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Sunday, November 17, 2013

My son's results

My son wanted his analysis done too; he got his results back this past week:

19% Asia East.
2% Asia Central.
1% Asia South.
34% British Isles.
24% Ireland.
6% Scandinavia.
3% Europe West.
3% Iberia.
3% Finnish/Russian.
1% Europe East.
1% European Jewish.
1% Melanesia.
1% Near East.
1% Caucasus.

The biggest surprise was the 24% Irish. I turned out to be 4% Irish, so at most he could have gotten 4% of the Irish from me. Yet both sides of my wife's family supposedly go back to the Mayflower (though they also include some Dutch settlers). So was this a mistake?

Probably not, for a percentage that high. My wife is simply far more Irish than she thought. Obviously, there's a lot of admixture between neighboring countries. But still, if my son got 20% Irish from his mother, unless she gave him all her Irish genes, which is theoretically possible, though unlikely, that makes her roughly three-eighths Irish. (Which, by the way, came as a shock to her; in fact, her initial reaction was denial.)

What seems more likely is that takes Celtic DNA as evidence of Irish heritage, when in fact it's more complicated than that. The Celts were at one point all over northwestern Europe, though they later retreated back to the British Isles, mostly Ireland. So it's quite possible that the section of the Netherlands from which my wife's ancestors came were largely Celt.

There does seem to be a margin of error on the trace amount ethnicities.

I am 1% Central Asian; yet my son is 2%. Is it possible he inherited the extra 1% from his mother? Well, the Mongols made their way all the way to the Danube, and before them, the Huns ravaged Europe as well. So, yes, it's possible, if unlikely.

My son is evidently 1% European Jewish. European genes found their way into the Ashkenazi bloodline; undoubtedly this seepage worked the other way as well. So that's possible too.

But I have a hard time believing that my son is actually 1% Melanesian. The only way that could have happened is if the Mayflower took the scenic route to Jamestown via New Guinea, so that the Puritan lasses could sport with headhunters.

The 1% South Asian genes also seem unlikely, unless my wife has a Gypsy fortuneteller in her family tree. (The Gypsies, or Roma, originated in India.)

Keep in mind, to be 1% anything is the equivalent of having a purebred ancestor of that ethnicity a mere seven generations back. (You shares 50% of your genes with each parent, 25% with each grandparent, then, going back, 12.5%, 6.25%, 3.12%, 1.56%, and .78%.)

Some of my purported ancestry may also be a mistake. I was parsed out as 1% Native American. Amerindians emigrated roughly 12,000 years ago from Asia, so confusing the DNA of those two groups would be an easy mistake.

It's actually more fun to believe that one has all these different groups as ancestors. It allows one a larger family, so to speak, a more extended sense of kinship. It's just that some of the 1 and 2% figures seem to fall into the margin of error.

And, even if the 1% figures are true, it's doubtful that any relatively pure specimens of those ethnicities would feel the same kinship with us.

For instance, even if my son is 1% Melanesian -- he did get a kick out of knowing he's distantly related to the last known surviving cannibal tribe (the Korowai of southeastern Papua) -- it seems unlikely that they would greet him as a long lost relative.

On the other hand, on an entirely different level, it is quite likely that should he ever visit the island, he would become part of the tribe.


Anonymous said...

Interesting, that your 49% East Asian turned into 19% for your son. Did you both use

John Craig said...

Anon --

Theoretically, you can give your child any portion of your various ethnicities. If someone who is pure white marries someone who is pure Asian, then the child is going to be exactly half-white and half-Asian, since he'll be inheriting exactly half o this genes from each parent. But if two people who are half-white, half-Asian have children together, their offspring could theoretically range from pure white to pure Asian, depending on which genes they got from each parent.

Anonymous said...

Do they also send you the details of the analyses they perform or just the percentage of the origins?
I'm quite curious whether that many types of known DNA markers exist that they can use to determine ancestry to that extent.
You almost made me get my own DNA tested=)

John Craig said...

Anon --
Just the percentage of the origins. But they do include some interesting write-ups about the history of each ethnicity. For instance, I hadn't fully understood -- mostly because of my spotty knowledge of history -- why the Irish are considered a separate group from the English, Welsh and Scottish (all of whom are subsumed into the category of "British isles"). The Irish evidently have a much more concentrated Celtic lineage, with much less of the Anglo-Saxon and Norman, and to a lesser extent, Roman, blood that the rest of the British Isles have.

