Thursday, April 25, 2013

DNA Testing - Part 4

Happy National DNA Day!  A few months ago, my mother's AncestryDNA results came in after I finally convinced her to take the test.  As you may know, both my father and I had already taken it.  I wanted my mother's results to help determine what DNA matches came from her side of the family and to compare my ethnicity results to both of my parents'.  It's important to keep in mind, however, that my test results came in about six months before my mother's, so AncestryDNA's data and/or techniques may have changed in that time.

Ethnicity Mix-Match

My mother, a French Canadian of almost entirely Norman descent (with some Huron in there that shows rather strongly in my family members' physical appearances), was given results showing an unexpected ethnic mix.  I didn't anticipate results showing that her ancestors were from France, given that so many French Canadians who took the test wrote about having that exact issue.  Because many colonists of New France were from Normandy, test results often show British Isles as a major ethnicity.  My mother's results showed none.  Instead, she was identified as over 75% Scandinavian, with the remainder being Eastern European.  Huh?!  I suppose the Scandinavian comes from raids on the Norman shore, but I haven't the slightest idea where Eastern European made its way into her DNA.  If you knew my mother, you also would guess on appearances that she didn't have a drop of Scandinavian blood in her.

What bothered me the most about my mother's DNA results is that, when comparing it to my own and my father's, it all doesn't add up.  Ancestry correctly identified both as being my parents, but at least one of us has errors in our ethnic make-up data.  Every person on the planet gets exactly 50% or 1/2 of their DNA from each parent.  No exceptions.  Yet, I had no Eastern European in my own results, and only 4% of my DNA was listed as uncertain.  Based on my mom's overwhelming Scandinavian, it therefore wouldn't be possible for me to only have 25% of my DNA be Scandinavian (which is what my results showed).  I also couldn't have over 70% of my DNA be British Isles if only my father has British Isles DNA (which is what the results also showed), because he only gave me 50% of my DNA.  It's impossible for all three of the results to be correct, and they tend to show a major error somewhere, since my results are off by a total of 20-30%.  This huge amount could be a result of all three tests being off by smaller amounts.  Also, I'm inclined to believe that the more recent tests are more accurate than mine, the first one we did, as AncestryDNA presumably improves and expands.

My "Matches"

What I love about having access to matches for not just myself, but both of my parents, is that I know on what side of the family I'm connected to another Ancestry member.  I can easily remove matches that aren't also matched to either of my parents ("Distant Cousin" relationships are only given an accuracy rating of "Moderate" by Ancestry).  When someone matches both me and a parent, I can immediately cut out the other parent's ancestors as the potential link between us.  This makes is much easier to determine how we're related, although getting back to the common ancestor is still a challenge.  I like being able to reach out to a distant cousin match and tell them that we're connected on either my Irish/English or French Canadian side (this is especially useful when they are unaware of any French Canadian ancestry in their own families).

Unfortunately, a lot of matches don't seem interested in communicating or working together to find our common connection.  I don't know if this is a marketing issue where people expect to easily uncover their family history by taking the test, if people just want ethnicity results and aren't interested in specific genealogy, or even my inability to properly communicate how I know we're related on one side of my family or the other.  It can be disappointing, especially since most of the matches are on my Irish/English side, which is where nearly everyone needs help to get further back (at least with Irish lines).  Luckily, the enthusiastic genealogists I get matched with are so incredibly pleasant and helpful that they make up for the people who disregard me.  Overall, I believe I can learn a lot from the matches who are interested in working together and sharing information.  It's just a matter of reaching out and finding more.

The Raw Numbers

Of my father's approximately 275 matches with at least moderate accuracy, I also was matched with about 90 of them.  Of my mother's approximately 145 matches with at least moderate accuracy, I was also matched with about 80 of them.  Just over 50 of my matches with at least moderate accuracy weren't matched with either of my parents.


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