DNA Testing - The Results & What They Meant
In the early Autumn of 2015, after much research, I decided to have a DNA test conducted.
I had a few reasons for getting a DNA test done:
1) I had a maternal Great Grandfather that was orphaned at a very young age and sent to live in an orphanage in Toronto and could find no records of his parents.
2) I had discovered that my paternal Grandfather, as well as his mother (my Great Grandmother) were both born out of wedlock and knew nothing of their biological fathers.
3) There was a family story that, on my paternal side, we had Native North American Indian blood - I wanted to put this story to rest once and for all.
4) I was just curious as to what my DNA tests would reveal.
So, after a lot of research finding out costs, the amount and types of information each test would reveal and what I could do with the information once I had my results, I decided to take an Autosomnal DNA test offered by Ancestry.com.
There are several types of DNA tests that you can take from various family tree research sites (Ancestry.com, Family Tree DNA, 21 and Me, etc.). I found that the reviews for the Ancestry.com tests were positive and you could link your test results directly to your existing family tree. Most sites that offer DNA tests will also compare your DNA test results with those of other members and then, through genetic matching, suggest other members who are somehow related to you.
Since this was my first time having a DNA test done, I chose to take what is called an "Autosomnal" test. This test does not differentiate between your "X" and "Y" chromosome DNA (males have both an "X" and a "Y" chromosome while females have two "X" chromosomes and no "Y" chromosome). The results of the Autosomnal test will simply give you an overview of your entire genetic make up which you have inherited from both parents.
There are other specific "X" and "Y" chromosome test which I will explain in detail a little later in this post.
You order your DNA test kit online from Ancestry and a couple of weeks later you will receive a package containing your test kit. The first thing you need to do is take the kit number (it will be labelled in the package), log onto Ancestry.com and REGISTER YOUR KIT. This is key because if you do not register your kit, you will not receive any results.
The test from Ancestry.com involved filling a vial with spit, a process I found a little disgusting, but at least it is harmless and anyone can do it (no blood, skin or hair samples required). You simply ensure that you have not had anything to eat, drink or smoke for at least 30 minutes and then you fill the small vial with your spit, screw on a cap which contains a preservative, shake the mixture well, seal off the vial with another cap, pack it in a postage paid carton and mail it off to Ireland (again, all postage paid with your purchase).
After approximately 2 weeks I received an email notification advising me that my package had been received by the laboratory and they were processing my results.
Then you wait.
Finally, after what seems like a lifetime - at least it did to me as I want everything 5 minutes before I think about it - you will receive an email notification saying that your DNA test results are in. Ancestry will tell you how long they expect the analysis to take, and mine took around 5 weeks once they received my kit, so the wait time really isn't that bad.
Once you have notification that your results are in, you can log on to your Ancestry.com membership and click on the "DNA" link shown on your homepage. When you do, you will see a page come up similar to the photo at the top of this page.
This is where all the fun and frustration will begin.
The first thing I did was click on my "ethnicity estimate" so I could review my ethnic background. This analysis is determined based on thousands of controlled test subjects from around the world with known ethnic backgrounds. Your DNA results are compared to all of this data and from this your ethnicity estimate is established. Click on the "See Full Ethnicity Estimate" link and it will take you to another page with a map and a percentage list of your ethnic origins.
There were a few surprises in my ethnicity results. For starters I had no prior idea that I had Scandanavian, Norse, Meditteranean or Baltic bloodlines. My Irish origins were also much less than I thought they would be (at least 2 of my Great Grandparents were purportedly 100% Irish). I also had no idea that I had so much French, Austrian, German and Hungarian DNA. I showed no signs of North American Native Indian which, although a bit disappointing, really didn't surprise me too much.
The next thing I did was start to look at my DNA Matches. At first there were quite a few matches - more than 100 - which, over the course of the next few weeks grew into thousands.
Ancestry will list your potential DNA matches according to how closely they estimate your relationship to the other person. For example, immediate family members such as parents, children, silblings and grandparents will be listed first. Then your 1st cousins, 2nd cousins, 3rd cousins and 4th cousins are listed. Finally, all your possible "distant cousins", meaning 5th or greater, will be listed.
With each potential match as a relative, Ancestry will also provide you with their estimate of how probable the match really is. I have found that matches that are listed as "Very High" or "High" are the best places to start. Matches that are "Good" can then be viewed. I have had luck with these 3 classifications of relatives, and have made contact with quite a few people with whom I either share a common known ancestor or we have a strong surname and location match.
To date I have not had any luck in identifying a family member that was listed as "Moderate" for probability. Part of the reason behind this is that our common shared ancestor would be so many generations back it would be hard to identify him or her as records are difficult to locate past beyond the 1700's (unless you have ancestors who were famous, infamous or come from nobility).
Some Ancestry.com members will have published family trees which will, sometimes, aid in identifying a common ancestor or at least a common surname. Other members have no tree listed and no surnames listed so identifying a common ancestor becomes more difficult.
When you do find a strong possible match, you can contact that member, explain who you are and how you think you may be related, and then collaborate on locating your common ancestor.
I have reached out to quite a few DNA matches, and I have had good luck with a lot of my genetic relatives, sharing information and reviewing our common matches (some are easy to determine, others take a lot of detective work) and from that I have been able to connect to family members that I never knew existed, nor they I.
I have also had a lot of "dead" responses meaning I write to them, explain who I am and how I think I may be related, and then never hear anything back. I have also had a confirmed relative respond to me only to tell me that her interest was strictly in dead ancestors, not living relatives.
To each their own I guess. The relatives I have connected with have been terrific thus far and I am glad I reached out to them (or they reached out to me) as I have learned a lot about them and our shared families. There are several genetic relatives that we have not been able to find a common shared ancestor as yet, but we continue the search and during this time we are corresponding and getting to know each other. There are worse things that can happen than "meeting" a new friend online that shares a common interest.
Then, one of the biggest revelations of all, I had a relative contact me who turned out to be my 2nd cousin and my father's 1st cousin, with whom my father and he shared the same Grandfather. I had found my Great Grandfather's grandson (to be more exact, he found me) and by extension had found the man previously known to me only as "father unknown" on my Grandfather's birth certificate.
To further confirm that this new cousin, and my "new" Great-Grandfather were really related, I took another DNA test, this time a "Y" chromosome only test, to confirm my paternal lineage. I will write more about "X" and "Y" only DNA testing in a later post.
To conclude, I found that the Autosomnal DNA testing opened up new avenues for researching my family tree, gave me more insight as to where my ancestors came from, allowed me to make contact with some wonderful "new" relatives and find out what happened to some ancestors who had previously only been names on my tree.
I also found out that I am a Clarke. A picture of my Great-Grandfather, Herbert Granville Clarke, can be found below.