Perils of Genealogy: Part Three

 Nuts and Bolts… “I yam what I yam, and that’s all what I yam.”  – Popeye

Well, actually I hadn’t planned on writing a Part Three.  I figured I had pretty much left everything on the table with parts one and two…but, nooo.  You might recall that I briefly referred to DNA testing for genealogy back in my earlier post and that I was mildly interested but not all that enthusiastic about having my DNA tested.  Well, my daughter and I decided that we would get the tests as sort of a Christmas present…sort of like what you get if you really don’t need anything.

We did our thing…spitting in a test tube…and sent off the little packages and waited for our results.  We used 23andMe for the tests but there are other companies. It cost us about $99 each.  About six weeks later we started getting results back.

I figured I knew pretty much what the test would reveal but I was interested in my daughter’s results because she would have half of her DNA from me and half from her mom.

Here is roughly what I expected…

  1. That my results would show me being primarily Germanic with some fairly large parts Irish and English and Dutch.
  2. I expected my German or central European roots to include a little Ashkenazi Jewish traces.
  3. I didn’t expect any East Asian, Chinese, Japanese or South Asian traces.
  4. I didn’t expect any Sub-Sahara Africa traces or even any North Africa or Middle East traces.
  5. I didn’t expect any Native American traces.

OK — so the results came back and here’s what I got…. But first, here’s part of what they say about the analysis “This analysis includes DNA you received from all of your recent ancestors, on both sides of your family. The results reflect where your ancestors lived before the widespread migrations of the past few hundred years.”  So they are talking about “recent” ancestry going back maybe a few hundred years…maybe as far as 7-10 generations.

99.9%      European

Northern European

33.4%      British & Irish

10.4%      French & German

1.1%         Scandinavian

0.0%       Finnish

27.8%     Broadly Northern European

16.5%      Eastern European

Southern European

1.3%       Balkan

0.0%      Sardinian

0.0%       Italian

0.0%      Iberian

0.6%     Broadly Southern European

0.8%     Ashkenazi

8.0%    Broadly European

< 0.1%  Middle Eastern & North African

< 0.1%  Broadly Middle Eastern & North African

100%  Kenneth Hartke

That’s not exactly what I expected….

  1. I’m much more British and Irish than I expected (33.4%). Indeed, that is the largest part of my DNA pie.
  2. The designation “Broadly Northern European” is my second largest part (27.8%) and is probably my Dad’s Germanic heritage since his family came from the Baltic coast of Pomerania which is now, after WW-II, the north coast of Poland. “Broadly” means that there are traits that seem to be common to people over a broad region. Since the German population of Pomerania was expelled from that region once it became part of Poland, I can see that that population would now be largely assimilated into northern Europe and a specific DNA location would be hard to determine.
  3. I have 16.5% “Eastern European”, which could also account for some of the Pomeranian ancestors but includes more eastern regions such as Ukraine and western Russia and goes clear to the Caspian Sea. I have a mystery person in my ancestry who might be Bavarian (if you believe his naturalization declaration) or he might be Ukrainian if you believe family rumours….so Eastern European makes some sense.
  4. “French and German” makes up 10.4% and includes almost all of Western Europe from Denmark to the Pyrenees and east through Switzerland and most or all of Germany. Really? I only 10.4% from that region? This was a surprise because I have a long French Huguenot line, lots of New Amsterdam Dutch, Hanoverians and Hessian Germans.
  5. OK – well I also have 8% “Broadly European” so maybe that is just a mix of European traits that would account for some of those folks.
  6. I’m also a smidgen “Balkan” at 1.3% and a smaller smidgen “Scandinavian” at 1.2%. I expected a little more Scandinavian. Sweden was in control of Pomerania for a while and what about all of those Vikings running around Ireland? We must have been running faster.
  7. So now…near the bottom of the list is .8% Ashkenazi. That is less than I expected and…surprise, surprise…it comes from my mom – the Irish and English part of my ancestry. I’m also a tiny bit “Broadly Southern European” (.6%) maybe Italian or Iberian…and less than .1% “Broadly Middle Eastern and North African” which again, comes from my Mom and is apparently Druze or Kurdish. Actually, anything under 5% is really just a hint and could even be a fluke

Well, that was all very enlightening, I guess. It will take me a while to figure all of this out. My results also reported that I am 3% Neanderthal. Wow…3% is a lot of Neanderthal and above the average. I’m at about the 88th percentile but there are some few people testing at about 4%. That apparently is a European thing for the most part.

