Sunday, February 15, 2015

My Disappointment Knows No Bounds


     My Father's long awaited DNA results came back!  At last, the truth concerning rumors of Native American ancestry in his family tree would be revealed.  I was very excited when several months earlier, the GEDMatch site found traces of "Amerindian" DNA in my sample.  So excited, that I immediately got Dad a kit for Christmas, (as did quite a few other people apparently, I waited a long time for the processing). The first thing I did when Ancestry finished his test, was upload the file to GEDMatch.  But when the GEDMatch analysis came in, Dad's results were quite different than mine in one area--not a drop of Native DNA was detected.  None!  I would think that if I had gotten mine from him, at least a smidge would have been present.  I couldn't very well have inherited it from him if he had none ... what a let down. Uncle George was probably a teller of untruths.  The historian from South Bristol, New York, (where Uncle George lived), had indicated as much back in 2009 when she mentioned the rumors while skeptically raising an eyebrow, but I couldn't quite let it go.
     So where did my Native American DNA come from?  Is it a mistake, background noise?  Did it come from Mom?  Mother passed away several years ago so testing her is out, although with her dark hair, eyes, and complexion she more closely resembled a Native American than my Irish dad does.  After days of surfing and studying, I think the answer is much more pedestrian; in spite of all the hoopla and promises from the testing companies, using DNA to discover one's ethnicity is still an inexact science.  While it's a great tool for finding cousins and other relatives, when it comes to finding ethnicity...meh, not so much.  

     Although my DNA tested about how I expected it would, based on what I'd found in the traditional way, the "trace" areas that came up were questionable. All the companies use the DNA of their own pool of living people from around the world to compare with test results. They don't use older DNA that might possibly be somewhat different.  But outside of raiding ancient burial sites and testing the remains for DNA, it's about as close as we're going to get for now.  This is why different companies will sometimes come up with dissimilar results for the same DNA sample.

    Searching my DNA matches on Ancestry by surname, I've found several cousins, and Dad is right at the top of my list so I believe the tests are accurate.  As I jokingly told him, "You're my father all right, in case you were wondering." 



  1. Hi Ellie, In my research, I was surprised to find a Native American ancestor who married an early Dutch immigrant in NY. I found church and court records going all the way back confirming her native identity. Per Gedmatch I have a small % of Native ancestry that seems about right and on Ancestry I was thrilled to find several matches with distant cousins who share this same lineage, but no other apparent connection to me. Your DNA result could be correct for your mother's side but it is small indicating going back many generations where women's identities were not always very well known. DNA analysis seems to usually underestimate, rather than overestimate Native American ancestry.

  2. Hi. Thanks for checking my blog out and for sharing your story!