I'd recommend getting your analysis done. It's interesting, relatively inexpensive ($109, with tax), and will at least give you a conversation piece for some time to come. It will even allow you to tell people of various ethnicities -- honestly -- that you're a distant relative. We did it through, but evidently will not only give you your ethnic breakdown but will even tell you what percentage of Neanderthal blood you have. (All races except sub-Saharan Africans have some Neanderthal blood.)

Steven said...

The thing I find amusing is that Ireland is actually part of the British isles.

It would be great to see your wife's results, then you'd have both parents and child and could see how consistent they are. Can't you convince her?

im a bit skeptical about how accurate they are when they get specific enough to distinguish between English and Irish, Central and Western European. But I think I'll get it done.

John Craig said...

Steven --
My wife is paranoid that they will somehow "use" her DNA against her. silly, but that's how she thinks. My daughter wants to have it done though.

I think the reason they separate Ireland from the rest of the British Isles is that they have more Celt blood. Obviously there's been a lot of admixture over the years, but the Celts did dominate Western europe at one point before they withdrew mostly to Ireland.

Steven said...

oh yeah I read that above. It makes sense actually- Britain has been invaded a lot of times, being 20 miles off France and closer to Scandinavia.

One day everyone's genome will be on file as a matter of routine I bet.

I searched Johnny and read all the posts about him. (I always enjoy the autobiographical posts.) About Johnny...I don't know what to say!

btw Heavyweight world title eliminator about to start...Chisora and Tyson Fury.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Yes, I think I got my "1-2% Italian/Greek" from the days of the Roman occupation of Britannia.

Thanks for reading all the posts about Johnny. If you type "my son" into the subject bar then you'll probably find even more. And if you type "young soldier" or "Afghanistan vet" in, you'll find even more (sometimes he doesn't want me to identify him by name, but there's really only one young soldier/ Afghanistan vet with whom I talk.

I've never even heard of Chisora or "Tyson Fury." I just don't follow boxing closely any more, in fact really haven't since the 90's. I used to be a huge fan in the 70' and 80's, the heyday of roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns, but somehow it just hasn't grabbed me the same way since.

kellarlln said...

I just got my ancestry DNA results back and it said 1% Melanesian but left our my Native American ancestry and the part about having Pashtun/Kalash ancestry which has already been established through my brother's (full blood brother) DNA test years ago. Still trying to figure out the Melanesian part.

John Craig said...

Kellarlin --
My son actually told me recently that there's a theory circulating out there that throws in something like the 1% Melanesian into their customer's results even if it's not true, just to make things more interesting, and as a marketing ploy. The idea is, people always find the unexpected more interesting, and tell their friends about the surprises, which then attracts more customers. I have no idea whether it's true, but I wouldn't be surprised. When you think about it, 1% ancestry means you would need a full-blooded Melanesian ancestor only seven generations back (50% -> 25% ->12.5% -> 6.25% -> 3.25% -> 1.625% -> .8125%) to get that 1% ancestry. Do you think it's possible that you had a great great great great great grandfather who was an Australian aborigine or New Guinean tribesman? I don't think that was possible with my son. I had no Melanesian ancestry in my results, so that would mean he would have had to have gotten it from his mother's side, and her people came over on the Mayflower. Ergo, it's a mistake. Or a marketing ploy.

dania.bennett said...

I got 1% Melanesian in my results as well. After doing some research into the genetic markers that detect this heritage, I found this article which links modern Native American DNA to the markers in the Melanesian DNA:

This was helpful for me because I have been told I have Native American heritage, but am not familiar with any familial links to the Melanesia area.

On another note, on there is a scientific paper ("Ethnicity Estimate White Paper") explaining DNA predictions and what the estimates and percentages mean. Also, if you go to "test settings" you can download your raw data.

John Craig said...

Dania --
Just read the article, thank you. That was interesting, I hadn't known of that connection before. That could explain the 1% my son got; There's no way that he had a full-blooded Melanesian ancestor just seven generations back. It still seems unlikely that he got it through having Native American blood; although it's far more likely that some Native American blood seeped into his heritage somewhere along the way in the past 300 years, the percentage of that blood which would include Melanesian blood would likely be extremely small.

Sarah said...

