autosomal DNA test – Part II

“Baby’s Family Tree” from my mother’s baby book, written by my grandmother in 1942.

Family trees are full of mysteries.  The one thing we can be sure that we know is that there is a lot that we DON’T know!  🙂  That’s a good reason to have a DNA test done.  Hopefully it will help link us to others who DO know something about lines we are researching.  Sometimes, instead of providing answers, DNA testing presents more questions.  Yesterday jq1517 posted the following comment in response to  My (free) DNA results – a comparison to FamilyTreeDNA:

 I looked at my results yesterday but was disappointed that my pedigree ethnicity was so different than my genetic ethnicity, enough to think perhaps there is a problem with my results. For instance, my results state that my genetic ethnicity is 91% British Isles, 6% Russian/Persian/Turkish, and 3% Other. This does not match my pedigree. My pedigree on both sides of parents is predominantly French, as most of my ancestors were French colonists of Canada, Acadia, and Louisiana. Out of the nearly 3,000 people in my family tree, I have none that are from the Russian/Persian/Turkish part of the world… that was a total surprise…

I can relate to his questions.  I also had questions about my original autosomal DNA results through FTDNA.  As mentioned in my earlier post, there were discrepancies on my grandmother’s paternal line.  My grandmother was 17 when her father died.  Four years later, she documented her family tree in my mother’s baby book, shown above.  Here she documented Ernest’s birth place in Clarke County, Wisconsin.  However, as “Grammer” aged, her account of her father’s heritage changed, adamantly stating Ernest was a half-sibling to his older brothers and his sister, having been born in South Dakota to a Native American.  This simply did not seem plausible based on census records, what Ernest wrote on numerous documents for his own place of birth, and what my grandmother documented in Mom’s baby book when her memory would not have been influenced time and other factors.  My grandmother stated there was a “cover up” in the family as it was not popular at that time to be Native American.  I would be more inclined to give credence to this story if my grandmother had maintained it throughout her life.  However, that is not the case, and now two DNA tests also refute the Native American myth in my family lines.

It is possible, however, that jq1517 has a bit of “covering up” going on his family tree.  People remarry.  People have affairs.  Fathers raise children that are not their own.  Sometimes the fathers don’t always know they are raising someone else’s biological child.  Another scenario: I have a friend who was adopted and has met her birth mother, but has strong reason to believe that her adoptive father is actually birth father.  (Hopefully one day she will complete DNA testing to confirm whether or not she has biological ties with her adoptive father’s family.)  There are many, many explanations for why DNA testing reveals ethnicity that conflicts with our research.

The disadvantages of autosomal testing and my “wish list”

While autosomal DNA testing provides more opportunities for us to match with cousins, I’ve also found it quite challenging as times as it provides NO CLUE as to which side of your family you may be connected to potential cousins.  This is especially true with more distant matches, as one has to research back many, many generations to find the common ancestor.  To assist in this process, on my “wish list” for (and FTDNA) is the ability to filter for  event places.  For example, last night I was reviewing the family trees of several of my potential matches on, and after considerable time found we both have ancestors from Eden (now Bar Harbor), Maine, a likely place for a connection.  In Ancestry, when viewing trees of your potential matches you can see the places of birth and death for individuals in the trees, where entered.  However, wouldn’t it be neat to be able to see an indexed list of places for events of those listed in the tree?  Instead of scanning the tree only for common surnames, one could also look at the places in the tree.  It could easily reduce the time involved searching larger trees, if, for example, you saw your potential cousin had a great-great grandmother born in say, Penobscot County, Maine, and you know your great grandmother was born there in Bangor?  With one click you could be taken to a list of individuals with events in Penobscot, thereby focusing your search into common geographic areas.

What’s on your wish list for DNA testing?

