I recently had a DNA testing done through Ancestry.com. As an avid genealogist and the family historian, it seemed like something I should do to validate my research, proving—as much as that’s possible—my roots.
When I first thought about it, it didn’t seem seem like there would be much variety in the results. I am half German from my mom’s side of the family. My dad’s side is a mix of English, French and Scots. Truth be told, I was hoping for a smidge on of Finnish so I would have something in common with one of the characters in my novel, Braha. Ever since my childhood, I have been obsessed with all things Finnish, and I want to believe it’s because I have a genetic connection to the Finns.
The test results couldn’t have been more surprising. The major components of my ethnicity are:
- Ireland 34%
- Scandinavia 23%
- Western Europe 19%
- Italy/Greece 8%
- Iberian Peninsula 7%
I’m only 19% percent Western European? My mother is full German, as were her ancestors, for centuries. The Western European percentage also includes France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein, in addition to Germany, all countries where my father’s ancestor’s resided before coming to the United. In all fairness, I could only assign half of the Western Europe percentage to my mom’s side of the family. Could my dad’s side of the family have only contributed 9% to my Western European heritage? That didn’t seem possible.
It helped a little to look at the trace components:
- Eastern Europe 3%
- Great Britain 2%
- European Jewish 1%
- Caucasus <1%
Eastern Europe was going completely into my mom’s column, along with European Jewish and Caucasus. That still wasn’t enough to make up the difference of where I believed my mom’s family originated. Those ethnicities still only totaled 15% of what I thought was solid German ancestry. From where did the rest of my mom’s DNA originate?
The real shocker was that my ethnicity was estimated to be only 2% British. My dad’s side of the family has scads of pedigreed ancestors who were Knights, Lords, and even Kings. How could I not have a higher percentage of DNA from Great Britain? And who were these Italians, Greeks and Spaniards in my family’s history?
Unless you are an avid genealogist or historian, the answer might surprise you. British aristocracy descended from the French, not the English. And many French, Danish and Belgian ancestors were direct descendants of Scandinavians. You only have to go back as far as William the Conqueror to find Norse, Danish and Swedish ancestors. On his mother’s side, William’s great great grandfather was a Prince of Sweden. On his father’s side, his third great grandfather was a Duke from Norway. William the Conqueror is my 29th great grandfather. The Scandinavian ancestors go back almost a thousand years from that point. Clearly my father’s family had a high percentage of Scandinavian roots.
Almost certainly, some of my mother’s DNA was also Scandinavian. Her father’s family once lived in a city in Northern Germany in what is now Poland. Because of it’s proximity to the Baltic, there was inevitably intermixing with the Danes and the Swedes.
Due to the proximity of Ireland and England, the migration of people between these countries has always been steady and significant. In my mind, the ancestry of people descended from these countries was always lumped together. Scientifically, however, the DNA is different enough to separate it into two distinct categories. Much of that English heritage I was so certain I had is probably genetically from Ireland.
I’m still not sure about the Italian, Greek, Spaniard and Portuguese connections, but I’m sure they are there. Most likely those connections are extremely old, more like a cradle of civilization thing. I was sad to find absolutely no Finnish or Russian genetic ties. None. Although I have a few people on my pedigree chart who were born in those countries, it is clear their families did not originate there.
One thing is certain about these DNA test results: They show I still have a great deal of genealogical research to do. There are so many gaps in my pedigree chart, and these gaps hold the clues to my genetic roots. My search continues.