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Who Are We Anyway: Tracing Our History

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this has been on my mind for a bit but seeing fragile bird was buying a dna test it made me start this thread.



first i will start with a funny tale...i was at work and a server came back into the kitchen to ask me if i would meet a guest. on occasion guests want to meet me. it is always uncomfortable for me. but, i did it. i went out and met this kindly say 60 year old black woman. she said she had read about me in an article. i thanked her and whatnot. she then went on to explain that via a dna test she discovered she was had white ancestors and that she and i had a shared last name. i was unable to substantiate or deny that at one time my ancestors had dealings with hers.



my father and i are pretty tight and i talk to him a lot. i told him about my interaction at work that day. my dad shared all he knew about our familial background which is not a lot. but, he is in fact interested.



so, i want to get some good and solid research done for my dad for a present. he and i are both into history and learning more about where our family came from and who they were could be fun.



as television has told me there are many different online services that could help. who has used what? how did it work for them?



thanks!


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When I saw a story about the National Geographic's DNA project, I thought that was pretty cool. Many people do the DNA test, of course, to see if they have medical issues hidden in their genes, something I thought about as well, but I am far more curious to know the origins of my family than to know whether I have a predisposition to breast cancer.



My parents, when I asked them about their families, didn't know much past great grandparents. My mother in particular knew little about her father's family, since he died after her childbirth and his family had been very angry at him for marrying my grandmother, a second marriage for both of them, and cut her off. Somewhere in Poland I have a whole family of half-aunts, a second family actually, of half-aunts since my mother had two half-sisters. They know their grandfather's history, and I'd like to know some of mine. My brother tried looking on Ancestry.com, and found nothing.



Poland is infamous as having been a battleground across the centuries, since it has several major rivers that have created flat lands over the years. Natural battlegrounds for infantry and horse. Waves of invaders made it that far north, including Mongols. And there's a family story on my dad's side about Scottish Catholics that had fled the Reformation by crossing the North Sea and settled in other Catholic countries, like France and Poland.



I am really looking forward to getting the kit and the test results. And I might try to do my own investigating on Ancestry.com.

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The boring thing about being Irish is that you know your DNA is pretty much all Irish. I probably have a little more Scandinavian DNA than the darker haired Celtic Irish, but I'm still all Irish. (Vikings brought Scandinavian DNA to the east coast around 850-1150). But since I'm Catholic rather than Protestant, I probably don't have much or any English/Anglo-Saxon/Norman DNA. Sectarian apartheid makes it easy.

My mother has taken up genealogy as a hobby. She has traced the family tree back to 1830 but is hitting a wall now. Too many records were lost when the Customs House was burned down nearly 100 years ago and there was too much upheaval during the Famine and too little literacy in general back then.

It's very noticeable how often a 40yr old man would marry a 20yr old woman, presumably requiring economic stability, e.g. inherited land or established in a skilled trade, to get married.

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It depends on what kind of service you want. Do you want someone to do the research for you, or do you want a guide to help you do it yourself? Ancestry.com really is a great resource, but a little intimidating if you don't know how to use it.



One of the easiest ways to use ancestry is to enter a few generations into the family tree and wait for the system to try and match similar names and info. It tries to identify relevant documents. My main piece of advice in using this is that you need to verify sources and double check the dates. It's so very easy to assume everything you find is accurate and build on that. Don't. Double check and verify, then move on.



If you're looking for someone to do the research for you, I don't have any experience with that.



My father recently took a DNA test. My parents have traced his family back to early 1700s in Bohemia. No hint of anyone without a drop of Czech blood anywhere. His DNA is mostly Eastern European, check. Traces of this and that, check ... 35% Great Britain. Whoa. For that big a percentage of it to be different, a lone ancestor from GB would have to be fairly recent. Dad went over the possibilities and decided it was highly, highly unlikely and thought the test was bullshit.