15 responses to “ autosomal DNA test – Part II

  • Kalah

    I also was selected for the “free” DNA test. My ethnicity results show 91% Scandinavian, 8% Russian/Persian/Turkish, and 1% other. I was also completely surprised by the results. I feel like I have a pretty well documented tree on both sides of my family (except for a few dead ends of course), and absolutely none of my branches show any Scandinavian ancestry. It would seem like for me to be “91%” Scandinavian I would at least see it somewhere in my tree. What are your thoughts?

    • jq1517

      Sounds similar to my experience Kalah. It is not the 6% Russian/Persian/Turkish for me that is odd, as that could probably be explained. My direct male lineage patriarch was born in 1763 in southern Spain. I have seen where this surname appears among Sephardic Jews in Spain, so if that is my strain then perhaps they came from the Turkish/Persian area before they settled in Spain. The main issue that I have is that my tree is very well documented. We have church baptismal and marriage records going back nearly 300 years, so I know that most of my tree is populated by people of French descent. And to be honest, my tree is rather narrow at the top so it should show up in my DNA tests. Most all of my family were more or less “locked-in” to the US Gulf Coast and French Louisiana for the last 300 years, so I am still a bit confused by the results of my test, as I received no percentage of Western/Southern Europe…. so very odd.

      • Kalah

        I also have some Acadian/French ancestry, but did not see that in my results. Do you have any close matches in your results? All of my matches are “distant” cousins with a 50% or less confidence level. Of those that have trees posted, I have found a connection to my family tree in 2 of the trees. One in the 7th generation back, and one in the 9th generation back. Maybe if I had some closer matches I could see how the results of my matches looked to see if somehow my results would then make sense.

        I am also not surprised by my Turkish/Persian results. My family has always had a story about being descended from Turks. However, I haven’t actually been able to prove this story in my family tree. I am most surprised by the 91% Scandinavian result.

      • Sadie

        I can totally relate to this as well. My ancestry DNA results show I’m 90% Scandinavian, 8% Persian/Turkish/Caucasus and 2% other/unknown. My tree is also well documented for several generations with ancestors from Scotland, Ireland, England, Germany, and France…none from Scandinavia or Persia. I’ve called the ancestry DNA customer service line a few times to inquire as to the accuracy of these results, they have insisted that my results are accurate and that the DNA goes back hundreds if not thousands of years and that even though I have documented ancestors from all these countries, they seem to believe that before those countries, the lines came from Scandinavia and Persia. They also qualified their response with the fact that they are still in BETA testing and that my results might change.

      • Suave

        The reason you may have gotten a high score of Scandinavian is because the Vikings invaded France, as well as Britain and Germany, even parts of Spain. I myself have a significant Scandinavian score as well as a significant Southern European score ( I have Spanish ancestry also). I only had Scandinavian and Southern European scores.

  • CeCe Moore

    AncestryDNA is in BETA, so I would take these biogeographical Ancestry break-downs with a grain of salt for now. I do hope everyone is providing feedback via the button with regard to their doubts. Remember the DNA landing page says, “You can imagine how complicated it is to determine a person’s ethnicity based only on a handful of cheek cells. We have a top team of scientists on the job, but as with anything new, there’s always room for improvement. And our ability to determine your ethnicity and predict matches will only get better over time. During this special beta period we are sharing early results, gathering feedback, and making adjustments prior to our formal launch to the public…” Undoubtedly, they will become better aligned with customers’ known pedigrees in time. If not, then it may be time to start considering the possibility of non-paternity events, adoptions, genealogy mistakes, etc… but probably not before.
    Lauren, you wrote, “To assist in this process, on my ‘wish list’ for (and FTDNA) is the ability to filter for event places.”
    Isn’t that ability already offered at AncestryDNA? On my blog, the last screen shot shows a prominent “Shared Birth Locations”:
    Is that what you meant? Sure, it would be nice to have shared death, marriage, etc…events too, but this is a very good start.

