Kiss me, I’m 42 per cent Irish.

March 31st, 2014

Enter to win a DNA test from Ancestry.com

irisheyes

Ancestral DNA, the bonds of blood, and what any of it means today.

Hey, it’s the end of March! Let’s giveaway another AncestryDNA test! But first, let me tell you about my own experience with taking this kind of DNA test and the illuminating results.

The test kit arrives in a little box which contains a specially designed plastic vial, a plastic bag, and a prepaid envelope for shipping your sample to the lab. Each kit has a serial number, which you register online. Then you spit into the vial (gross), seal it, shake it (grosser still), and send it off. Then you spend the next 6-8 weeks obsessively checking your account every day, just in case you missed the email alert that your results are ready.

Then one day, you get a message that says they really are ready. You click on your name, and you see a pie chart, telling you what was found across 700,000 locations in your genome.

Or rather, who was found. In my case, my DNA pie is divided among people who most likely called these places home up to 1,000 years ago:

  • Ireland 42%
  • Great Britain 34%
  • Iberian Peninsula 11%
  • Europe West 6%
  • Scandinavia 6%
  • Finland/Northwest Russia< 1%
No earth-shattering surprises for a person whose father came from Newfoundland (there’s the English and Irish), and whose mother’s great-grandparents were Danish immigrants to New Brunswick (there’s the Scandinavian and probably the Finnish). But that wedge of Iberian heritage is intriguing (explaining my father’s black hair and dark brown eyes?), and the big slice of Irish is more than I’d have guessed from looking at my family tree, by half (it also makes a sketchy legend of native blood look very sketchy indeed).
 
So what does it mean? Well, according to Ancestry, a statistically average native of Ireland has about 95% “Irish” DNA. So, genetically speaking, I’m about half as Irish as the Irish. I think that should get me discounts on Waterford crystal and Aer Lingus fares, don’t you?
 
Okay, but what does it really mean? Why is the ethnic component of DNA analysis so fascinating and thrilling for me, and for so many people? Why on earth does it matter “what” we are?
 
I’ve been thinking about this a lot. For me, it’s a link to the unknown ancestors, the ones whose names will never turn up on a parish register or land deed.  Those pins on the map are clues to their stories. As incomplete as a faded photograph, or a fragile remnant of wedding lace, but a kind of relic nonetheless, handed down in molecules. I am bone of their bones, flesh of their flesh. And while my genealogical pursuit has taught me that family trees are made of much more than flesh and bone, genetic analysis can bring light to the dim or forgotten reaches of our roots.
 
But the ethnic pie is only the starter course.  Whether you have a family tree on Ancestry or not, you’ll receive ongoing reports of genetic matches found in the database, anywhere from one to eight generations removed. Those can be enlightening all by themselves, but when you’ve linked your DNA results to your own Ancestry family tree, things start to get really interesting.
 
I’ve mentioned that my husband’s family has been in the USA for a long time. When his DNA results came back, he immediately had pages and pages (and pages) of matches. In dozens of instances, it was easy to compare family trees and pinpoint the common branch (Ancestry makes it easier by highlighting locations and surnames shared by both trees). Not only did this confirm his genealogy along numerous lines, it helped us locate missing ones. Sometimes I’d find a genetic match who had information that we didn’t, or I was able to share my research with others. It’s like a giant recovery operation between distant kin, sharing gravestone photos, scans of family bibles, ancestral lore, and transcripts of wills. 
 
My expectations weren’t quite as high for my own matches, because Ancestry is based in the U.S., and I’m an immigrant from Canada. Even though Ancestry keeps global records, I thought the odds were less in my family’s favor than Patrick’s would be. But the first time I clicked on “see matches,” I found myself looking at cousins only a couple of generations removed. 
 
One of these, I’d already discovered when his wife read my bio in a magazine article I’d authored, noticed I was a Pittman from Newfoundland, and rightly guessed there might be a connection between her husband’s family and mine. His grandfather, my great-uncle, had been lost at sea as a young man. I knew that story, but not that he’d left behind a wife and child. No one living in my family had any knowledge of them. Not every long lost cousin is someone with whom I necessarily want to open a relationship, but this one was, so it was wonderful to find our kinship confirmed by DNA. If we hadn’t already found each other, our tests would have done it for us.
 
My second closest match was a complete surprise–one to be saved for next month’s Ancestry report. I’ll tell you this much: it involves an adoption story, and the discovery that my roots in this “new” country of mine may go back even further than my husband’s!
 
