Thursday, January 29, 2015

Who Am I? - What Three Different Genetic Genealogy Sites Say About My Ethnic/National Origins

Growing up, if anyone asked where my ancestors came from, I had a quick answer: English/Irish on my dad's side. German on my mom's side.

In the last year, a thorough study of my genealogy (with more success finding information on my dad's side) has taught me that the answer to where you come from is a bit more complicated than naming off two ethnic groups. For one, ancestors on my dad's side have been in America much longer than I would've ever expected. Some were very early 17th century colonists in places like Massachusetts and Virginia. So I feel much more American after doing my genealogical study. But I have also found English, Scottish, Irish, German and Prussian origins for immigrant ancestors, so genealogy does engender some stronger bonds to the "Old Country," as well.

The paper trail is amazing. But each line I trace hits a dead end somewhere along the trail backward through time. To dig deeper into my ancestral roots, I tried to determine the answer to this question: "What does my DNA say about my origins?"

Autosomal DNA testing services provide users with DNA-based national/ethnic origins that suggest where my ancestors were living some 500 years ago -- before the era of European exploration of the New World. And consequently, the three services I have used have a high amount of agreement about my results and there really weren't many surprises. English and German was a bit of an oversimplification on my younger self's part, but there was a lot of truth to it, given that there's a strong predominance of Northern and Western European DNA roots. About the only surprise was the relatively high level of Scandinavian DNA. If I am part Norse, I never knew it. The paper trail certainly has offered no clues in this regard. Or has it?

Because many of my ancestors on my dad's side hail from northern and eastern parts of England, I can safely presume that the Danelaw, a region of Viking settlement and rule prior to the Norman Conquest of 1066, had an influence on my ancestry. And my Y-DNA haplogroup, as tested by 23 And Me, is I1, which suggests my paternal ancestry might harken back to roots in Scandinavia or the Jutland Peninsula. In other words, my dad's dad's dad's and so on line could well have originated with Vikings, or possibly Anglo Saxons. But the point is, the apparent Norse aspect of my ancestry, while surprising, actually neatly fits within my British origin story.

Posted below are my results. Rather than pick apart the small differences, the significant takeaway comes from the broader picture that emerges when comparing the three: Heavily Western and Northern European ancestry with strong hints of British (with some Irish), German and Scandinavian origins. And then a small percentage of Southern and Eastern European origins and maybe just a trace of the Asian Caucasus Mountains.

No Native American, African or Middle Eastern/Semitic origins are indicated. I would have welcomed such a surprise. At any rate, my ethnicity does not define who I am, really. It's how I choose to act that should define me. But it does hint at the deep origins of my ancestors. So it begins to tell the story of how I got here.  

Family Tree DNA
European 99%:
Western and Central Europe 68%
Scandinavia 29%
Eastern Europe 2%

23 And Me (Speculative View)
European 100%:
Northern European:
British/Irish 31.1%
French & German 19%
Scandinavian 3.9%
Finnish 0.1%
Broadly Northern European 37.9%
Eastern European 2%
Southern European:

Broadly Southern European 1.2%
Broadly European 4.8%

Ancestry DNA
Europe 98%:
Great Britain 32%
Europe West 31%
Scandinavia 14%
Ireland 8%
Europe East 5%
Iberian Peninsula 5%
Italy/Greece 3%
West Asia 2%:
Caucasus 2%

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