DNA. What is it good for?

This isn’t a funny post.  It’s just me talking.  My sister and I do genealogy stuff for fun and we’ve gone through libraries and records and websites and cemeteries, but a lot of time we hit dead ends.  It’s fascinating to pull up the lives of these people we never met and try to figure out who they were and what they were like, but so often there are bumps because of estrangement or missing records or because relatives refused to speak about ancestors for strange reasons.  And sometimes for understandable reasons.

You’ll find stories you don’t want to find.  Hints that show that your ancestors may have owned slaves or may have been slaves.  Records that show that your ancestors have been forgotten and hidden, and you wonder if those roads were closed because they wanted to escape from who they were or if they wanted to escape from the line that would produce you.  You find that your family stories are sometimes hard to verify and sometimes you get more information than you want.  You read about your not-so-distant ancestor who died in a mental institution from “extreme psychosis” (or more likely, died as a result of the barbaric treatment of that psychosis at that time) when she wasn’t that much older than you.  You find ancestors with hidden pasts and ancestors who had brushes with notoriety and ancestors who had names like “Moonbeam” and “Sour Mash” or who had no recorded name at all.

When I did my DNA test I’d hoped it would give us more info regarding our Native American ancestors but they’re so far removed from me that I assumed that their DNA might not show up, and it didn’t.  What I didn’t expect was the small but measurable amounts of African, Jewish Iberian and Middle Eastern that we can’t explain.  My father (and all of his ancestors as far back as I’ve been able to check) are 100% slavic so I expected more than the 21% Eastern European that showed up on my test, but each child gets semi-random amount of DNA from their ancestors so I suppose it makes sense.  More confusing is the 19% Irish that I haven’t figured out yet.

For Christmas I sent my grandparents and my parents DNA tests because they’re just as fascinated, and my grandmother really wants to research the Native American bloodline that her mother refused to speak about.  I’ve found a lot of Native American branches from different parts of her family in the records I’ve uncovered (many within several generations of her) but her DNA test showed no Native American, which surprised me.  But it showed the same confusing Iberian markers, and a very heavy Irish background that seems contrary to everything we’ve found so far.  But why?  Is it because the group of Native Americans we’re supposedly related to haven’t been DNA tested?  Does that branch not exist anymore?  Are the records wrong? My grandmother’s DNA was such a surprise that I suspected that maybe she’d mixed up her results with my grandfather’s but I got a message from Ancestry today that my DNA is a match with hers as a “close relative” so it has to be hers because my grandfather isn’t blood related to me.

So what does it mean?  No idea.  Maybe it means that it’s important to tell your story while alive so that it can be passed down.  It means that DNA results are confusing and might have a lot of weirdness in them.  It means that you should know that your ancestors were real people with flaws and with brilliance and with lives that were shrouded in secrecy.  It means that finding the immigration records of my great grandparents when they fled from “The Kingdom of Bohemia” are almost impossible because their confusing slavic names were recorded in a million different ways.  Ditto with the Native American ancestors who married into other tribes and sometimes had very different names for each tribal affiliation.  (My favorite relative so far is The Squirrel King – leader of the Savannah River Chicksaws – who had an amazing name but a very sad life.)  And sometimes it means that a road you’ve been chasing is a different one than you thought…one you may never find because sometimes a secret is kept forever.

I’m looking forward to my parents getting their results in because it might help me better understand mine but I suppose I’ll never entirely know where I came from.  But I know who I am now and I suspect in some way I’m made up of the lessons learned by my ancestors, even if I’ll never know them.

So I’ll keep looking, but I’ll also keep remembering that I am more than my past and that it’s my job to leave a better record for the next generation…both of successes and failures.  Because that’s what makes us human.

PS.  This is me, according to my DNA test:

33% Great Britain

21% Eastern Europe

19% Irish

17% Scandinavian

5% Western Europe

1% Italian/Greek

1% European Jewish

1% Iberian Peninsula

1% African

1% Middle Eastern

100% Weird



316 thoughts on “DNA. What is it good for?

Read comments below or add one.

  1. Ancestery.com told my parents they were close relatives to each other. so shit happens.

  2. I have almost all those things you mentioned. I know my ancestors owned slaves. pretty sure we date back to the Jamestown Colony. I have moonshiners during prohibition and a “relative” named Nimrod (actually 2), but they were most likely linked because we share a last name and were listed as “mulatto” so there’s lots of questions there. My step-father found us traced back to a king/queen in France, but I’m still searching.

  3. My husband had a cut-rate dna test done via a groupon. He is resolutely German/English/ American. It came back that he was 100 percent Yemeni. I don’t think so.

  4. I haven’t been tested, but I might one day. I’m a pretty standard American mutt like most of us, which is pretty much what makes us a great country, and also accounts for our thick, shiny coats.

  5. I did the same thing for Christmas! I had some surprises too – I figured I would have some African because my whole family is from Cuba but I had none. I also had some surprise Irish – 13%. And 1% European Jewish too. Apparently the Irish and the Jews got around some back in the day!

  6. I did the DNA testing and it was quite illuminating. My parents had always said we weren’t Irish, but the test came back 25% Irish. And sure enough I traced my father’s history back to Ireland. So that is a good example of the stories getting distorted. My father died before DNA testing was easily available, be got my mother’s results before she passed. The oddest part was that my sister and I came out slightly different. As you said, semi-random.

  7. Fascinating stuff. My dad got the bug awhile ago and we ended up tracking the family back hundreds of years. It always feels so magical to find that next link back.

  8. Families are weird. There is a whole branch on my dad’s side I don’t know anything about because there was some kind of conflict and they grew apart (apparently my grandma committed misalliance? But I’m not sure WHY it was a misalliance and she’s gone now and I haven’t been inquiring enough yet – I want to learn as much as I can, though).

  9. Have you seen the ancestry.com commercial where the man who thought he was German finds out he’s Scottish? I wonder sometimes if our ancestors made up family histories or got their facts wrong, and we’re just now being able to untangle things via science/DNA testing? Maybe my family isn’t actually French, or that great-grandmother who said she was French said she was French because it was better than being unwanted Irish at the time? There’s so much flexibility in American nationalities that I find fascinating.

  10. My great-great-grandmother was adopted as a 5 year old Native American and all records of her real name, family, and tribe were deliberately destroyed. History is so full of secrets, can any of it really be true?

  11. It’s fascinating isn’t it? Have you seen that ancestory.com commercial where the guy thought he was German until he did research and found he was actually Irish? He switches from Lederhosen to a kilt. We laugh every time that comes on.

    My Dad is 100% Italian. Sicilian to be more specific. Unfortunately, when my Paternal Grandparents immigrated to the US, (Eliis Island has my Grandpa’s name engraved there) Italians were looked down upon, and so my Grandparents didn’t want my Dad to speak Italian, and the stories of “the Old Country” remained unspoken. My grandmother never wanted to talk about her past, and the only tidbit I was ever honored to have her tell me, was that her name wasn’t Lena, but Gaetana; she had changed it to sound more American.

    My Mother’s side were a bunch of alcoholics, so until my Mom’s cousins did geneology research we had no idea we were descendants of John Hanson (first U.S. president under Articles of Confederation to serve one full year term) As cool as that is, I still would love to know more about my Sicilian relatives.

  12. My dad has always said that we were either part of a high ranking political family in Bohemia that were all slaughtered (except for one), during war or a Jewish family… He researched it as far as he could until he died, now it is my quest to find the answer…

  13. Jenny, welcome to the insanity of Irish ancestors. We are a slightly rowdy bunch so you will fit in just fine.

    I also wanted to say how funny it is to me that when I saw you were part Irish I got all excited despite the fact that I have never been to Ireland and no one in my family has lived in Ireland for generations. Maybe your DNA results will open up new connections, even if they are based on this “idea” of what group we belong to. I am about to get my DNA tested and I recently told my Mom how awful it would be if we really didn’t have any Irish or Scotch, but that is really just because it is what I have been told I was for so long that I think that is who I am. I’m sure there is a good lesson in this for me, I’ll figure it out eventually.

  14. Many people in our not-ancient past were VERY embarrassed by their ancestors, especially if they were mixed race, and they conveniently converted them to be Native Americans. These became family secrets and the truth was lost in as little as a generation. This native american ancestor might have actually been a mixed race of african/white and was able to pass off as “indian” and get along better in the society than being openly known as half-African. Just a thought, something to ponder. My Great-Grandmother, whom we were all told was American Indian, of the Walleye tribe actually ended up being the mixed race child of a slave-owner ancestor who was later forced into marriage with a distant cousin of the slave owner. It’s so very sobering to discover things like that about our own family.

  15. I’ve been researching my genealogy for several years. I have never taken the DNA step because 1) it’s expensive and 2) I’m not sure how much I would actually be able to find out. I think it would be fascinating, but I’m not sure it would actually unblock any of my roadblocks. Good for you for taking the plunge – I hope you do come up with some useful information!

  16. I am a huge genealogy nerd! Honestly, your iberian, middle eastern, jewish? There is an answer for that… On PBS there is a show called Finding your Roots. And they did Martha Stewart’s (Koystra/Poland) dna and she had middle eastern too. It goes back far enough that during the crusades the slavic areas were being fought over by Turks and Christian crusaders… You also have the Hun’s who moved across most of europe and if they happened across a pretty girl from the local town… next thing you know, the DNA now has traces of non-region specific DNA. It’s so fascinating.

  17. I’m willing to bet that if you sent another sample to them under a different name you’d get a different result. There’s a lot of hype with regards to various consumer DNA tests, but most don’t live up to it and give meaningless results with little to no context. http://www.livescience.com/7384-genetic-ancestry-tests-hype-scientists.html

    And Squirrel King is the bestest of best names ever.

    (I was thinking that too but they didn’t know that my grandmother and I sent in ancestry tests together and hers was the first one that has ever popped up as a close relative so I think there must be something to it. Flawed, maybe, but something is there. ~ Jenny)

  18. Interesting, my family had the same experience. We’ve always believed that my great-grandmother was part Native American, but when my mom had a DNA test done, it came back with 0% Native American, and some percentages in areas we weren’t expecting. We were all a little disappointed, because it was something we were proud of.

  19. I love everything about this. My dad was adopted, which leaves a mystery about half of my genes, and we don’t talk about my great grandfather on my maternal grandmother’s side, and I know very little about my maternal grandfather’s family at all. I would like to chart what I can of it before we lose my grandfather, but he’s just such an ass..

  20. For what it is worth… Certain Irish genes match close to the Basque region in Spain due to migrations through history so that could be your Iberian markers. You mentioned slave owners… Many many Irish were exported by English masters to the Caribbean and America’s similar to Africans. Another possible source of the Irish DNA. And finally… Irish people may have pretended to be English Welsh or Scottish to avoid discrimination down through the years too…

  21. You have to approach the DNA results with the knowledge that throughout history armies came to the front door with all sorts of unfriendly intentions, so if there was an invasion in your area, you could expect some unfamiliar-looking children. As my dad said, “Everyone who ever had a rowboat invaded Sicily.”

  22. I think it is part of lots of Americans’ family lore that they are part Native American. Considering that most Native Americans had been killed by European diseases long before most Europeans arrived, it’s probably more often than not just folklore.

  23. Jenny! Are you one of the two little girls in that 2nd picture down on the left?!

    (Nope. Those are both of my grandmother. 🙂 ~ Jenny)

  24. OMG Jenny — Is it just me or is that whole thing addicting? Sometimes I feel as though there should be a 12-step program for genealogists, or at least a weekly meeting. Hello, my name is “Jane Doe” and I am addicted to finding my long dead relatives. Probably half the people in the meeting would be able to tell you how you are related to them. Did my DNA through Nat Geo, wondering how it compares/relates to the place you got yours

  25. I’ve done the genealogy stuff for years, and traced lines way back. Turns out my parents had the same initial ancestor in Jamestown, which made them, like 20-somethingth cousins. I want to have my nephew take the test; there should be mostly English from his mom’s side and a mess of northern European/British Isles on his dad’s, but there’s also a family story about Chippewa Indians. My brother thinks Chickasaw is more likely, geographically speaking, but since it was a taboo subject in the earlier generations, we have nothing concrete.

  26. I’m surprised your surprised about the Irish. I can see it in your cheekbones and eyes. I’m 1/2 Irish and just starting the genealogy journey. My mother’s whole side was Irish (like off the boat during the potato famine Irish) and my past fascinates me.

  27. I know I’m supposedly 25% English, 25% Scottish, 25% German, 25% Polish. I really want to get my DNA done, though, to see how accurate that is. I feel certain that we have some European Jewish blood in us, although the German side of the family was quite anti-Semitic and the Polish side were allegedly Catholic since time began. I also wouldn’t be surprised if there was some Italian blood somewhere, if for no other reason than that I resemble an Italian grandmother. (I always think everyone is too skinny and needs to be fed immediately, I make a sublime lasagna, and am obsessed with sfogliatella.)

    Whatever my DNA results are, I’m still always proudly 100% weird, too.

  28. I too did the Ancestry DNA test to finally figure out how much American Indian we had in our family, as supposedly my grandmother’s mother was full Indian. Results also showed a big fat 0% American Indian. I have an uncle who has been trying to establish our Indian status for years and is hopeful to be able to get some money in the process! Makes my sister and I chuckle about it all.

  29. Jenny, this is so cool. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the reason the Native American DNA isn’t showing up is because there hasn’t been enough sampling of that population yet. For a few years there was a huge push in the African American community to get DNA samples so that these tests could be more accurate for the same reason, there was enough sampling done to allow scientists to differentiate which genome came from which part of Africa/The Caribbean/etc.

    My husband has a similar story. He and his family discovered that his great grandmother (father’s side is all from Portugal) was a Crypto-Jew. This means that when we had his father’s DNA tested that we found Iberian Jewish and North African DNA and no European Jewish DNA. It also means that as Portugal has passed a law of return for descendants of Jews who were expelled from Portugal during the Inquisition.

    Now my husband and his father and siblings are eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship, as can I and the rest of the spouses. How neat is that? Righting a historical injustice and learning about DNA and history all in one fell swoop.

    OK, long comment is long. Good luck with your hunting, Jenny. And cheers on being 100% weird!

  30. If your Irish ancestors were able to “pass” as almost anything else bthey may have chosen to relabel themselves as some other group. Irish was not “white” in the U.S. for a surprisingly long time (especially given the fair skin.)

  31. My 3x-great grandmother owned a pub in Alnwick in Northumberland. My 3x-great grandfather was a tenant in her pub in April 1841. They got married on October of 1841, and my 2x-great grandfather was born in March 1842. Guess who knocked up the publican and had to get married?! My mother hates that story so much (so I make sure to tell it over and over again). (By the way, the pub’s still there, it’s still a pub and I can go stay there!)

  32. lotta family adoptions in early years that were not recorded as such. explains mebbe why specific dna can’t be found.

  33. My son is going on exchange to Denmark next year. My mom keeps reminding him that he’s 1/32nd Danish, like that’s going to carry some weight over there, or something.

    Personally, I just stick with the 100% weird. That’s always a safe bet.