Until then, please leave a comment (or a question) to win a free AncestryDNA test and learn your genetic history! See details below. 
 

Ancestry.com is kindly sponsoring a series of posts on my incredible Ancestry journey. Leave a comment below to win an Ancestry DNA test (available to U.S. residents only at this time). Winner will be randomly selected on Friday, April 4 at noon CST (and congratulations to Anita, who won the one-year world explorer subscription to Ancestry.com in February’s giveaway)!

 
 

53 Responses to “Kiss me, I’m 42 per cent Irish.”

  1. My dad has been working on a family tree for almost 15 years now. He’s traced my family, and anyone who has married into the family way too far back to even think fathomable.

    What’s so interesting about this is that this could potentially unlock the doors even further and help look in places we might not have ever imagined! Your experience definitely makes me want to check this out (if I don’t win of course).

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Lynna Cheryl Wilcox says:

    I have been searching my ancestry, off and on, for several years. I have been pleased with my search, so far, but there are some gaps that I would love to have filled. This may help in filling those gaps.

    Thanks!

  3. Sheryl says:

    I know nothing about my heritage. My dad didn’t have a dad, and I would really like to fill in those blanks.

  4. Laura Anstey says:

    Everyone says my little girl looks Spanish. I would love to know “what” is in there!

  5. Don Higgins says:

    Most of what I know about my ancestry is what I have from my mother’s family. I know little about the other half of it. I would guess that much of what we “remember” as a family is more the way we wish it might have been versus what the ancestors really did or really came from. Surely there were some gangstas and ne’er-do-wells in there. Everybody couldn’t have been knights and princesses.

  6. Anna Barker says:

    My mother is from Spain, but based on my grandfather’s appearance, I’d bet there are some Moorish/North African roots there. I’d love to confirm that. And, my mom’s family is my weakest link on Ancestry.com.

  7. Lee H. says:

    As a person who regularly gets mistaken for being Italian (but to my knowledge, having no Italian heritage on either side), I’d love to find out more about my mutt roots!

  8. Cait says:

    I’ve been working on my genealogy for five years now and always think about doing the DNA test but back out for it because of the cost. I’m so curious if there is anything other than British Isles in my blood!

    • It’s a splurge in my world too! I had suggested a kit as a birthday gift from my mom before this opportunity came up. It would make a fantastic Mother’s Day or Father’s Day gift, as well. Adult siblings could split the cost and make a gift to a parent. Everyone who is biologically related to the recipient will learn something about their own heritage — even future generations yet to come. It’s truly a gift that keeps giving. I wish it had been available while my grandparents were alive.

  9. Robin O'Bryant says:

    I want to win!!!

  10. Melissa says:

    I would love this, and I’m sure my husband would as well – he’s been obsessed with his Ancestry.com account since he started in December 2012!

  11. Danette says:

    Would love to track my Hungarian Gypsy roots 🙂

  12. Wendryn says:

    My dad is adopted and, back then, pretty much all adoptions were closed, so I really don’t have much idea of my genetic heritage on that side. The other side is European mutt, as far as I can tell. This would be fascinating!

  13. Jen Steck says:

    Interesting. I’ve always been told I was mostly Welsh, wonder if my family is correct about that.

  14. Gini Freemyer says:

    I think this is fascinating! I, too, would like to know if I have anything other than the British Isles.

  15. Crystal Long says:

    What a lovely way to start a family tree! My aunt compiled most of ours, but it is always grand to keep it going!

  16. Tammy` says:

    The adoption on your Mothers or Fathers Side..leave us hanging till next next month!!!

  17. Kellee says:

    Ooh…I want to win! I know a lot from my maternal grandparents’ side but I’m not sure about my father’s.

  18. selena markley says:

    My dad has been carefully researching genealogy for several years now. We laugh about his collection of tombstone pictures, and how so many of our ancestors were related somehow to each other prior to marriage.

  19. juliloquy says:

    A similar thing happened to me with a relative who died in the sinking of the USS Indianapolis: I didn’t realize that he had a wife and kids, but I wrote about it on my blog and am now Facebook friends with a 3rd or so cousin who is descended from him.
    Would love to have the DNA info, too. Thanks for the contest!

