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Sunday, May 22, 2016

DNA testing

Roughly 11 years ago, I had my father's and my DNA tested.  

My test was the mitochondrial test which traces the DNA passed from mother to daughter down the maternal line.  My father's test was the Y-chomosomal test which traces the DNA passed from father to father down the paternal line.  In each of these tests, DNA from the parent of the opposite gender isn't traced.

I had these tests done to determine if the stories of Native ancestry in each of my father's and mother's families was true.  Both tests revealed NO NATIVE ANCESTRY.

However, that doesn't mean there wasn't any, it just means that it isn't in any of the DNA traced.

DNA is much more complicated than at first glance.

A few years ago, I paid for a second review of my DNA for a service of the testing agency that matches you to others with a common ancestor and I've been receiving notices of matches since and have made contact with a few of those matches without any concrete connections.  The reason for that it that the common ancestor is usually back generations before any of the ancestors either of us have identified.

Recently I saw a Facebook post linking to an article on Genetic Genealogy, for beginners.  It cleared up a lot of confusion for me.  Then, I called the agency where I purchased our DNA tests and, with the new information, got even more answers.  So, here is my currently, albeit still very elementary and not entirely confident understanding of these DNA tests.

There is more than one type of DNA.  In the case of genealogical DNA test these consist of:  mitochondrial DNA (maternal), Y-chromosomal DNA (paternal) and autosomal DNA (inherited from both parents).

My second test for family matches looked at my autosomal DNA and, unbeknownst to me, showed additional ethnic origins - Middle East, no less. Still no Native ancestry; my maternal DNA is entirely European.

Each person has 23 pairs, or 46 genes, half inherited from each parent. One pair, is the determinant of gender, the Y inherited from the father, the X from the  mother (with some variations), or 2 Xs in the case of females.  The rest are pairs where one feature dominates over another (dark eyes, dark skin over blue eyes, fair skin) or the two hybridize into a blend of features (green, gray eyes, etc.); that's simplifying it to the probably point of being incorrect on my part.

Within those genes are strings of DNA codes showing the various features inherited and which ones are activated.

If you have a blue eyed mother and a brown eyed father, the brown will be activated and you will have brown eyes, unless your father's brown eyes masks a code for blue eyes which make match with that of your mother and you have blue eyes.  If you have brown eyes and both your parents have blue eyes, there is most likely something fishy going on in your parentage.

Each generation passes on codes from previous generations on slivers of features on those strings of genetic codes.  Each generation has less and less, and smaller and smaller of those slivers of ancestral code from previous generations.

I was told by the agency that handles my tests that reliable ethnic testing doesn't go back much further than your great or great great grandparents.

Thus, the further back your unique ethnic origins go, the less likely it will be to identify them.

Also, thus, the blood quantum requirement for acceptance by the federal government and some tribal nations as having Native ancestry.

At this point in time, after decades of research, I'm accepting that, if I have any Native ancestors, they are much further back than I might ever find and I'll continue to focus my research just on finding out as much as possible about ALL my ancestors, whoever they were and wherever they came from.

I will be ordering the additional DNA test for my father to see what additional information there might be about his ancestry.  His DNA is already interesting because, although most of it is from the British Isles, he does have a little European ancestry and, surprisingly, ancestry from the Russian Federation, including Kazakhstan.

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