  34. The Arabic/Iberian Peninsula/European Jewish could be explained by the long, slow migration of Jewish migration over nearly 200 years across North Africa, into Spain, across France and the Rhineland in to Easter Europe where no doubt some of them quietly assimilated in to the Eastern European Slavic population, because that was an easier sort of life for them to live.

  35. This is fab. The lack of Indian info for you is intriguing.
    I’m adopted so totally interested in getting a DNA test done. I have researched my adopted mother’s family though and there’s French nobility back about 150 years but my favorite person is my great uncle, a World War 1 Flying Ace who was shot down in October 1918, dying a couple of months later. He was 22.

  36. We had always assumed we had Roma in our family because of the dark skin/coarse hair of our “Swedish” ancestors that were sometimes mistaken as bi-racial. So I did the Ancestry DNA test. The big reveal was…there were no surprises at all. Everything was basically 100% spot-on based on what we knew already from immigration records. Who knew Swedes from the 1870s could have such dark, kinky hair and skin darker than some Native Americans? (I got a lot of “I told you so’s” from my grandma who insisted everyone on her side was 100% Swedish. Grandmas are usually right, after all.)

    I am still 100% weird. No test needed!

  37. I never have the patience for the whole “family tree” thing–my brother, however, did a fantastic job of it for my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary–DNA would be so much easier. I would love one of those surprise findings! Rather positive I’ll just find the Germany/British Isles indicators I’m expecting. (I have also heard similar to what @AnnieRae notes.)

  38. That test is useless for helping you with Native American ancestry too. All it told me was 48%. Yeah thanks. We know we have recent native relatives. What we need to know is who were they besides Tigua Pueblo? Apache, Commanche, other? The test results were fascinating to me, but useless.

  39. Your DNA looks a lot like mine. Most likely the Native American is a myth. I help people with genealogy problems all the time almost everyone claims to have Native American and most are not. They have a pretty good idea of Native American DNA. There were a sorts of odd migrations in Europe, people going every which way. Apparently a group of grumpy Scots settled in Poland. Also don’t rule out, parents not being who you think they are. People fooled around a lot then too. I was told lots of stuff when I started, most was wrong. I am kinda obsessed with documentation. I do a couple of classes a year on this stuff.

  40. I did that DNA test as a holiday gift to my momma. She is truly frustrated that the Native American on both sides of my family showed up as ZERO.

    30% Ireland
    30% Great Britain
    35% Europe
    5% everything else not Native American

    She is sure the lab made a mistake.

  41. 99.8% European

    Northwestern European
    33.6% British & Irish
    21.0% French & German
    7.2% Scandinavian
    29.4% Broadly Northwestern European

    Southern European
    3.9% Iberian
    0.9% Italian
    0.7% Broadly Southern European
    1.3% Eastern European
    0.4% Ashkenazi
    1.4% Broadly European

    0.1% Sub-Saharan African
    0.1% West African
    0.1% Middle Eastern & North African
    0.1% North African

    < 0.1% East Asian & Native American
    East Asian
    < 0.1% Yakut

    0.1% Unassigned

    Every family line I know about is in the British and German categories, which of course means I’m more interested in all the other bits that I don’t know about.

  42. Oh, my it is very interesting, even if it leaves you like, “Huh?” Random thought – I get so annoyed that old photos were done in sepia (not that they could do anything else). Generation Unwashed. I need to look up the history of plumbing. Anyway, I try to scrape off the rust of iron-plated relatives who look like they were left out in the rain too long hoping for a glimpse of myself.

  43. The Jewish-Iberian-Middle Eastern-African all go together — some relative of yours passed through Spain or Portugal once upon a time. That whole area is a mixture of those four groups.

    We did this in my family too and were similarly surprised. Where the heck was that alleged Native American ancestor??! They didn’t show up for us either… must have just been family folklore.

  44. I have a wonderful friend Sarah who would do anything for anyone at any time. When she called to let me know that her father, Dr. Spelsberg was doing a lecture in Jacksonville regarding DNA, I shortened my business trip and immediately flew home and went straight to his lecture. That was the first time I had heard about DNA testing kits and the ability to pin point your ancestry to global locations. A lot of what he said was way over my head, but what does stick out is the fact that you may be more genetically related to a stranger, than you are to your parents, kids…etc.

    He loves talking about his findings. If you’re interested, you should contact him.


    If you do, I would love to hear about it. All the best,

  45. Genealogy is a cool hobby – and an endless one. You solve one piece of the puzzle only to have 2 more problems to solve!

    For me, learning about my family’s history explained some of WHY my family acted the way it did. And that’s helpful.

    I have a friend who looked at her background and found that her family moved every 20 years or so. As in they HAD to move. As in Run Out Of Town. I think there was a line of horse thieves there….

    In the end, we are all related!

  46. My mom just got her DNA results last week and could not find her expected Native American roots either; I didn’t think about the possibility of tribes not being in the database. She was surprised that she has a small % of Italian and didn’t just marry one. No wonder her lasagna is magical.

  47. This makes me want to do my own testing but I’m still leery about the accuracy. I have some Native American ancestors too, but my great-great (maybe another great) Grandmother is listed simply as “Susan” with no maiden name. So yeahhhhh, thinking that Susan wasn’t her given name. I’d like to know her real name and find out if it’s something like “Crazy as a Loon” and I’d be like, “Yay Granny! I feel so close to you.”

  48. I really, really, really want to have a DNA test done, but I’m petrified that it will just come back “could you be any whiter?” I really want to be mysterious and exotic, so I’m procrastinating!

  49. I was given up for adoption as an infant and know very little about my background due to the laws of the state where I was born. I did the Ancestry DNA test in the hopes it would reveal something or someone, but no luck. It’s hard not knowing who you are, but like you said, I know who I am now (also 100 percent weird), so I’ll have to be happy with that.

  50. I have been wanting to do my DNA test, because I’m adopted. I know that my biological mother was of black Irish descent, and supposedly my biological father was a Mexican Indian, but since he took off, who knows. My adoptive parents are of Polish/Jewish descent so I’ve always been a little on the outs looks wise. It would be interesting to know just where I come from…..

  51. I have done a bit of research on my family, .but nothing like this! 🙂 Once in high school I dated a boy who was adopted, come to find out his adopted mom was my 2nd cousin! It’s weird how folks you come to meet are related to you and dont even know it. It’s sad that today, we don’t even know our own neighbors enough to say hello or get together for a bbq. Recently here in Maine the police discovered the body of a dead woman who had been dead for 2 1/2 years! They only found her because the city was trying to colect back taxes..her neighbors didn’t even realize they hadn’t seen her in a while. Off topic, I know…but people are hard to try and understand, today or in years gone by….

  52. I think you should buy stock in that DNA testing company and I think it is all smoke and mirrors. Have you ever read accounts of people sending in their pets DNA and being told their chihuahua has St Bernard in him? I think it’s all bogus. My family had some literate types so we have some written accounts of family history, on both sides, but much was left out. The last four generations have had verifiable percentages of mental illness. Nobody wanted to record things like that. They just kept the nutty relatives in seclusion. I’d like to know where different talents in the family came from, and personality traits and special gifts, like carpentry or artists and writers. I think that information is unknowable., and that’s okay with me. I turned out to be a carrier of a fairly rare genetic disease, out of absolutely nowhere. My son died of it and my grandson is faring better with newer medical care. Every child born is a total crap shoot, or an act of faith, to put it more kindly. Spend no time looking back.

  53. My mother married my “step-father” when I was 9 months old. They had been living together for months before they got married. When pressed my mother swears that she knows exactly when and where I was conceived with her first husband. But I often find myself thinking that the lady doth protest too much. I really want to know, but risking breaking my older “step-siblings” hearts keeps me from asking for a DNA test. Either way, my Daddy is my Daddy, end of story. But as an adult I better understand just how human we all are. Maybe someday I will know for sure, but maybe, really, it doesn’t matter at all. <3

  54. Another thing people forget is the borders that we are all so familiar with didn’t exist or were drawn differently than today’s. Especially in Europe. So to think one is French or German then they are really surprised when they see they have Russia listed as a place of ancestry is when they forget about history. People come to the DNA results with today’s perception. Family is also very unreliable about their own stories in many cases. I know my grandfather liked to entertain, forget the facts. He liked to make us laugh.
    The DNA results are a result of the billion people who make up your genetics. A Billion. That blew my mind when I read that.

  55. A nice gift, and good post. I myself am supposed to be 1/4 each Swedish norwegian German and polish (100% minnesotan lol). And much of our genealogy is supposed to be already on ancestry.Com but I already know it isn’t complete. I know of 2 babies adopted away, noone knows who the father is for wither. I know one person was supposed to be dead for years instead had an entire life and family and none of that is on there. I know one man died in a reported horse accident- he was in truth a raging alcoholic who froze to death 50 feet from his front door… and more but it’s all rumour until someone has the guts to put it into the records proper so we all know for real who we came from. I wish people were okay with their secrets being known better. What a burden to carry all that truth and not tell anyone.

  56. Yep, important to remember that any test has a “margin of error” and that margin can be anything from 1% to 100%.

  57. I was so disappointed at the lack of surprises when I did a 23 and me kit. I was 98.7% Ashkenazi Jew- like Lord Voldemort would be proud of how Jewish I am. I knew I was Ashkenazi, but was hoping for a surprise or two- nope- ALL Jewish- even the 2.3% other was just a slightly larger circle of European heritage- so like one relative lived a mile outside the Jewish quarter.

  58. I love genealogy things!

    This is me:
    99.6% European
    96.1% Ashkenazi
    0.7% Broadly Southern European
    2.8% Broadly European

    0.3% East Asian & Native American
    0.2% Broadly East Asian
    < 0.1% Native American

    0.1% Middle Eastern & North African
    0.1% Unassigned

  59. I’d like to know my DNA too. I think it would be cool to know. I keep hearing tidbits about my family history that surprises me all the time, and I’m 45! Dad just told me last year we have Anasazi and Cherokee Indian. Who knows if it’s true?

  60. Unspoken adoptions?

    (Certainly a possibility. Also, a few people who are not that removed from us who just disappeared. Not sure if they ever really existed or if the names were wrong. It’s easy to get confused with all the similar names, people dying early, remarriages, etc. ~ Jenny)

  61. So that connection to Eastern Europe to the Iberian Peninsula… My father-in-law traced his Jewish Lithuanian heritage to Spain. Apparently, there was a wealthy person in Vilnius/Wilno/Vilna (depending on how you spell it) who had hired some very talented Spanish Jewish architects and artisans (and their extended families) to build a mansion several hundred years ago. Said Spanish Jews decided to stick around in Lithuania. This is very interesting from a genealogical perspective, but even more interesting when considering certain aspects of Jewish Law, since Sephardi Jews (from the Iberian Peninsula) have very different customs from Ashkenazi Jews (from Poland/Germany/Eastern Europe).

    Also, as pointed out above, there was a certain migration of Jews from the Iberian Peninsula to North Africa and back. Back to the issue of Jewish Law, the customs held by Sephardi Jews are very similar to that of Northern African Jews. I don’t know about much in the way of migration between Iberian Peninsula/North Africa to Eastern Europe outside of my father-in-law’s finding.

    France has a good mix of all different kinds of Jews – Sephardi Jews from the Iberian Peninsula, North African Jews from Morocco/Algeria/Tunisia/Libya, and Ashkenazi Jews from Poland/Germany/Austria – in part because it’s kinda dead center of them all, and also in part thanks to France’s volatile history over the past 250 years.

  62. The Indian (according to a member of the Seminole tribe in Oklahoma, who spoke at a cultural resource firm I worked for, they prefer to be called Indians instead of the PC Native American) thing could also be because not all members of a tribe were necessarily true Native American. There were outcasts or those looking to hide (often runaway or former slaves) that wound up living with native tribes and married into them. Here in Florida, you will find quite a bit of information about the black Seminoles. They lived and traveled with (and many eventually married into) the tribe in Florida. Don’t remember if any ended up being sent to Oklahoma in the removals during and after the Seminole Wars.

    I know on my mom’s side, I am at least 1/4 Swedish (my great-grandparents both were born in Sweden), but the rest is a mishmash, and the German on my dad’s side came to the U.S. before the Revolutionary War, so that is certainly diluted. But, I am definitely 100% weird!

  63. Most of my family did these last year. We’re all related to each other so I know they’re fairly accurate. (My brother was estimated to be a cousin because we have different fathers.) I was delighted to find out I’m 35% Irish since I’d always suspected it.

  64. DNA is absolutely fascinating! It’s also a game changer for adoptees. I found my birth father through ancestry dna and a kickass search angel. In 3 days! I have Czech roots by way of Texas. I guess a lot of them immigrated to Texas in the 1800″s. I haven’t been able to trace too far back, again the language barrier. Feel free to look at my tree, it’s public, and I do respond to messages. And for anyone reading this with a tree on ancestry, please respond to messages. You may be the missing piece in someone’s puzzle of a life.

    (My dad’s Czech family immigrated to Texas in the 1900’s. We’re still here. 🙂 ~ Jenny)

  65. My mother spent most of her entire professional career working on reservations. The idea of white people who thought that their great grandmother was a Cherokee princess was kind of a running joke. Most of the time it’s just family myth.

  66. I have sent my saliva to those guys and presently waiting for the results. I believe there are many other sillier way to spend $200. My wife is worried that they could clone my credit card and myself so that someone will go shopping and everyone will believe it was really me. More fascinating, maybe, they use my DNA to make up sperm that will be used to fertilize a fish’s egg and come up with a fish with my face. Or someone like me but who can go under water without tanks and smells like a tuna. Possibilities are endless.

  67. This sounds amazing and like something I want to do. Something you said struck a chord with me. That was that you supposed that you’ll never entirely know where exactly you came from. I suspect (and I am just hypothesizing here) that you would still feel this way even if you had every question about your DNA answered and nothing diverged from what you suspected. There are so many factors that go in to making a person. The person I loved the most in the world and fully expected to spend the rest of my life with died recently. We didn’t have any children together and there is no way that if we diid that child would share our DNA. Still we are both part of where the other’s family came from. We are woven into the tapestry. And that is true for so many reasons. People who are raised by people who don’t share their DNA, people that are raised by the next door neighbor even though formally their guardians are still their parents. People who spend twenty years with one partner and then twenty with another. I suspect that DNA will go a long way in answering your questions but it will always be impossible to know ecactly where we came frI’m.

  68. One of my cousins was able to connect our family tree to President Obama, by about seven degrees of separation.
    I appreciate her research, but…
    I’m pretty sure we’re all related to a president or two by seven degrees of separation.

  69. Of all the weirdness I found in eleven generations of my father’s family tree the most bizarre was a g-g-g Aunt named Submit. No, it’s not a typo or a misprint… her parents gave her that name. Yes, I am positive, as I have seen the gravestone for Submit Wheat. That poor girl.

