• Check out the ISOGG Wiki ( isogg.org/ wiki) for a great range of resources. • Test your living relatives while you have the chance. Autosomal DNA is easier to interpret if you test multiple close relatives (parents, aunts and uncles, siblings, first and second cousins). • Upload your autosomal DNA results to gedmatch.com for lots of great tools and to compare your results with people who’ve tested with other companies. • Use the autosomal DNA transfer program to add your AncestryDNA results to the Family Tree DNA database for a small fee. • Don’t take the “ethnicity” results too seriously or be surprised if you get different results from each company. The results are generally only accurate at the continental level. • Join the relevant surname, geographical and haplogroup projects at Family Tree DNA. The volunteer administrators will often be able to help you.
Debbie Kennett is the author of
and saliva sample off to the United States for testing (see opposite page), I received an email to say that the results were ready. After logging into my account, I decided I would begin by looking at my ‘Ethnicity Estimate’.
The first thing that struck me was just how many different regions were listed. While it wasn’t a shock to see that 32 per cent of my ethnicity was given as ‘Asia East’, an additional 13 per cent marked ‘Polynesia’ was also included in the mix – possibly due to the long history of immigration between the islands and the Philippines.
But the breakdown of my European heritage, which I assumed had been passed down by my father, contained more surprises. Scrolling down the page, I found that this included Scandinavia (15 per cent), Ireland (12 per cent) and Finland/North-west Russia (eight per cent). Only two per cent was actually listed as ‘Great Britain’.
However, investigating the science behind the test helped me make sense of my results. During the course of my research, I found that when a customer’s saliva arrives in the lab, more than 700,000 genetic markers are identified within the DNA and compared against a massive database of samples taken from people who live all around the globe. By seeing what you have in common, AncestryDNA can work out rough (although not exact) percentages of your ethnicity.
Of course, it is also important to remember that ethnicity does not conform to the boundaries of modern-day countries. Even though my immediate paternal ancestors hailed from southern England, they could have inherited and passed on the DNA from forebears who migrated to the British Isles hundreds of years earlier.
Additionally, despite receiving 50 per cent of my DNA from my dad and 50 per cent from my mum, my parents will not have inherited and passed down the full range of genetic material from previous generations – what I have ended up with is random.
Having shared my findings on Facebook, I clicked through to the ‘DNA Matches’ section of the AncestryDNA website. Here, I was greeted with a long list of fellow users who had been identified as potential cousins, ranked by the strength of our connection.
Unfortunately, my top match (a potential fourth cousin) did not have their family tree uploaded to the site. Although several people further down the list did have trees available to browse, so far I have not come across any names (at least on my father’s side) that would suggest who our common ancestors were.
But far from being disappointed, the fact that AncestryDNA matched me with anyone at all left me feeling both excited and intrigued. Could my newfound cousins be descended from my mum’s elusive ancestors?
To find out, my mum has now also taken the test and we are eagerly awaiting the results. Not only will this give me an idea of what I have inherited from each of my parents (mum could be responsible for some of my European DNA), but it means I will be able to see if any of our cousin matches are the same. Perhaps this could bring us closer to finding the identity of her father.
I’m really excited to see what I discover next – maybe this genetic genealogy lark is not so scary after all...