Saturday, December 29, 2012

AncestryDNA part deux

So for Christmas I bought an AncestryDNA kit for my fiance - I think I was more excited about it than he was, so really, it was a present for me too, but with a daughter on the way, I see finding out a little more about his ethnic background as a gift for our growing family.

Anyway, as I've mentioned before, Sam is Honduran, so I'm fully expecting to see some kind of Native American ancestry showing up, based on his known-Mayan heritage. But the rest of his family tree is such an eclectic mix - Jamaican, Scottish & Sicilian that we know of, who knows what else that we don't - I'm just so excited to see what shows up. Because, a la my results, there could be some real surprises. The more I think about it, the more my Scandinavian roots make sense (all the countries my family is from were plundered/settled by Vikings) but I am still flummoxed by my Eastern European roots. It must be somewhere in my German roots, that they had family that came from Eastern European countries, but I have yet to find it. A mystery for another day.

But another reason I'm excited about this DNA kit for my fiance is that his family comes from a part of the world where record keeping is spotty at best, as is the case in many of the Central/South American countries where whole populations were conquered and destroyed or records for certain populations were deemed not worth keeping. I'm lucky in that I have a lot of paper records available to me for my own family research, but what do you do when you don't have that? You can rely on whatever paper records ARE available, family records, oral tradition & now, DNA.

So, can't wait to get that done. But in the mean time, I'm still personally trying to wrap my head around some of the aspects of AncestryDNA, particularly the cousin connect feature. Maybe one of my readers can help me with this - when someone is listed as being connected to you, especially as a close connection (4th-6th cousin), how accurate is that? Is that person really related to you? Whenever I look at their trees, I don't recognize any of the names - there's no overlap. However, while I can list many of my 4th-6th cousins, thanks to my colonial family tree, there are quite a few I can't and may never find - thanks to my spotty Irish ancestry. So maybe these are cousins on those missing branches? Or is it just saying that because I have Scandinavian DNA & THEY have Scandinavian DNA, we MIGHT be related?


  1. Hi Mary Ellen,

    I get emails and comments on my blog all the time with people trying to make sense of their AncestryDNA ethnicity predictions. I have reached the conclusion that these should be taken with a BIG grain of salt. YOu can see my most recent thoughts on it here:

    As far as the cousin predictions, I have found these are much more reliable. When they give you a range such as 4th-6th cousin, they also give you a confidence level reflecting how sure they are that your relationship falls within this prediction. For instance, if it is 98%, then they are very confident about it, but if it is only 50%, then the relationship very well may fall outside their predicted range. These people ARE related to you because you share DNA. Down in the lower confidence levels, there is a chance that some of them are false positives, but those that have closer predictions, definitely are your cousins - they just might be a bit further out than either their prediction or your tree goes.
    The ethnicity prediction, as far as I know, doesn't (and certainly shouldn't) have anything to do with the matching algorithms. Since AncestryDNA has yet to release any details in that regard, I can't say this with 100% confidence, but I feel pretty certain that is the case. None of the other companies use that information to predict cousins. They only use the amount of DNA that you have in common in their algorithms.

    I hope this helps. I look forward to hearing whether your fiance's results show Native American, as they certainly should considering his background.

    Congratulations on your baby! :-)


    1. Thanks, CeCe - that was extremely helpful! I'm going to take a look at your blog re: the ethnicity predictions, but if I'm getting results on Ancestry saying someone is a 4th-6th cousin with 96 percent confidence, I should definitely start contacting these people!

      Enjoy the rest of your weekend!