  70. These results should be taken with a grain of salt. The marketing on these at-home DNA kits is misleading at best. The scientific meaning of the results is that, for example, 33% of the DNA markers it detected in your sample match markers from people of British ancestry. To come up with that number, your results are compared to a database. However, the number of individuals in these databases is FAR too small to be statistically valid. It means that a lot of the genetic markers within a given ethic group will not be included in the reference group. (For example…You might have some Mongolian ancestry, and carry Gene Y, which is common in Mongolians. But unless the Mongolians in the reference group all carry Gene Y, the test will not show you as having a Mongolian gene, because the test will not “know” that Gene Y is Mongolian. And if just 50% of Mongolians have Gene Y, and there are only 100 Mongolians in the reference group, there is a decent probability that not many of the Mongolians in the reference group carry Gene Y. Meaning that the test will know you carry Gene Y, but will not know that that means you are likely to be Mongolian.) Furthermore, companies all have their own databases – meaning that you can get different results from the same sample, by sending it to a different company with a different database. The results are interesting, but shouldn’t be taken as scientific fact. (Here’s a more sciencey article on the topic: http://www.medicaldaily.com/dna-ancestry-tests-are-meaningless-your-historical-genealogy-search-244586.)

  71. Since my father’s mother’s parents were both from families that immigrated prior to 1800, and my father’s father grew up in an orphanage, nothing in my DNA results could have been too shocking. I expected to be half basically white, basically Anglo-Saxon with a little room for whatever to sneak in.

    My mother’s people are more recent immigrants. The big question there has been “how did we come to be basically the only non-Jewish family in the US with this last name?” Whatever the answer is, my DNA is not Jewish, and no one has found any Jewish relatives back to like 1700. I had more Dutch DNA than expected though.

  72. Remember that a lot of people arrived in Canada and the US escaping persecution, poverty, and who knows what else in their homeland. Many of them made up new histories for themselves in an effort to better fit in and to leave the past behind! It’s hard to know what the truth might be…

  73. I did the 23andme ancestry test and came up with about 0.1% Native American, which was a bummer because family lore always had my maternal grandfather’s mother as Native American. However, I am pretty much the whitest person on the planet: 99.1% Northern European, and 50% of that is British/Irish. I come by my pale honestly.

  74. I’ve never been terribly interested in the genealogy stuff. I am who I am in spite of (and sometimes to spite) my relatives 🙂 I do know that when I was very, very young, some of my maternal grandmother’s family started tracing their family tree. They found a pirate, a Canadian Indian, some uncle who had been hung as a horse thief, a possible relation to the Jesse James (the famous Missouri bank and train robber), and all were excitedly discussed and laughed about. Then they found something that made them stop looking further and was never spoken of. I have always been pretty curious about what that might have been!

  75. My thesis was in DNA and by far the most interesting thing when it comes to looking at inheritance and genealogy is the impact that DNA has on itself. Our expression of certain genes and other characteristics can strongly depend on whether or not we have a different gene lurking somewhere in our DNA that turns the other gene on or off. these kind of interactions between sequences often mean that although when comparing base to base, 2 people can look very similar, the actual expression of those genes could vary. For people who have an extremely mixed heritage, this can be one of the most important markers. unfortunately, they’re extremely hard to track.

    Also, if you have any direct male relatives you could sequence the easiest DNA to track back is the Y gene as it remains pretty much identical through every subsequent male in a family line.

  76. I’m so happy to find someone else of Slovic Bohemian background also. My grandfathers parents fled Bohemia in 1892. Their name, as my grandfather’s family spelled it is Klouda. But we’ve seen it spelled many different ways and pronounced many different ways. I enjoy our rich Bohemian history and proud to be a Bohemian. I’ve discovered that most people have never heard of Bohemia. How sad….

  77. I also gave DNA tests to my parents for Christmas. I told them that it was really actually more of a present for me (since I’m the genealogist in the family) and all I wanted for Christmas was their spit.

    The ethnicity results are just kind of fun but you also have to remember you don’t inherit all of the genes from both parents. So your family tree and your actual genetic tree can be a bit different. It’s kinda cool and totally confusing at the same time.

  78. As a geneticist, I can tell you that your comment about “maybe their tribe is not yet included in the database” is likely accurate. While your results are presented as very black and white (e.g.,1% African), the reality is that the markers used to discriminate among and between populations are rarely found in only one location, or population. So those populations that have been isolated at the times the mutations arose will have more distinctive dna, and those with a history of colonization or migration will be less accurate. Your “Irish” dna could be found in a lot of Irish people today, but really be a mutation that arose earlier in a population that came to Ireland at a time of small population size.
    Likewise, many groups that suffered bottlenecks due to disease or warfare or famine, may have lost most of their unique dna markers, or they have been insufficiently sampled by Ancestry.com. a lack of Native American markers in your result does NOT mean you have no Native ancestry.
    Think of the percentages they gave you as probabilities rather than proportions. And finally, know that in human populations, the percentage of births that are not children of the father of record is between 10 and 20%. 🙂

  79. Not only do I not trust the DNA tests that people send away for, I don’t trust DNA at all. I worked with DNA technology for many years and have grave doubts about it. Mark my words – it will be proven in the next few decades that there are so many anomalies that DNA will be proven not to be as reliable as previously thought. One fairly common anomaly currently known is when a mother’s DNA is not passed along to her child (called chimerism). Take those test results with a grain of salt.

  80. My 13th great grandmother was a pirate queen, Grace O’Malley. That’s fun to know. I got my line back to the Vikings, but started doubting some of the records. In my search, I’ve realized my mother’s family is completely insane, and mean. Lots of “he deserved killing” going on there.

  81. Ah Jenny, you are part of my tribe. Growing up we were always told – 25% German, 25% Irish, 25% English, 25% Native American. Well, 25+ years into this search for ancestors I have yet to find 1 Native American ancestor. However, my DNA test (I’ve had it done at both Ancestry and 23 & me and uploaded my results to GedMatch.com) puts my Native American at about 0.2%. Overall, over 98% Northern European (that includes the British Isles), My dad swore his family was Irish. His mother was to some degree, but his father was mostly German.
    I have been told that there’s always a little bit of truth in the family stories.
    My breakdown at ancestry is:
    Europe West 36% (I’m guessing this means Germany)
    Ireland 31%
    Scandinavia 13% (British Isles were invaded by Norseman)
    Great Britain 9%
    Then there is the 9% European “Trace” Regions and 2% West Asian “Trace” Regions.

    23 and me says 99.6% European and that 0.2% Native.

    One test said there was an 80% chance my husband & I were related. GedMatch says not at all, nor were my parents related to each other.

    It’s certainly been an interesting journey and I hope it remains so.

    But definitely 100% weird.

  82. Love your enthusiasm and how you’ve shared the love with your family ! It is very interesting and even though I work in DNA I’ve never had this done. But what IS surprising to me is that the enthusiasm for ancestry testing DNA doesn’t translate in to an interest in testing DNA for useful things like the opportunity to have our medicines work better for us or our children. Getting people to ask their doctors for that testing is neigh impossible. Even when it can actually give you useful information !!! I Just. Don’t. Get. It. 🙁 Don’t want to bring y’all down, just frustrated.

  83. Super interesting post. I love researching this stuff and did one of the DNA analysis things recently too. It confirmed a lot of what I already knew, but had a few surprises as well. Notably, my great-gpa came to the US from Greece in the early 1900s, I’ve seen the confirmation of that. But Greek didn’t appear on my list at all. (except perhaps as part of the “Broadly Southern European” heading) What did appear was a significant percentage of previously unknown Italian. In my head I’ve written stories about trade routes from Italy to Greece where a group of my Italian ancestors are stranded on the island of Crete for so many generations that memory of their Italian history is lost. It’s just fascinating.

  84. I’m glad you’ve had your DNA tested. If you upload your raw data to livewello.com (cost $20), you can get reports on health issues, like my daughter did, and found the answer to her bewildering cluster of health issues: Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome or EDS. Some of the health issues you talk about are consistent with EDS. Just a thought …

    We used 23andme.com for the DNA test (back then it was only $99). Without the test from 23andme and reports from livewello, my daughter would not have been diagnosed as quickly. Some people live decades with constant pain and other medical problems and go from doctor to doctor to no avail.

    And the ancestry information is fun too!

  85. By word of mouth, one side goes back to King Richard the lionhearted, by documentation the other goes back to the mayflower (with a detour through Cotton and Increase Mather). Beyond those admittedly I don’t know. I’m not sure that I would want to try the genetic testing personally (I lucked out with the mutation screening and don’t want to push my luck) but I can appreciate the desire to know.

  86. I find it interesting how many want to know this info. It doesn’t interest me one iota except to say that these genes stop here. And future generations of other people’s families should thank me.

  87. My sister retired and decided to look up our family’s history. She found an article in a local paper from the early 1900’s about my Great Uncle who got drunk with his friends and fell off a railroad bridge. The funny thing is them mentioned the fact that although he was found dead he was still clutching the unbroken bottle of whiskey he had been drinking. Yes…this is my family, lol.

  88. Some matriarchal Native societies adopted and once adopted, that person became (for instances) Cherokee and was raised accordingly. So if a society adopted a European child (for reasons of strengthening relations with the non-natives), that could be where the Native oral history came from. Socially, you may have Native in your family tree, but genetically it could veer off into what-the-hell-ever.

    half assed pendantics over My sister and I did the dna testing, mainly so we could get an estimate on our Neanderthal percentages. (I look like, and truthfully act like, some sort of over-haired primitive…I HAD to be high on that percentage chart). I am blindingly white and blue eyed. The Northern European wasn’t a big surprise. Neither was the Scandinavian. However, my profile also came back with a smidge of Mongolian and Pacific Islander blended with a scant pinch of “unknown”. Unknown? Really? What the hell? So…I’m claiming Sasquatch or alien…just because it would explain so friggin much.

  89. How interesting. My husband & I have been kicking around the idea of doing this DNA test. I know almost nothing about my biological background, and since I don’t speak with my biological father probably won’t know very much from his side at all. I didn’t realize that Ancestry tied the two together, how interesting. I need to invest in that one day, maybe we will suck it up and go all in on this trail one day.

  90. But your Irish connection only serves to reinforce your Czech connections. Remember 16th century Europe was a continent in constant turmoil. Religious wars and the call of the New Worlds were wrecking the economy and everything was topsy turvy. Ireland was the center of the chaos under Elizabeth I. Thousands of Irish men an women left in exile for political, religious and financial reasons. Many fled to Bohemia – Bohemia was a stronghold of Catholic faith. Irish Catholics found themselves free to study and work in fields they were denied in other parts of Europe during the reformations.

    Ferdinand II, ruler of Austrian lands (including Bohemia) invited the Franciscan monks fleeing Ireland to settle in the Catholic provinces of the Hapsburg territories. They were referred to as the ‘Irish Monastery’ in Prague until the late 1700’s when it was dissolved by Emperor Joseph II during yet another church reformation.

    When researching look to the history of the Flight of the Ulster Earls in the early 1600’s, the Irish College in Prague (College of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary) and the Holy Roman Empire

    There are some really great stories buried in the history. Seems the imported Catholic friars from one part of Ireland liked to duke it out with the imported Catholic friars form another part of Ireland on a regular basis.

  91. I have no idea if this is the case for your family, but my family has WAY more Irish than we thought because a lot of them came to the US during the time that the Irish were heavily persecuted and they just flat lied about where they came from.

  92. My paternal grandparents were both Polish, and while my maternal grandmother has a family tree going back to like 1100 that one of my relatives researched, my grandfather’s tree basically stops with his parents. His family changed their name when they came to America, and steadfastly refused to tell any subsequent generations what the original name was, so we can’t search on it. I don’t know what they were running from, or maybe they were Jewish (although they came well before WWII, Jews have a long history of persecution in Europe, of course). But the name died with my grandfather and his last living sister. Does it really matter? No, but I suspect the story of WHY our name was kept a secret once they got here is the interesting part, and we’ll never know that, either.

  93. Part of the reason your results are unexpected has to do with the way DNA works. You don’t necessarily inherit DNA in way that makes mathematical sense. Siblings, for example, could take the same test but have different results.

  94. After attacking England, the Spanish Armada tried to escape by going north and then through the Irish Sea. They didn’t make it. The sailors washed up on the Irish coast and were taken in by their fellow Catholics. Hence the term “black Irish”: the black hair and eyes were passed on for generations.

  95. I so need to have my DNA studied. My ancestry is Finnish, Swedish, Danish, Cornish, Slovakian, French and native Canadian, with possibly a bit more Eastern Europe mixed in. The skeletons in my closet include a great-great grandmother who may have been the daughter of a Swedish prince, a great-grandmother who left her husband for another man, left her daughters with their paternal grandparents and ran a bar (that may also have been a brothel.) She also allegedly danced with Al Capone.

  96. My brother was a chimera. That means two fertilized eggs merged before continuing to develop. He had one very blue eye and one brown, and that’s where the diagnosis originated. And yes, he was kind of a mess, but I loved him.

  97. My grandmother was born and raised on a reservation. She is listed in all the Indian censuses as 1/2 blood, so I should be 1/8, or 12.5%. My DNA test shows 2% American Indian. It’s not 100% reliable – it’s all based on associative statistics.

  98. I would love to do this. I never met my biological father (abusive asswipe) and my mom didn’t know her’s either. My mom says my bio is a Russian Jew, but the surname is Irish!? So yeah. When I can get $200 together I def want to do this and see if I can put some of the pieces of my puzzle together. I want to do it through 23AndMe for the medical stuff as well. I don’t think Ancestry offers that.

  99. I was born in Ireland but I did a 23andMe DNA test. The results were not too suprising: 100% European – 93.1% British and Irish, 6.4% Broadly Northwestern European and 0.3% French and German. The remaining 0.2% is Broadly European. 🙂 When I first did the test thought I was 3% Neandertal. 🙂 Looks like the updated the results.

  100. I sent my DNA and my husband’s in last week. I can’t wait to see what we find out!

  101. I had a great aunt who was a professional genealogist, so I’m spoiled with really good records. The piece that crushes me every time I come across it is the half sentence below a series of four death dates of young children that says “cholera epidemic”. They had eight children and lost four in six days time. I cannot imagine how much that had to hurt. And yet they carried on and had four more in the next few years, the youngest being my great grandmother.

  102. I love genealogy. I like the ordinary stories. Which is lucky because most of my family was pretty ordinary. Being Australian a few of my ancestors were convicts. Nobody in my family ever knew that which is interesting but the coolest part is their convict records include detailed descriptions of them (in case they escaped) so I’ve been able to find out pretty much exactly what they looked like.
    The most horrible story I’ve found so far is the 3x great grandfather who was transported for “robbery on the street” (mugging) so his wife had him declared legally dead and married his best friend!

  103. Oh goodness. Ok, first step – the biogeographical reports are estimates. They’re not necessarily wrong exactly, and they’re not complete nonsense, but they aren’t an exact result and as data improves they will probably be refined. The general vibe is if its less than 5% and you can’t back it with paper evidence, its probably noise. Some companies do better with particular results as well – a certain large company were giving a lot of Scandanavian results to people for a while until they improved their data set.

    VERY roughly, this is how they are created. Take people who have a set of ancestors from the same place for a few generations (Eg: 4 grandparents from the same town) and look for similarities in the variations they have in their DNA to try and identify variations common to a particular location. If you have that same variation, assign a part of your ancestry to that location.