Then we began thinking about it and trying to figure this out. There was a Celtic tribe called the Boii that lived in Bohemia in the first centuries AD. Oh, ok - that makes sense. We not only have roots in Bohemia, we have really, really deep roots in Bohemia. That was cool to realize.


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The boring thing about being Irish is that you know your DNA is pretty much all Irish. I probably have a little more Scandinavian DNA than the darker haired Celtic Irish, but I'm still all Irish. (Vikings brought Scandinavian DNA to the east coast around 850-1150). But since I'm Catholic rather than Protestant, I probably don't have much or any English/Anglo-Saxon/Norman DNA. Sectarian apartheid makes it easy.

I'm not sure about Norman DNA bit. The Hiberno Normans were pretty widespread across Ireland and fairly well assimilated prior to any real movements away from Catholicism either in Ireland or the rest of the UK. I can think of a couple or Irish people I know off the top of my head with definitely Norman surnames who are Catholic.

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I would love to know more about my history. What's this DNA test, and how do I get one?

I've tried Ancestry before, but I don't know enough to get any conclusive results. I found a lot of Patis' in America, but who knows if I'm related to any of them.

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It depends on what kind of service you want. Do you want someone to do the research for you, or do you want a guide to help you do it yourself? Ancestry.com really is a great resource, but a little intimidating if you don't know how to use it.

One of the easiest ways to use ancestry is to enter a few generations into the family tree and wait for the system to try and match similar names and info. It tries to identify relevant documents. My main piece of advice in using this is that you need to verify sources and double check the dates. It's so very easy to assume everything you find is accurate and build on that. Don't. Double check and verify, then move on.

If you're looking for someone to do the research for you, I don't have any experience with that.

My father recently took a DNA test. My parents have traced his family back to early 1700s in Bohemia. No hint of anyone without a drop of Czech blood anywhere. His DNA is mostly Eastern European, check. Traces of this and that, check ... 35% Great Britain. Whoa. For that big a percentage of it to be different, a lone ancestor from GB would have to be fairly recent. Dad went over the possibilities and decided it was highly, highly unlikely and thought the test was bullshit.

Then we began thinking about it and trying to figure this out. There was a Celtic tribe called the Boii that lived in Bohemia in the first centuries AD. Oh, ok - that makes sense. We not only have roots in Bohemia, we have really, really deep roots in Bohemia. That was cool to realize.

I don't know about the human tests, but if they're anything like the dog DNA test kits then the former (the test was bullshit) is honestly probably more likely to be the answer than the latter (the slim possibility that you're heavily related to one specific tribe from almost 2000 years ago. Imagine how inbred your ancestors would have to be to get 35% from that one gene pool after 2000 years). These tests are notoriously inaccurate - like purebred Great Dane comes back with 'Beagle' level inaccurate.

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I used MyHeritage.com to try to map my family history, and I made it back probably somewhere into the 19th Century before I ran out of data to be scrounged from family memory and records, although I've yet to try anything more official. That's at least a hundred members though, so that's pretty cool already. From what I could tell, my family have been reasonably local for the last hundred years or so.



I vaguely recall starting an ancestry thread sometime last year maybe, but I can't find it so presumably it got deleted.


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I'm rather skeptical about the DNA tests myself. Although I think possibly that an analysis of one's all-male and all-female lines based on Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA would be more accurate.



If your ancestry has lived in the United States for a while you can use ancestry.com or other venues to research your family back through census records. But as Gertrude stated, you have to double check information even from those records. Census takers were not hired for penmanship or spelling ability and they often made mistakes -- it's interesting how often the census takers in the 19th century actually even wrote the wrong gender down. So you always need to use your critical thinking and realize that not everything can be accepted at face value.


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It depends on what kind of service you want. Do you want someone to do the research for you, or do you want a guide to help you do it yourself? Ancestry.com really is a great resource, but a little intimidating if you don't know how to use it.

