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Saturday, October 19, 2013

My revised Ancestry.com results

Back in July I reported that I had gotten my Ancestry.com results and they had been as follows:

49% East Asian
22% British Isles
13% Central European
8% Finnish/Volga-Ural
8% uncertain

Yesterday I got an email from the company headlined:

"Come see your new Ancestry.com results."

Below, the text read, "AncestryDNA has evolved. And the results are amazing." 

This is basically their Marketing Department's way of saying, "We screwed up the first time. Here are your more accurate, detailed results, with our apologies." 

Here are the new results they sent:

REGION   APPROXIMATE AMOUNT

Africa  0%
Other Regions Tested:
Africa Southeastern Bantu  0%
Africa South-Central Hunter-Gatherers  0%
Senegal  0%
Africa North  0%
Ivory Coast/Ghana  0%
Benin/Togo  0%
Cameroon/Congo  0%
Mali  0%
Nigeria  0%

America  < 1%
Native American  < 1%

Asia  49%
Asia East  48%
Asia Central  < 1%
Asia South  0%

Europe  48%
Great Britain  15%
Iberian Peninsula  12%
Europe West  8%
Ireland  4%
Scandinavia  4%
Finnish/Northern Russia  2%
Italy/Greece  2%
Europe East  1%
European Jewish  0%

Pacific Islander  0%
Polynesia  0%
Melanesia  0%

West Asia 2%
Caucasus  < 1%
Near East  < 1%

There are two ways of looking at this. The first would be: geez, I'm even more of a mutt than I'd thought. The second would be to rejoice that I can claim kinship with so many different groups.

If diversity is indeed strength, then I must be truly powerful.

However, even the briefest glance at myself -- and my position in society -- puts the lie to that saying.

I'm almost -- almost -- a little disappointed not to be just a smidgen African. It would have provided a neat little defense every time someone accused me of racism: "What are you talking about? I'm part black myself!" -- spoken in a tone of injured wonderment at the unfairness of the accusation. 

It's surprising that one of the African sub-groups was described as "Africa South-Central Hunter-Gatherers." In this politically correct age, isn't that description considered a tad insensitive? Why was that the only group whose means of subsistence was mentioned? And, for that matter, in this country, doesn't "South Central" most commonly refer to that section of Los Angeles where the, uh, hunter-gatherers reside?

It turns out I do have some Native American blood, even if it's less than 1%. This is sort of ironic, considering I look somewhat like a Native American. Or, rather, Indian, as we prefer to be called. Personally, I don't even mind being called a "redskin" -- especially if it qualifies me to open up a casino.

The new results show that I'm 48% East Asian, and 1% Central Asian. I do try to overcome my Japanese heritage by being rude as often as possible. (This post is yet another attempt.)

I'll just assume the 1% Central Asian means that I'm a direct descendant of Genghis Khan. Expect me to emphasize that "fact" in the future -- especially when in my cups.

The 15% Great Britain is even less than the 22% in the original analysis I received in July, and that was far less than the roughly 50% I had believed all my life until a few months ago. 

The 12% Iberian Peninsula is the biggest surprise; the previous analysis had not mentioned that ethnicity at all, and I had no inkling that I had any Spanish blood. Again, it's sort of ironic, since I look vaguely "Hispanic." But Spaniards and Portuguese -- have little in common with the Central American Amerindians who are referred to as Hispanics in this country. And even though I look "Hispanic," I am part Iberian. So maybe I should learn to bullfight. Or rather, given my courage level, to do the flamenco.

Instead of being 13% Central European, I'm now 8% "Europe West" and 1% "Europe East." Europe West on the Ancestry.com map includes Germany, France, Austria, and the Czech Republic, but nothing east of that. I could go crazy wondering whether I'm French or German, since they are such culturally opposite places. But given that my father thought he was part "Pennsylvania Dutch," which is in fact German, it's probably Heil Hitler for me.

