Recently, both my husband and I decided we would like to take a DNA test to get a better understanding of our respective heritages. Because both of us have had family members that have done testing through Ancestry.com, we decided to use their service. We wanted to see if we would match to the family members that had already tested, as well as find out if there were other Ancestry members that could potentially be family matches.
The process was pretty simple. First, you register your test on the Ancestry DNA web site. Then, you spit in a little test tube-like receptacle up to a line. Once you close up the tube, you shake it to mix in a chemical that is in the tube. Then, you put it in the pre-paid envelope, mail it in, and wait.
I was glad to see that Ancestry gave us a notice when they received the test, as well as one about mid-way through the test process, and finally, one when the results were ready. From start to finish, it took us about 4 weeks to get notified that our test results were waiting for us on the Ancestry site. We actually got the email just before Christmas; appropriate since this was our Christmas present to each other.
So, before sharing some of the highlights of our results, I wanted to share some of our expectations, and a few of the questions that each of us had. Kind of like thinking about a road trip, we were thinking about what things we expected to see on these genealogical road maps of ours.
Pam’s Expectations and Questions
My expectations were based on my family lore, and also the names that I have found so far in my family research. Many of the names show origins in the British Isles, so, I felt it likely to see roots in England, Ireland, Wales, and/or Scotland. Family lore also said that I had Native American ancestors on both sides of my family, so my biggest question was how much Native American blood would my test show? Also, neither of my parents ever talked about any nationalities other than the Native American background, so my other real question: what nationalities went into making me?
Bill’s Expectations and Questions
While I really had no clue about the nations that came together to create me, Bill knew a lot more of his. He always said he was a SIGH guy: Scottish, Irish, German, and Hungarian. The Hungarian side was his father’s; his Dad’s parents had been Hungarian immigrants to the United States. The rest was from his Mom’s side. His questions were more about the proportions of each of his known nationalities. There was also a family lore item he wanted to see whether the test would show as being plausible, or whether it would be nothing but a story.
According to the rumor, Bill’s great-grandfather could not have children. So, with her husband’s permission, the great-grandmother supposedly had slept with, and had children by, multiple men. One of these men was possibly Jewish.
Now, Bill heard about this from one of his aunts, but the information was third hand from his grandmother, who really did not have a good relationship with her mother-in-law. So was this a story made of nothing but spite, or was there a bit of truth to it?
One event did make him wonder. One of his brothers had shown signs of anemia and was taking iron supplements. One day, he passed out while in a store, and had to be taken to ER. The doctor felt it was due to a disease that hits those of Jewish decent more frequently, and had mentioned that if the family had told them he was Jewish, he would have discovered it sooner, Of course, the reaction was “We’re not Jewish.” I’m not sure if this is when the story was originally told, or if this just gave a bit of credibility to the tale. Either way, inquiring minds want to know.
- Great Britain (which includes primarily England, Scotland, and Wales) is a BIG part of my genetic makeup. The estimate is that 58% of my genetic makeup is from Great Britain.
- Surprise #1 – I am 23% Scandinavian. Sweden, Norway, and Denmark were not places I expected to be shown on my genealogical road map.
- Surprise #2 – Most of my “lower confidence” regions run throughout Europe to the borders of Asia. From the Iberian Peninsula all the way across to the Caucasus makes up most of the rest of my genetic road map. But there were a few other areas that showed very small traces that are mere blips on the map.
- Surprise #3 – While I am supposed to have Native American ancestors on both sides, my genetic makeup doesn’t show much of it. Less than 1% of my genetic makeup shows as Native American.
- Surprise #4 – There were two other less than 1% areas on my genetic road map. Both were from Africa. One was North Africa, and the other was the Southeastern Bantu. Now knowing that Africa is supposed to be the cradle of humanity, I figured there might be some trace amount of African blood, but I didn’t necessarily expect to see it from two different regions on the continent.
- He definitely is Scottish, Irish, German, and Hungarian. Ireland, Scotland and Wales was 30% of his genetic makeup. He is 22% Eastern European, which includes Hungary. German was the weakest of the group, with only 5% of his makeup showing in Western Europe.
- Great Britain is also showing as 21% of his background. Because that includes Scotland, Wales, and England, that could just be more of his Scottish side showing through. There is a chance though, that he could have some English or Welsh blood in the mix.
- Surprise #1 – Maybe the I and G in SIGH could also stand for…Italy and Greece? 5% of Bill’s background is showing as Southern Europe, which would indicate some ancestry in Italy and/or Greece.
- Surprise #2 – The I could also stand for…Iberian Peninsula? Another low confidence region, the Iberian Peninsula accounts for 3% of Bill’s genetic road map.
- Surprise #3 – Some of Bill’s ancestry comes from some cold places. Scandinavia accounts for 3% of his genetics, while 4% is Finland and Northwest Russia. Bill has been in Alaska before, so he has been used to the cold, and cold New York winters were also part of his past, so maybe he has a genetic predisposition to tolerate the cold.
- Surprise #4 – The Carpathians aren’t the only mountain range that defines Bill’s genealogical borders. The Caucasus region accounts for 7% of Bill’s genetic road map. This was probably the biggest surprise, as this was a higher confidence region, and we did not expect his genetics to go to the borders of Europe and Asia.
Both Bill and I had some confirmation of genetic history; his based on a combination of family lore and names, while mine was mainly based on the family names alone. We both still had some surprises. With my darker hair, complexion, and eyes, I thought for sure I would have more Native American blood than a paltry, less than 1% amount. For Bill, he knew of four countries that contributed to his genetic road map, but the road seems to cover a lot more regions than the SIGH acronym suggests. Both of us have new questions that stem from the revelations of the genetic test. Bill still has one family lore question that remains: was the story of his great-grandmother sleeping around true? We know that it is plausible; many of the countries have Jewish communities, so there is a possibility of a Jewish ancestor. Would that Jewish ancestor be part of a tryst? We might never know for sure. Perhaps by reaching out to some of Bill’s genetic matches on Ancestry, we may find a family link that we never knew existed before. Only time and research will help us prove or disprove the tale.