Very interesting! Thanks for this analysis. My dad recently had an DNA test. Like your wife's family he's almost all British, and some of his family goes back to the Mayflower. Like your son his test said 1% Melanesian as well as 2% South Asian. It's quite possible it's just a fluke. But then again, we don't know the origins of every single ancestor. Some of ours who immigrated to the US from England in the mid-19th century could very well have been the descendants of a servant or laborer brought to England from the far reaches of the British Empire, such as Fiji or India. There was also lots of British and American whaling going on in Melanesia in that time. I wouldn't rule it out, at least in my family tree, where we don't everything about everybody.

John Craig said...

Sarah --
The Melanesians seem to have gotten around a lot more than people suspected. But 1% is within the margin of error, so all of these 1% Melanesian readings that people seem to be getting are probably just that. Or, as I said a few comments ago, marketing ploy on the part of the people.

Anonymous said...

Hi all, I just came across this blog, and thought I could provide some useful information re the Melanesian mystery. I am pretty sure is not a marketing ploy, unless they literally are changing our raw data results. Because I got between <1 and 1% Melanesian and thought it was a fluke, but then my maternal grandfather also took the test, and it said he got between 1-3%, with estimated 2%. A couple years later, my mother took it. She got it too, somewhere between 1-2%, and then a year or so after that, two of her siblings took the test, one even on her own separate account, and they both got around 1-2% Melanesian as well. Nobody on my father’s side got any Melanesian, who took it, so is clearly showing up on one side of the family, and with all of us on that side. Also, my raw DNA data and uploaded it to Gedmatch, and every single calculator tool I have used says I have about 1-2% of Oceanic/Austrolesian/Melanesian. With that said, part of the whole reason we initially wanted to take the Ancestry test, is because we thought we were part Native American. However, none of us got any Native American, not even a trace. We were stumped on that, because this was what we always heard, and we even have pictures of my grandfather’s grandmother, (My 2nd great grandmother) who totally looks Native American. I thought maybe Ancestry didn't have a good calculator, so that’s why I uploaded my DNA data onto Gedmatch, but none of my family gets any Native American traces in Gedmatch either, however, continues to confirm this Melanesian DNA presence, so its pretty much undeniable. Also, Gedmatch now has a spreadsheet tool you can look at, when you generate your results, which lists averages of various ethnicity percentages that are usually found in different native population groups. My overall DNA profile is pretty much totally white European, other than the non-existent Native American, that I apparently don’t have. NONE of the European groups show more than .06 or so Melanesian being carried in their native populations, so hard to be a fluke if Melanesian populations have pretty much no admixture with my other population group genetic makeup. That said, I seem to more and more coincidentally keep coming across people claiming to have mysterious Melanesian DNA, while also usually claiming they thought they would have Native American DNA show up, but it’s not showing up. So perhaps people having this issue, for our particular Native American ancestors, if really do exist, are coming up as Melanesian. I know a lot of people think they have Native American ancestry, who really don’t, but for my family, pictures don’t lie, and my 2nd great grandmother really looks Native American, and the family always said, that her grandmother, (my 4th great grandmother) was a full blooded Indian from Tennessee, and even have a whole story about her, and can't just believe they would make that all up. So perhaps she is actually coming up as Melanesian, as it seems plausible, that 1% would then be showing up in me. Also, as somebody else brought up, this past Summer 2015, they apparently discovered new findings about Melanesian DNA being found in Native American populations, particularly in Cherokee and Crick Indians, which are Native to the Appalachian region, which is where Tennessee is. Now, I don't know why if that is the case, then why no Native American would be showing at all, and just Melanesian, but that connection, could at least partially explain this mystery. It would be interesting to know if Europeans are taking this test, who may have no reason to suspect they would have any Native American ancestry in their DNA, but are also getting 1% Melanesian percentages randomly popping up. Because if it is primarily only Americans who have taken this test who are getting Melanesian, that would be pretty telling.

John Craig said...

Anon --
first of all, sorry for posting your comment late. (I'd gotten it on my iPhone on Sunday, which means it automatically goes to old mail, and I forgot to look there when I got home. ) Secondly, thank you for that cogent explanation for the Melanesian ancestry. That makes perfect sense. The Melanesians, or Southeast Asians, are related to the Amerindian population simply because of the great migration over the Bering Strait some 12 to 14 thousand years ago. Plus, who knows, it's possible that some Polynesian types migrated to South American Kon Tiki-style a few thousand years ago as well. If they made it from New Zealand to Hawaii, no reason some of them couldn't have traveled further.