Europe East, on the other hand, ranges from Latvia to Bulgaria, Poland to the Ukraine. That covers a lot of territory. But considering that only 1/100th of me comes from there, I'm not going to waste much time wondering which country.

I'm 4% Irish. I suppose it makes sense that I'm such a watered down bottle of Guinness, since I only feel as if I've kissed the Blarney Stone around 1/25th of the time. (The other 24/25ths, I'm tongue-tied.)

I'm 4% Scandinavian. Even if Hollywood is not breaking down the door attempting to cast me as Thor, it's nice to know I'm distantly related to the Swedish Bikini Team.

I'm now 2% -- and no longer 8% -- Finnish/Northern Russian. Come to think of it, Moscow did seem a pretty alien place when I visited back in 1968.

I'm 2% Italian/Greek, also a surprise. Evidently Ancestry.com has not gotten to the point where they can separate those two ethnicities yet. And maybe, given the scope and dominance of both the Greek and Roman Empires, they'll never will.

Either way, it won't stop me from telling the Italians I know that I'm a paisan. Maybe I'll even start dressing a little flashier and hinting that I'm connected. ("You think you can talk that way to me? Hey -- I know people.") I draw the line at going full Jersey Shore, however.

And if a myopic person ever decides to tell me I'm built like a Greek God, I'll demur. But inside, of course, I'll be thinking: Ain't it the truth -- in more ways than one!

I'm roughly 1% "Caucasus." Given my ornery nature, that portion is probably Chechnyan. 

And while I'm 0% European Jewish, I am almost 1% "Near East." This means that while I have no Ashkenazi blood, there is a possibility of some Sephardic. So there's hope yet for a career in -- and positive coverage by -- the media. If my "Near East" is not Sephardic, I'll happily settle for being a member of the Saudi royal family.

I'm 0% Pacific Islander, which makes it a bit hard to explain my lifelong inchoate yearning for that part of the world.

Given my father's original belief that he was almost entirely British Isles-descended, my guess is that my Scandinavian blood came from the Vikings who invaded Scotland and Ireland, that the 2% Italian/Greek dated back to the Roman invasion of Britannia, and that the 12% Iberian was at least partly some form of "Black Irish" dating back to the Spanish Armada.

All of those groups demonstrated horribly bad manners with those invasions. But now that I know their blood runs in my veins, I find myself less inclined to castigate them.

Although I like to consider myself above such things, tribal identity does influence outlook.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi John,

That's very interesting. Well, when it's all said and done, you're still predominately half Asian half Caucasian but with the caveat that you're ancestors kept things lively and hopefully the good genes floated to the top. Coincidentally, I just sent off a similar thing to "23andme.com" and I'll let you know later what they find. Hey, maybe I'm partly black:). Brian

John Craig said...

Brian --
I was thinking of going to 23andme just to see if they agreed with the Ancestry.com results. Also, I'm curious to know my percentage of Neanderthal ancestry, which they evidently give you. I"ll be curious to hear your results, in particular how much hey vary from what you'd thought.

Anonymous said...

John--yeah I'm also very curious especially because my Catholic background is so repressive that I wouldn't be too surprised if I take more after the milkman than my old man. Also, I ordered the kit for my wife and both kids just out of curiosity. Her Chinese father looks like he's partly Hispanic, so we'll see, maybe he's Neanderthal! I wouldn't mind cross referencing the results with ancestry now that you mention it. I'll keep you posted when the results come in-but for now I'm assuming I won't be too surprised as I appear like your garden variety boring and pasty white boy:) Brian

John Craig said...

Brian --
There are generations of "milkmen" going as far back as humanity goes, that's what makes these tests interesting. Plus there are generations of rapists in all our backgrounds, Vikings and Huns and Teutons and Roman centurions etc. I'm sure you'll have some interesting surprises.

Paavo said...

Very interesting. I have the 23andme results. They were unexcitingly predictable. I'm 99.9% Finnish.