  20. Melissa Mc says:

    We’re Family Search folk (it’s that whole Mormon thing)…and I’ve gone back 7 generations — Mike even more — it’s addicting — but it would be like opening a gift to find out, genetically, where I came from.

  21. Melissa says:

    Would love to find out more about my heritage. YAY!

  22. Elizabeth says:

    Fascinating, Kyran!

  23. My mother’s initial and incomplete genealogy work lead me to do a bit of digging of my own and I think my family may line may descend from a man who sailed from England to Jamestown with his wife and son in 1611. There are a lot of folks claiming kinship to Richard Pace, but DNA testing has been effective in making that group smaller. I’d like to see if I really am a descendent.

  24. Barbara Wright says:

    I’m intrigued. It would be a gift to clear up all the mystery, separating fact from fiction ~ oh, the stories my family can weave. I didn’t know this kit existed.

  25. lmend says:

    it would be awesomely fascinating to have a test like that performed. thanks for letting us know about it!

  26. As a latina mutt, I would love to unravel the mystery. Pick me!

  27. Donna Miller says:

    My great-great grandfather never came home from Civil War and it has been impossible to find out who his parents were. Some on Ancestry say he did come home and married, but the person he married was the same one he was married to before he left for war. So confusing, but a DNA test might straighten out his story. Would be great to have a test that would work.

  28. Bev says:

    I know nothing about my dad’s heritage which is why I would love to do this DNA test. We know much more about my mom’s ancestors.

  29. jenny says:

    The DNA component to family history is really interesting.

  30. MW says:

    Fascinating stuff– maybe I’ll spring for one of the tests. Unless I win one, of course! 🙂

  31. Amy B. says:

    I love how the DNA test can fill in some gaps after you’ve made connections on Ancestry. I need that right now. I can’t wait to hear part 2 of your story!

  32. Debbie S. says:

    We can’t trace very far back on my mother’s side of the family – I would love to know more!

  33. Kath Hale says:

    I’d love to have some science to go with the family lore!

  34. Betsy says:

    This is so cool and I will totally check this out. Thank you for offering this possibility.

  35. CLC says:

    Genetic genealogy is absolutely awesome. Our family just started dipping out toes into the water with it, and I’d love to do more.

  36. Katrina says:

    I am preparing to moave in the next month to a place I hope to call home for many decades. One of my goals, once we’re settled in, is to trace some family lines back to Europe and see what all I have in my ancestry. This would be such a fun, enlightening way to begin!

    PS – I found you via your last winner, Anita.

  37. Laurie says:

    Hey, I’d love this. I’m underusing the Ancestry.com account I keep paying for. Maybe this will help me get motivated. 🙂

  38. Jacqueline says:

    My dad used to say we were Belgian, but I know that can’t be true. He just made stuff up because he had no idea. He was, what was affectionally called at the time, a bastard child and had no idea of who the father was. Making the quest for knowing our roots that much harder!

  39. There are a lot of gaps in my family story, I would love to win this (even though those gaps probably have a lot of crazy in them).

  40. Shannon Patrica says:

    I would love to learn more about my family’s history. Both of my parents are deceased so a chance to see were I came from would be great.

  41. Corbin Cannon says:

    We have been doing a lot of research and have really found Ancestry.com to be very helpful. It’s so much fun to stumble across a new link to our past where there was once uncertainty. Pretty addictive stuff!

  42. This would be so wonderful … thanks for the opportunity. Fingers crossed I win.

  43. Justin Slarks says:

    I’ve been stumped by genealogy research for years – not even the Church of the Latter Day Saints have records for Slarks! Sure would be swell to win a DNA test!

  44. Shell says:

    Oh! This is something I’ve always wanted to try!

  45. Suebob says:

    I was thinkng about this 2 minutes ago!

  46. Steve McCratic says:

    Any time that I’ve been asked, I’ve always said Irish-Scottish because that’s what I’ve always been told. I’ve love to know for sure!

  47. Marna Franson says:

    Can you help me find my hungarian gypsy roots?

  48. Oh bummer, Kryan. I read this a week too late. Ah well. Loved hearing about your genetic background. The whole process sounds fascinating, like uncovering a hidden vault.

  49. […] I promised a mystery story for the next Ancestry giveaway post, and I’ll make good on that before the month is through, but something huge has happened since I last wrote about researching our family tree, and I think it warrants a special edition.  […]

  50. Joanne says:

    What a cliff hanger! Can`t wait for your unveiling of father / mothers adoption

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