‘I’m supposed to have German roots…’


22 October 2019
Catherine-Ball-40380.jpg Catherine Ball, AncestryDNa's Chief Scientific Officer
DNA is a fascinating topic, but it definitely raises questions among the curious! Here Catherine Ball, Chief Scientific Office at Ancestry, helped Nikcole understand what her DNA test results mean, and helped her understand a bit more about her ancestral origins

‘I’m supposed to have German roots…’

DNA is a fascinating topic, but it definitely raises questions among the curious! Here Catherine Ball, Chief Scientific Office at AncestryDNA, helped Nikcole understand what her test results mean

Nikcole asked:

I'm supposed to have German roots on my paternal nan's side of the family as the person was supposed to come from Prussia in the 1800s, but I took the DNA test last year and not one bit of my DNA was found for Germany, why would this be?

When I last looked, my uncle on my paternal side had Germanic Europe, but it was later updated and taken away – any ideas?

Also in my DNA I'm noted as being 13% Irish and Scottish but it doesn't give where exactly it is connected to in Ireland – any ideas where I could get it pin-pointed?

Catherine answered:

Great questions!

First off, because of how DNA is passed down between generations, it is very possible that a distant relative from a certain part of the world may not be detected in your DNA. Each generation we only get half of each parent’s DNA. After a few generations, it can get so diluted that it cannot be easily seen any more.

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Your uncle most likely had Western Europe and then that was lost in the update (we did not have Germanic Europe in our previous ethnicity estimates). It is possible that his Western Europe became France as Western Europe was broken up into Germanic Europe and France. It is also possible that in the update, the DNA that had been read as Western Europe was now read as a neighbouring region.

People from different regions of Europe have very similar DNA that makes them hard to distinguish from each other. Our update in 2018 resulted in an algorithm that was much better at telling these regions apart. It could be that his Western Europe DNA is, for example, now England, Wales, and Northwestern Europe in the update. These two regions are very similar at the DNA level.

And finally, pinpointing your ancestry in Ireland. For very small regions like the 92 we currently have in Ireland, we use our patented Genetics Communities technology. We are constantly working to update the number and granularity of these regions so stay tuned. We may better be able to pinpoint where your ancestors lived in Ireland/Scotland.

This is just one person's story. The amazing thing about DNA is that we all have roots to research, stories to share and DNA to discover.

If you want to know more about your family history, come to RootsTech and speak to the Ancestry team in person. Find them on stand 200