I've always loved learning about genetics and my family's history. Before taking a DNA test, I was pretty well aware of my heritage, largely due to a 7th grade Texas History project where we had to make a booklet about our ancestry. I still thought it would be interesting though to get behind science and take a DNA test.
I joined Ancestry.com and got a free trial to research my family tree. For my Polish grandfather, the lineage dead-ended at his grandparents, who were residents of what used to be Austria and is now Poland. I wasn't able to find any records after that.
For the rest of my family, my investigation led to learning that there is a strong European lineage on both sides, with ties to Wales, Ireland, Germany, France, Denmark, Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands. I even found out that I'm related to...you guessed it...Sir Henry Morgan aka Captain Morgan the Welsh pirate.
But this research only went back so far...less than 400 years, many dead-ending at about 200 years. What about before that?
Another aspect I wasn't able to figure out was the supposed Native American heritage (Cherokee) that existed on my father's side. While I wasn't able to find anything on this, I bought an AncestryDNA test to help give me some further detection and clarity into the past.
I spit into the tube as instructed and shipped it back. The whole process took about two months for me to get my results.
The results were mostly as expected, although I was surprised to find that I also have ties to Scandinavia and the Iberian Peninsula. I'm assuming my Scandinavian heritage would be linked to people migrating across seas to Great Britain and Poland.
I can also assume the Iberian Peninsula is on my dad's side, as he has darker hair and eyes, while my mom has blue eyes and lighter hair (more common in Polish people). I'll be interested to have my parents take the test to see who is connected to what.
No Native American heritage showed up, which is what I expected; however, these results do not completely rule out Native American (or other ethnicities).
Because I have relatives who settled in Tennessee and the South, there was still a good chance a Cherokee mixed in there since the Cherokee tribe resided in the Southeastern Woodlands in Tennessee and North Carolina.
For Native American to have shown up in my report, my great-great-great grandparent would have had to have been full-blooded. Each reproduction means the percentage is cut in half. So by the time my DNA is produced, the amount of Native American in my blood would have to be at least three percent for the test to pick it up (which it is less than that).
This test is a good start, but if you want to dig deeper, you can submit your test to GedMatch.com to get more into detail and find out if you actually have links to other ethnicities that aren't as prominent in your DNA. This site is also great because it picks up ancient history and migration patterns over 1,000 years ago.
Using GedMatch.com to dig beneath the surface
GedMatch.com is super easy to use and FREE. All you have to do is create an account and then export your data from Ancestry.com or another service you used, like 23andMe. You can even submit multiple tests to cross-analyze and see how they compare.
They even provide a concise video on how to export your DNA .zip file and upload it to the site:
Once you've uploaded your DNA .zip file, you'll get a kit number you'll want to keep handy to analyze your data. Here are some of the tests you can try:
Are your parents related? - this lets you determine how closely related your parents might be. How amusing! (Sidenote: my parents are not related)
Predict Eye Color - this test basically analyzes your genes to guess what your eye color is. It explains why you have the eye color you do. Interesting stuff.
The other categories are as follows:
- MDLP - general overview
- Dodecad - Asian and African ancestry
- HarappaWorld - South Asian ancestry
- Ethiohelix - African ancestry
- puntDNAL - ancient DNA
- GedrosiaDNA - Eurasian (especially Indian and Asian) ancestry'
After you've selected the project, keep "Admixture Proportions (with link to Oracle)" selected and continue.
The next step will provide you with a ton of choices. Again, this site goes in-depth as to what each is. In my case and for this example, I tried Eurogenes K36 - 36 global populations first, which gives a detailed breakdown. Give it about 30 seconds to render and you'll be provided with some results.
I took the test and Amerindian (Native American) did show up at 0.22%. I found it interesting that other ethnicities I had no clue about also showed up, including Basque (0.86) and North African (0.17).
My strongest percentages were quite accurate of Northern Europe, West Europe, and Southwest Europe. It's interesting though to think of where my Polish relatives might have migrated from, as they certainly did not reside in Poland throughout time but likely were throughout the Baltic region.
It's important to note the percentages here may not be 100% accurate. It's even stated on the project's site not to take the percentages too literally. For instance, my 16% Iberian result doesn't mean this was in recent history. This specific test focuses on a deeper ancestry than AncestryDNA; it detects where your family migrated from throughout a bigger time period. Pretty neat!
Here are the results for the K13 test, which is supposed to "hit the spot" for most Europeans.
It's pretty fun to go through each test to see what shows up. I haven't fully researched everything yet but will continue to enjoy learning what has gone into these tests and how accurate they are.
I'm happy I found GedMatch.com and didn't just settle for my AncestryDNA results. GedMatch digs way deeper into ancient history and can also find Native American (or other ethnicities) when other tests don't pick it up.
In the future, I'll be interested to plug in my parent's DNA results into here to see which side has what. When I can fork over the money, I'd like to take the 23andMe test as well to compare the two.
Hopefully, these tips will help you in discovering your ancestry. I know it certainly helped me confirm some things. Also finding out where my family migrated from beyond the past few hundred years is rewarding to know.