This post is a revision of an entry posted on January 31, 2015, in my blog on the former Our Heritage site.
I have explored genealogy and family history through traditional research for decades, but I am new to the application of DNA to that quest. I finally made the leap to DNA as a research tool after reading Michael D. Lacopo’s blog, Hoosier Daddy? His long-running search for his mother’s biological parents and their ancestry makes for very interesting and instructive reading. If you have time and are in no hurry, I encourage following this story from his first post in February 2014, Beginnings. As a professional genealogist, he is well-versed in traditional research. As a veterinarian with a natural interest in science, his understanding and application of DNA is a good example of its value in genealogical research.
My wife Dee and I recently sent DNA sample kits to 23andMe for autosomal testing. Her ancestry appears to be 99.9% European with .1% unassigned. Coming from a predominantly Czech family, she does have more variety than we might have anticipated, including Southern European, British/Irish, and Scandinavian ancestry. My ancestry is 99.4% European, mostly Northern European with nearly 40% from the British Isles. Given that my family has been in the American melting pot longer than Dee’s, in some cases back to early colonial times, I was somewhat surprised by this British concentration.
DNA haplogroups are significant distinct divisions of the human race. My all-female maternal line is in a predominantly European haplogroup that originated in the Near East. My all-male paternal line is in a haplogroup from Northeastern Africa that expanded across Northern Africa and Southern Europe after the last ice age. That haplogroup is still predominantly in Northern Africa.
My first reaction on seeing my paternal haplogroup and also noting that 0.3% of my overall ancestry is Sub-Saharan African was that my paternal line was far more interesting than I had thought. As I examined my DNA results more carefully, I realized that my initial interpretation was incorrect. Nevertheless, although my distant paternal line is not Sub-Saharan African, it is also not Northern European. Given that the Springsteen ancestors from whom I think I descend came from the northern Netherlands, I was surprised at this ancestral origin. I’ll be interested in learning whether other Springsteens are in the same paternal haplogroup and, if not, where our genetic ancestry diverged.
Another curiosity in my DNA analysis is that while 0.1% of my DNA is Yakut, from far northeastern Asia, none of my DNA is classified as Native American. Evidence of rumored native ancestry might still reside in the DNA of close relatives, but I didn’t inherit any of it.
To gain a little understanding of genetic genealogy, I viewed a few brief videos entitled Genetics 101. These videos and others are available on the 23andMe Home page. To learn more about using DNA in genealogical research, I also subscribed to a blog entitled DNAeXplained. This blog demonstrates how to use DNA tools from Family Tree DNA to augment traditional genealogical research. The Genetic Genealogist is another informative blog to which I have subscribed. I have much to learn.
I have already been in contact with several newly-discovered relatives through 23andMe, including one who recommended DNAeXplained. Some of these newly-found cousins and I have been able to identify our common ancestors. Others require more information to be able to make that connection.
One thing seems clear: DNA tools yield much more information when results from several related people are correlated. 23andMe’s DNA chromosome browser provides specific comparisons that can shed light on mysteries from traditional research.
I can see great potential in complementing traditional documentary research with DNA analysis to learn more about our ancestors and others who share those progenitors.