It’s in my DNA

We attended a local food/local history event in town recently and I was a winner in a drawing for a free DNA test from Ancestry.com.

So I mailed off some of my spit to them. Last week the results arrived.

Ancestry

So it seems my origins are mostly British. In fact, as it turns out I have slightly more “British” DNA than the average native Brit.

I was somewhat surprised at the results. I was expecting at least a little France in me, and I wasn’t expecting any Scandinavia. But thinking about it, I realize now that it shouldn’t have been surprising.

I knew I was half Scottish. All four of my mother’s grandparents came from Scotland. Once here they proceeded directly to the Appalachian mountains, already populated with their countrymen, and became quintessential hillbillies. A couple of generations later my mother came down out of the mountains to live with her sister who, like so many poor people of that day, had taken a job in the cotton mill.

She met my father at a movie theater in town and soon afterwards they eloped. His American ancestors had been here much longer, and all of them had lived within a 100 miles or so of this farm. The original American Guerrant was a Huguenot refugee in 1700, settling with other displaced French Protestants in the Huguenot settlement at Manikintowne, near present day Richmond. But that French blood was diluted over the centuries by English and Irish forebears, leaving me with very little French DNA to go along with my French surname.

The Scandinavian DNA is common in Scotland and parts of England and no doubt came along with my British ancestors. The report identifies as “trace regions” North Africa, Iberian peninsula, Western Europe, Finland, Italy and Greece. The “trace regions”aren’t considered reliable and in this case seem unlikely as there have never been any Spanish, Italian, Greek, Finnish or North African people here. Of course it’s possible that some European ancestor contributed these traces.

DNA testing technology is rapidly improving. Maybe in a few years we’ll be able to just spit into a test tube and a computer will print out our family tree.

The ethnicity results were interesting, but what I found even more fascinating is that report also identifies hundreds of people in their database who have posted their family trees on the site and to whom my DNA reveals I’m related. Someday, when I have the time, it will be interesting to connect with them. Maybe I’ll discover the answers to some family mysteries.

But this is the busiest time of the year on the farm. It’s light at 5 a.m. and doesn’t get dark till after 9:00. Even with all that time, I can barely keep up. I’m digging up literal roots these days. The other kind will have to wait till winter.

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37 comments on “It’s in my DNA

  1. Selka says:

    Congratulations- what a great prize to win!

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    • Bill says:

      We were just about to leave just before the announcement that the drawing was about to occur. We decided to hang around a bit longer just in case (you had to be present to win). I’d been curious about my results, but I doubt I would ever have done it if I had to pay for it.

      Like

  2. That’s pretty cool. I’very wanted to have mine tested to see where those ancestors of mine really came from. There are so many stories floating around the family they could be from anywhere.

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    • Bill says:

      Evidently there are more sophisticated (and more expensive) tests that can give more precise results about ethnicity and origin. Still, I agree that this is pretty cool. Although it’s not surprising, I never thought of myself as having any Irish ancestry. But according to this I’m a full one-fourth Irish!

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  3. DM says:

    It is fun to discover these kinds of roots! Wife took the same test last Winter. I’m waiting until my slow time so I can spend more time on the computer looking up things on Ancestry.com

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    • Bill says:

      Yep, me too DM. The best way to take advantage of this is to use the results to mine the data at Ancestry. They have a two-week free trial so I’m going to wait till winter when I actually have some leisure time to take advantage of that.

      I agree that it’s fun. As a local historian I’m sure you especially appreciate the insights these kinds of days can bring. Family/local history helps bring history alive, in my humble opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. avwalters says:

    That’s what winter is for….

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    • Bill says:

      Yes, but you should see my winter projects list. It already has several winters worth on it. 🙂

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      • avwalters says:

        And isn’t that a wonderful place to be. Do you know many Americans suffer from boredom? Time on their hands. So, glory in your winter projects with the knowledge that you’ll never be done, never be idle…

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Susan says:

    That would be interesting, but I’ve got ENOUGH relatives to deal with. I don’t think I’d go looking for more. Ha!

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  6. That is so interesting, Bill! Do you know how many past generations of heritage the DNA tests can accurately predict?

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    • Bill says:

      The site has details for how the testing works, what it reveals (and doesn’t reveal), how accurate it is, etc. They are matching DNA markers against those from test populations they studied around the world. National Geographic is collecting DNA samples to track human migration patterns that will go back much farther, if I recall correctly. There test is more expensive but probably goes deeper into history.

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  7. NebraskaDave says:

    Bill, pretty cool. My heritage has been traced back to European decent on both sides of my family. My Dad’s side came to this country from Germany in the 1850s. I talked with my great grand father who migrated here when he was 8 years old. He and his wife were part of the Oklahoma land rush. I was about 10 or 11 at his death and didn’t realize that it would have been a huge family historical heritage for me to be able to talk to him about his past. There’s actually been a genealogy book written to document all the family starting in the early 1800s up until the current day. It appears that we have all been tillers of the soil for as far back as we can go. Is it any wonder that today my desire is to till the soil. Alas, I fear that heritage has been lost. My son and grandson have no desire to till the soil in any way. Knowing my heritage helps me to understand why I have such a desire to garden.

