“DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.“Richard Dawkins
Time for a DNA update, along with my current thoughts on DNA and whether it is helping me study my family’s genealogy. This has turned into a much longer-than-normal article, so I’ll split it up into multiple articles to make it easier to read and update.
I’ve now taken two different DNA tests and my results are available for comparison on four different sites. My autosomal test through AncestryDNA is available for comparison on AncestryDNA, MyHeritageDNA, and FamilyTreeDNA. I’ve also just received the results of my Ancestry and Health test at 23andMe. So far, those results are only available on their site. For a short time, I also had my AncestryDNA results uploaded to GedMatch, but removed my information when they were purchased by Verogen, a forensic genomics company. I may return there at some point, but am still debating on the extent of how I want my data to be used (he says, knowing full well that ship has probably long since sailed thanks to any or all of the other four companies mentioned above.)
As far as where the services think my ancestors are from, there have been no real surprises on either side of the family. My genetics are about as generically northern European as they come. Although many, if not most, people who take the DNA tests are looking for where their ancestors come from, I already had a pretty solid idea, at least for most of my immigrant ancestors. I would have been incredibly (but pleasantly) surprised if there had been a viable portion of, say, Maori in my genetic code.
My AncestryDNA results have changed a bit since I initially took the test back in 2018. This is due to updates and expansions of the algorithms and the dataset. Like a lot of descendants of the British Isles, some of what used to be “Ireland” and “England” have moved into the “Scotland” category. I suspect this will change again in the future, as many people have complained about the unexpected and outsized Scottish percentages there.
23andMe’s results, although different in the percentages, stay pretty close to AncestryDNA’s results. The .5% Italian is a bit interesting, but is so low down in the percentages that I consider it noise or ancient genetics. I don’t have a known Scandinavian (or Ancestry’s Norwegian) ancestor, but that could also easily be filtered through multiple UK and Irish ancestors.
On a personal note, I do wish more of my family (cousins and second cousins) could or would sign up for one of the tests. We’ve most likely lost the DNA of our immediate ancestors. With a family of ten siblings, if enough of their children (my cousins) were to take the test, we could begin to get a fairly clear virtual image of our grandparents’ DNA. If my second cousins did the same, we could start getting an idea of what our great-grandparent’s DNA looked like. There are certainly enough of us in my extended family. Using just my DNA, I’m mostly limited to descendants of my immigrant ancestor. With “virtual DNA” of my grandparents and great-grandparents, we could start to find cousins on both sides of the Atlantic.