    There are obvious issues that leap up with “What if those grandparents were the children of migrants?” – well, that’s why you try and take multiple people with 4 grandparents in that location, to try and pick out the commonalities. The more people you have to determine what are genuine local variations, the more accurate the results will be. This is why they get better over time.

    The closer together the locations are, the more blurred the variations are going to be, but conversely, the further apart they are, the more likely it is that you have a genuine signal. The differences between Great Britain, Ireland and Scandanavia can be very small, and the assignations can be a little bit artitrary. The difference between Great Britain and Eastern Europe are going to be more obvious, and you can put a bit more faith into those values.

    I’d recommend taking your results and spreading them around a little (if you can) – there are 3rd party sites like gedmatch.com which have a lot of neat tools, including a number of different biogenographical tools. They’ll also help you match more cousins 🙂

  104. I used to do Indigenous Australian genealogy for a living …and yet I don’t know much of my own! I have oral histories that go back a few generations but sadly I only have one living grandparent now & she is on the opposite side of the world to me.

  105. I wonder if it’s at all possible that your grandmother (or her mother) were adopted. It was not at all uncommon back then for those things to just never have been spoken of.

  106. I’m right there with you, and I think MANY MANY Americans are finding the same. All these 1%’s point to about the same amount going back in time-immigration time.
    I hear this same thing over and over (I’m obsessed now and on all sorts of genealogy forums). “Where’s my Native American?!!!”
    From what I can gather of my own family, there’s one branch (my paternal Grandfather’s mother) that was questionably brown. They would say Scottish, Irish and that inevitable “Cherokee Grandma” but it turns out that one of her parents had an ancestor that was a “Scottish Moor” (Moor as in Berber/Tuareg from N. Africa, which I show at 1%) and likely these folks likely just said, when asked, that I’m “Cherokee”. Same on the other side-although I haven’t found the true Cherokee (I show .1%) because I have one guy I can’t trace. At all. With the way names changed or were completely assumed new, there’s no telling. And the people with the brownest skin seem to have the smallest paper trails.
    Iberian and Jewish can be traces of Jews or perhaps other “travellers” that moved every generation. And if anyone comes up with a very small bit of S. Asian in an otherwise European family, it’s likely Romani.
    But this shows us that people had secrets. And that family stories are quite likely fictitious. It’s really disappointing a lot of people, but we have to embrace what’s really there.

  107. I’m a little wary of DNA testing, but that may be that I just don’t understand it well enough. Perhaps it’s just an urban legend that only 2% or some other very tiny fraction of our DNA separates us from plants, but if that’s true that means that only a ridiculously tiny sliver of DNA differentiates us from each other, even though DNA is ridiculously long, so that tiny sliver is still large enough to be studied.
    And maybe it’s the time in which I was brought up that makes me want uncomfortable with looking for what differentiates us.
    Then again I like to focus on what makes me different, especially when it comes to my own family. I’d be the black sheep even if I were an only child.

  108. Funny, as I was just listening to a podcast, today, that discussed these tests. I don’t know if you can access it from the US. If you do, check it out as it explains really well what is race, ancestry, etc… and also talks about these DNA tests http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06ybg84

    In a nutshell, they say that these ancestry tests don’t really tell us where our family came from, but rather what our DNA has in common with the DNA of most people currently living in certain areas of the world. Also, we all have a little bit of African, because that is where human race started; and we all have a bit of Scandinavian, Western European, etc…

  109. It’s so weird that you posted this. I took an Ancestry DNA test in November and had my sister and husband both take tests in December. My sister’s results came in two nights ago and they’re quite different than mine, though the site says we’re definitely immediate relatives so I doubt there was any sort of mix up.

    I’m 34% Ireland, 31% Western Europe, 24% Scandinavia, 9% Italy/Greece, 1% Great Britain, <1% Iberian Peninsula

    My sister is 58% Western Europe, 23% Ireland, 8% Scandinavia, 3% Great Britain, 3% Italy/Greece, 3% Iberian Peninsula, <1% Finland/Northwest Russia, <1% European Jewish

    The interesting part is that while growing up we were told we were mostly Irish and German with English and Dutch. Not once was Scandinavian mentioned, and we have absolutely no idea where the Jewish is coming from.

    We’re going to have my parents take the tests next.

  110. I always thought that DNA testing was pretty rock solid accurate, but reading your blog and some of the comments it sounds about as accurate as phrenology. I guess we all get our bumps in different ways. Thanks for another great post, Jenny.

  111. My sweet, wonderful father died in 1998…He was adopted as an infant and there were never any clues about his side of the family. Then came DNA testing. I was tested, and we bought a test for my mom. And suddenly it was clear that all the bits that weren’t my mom were my dad, long gone but genetically still very much alive in all of his children and grandkids and great-grandkids. We are that living history.

  112. Curious to me where the distinctions are drawn in these DNA tests. Africa is as big as Europe & US & Asia put together, but has only 4 regions. Meanwhile British and Irish, two traditionally white countries on small island, are very distinct. We tend to draw firmer distinctions in territory we know, and lump all the unknown into one big “other.” I wonder what POC would think of the test and their results.

  113. Hi! My family has this same DNA mixture, and it’s a fascinating story that goes back hundreds of years.

    Likely, in my research, this group of markers represents one or two people from a long time ago:
    1% Italian/Greek
    1% European Jewish
    1% Iberian Peninsula
    1% African
    1% Middle Eastern

    These people were probably Spanish and crypto Jews. In the 1500s, the Spanish people on the Iberian Peninsula were in the throes of the Inquisition. After Cortez conquered Mexico, other Spaniards ventured to the New World.

    Since the Jewish population was being forced to covert or die, many opted to leave Spain entirely. Many settled in Then Spain, which became Mexico, which became the American Southwest. (New Mexico, Arizona, Texsz, Oklahoma, Colorado)

    They formed very tight knit communities, so I’ve found that people either have a lot of this mixture (with most emphasis on the Iberian Peninsula) or very little at all.

    Also, on Finding Your Roots, Dr. Gates said most people way over estimate how much Indian blood they have, even if they have family stories of that one person a long time ago.

    If you want more into, I’ve got websites bookmarked, and an extensive family tree.

  114. My grandmother, we are discovering, played fast and loose with our ancestry and may or may not have omitted and altered things so that they were more to her liking. My mother would probably LOVE to have her DNA analyzed. I think I’ve just found the perfect birthday gift!

  115. My cousin and I did an extensive genealogy search a few years ago. It wasn’t easy; our grandmother’s father was raised in an orphanage so we have nothing to go on for him. My father had traced our family name back to Martin Luther (the Protestant Reformation Martin Luther) decades earlier, but our research took us in a different direction when we discovered that our family name wasn’t actually our biological name at all. Our great-grandfather Francis had been born in 1880, but my cousin discovered that our great-great-grandmother Maggie had not married the man whose name he carried until 1888 (and those types of baby-now, marry-later type relationships just didn’t happen back then). More research turned up the fact that Francis had been born in a charity house, and his birth record showed a different man as the father. We were even able to locate someone who had traced the family tree of that man and discovered that he had been married when he had his affair with Maggie and that although he had kids of his own, and his brothers and sisters had kids who to this day still have descendants, his line died out several generations back EXCEPT for us, the illegitimate line no one ever knew existed.

  116. I’d love to do a Family Tree AND a DNA test, but I’m sure I’d be a million more times confused than I already am about my family. If my family had to be described in two words it would be “It’s Complicated”. My Dad was adopted, so family trees mean pretty much squat (until I get my hands on his adoption paperwork – GOD MOM! Why haven’t you found that yet?!). I have only half-siblings, and I’m fairly sure I’m mostly of German heritage. My husband once said “You don’t have a family tree – you have a family shrub” and yeah – that’s about right. HIS family tree is nice and pretty, and organized. Mine might as well be on fire. 🙂
    I suspect my DNA test would just say “100% weird”. 🙂 I’d love to do it some day – just to see the results.

  117. I also research my family, and it can be so frustrating. I sympathize. And when it comes to DNA, all it takes is one adoption and it can go off in very unexpected places. And adoptions aren’t always documented or obvious in the past. Perhaps that can account for some of it.

  118. My father was adopted and he and I are estranged. I wish I could give my children a full picture of who they are some day, but not likely. Also, my MIL has no clue what her heritage is…she just claims to be “Southern”.

  119. The favorite relative I found while researching my history and DNA is Sdacaill “The Loser” Mac Nicol 1270-1300 in Scotland. His first name literally means “to lose an estate” Staid- estate, Caill- to lose. So my relative managed to lose the family inheritance and this is why we can’t have nice things anymore.

    (I traced Victor’s family back to a small castle in Europe. It was very impressive until I read more and realized that he had to leave the castle and country after mismanaging it. There’s always something. ~ Jenny)

  120. My mom’s paternal grandmother called herself a “Heinz 57,” saying her people were from all over, mixed blood. I figured my dad’s family would be easier to trace. But it turns out great grandma was descended from English loyalists who fled to Canada after the Revolution went against them. She was about 95% colonial English, 5% Dutch. No ketchup at all! 🙂 But it’s been great looking for the secret past she might not have known about. I think a lot of our recent ancestors don’t know their history. It’s all lost in the mists of family legend.

  121. My DNA ‘results’ indicated that I am a Kuwaiti male. Which is odd, since I’m female, and my grandparents came from Sweden and Ireland.

  122. I traced my husband’s line as well as my own. He told me he was German. He is not German. His German last name is actually a bastardized version of an English last name. Being almost entirely Irish I told him I was going to have to kill him in his sleep and it would be a mercy killing, the poor English bastard. He pointed out that those were the relatives that came over on like the second boat to America from England so they likely were no more fond of the English laws than the Irish were. So he got a pass. I discovered one of those original Pilgrams or immigrants married into a Native American Tripe and her name is Princess Red Wing. He did not need to know he has a relative with Princess as a title. He is full enough of himself. When I started to see William Wallaces turning up generation after generation ( going back in time) I stopped looking because so help me God if he actually is related to Braveheart I don’t think I will be able to live with him. As it is he says he is descended from Hercules. Anyhow- his family wins the worst name award ” Rufus Elmo”. Yup. Congratulations Rufus. You officially have the worst name on both of our family trees. Please take a bow.

  123. Also- when mothers died leaving fathers with small children there was no daycare. If the family didn’t have extended family or a sibling old enough to care for the children while the father went to work they often ended up in orphanages until the father remarried and could claim them. It was almost like a pawn shop now that I think about it. Except with kids. This wasn’t a bad arrangement- just think, if you could drop your kid off at a difficult age and pick him back up at like age 25 or so that may be a good thing. Anyhow, I digress. And am obviously kidding. Sometimes a sibling was adopted out while they waited for their father to find them a new mother. And that wasnt discussed back then and the records are nearly impossible to get your hands on. That may explain some of those rogue genetics that you have going on there. But Yay Irish!

  124. Could it be possible that your Indian relations actually adopted an Irish child? And what – you don’t have any Neanderthal?

  125. I have done no research on my ancestry, partly because I am afraid DNA will show I am part chipmunk. My mother-in-law and my late grandfather both spent hours and hours and years and years looking up their family tree. I should be more interested.

  126. I love you and I’m glad you posted this. I was born in Korea and was adopted by a lovely, white couple on Long Island. I did the DNA test and do you know what the strongest f****** marker was? Nicaragua. I don’t get it.

  127. Part of it could be that many NA tribes refuse genome testing. I have measurable lineage, and the records to prove who I am. I’m also locked out of the Ancestry files, because of one twat of an aunt. Which is still nicer than some of the things I’ve called her to her face. shrugs

  128. I think we all have African and Middle East DNA because that is where human kind originated.

  129. And I think the 1% African and Middle Eastern are pretty ubiquitous among all humans, because that’s where humans came from.

  130. It’s amazing what interesting things you’ll find if you look long enough. My Dad always thought the paternal side of his family was completely Canadian, with Irish and English ancestors. But when I started an ancestry search, I found my paternal Great Grandparent’s wedding certificate. It turns out that my paternal Great Grandfather was born in The States, he changed his name and came to Canada to fight in the war, but then disappeared a couple years after WW2. He was chased off my Great Grandmother’s family farm after displaying dangerous behavior like sleeping with a knife under his pillow (Although never mentioned, I also suspect domestic abuse considering such a harsh reaction). Now of course people know what post-traumatic stress is, but back then they just thought he was crazy. Despite writing letters to his parents and friends, my Great Grandmother never found out what happened to him. Last info we could find he was in a hospital somewhere in Pennsylvania being treated for mustard gas. After that he was never seen or heard from again, and according to some old letters, even his parents didn’t know what happened to him. Very sad for them. We did manage to trace back some of their ancestors through ancestry.com, back to the civil war and to the revolution.

  131. I got an ancestry DNA test from my mom for Christmas, sounds like a weird gift but it was pretty cool 🙂 Most of the stuff on it was not a shock to me, the trace amounts of some areas I think were because the wider bands of those areas on the map actually cross over the areas I knew about. I was hoping to figure out the Polish/Slovak stuff but since it all comes out the same in DNA apparently it has not helped. I have been at a dead end mostly on my dads side where my great grandparents came over from Poland and Czechoslovakia and the records dont seem to be online… but also it turns out my last name was changed by my great grandparents between 1920 and 1930 from something completely different and very Polish sounding to something more American sounding, guessing because of how things were in this country at this time. I wish I had started researching when there were still people alive on that side of my family who could answer the questions I have…. We have visited a bunch of relatives in cemeteries we never met that found online, to the point my daughter wrote about visiting cemeteries for her summer vacation and how she feels calm in them, was surprised I didn’t get contacted by the teachers for clarification after I read that one lol
    Good luck to you 🙂

  132. I would love to learn more about my family history… I do know I am related to Clan Blair in Scotland, but my dad’s side of the family is harder… my uncle had done a lot of genealogy work and there was a fire at his house, and the info just happened to end up in the fire and he refuses to talk about what he found out. We thought we knew which boat our ancestors came to Canada on, but when my dad’s cousin checked the logs there was no record, so we are not sure! All I know for sure is my great-grandmother had to escape; she got to the boat in the false bottom of a potato bin.

  133. Remember that people are human, and generations ago sometimes couples were separated for months by ocean voyages and work. Someone listed as married to an ancestor may not have been the actual parent…and that may not have been known by all the parties involved.

    That is one of the things about genealogical research. We can trace marriages and so on back, but we can’t always be certain about the father at various points along the line…

  134. All I know is that back in my pioneer family tree, when a man’s wife died (often giving birth) he just married whatever single woman was available and had eight more kids. Oh, am I ever grateful to NOT have been a pioneer woman! I’ve read that almost everybody in the US has German in their ancestry, simply because they were very strong and obviously fertile people. I never would have survived it.

  135. Best ancestral names ever – Preserved Fish and Served Fish. Father and son, or son and father. I can’t remember. But totally true. Search ancestry.com – Whitehall, NY in the 1800s.

  136. I just found a photo of my great grandmother which proves I am part Jewish and proud of it. I always suspected this.

