Know Who You Are: DNA Testing Mysteries Part 2

In "I Explored Genetic DNA Testing - Part 1", I took an AncestryDNA test to discover more about my roots. But the journey didn’t stop there; ancestry offers several other resources to continue your search. Browse through their collection of public records, immigration documents, flight records and marriages/divorces, make your results public for the system to link you with other relatives and download the raw DNA data to load it into other DNA testing sites for more a more specific genetic analysis. After trying as many as possible, below are some new and exciting discoveries I made in the process.

Making the Connection      

Screenshot: Courtesy of dna.ancestry.com

Screenshot: Courtesy of dna.ancestry.com

I found a relative! Well, he found me. Our DNA was listed as an extremely high match, so he reached out and we discovered similar names and locations that linked our families together. If you’re reading this now and thinking of using it to discover new relatives, just know that you might be playing with fire. GEDMatch.com, a great genealogy resource that offers free DNA comparison tools, even provides a serious disclaimer before allowing access to their exclusive GEDCOM matching features - try if you dare. Accepting the terms makes your results public and provides a list of matches from their database, with email addresses included, in case you receive a definite match and would like to reach out.  

Battle of the Basques

Map: Courtesy of webapps.aljazeera.net

Map: Courtesy of webapps.aljazeera.net

My last name is French, so it was a little surprising when France didn’t show up in my results from AncestryDNA. However, it’s neighbor, Spain, was hard to miss and clearly made its presence known. DNA Land, my first autosomal transfer, revealed to me that some of my European ancestors were from a tiny country called Basque - an independent colony bordering small areas of Southern France and Northern Spain. 

The Basque people have their own culture separate from their neighbors, and their own language called Euskara/Euskera, the oldest surviving European language, which only 30% of the population speaks. Others divide between Spanish, commonly spoken by the Vascones (in Northern Spain region) and French, spoken by the Aquitanians (in Southern France region). Given the many similarities, I was unsure if it was even possible for technology to differentiate the two. To settle the score, I placed an order with DNA Tribes® SNP - a company that analyzes genetic ancestry using autosomal SNP markers. 

They compare your DNA with thousands of samples in their database and rank your potential ethnic origins based on the similarities. Unlike Ancestry DNA and DNA Land, DNA Tribes was analyzed my data and it identified my Basque roots as Basque Spain. Then it compared my DNA to samples from the Southern European region and Basque Spain, ranked as a closer match than Basque France. Why must DNA be so complex and unpredictable?  

A Tribe Called…

Which would you like to know most - the regional origins of your ancestors, or which countries and tribes they came from? While AncestryDNA was a great starting point to discover more about my roots, DNA Land helped me follow the yellow brick road to breaking bulky regions down to specific tribes and locations. First, it must be said that all DNA tests will not produce results that are 100% accurate. While this is true, I used more than one DNA analyzer to confirm results that remained consistent. Some results, however, just threw me for a loop. DNA Tribes was able to help me better identify some of them, like my South African roots, to prove that the third time’s a charm.

Madagascar, South Africa

Photo: Courtesy of www.africa-facts.org

Photo: Courtesy of www.africa-facts.org

Confirmed: Mikea people
AncestryDNA reported that I have Polynesian ancestry. DNA Land referenced indigenous Ami
and Atayal roots from Taiwan. Comparing my results to others showed that neither was incorrect. It made sense when DNA Tribes chalked it up to a large island off the coast of Southeastern Africa, with a wide range of people sharing this ethnic combination - Madagascar. 

Ethiopia, South Africa

Photo: Courtesy of www.lipstickalley.com/

Photo: Courtesy of www.lipstickalley.com/

Confirmed: Anuak people
The Anuak people reside in Western Ethiopia and are one of more than eighty ethnic groups in Ethiopia. This makes up my Nilotic lineage (descendants indigenous to the Nile Valley) that DNA Tribes detected from my autosomal DNA transfer. 

Recap my DNA testing journey and click here to start from the very beginning with Part 1.