I’ve had quite a good time today studying the DNA map I got in the mail yesterday and trying to make sense of it. I’m sure I should have tried to learn more about what can be determined about ancestry through DNA before I ordered a test, but there’s nothing like having the results in hand for a good object lesson.
For example, I was aware of the fact that it would be impossible to tell the origins of a particular ancestor from several generations back through this type of DNA test, but I hadn’t stopped to think quite what the odds would really be.
We have this family question of where a James Gerald who was seven generations back from me came from. I had always been told he was from Ireland. I learned only recently that some of my relations believe he was French rather than Irish. This shook up my sense of my own identity. I had grown up thinking of myself as a descendent of Irish immigrants. It just felt funny to consider that they might not have been Irish after all.
So now I have my own DNA results, and if no one else in the family is an Irish descendent, I certainly am. Some of my strongest population matches are for Ireland.
But what about the paterfamilias? Did the family name actually come to us via Ireland, or was my Great Great Great Great Great Grandpa Gerald from another country altogether? Who knows? By the time you go back seven generations, you have 128 ggggg grandparents.
128. That’s a number I have never really stopped to think about before. I have devoted a great deal of curiosity to the origins of one ancestor, and I have no idea who the other 127 ggggg grandparents were. Some of them were without doubt Irish. Some of them were probably French. The vast majority of them were of European descent in one fashion or another. That’s what my DNA map says. In fact, it says they were all of European descent. I just don’t agree. I think that some of them were Native American, and the company that ran my DNA profile just didn’t have quite the right Native American matches in its database for mine to show up.
Which brings us to point two of what a DNA ancestry test cannot tell you. It cannot tell you about kinship with people who are not in the databases against which your own genetic traits are compared. It can tell you what it has in its system and nothing else.
Nonetheless, I noticed something today that I missed yesterday. This has me all in an uproar of curiosity.
Look at that green dot up in the middle of all that snow. The green dots on the map indicate strong matches to populations in that area. The red dots indicate a weak match or no match.
That particular green dot up in the middle of all of that snow is, I do believe, in Siberia.
That seems sort of random. With all of my other strong matches, you can see a trail of migration that mostly follows the general historical migration of the Anglo-Saxons and the Celts. Certainly some Germanic people would have migrated to Siberia at some point, but there is no trail along the way.
Here’s the European portion of my map again.
See where I have several matches in Poland, and one yellow dot to indicate a good match but not a strong match to the east of Poland. What is that? The Ukraine? Anyhow, according to Google Earth, there’s quite some distance between The Ukraine and Siberia. I have no idea why I have one lone but strong match way off out in the frozen lands.
One thing I do know from studying my own DNA map is that population matches don’t necessarily mean that you had an ancestor there.
See my Australia connections for that.
I clearly did not have any ancestors in Australia, but what I do have are some distant genetic cousins there in people who are descended from common European ancestors.
Perhaps something like this explains my Siberia connection. Perhaps the ancestor responsible for my genetic kinship to certain populations in Poland and The Ukraine had roots in Siberia. Or perhaps in a bizarre random long shot, this is where my Native American heritage is showing up. Native Americans did come to this continent by way of Siberia originally, and Native American populations do still share genetic markers with indigenous people of Siberia.
Who knows? Since the information packet that came with my DNA results was pretty sketchy, and since it is my DNA after all, I feel free to just make up anything I don’t understand. I happen to like the Native American connection to a Siberian genetic kinship, but I could be wildly wrong.
All of this does make me more interested in finding out who the other 127 ggggg grandparents were. I thought I might take the easy way out on determining my ancestry by just swabbing my cheek. Now that I see a map of where my people came from, though, I feel much more motivated than I did before to try to find out who they were.
And what were they doing in Bosnia? My inquiring Irish mind wants to know.