    Have a great DNA day on White Flint Farm.

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    • Bill says:

      Go back far enough and nearly all of us were tillers of the soil. Same is true in my family I think, although there may have been some fishers in the mix long ago too.

      As for the heritage being lost, time may change that. When I left here for college in 1978 I had zero desire to be a farmer. In fact if anyone had predicted I’d someday be farming this land I would have said they were crazy. But as I got older I began to feel something pulling me back home. And now here I am. Neither our son or daughter have shown any interest in tilling the soil either. Maybe I’m the last of us. But it’s probably too early for either of us to be sure about that. Maybe our kids or grandkids will someday feel that pull home to the soil too.

      Hoping all is going well for you. Hot and dry here. A very challenging year for gardening for sure!

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  8. Laurie Graves says:

    Very interesting! A woman I know, who culturally identifies as being Franco-American, found out through her DNA test that she was mostly English/Irish. So you never know, and it just goes to show how mutable culture is.

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    • Bill says:

      In my case my French surname naturally causes me to think primarily of my French ancestry. But after getting these results I did some rough math and figured out that I had one French ancestor out of my last 384! I think there’s something kind of cool about how blended we are here in the New World.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Laurie Graves says:

        Very illuminating about your name and identification. It also shows that while culture is real, it is also circumstantial.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. shoreacres says:

    What’s wrong with me? The thought of a DNA test doesn’t appeal at all. I suspect that part of the reason is that I’m at the end of our line. Without children, grandchildren, cousins, and such to pass information on to, what would be the point? There are far too many other things in the world I’m curious about. I have done some research into our more recent past, but that’s enough for me.

    You, on the other hand, have a rich heritage, and have done immense amounts of work studying it. If I were in your shoes, you bet I’d have sent off the sample, and used the information to further research in the future.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Nothing at all wrong with you. We all have different interests. The world would be less interesting if we didn’t. I’ve enjoyed the interesting stories you’ve shared about your family history. No DNA test required for that. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Joanna says:

    Only light at 5am? Nice! It is darkish tonight but I can still see outside, even with the light on in the caravan (trailer) and it is 10:14am. It will be light again by 3am and I have to check the watch if I wake in the very early morning because it is hard to tell what time it is by the light outside, it is so bright by 4am.

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  11. Dearest Bill,
    Congrats on winning that DNA test from Ancestry.com!
    Interesting those results and if anything would be possible, I’d love to go back in time and see how our ancestors looked like and lived like 500 and 1,000 or more years back. We might all be surprised!
    DNA got often so mixed during wars and times when countries got occupied so everything is possible.
    You have very long days, like I knew them back in The Netherlands but we’re more south now and thus shorter days! Living in the tropics in Indonesia it was year round daylight from 6:00 AM till 6:00 PM… you have to adjust and get up early and enjoy the time given to you.
    Happy weekend and hugs,
    Mariette

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I’d like to know more about life in the past too. And I think you’re right that DNA testing is going to teach us some interesting things about our past!

      I enjoy the long summer days, but I like the rest that comes in winter too.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I had ancestry do my DNA 2-3 years ago, Bill. I am more of a mutt than you.:) But 39% of my ancestry is Western European, 21% Irish, 12% Scandinavian, 11% from the Iberian Peninsula, and 6% from GB. After that it scatters down down into the Mediterranean and up into Finland/Russia. So undoubtably our ancestors crossed paths at some time. I’ve had a lot of fun with genealogy, wandering over the country, checking out graveyards and ancestral homes. Plus doing online research and connecting with cousins, including 5th and 6th cousins. Lately I’ve been too busy to follow up, but I would love to get back to it. –Curt

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    • Bill says:

      Very interesting Curt. Quite a mixture you have.
      It’s been 20 years or so since I did any genealogical research. There have been so many technological and informational advances since then, I’m interested now in having another look. I’m going to add it to my list of things to do this winter.

      Like

  13. Norma Chang says:

    That is so cool and exciting, amazing what science can do.

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    • Bill says:

      It’s fascinating. The mapping of the human genome is going to open up all kinds of fantastic opportunities for science. We live in amazing times.

      Like

  14. Zambian Lady says:

    I find these ancestry results interesting. Maybe I should try doing mine, though I already know what it would be like. Regarding the long days, my mother always says that it is God that giving farmers enough time for field work.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Who knows? Maybe your results would yield some surprises too. 🙂
      God is definitely giving us plenty of time to work this summer. I’m glad winter affords us some time to rest too.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Kristina says:

    My husband had almost the same results, but it wasn’t a surprise to us as we knew his family history. Still it is interesting to see the distant cousins he has. 🙂

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    • Bill says:

      I’m looking forward to connecting with the cousins they identified. I’m not going to have time for that till winter though. Just scanning the list I came across one of my neighbors. It said we’re 3 or 4th cousins. I didn’t even know we were related!

      Like

  16. Wonderful, we Brits have the Land in our blood Congrats at finding your heritage Bill

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