Back in August, I posted about the possibility of my children being partially Native American. I brought it up to pose the question, “Is it right for white kids who are 1/64 Native American to apply for/claim scholarships meant for a marginalized minority?” The responses to that question were interesting, but what was even more interesting was that many of you encouraged me to research the possible link. Not for college money, but to allow my children to connect to a possible part of their heritage.
Well, genealogy is right up my alley. So I followed your encouragement. I’ve teamed up with Ancestry.com to discover the mystery of the Native American great-times-who-knows-how-many grandmother, who may or may not exist. I’ve been working with them to research databases and records (which I’ll share in another post soon,) but also to get a scientific view of their heritage through a DNA test.
How the DNA test works.
About a decade ago, I was familiar with mitochondrial DNA tests. Mitochondrial DNA carries information maternally, so you could trace back really far, but only on one line, and the results wouldn’t be diverse.
Fast-forward to 2014, and Ancestry’s DNA test looks at your entire genome through an autosomal DNA test, pulling all kinds of information and getting really specific about as many lines as possible. Granted, you only inherit 1/2 of each of your parent’s DNA, and that half is selected randomly. And that happens every generation. So while the test can definitively tell you where a lot of your ancestors came from, it’s can’t definitively rule out any ethnicity. If you’re a visual person like me, here’s how that all works:
Before I could convince anybody to take the test, there were some major privacy concerns. Who will have my DNA? They’re going to store it, as in keep it? What will they use it for?
Honestly, I initially had those concerns, too. But every last question was answered to my satisfaction. Ancestry does store your DNA, but it is only identifiable by a serial code number. Only two people in the entire company have access that links your serial code to your Ancestry account, and the only reason they have it is so that they can, in fact, link the two and allow you to see the results. You don’t have to use your real name when you submit your sample. We sure didn’t.
Genetics is a field we’re learning more and more about everyday. By storing your DNA (under serial number, and a pseudonym that only 2 people in the company have access to,) Ancestry is able to let you know if they can gather further information as science advances. Remember, 10 years ago we were really only testing one, very specific branch from the family tree through mitochondrial DNA. Now we have access to so much more. Imagine what you could find out 10 years from now?
We gave the test to the oldest person in the line that supposedly had the Native American blood. The reason we did this is because of that picture above: DNA splits every generation, so the older the person generation-wise, the more of the original family DNA they have from that line. They spit in a tube, we shook it with some magical blue solution, and we mailed it in. It’s a super simple process if you just follow the directions they send along with your kit.
Tell me the results, already!
Ok, ok. So you want to know how things turned out? Here you go:
As you can see, for this specific branch of the family (the one there was a rumor about,) there was no Native American blood. Like we talked about above, that does not mean it doesn’t exist. There’s a small possibility that it could have been phased out when DNA split generation after generation. I’ll talk more about what I’ve found through researching records in an upcoming post.
But Native American-ness aside, how interesting is this? The colored in areas are the dominant ones, while the outlined ones mean there are only trace amounts of this “ethnicity” in your genes. This test can trace back 1,000 years, so the trace of Scandinavian blood made sense to me. There were without a doubt family members from England, and England was settled originally by Germanic tribes, and then these people underwent a Norman invasion. The Viking-descendant people dominated, influencing culture and the English language for eternity, on top of having children with the people of the isle. Thus the trace amounts of DNA. At least that’s my hypothesis.
I’m going to have to do some more historical research on the other trace areas. I currently have no records to back up these parts of the DNA findings, which is exactly why finding out the results is so cool.
Worth the Money?
100%. On top of getting those results back, Ancestry hooks you up with all other DNA participants who are potential relatives. (Think cousin, third cousin, ad infinitum.) These people are on Ancestry, so there’s a good chance they’ve already done some family history research. If you can figure out where you’re related, you may just find that they’ve got that part of your tree done pretty far back. You can compare records and potentially discover new parts of your family that you never knew existed. (Concerned about privacy on this part, too? Don’t worry; there are all types of privacy options that you can put up from sharing everything to preventing anyone from contacting you/seeing your Ancestry account.)
The test is $99, though I received this one for free so I could write about it. I plan on buying another one to research a branch of my family that we don’t really know much about. We know a specific war caused an immigration in the not-so-distant past, but we have zero clue as to where they came from before that, making research crazy difficult, if the records even still exist after such tumult. This test would allow us to finally figure that out.
If you’re interested in getting your own DNA test, I can get you get you a 20% off discount in honor of DNA Day through April 27, 2015.
How have you connected to your own ancestry? Have you ever done a DNA test?