with chariots. Horses were then introduced to the Middle East and Europe and revolutionized for both pastoral culture and warfare.

The Finnic and Ugric tribes of the far north are some of the most ancient inhabitants of the region. Many modern-day languages such as Finnish, Estonian, Hungarian, and Erzya and Moksha, spoken by the Mordvins of the Volga region, are part of a common Uralic language group. Nomadic tribes of Turkic origin, such as the Khazars, Chuvash, and Bulgars arrived from central and eastern Asia and settled the region. In the Middle Ages, Mongol tribes, including the Golden Horde, controlled the southern areas and Slavic tribes from eastern Europe began expanding north and east into the Volga region.
Although it's disputed, historical accounts claim that several of these Slavic tribes were ruled by a group of Vikings known as the Varangians. The rulers became culturally assimilated with their subjects and this Slavic people began to be called the Rus, with major trade centers in Novgorod and Kiev. Eventually, they would form the foundation of the state of Russia.

Finland has been politically controlled by Sweden and Russia throughout much of its medieval and recent history, but was briefly captured by Germany in World War I. After Germany's defeat, the Finns were able to declare independence.

Migrations from this region

There are linguistic and genetic similarities between the people of northeastern Europe and the Volga-Ural peoples suggesting movement of people from this region to Europe. Sometime within the last 12,000 years there appears to be a migration from the Volga-Ural area towards the Baltic and Scandinavian Peninsula. About 2,000-3,000 years ago, the ancestors of Magyars migrated from the Ural Mountains toward present-day Hungary. Though they contributed their unique language to the region, their genetic impact may have been small.

Migrations into this region

After the last glacial period 15,000 years ago, populations expanded among the Ural steppes and mountains as ice and tundra retreated. Around the beginning of the thirteenth century, Mongolian nomads associated with the descendants of Genghis Khan began to conquer local tribes and take control of the Volga-Ural region as part of their Mongolian empire. Then about 500 years ago, Slavic Russians from eastern Europe conquered the Volga River Basin, followed by the Ural Mountains.



Isn't it funny how you think you know something about yourself and it turns out to be very different? So what does it mean? I’m still skeptical. It’s hard to believe something you've believed all your life is suddenly different. It’s kind of like finding out you were adopted. I've always believed I was “German” and now I realize that genetically I am not. My mother may identify as German, but genetically speaking, she really isn't  I don’t have the heart to tell her. I don’t think she would believe it anyway.

The DNA test I took was a very inexpensive and rudimentary one. I don’t know if I am English, Irish, Scottish, or Welsh. I don’t know what part of Spain, Italy, or Portugal. Genetics aren't about land or property borders. It is much more basic. There are genetic markers which give an indication of a place in the world where my ancestors originated. Some people are skeptical about the tests, but I heard this one was reliable.

So are we nature or nurture? I think we are a combination of all factors. We are an accumulation of our family of origin, our nation of origin, our religion, our race, our environment, and our own personality. There is a great deal more to what we are than our genes or where we live. It is a magical and mystical combination of it all!


Photo


P




64 comments:

  1. Fascinating! I recently logged onto Ancestry.com to trace my dad's side back and from what I found, his side is all German. With one rogue Swede :). My husband was very happy to hear this, his family is all Swedish. I've known my mom's side was mainly German, we have lots of family historians on that side. Now I'm interested in getting the DNA kit!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's truly amazing what you can find out from DNA! I am sold on it and am glad others are interested from my findings.

      Delete
    2. How much did this cost you to do this? I did a DNA test years ago when they were first getting started but now they tell me it will be costly to get the results.

      Delete
    3. I did my DNA test first and than ordered one for my husband. It is a fun way to find out what you are, some was surprising for my husband. I have found a couple distant cousins on my mom's side through the DNA testing. For the price and ease of use, it's well worth doing.

      Delete
  2. That's fascinating! But I agree, heritage-affinities could really only possibly go back a couple of generations, people were bouncing around geographically contiguous areas, forming alliances and making babies in complete ignorance of modern geo-political boundaries for millenia before those boundaries existed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the kind comments. It actually is quite fascinating!

      Delete
  3. I've also traced my family back, and it turns out I'm very distantly related to the queens of Denmark and England.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. can you then make an appointment to see Queen of England for tea? I wonder if she would allow that?

