Tuesday, September 11, 2012

DNA Testing - Part 2

My AncestryDNA results just came in, less than two weeks after Ancestry informed me that they had received my DNA sample.  I'm certainly pleased that it was so quick compared to the promised six to eight weeks.  I'm not yet sure what to make of my results, but I hope that as Ancestry opens up its test to non-paid subscribers and does more genetic research, I'll get a better grasp on my heritage.

The results

A neat pie graph tells me that my DNA test revealed my ethnicity to be 71% British Isles (England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales), 25% Scandinavian (Norway, Sweden, and Denmark), and 4% uncertain.

I expected to see British Isles and Scandinavian in my results.  My research indicates that my father's side of the family is very close to if not entirely English and Irish.  The Scandinavian was expected due to the well-known history of raids on the British Isles by the Vikings, coupled with my paternal side of the family's light complexion, hair, and eyes.

The huge surprise to me, however, was the lack of French ethnicity.  My mother's side of the family is almost exclusively French Canadian.  I've traced most of my ancestors on that side back at least one hundred years because of the availability of Québec's vital records.  Two lines I even traced back to early 17th century Normandy (and one of those has an English-sounding surname).  Aside from those two lines, I have yet to find anyone on my maternal side of the tree who was born anywhere other than Québec, and most of my ancestors have French-sounding names.

The full results page additionally provides some important historical information about the areas of your ethnicities.  For example, Ancestry states that the British Isles faced many raids, not only from the Vikings, but also from the Jutes of Denmark, and even the Normans in northern France.  This may help explain the results' lack of French ethnicity.  Not only is Normandy in such close proximity to the British Isles that the DNA may have many common markers, but Normans were raiding the British Isles.  Perhaps there was enough mingling of the DNA in my family that these results aren't leaving out a separate ethnicity at all.


Because AncestryDNA is still in its Beta phase and has a relatively small sample pool, I did not expect much in the way of matches just yet.  So, I wasn't too disappointed when no matches came up that were closer than a 95-96% probability of being my 4th cousin.  I did get my hopes up that I'd be able to make connections to the supposed matches, and I was let down.

When you review each match, you can view their family tree if it's open to the public.  On the left side of the screen, there's also a list of surnames that you can use to pinpoint individuals on matches' trees without using the tree view.  I saw some familiar surnames, but not one person whose tree I could view had a common ancestor with me.  Maybe I'm missing something, or maybe Ancestry's predictions were wrong.

Moving forward

While somewhat surprising, my results aren't entirely off-base or inconceivable.  I've confirmed a good amount of my ethnicity and have plenty of possible distant cousins to play around with as my research continues.  Ancestry has also promised users of its DNA test that as more people take the test and new genetic markers are discovered, our results will continuously update.  This is what I'm counting on.  I purchased and took the test primarily as an investment in future results, knowing the test-taker sample size is still small.

If anyone else has taken this test and received results, I would love to exchange opinions and stories.  As (or rather, if and when) my own results change, I will update with a new post to indicate any changes that may be significant.

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