One of the easiest ways to use ancestry is to enter a few generations into the family tree and wait for the system to try and match similar names and info. It tries to identify relevant documents. My main piece of advice in using this is that you need to verify sources and double check the dates. It's so very easy to assume everything you find is accurate and build on that. Don't. Double check and verify, then move on.

If you're looking for someone to do the research for you, I don't have any experience with that.

My father recently took a DNA test. My parents have traced his family back to early 1700s in Bohemia. No hint of anyone without a drop of Czech blood anywhere. His DNA is mostly Eastern European, check. Traces of this and that, check ... 35% Great Britain. Whoa. For that big a percentage of it to be different, a lone ancestor from GB would have to be fairly recent. Dad went over the possibilities and decided it was highly, highly unlikely and thought the test was bullshit.

Then we began thinking about it and trying to figure this out. There was a Celtic tribe called the Boii that lived in Bohemia in the first centuries AD. Oh, ok - that makes sense. We not only have roots in Bohemia, we have really, really deep roots in Bohemia. That was cool to realize.

No offense but I think it sounds more likely that one your ancestors got cheated on by a Brit, or that the test results just came back wrong.

The Celts weren't from Britain originally, and it's doubtful that they would have completely replaced (read: killed) the entire population already living on the islands before they migrated there, and likewise with the Boii and the people living in present day Bohemia before them. Plus that the Celts also disappeared from that area eventually. Some similar ancestry as present day Britons sure, but 35% sounds like a lot.

Edited by Khaleesi did nothing wrong

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Eh, the Boii possibility seems as likely as a 'British' ancestor, really. His side of the family is really well documented. The Boii were there for hundreds of years and covered a very large chunk of land in central Europe. It's not like they were a small tribe that existed there. They were eventually pushed out by the migrating slavs, so I don't find it a stretch to think that the people from that area intermarried to the extent that 'native' Czechs have a good amount of the same DNA markers as the celts that ended up in the british isles, etc and are under the general 'Great Britain' descriptor DNA wise.



I have no idea what their description of 'Great Britain' is for the purposes of this test. I would also assume that someone living in England today, with roots going as far back as imaginable would have results that would include some Scandinavian, Iberian, West European (German, French) and Mediterranean (Rome) markers.That actually a good question though, how does this test define it's groupings. I will look into that. It's kind of like when Asian ancestry shows up in some tests, it could be Asian or Native American. Can't tell by just the results alone.



My brother did a different test that analysed the maternal DNA and it has some really deep information that is harder to unpack. It's interesting stuff, either way. I realize that none of this stuff is definitive, but it's fun. And when researching your history, you have to make some leaps at some point. Hopefully they are well reasoned, educated leaps, but they must always be made.






But as Gertrude stated, you have to double check information even from those records. Census takers were not hired for penmanship or spelling ability and they often made mistakes -- it's interesting how often the census takers in the 19th century actually even wrote the wrong gender down. So you always need to use your critical thinking and realize that not everything can be accepted at face value.





My favorite census has my great-aunt Alma listed as Elmer. I won't even talk about the last name because it's butchered every which way in lots of records.




eta: OK, interesting. First, thanks for making me think about this some more with your responses. Both my mother and father took the test through Ancestry, not because it's the best test (it's not) but because of the database and possible matching it can do to other people. Anyway, my mother's ancestors are from Ireland/England and Germany. Her breakdown is


34% Western Europe


31% Ireland


27% Scandinavian


traces of Mediterranean, Russian, Iberian and Great Britain



Wait, what? 2% of her DNA is Great Britain? I'm going to investigate further, but now I really want to know what their test is counting as Great Britain markers.



eta2: Still not able to determine what their definition of 'Great Britain' is, but in talking to my mom, dad has already sent them an email asking this. In looking at their site, they talk of the 'Great Britain' group, but the word Celtic is used most often to descrbe it. The Boii originated in central Europe (Bohemia) and then went to dominate Western Europe and the British Isles, so really, I'm becoming more convinced, not less, that the 'Great Britain' from my dad is from those distant Boii. I know this is a huge derail, but it's so very interesting to me, and I hope not horribly boring for people also interested in looking up their own histories.