      Delete
  4. My mother and I each used the Ancestry DNA kit and she had regions appear in her tests which did not appear in my results - confusing to say the least, and it makes me wonder if my father were still alive what I'd see in his that isn't revealed in mine. I'd recommend having your mother take the test herself to see if there is indeed so little German on her side.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's not as confusing as it seems. You only inherited half of your mother's DNA.

      Delete
    2. Well, yes, I mean upon reflection that's pretty obvious - but I don't think it's an uncommon *initial* confusion - just look at this post. If I used my results to conclude that I'm not of eastern European (or of African, Amerindian, etc.) ancestry, and then my mother's results contain those locations - well, I never would have know about those roots if not for my mother's test. My point to the author remains valid - don't draw conclusions about your mother's Germanic heritage without having her take the test.

      Delete
    3. You do not inherit half, it does not work that way. You may inherit 70% from one parent 30% from the other. DNA is amazing. Each marker contains different percentages also so interpretations vary. The interpretations of the ancestry team vary from other companies interpretations of the same test, this is why people are skeptical. You can download the raw data from the ancestry test and have another company analyze it and come up with different results and conclusions.

      Delete
  5. I don't understand how you could tell which was on your mother's side and which on your father's, unless I missed something when my DNA test results came back. My results seemed to corroborate my mother's ancestry, but I was hoping for some clues about my father (who is completely and utterly unknown, the "secret" having gone to the grave!) It is exciting, and totally fascinating to do this test!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Look up dnaadoption and adoptiondna groups on Yahoo! Also, is it possible to get your mom tested? There are lots of resources out there to try to figure out the "Secret" I'm sort of in the same boat but do know a name.

      Delete
    2. I have found the census records have helped a bunch in tracing my father's lineage. There was no consistent information on my grandfather who died when I was a year old. There were stories about him showing he had a mischievous side to him for sure, but when I searched for his birth info and parents info I hit a brick wall. I did find a birth record but then a death record for the same child showing he had died as an infant. No other info found for years. Then through posting on the message board, I met some really nice ladies who gave me insight into what issues were probably blocking my finding key info. Illiteracy was one of the biggest issue that stopped me from finding anything. Thanks to especially one of these ladies, I was able to form a picture of what it was like in the 1800's especially for Catholics and Irish immigrants. I learned the spelling of the name was dependent on the person recording the births, etc. If the person reporting the event was illiterate, then the spelling of the name was dependent on what the recorder heard the name was. Being illiterate, the person reporting the event couldn't tell if it was recorded correctly. This info opened doors for me and after 20 plus years of looking, I have found more generations that I never expected to find. I have done the DNA testing, but it has not connected me to any family as yet, other than two I already knew. I know patience will bring me even farther into my paternal side of the family.

      Delete
  6. I was much like you. I thought I had it all figured out. I was going to come back as Scotch-Irish, English, and Welsh. My last name is Howell, and I look rather western European in descent. 7 of my 8 major names have British Isles origin. Mine came back with only 9% British Isles. I am mostly Central European (47%) and Scandanavian (36%) of all things. That doesn't even mention the other shocker of Eastern European (7%) or Uncertain (1%). Honestly though, most of my families have been in the states since the 17th and 18th century, so I'm pretty American.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My results were very similar to yours. Most of my lines were English, Scotch-Irish, Scotch, Welsh and a few German. The only Scandanavian DNA might be Vikings. It's very puzzling. Then I did the Family Tree test and get the results about July 16th.

      Delete
  7. It would be interesting to take another ancestry DNA test from another company to see if the results match the Ancestry.com test.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've taken both the ancestry.com and the 23andme.com tests. There were no differences. Ancestry.com is better for ethnicity, 23andme.com is better for medical information.

      Delete
  8. On the autosomal tests, which describe your recent ethnicity it works like this...You probably already know this but I'll say it anyway in case you don't.
    We inherit half of our DNA from our mother and half from our father. Your mother could be half Chinese and half white, and your father half Chinese and half white. You could inherit each Chinese half, and absolutely no white. Does that mean it cancels out your white grandparents? Or say, your brother only inherits the white halves of the DNA. There you are, with only the Chinese halves and he with the white halves, so in theory, is he your brother after all? Genetically speaking. So, you could still have those ethnicity that you thought in your line, but just not in your DNA, perhaps a sibling?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. An additional consideration is that these tests aren't looking at every gene, but only at the marker genes that the testers have identified from previous testing. In that sense the percentages are slightly misleading, since they're really a percentage of the markers, not of your total genetic material.

