29 October 2012

Tech Tuesday - A First Foray Into DNA

Perhaps it was serendipity; on the same day that the email from Ancestry.com offering me (and no doubt millions of others) the opportunity to participate in the Beta stage of their new DNA test program, I also had a little windfall that left me with a little unbudgeted cash. Or maybe it was that I have been more than a little fascinated with the DNA revelations on Henry Louis Gates recent Finding Your Roots series on PBS. Either way, when I thought "Why not?" and a few mouse clicks later my windfall was down by $99.00 and my first foray into the world of personal DNA testing was underway.

A week or so after sigining up, my DNA Test kit arrived in the mail - a fancy looking box containing a test-tube type receptacle, and a preadressed mailing envelope. Following the accompanying directions, I deposited the requisite amount of saliva in the tube and mailed it to the lab in the provided envelope.

About two more weeks went by before I got an email from Ancestry.com telling me that my DNA results were available. A link on the email took me to my new DNA account at Ancestry.com. As shown in this image, this was not the "Y" chromosome test that links a male to his male ancestors, but was more of a test of the geographic origins of one's ancestors.
Described more realistically, it would be a "most people with this DNA lived in this region" test. As can be seen on the above image, 49% of my DNA was most commonly found among natives of the British Isles - including Ireland. The next larget chunk of my DNA was from Central Europe (which for this test includes the modern countries of Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, and  Liechtenstein. A much smaller percentage of my DNA, 7%, is found in modern-day Finland and western Russia. And another 7% cannot currently be defined - the report says that it may suggest a specific population, but the probability is insufficient to make that determination.

The British Isles and "Central" Europe bits were no suprise - my own research had shown solid ancestry in both regions. The Finn/Russian on the other hand, was a suprise and I wonder if I will ever find its origins. As for the Uncertain bit of my DNA, until it is proven otherwise, I intend to start a family rumor that it is our Neanderthal DNA.

In addition to the geographic origins, I also received links to several hundred other DNA test participants who match some significant part of my DNA.  Unless the matched participant has entered a family tree, all I see from the potential relative is his/her DNA percentages in a comparison to my own. If the matched participant has entered a family tree, I will see the surnames, if any, that their tree has in common with my own. If we have common ancestors in our trees, that is displayed, along with our estimated relationship (3rd cousin, 4th cousin 1x removed, etc.). So far I have found 5 new 3rd cousins.

On the whole, I have found this foray very interesting and worth the money. It has, in fact, convinced me to undertake additional DNA testing.

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