  • Lola J. Lee Beno

    Okay . . . this is interesting. My sister had my father’s DNA sent to 23andMe for analysis. As expected, the maternal lineage is in Africa. But surprisingly (well, not so surprisingly), the paternal lineage has its origins in Scandinavia. Our surname is Lee and I know for a fact that my father’s paternal side is from northern Virginia, Fairfax/Loudoun county. We’ve been able to discover a possible ancestor who was listed as a house servant at one of the Lee plantations in what is now Reston. We know who my grandfather’s father is, but we still don’t know who HIS father was. That’s a brick wall for us.

  •’s AncestryDNA Product

    […] “ autosomal DNA test – Part II” at genejourneys […]

  • CeCe Moore

    My latest blog covers the questions regarding the admixture results:
    I had an extensive discussion with Ken Chahine and share some of the interesting things I learned from him.

  • Sadie

    After finding this blog and reading all the comments, I went in to check my Ancestry DNA results again, and some new matches showed up which have me even more skeptical of my overwhelming 90% Scandinavian result…..for example, one of the matches to me shows that she is nearly 50% British Isles and 50% Central European….she shows up as a match to me on my Scandinavian DNA, but yet her result shows no Scandinavian at all, and her DNA results would be closer to something I would have expected to see in my own results.

  • Pinky

    I also have a predominant English result along with Scandinavian and 6% Turkish /Persian. My thinking is that the Scandinavian percentage possibly indicates connection to Viking??? “infiltration. Any thoughts on this?
    Does anyone have a source for possible EARLY Turkish/Persian migration patterns?

    • James

      I think the high percentage of Scandinavian genes for people expecting British Isles, etc is easily explained by a brief look at the history of Britain.

      My results came back 42% Scandinavian, 37% Central Europe, and only 21% British Isles, even though my Tree would indicate a much higher percentage of British Isles.

      But on my Maternal line, most of the documented ancestors came from North Eastern Scotland, this area had a high Scandinavian settlement for well over a thousand years. Likewise on my Paternal side, many of the documented ancestors came from the Northeast of England (the Danelaw region), both of these locations were ruled from Scandinavia, and colonized by Scandinavians for much of the Medieval period.

      The mystery for me is how one German grandmother can result in 37% Central European genes…

      • Brad

        I can relate to what you said. I got my results from last fall and it had me at 81% Scandinavian, 14% Southern European and 5% uncertain. I expected some Scandinavian but not that high and some British Isles and Central European. I have documented facts of some of my family coming from SW Germany. Though some of the women’s names didn’t sound German so they must have had ties to Italy. The Scandinavian probably comes from what I think were my Scottish ancestors. So in summary I think to better understand & appreciate your DNA results you need to relate to the history of the region going back hundreds of years.

  • M.

    I’ve had a similar experience with this DNA test, but unlike most of you most of it may be correct while there is a good deal that I cannot confirm. The whole thing is very confusing and far to vague. I personally don’t want to know about 1000 years ago, I only want to know about my DNA that I can confirm somehow, and as far as I know there are very few people out there that can track down their lineage for 1000 years. From what I understand about DNA is that it gets more diluted as the generations continue. In other words it is hard for me to believe that I carry some dormant DNA from a grandparent 600+ years ago, and my mother doesn’t share that DNA with me?? I don’t think so. This whole DNA fiasco has required me to basically do the research on my own which is not what I paid for. IF I wanted to take a class in genetics I would have done that. So here I sit even more confused about my family history than I did prior to taking the DNA test. By the way I took another autosomal DNA test that didn’t match this one at all. I’m starting to wonder if they are simply randomly picking out possible places because of my family tree, or if this is actually accurate. My last test said I descended from Berber people in North Africa and a portion said my ancestors were from Somalia. This one says 30% West African 24% Eastern European and 30% Central European while the rest is uncertain. I can only confirm the accuracy of about half of that from my family tree while the rest doesn’t match up at all. I’ve successfully documented almost 405 people and there are complete lines that are missing from this DNA. Why would multiple match while others don’t? I wouldn’t mind if there was a little “hanky panky” going on back in the days, but they cannot even confirm that either. To vague. I also would really like to see a print out of my DNA so if I have question I could take it to a genetic specialist to understand it better. All of this went into my BETA feedback.

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