      Delete
  9. I had similar zonker when I got my DNA results. My mother is of Scottish, English and a wee bit of Netherlands in her pedigree which agrees with the 58% British Isles and 24% Scandinavian. Those Vikings were very busy sowing their seed in Scotland and England back in the Middle Ages. Family stories claimed a Native American ancestor born in the late 18th century. Other than that her side of the family is pretty "white bread." My father's family came from what is now smack-dab in north-central Germany between 1844 and 1870. Well, much to my surprise NONE of my markers came up German or Central European! I also have about 9% Southern European (?????) and 8% Finno-Ural-Volga (?????) and 1% uncertain (space alien?). I have been told if my sister were to take the test, her markers might show the Central European/German. The percentages are what I inherited, and my sister would show different percentages and perhaps different groups. Sadly our parents are both dead and we have no brothers or close male kin from either side of the family. So the mysteries will remain mysteries.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Imagine my surprise when my results came back 98% Scandinavian when I have more than 500 years of family traced back to England and Scotland on my mother's side, plus a good dose of German grandparents back a few generations. My father, however, is all Danish. I guess they mean what they say when they comment that these tests can go back thousands of years. Apparently my British Isles ancestors must have all been Viking marauders!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I took AncestryDNA as well and was shocked to see my German did not show up at all either. I was 87% british isles, which after I thought about it was prob. true. Then 9% Volga-ural. and 7% unknown which I am still holding out hope is the native american that my grandma always said her grandmother was 100%. The uncertain is driving me nuts. I may try another company and compare results. I am having tons of luck finding distant cousins though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lucky. I rarely find anyone in the cousins department.

      Delete
    2. http://www.23andme.com/ might be the way to go. My Native American or East Asian blood showed up in this test, but did not show up with the test from http://www.familytreedna.com/. It may be due to the fact that 23andme has a much larger database of people.

      Delete
    3. Same exact story here...thought I was 100% German according to all relatives! whoa....87% English....could have knocked me other with a feather...my mother and aunts still don't believe it...and have asked for proof...and amazingly all the proof was in the family tree we are building on ancestry.com. We never knew...because our grandparents all told us they were German...come to find out they came to the USA through Germany!

      Delete
    4. I had a similar experience, ancestrydna had me at 95% British Isles, but my mother was only 75% British Isles and 19% Scandinavian. It seems like the Central European traces don't show up well in the ancestrydna. 23and me came back with 10.8% British and Scottish, and 69% 'non-specific Northern European'...which is more what I would expect, lots of central European French and German ancestors

      Delete
  12. Family history research can reveal so much about you. Whether you research records, histories or DNA, there are always surprises and a few enduring mysteries. A distant cousin and my brother both had their DNA done. The results revealed markers for Native American (Abenaki), which helped to solve a family mystery. One ancestor appeared on pedigree charts simply as "a woman of Portugal." We had often wondered who she was and based on the DNA results, further research revealed that the Abenaki people of New Hampshire had assimilated into the growing European population of the area by marrying Portuguese sailors. What I have discovered is that, regardless of which ethnic/linguistic/religious group you claim, we are all part of the same race - human.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi there. I discovered your blog via an ancestry.com post. Between us, my brother and I have submitted our samples to ancestry, FTDNA, 23andme, and Ancestry By DNA.

    At Ancestry.com he received a result of 98% British Isles. I received 84% British Isles and 14% Central European. At Ancestry By DNA we both received a mixture of Caucasian and Native American/Indigenous American. Both of us scored in the 80% range Caucasian and between 14% and 18% Native American.

    No other test besides Ancestry By DNA showed the Native American. We do have Native American roots through our great grandmother.

    I wonder if anyone else had such a discrepancy in their results.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I also have a rodriquez gggrandma:-)

    ReplyDelete
  15. It sometimes completely stops family stories dead.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I took the test after I had already done a lot of research on my family tree and my results weren't surprising. I was exactly 60% Central European and 40% British Isles. I knew from my research that I was roughly half German and half Scottish. I have noticed, however, that seldom do the profiles of my matches come out that even. Usually they are 13% this and 7% that, etc. It is also really fun to find distant cousins. I've been matched with cousins as far back as a 5th cousin! If you both have family trees, and a common ancestor, Ancestry will show your common ancestor. Fascinating!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Diana, just like you my interest in the DNA search got completely fueled up by the show "Who Do You Think You Are?"... I started with my DNA kit, then my mother, my son, an Uncle by marriage... We are having lots of fun with discovering the unimaginable running through our markers...

