Thursday, April 6, 2017


Origins of Ed
A reader brought up some good questions based upon my post from yesterday and I thought they merited their own post.

Years ago in the pursuit of deeper genealogy, I took a DNA test through It brings up a whole list of worries since DNA tests can open up cans of worms that were meant to stay sealed among families. I have met several people who have essentially learned that they had adulterous ancestors or some that adopted without telling the children somewhere back along their tree by taking DNA tests. The tests can show with a great degree of certainty close relatives back as far as five generations and can match you with others who have the same genetic code. So if you take a Y-DNA test which tests genetic material only along your paternal line and discover you are related to hundreds of Smiths but your last name isn't Smith, it can spell that somewhere along the line, a male Smith ancestor isn't your blood ancestor for whatever reason.

I should break here to say that even though exact copies of your paternal ancestors code is passed down through the years, about once every three to four generations, a mutation of one of those genes can occur. It is natural and happens to everyone which is why we gradually evolve instead of being exact 50% copies of each of our parents. By tracing those mutations and using math, genealogy places can match you to other people with the same mutations and give accurate estimates at how far back you are most likely related.

So saying all that, it was a relief to get back my DNA test and see that all the people who were related to me and matched up by all shared the same surname as my birth surname. I am the product of a knowing adoption due to a divorce so even though I now have a different surname, I still know my birth surname. It has allowed me to connect with other people whom I am related too but with whom we don't know our connecting ancestor. Many times we've been able to figure it out eventually but sometimes we can't. I usually suspect either an adulterous ancestor or a "secret" adoption as the culprit and those are almost impossible to trace without finding a living male descendant along that particular line and having another Y-DNA test done.

I've also had another DNA test done that goes back further in your DNA tree and compares you to millions of other people to measure how "close" your DNA is. They can actually tell  you where your ancestors came from in percentages with a high degree of certainty. For example, I am:

63% Great Britain
23% Europe West which includes countries like Germany, Belgium, France and Switzerland
5% Scandinavian which includes countries Norway, Sweden and Denmark
4% Irish
2% Iberian Peninsula which includes countries Spain and Portugal
1% Italy/Greece

They also have low confidence regions such as Western Asia which includes most of the Middle East and Northern Africa both of which comprise less than 1% of my DNA makeup each. In the write-up, they provide, they state this is most like ancient left over bits of DNA remaining from ancestors who rose up at the birth of humans and migrated into Asia and Europe. They also tested for European Jewish ancestors and Native American ancestors but found no DNA markers for either.

Recently, technology has allowed them to hone in on particular migration waves of immigrants coming to the United States. From my DNA, they tell me that two of them, Early Settlers of New York and Early Settlers of the Northeast, play significant parts to my genetic makeup. The Early Settlers of New York are comprised of German, English, Scottish and Irish immigrants who came in the 1700's and joined the earlier Dutch and Scandinavian groups already in the area. The Early Settlers of the Northeast are the same German, English, Scottish and Irish immigrants but ones that comprise some of the first settlers in the United States. If you compare these ancestors with the map shown on yesterday's post, you can then see their migration routes as they expanded westward and eventually landing in my state of Iowa and producing me who is writing about it some 300 years later.

Early Settlers of the Northeast


sage said...

I keep wondering what my DNA might reveal. I have a lot of Scots blood, but I wonder if I might also have a lot of Scandinavian blood as the Vikings seemed to enjoy raping and plundering those remote Scottish isles. Supposedly there is a bit of English, Welsh, German and Dutch, too, but I'd be curious to see.

Kelly said...

Very interesting! My brother and his wife keep saying they are going to do a DNA test so they can have that information for their kids (and my other brother's kids since my brothers were originally married to sisters). I assume my brother's test would show my heritage as well. From the genealogy work done on both sides of my family, I expect the majority to come from the UK and Ireland, but who really knows.

I'm not that concerned about what might be found as a result.... more about my DNA being "on file" so to speak. That's why I'm happy to let my brother do it and I'll just make assumptions from there.

Vince said...

Due to migrations, and frankly, ethnic cleansing in northern Europe you could say those numbers would match I suppose 70+% of the current population.
In a way I find those numbers quite fascinating. But in another way I find them quite dangerous. The test for Jewishness for instance. A; I just don't see how, and B; if I was to try to find a greater %% of Jewish genes I'd go to Portugal or even Morocco. I simply don't see how the Ashkenazim would have more of a significant genetic difference but for a few points above the general population. The Sephardic, on the other hand, due to the religious laws under the Ottomans would have produced a distillation. But like that cure chick on NCSI LA there is in Portugal perhaps 300 families.

Ed said...

Sage - I keep hoping they will "revamp" my results to report any neanderthal in me. My wife says it is obvious! But thus far, that hasn't been added to the DNA report that I have access too.

Kelly - There are two different DNA tests one can take and I have done both. There is Y-DNA which is transmitted from father to son only so in the case of your brother, he would have to take that test for you to get the results. There is also mitochondria DNA which is passed down only from your mother to both sons and daughters. This gives you a look on your mother's side of the family. For those in the middle, it is really unknown and neither test will help you unless you find a direct descendant from those lines. Neither of those DNA tests really tell you much in the way of health since they only look in specific spots on your DNA. For that, one needs a full DNA analysis which I have never done and I don't know if there are companies out there that still do it. There were but at one time there was some concern over privacy and many stopped offering them.

Vince - There are about a dozen groups (haplotypes) from northern, western Europe that people are classified in. I believe my group has the name R1B. Essentially however, those group just tell the story of how you got to northern, western Europe and not the reasons for leaving there to migrate to North America. I'm not sure how they test for Jewish genes but I'm guessing it is possible since even today, there isn't a lot of cross marrying between Jewish and other religious groups. There must be some mutation that has occurred among them/us that sets us apart genetically somewhere in our DNA. Watching different genealogy shows, I've seen several episodes where current Jewish people have tested really high for whatever Jewish genes they test.

Vince said...

What you are kinda missing is the history of Europe. All they can really say is that gene A is at a higher incidence in Hungary than France. But since most arrived into Europe from the east since 500AD and intermixed the genetic sludge won't be anywhere near as clear cut as that site is selling.
The reason I wondered about the Jews as a very distinct group being sold is what occurred here 70 years ago. I, and most thinking Europeans would be very very leery of any attempt to classify Jews.

Pumpkin Delight (Kimberly) said...

I read this yesterday morning but didn't have time to comment, and then forgot to come back. Thank you for sharing that info and trying to clarify. It's still above my pay grade, I think. I'm sure if I delved into it with my own family it'd make more sense. It's a fascinating and a little scary at the same time.

Ed said...

Pumpkin Delight - It took me awhile to understand it all and even more time to figure out how to use it to further my genealogy tree.

Bob said...

I'm a bit behind --- but wow, this is fascinating! I have records for my dad's side going back to before the Civil War and I know our ancestors came from South Carolina to Arkansas. I've always assumed I have Irish or Scottish blood as I have the "Mac" beginning in my last name and my mother's maiden name. You have definitely piqued my curiosity!