Thoughts on DNA

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently did my DNA and found out some surprising information. Although I don’t hold much stock in the results, especially as they can vary between calculators, I do use it to verify information I’ve received and to gather information about the general areas that my family is from.

My main break down is (in order):

Northern European (French, Scottish/Orcadian, North Norwegian, North Eastern Swedish, and North Western Russian).

Northern Finnish.

Mediterranean (primarily Greek), Ashkenazi.

(with smaller amounts of South Asian/Indian and Siberian depending on the test).

There are various different calculators available to find your “admixture”, and although results vary between each calculator, it can help in affirming suspicions about ancestry. This is the first time I’ve really sat down to compare and contrast results, as well as compile all the results in one place. One of the most useful things I’ve encountered is the ability to use the results for health analysis (we’ll get into that later!)

The first websites I’ll introduce are the more simple ones – Ancestry (original test site), FamilyTreeDNA (myFTDNA), DNA.land, and MyHeritage. I also just submitted to 23andMe for my mtDNA haplogroup (but will also get their other heritage services too. Won’t get that for a few weeks still). Many of these calculators use terms broadly (such as ‘Scandinavia’ and are not technically historically (or politically) accurate, so it’s best to check what countries they are specifically referring to when they paint with such broad strokes).

Ancestry results show Scotland, Finland/NW Russia, Eastern Europe, Jewish. The categories are quite limited. I register less than <1% South or West Asian with this one.

myFTDNA results are pretty useless. 95% European (including everywhere mentioned in all the other tests, but not broken down. Was kind of a waste of $19). But, it has provided a wealth of information from my matches, including mtDNA and family tree comparisons.

DNA.land includes West Europe (Northern Britain, Iceland, and Norway), Finnish (only Finnish in Finland – no minority groups), and North Slavic (which I think is mostly North Western Russia). The grouping here is slightly odd to me.. but, fairly consistent with other sites (though missing any Asian).

MyHeritage  shows British and Scandinavian, but not Finnish – though I’ve read that it’s not separated beyond (the incorrect) “Scandinavian”, plus Eastern European and Baltic, and Ashkenazi Jewish, with a teeny part South Asian. It has no Northern Russian grouping.

WeGene is another analysis site. According to this site I am French, Finnish/Russian, Hungarian, and only 5% English (and small parts of Chinese (not broken down, but includes Tungusic, Udmurt, and Komi), Ashkenazi and Indian). This actually, could be the most accurate of ALL of the tests I’ve done.

Gencove: A site where you can upload results from any major test provider. This gives me similar to all the others (but on an even broader level). It has for me “Northern Europe” and “Northeast Europe”. That’s it. NO breakdown, whatsoever. But, the site also allows plug-ins with other apps (including those for heritage and health) for small sums of money. As it gives you $3 in credits, I decided to do a couple.

I did one with the “Ancestry” app and apparently a bunch of my DNA did not match with anything in their sample files. So, that really wasn’t very helpful.

I did a second test with their “Admixture K29” app and came up as 42% French, 44% Scandinavian (Norway/Sweden), 8% Belarusian/Ukrainian, 5% South Asian, and 2% Greek-Albanian.

GedMatch (and GedMatch Genesis, which is a newer beta version and lists some admixtures slightly differently) which can be a bit confusing. They have a large number of admixture tests available and all produce different results. Many are purely for ancient DNA populations or African and Asian populations. Oracle results give an indication of their reference populations who most closely share your results. I’ll give a breakdown of the top results below in order by relevant test (the test name, top admixture results and top oracle results if provided (single, mixed x2 and x4).

For more information about each calculator go here. Those not included are not applicable or were updated versions of the same test in the list. I did not list anything below 10 percent (except S. Asian/Indian which hovers between 5-15%) and anything below 5 percent is usually considered statistical “noise”:

Continue reading “Thoughts on DNA”

Memories without Food

It’s always around this time of year that I start thinking about my grandparents. Their lives and pasts were very different and it made me feel sometimes that I was living across a huge divide between the two polar opposites of the sides of our family.

Today’s story is about my Nanna (Doll or “Babka”). She never cooked. She couldn’t use the gas cooker in her council house and whenever she tried, she never failed to set her hair or eyebrows on fire. She would never use the pilot light, but always tried to use a piece of paper lit from her cigarette, a lighter, or something else. Once she tried to make toast under the grill and almost set the house on fire! Come to think of it, I don’t even know what they ate? I know her sister lived down the street, so maybe she came with food? I just know that we’d have bread and butter or cheese and tea or pop. The stodgy kind of white bread that kept the fingerprints from your fingers and tasted like play dough. Nanna always had whisky or vodka in her tea, to chase the demons, she said.

I do remember going for walks with her, up to the “moors” – a wild piece of land behind the last housing estate of the town, next to the protected park land. Sometimes we’d look for mushrooms or elderberries. Sometimes we’d make a small fire and make ‘stick bread’ – which was basically unleavened bread wrapped around a cleaned stick and set over the fire. Sometimes, we took pop with us – lemonade or fanta – in those glass bottles that you got 10p for returning to the shop. We’d wash them and return them for money to put in Nanna’s electric meter. It sat in a wee cupboard in the kitchen and you had to put 50p in at a time. I remember often the power would run out and we’d have to run down the corner shop (Saunder’s, which wasn’t actually on a corner and is now some kind of pizza shop) to change money or take a load of washed bottles to get money.

The white building with the blue frontage was where Saunder’s shop was. They were dark inside, had iron bars covering the windows, but sold cigarettes, pop, basic necessities and most importantly, sweets and ice-cream. Many the time I went by to get a “ten-penny mix-up” where they’d randomly select ten penny items from the sweets – usually flying saucers, coke bottles, jaw breakers, milk bottles, candy cigarettes…

I don’t have memories of food or recipes, really, from Nanna, except things we picked together or the basic things we made in the kitchen, which really wasn’t very much. She told a lot of half-stories, unfinished, forgotten, in front of her fire. Hunched in her chair, cigarette dangling. Neither her or Granda really spoke about their families or pasts. I know some of their history, which I’ll get into later. But, for now, we’ll leave it here!

The old town marketplace with the market cross and the cattle market. It happened every week, I think. The farmers would bring their cows and sheep and chickens to sell and the local “Gypsies” and “Tinkers” (Romanichal and Travellers) would bring their flowers, pot-mending, and wood-working skills to sell.