You may remember a couple of years ago, Dave and I had our DNA analyzed by Ancestry. We thought it would be cool to see where we're from genetically, just for curiosity's sake.
At the time, Ancestry said I was mostly British and Irish, with smaller amounts of Scandinavian and Western European DNA, and trace amounts from other regions including the Iberian peninsula, Italy/Greece and West Africa. My analysis also correctly pinpointed my genetic "communities," where people sharing similar DNA profiles live, in North Carolina and Missouri -- where my parents both have family roots.
Well, the other day, I got an e-mail from Ancestry saying they'd revised my profile. Apparently as more and more people get DNA testing, they have more data with which to work and they can narrow down the areas our DNA matches. So I checked out my new genetic identity (top).
It remains predominantly English, Welsh or Norman, now at an astonishing 73 percent (the brighter yellow regions above). Ireland and Scotland provide an additional 24 percent, meaning 97 percent of my DNA comes from the British Isles or northwestern France. The amount of Scandinavian DNA in my profile dropped from 20 percent to just two percent, now specifically said to be Swedish. And I still have a mysterious sliver of DNA identified as West African, specifically pinpointed to Mali.
So what does this mean?
Well, I guess not much has changed. I knew I was mostly English, based on family trees and genealogical work done by my father and grandfather. If I remember right, my Dad traced us back to Normans not long after the Battle of Hastings in 1066 -- and reportedly part of my family originated in the English region of Ely in Cambridgeshire. My profile still shows me connecting to genetic "communities" in North Carolina and Missouri, and even pinpointed my paternal cousin Linda, who is a total stranger to me but who apparently also used Ancestry, as a close relative!
The Mali thing, though, blows my mind. When my earlier profile showed West African DNA, I figured it was a prehistoric remnant of early man, or maybe just a blip, an inaccuracy. And indeed, the trace bits of DNA from regions like Iberia, Italy/Greece and Russia/Finland in that earlier profile have now vanished completely. But West Africa is still hanging in there, and to have it narrowed down to a specific part of West Africa makes it somehow seem even more certain to be a real thing.
Do I really have a tiny smidgen of African blood? Could one of my ancestors have canoodled with a slave, maybe? It seems if that happened, at least in colonial or Antebellum America, I'd have more than just one percent of that DNA, though. Maybe it was an ancestor from much farther back, a sailor or trader or crusader?
Or is it possible that my Norman DNA was also present in Frenchmen who went to serve in Mali in the Foreign Legion and canoodled there? Maybe my Malian DNA, in other words, is really French DNA transplanted to Mali? Or North Carolinian DNA transplanted to Liberia via resettled American slaves?
Or maybe it's just a mistake. My profile says that although it shows 1 percent Malian DNA, the actual level could be 0 to 1 percent.
But I hope I have African roots!
Dave, on the other hand, got a disappointment with his revised profile. We were tickled to learn in 2017 that he had 6 percent European Jewish DNA -- it seemed amusing given his strict Lutheran roots. Well, the Judaism has vanished completely with the latest revisions -- he's now 89 percent German and Czech, which conforms to his knowledge of his family, with a smidgen of British/Irish thrown in. (His 1 percent Finnish DNA is a curious mystery -- like my Malian DNA, it could be a mistake, or a remnant of a mysterious traveler far back in the mists of time.)