    I was surprise at some of my own results:
    31% Southern European
    27% Western African
    13% Native North American (ahhh???)
    12% Native South American
    07% Scandivanian (double ahhh ahhh???????)
    10% Uncertain wishi washi

    By now I am convinced that the Vikings did get busy with the North American Native Americans, and then continued spreading their seeds down south in Europe... And the hundreds of slaves brought from Africa to the "New Continent" got busy with the Native South American population...Thus voila, here I am...

    It is my understanding that the DNA test from Ancestry is a reputable one, so I will trust its results and enjoy a Spanish say: "el gusto esta en la salsa".

    Thanks for your detailed description of the interesting journey that is finding about ones' past.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I THOUGHT I was german with one way distant Cherokee grandmother imagine my surprise 37% scandanavian...............funny thing right before I got the dna done I had a psychic reading and she told me Odin was hangin out! lol

    ReplyDelete
  19. I too was told all my life that I was German and Irish. My DNA test informed me that I am in fact 88% British Isles and 7% Finnish/Volga-Ural and 5% uncertain. After reading your story, I wonder if German ever comes up as a DNA marker. One cousin did think he had been told once that one German grandfather's family may have originally come from Sweden. I would like my sister to take the test just to see what results she might get.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. JE Heyer, like you I am Irish and German, but Ancestry.com gave me 98% British Isles and 2% Uncertain, which I know is not accurate. I don't think they have enough Germans in their sample populations. I tested at 23andMe.com and it is much more accurate. I've heard this from other people who tested at Ancestry DNA as well, so take it with a grain of salt. This is new technology and ethnicity estimates will change in the future, it's definitely not the last word.

      Delete
  20. I was listening to a "black" man on PBS a few years ago describe his DNA results which indicated little or no African ancestry . His presumably black mother insisted that he was not adopted and his wife was upset because she married a "black" man.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I am thinking about getting a DNA test but I don't know if it will be worth it. I am looking for my dad and I don't know if he is living or not. I don't have a lot of information about him or that side of the family, I have been looking for awhile and keep hitting brick walls. Not sure what to do next.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "I've been matched with cousins as far back as a 5th cousin! If you both have family trees, and a common ancestor, Ancestry will show your common ancestor. Fascinating!" from anonymous.

      You may find a cousin or someone you are related to that can help you in your search. I found some cousins who have helped me with my search on Ancestry so may try a DNA test to discover more

      Delete
    2. I've been trying to solve a similar puzzle for a year. Having no clue who my father might have been, I tried Ancestry DNA as a last resort. I figured if I had a match that I could not match to an ancestor in my mother's tree, it must then match my father's. So, I set about finding common ancestors among my matches. After about eight months, I finally found a 4 - 6 cousin match who had intersecting common ancestors with some of my 5 - 8 cousin matches' ancestors. So now I'm following that trail, trying to find a likely candidate out of the hundreds of descendants of that intersection, then will try to place him in the right place at the right time. It's a lot of work that could come to nothing. On the other hand, it might just work. :-)

      Delete
  22. It's always fun discovering who your ancestor were and where they lived! I've been doing that on ancestry.com and have been fortunate to follow lines from others work. Have fun with it! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing. I will do just that. Thanks again

      Delete
  23. I had a DNA test in January. I was also surprised. I know that my mothers grandparents came to the US from Germany, and most of my father's ancestors were from the British Isles.

    My test came back 48% Scandinavian, 31% British Isles, 14& Eastern European, and 7% uncertain. I was not surprised by the British Isles, but the Scandinavian and Eastern European - that was a surprise. As far as I know (and I have traced by to the 16 and 18th centuries) we do not have any Scandinavians.

    I said "it must be these darned Vikings". LOL!!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Yes, the Vikings "got around"...even into North Africa and Turkey.

    ReplyDelete
  25. We tend to think in terms of modern nation-states, but people have always moved around in Europe. Going back 100s or even a thousand plus years back, many of your ancestors aren't going to be who you thought they were.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You bring up a very good point about modern nation-states. What Americans think of as "Germany" was brought about by the unification of Germanic states under Bismarck. Prior to the early 1900's, the area was a collection of duchies that were fought over and traded back and forth. With each trade, settlers were enticed to the "new" land by free or low cost farm lands. Very often, whole villages were resettled. My father's family was part of a resettlement from Franconia to Romania in 1745; the whole village has Germanic surnames. My maternal grandmother was from Poland, and also has a German surname. She came from an area known as Galacia, which was traded back and forth between Austria and Poland with some regularity. My maternal grandfather's family came from a village 85 miles from where my grandmother was born - his family was Ukrainian.