Edited by Gertrude

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These DNA tests can be marketed with absolutely no validation or confirmation whatsoever. The companies rely on people seeing "DNA" and assuming the science is legit (they probably watched a few episodes of CSI). I would take any results with huge, huge grains of salt.


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It may be misplaced, but I have a certain amount of faith in National Geographic as an organization, to be using a reliable testing organization.


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this has been on my mind for a bit but seeing fragile bird was buying a dna test it made me start this thread.

first i will start with a funny tale...i was at work and a server came back into the kitchen to ask me if i would meet a guest. on occasion guests want to meet me. it is always uncomfortable for me. but, i did it. i went out and met this kindly say 60 year old black woman. she said she had read about me in an article. i thanked her and whatnot. she then went on to explain that via a dna test she discovered she was had white ancestors and that she and i had a shared last name. i was unable to substantiate or deny that at one time my ancestors had dealings with hers.

my father and i are pretty tight and i talk to him a lot. i told him about my interaction at work that day. my dad shared all he knew about our familial background which is not a lot. but, he is in fact interested.

so, i want to get some good and solid research done for my dad for a present. he and i are both into history and learning more about where our family came from and who they were could be fun.

as television has told me there are many different online services that could help. who has used what? how did it work for them?

thanks!

But what do you want to research? Only your direct male bloodline? Or all of your ancestry? And how far back?

If you go back only a couple centuries you will find about 64 great-great-great-great-great-granparents who would come from different countries, and each in turn have ancestors from different countries and races.

And if you go back a couple thousand years, well everybody in the world who lived then and had descendants is your ancestor.

Everybody is basically a mix of everything in different proportions.

eta: OK, interesting. First, thanks for making me think about this some more with your responses. Both my mother and father took the test through Ancestry, not because it's the best test (it's not) but because of the database and possible matching it can do to other people. Anyway, my mother's ancestors are from Ireland/England and Germany. Her breakdown is

34% Western Europe

31% Ireland

27% Scandinavian

traces of Mediterranean, Russian, Iberian and Great Britain

Wait, what? 2% of her DNA is Great Britain? I'm going to investigate further, but now I really want to know what their test is counting as Great Britain markers.

If she's Irish then it should be normal to have Great Britain markers. If you go back far enough, every Irish person has some British ancestors and every British person has some Irish ancestors.

You also have to take into account that markers can get lost. You don't have all the DNA of all your many ancestors, only a bit from each of them. You have a bunch of ancestors that aren't detected by those tests.

If you have Iberian ancestors, for example, you have Black, North African, Italian, Greek, Phoenician (Caananean), Jew, Celtic, Germanic...etc., ancestors.

If you have Russian ancestors you have Slav, Nordic, Mongol, Turkish...etc., ancestors.

Edited by Ser Lepus

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I realize that everyone is a mix of pretty much everything, but broad groups have to be defined and cut off at some point. My surprise wasn't that she had the GB markers, it's that she only had 2%. One of her grandparents (great-grandparent?) came from a mostly English family, and there is a stray Scot or two in the mix. Surely she should have more GB than 2%. It makes me even more curious as to how they define it.



eta: and more on my search. This site has haplogroup breakdowns for European countries. I am not even going to try to decipher exactly what the groups mean, but I compared Ireland, England, Scotland and Czech Republic. In the British Isles, the main group (Italo-Celtic, Germanic ...) is near or over 70%. In Czechia the second highest percentage was this same group - only 22%, but it is a major influence.


Edited by Gertrude

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I realize that everyone is a mix of pretty much everything, but broad groups have to be defined and cut off at some point. My surprise wasn't that she had the GB markers, it's that she only had 2%. One of her grandparents (great-grandparent?) came from a mostly English family, and there is a stray Scot or two in the mix. Surely she should have more GB than 2%. It makes me even more curious as to how they define it.