  137. I’m into the same thing; not sure if that would make me an historian or I’m trying to find out where my craziness come from? My sister did a National Geographic dna test that follows your migration. You can get it here: http://shop.nationalgeographic.com/ngs/browse/productDetail.jsp?npd&npd&productId=2003825&gsk&code=MR21280s
    (My known relatives came from Northern Spain but this test says we are Siberians. Go figure. Explains my mom though….)

  138. DNA testing for genealogy is amazing! However, the ethnicity percentages that Ancestry shows are little more than “best guesses”. If you look closely at the full ethnicity report, you’ll see that the error bars are enormous. For instance, I show as 32% Scandinavian, but the range is between 10% and 54%. In other words, I could be as low as 10% Viking – or slightly more than a Half-Viking!

    Also, a counter-point to the comment from “Kelly @ Cibatarian”. The article she linked to is from 2007 (nearly a decade ago). The state of the art with DNA testing has changed dramatically since then. I administer over a dozen DNA tests through Ancestry and they’ve all been extremely helpful in finding relatives – especially for lines where documentation is sparse or “false paternity” occured. (That’s one of them “euphemisms”, don’t ya know?)

  139. I think it’s important to remember with these sorts of analyses that there’s still some inaccuracy but also that it’s highly likely there’s an illegitimate child some where in your family history. After all, we’ve only had the technology to tell for the last couple of generations, and I recall a study that was looking at DNA for other reasons discovering that some ridiculously high percentage of kids were not related to the man on the birth certificate. Just remember that family history and genetic history are not necessarily the same thing. Still a near thing to look into, though, because that genetic history is going to have the least written about it and some of the most interesting stories.

  140. But what about Neanderthal? Don’t you have itty bitty amount of Neanderthal DNA? I myself have 2.9% Neanderthal DNA, and I think that’s cool! (I don’t have any of the physical characteristics; I’m more of an Ayla. But still …

  141. Stacy above — I wonder if your Korea/Nicaragua link could be as simple as having an ancestor who was with the UN forces during the Korean War. http://korean-war.commemoration.gov.au/armed-forces-in-korea/united-nations-forces-in-the-korean-war.php

    There are so many interesting stories out there — my husband’s family is Lebanese/Syrian Catholic. (They came to the US in the 1800s when many Syrian Catholics were escaping the Ottoman Empire.) Fast-forward to this century, we met someone from Lebanon who says the name indicates crusader ancestors.

  142. I’ve done DNA testing because all the stories I grew up with are about people not related to me by blood, as I’m adopted. I found some surprising things, and some not so surprising — after being raised as though I was 100% Irish American, I’m actually Chinese, Russian, and Slavic — I have some records of ancestors with absolutely unpronounceable names from Bohemia, too. I did meet a distant cousin who speaks 4 languages who offered to translate documents if and when I found some, so that was cool.

    Relatedly (hee), I did family trees for my adoptive parents, too, and um, well, that 100% Irish malarkey? My (a)dad’s mom was French and my (a)mom’s father’s family came to Virginia in the 1600s — she’s a SOUTHERNER (never say that to a Chicagoan).

    Bottom line — history is all stories we tell ourselves, and they are usually incomplete. But they do matter. A lot.

  143. The ethnicity estimates are very much in “beta”. I’ve tested at all 3 major companies: 23andme, familytreedna and ancestrydna, and they all have different results.

    However, when they say you are a close relative with someone (2nd cousins or closer) you can pretty much bet on it.

    You may have native american ancestry but not have any of the DNA, so it still could be true. The best way to find your ethnicity is by building out your trees.

    I’m extremely grateful for DNA testing as it helped me find out who my birth father was. I was lucky and got a 2nd cousin match and by building out his tree and finding other matches in that tree, I narrowed it down to one family that had 3 sons the right age.

  144. So we’re all from a long line of slutty women, or overbearing men? That really explains a lot

  145. Both sides of my family are of Russian stock (fairly recent as these things go, they all came to Canada around 1900). But I’m sure there’s more to the story than that. I may have to do the DNA route myself…but for sure the 100% weird applies here too!

  146. Part of my family is Bohemian too! (Always have to explain that to people…) Croatia specifically.

  147. Apparently from my DNA results none of my ancestors cared what race, color, or religion you were.

  148. History is an interesting thing. Kiev was founded by Vikings…Vikings had a REAL good time in Ireland, Scotland and France (not so good a time in England). Then they made it to Constantinople and, I believe, further south into the current Middle East….

    The Greeks (Macedonians actually) and the Romans had a very good time everywhere…and moved a lot of people around with them…

    An example of bizarre truth…There was a Jewish, a Viking AND an Albanian settlement in Sicily! Just because your family moved here FROM Sicily, doesn’t mean anything other than that was their last stop.

    People have always wandered further than we credit them for.

  149. Genealogy is my passion. I devote hours to research, DNA, everything! And I’m that awful person who pesters others to give me the chance to see if we’re related. It’s fun reading about other people’s journeys, questions, DNA results, and all that jazz.

  150. One of our cousins researched that side of the family back many generations, but unfortunately, it was only half the family — our grandfather was left as an infant on the steps of an orphanage in New York with his name pinned to his clothing, and then sent to the Midwest on an orphan train, where he was indentured to a farm family until he was 21. At least they treated him like a genuine member of the family; not all the indentured orphans were that lucky.

    But honestly, I don’t need to worry too much about what my ancestry is because, as I discovered when I visited Ireland, what they’d said about my grandfather was true — “His face looks like the map of Ireland.” So whatever branch of the Donnellys he sprang from, his name was clearly accurate!

  151. I’ve accepted that I’m some Euro-mutt. It’s cool. Probably eastern, but eh. I can definitely see the appeal in discovering more about one’s ancestry. I guess maybe just I myself don’t really care. I might on a different day, though. That’s the fun part about bipolar. You just never know!

  152. You forgot 100% AWESOME! I am reading “Let’s Pretend This Ever Happened” after reading “Furiously Happy.” My sister gave me a signed copy of the latter after meeting you in Dallas at Half Price Books. My sister is awesome but such a bitch for not inviting me to go with her and for not clueing me into your awesomeness before giving me your book. Thank you for helping me realize that it’s normal to hide when someone knocks at your door. And thank you for all the other amazing things you have helped me realize.

  153. Just remember, you are not responsible for the bad deeds of your ancestors. There is nothing to be ashamed of. (no matter what Q claimed in TNG.) We all have such complicated stories in our mix.

    Finding Your Roots is fascinating. Check out Season 1, Episode 10 with Linda Chavez. I wonder of the Iberian/Jewish/African/Middle Eastern came in through New World ancestors escaping the Inquisition?

    I like to use the term “insalata mista” for our backgrounds. I found that i have some “unspecified northern European” thru my English Dad, which I suspect goes back to the Saxon Hordes or Angles Invasion or something.

    Ultimately, if you go back far enough, we are all related. And that is what really matters. Favorite quote this week: “Be excellent to each other.” (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.)

  154. Okay, I know I’m not the only Mormon Bloggess Addict. Jenny you are my guilty pleasure. Sadly I’m not very knowledgeable about the latest and greatest research tools out there! Somebody help Jenny out!

  155. I know the $100 DNA tests aren’t 100% accurate, but I loved the STORIES that presented themselves in my mind when the results weren’t what I expected. For me, it was that my Dad has 100% Danish ancestry so I should have a minimum of 50% Scandinavian DNA, but I found out I’m 67% British and only 17% Scandinavian. But those Vikings (Scandinavians) invaded all over Western Europe and colonized areas of Britain, so I’m hoping true love (ahem) is the story of how half of my family ended up in Denmark 900 years ago. A friend thought he was mostly French but found more Scandinavian DNA, but when you realize that Normandy (all French speaking now) was “Norse-Men” territory, it makes sense.

  156. I’ve wondered about the DNA tests.
    I keep hearing about people who are surprised that they have Scandinavian dna, when all I can think of is “Vikings got around”.
    Same thing with Native American. I’ve read that the SE tribes intermarried early and frequently, while counting all offspring as “Indian” under the law. It is my understanding that one of the Cherokee chiefs who was prominent in the removal to Indian Territory (Trail of Tears) was actually a blue-eyed redhead who would now be considered 7/8 Irish, but counted as full-blood on the rolls when they came to take them away.

  157. I’m highly skeptical of DNA testing – what markers are they using – so I haven’t much interest in getting tested.
    Also, I know a lot of my family history: we have written family trees of my father’s family that go back several hundred years. My maternal grandmother traced her family back to before the Revolution at least. Where we have a big fat zero is my maternal grandfather’s line: the story is that the family lost the plantation in North Carolina in the Civil War so they left for Kansas and closed the door on that chapter. I’ve done some on-line searching, but knowing only the general area of NC and the family and given names are so common in NC it’s almost as bad as looking for “John Smith.”

  158. I don’t know how reliable your DNA test was; the differences in genetic markers between the overall British population and the Irish one would be negligible at best, given that both nations were frequently invaded/colonized by Scandinavian groups in the Middle Ages. The largest difference is probably that the English would have more Mediterranean (from the Romans) and more German (from the Angles and the Saxons) than the Irish, but considering how many centuries the English spent in Ireland trying to conquer it, I think the two groups are far too mixed, genetically, to allow any concrete and consistent difference in their DNA.

    When my family decided to do a DNA test (to be cheap, they only sprang for one on my brother, instead of one on each of my parents as they had initially planned), the results were never that specific: the results were grouped by larger regions, Northern Europe, Central Europe, et cetera. I had hoped the results would give us some unknown ancestors who were Native American or something, but no such luck. There was at least a small percentage of Mediterranean, though, and it said we had about 0.4% each of Neandertal and Denisovan, which was really cool.

    I’d recommend trying a different DNA test, rather than testing more relatives. I think the one we did was associated with National Geographic. I don’t know if that makes it any more reliable than any other test, but at least they were realistic enough not to try claiming individual European countries had distinct genetic markers. People moved around much more freely in the Middle Ages and Renaissance than most people these days realize, so the European DNA is all somewhat mixed together.

  159. If you want to get REALLY confused, try interpreting DNA results for the purposes of speculatively diagnosing medical issues. They’re occasionally very clear and helpful, but there’s a whole lot of bizarre genetic variants lurking in every one of us.

  160. My great grandfather was born at sea on his way to Canada so they named him after the ship – Charles Nova Scotia Wyatt!
    Hows that for a handle to carry through life?

  161. This kind of stuff is so fascinating to me. I’ve heard really mixed reports about whether DNA is at all reliable for documenting ethnicity. I haven’t really felt the need to try it. The stories you stumble upon searching through old documents and asking random relatives for info are so awesome though. My family hasn’t been in the U.S. or speaking English for that many generations, and were generally uneducated and thoroughly ordinary folk (thus absent from written history). However, Hubby’s family came to the Blue Ridge mountains in the 1600s and pretty much never moved again. I’ve found SO many intriguing stories on his side of the family.

  162. Just as an FYI, anything under 3% is considered a “trace”. In fact, Ancestry.com says “it is possible that these regions appear by chance and are not actually part of your genetic ethnicity”. I myself was a little taken aback to see Northern African and Middle Eastern, but not nearly enough Spanish/Native American to justify my last name! lol Also, FindAGrave.com has been invaluable in helping me locate some of my ancestors, because a lot of burial records include parentage, which might help you to the next generation.

    (FindAGrave has been invaluable to me when building records. I wish it blended better with ancestry.com. ~ Jenny)

  163. Well, if we all came from Adam and Eve as the story goes, maybe they were Irish.

    Love the photo of the tractor lady. You come from good, hardy stock.

  164. Europe 100%:
    Europe West 57%
    Europe East 21%
    Great Britain 10%
    Trace Regions 12%:
    Ireland 5%
    Iberian Peninsula 4%
    European Jewish 2%
    Scandinavia 1%

    No surprises. And ZERO black or native or asian or middle eastern ancestry.

    Ancestry.com matched my husband to his dad and maternal aunt and grandmother, and me to some obvious cousins.

    I just went through all of my matches (79 pages of 50 matches each!), and they now have shared matches. But those are only for the 4th cousins and higher. The 4th cousins won’t show matches to 5th-8th cousins, but the 5th-8th will show any matches of 4th-6th cousin range and closer.

    So I put that into an excel file, showi g who lists whom as shared, and that way I can look at my leaf matches (obvious ancestor matches), and see who links to them, and can figure out whose side of which family they are on.

    One of the neatest matches is one whose family is also in a small area of Hungary. We don’t yet know how we match up, but my husband is now going through Hungarian church record microfilms and has found info for us and for their ancestor! That’s one area where we don’t have a lot of pre-US info.

    It’s a way to focus some hints, if nothing else.

  165. Isn’t genealogy great?! You can learn so much about the world and it makes you understand why people are so cuckoo. Personally, I’ve discovered; my dad’s 2nd cousin is a notorious Texas politician who shall go unnamed; that I’m related to several presidents, including a common ancestor with George Washington; I can trace both my parent’s sides back to European royalty; that my great-grandmother went crazy and tried to stab her husband with a butcher knife (probably due to living too close to a silver mine); and yet another great-great grandfather had 2 families at the same time (probably due to being an a**hole); but the crowning glory…. that Brad Pitt is my 8th cousin… Yes, yes, I know, MOST impressive. But really, we’re all related in the end. 😀

  166. I’m a first gen Aussie from Dutch and English/French/White Bornese parentage who’s procreated with a 2nd gen New Zealander who has Irish Catholic ancestry! Well I’m glad to have sorted that out. I find genealogy fascinating too – all those stories! And it’s awesome when your family loves to tell them, like when the Nazis rolled across the border into my mum’s hometown in The Netherlands and nearly ran over my 2 year old Uncle Pete with a tank. I also like the idea that if we go back far enough everyone alive today is related somehow…

  167. I’m 65% Irish and I have the 1% Jewish, 1% Middle Eastern , 1% Iberian peninsula and 1% African genetic traces too. My grandmother’s gorgeous dark features were always explained by probable Spanish ancestry (eg the Spanish Armada that got wrecked on the west coast of Ireland). Perhaps yours come from the unexplained Irish side too? My other genetic markers are 16% Great Britain, 8% West Europe, 5% East Europe and 2% Scandinavian.

  168. “You read about your not-so-distant ancestor who died in a mental institution from “extreme psychosis” (or more likely, died as a result of the barbaric treatment of that psychosis at that time) when she wasn’t that much older than you.”

    Depressingly close to what I found, too. My grandfather never spoke about his biological father, even to his own children (my dad and his brothers). Nobody really knows much about him, where he came from (We know he and his wife said they were from Austria-Hungary and spoke “Slavish,” according to several censuses, which I’ve read referred at the time to Slovenian)… But here’s the thing: The guy raised my grandfather and his siblings for 20 years with his wife (my great-grandmother). Then suddenly, he disappears from the family, my great-grandmother remarries to a English-American, and my grandfather changes his last name to his stepfather’s last name (obviously to distance himself from his birth father). Despite being raised by two first-generation Slovenian immigrants, my grandfather never spoke Slovenian again; I don’t think my father or uncles even knew he spoke anything other than English.

