Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Learning My Heritage Through My DNA

New years eve was about one month ago.  I wrote a blog that day about three Christmas gifts I received.

One of the gifts from my daughter was a DNA test kit.  I got the results today January 31, 2017.  It was timely because today was the fifth anniversary of my mother's death.  She died on the same day as her mother only 74 years later.  I did a lot of thinking about family today and realized I couldn't ask anymore questions about genealogy and family connections.  The results I received confirmed that what I do know is accurate, but also included some things that will require more research.

I was a little suspicious of this at first.  I couldn't imagine how spitting in a tube could reveal a persons ancestry.  I came up with 99.8 percent European.  It included 92.5% Northwestern European.  Northwestern Europe usually consists of Ireland, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, northern Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Iceland.  It said I was 24% Scandinavian which makes sense because my mom's father came from Denmark and his parents were from Denmark.  The other great grandparents were from Northern Germany, except for one.  My grandma on my dad's side has deep roots in America way back to the 1700's.  Their names indicate British and Irish heritage.  I did have 19.9% British and Irish. That is the part I will have to research more. 

It explained that of your 23 chromosomes, 22 are inherited from your recent ancestors.  They are able to uncover information about your ancestral origins, both recent and ancient including Neanderthal ancestry.  It also showed me people who shared some of my DNA.  Some were third cousins and others were six and seventh cousins.  I recognized one last name as being the married name of my grandpa's aunt.  I imagine this could be useful if you were looking for missing family members.  You have the option to share information if you are comfortable doing so.  It appears that a lot of people are not comfortable sharing.

For the past 150 years, scientists have found bones from extinct populations of humans called Neanderthals.  They were named this because the bones were found in the Neander Valley in Germany.  I have more Neanderthal variants than 94% of their customers.  I am lucky I can stand upright.  I had one Neanderthal variant associated with having straighter hair.  I have slightly curly hair so I'm not sure about that.  Another variant is that I am less likely to sneeze after eating dark chocolate.  Thank goodness for that.  I love dark chocolate and would hate to sneeze every time I ate it.  Another thing I am grateful for is that I have zero variants associated with having back hair.  Even with the high percentage of variants, only 4% of my characteristics come from the Neanderthals.

The third thing they show you is called the maternal haplogroup.  The paternal haplogroup is only shown on the Y chromosome so females can only see the maternal group.  It is a set of variations in your genetics that tells you about your material line of ancestors.  I found out that my maternal line originated thousands of years ago on the Arabian Peninsula, just as modern humans were first expanding out of Africa and onto the Eurasian continent. About 7,000 years ago the expansion of farming carried daughter lineages into Europe.  The fact that my ancestors left Africa and traveled through Eurasia probably accounts for the 2/10ths (.2) percent of me that isn't European. 

They figured this out because my haplogroup traces the spread of the Bell Beaker culture. The Bell Beaker pottery are drinking containers that are shaped like an upside down Bell.  They found human skeletons with this pottery in places such as caves.  Through carbon dating, they found this pottery, bones and other items from this culture were from 1800 to 2500 BC.  This is confusing to me, but they have traced the Bell Beaker culture migration through archaeological finds as they moved into northern Europe.

This was fun to see and learn about.  I have ordered a kit for my husband.  His ancestry is more complicated than mine, and it should be very interesting.  The lesson here is that we can't change our DNA so we need to do the best we can with what we were given.

 We used 23andme, but I'm sure there are other testing places who do the same thing.  Here is a link to order or read more about it.

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