Friday, May 23, 2014
"Cocktail Party Conversation"
Of course, when I received the kit, I meant to send it back right away . . . yeah, that didn't happen. I think it took me about a month or so before I finally had time to read the instructions, register the kit, come up with enough saliva to fill to the line, and send it off. I can't say I was waiting with bated breath to see my results, but I was curious as to what Ancestry would come up with.
A week ago, I got a message in my inbox: "Your AncestryDNA results are in!" So I dutifully clicked the link and went to Ancestry.com to learn what discoveries would be revealed.
Well, at least some of it is realistic. Ancestry says I'm 48% European Jewish — check. My mother was Jewish and solidly Eastern European as far as I know. Not as much actual documentation as I'd like (with three family lines in Grodno gubernia, that's pretty much impossible), but very reliable otherwise.
I have much better documentation on my father's side of the family, going back several generations. He is primarily English Quaker and other English on his mother's side, and German Lutheran on his father's. Some of the English goes back to Belgium, and some of the German to Switzerland. The paper trail is very strong, with no evidence of nonpaternity events or undocumented adoptions. So what does Ancestry say the rest of my background is?
Western Europe 34%
English less than 1%
Caucasus less than 1%
Middle East less than 1%
Italy/Greece less than 1%
Africa, American Indian, Asia, Pacific Islander 0%
The 34% Western European makes sense in context of my father's strong German background, plus the Belgian and Swiss connections. Some Scandinavian is plausible given our English ancestry, since it is well known that Viking raiders made it to Great Britain. Anything below 1% can safely be ignored, but even the Caucasus and Middle East could be legitimate with my mother being Jewish.
I'm actually amused by this, however, not concerned in any way, because I keep in mind what Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, says over and over: These results are nothing but cocktail party conversation, because the algorithms are built on extrapolation of data that are insufficient to give reliable information. The companies may never have adequate data to give accurate information. It's all smoke and mirrors, guys.
But maybe I'll raise a glass to myself next year on St. Patrick's Day anyway.