I wonder if your finnish/Northern Russia genes are from your mother's or father's side. Your mother's side would suggest them being about the circumpolar original hunter gatherer population before agriculture. You need to get your relatives tested. There was an interesting article by Razib Khan about it: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/human_genome/2013/10/analyze_your_child_s_dna_which_grandparents_are_most_genetically_related.html

John Craig said...

Paavo --
Thanks for sending that article along, it makes perfect sense that we would inherit differing amounts of genes from our grandparents. I've always said that although if a white marries an Asian, the kids will be exactly half-Asian and half-white, if two Eurasians have children, their kids could theoretically be anything from pure white to pure Asian.

Wow, 99.9% Finnish; you're definitely a purebred. My Finnish genes would pretty much have to come from my father' side since I'm 49% Asian, meaning that my mother's contribution to my genetic makeup was pretty much pure Asian.

I suspected that something was awry about the initial 8% Finnish genes I was given by the original Ancestry.com results. I had heard about the company through an ad featuring Vanessa Williams, the American actress and singer, who also had a significant percentage of Finnish genes. How could that be? The Finns were never known for having conquered the rest of Europe, and don't seem to have a significant community in the US. Also, the Finnish component is described as "Finnish/Volga Ural," which covers a lot more ground than just Finland, so it's all a little unclear.

Remnant said...

And 0% Bigfoot. That's got to be very disappointing too.

On a more serious note, do they give any more nuanced breakdowns or definitions of what each category means? In particular, I would wonder if "Iberian" could actually mean Basque, or part Basque.

John Craig said...

Remnant --
Ha -- yes, that was disappointing.

No, they didn't break it down any further than I showed. But that breakdown was more detailed than the last one, so perhaps more delineation is in the cards in the future. For instance, they've now separated ireland from Great Britain, as opposed to lumping them all in the "British isles." And I don't remember "Iberian" as being a separate category before.

I wonder if Basques will ever be separated out, however: while they pride themselves on being a different group, I suspect that difference is more cultural than genetic. Given their location, they have to be part Spanish-part French, no?

Remnant said...

I thought that the linguistic differences between Basque and, well just about every other language, opens up the question of whether they really are biologically close to the Spanish and French.

John Craig said...

Remnant --
I suppose that could be true, and I know they pride themselves on their "separateness," though you never heard of their independence movement anymore. But usually geographical proximity indicates genetic proximity. Human nature almost always dictates that two groups located close by will do some intermixing over time. It's why we even carry Neanderthal genes.

John Craig said...

PS -- Just Google Imaged them; for whatever it's worth, they look French/Spanish to me.

Steven said...

I am just looking at ancestry service sin the UK. There is a google backed one called 23andme that looks legit and one called thegeneaologist.co.uk that claims to have the largest dna database in the world.

Anyways, it might be interesting if you got an ancestry test from a different company to see if it gives the same results.

btw 23andme gives you a health anlysis too, tests for disease risk factors or whatever. It also tells you what percentage neanderthal you are.

John Craig said...

My Liverpudlian friend --
Yes, 23andme is one of the two main ones in the US along with Ancestry.com. I didn't find out that 23andme gave you your Neanderthal percentage until after I had already gotten my Ancestry.com results, otherwise I would probably have used them, as I'm curious about that too. I'm not familiar with thegeneologist.uk.

I think 23andme was recently banned, at least in this country, from giving out health analyses by the FDA. From what you're saying it sounds as if that ban may have been lifted. BTW, it's Google-backed because its CEO (and I think founder) is or was married to one of the two founders of Google.

Unknown said...

Lol your idea of south central hunter- gather was funny. A quick google search gives a better definition.

John Craig said...

Unknown --
Thanks, yes, I was aware of what they actually meant. Still, it's a little odd that they would list their means of subsistence. Germans are just classified as "Central European," not as "Central European car manufacturers."