      Delete
  26. When I got my resultsI was surprised to see 87% Britisg Isles, 13% Uncertain. I was like "really, that's it?"Hmmmm...

    It's important to remember, each parent gives each of their children exactly half of their DNA. If a one parent is 50% Italian, 30% "This", and 20% "That", their child may or may not get any of their parents Italian genes. They might get the "This" and "That", but a sibling could get some of those Italian genes.

    I think the more family members (especially parents) that take the DNA tests, you can get a better idea of where you came from. Of course, that can get a bit spendy.

    It's been fun to discover unknown cousins!

    ReplyDelete
  27. Thank you for sharing. It will encourage more people to have their DNA tested.

    ReplyDelete
  28. It bears repeating that there is no set determination for the geographic ethnic group of "German." I wouldn't think you aren't ethnically German, simply because such a subset hasn't yet been accurately decided upon.

    My father's side has a German paper trail going back to 1552 (so far), into central Germany, and yet his DNA results showed as British Isles and Scandinavian. So yes, there are Vikings, and Goths, and Celts, and so on, that all crisscrossed the very heart of Europe, conquering both physically and biologically along the way.

    It doesn't mean you aren't German, it just means there's more than one way to describe a German.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I did not know that the Ancestry.Com DNA test covered both Paternal and Maternal heritage.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I would try another more comprehensive test. I questioned Ancestry's broad strokes. My ancestry test showed a high percentage of Finnish Volga that absolutely could not be accounted for. Based on knowing my ancestors lines far enough back that 25% could not be accounted for. I did 23andme and there was no trace of Finnish Volga. (Plus I got to see the exact segment my husband and I matched on from a known colonial ancestor!) I know they test different markers, but the 23andme percentages lined up with my tree and brought out a few ethnicities ancestry missed.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I wasn't too surprised by mine. 98% British Isles and 2% uncertain. I'll always wonder about that "Uncertain" part.

    ReplyDelete
  32. I did the DNA test through Ancestry.com, too, and was also surprised at my results. I know that through my mother's father's family, we are British and through my dad, we are Irish. Guess what? Nothing like that showed up in my results! I would like to point out that since you are female, your mitochondrial DNA was used for the test - that means that only matrilineal DNAs were measured. In order to follow your patrilineal heritage, you would have to have someone male (your dad, a brother, a cousin on either side) to also do the test. I know this is true because National Geographic has also been doing DNA tests to map out the human genome and they explain this stuff really well on their site. I had been thinking of doing their test for a while before the ancestry one became available, so I read up on it. And for what it's worth, the National Geographic test costs about the same, and they can trace your ancestry back to thousands of years ago as well, to determine what haplogroup you are descended from. Perhaps your mother really is German - if she has a brother or uncle or cousin (paternal side, of course), then you could trace that side to find out. I'm pretty tempted to get one of my male cousins or an uncle from either side to do the test so I can see what plays out for me when the "Y"s are followed instead of just the "X"s. Oh, and one other thing - males have the option to have either X or Y DNA traced (at least, that's the way it is over at National Geographic). I am by no means an expert on this subject, so if you want to read more for yourself, go check out the human genome mapping project. It's pretty interesting stuff and there are interactive parts of the map that you can click on. I'll probably eventually end up joining in to do that DNA test, too. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess I'm out of luck then, because the whole purpose of doing the DNA test was to find clues to my father & his family. There is no one living who knows anything about him, except that he was "a G.I. based at Burton Wood Air Base in 1942/1943 outside Warrington, U.K." (not far from Manchester). My half-siblings (who I found after 69 years!) had a different father, and our mother did not mention my existence!!

      Delete
  33. It is interesting when brother/sister compare DNA results - my results were similar to my brother (our parents had similar ethnicity) but his reflected/confirmed a gggrandfther's birth in Brazil (Portuguese) which was good, would be even better if I could obtain his birth record as that's where I hit the brick wall, but at least it's a confirmation we have identified the correct ancestor.

    ReplyDelete
  34. If you are descended from any kind of royalty, they regularly married people from other countries, so their DNA must be really mixed up.