I agree with you, a lot of the confusion around the edges of ancestry does have to do with genetic overlap. For instance, my mother is 100% Japanese, and that population was isolated for a long time. But I only came out as 48% East Asian, and also had 1% Native American ancestry. I don't know of any Native Americans in my family tree, so while it's possible that there was some admixture in my father's line, it's more likely that it was just Asian DNA being mistaken for Native American DNA.

You're right, testing Europeans would solve this mystery. They should have no Melanesian/native American DNA, so their results would be key.

Anonymous said...

Hi, thanks for your reply. This is just such an interesting topic, and I just wanted to provide an update, because I came across an article by one of the people who created two of Gedmatch's MDLP calculators, and I guess I must not have used some of the specific MDLP ones before, or they changed them or something, but there were comments on the article about somebody saying they had Native American, and he had ancestors that are confirmed members of a tribe, and the MDLP guy told him he should probably have something come up using MDLP K13 Ultimate, and definitely should using MDLP World 22. So after seeing this, I then put my grandfather's Gedmatch number in on those calculators, and for the MDLP K13 Ultimate, he got (0.11%) "Amerindian", and on MDLP World 22, he got (0.34%) "North-Amerind." On the calculators, they list only your top 10 population groups for your total genetic makeup, and although (0.34%) is a very small amount, it was still showing up in his top 10, and if you combined that with his two other bottom groups that showed up, which included Melanesian still showing up (0.61%); along with Austronesian also showing separately (0.51%), if you add those up, that is roughly about 1.5%. In a weird way, seeing this, makes me feel redeemed, in that my family probably wasn't just totally making stuff up.

John Craig said...

Anon --
This is an interesting topic, you're right. I can't say I fully understand everything you just said (I don't know what MDLP stands for, for starters), but I'm glad you feel vindicated. It's fascinating to speculate about HOW you got to your various percentages, which populations moved around and intermarried, and even how many generations back you'd go to have had a female ancestor who strayed and introduced some novel DNA into the family line.

One example: as I said in the post above, it was a shock to discover that my son had so much "Irish" blood. But the best explanation we could come up with is that it's actually Celt blood, and the Celts once wandered all over Europe, before being pushed back to the Frisian Islands (off the coast of the Netherlands), where a substantial portion of her ancestors were from, and toIreland. So what got identified as "Irish" was in fact basically Celt, it's just that the DNA is the same, and the people had tested a lot more Irish people than Frisian people.

Yare Cordero said...

I also got a 1% melanesian trace marker on my test. I am a White American with family from west Virginia, among other places. My mother told me that in our family my great grandmother was rumoured to have Tatar or "Hunnic" blood due to her appearance, yet I had no central Asian markers come up. I was broken down as having (I'm assuming these tests trace back to a couple hundred years ago, not thousands, which my mom did get a specific test for and had 17% Tajik show up) so if I apparently have 1% Melanesian ancestry that would have to be a pure breed ancestor within the last sevem generations correct? It just seems so random and unlikely. I mean Melanesia is so far away, what would they be doing in colonial period North America? Just seems bizarre. Though a man from Fiji once told me he thought I could have a slight admixture with his people... But how can 1% really effect one's phenotype, it's ridiculously small. I do have very dark hair, dark ovalish eyes and thick lips but European people can have these physical traits also. I don't identify as mixed race, that seems preposterous to me and would negate 99% of my genes which are from Europe, however, many people say I look mixed just because of the features I mentioned above...

John Craig said...

Yare Cordero --
My son says that is rumored to do that kind of thing on purpose, meaning, they'll throw in 1% Melanesian or, in my son's case, both that and 1% Jewish, just so that people feel they have kinship with these groups and are less "racist." In my son's case too it would be pretty much impossible for him to have had a purebred Melanesian ancestor just seven generations ago. That would have meant a half-Melanesian ancestor six generations ago, and a quarter-Melanesian ancestor just five generations ago, and that kind of thing just doesn't pass unnoticed; it would be part of family lore. So it's either a mistake or some kind of propaganda on's part. It certainly would have been possible of him to have 1% European Jewish ancestry, one of his great-great-great-great-great grandmothers could have had an affair and nobody would have been the wiser. But Melanesian? No way. So, yeah, very suspicious.

Anonymous said...

Hi all, Here is a link to an article which attempts to explain the mystery DNA:


John Craig said...

Anon --
Very interesting, thank you. Yes, a lot more admixture way back when than most realize. I hadn't realized that Polynesians had gotten to South America as recently as the 1600's and 1700's.