Those markers are mutations that originated in Great Britain and have spread a lot in GB but not so much outside it, or even ones that originated outside GB but got mostly extinct elsewhere while prospering in the island.

Not all British people have all the markers, but most "ethnic British" have several of them. Some could have very few of those markers, it's all a matter of chances, like buying a bingo card.

As I said, those markers can get lost. You only inherit half the markers from each parent on average, but a person could by chance pass even less to his descendants.

12'5 % of your genes come from your great-grandfather, so you should have about a 12'5 % of his markers, but by chance you could have received a lesser amount.

I guess your English great-great-grandparent could have a lesser amount of those markers than average and have passed less than average to his children, who in turn passed less than average to their own. The test detects enough of those markers to claim that you have british ancestors, but not enough to detect that you have a 12,5 % of British ancestry.

Edited by Ser Lepus

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When I saw a story about the National Geographic's DNA project, I thought that was pretty cool. Many people do the DNA test, of course, to see if they have medical issues hidden in their genes, something I thought about as well, but I am far more curious to know the origins of my family than to know whether I have a predisposition to breast cancer.

My parents, when I asked them about their families, didn't know much past great grandparents. My mother in particular knew little about her father's family, since he died after her childbirth and his family had been very angry at him for marrying my grandmother, a second marriage for both of them, and cut her off. Somewhere in Poland I have a whole family of half-aunts, a second family actually, of half-aunts since my mother had two half-sisters. They know their grandfather's history, and I'd like to know some of mine. My brother tried looking on Ancestry.com, and found nothing.

Poland is infamous as having been a battleground across the centuries, since it has several major rivers that have created flat lands over the years. Natural battlegrounds for infantry and horse. Waves of invaders made it that far north, including Mongols. And there's a family story on my dad's side about Scottish Catholics that had fled the Reformation by crossing the North Sea and settled in other Catholic countries, like France and Poland.

I am really looking forward to getting the kit and the test results. And I might try to do my own investigating on Ancestry.com.

I often wonder about my paternal grandfather's family too. His parents came from Poland, I'm not sure if they came separately or not. My father doesn't know much about them. I've tried to find out the meaning of my last name but haven't been able to turn anything up, so I'm sure it isn't a place name in Poland. Perhaps it could be a Polish version of a foreign name.

My dad knows more about his mothers family, one of his cousins I think it was had a family tree done. She got as far back as the early 1600's and New France and she found some interesting stuff. My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather was a Hessian Mercenary during the revolution and never went back to Hesse. He was given land in Canada in return for his service to the Crown.

I would love to dig deeper into that and see what comes of it. Also I would love to dig into my mother's family. She seems to think her father's family name comes from Venetian merchants.

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I realize that everyone is a mix of pretty much everything, but broad groups have to be defined and cut off at some point. My surprise wasn't that she had the GB markers, it's that she only had 2%. One of her grandparents (great-grandparent?) came from a mostly English family, and there is a stray Scot or two in the mix. Surely she should have more GB than 2%. It makes me even more curious as to how they define it.

eta: and more on my search. This site has haplogroup breakdowns for European countries. I am not even going to try to decipher exactly what the groups mean, but I compared Ireland, England, Scotland and Czech Republic. In the British Isles, the main group (Italo-Celtic, Germanic ...) is near or over 70%. In Czechia the second highest percentage was this same group - only 22%, but it is a major influence.

It just sort of seems like the genealogical version of retconning to me. Is it possible to explain why your father, whose family you know is Czech, comes back as 1/3 British but your Irish and English mother comes back as 1/50 British? Sure, if you're really determined to find a way, but the most obvious and likely answer is that the test itself is flawed. I can see how it would be fun anyway, though.

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That's the fun of tracing your genealogy - it's a mystery to unravel. Any tool I can use to find answers, or even more questions to ask is something i am going to follow up on. :)


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Fair enough :) You're definitely getting to learn a lot of interesting history, anyway!


Edited by Arkhangel

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