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Ethnicity Inheritance

Flags of the World

I can vividly remember that day in the 4th grade when I learned about being Irish. It was St. Patrick's Day! My mom explained who St. Patrick was, and that we were Irish, and I thought it was so fun that EVERYONE wore green so as to not get pinched. I wore my Kelly Green dress proudly, and most magically of all, we learned folk dancing in school that day, and danced to an Irish jig. How glorious to be Irish!

So, what makes us Irish? Or Italian? Or Latvian? Let's take a look at "Ethnicity Inheritance" which basically means which countries or regions our ancestors came from originally. As we discussed before in choosing a DNA testing site, these ethnicity results are largely determined by the size of the testing companies' databases. If your family is from Lichtenstein which has a population under 40,000 people, and no one from there has taken a DNA test, you're not going to get Lichtenstein back in your report. Make sense?

DNA Ethnicity Estimate from Ancestry

Let's take a look. Here's a simple beginning. LJ is estimated to be 100% Irish, meaning that both of LJ'S parents' DNA (50% from mom, and 50% from dad, remember?) shows that they also had Irish ancestors.

Ethnicity Inheritance Chart Ancestry

Neither of LJ's parents are still alive, so we can't test them to make sure this bears out.

Both Ancestry and MyHeritage have free chromosome mapping applications so that you can see which chromosomes test out to match what regions. Not surprisingly, LJ's chromosome map is all one color. Green! You can separate to view by parent, but not much point in doing that here with this DNA result. They are all green showing all of the tested DNA matches other DNA testing results from Ireland.

Chromosome map from Ancestry

Ancestry explains the Ethnicity Inheritance thusly, "Almost everyone gets half of their DNA from each parent. This means that there’s half of each parent’s DNA that you didn’t inherit. And the 50% of the DNA you get is random. That’s why you and your siblings don’t have identical DNA and may have different ethnicity results." Last week we talked about how the DNA distribution in babies is always going to be different, unless you are talking about identical twins.

LJ's daughter took a DNA test. We would expect that the half of her DNA she got from her mother would be Irish, right (about 50/50 from each parent)?

I love it when the math works out.

Ethnicity Estimate from DNA testing
Daughter's Ethnicity Inheritance

Ancestry leaves it to you to figure out which side of the circle is which parent. This was pretty easy to figure out as one half of the ethnicity is all green for Irish, so this must be Daughter's maternal side. Daughter's paternal side is a little more colorful, so we know her father's family was a little more spread out, but there is still a lot of Irish in there!

Ethnicity Inheritance breakdown LJ's daughter

Daughter is estimated to be 78% Irish by the Ancestry system. 50% of the DNA she got from LJ is Irish, 28% of the DNA she got from her father is Irish. 50+28=78.

Daughter's paternal DNA reveals 13% of the DNA matches Scotland, 7% matches people who tested from Wales, and 2% matched test takers with "Germanic Europe" ancestry. If you click on the chart it will expand a little bit to make it easier to read, I hope!

My Heritage ethnicity estimate for LJ's daughter

Daughter's ethnicity estimate is pretty similar from MyHeritage: 69.8% Irish and 30.2% English (which could include Scotland and Wales if you think of it as the UK), but no "Germanic Europe" in this test result.

I hope you will excuse my messy attempt to privatize Daughter's identity with the messy smudges!

Daughters Full Ancestry Chromosome chart

Ancestry's chromosome painter is still in testing mode, so I'll be checking back on this later. You are supposed to be able to separate maternal ethnicities and paternal ethnicities by chromosomes, but Daughter's maternal separation should be all green (as LJ was tested to show 100% Irish), but there is some Wales, Scotland, and Germanic bleed through. A little disappointing. Maternal immediately below, paternal below that. Click to expand if you like.

Daughter Chromosome Map Maternal
Daughter's Maternal Chromosome Painter from Ancestry

Paternal Chromosome map for Daughter
Daughter's Paternal Chromosome Painter from Ancestry

Daughter's paternal cousin agreed to be tested as the family is trying to find the birth parents of Daughter's and Cousin's paternal great-grandfather.

Daughter and Cousin share the same paternal grandparents, and therefore, great-grandparents. Cousin's mother is Daughter's father's sister, or Daughter's Aunt on her father's side. Got it? Where is Edith Bunker when you need her?

Cousin Map
Cousin Map

Paternal Cousin's Ethnicity
Cousin's Ethnicity
Ethnicity breakdown of Paternal 1st Cousin

There is some overlap as we would expect. Daughter's aunt (Cousin's mother) inherited DNA from her mother that is 43% Irish, 5% Scottish (but not English or Welsh?), and 2% Norway/Sweden.

Data for Cousin's father shows no DNA that matches up to be Irish that he gave to his daughter. Which is very interesting, as his last name is as Irish as Ryan, Harrigan, and O'Sullivan. What's up with that? When I first tested my own DNA, I also got some results that cited Viking DNA. WHAT?!?!?!?!? Blame the Vikings!

Raids of Ireland and Britain from Scandinavia began as early as the eighth century. Ireland was popular with the Norwegians, and Britain was the favorite target of the Danish and Swedish.

Viking cartoon

"The first ever Irish Viking genomes, or DNA sequences, have been published and the results will come as a surprise to many.

International journal Nature reported on the largest-ever DNA analysis of Viking remains, and revealed that most Viking DNA evident in Ireland can be traced back to Norway."

Doing a little genealogy research reveals that some of Cousin's father's Irish ancestors arrived in the US in 1755, six generations back, so it's possible that he did not pass on in his 50% DNA contribution to Cousin any distinctly "Irish" genes.

So how similar are the two cousins' Chromosome maps? Daughter is on the left, Cousin is on the right. Ancestry's DNA testing shows that Daughter and Cousin have 11% of the same DNA, which is about average for 1st Cousins.

Chromosome Map from Ancestry
Daughter's Chromosome Map
Chromosome Map from Ancestry
Cousin's Chromosome Map

So, where to now in the search for the unknown great-grandfather? Daughter and Cousin have shared DNA matches for paternal relatives, which is what Daughter needed to find a paternal great-grandfather. The addition of Cousin's DNA test results narrows down the hundreds of matches she had with only her mother's test and her own to only 50 (as of this week!) cousins that have tested with Ancestry. We can contact those people, even those without linked trees, to see what they may know. And, we can check the underdeveloped trees and expand them ourselves to see what new discoveries can be made. Even doing DNA testing, you still have to do the Genealogy!

I am waiting to get Cousin's okay to upload their DNA to MyHeritage, where we are getting more European hits, which is interesting. Apparently, it is the preferred site for DNA testing in Europe according to some new articles I have read.

If Cousin and her father want to discover more about his DNA we could test him, but it is not going to help in our search for her great-grandfather's birth parents, since he is not gentically related to them.

If you have taken a DNA test but not yet built a tree, I would be delighted to help you. Email me what you know (or don't know!) for a free quote and to set up a game plan.

Thanks for stopping by again this week, and for LIKING and SHARING. I look forward to hearing from you with questions, comments, or your own searches and discoveries! Genealogy and Genetic Genealogy are great puzzles, aren't they?

Best wishes in your hunts,

Leslie Ryan

No compensation is received from any companies or links herein.


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