    The only clue I was able to find was his death being listed in the records at the Ionia State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, decades after my great-grandmother remarried.

    I really wish people were better at keeping records. I still have so many questions, but I’m afraid much of it is lost to time.

    (I find that stuff is so much more common than we suspect. Just today I found someone I’m a direct descendent of who we were told died tragically. Not so much. I just found his records from the penitentiary. The truth is slippery even if you think you know their story. ~ Jenny)

  169. Im half dutch/half english, but 100% first gen born in Australia, so i have a boatload of euro DNA. My grandfather migrated to Australia after the second world war, as he decided he could not go back to living in his town in Holland as there were far too many collaborators in the town, and he didnt want to live among them. My mums family is from Sussex and have the claim to fame of owning the estate where they hosted Oliver Cromwell, and the plot to remove Charles the 1st took place. Im an anti monarchist so i wear that with a badge of pride. My family helped remove a sitting monarch. The family has traced our way back to the crusades, at which point things get murky….

  170. Nothing is more interesting about my past then that my grandmother was a hooker and my mother had rickets supposedly. This coming from my scorned biological father who I only spoke with once and I haven’t seen my mother or grandmother since I was 7.

  171. I spent my childhood summers with my favorite aunt, who was also the family historian, so I knew we were Swedish and had been here since 1630. After a few generations, they moved to Louisiana. I recently researched the Swedish line back before they left/were thrown out and it turns out they used to be Dutch. And came from the city my husband I lived in 20 years ago! I’m dying to do the DNA test and see what it says because I know of 9 nationalities that make up my family, but I’ll bet my DNA results will just say smörgåsbord or grab-bag or WTF because you can’t have people staying in a melting pot like Louisiana for 400ish years and not be some of everything!

    Also, I saw a PBS show that said DNA tests can only check a woman’s mother’s mother’s mother’s line, but a man can trace either his mother’s mother’s mother’s or his father’s father’s father’s. What’s up with that?!?

  172. My family , according to the few writings we have, is English, German and Scottish, but I have a rather rare medical condition that is most commonly found in Asians. Go figure that one out. I do like sushi, though.

  173. Oh! I forgot – not long after I we got married my husband and I visited his parents for the weekend. I asked about their family history and his mom sad, “Well, my dad had killed a man with an axe….or maybe it was his dad, but anyway….”

    WHAT?! They spoke Cajun French about half the time so I clarified to make sure there wasn’t a language thing going wonky there. Nope. She was unsure of the details but knew one of them killed a man. With an axe. Not even killed a man who had an axe! Seems like she might have wanted to find out about that…

  174. Equally as intriguing as following our past to our ancestors, I’ve been snooping around, doing some past life regression hypnotherapy, and discovering other incarnations I’ve had. A lot of what I’ve seen are snippets of lifetimes, revealing important life lessons and such. There has also been an amazing healing component, including see a lifetime where I was put to death for being clairvoyant (a “witch” at the Salem Witch Trials). Contrary to popular accounts, I was neither hung, burned at the stake, nor drowned. I was hacked to death with an ax; as slowly and painfully as possible. The cool thing about “seeing” this in hypnosis, was I was able to know the intense fear that everyone involved had around the concern about going to hell. The whole thing revolved around intense fear.

    My Dad had a book about our family that went back through our paternal linage in England, to around 1000 A.D. I’m distantly related to Fletcher Christian of Mutiny on the Bounty. (Grandpa was born in England).

  175. I did both the ancestry.com and National Geographic dna tests. My mom was from Ireland. My dad’s parents were from Ireland (he was born in NYC – a pretty Irish place in 1926). I was hoping for the tiniest bit of viking. Guess what? Both tests show I’m Irish. Pretty much nothing but Irish. I guess I can say I am a descendant of the high kings of Ireland, but I’m pretty sure that belongs in the same category as all of those Cherokee princesses….

  176. Well, I’ve spent the day reading these comments. Very interesting. I have a hand condition called Vikings Disease and a long term auto-immune condition that was first identified in Japan. Even these high arches that make buying shoes a pain are a gift from some long gone ancestor. Thanks a lot, folks!

  177. My dad has done genealogy as far back as I can remember. He’s found some fascinating information – a relative where every member of her family but her was killed when a boiler blew up as they were crossing the Mississippi on a steamship; a relative who was a stagecoach robber in the Yellowstone area; a polygamous relative who had been left alone with her kids in the winter while her husband visited his other wife – the weight of the snow on the roof collapsed it and she dug all of her children out with her bare hands. I especially like the stories he discovers, because they really make my ancestors into real people.

    Before computers were mainstream, he had dozens of huge binders full of his research and various family trees. Now it’s all computerized and plugged into places like the LDS Genealogical Library database and Ancestry.com. While he has helped hundreds of people trace their roots due to his research, he has never been able to trace his mother’s line back any further than her grandfather – it’s always been very frustrating for him. He’s terminally ill now and I wish, before he died, I could find that link he needs to finish reaching that particular line. But, since I hold out hope about an afterlife, perhaps he can just sit down with his mother’s grandfather when he gets there and find out everything that he’s always wanted to know.

  178. Hmm, well the Iberian, African, Jewish, and Middle East could all be connected. There’s a strong African presence in Portugal from their empire. And obviously there was the Moorish influence and the Spanish Jews. But the Jewish part could be from Bohemia. Prague had a large population before WWII.
    But very interesting.

  179. I’ve been researching DNA companies but haven’t done it yet. Most serious genealogy sites seem to be recommending Family Tree DNA. I’ve read that Ancestry is particularly weak when it comes to identifying Native American DNA, which, like you I am interested in confirming on both sides of the family. I know that Ancestry’s genealogy results for my family are terribly inaccurate and I question their intentions building their database and sharing results with third parties. I’ll probably go with Family Tree DNA and one other if I can opt out of having my info shared with pharmaceutical companies and the like. Yeah, I’m a little bit paranoid.

  180. My eldest sister is a “professional” genealogist. And by “professional”, I mean she’s self-published one small intro to genealogy “book” and has been working on an extensive Native American genealogy backlog for a couple years now. She’s a crappy writer, but she knows how to research dates and names. She keeps insisting she’s “almost done… just 2,000 more names.” She declares this every other month or so. She might actually complete her task before she goes completely off the rails. I’m not holding my breath, though. Her rails have been hanging on by a thread for decades.

  181. We are too freakishly alike that I am convinced we must be distant cousins 🙂 I have been obsessed with genealogy for 20 years and then got into genetic genealogy about 3 years ago…You can download your raw autosomal DNA to gedmatch.com for free and you may find with some of their calculators that you can see through “chromosome paint” your native american heritage….Mine doesn’t show up on ancestry.com or FTDNA, but on gedmatch with different tools, you may find some connections if you haven’t tried it already….Love your blog and will always be a huge fan of your writing!!!

  182. This stuff confuses the heck out of me, so I won’t even pretend to understand it. I had a second cousin on my dad’s side doing DNA stuff and he mentioned something about the DNA results for a woman always traces the maternal line. It was explained to me that any DNA testing I did would follow the line of females in my lineage and not the paternal line. Like I said, I don’t understand it BUT (and I apologize if this sounds ridiculous) is it possible that your DNA isn’t showing Native American because that element of your history comes down through your paternal line? I mean, our DNA is comprised of both sides, right? So why would he say a woman’s DNA follows the maternal line? Any ideas? I’m probably completely wrong and he was just trying to mess with my head. ☺️

  183. Our family is registered with the U.S. government as Native American and our DNA came back 0% Native American. I’ve never found anyone who has had even 1% Native American so there are clearly issues with the DNA process.

  184. I was adopted at birth and I found my birth father last year on Ancestry.com – talk about luck! But the more interesting stories still come from my adoptive family – confirming in the 1920 and 1930 census records that my great-grandparents weren’t married for more than 20 years after my grandfather’s birth was just awesome. 🙂

  185. I do genealogy for myself and for friends, and I’m taking steps toward doing it professionally. I love the crazy stories it leads you to. People coming across the Oregon trail in the 1840s and 1850s. Or my grandfather’s wife who ran away with the army band. Or the great-grandmother who may have had 3 children by 3 different men, only one of whom she was married to! If you get further into it, DNA tests from the reputable companies can bring to light all sorts of fascinating things… I’ve found what I’m pretty sure are a couple cases of false paternity as a result of being out there in the collective DNA database. It can be another great line of evidence in your research, if utilized correctly!

    Oh, and for the record, my ethnic mix according to Ancestry:

    Europe West – 37%
    Scandinavia – 26%
    Great Britain – 23%
    Ireland – 4%
    Italy/Greece – 3%
    Iberian Peninsula – 2%
    Caucasus – 2%
    Africa North – 1%
    Europe East – <1%
    Finland/Northwest Russia – <1%
    Also 100% Weird. 🙂

  186. My whole life my mother told us we were Italian. She told us our family was from the coast between Rome and Naples. She peppered her language with Italian words. She made lasagna, spaghetti, and other pasta all the time. We celebrated La Befana by putting out our shoes for the Epiphany. She told me her mother was born in New Orleans, so on one of our visits there, when I found out the Italian community there attended what is now called the Old Ursuline Convent, I took it upon myself to scour the baptismal records, now housed at the St. Louis Cathedral offices, for my grandmother’s baptism. I took Italian in college, so I could get closer to my roots. I once found a replica of an old pasta advertisement with “Baroni”, our famly name. She was raised by My mother’s estranged from her family, so we knew very little else.

    Until my sister and I started researching our genealogy took our AncestryDNA tests.

    While I was waiting for my DNA test, I found a document that said my grandmother was born in Brownsville, not New Orleans. Barron was the family name, not Baroni, and that was on my grandmother’s side. Once I started pulling on that thread, I found that pretty much all roads on my grandmother’s side lead to Mexico.

    My estimate is:
    Senegal 2%
    Native American 22%
    Italy/Greece 11%–my sister’s came up with only 3% here (!!!)
    Iberian Peninsula 10%
    Great Britain%
    Ireland 5%–my paternal great, great grandfather came over from Ireland in the 1840s
    Scandinavia 2%
    European Jewish <1%
    Middle East 1%

    If you look at the estimate info, some regions overlap. Like my sister’s estimate is 2% Mali instead of neighboring Senegal, and Italy/Greece and Iberian Peninsula overlaps.

    I took another test, and mitochondrial DNA test, which traces that matrilineal line all the way back. I’m a part of haplogroup B2f, which means my mother’s mother’s mother’s people came from Africa, through Asia, across the Bering Strait, south to the Americas. Most of my DNA matches were people from Columbia and Mexico.

    Growing up in South Texas, this information would’ve been welcome. I can’t count the times people would go up to my mom speaking Spanish, and she’d explain that she didn’t speak it. My sister probably wouldn’t have been bused to a junior high across town in the late 1970s. We might have had quinceneras, like we always envied. Most importantly, it would’ve been the truth.

    My sister celebrated this new information with a tshirt form Chuy’s at Cinco de Mayo time that says, “Kiss Me, I’m Mexican”, and I got a 2015 Hallmark Keepsake ornament from their Angels Around the World line, representing Mexico to commemorate the year.

  187. My great grandfather denounced his Irish heritage for his whole life, claiming to be danish… because his father was an alcoholic… and he didn’t want to be labeled a “drunk Irishman”

    I didn’t understand until high school when I was assigned a project on “temperance” because hand throwing back a shot motion I was Irish.

    I’m part Native American (Cherokee… fo realz) but I “can’t claim it” because my some-great-grandfather “gave up his heritage to become white” by fighting in the war. (I of course, told my family that he did what was best for his family, but that made me no less Native American). I still herald my Irish/German/Native American… and personally… I could care less if my DNA agrees 😉

  188. I have heard so many stories about family histories, I’d bet that no one really knows exactly from which lines they are descended. My paternal grandpa came from Russia and changed his surname. We always joked that it was a truncated version of Kruschev. I suspect all of this was imaginary. Given all the uncertainty about our histories, how do we know that the DNA results are accurate? Maybe they have the equivalent of a Magic 8 ball used to predict the ethnic breakdown. I’m not making fun, I’m just suggesting that we look at the results with a healthy dose of skepticism.

  189. My uncle (by marriage) had a distant relative write to him looking for information on his great grandfather. My uncle wrote back saying “you really don’t want to know” but the the guy insisted. So my uncle wrote him back, the guy had rode with Jessie James during the outlaw days and was eventually hung. The distant relative never wrote back.

  190. Just finished both your audio books in two weeks. Love your sense of humor. From an ancestry standpoint, check out the “Melungeons” and related people of the south. Tri-racial (Caucasian, African and Native American) people that date back to the first settlers. They were descendants of traders, sailors, explorers and indentured servants from the early 1600’s in the US. Some assimilated and some headed for the Appalachian mountains

  191. Haven’t done a DNA test to confirm what we “know”, which is >50% English, ~25% Welsh, ~25 German, with a touch of Native American, which as we all know comes out to 100% weird.

    It would be interesting to see what the DNA tests “confirm”.

  192. My mom’s side of the family has had extensive genealogy done by pros, there’s an annual family reunion in a place called Kennamer Cove – apparently the guy who was recording passenger names for the ship on which the father and son who were our first ancestors to arrive in the U.S. sailed thought the “G” sounded like “K”, so the two men simply kept that spelling (probably because they’d gotten tired of trying to correct all the idiots who didn’t understand them.) Before that revelation it was believed the family came from the Netherlands, once figuring out the name change it was confirmed that we were originally from the Palatinate region of Germany.

    I refuse to do dna ancestry testing, I don’t like the idea of 3rd parties being able to buy the information from dna databases or obtain it via court order/government inquest. If they want my dna they can come take it from me, after they get across the moat, defeat the hyenas, and then dodge a few rounds of buckshot.

  193. We are 98% related. For I am 98% weird and 2% fruity :).

    Fabulous post as always. I am tempted to do DNA testing on my dogs (pure curiosity), but have never really had the urge to do it on myself. I have enough issues with my here and now, never mind knowing anything about my then and there.

  194. I wouldn’t put too much stock in the DNA testing – especially from Ancestry.com They told my husband that he had no Native American but was European…… his grandfather was born on the reservation in Oklahoma and was 100% Cherokee! I also had a friend that did it and she is also Native American they told her she had Oriental blood…. I could see that more logically if her tribe had migrated across the Bering Straite millions of years ago! LOL So, don’t take it too seriously.

  195. “People’s genetics do not reflect specific groups, since the high degree of genetic mixing over centuries means that even cultures with strong cultural boundaries do not have noticeable genetic differences.”

  196. I’ve tried researching my family history but once I get to a certain point, I’m stumped because I can’t afford right now to pay whatever it is a year for Ancestry.com’s pay service. I’m stuck with the free service and not a whole lot of knowledge on how to go about this researching thing unfortunately.

    I’ve been told there are Native Americans in our family bloodline also..which I have no idea if it’s true or not but it does make a certain amount of sense. From what I HAVE been able to discover, my grandmother’s family lived in/around the Eastern TN/ N. Caroline border area for at least the last 300 or so years. And I know a lot of Cherokee are from that area. So it makes sense that they MIGHT have intermarried.