    ReplyDelete
  35. reading all the comments are all very interesting! looking forward to getting my DNA (mitochondrial) test done. Will have to get one of my brothers to cooperate for the male "Y" side of it.
    Incidentally...the royals, especially in the last 200+ years or so, were all usually intermarried at some point.
    Just to throw another bone into play...I read a book called "Eat For Your Blood Type." I forget the name of the author. In there the author says that the blood types tend to coalesce in certain areas of the world. Since I am A+, as is one of my brothers; my mother is a B, my Dad (not certain, but I think an A+) my other brother AB-. The Blood type B is usually found among the nomadic, herding societies. Because of my mother's almond-shaped eyes (not round) I proposed she could be descended from the Mongols. She hit the ceiling with vehement denials. lol
    These researches certainly bring out peoples prejudices! ; ) A Also, a Dr. once asked me if I had any "black" ancestors because of some heavy scarring after a surgery. (Or maybe it was just a bad job of stitching up?) His remark shocked me! I thought he was being very prejudiced to say such a thing!
    This Dr.'s remark happened before DNA testing was even heard of, and got me to asking questions. A woman I met said she was Native American and she also "heavily scarred up." HMMMMMMMM....

    ReplyDelete
  36. Been doing family research a long time. DNA for family as well. The Ancestry DNA is from so long ago, it really isn't useful to narrow down your "family" history. It it very useful for your specific distant human migration patterns. I personally find that the FAMILY story history and breaking the Grandparents and Greats down to where they were born, is actually much more informative, when trying to peek at 100 to 200 or so years back. Thousands of years is sort of a baseline, but not relative to family research. It is fun to know, and interesting. More direct things, like marriage, burial, census, death records, religion, maiden names, lead much closer to "who you are".

    ReplyDelete
  37. I found my ancestry going back to French and Italian royalty, saints, etc.! The saints I was not surprised about; but, the Italian royalty? Very surprising. My husband is Italian, and now, I love to tease him about the fact that I also have Italian DNA, Royal DNA to boot! This has been an extremely gratifying experience for me. I had promised my dad before he died that I would be the family historian and find out as much as I could about our family history/ancestors. Much of what he told me has been authenticated; but, some of it was a complete surprise. I would recommend a DNA test to everyone who is interested and who can afford it. After the test, there is a lot of work and research still to be done; but the relatives that you correspond with, and the wealth of knowledge they can provide is priceless.

    ReplyDelete
  38. I took the ancestry DNA test last year and made a huge discovery. I have always been told that my father's family was from Germany and my mother's side was from France. When my results came back I am mostly (55%) British Isles, Scandinavian, and also Southern European. The discovery came when I matched as close family with another Ancestry member. We are from the same town and I do know him; however there is no know connection between our families. We tested as 1st cousins or closer with a 99% confidence, which as you know means we have at least the same grandparents. Apparently someone in my family is not who I thought they were. Also, both of us have matched with several other Ancestry members as 2nd and 3rd cousins. He actually knows them and they are in fact his 2nd and 3rd cousins. I am going crazy with curiosity!!

    ReplyDelete
  39. I had the DNA test last year. It came back 76% British Isles, 14% Eastern European and 10% Volga-Ural. I grew up being told that my (absent, non-supporting father) was Syrian descent, born here in New York to parents from Syria. Reading all of has helped me understand (a little) how the Syrian did not show. On my mothers side I have a history on her father back to the mid 1700 in Germany. This is a no show either.

    ReplyDelete
  40. I also had the DNA test done through ancestry.com, but didn't learn anything new. My main reason was to confirm or deny the existence of Indian blood. My grandmother said that some ancestors married Chippewa Indian women. Nothing about that showed up unless it was the 2% uncertain. What really surprised me was that my French ancestry wasn't even mentioned and my maternal grandmother descended from generations of French people as far back as we can trace. My maternal grandfather was born in Finland, so that was no surprise and my father's line was all British Isles, so, again, no surprise. I still don't understand why there was no french connection. That made me skeptical of the whole thing. I notice quite a few of the posts list British Isles and Volga-Ural for people with no knowledge of their family members coming from there. Now I am even more skeptical. Any comments?

    ReplyDelete
  41. Its funny everyone is stating their German,Cuban,etc.But everyone has African in them.Everyone originated in Africa.I dnt care who you are!If we all went back to our ancestors from the beginning,we would all end up in North Africa.

    ReplyDelete