The analysis of my DNA testing results stared up at me from the screen of my laptop, as though a computer could have eyes. Excitement surged through me. My fingertips practically tingled against the keys. In just a few minutes, I would know more about my ancestry, types of information I’d been unable to glean thorough other avenues of genealogical research. For example, the paper trail for investigating the Mexican/Spanish part of my heritage dead-ended at the early 1800s signpost. Had some of my ancestors been indigenous to the Americas prior to the arrival of Columbus…or not? I certainly hoped they had. Not that I disliked being a mixture of Swedish, British and Spanish. I just wanted a more global connection in addition.
I scrolled down the computer screen to view the overall format of the autosomal DNA report from DNA Consultants. (Autosomes are the chromosomes that are not sex-linked, that is, not the “X” or “Y.”) Anyway, DNA Consultants had divided my report into two sections. My “DNA fingerprint” report comprised the first part of the file. The second section provided the results of an 18-Marker Ethnic Panel.
For those unfamiliar with DNA testing for genealogical purposes, three fundamental options currently exist: testing the Y chromosome, testing the autosomes or testing mitochondrial DNA.
- Guys pass down their Y chromosome from father to son, virtually unchanged from generation to generation. For males, Y-chromosome testing provides information about their male-to-male paternal family line.
- Mitochondrial DNA passes from mother to child, also without significant change from generation to generation. For males or females, mitochondrial DNA testing provides information about their mother-to-child maternal family line.
- Autosomal testing can reveal information about both maternal and paternal family lines. However, autosomes change from generation to generation. Thus, autosomal testing is best used for researching ancestry within the past ten generations.
Because I would most anticipate Native American markers in my paternal lineage, and I’m female, I had chosen the autosomal testing option.
The first table in the report from DNA Consultants showed the results of my tests for 15 autosomal markers: 13 from the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and 2 from the Identifier system in Europe. CODIS is a computer system that stores DNA profiles created by federal, state, and local crime laboratories in the United States.
Next in the report came a list of the 50 world populations where known patterns of DNA markers most closely matched my own. Two of those populations were Native American, thirteen were deemed “Hispanic” or from Latin America, eight were North African/Middle Eastern, five were Asian and fourteen were black. Only two of the matches tied me to Europe.
Wait a minute. I had blonde hair, blue eyes and fair skin. My mother’s side of the family had immigrated from England and Sweden. I could trace my father’s paternal line to Scotland and Ireland. A Mexican medley comprised only one fourth of my gene pool. What was going on? Had my DNA swabs gotten mixed up with someone else’s?
Duh, then it hit me. Autosomal markers were just that: markers. They didn’t affect appearance. And they were handed down through the generations by the biological equivalent of dealing cards. A person might have the same markers as their siblings–or not. All the luck of the genetic draw. I continued on with the next section of the report: a chart of high random probability matches between my DNA and present-day European populations. The list of the closest 20 matches included Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Estonia, Netherlands, Finland, France, Spain and 12 more. DNA Consultants had not mixed up my swabs.
So what did all of this really mean? I moved on to the 18-Marker Ethnic Panel and the maps showing historical and prehistorical world population migrations.
The ethnic marker panel suggested an ancestry that included Native American, European, Eastern European (crossover with Sweden), Sub-Saharan African and Jewish. All of this made perfect sense to me. Berber Moors, after all, had invaded the Iberian Peninsula (where my Spanish ancestors had lived) in the Eighth Century. Plus, traders had transported black slaves to North, Central and South America when Europeans–including some of my Spanish ancestors–settled the Americas. The Spanish Inquisition had forced many Jewish families to convert to Christianity, move to the New World, or both. And random probability statistics offered by DNA Consultants tied me closer to Europe than to other populations, which matched my known family history during the last couple hundred years.
But what about those marker-matches of mine in common with Asian populations? Most likely, in the absence of known Asian family members, those marker matches represented deep ancestry–peoples who migrated to the Americas in prehistoric times, the forbearers of Native Americans.
Wow! Was I ever connected to the world. A regular genetic United Nations. My revelation prompted a broad smile. I strolled to the back of the house where my husband was.
“I received my DNA report,” I said. “I’m part black as well as American Indian. Bet you never bargained on an interracial marriage.”
We both laughed and I twisted a lock of my thin, straight hair around my finger. All those ancestors with gorgeous black tresses and my crowning glory turned out dishwater blonde.
Just the luck of the gene pool draw.
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