  197. Genealogy research is just plain addictive. Also aggravating—don’tcha just love the people who blindly copy and paste names and dates into their “research” so they have effectively listed siblings as married and/or have children listed with birth dates years after the parents have died (usually of old age), among other musing things. Heavy sigh.

    The DNA thing was best explained to me like this: Each person is a unique recipe made from a list of available ingredients. Available ingredients come from each grandparent that came before us—to “infinity.” While you may have gotten a pinch of paprika, cinnamon, saffron and a whole lot of salt, pepper with rosemary mixed into a base of roux—out of that same pantry, your sibling could have received a base of beef stock with salt and pepper, along with a pinch of rosemary and sage. To me, that’s what’s fascinating about DNA—the difference in “ingredients” within families. You have to look at the individual ingredients of each person to see what is/was available from the family pantry.

    Families (especially women) have been destroyed due to genetic “anomalies” that have shown up in children. Imagine both parents being olive skinned brunettes with dark eyes and the mother gives birth to a fair-skinned, green-eyed redhead that is a throwback from her husband’s 5th great Irish grandparent that had migrated to Italy almost two centuries ago. Oh yeah, there’d have been some fallout.

    Haven’t done the DNA thing yet. I already know I’m related to myself at LEAST a couple-dozen different ways from and within both parent’s sides. When both my parent’s families hit the Ohio Valley a couple hundred years ago, most couldn’t seem to find their way out, but seemed to find each other every fairly often. True story: My 69 year old mother went to a childhood friend’s funeral recently and promptly called me laughing in glee. She had seen many of my father’s extended family at the funeral representing BOTH SIDES of the deceased’s family and knew they were interrelated because of my research. She was only a little less amused when I told her she was related to many of them too! Inbreeding, it’s not just for royalty …

  198. I personally just think you are 100% awesome and that’s all that matters. : )

  199. Which test did you use? I wonder if there’s something missing in the data, say, 123andme uses, as we have potential Native American ancestry and nothing showed on my mom’s report. (I am perhaps overly amused that, as I suspected, our ancestry is OMG white..99.7% European.)

  200. I was told for a long time we had Native American blood in our family (but they didn’t like to talk about it shhhh). I think that’s the thing all Caucasians want to here so we won’t feel so bad about what was done to the native people. And the “we don’t like to talk about it, while talking about it” part, is because we have zero proof. I took the Ancestry DNA test and nada. However, at the time, they said it wouldn’t tell me. I’ve yet to find anything super interesting about my family history. My cousin is a DAR, so I could become a SAR. Also had Federal (Union) Soldiers in the civil war, so I could be GAR or Sons of GAR. I think we were mostly shifty and peasants. I’d like to know a lot more, but I don’t want to research it.

    This is synchronicity though, because I was watching “Finding Your Roots” on PBS last night and I was thinking I want to take that Y chromosome test for males.

    My results (which I think must be accurate because my 1st cousin took this test and it said there was a good chance we were 1st cousins). However, my mom’s sie of the family is very German, and, well:

    Europe 99%

    Great Britain 80%
    Scandinavia 8%
    Trace Regions
    Europe West 4%
    Ireland 3%
    Europe East 3%
    Italy/Greece < 1%

    West Asia 1%

    Trace Regions
    Caucasus 1%
  201. I’m interested to know exactly how those DNA tests work and how accurate they are. What exactly are they measuring? I wonder if my 1% Cherokee (at least according to family legend) would show up.

  202. I don’t know if you read past 200 comments lol but I suspect that in a weird parallel to black people claiming Native ancestry to explain away their white features many white families claim Native heritage rather than black or mixed heritage. Your “Native” ancestor may have preferred to ID as Native American than Black/Mixed.

  203. My dad is OBSESSED with genealogy and recently did one of those DNA tests. His closest match on Ancestry.com was a guy in New Zealand–and when they traded pictures, they found that they looked so much alike that the other guy’s own mom saw my dad’s picture and said to her son, “When did you have that photo taken?” His grandfather was adopted, and they think he was originally from England or Ireland where all my dad’s ancestors are from and somehow ended up in New Zealand, but unfortunately no one knows the story for sure.

    Also, fun fact: my daughter and I are 7th cousins. Let’s just say our family tree doesn’t have as many branches as it should.

  204. Those two middle pictures on the left reminded me immediately of your daughter…looks just like her!

    My family includes a few individuals who were chased down by the law for a fair chunk of their lives, for stuff they did indeed do…I’m a little afraid to look any farther into my family, for fear that I’ll need to pack up my stuff and run!!

  205. I’m tickled that you’re doing genealogy & managed to convince your family to do DNA tests with you. My mom’s Ancestry DNA test just came back a couple of days ago and it was very surprising. I had pretty firm expectations of what to expect based on her known ancestry and my own DNA test, but I was very wrong in some ways. She has a lot more Mediterranean and even a tiny bit of South Asian!

    One thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of people seem to have way more Scandinavian and Irish pop up in their results than they expect. I honestly think the markers they assigned to those “ethnicities” are more common in the general European/Euro-American population than they expected and so may be are less useful for determining whether any of your recent ancestors were actually from Ireland or Scandinavia.

    One thing I wish someone had warned me about when I first got into genealogy is how weird and kinda upsetting when it would be when I stumbled upon the slaveholders. And trust — if you’re a white person in the South you are like 99% likely to find out about at least one ancestor who owned slaves. When part of your identity is being an “enlightened” not-racist person and you find out that great^3 grandma tried to flee with her slaves to Texas to escape their Union rescuers and THAT’S how part of your family ended up in the state you’re now so proud to be from… yeah, that’s not a cool story.

  206. Wow, what a can of worms you opened, Jenny! Pamela Mason (British humorist, talk show host, long deceased) used to say that a man’s purpose in life is to get a woman pregnant, go off to war and get killed. There you have it: The history of the world in one sentence.

  207. I’ve seen the commercials with the guy who isn’t at all what he thought he was and wondered how that was possible. How cool is it that you are a Squirrel Princess, though?

  208. I did the test a couple of years ago. No surprises on ethnicity, really. No remnants of old stories of true love overcoming cultural and geographic boundaries. Unless you consider a high percentage of Neanderthal DNA. I had read they were arty and rather musical and exotic with all that red hair everywhere. Sure, why not?

    After the first year, people started contacting me, saying they were related and we should figure out how. DNA doesn’t always get passed down in a 50-50 way from parent to child. Not an exact science for sure, but interesting.

  209. One of the oddest things I discovered in my genealogical research was a tradition among my Hebrideon Scottish relatives. They had high birth rates, and unfortunately high infant mortality rates. If a child died young, they would name the next born child of the same gender, the same name as the one that died. One generation had 3 Margarets, 2 Johns, and 2 Davids, and only one of each survived to adulthood.

  210. I’m thrilled that you’re posting about genealogy! I am always trying to convince my friends to research their family history, telling them it truly changes how you think about yourself and the world around you. It’s a maddening hobby, but such a rewarding one.

    Doing the research before you do the DNA test is important. I always advise people to do the work before they take the test, just like you did. That said, DNA results can be confusing, even if you have proven many generations of ancestors and feel confident about your heritage. My family had a experience similar to yours in that a DNA test didn’t match up with the research. My father’s Y-DNA test results indicated he wasn’t related to anyone with his surname, but a different surname entirely. Long story short, several hundred years ago there must have been a “non-paternal event,” because he’s not genetically linked to other men with his surname, aside from his known, living relatives. This event happened a long time ago, and we’ll probably never know what happened exactly, but it means that genetically we’re different than we thought. Whether this is a result of infidelity, rape, adoption, or who-knows-what, it was buried and not passed down in folklore. This happens more often than you’d think. All you can do is keep following the paper trail and trying to solve that mystery! Wishing you all the best with your search.

  211. I was reading reviews on this kit (starting with the bad ones first as I always do) and came across this one that said:

    This was a VERY INACCURATE account of my genetics. In fact, after speaking to many of my relatives who also took this test, it appears Ancestry cannot get the Native American gene to show in their results. Mine showed zero percent, when my grandparents on both sides are Native American.

    So I’m not sure this test will help you. Good luck with your finding of your history, my favorite part of researching my ancestry is definitely the STORIES I hear along the way.

  212. My parents did the DNA testing, then told me, “you should get yours done, too!” I told them that I thought that was the dumbest idea I’d ever heard because either it would show exactly what theirs showed, and be a waste of money; or it would show something totally different, which would then mean that someone had been hiding something BIG for the past 40 years.

  213. Someone may have already mentioned this, in which case just ignore me, but I only have until this episode of Curious George ends to type this so no time to look at other comments. It sounds like your Native American ancestry is on your mother’s side and it’s through her mother. We don’t inherit all of our parents’ DNA unless it is father to son. Women only get part of their father’s dna and everyone only gets part of their mother’s. So Native DNA not showing up in your grandmother doesn’t mean it isn’t there (though there is that possibility too.) If by chance your grandmother has any living siblings, they would be your next best bet, followed by their decendants.

    My husband supposedly has Native ancestry, but it’s very far back if he does. Even if he was tested and it didn’t show, it wouldn’t prove anything because it’s on his mom’s side. Now if he was tested, his brothers, mom, aunts and uncle and cousins and no one showed any, then it would be pretty safe to say it’s family legend and not true.

  214. I did 23AndMe, and I came up with a lot more English than I expected. But my Dad was adopted, and so who knows?

    BTW, if you’re in the Rust Belt or your family came from there, and you’re on 23AndMe, message DeeBitner! We might be related! Even cousins! Or not, but it’s fun to compare! 😀

  215. This is a fascinating topic for me. I love geneaology! I had always been told that my mothers family (her grandmother specifically) was Native American but when I started doing the search there was nothing. But then I came across a VERY interesting KET Kentucky Life special (which I will try to attach for you) and I think this is more likely what her family is made up of, not Native American.
    PS. I really want to do the DNA testing but my husband thinks it is a scam. Loser.


  216. I am an ancestry addict thanks to my mom. We have traced her family back to the 1620’s when they came in the early groups of settlers. They didn’t come on the Mayflower but weren’t far behind. My parents did the DNA testing and the stories of Native American ancestry from my dad’s side appear as just that, stories. He had 0% native american. We were shocked to find some on my mom’s side. It is all so fascinating.

  217. I’ve stopped & started numerous times when it comes to genealogy, for much the same reasons.

    Estrangement from my family – as they literally drive me insane has also not helped.

    From what I know, I’m 25% Italian (paternal grandmother was born in Bristol England to migrants from Sicily), thrown in with some English, Irish, & not entirely sure what else.

    I have an Irish surname, but a Jewish first name; not sure if that’s co-incidence, someone trying to give me a hint on family history, or just an anomaly.

    My maternal grandfather’s side were abandoned by their grandfather, & adopted by a man who had them all take his name, so that kind of leads to speculation & dead ends.
    The family member that abandoned his wife & kids was named Silas Clothier, so I suspect he may have been from a Jewish background.

    Likewise, my paternal grandfather was born out of wedlock, though he had a good number of siblings, & adopted the same family name; there’s conjecture as to whether they all had the same father or he is actually a half sibling.
    From what I can gather, his original surname became his middle name, & quite a few of his kids; my dad included had this name included as one of their names on their birth certificates, which came as a surprise to them when they discovered it!

    My maternal grandmother was also born out of wedlock, so there’s some uncertainty there.

    All my grandparents are long dead, the most recently was 1995, so no way of finding out their versions of the family history.

    It’s fair to assume they deliberately took a good few family secrets with them to the grave.

    I’ve also found a not so distant relative who spent the majority of her life in a mental hospital, so I know that regardless of assertions to the contrary, mental illness runs in the family, & I am not the odd one out; in fact I’m more normal than most of the relatives I know!

    I’m proud to be 100% weird though, & would not want to be any other way.

  218. DNA means the world to me. I’m adopted and my birthmother refused to tell me who my father was. I took three tests and between all my matches I found my paternal half. They’re from Texas! 😀 My father is deceased but I found a very loving brother, aunt, nephews, and others. I’m beyond happy I made the effort, especially for future generations.

  219. I’m delighted you’re Irish. Some of the best people are, and I’d have been more surprised if you weren’t! The Irish are creative and funny and loving and fiercely loyal. And don’t be disappointed about the American Indian part. My ex is descended from Pocahontas for real, and he and his father are HUGE a**holes, so American Indian descent is no guarantee of goodness and decency of a person. 0% of the Pocahontas goodness made it to them. LOL

  220. TxTornado- I have ass in my family, too! Maybe we’re related. There is an actual book tracing my father’s family back to the 1600s. My mother’s side, the 1910s. Lots of mystery there. I’m hoping for elvin DNA with maybe some faeries.

  221. Genealogy is such interesting stuff… and extra hard to trace when my grandmother was a prostitute who gave up my mother for adoption, then changed her life to a more normal one. We know who my grandmother was, but not her parents. And even more odd, we can’t find a death record so she’s about 100 now.

    At this point, I don’t care enough to do DNA testing, because the concept of knowing who I am now has been more important.

    The names and stories that we can find, however, are fascinating!

  222. My large, extended family has always been obsessed with passing on family “stories” which is great because it’s that oral tradition that keeps the stories alive and given from one generation to another. What’s interesting to me is that my favorite story in what we know about my dad’s side of the family is that his grandfather was supposedly a horse thief who “ran to Texas”! Also, on my mom’s side, her father was a bootlegger in the back hills of Kentucky and once sold a real Confederate dollar to someone for a couple of bucks, because, you know, whiskey. So I guess it shows I’m kind of warped since I find the black sheep of the families more interesting than the honest, hard-working ones. Also, my great-grandmother’s husband beat her and one night she tied him to the bed and horsewhipped him! He never beat her again. I love that story! : )

  223. My grandmother researched our family tree going back generations and followed multiple branches for her side and my grandfather’s side. Her research filled seven or eight 3 inch binders. The most impressive part is that this was done before computers were used. After her death my sister took over and started using Ancestry to verify things. So far all her research was correct. My family has been in the states so long that we go back to the Mayflower, but my sister hopes to extend the branches to find our European lines.
    PS, my daughter and I met you in Dayton, OH on your tour. She gave you the Ponies on a plane picture and you signed the book cover poster. She loves that poster! She also uses you as inspiration. If you can deal with stuff that scares you, but you really want to do it, so can she. She going on a class trip in the spring to DC and is signed up to do Color Guard with marching band next year as a freshman. As a mother I’m sure you understand what it means to see our kids live their dreams and I thank you for inspiring her and being a great role model!

  224. My father’s mother’s line dead-ends at an ancestor who was a Prussian mercenary in the Revolutionary War. He was apparently notorious enough that when the war ended he changed his name, taking his last name tom the county he settled in, and attempted to fade into obscurity. 🙂

  225. We did a DNA test too, and I was surprised to find very little Eastern European. I was told that was where my maiden surname came from originally. But I guess the family was in Italy so long before coming to the US that those traces were all but wiped out. My first puzzle was my great-grandparents (on my mother’s side, the side that’s been here since the Revolution). One census showed her as a “servant” in my great-grandfather’s family’s farm. A few months later, a marriage certificate. 6 months later, a baby. I think I can connect the dots there!