Long Lost Cousins  – Howdy, my name is Ken and we are kin.

Along with your test results you get a list of other people who have tested and are your DNA relatives. I have about 935 people identified as related to me based on our DNA tests. Holy Chromosomes – Who are these people? Well, I waded into the mob of people who I expected to greet me with open arms. I found a second cousin, once removed, who I didn’t know but I know his Mom from long-ago family reunions. I also found a sixth cousin – mostly because I recognized his surname in my family tree and he was in this mob of cousins. I’ve contacted and shared with about a dozen people and have a few hints and possible connections but nothing more concrete than that. It seems like most of these people are asleep at the wheel and don’t respond to emails. I have about twenty contacts sent out with no responses.  Must be a family trait.

Of course, my daughter is in that mob….we share about 50% of our DNA with the rest coming from her Mom. In theory and pretty much in practice – with each generation you lose another half of your DNA package from a single relative. You get about 25% from each grandparent. Great-grandparents contribute only 12.5% and going back another generation you get 6.25%. By the time you go up your family tree line and back down to a fourth cousin you are sharing only a very small percentage of DNA… less than 1% — maybe just .65% or even less than half of that. I was just contacted today by a fourth cousin (projected) and we share .25%.

I found that matches on my ‘X’ chromosome are going to be related to me through my mother. If those matches are male then they are related to me through their mother.  That tends to be helpful in finding how we are related. One of my projected fourth cousins in adopted and has no knowledge of any biological family. He is matched to me on my ‘X’ chromosome so he is related to me through my Mom. He also is related to another of my male fourth cousins through the ‘X’ chromosome so now we have two related female lines pointing to this adopted male cousin. It is plausible that we may be able to tie him in to the family at some point.  (Run away, dude, run away as fast as you can!)

I have another fourth cousin who is African American and her family has been in Alabama, Mississippi and Texas for as long as she knows.  My ancestors – as far as I know – never lived south of Missouri. This is a pretty solid DNA cousin connection with .25% on two separate chromosomes. She doesn’t match with any of the other DNA relatives that I’ve shared my information with but fourth cousins can be pretty far flung and numerous – people had big families in prior generations. If you counted up each sibling and half-sibling of your parental lines for five or six generations and then consider how many kids each one had or could have had, you have, potentially, hundreds of cousins running around.

Another DNA cousin has a family name of Connor or O’Connor, along with a bunch more, and he is Irish with roots in County Kerry. I didn’t, at first, recognize any connections but my ancestry goes back to County Kerry and I recalled having seen the name Connor listed as sponsors at baptisms in the local church for my Scollard and Moran relatives.  His Connors or O’Connors are probably my Connors or O’Connors once we figure this connection out.

There are two haplogroup designations that you are identified from your DNA. One is your mitochondrial haplogroup which is passed down from mother to mother to mother – all the way down directly from an ancient prehistoric female relative. Mine, from my Mom, includes that tiny Kurdish, Druze and Ashkenazi DNA along with a bunch of other European and Irish/British DNA. You also learn what your paternal haplogroup is – passed down through your male line, father to father to father. My paternal haplogroup is a common European designation but it seems to be more of coastal people than mountain people, originating, they think, along the North Sea and then spreading eastward toward the Baltic Sea and also across the English Channel. This is all very murky and lost in the eons of prehistory. There is plenty of scholarly debate going on about these ancient origins.

So far, DNA testing has provided a lot of information that is interesting about my personal genome – where I come from and how much from different areas. It has enabled me to locate distant relatives I didn’t know I had. It has given me some hints on family tree road-blocks and revealed possible new family names I didn’t know. But it also raises a bunch of new questions and you begin to realize that there is so much of the puzzle that is missing or disguised. There are hundreds of adoptees who have been tested and are searching for biological family links. Sometimes they make a connection but sometimes it is just a hint. At some point, once some bureaucratic roadblocks are satisfied or removed, I will be getting genetically identified medical information. I know some diseases run in my family but this will show if there is a genetic link or whether there is a higher risk for some diseases and lower risk for others. I guess that will be good and useful information although sometimes it might be better not knowing.  All in all, I’m glad I did this but it will take a while to see how helpful it was.  Stay tuned…there might be a Part Four someday.

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