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DNA testing surprises

From ISOGG Wiki

The following stories of DNA testing surprises have been submitted by ISOGG members. Our sincere 'thanks' to those who have shared their stories!

DNA identity crisis

I thought I would share my story because it may help other people experiencing the same thing. I have been using genetic genealogy since 2003 with fantastic success. Eventually, I got around to ordering a mitochondrial DNA test for my direct maternal line. When the results came in, there was not much that could have shocked me more.

My direct maternal line goes back to Ireland. My Irish ancestors were Potato Famine immigrants who settled in the Irish community of Chicago. They baptized their children at Holy Family Catholic Church. They even passed down a Great Chicago Fire story. Yet here I was, staring at a computer screen that said my mitochondrial DNA was not even remotely connected to the Emerald Isle.

The majority of DNA matches are in Italy and the haplogroup is primarily found in Eastern Europe. A friend hypothesized that the long-ago ancestor came with the Romans into Britain, and then went to Ireland, possibly during Cromwell's reign. Another person with whom I corresponded with suggested the Sarmatians as a possible origin. Either is possible, and both are plausible, but in truth, I will likely never know where she came from. I just know my maternal line has not been in Ireland for eons.

My mother taught my brother and me to be proud of our heritage, of the ancestors who fought so hard to survive and who gave their children better lives. She told us the stories that had been handed down about how our ancestors' ship was denied entrance into the United States. America had had enough of the Irish immigrants and closed their ports to Irish ships. So the ship docked in Canada and my tough-as-nails ancestors crossed the border when the Great Lakes froze over.

I contemplated my heritage as I knew it, and the DNA results that said I was not as Irish as I thought I was. This made me ask, "When do you stop being one nationality or ethnicity and become another?" This is a very difficult question and it does not have just one answer. But I think the best way to come to terms with it is that YOU need to decide what you are based on all the information you have available.

For instance, I might feel less Irish because of what I now know about that one line, but at the same time, my immigrant ancestors were Irish nationals and lived as such in their Chicago community. Basically, I am as Irish as I decide to be.

First and foremost, I am an American. Like many Americans who descend from immigrants that settled within the last two hundred years, I am a mixture of different nationalities. When it comes down to it, what does it matter how much is the Irish portion; it does not make me any more or less American. And it will not make me an Irish national. I am still just an American with some Irish heritage, as I was before DNA testing.

Probably most people can reconcile their DNA "identity crisis" on their own as I did. However, if someone has a problem with it, I would recommend seeking additional information about the DNA results and if necessary, talk to a professional counselor.

By Katherine Borges
28 December 2008

The shock of our lives!

When I encouraged my brother to join the Genographic Project, it really was a "two-fer": we would be helping the noteworthy worldwide Genographic Project and were excited to be a part of it as well as finding out the origins of our deceased father of whom we knew no history further than his own. We simply readily assumed that all the folk we knew as his relatives were his actual family members.

Upon receipt of the kit results from National Genographic, we happily uploaded the results to Family Tree DNA (FTDNA). Little did we know we were in for the shock of our lives! The first 16 matches were all of the same surname - which was not that of our father! In a state of shock, I had a conversation with Bennett Greenspan, FTDNA president, who assured me that the results were correct and subsequent testing and deep clade testing confirmed that... in spades!

The results of census checking showed that our father and the perfect 67 match's descendants were all in the same state, same very small town at the very same time. It confirmed that our father's birth was an NPE. It also confirmed why our father never talked about nor had ever visited family during our lifetime with him, nor had those who were supposedly his relatives ever visited us. Thus, we discovered he had been adopted.

Subsequently, contact was made, the family link was confirmed and a paper trail was given us that added knowledge and gave our deceased father the true heritage and "family" he had not known during his lifetime. On my brother's personal page for matches at FTDNA all matches are same surname "family"! Wonderful for an NPE!

We have continued to receive matches during the past two or three years. The matches have continued to be of only the same surname.

My brother now has a total of 71 matches (ALL same surname). Of those, there are 18 exact matches at 12, 11 exact matches at 25, 2 exact matches at 37, and at 67 there are: 1 exact match at 67, and 65/67, 64/67, 63/67 and 62/67. There are 21 total who are 1 off at each level, 9 total who are 2 off but most of the 71 have not upgraded to 67.

We were just notified a few weeks ago of a new 65/67 match and it continues to be the same surname. And a 35/37 match just came in January 31, 2009! Same surname. We offer this as encouragement to other adoptees, stepchildren, NPEs, etc. DNA miracles do happen.

By Fannie Barnes Linder PsyD, LMHC, BCPC, FACFEI, FAPA, CRS
Brother: E1b1b1c* M123*
4 February 2009

See also