DNA and Me

Posted by: Eileen A. Souza

I am spinning in circles with this topic, so I decided to put my DNA experiences down in writing. This sometimes helps me clarify my thinking.



First of all, there is only one living male in my entire direct family line and he is not interested in doing his DNA.

So I took my first mtDNA test in 2009 with a company called FamilyBuilder. The results placed me in Haplogroup T, which they explained was thought to have originated about 10,000 years ago in the Near East. Okay, that really helped. I supposedly had one match but we never found a common ancestor. I think based on what I’ve learned since that this test was only HVR1, although that was never mentioned by the company, which no longer has a web site.

In 2011, I took the mtDNA Full Sequence test and the Family Finder atDNA test at Family Tree DNA (FTDNA). With this mtDNA test, I was placed in Haplogroup T2b. The HVR1 differences from reference were the same on both the FTDNA and FamilyBuilder mtDNA tests, which I assume is good.

According to an FTDNA table, with an exact mtDNA full sequence match, I have a 50% probability that the Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) lived no longer ago than 5 generations. All other matches are 9 or more generations. Since I have only been able to research back 6 generations on my direct maternal lines, my chances of finding a cousin appear somewhat slim. Does mtDNA only count with the actual direct ancestor or do their female siblings (great-aunts, etc.) count? Do males come into this comparison at all?

FTDNA also provided ancestral origins based on my mtDNA. Now my mother’s father is Irish but her mother is German and this line continues to be German back to my 3rd great-grandmother. But FTDNA shows not only German matches but also English and Irish matches, which I do not understand. Does this mean something does come down from her father’s line?

Next we move to the Family Finder atDNA or autosomal DNA results. The closest matches I have received with the Family Finder DNA results are 4th cousin or greater. By the time we are get to page 3 of 12 pages of matches, there is no longer any suggested relationship listed.

For my Family Finder atDNA, I can also view something called the Population Finder. This tells me I am 67.72% Western European and 32.28% European. According to the map, Western Europe seems to cover the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and maybe the Czech Republic, while Europe appears to cover Italy, Croatia, Hungary, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia.

Recently, I took the Ancestry atDNA test. On July 17, 2013, I received the results or, should I say, a link to view the matches so far. I thought I had read that Ancestry.com will now let you download your raw results but I have not been able to find out how to do that. Ancestry shows what they call Genetic Ethnicity, which appears to be comparable to the Population Finder on FTDNA. My Genetic Ethnicity is shown as 70% British Isles, 18% Southern European, 6% Middle East and 6% Uncertain. Ancestry defines the British Isles as Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales; Southern European as Spain, Portugal, and Italy; and Middle East as Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman, Yemen, UAE, Lebanon and Israel.

As I said earlier, my mother’s paternal line is Irish all the way back to Ireland and her maternal line is German as far back as the 17th and 18th centuries (I have traced some of them back to 1680). My father’s paternal line is Tyrolean and his maternal line is Italian and Bohemian.

Based on my actual research, the FTDNA ethnic distribution seems realistic but the Ancestry DNA ethnic distribution seems a bit off—like what happened to my big chunk of Germans? And what’s with the 6% Middle Eastern?

Of course, the FTDNA analysis may actually agree with the Ancestry DNA analysis since FTFNA lumps the British Isles and Germany into the same grouping of Western Europe so I don’t really know if that 67.72% includes Germany.

And having said all this, I am still not exactly sure what any of this says or means to my own genealogy. I have to stop writing now—my head hurts!



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5 Responses to DNA and Me

  1. Lisa Sullivan Taisey says:

    Thank you!!! I do not feel so alone know!!! Sometimes I wish that I never took the tests at all. I can trace my Italian lines to very late 1700s and my Irish lines to about 1820. I am 50 percent Irish and 50 percent Italian and both Ancesty and DNA are showing other populations that of course lead to Ireland and Italy but a really long way around it. I have also read that Ancestry has given people like me a large percentage of Scandivanian and the results are way off for a lot of folks. Thanks again for your post and letting me rant! Keep us posted!!!

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Hello! Thanks for this writeup, although I was hoping for something more definitive, lol. I’m getting ready to order up some kits for me and my husband and respective families for xmas, but an having a heck of a time deciding. From what I gather, the best order, or the biggest bang for the buck (according to this article –> http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/2014/04/06/2014-most-bang-for-dna-bucks/ ), would be to start with AncestryDNA, then Family Finder from FTDNA, and finally 23&me.. as for the autosomal testing goes. I’d love to go further, but the mt & Y tests aren’t exactly in my budget. I could easily spend thousands, just on myself!

    Anyway, I notice that your post and the latest comment is over a year old.. can you tell me if you have any new opinions regarding the best test to start with?

  3. Francesca Thomas says:

    The Scandinavian ancestry could be from the Vikings. One thousand years ago, they spread out across Europe westward to the USA as well as to the UK, France (Normandy) and Ireland.

    The Vikings also moved east to Rus (Russia) and then south to Turkey where they became the Varangians. I am not at all surprised to find any Scandinavian ancestry in anyones DNA results at all.

  4. Heidi Karow says:

    I wonder how things went for you, with some improvements in these ethnicity estimates now. Where your mother’s people came from might help you understand these estimates. I have quite a bit Frisian DNA, which seems to get lumped in as either Scandinavian or English or Irish (depending on the DNA site). Really, I’m 100% “German”, with recent ancestors from around upper Bavaria, east of Berlin near the north coast, and Frisland and a few from a bit futher south in the Harz Mountains.

    I’m also T2b5 with 2 ‘exact’ matches who seem to be exclusively British. So how does my line of Frisian moms somehow match up with those ladies? I can imagine my seafaring male ancestors spreading some DNA around, but not the females. It’s very confusing.

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