Sunday, 18 December 2016

My DNA and me

I've been researching my family history for almost 20 years now and, as the above tree shows, I've been able to go back for quite a few generations - to the late 1500s on my paternal grandmother's side, not quite so far with my bloodline. This has given me a pretty good idea of where my forebears came from and nothing I've come across suggests that they've strayed too far from England. In fact my core lines don't seem to have strayed from their home counties of Sussex and Gloucestershire. But knowing all this still leaves certain mysteries. Where, for example, does my natural talent in the Argentinian tango originate? Which branch of the family is responsible for my love of curries? How far back does the familial hypercholesterolemia go? Sadly, no amount of paper chasing can provide answers to these questions. Maybe a look at my DNA could?

With these questions very much at the forefront of my mind, I recently took the DNA test (prompted, admittedly, by their special offer of £79 a pop). I was intrigued to see my results as I had heard so much about DNA tests and how various people had used them to discover hidden secrets about their family origins. What would I learn? The test kit came promptly and had my results back to me faster than they had promised, in around three weeks rather than six. I got an email from them telling me that my results were online to view and this is what I saw.
They told me that my DNA was 81% Great Britain, 12% West Europe, 3% Scandinavia, 2% Finland/Northwest Russia and 2% Ireland. I'll admit that I had expected more information and was, at first, rather disappointed. This breakdown didn't tell me very much and was very general. But, having said that, it does fit in with the conclusions from my paper trail: my family have been in the UK for a long time so it's entirely consistent that my DNA reflects that. As there was also the facility to download the raw data, I did that but, apart from being impressed with the sheer volume of it, it really meant nothing to me. Maybe you can make sense of it? There's another 2MBs as a text file if you are interested.
But what you can do with the raw data is to upload them to another gene-matching site ( and run them through a battery of other analyses.There are lots of them, each allowing comparison against a different DNA database. Here are just a few I tried before I ran out of interest. All very general and not really adding anything substantive to the overall picture. My lot migrated from continental Europe into what became England a long time ago and I suspect that's as accurate as I'll ever get. I'm happy with that, although I will chase up some of the leads to distant cousins that my subscription to Ancestry has thrown up. Maybe I'll learn something new but it will be confined to relatively recent times. 

One other thing that the DNA analysis programme will allow is a prediction of eye colour. Here's mine and it's not too far out. But so what? I could always look in the mirror to check at any time.

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