    On my father’s side, the problem was names. One branch is Italian, the other German. And one thing is common: Everyone got anglicized in WWII. So people were born with one name and died with another, or were known by the anglicized names in all but the government records (like Social Security). So the living relations knew one person as “Aunt Kate” when she was really Concetta. I’m looking all over the place for a Kate or a Catherine or a Katherine!

  226. I’m lucky, I don’t need a DNA test…I know I’m a little bit country…a little bit rock and roll

  227. Jenny, I like the 100% weird part most of all! We are not our past…but it is nice to be able to talk to people who were there..my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles have all passed and I have no one left to talk to about it or ask who is in this picture I found except for my cousins and they are too young to know. Write on the back of pictures if you have them…future generations won’t even have pictures because they will all be online or on the “cloud” somewhere….I have been doing my own genealogy research to try and find some things out and am surprised by some of it. I am weird too! 100%…

  228. It comforts me to hear you talk about your family history like it’s a weight. I feel like that too. It sort of makes me feel like I am a doomed human sometimes. And I haven’t even researched mine! I don’t think ever will either. The bits and pieces I know already are pretty bad so I don’t want to know any more.

    I just finished reading Furiously Happy. I’m sure you know this already but I am going to say it anyway – it’s AMAZING. I reread Let’s Pretend This Never Happened whenever I am going through a hard time, so it’s great to have another book to add to my list. Thank you 🙂

    The main reason I am commenting is because a story in your book reminded me of something in my own life that made me smile. Toward the end you talked about Hailey’s girl scout group? You said that she embarrassed you by being yay mum you made a friend! This reminded me of when I was 8 and my mum was trying to deal with her depression. We were in a petrol station and just as we got to the front of the queue I loudly asked her how group therapy had been that day. I read my mum that part of your book and we both laughed about it and me.

  229. It’s interesting that so many people have this mysterious Native American in their family lore. I say this because I am old enough to remember many elders in my family who would never admit to such a thing, even if it was verifiable. Sadly enough, Native Americans were thought of as sub-human and were surely not admired. Such an incident as a mixed birth in the family would have been covered up and never discussed again. DNA would tell the tale, though, and times are different now.

  230. I have been lurking for about a year. I sometimes try to join communities, but I always do it wrong. I’m not broken in the right way or I don’t talk about it right. I don’t know. I’ve spent a lot of ,y life literally under tables or hiding in closets with snacks and a book. I haven’t been able to write for like ten years and I have been for two weeks. So I submitted some stuff. And I randomly googled my grandma today. And I found her obituary from September. Nobody in my family told me. And literally two minutes later I got a rejection email from one of the sites I submitted to. And it’s all just too fucking much at once. I have been crying for hours and I’m just so hurt right now. I’m not looking for a fix. I know this will pass. I know every writer gets a million rejections. But it doesn’t stop the pain and the fear and horrible thoughts.

    (I am sending you love and light. This is not your fault. You will get through this. Love ~ Jenny PS. I got rejected from sites all the time. It’s a rite of passage.)

  231. I’ve been working on my genealogy for years. I’ve been thinking about having one of those DNA tests as well, in part because my great grandmother spelled her maiden last name completely different on.every.single.damn.document, which makes research an adventure.

    Depending on which family member you talk to and what old forms you look at we’re either Gypsies* from Hungary, Romanian, German, or some sort of combination of all of the above.

  232. DNA testing was and still is very contentious for many Indigenous people regarding how people are defined and the conclusions that are drawn from it about identity so many people refused to participate when the human genome project was underway in the 90’s. So yes many of your thoughts about the Naive American side of things could be true.

    As an aside, in my family history research I discovered very unexpectedly that my husband and I share the same English 4th great grandparents from the early 1800s!! So we and our siblings are all 5th cousins (we grew up in opposite ends of our state with no known connection). Then again this was from a time when Australia still had a small although very changeable population!

  233. What can be more confusing is when your father migrated from Italy when he was 12 and when you get your test results back…there is 0% Italian DNA found and your both your parents are dead so you can’t ask questions…This happened to my friends aunt. Wow, now what?? Crazy!

  234. Weird is good enough. I’d hope to be unique enough to get flagged as divergent instead of any mix of previously known races.

  235. This stuff fascinates me. I’ve always wanted to start exploring my ancestry, but I just know it’s a rabbit hole I’ll never climb out of… But then there’s also the chance I’ll find out one of my relatives was a wizard or something, so… Ancestry.com, here I come!

  236. I’d love to do the genealogy thing one of these days. One side of my family goes on and on about how they’re descended from minor British royalty and Maori tribespeople, while the other side is like: “Meh. We’re a bunch of Irish drunks.” I kind of suspect that if I look it up, the Irish drunk side will prove to be far more interesting. But, for sure, the whole family is 100% weird. No need to look that up or test it.

  237. I can’t wait to do mine, one day when I have an extra couple hundred bucks. I’d love to know my DRD4 status for the risk-taking gene (I suspect I’m a heavy positive) but I’m also dying to get to the bottom of a family legend that says my great-grandmother’s name was Red Feather from a Sioux tribe. No one living ever knew her.

  238. T, thanks for unlurking and welcome! I am sorry you are carrying so much pain right now, but you are right, it will pass. Please know that you will not be judged here, it’s a safe place to reach out. Peace and comfort to you and yours. Mary

  239. I do not think Ancestry is wrong. Some people many have gotten incorrect into from their family or heard rumors. Potential just means maybe/might have some Native America, not that you do 100% (especially if you don’t have any records that can verify that you do). Maybe some do and some don’t.

    I know for a fact that will show up if you do have it as it showed up with me –
    Africa 2%
    Trace Regions 2%
    Mali 1%
    Africa North < 1%

    America 16%
    Native American 16%

    Asia < 1%
    Trace Regions < 1%
    Asia Central < 1%

    Europe 80%
    Ireland 25%
    Italy/Greece 16%
    Great Britain 15%
    Europe West 7%
    Iberian Peninsula 7%
    Scandinavia 6%
    Trace Regions 4%
    Finland/Northwest Russia 3%
    European Jewish < 1%
    Europe East < 1%

    Pacific Islander 1%
    Trace Regions 1%
    Polynesia 1%

    The Asia Central, Polynesia and Finland/Northwest Russia may have some ties. Most of my Native Ancestors were from Mexico; but not all (one was Pueblo and may have some from South America/Brazil).

    I think it is good to know for sure to rule out old family tales or uncertainties and to start learning about you ancestry as there any wonderful cultures out there. It can help with brick walls as you will have more of idea for where you should look for records. These may be estimates; but they seem to match up with what I know for the most part and I found some actual cousins (including two who are second cousins. One from my mom’s side and another from my dad’s side), so it was worth taking the test as it helped me understand more about my ancestry.

  240. The Iberian Jew and miscellaneous middle eastern DNA most likely comes from those slavic ancestors. In my studies I have learned that as far back as Atilla the Hun, when the far east is on fire with political intrigue, the remnants run for the middle of Europe. And that should tell you how desperate people are because that means crossing the Carpathian Mountains. For instance, Central German Franconian tribes absorbed many refugees from the Hunnic diaspora a few decades before the Romans made real footholds in the German mountains. Far Easterners for whatever reason, get into Hungary, Romania and Easter Germany and settle down instead of continuing on to the warmer coastal climes. My Hungarian German grandmother is the rogue line where we get the dark haired Jewish traits which would have built on the Hun DNA.
    Knowing this, I find it interesting the backlash in Germany about taking refugees at the moment. I think someone got in there and muddled the waters. Germany has had a long multi-millennial tradition of being losely formed tribes anxious to add new blood into the genetic mix. And, as I said, for whatever reason, when the rest of the world runs away that is where they go. It has been this way since before 1000AD.

  241. I was just looking at ancestry right before I clicked over to you to “clear my brain.” Hunh.
    My problem is that I’m searching for Thomas and Smith and Wilson in England and Ireland.

    Often frustrating, but always fun.

  242. On my dad’s side of the family, we’re pretty recently American. Like, I’m 3rd generation from my grandmother’s side, and I think 4th from my grandfather’s. On my mother’s side of the family, though, I know we’re British right back to the 1500’s, so there’s a possibility of slaveownership there. I guess some of that family was at the original Plymouth rock settlement and all that, or so I’ve recently been told. I don’t know much about that side of the family.

    I wonder if human DNA testing is a bit like dog DNA testing, though, and it’s heavily dependent on what’s in the database. It seems like fun either way. I don’t even know my blood type, though I did just have blood drawn for genetic testing due to my fun medical adventures lately.

  243. Lol! My husband and I did this a couple years ago. Very interesting and great health info too. He was also surprised about his lack of Native American DNA based on his family assumptions of their history… Interesting 🙂

  244. My wife and I used 23&me for dna stuffs. It came back as we both expected. It showed that I have distant relatives in Canada so now she is dropping canuk jokes on me Barney Stinson style.

    Sometimes knowledge is a dangerous thing……

  245. Oh, okay wow, a hundred dollar test kit. Maybe if Social Security finally decides I’m actually as disabled as my family and doctors say I am. But, I have traced my maternal ancestry back all the way to the Choctaw chief, Moshulatubbee, which I’m told means “Determined To Kill”. Also, on my paternal side, my grandfather, Woodrow Wilson Duncan, all the way back to my great great great great grandfather, David Crockett Duncan. Apparently we have a loooong family history of fangirling. I mean, honoring famous people. Good thing I didn’t have a son in the 1980’s or he might have been named Simon LeBon Duncan.

  246. Why I knew that there were dog DNA sets and never thought that there might be human ones, I don’t know. I may try this, because my paternal grandparents were silent on where they came from. I always just assumed they were axe murderers, but maybe I will get some info this way!

  247. FYI, I read several reviews of this that say that Native American for some reason never comes up as a result, even if there are known and proven Native American ancestors. May be worth looking further into!

  248. Started to follow my history. Even found a man going back to the city my family was born in. We also shared the same last Italian name. Then of course the depression happened and suddenly you are paralyzed to finish what you started. Of coarse like other projects/responsibilities, I’m too ashamed to reconnect.

  249. Just FYI, we did that same DNA test, and it showed no Native American, but we have large documented proof( My great grandmother was full blooded/reservation living Native). My uncle questioned it, they did a retest and miraculously it showed the Native. I think the company is inaccurate.

  250. You are fortunate. My family was a bunch of super secretive weirdos. By the time I was old enough to want to know things everyone was dead. So it’s just me. But that’s ok really. 🙂

  251. Hi Jenny: Many people who claimed to be “Native American” (or “Indian”) really weren’t aboriginal but rather people with other backgrounds who joined a tribe for whatever reason, intermarried, and eventually were accepted as Indians when they weren’t. Where I come from we call them “Pretendians”. Most of the Seminole nation was made up of non-aboriginals. Historically documenting Native American blood was economically and politically very important. Now with DNA testing we can do it a lot more accurately – which if widely used could completely change how Native American tribes and governments are perceived.

  252. I heard that they only trace back the female line? Perhaps that’s why you are not seeing your grandma’s Native American stuff?

  253. I have been wanting to do the DNA test for awhile now, because I was adopted in 1972, and back then they didn’t give adoptive parents ANY information about ethnicities or health. They just said “here’s your baby” and locked the file forever. I assume, being born in Central Missouri, that I’m German like everyone else there, but it would be nice to KNOW.

  254. Jenny, there MIGHT be a reason why you didn’t get the Native American part of your heritage that I learn recently. Native Americans often allowed people who weren’t Native American in blood to be considered Native American, if the community accepted them as their own. And this happened a lot. However, there is a good chance that the DNA from the tribe your from either isn’t around anymore (due to the fact many were wiped out) or that they simply aren’t giving DNA for such things seeing as they have no reason to trust such studies and the fact it’s backfired on them before in the past.
    Hope this might help some!!

  255. I’m 50% slavic – grandparents from Bohemia as well, and I’m Irish too – and when I was on Ancestry, found my grandmothers family came here from England in the 1600’s…wild, so much in common!

  256. It’s really kind of rotten that the fee disqualifies so many of us from participating. How do they justify that? Wouldn’t wider participation provide loads more genetic code? That and the fact that few women in the past had much say in who sired their children. It makes me very grateful to be born when I was. Also sad that the fee for a computer printout equals two months groceries for SS recipients.

  257. Jenny- I just started your book- first two page. I’m a funny person but I broke down
    I’ve thought about suicide. I decided to postpone that until I finish this book. I’d love to leave you my name and number but I’m afraid about the crazies I’d get.
    love you- mean it

  258. I always heard my grandfather was part Native American. I used FamilyTree DNA and the marker came up. For the most part, it was pretty on spot for my family. It did not do the percentages though like the others do. You can easily be Skavic and part Jewish. Many Sephardics were settled in Slavic countries. My husband’s family was originally from Bitola but they were all over the Ottoman Empire.

  259. Hi. I came upon your blog while googling “native american Iberian Peninsula”. I have native american ancestors, also, and had an ancestry dna test done which showed NONE. However, it did show Iberian peninsula (1%) Italy/Greek (7%) for which I have little to no answers. I’ve subsequently read that Cherokees, for one, have Iberian peninsula dna. I’m now investigating. My Native Americans are from the east coast (appears to be Rappahannock tribe). Yours?

  260. I had to reply to your post because good old “Squirrel King” is in my mom’s family tree as well! His DNA is probably too far back in my tree to turn up in autosomal dna testing. Like Cara, I was searching about native americans and the Iberian Peninsula DNA. My ancestry dna test showed no native american, but I did get 3% Iberian peninsula. I believe I have some Cherokee ancestry through my father’s line. I may experiment with one of the other companies to see what turns up.

  261. Hi–just want to let you know that I have Native American heritage, and not so far back. My mom’s grandmother (my g grandmother) was NA and I expected to show 10% or so. I show various amounts depending which algorithm, but never more than 2. Like you–I’m showing Iberian and up to 10% middle eastern and sephardic Jew, which is nowhere in my history. To further confuse things, “Native American” doesn’t describe the average Native American person in particular tribes genetically. For instance, Algonquins (my g grandmother) have less than half “Native American” genes. The NA tribes that are being described as near 100% NA genetically are more southerly. At any rate, this is not yet a science, it is an art using science. I believe it will improve. You (and everyone) should upload your tree and your dna to gedmatch.com where you can run your results through various analysis. It’s free or you can pay $10 for the extras they have, but it’s run by total dna tech geeks that I think will end up making some breakthroughs. Right now I’m connecting my tree and dna through 3 different sites to try to learn more through the recorded history. Very best of luck to you!

  262. My family has the same Native American ancestor legend that is fairly common esp. here in Oklahoma. I think at one point it must have been cool to tell people that you had Native Ancestry even though you werent on the rolls. If you look at the DNA forums it happens alot, the people in denial are the funniest. Something that also happens is when people get surprising results from siblings that should be closer matched and then find out Mom was had been fooling around, so add that factor into the mix a generation or 2 back and you can get some surprising results. Another factor people overlook is that in the past people werent as forthcoming about adoptions which would also result in some surprises.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: