Friday, August 2, 2013

Friday Funny: Wait, I'm What? Or How Ancestry DNA Has Messed With My Reality

I think I should probably start you where I started, with my own name:
First Name: Rhiannon
Middle Name: Kathleen

Recent Family Surnames: Jones, Evans, Potter, Mauracher, Branson, Kern, Lorentzen, Tuggy, Parrish, Lasswell, Hawes, Sheldon, Tharp.  For those of you keeping track, that's Welsh, Welsh, English, Austrian, English, Irish, German, English, English, Irish, English, English, and English.  Forgive me for thinking there must be some British DNA coursing through my veins.

When I got my Ancestry DNA results, though, they looked like this:

Wait, what?

Attached was a lovely letter telling me all about my Italian and Swedish ancestry.  I have two great-grandparents who came from Austria, and one from Denmark.  Otherwise, everyone is pretty darn British Isles, way way back.  25% Austrian, 12.5% Danish, and 100% pretty confused, that's me.

My son is thrilled, he now tells everyone we are Italian.  Apparently it is considerably more hip than Irish in elementary school.  And he's a huge Cake Boss fan, which may be a coolness factor.  He's sure we're related to Buddy now.

Conveniently, I got the letter the same day I went to my dad's family reunion.  Though there were a lot of raised eyebrows, I assure you that they were very similar eyebrows in faces that looked, for better or worse, so much like mine that I'm pretty sure they are my genetic relatives.

I figure the Southern European piece comes from the Austrian Tyrollean folks, which is actually quite close to the Italian border.  So I'm willing to give them the 18%.

But I am a little appalled that after years of trotting out my Welshness at every opportunity, right down to attending Celtic Festivals with a pout due to 'our' under-representation, I don't have the genes to back it up.  I have a Welsh flag.  I have all these little blippy bits on the map above, which represent birthplaces on my family tree.  I married an Irishman, I have red hair and a red-headed, Irish monikered son.  I have known the story of my legendary namesake Rhiannon (no, not the Fleetwood Mac song) since preschool.  I know who I am, darn it.

Or not.

I get the Scandinavian conquerer aspect, I do.  I know that the red hair is a Scandinavian thing, I know they've been trotting/breeding around the British Isles for millennia.  But still, I'd expected a little something Celtic.  Or Anglo-Saxon.   Or Gaelic.   A bit of inter-marriage to back up all those surnames doesn't seem a lot to ask.  So I'll see if the data changes as more people try the Ancestry DNA approach, but try to embrace my new self in the meantime.

So I'm trying to use my hands more when I talk, and considering changing my name to Regina, which means the same thing as Rhiannon.  And there must be a Scandinavian Festival around here somewhere, where I can pout because the Danes are neglected . . . .


  1. Well, now this just makes me more querulous of Ancestry DNA. At what point in history does DNA become "Scandinavian", and why does it stay "Scandinavian" ever after? Aren't Native Americans "really" Asian because they lived there before they came to the Americas? Anyway, aren't we all "really" African? If you have Welsh ancestors who participated fully in Welsh culture and attitudes and lived the Welsh historical experience, I say you're Welsh.
    That being said, we Scandinavians aren't so bad...

  2. Yes, my friend Wendell pointed out that technically I am actually East African. But yes, not so bad . ..

  3. The Ethnicity results of any DNA test cannot be taken seriously. It would be like a person using the United States as a "Ethnicity". But, the DNAancestry results for "cousin" DNA matching is a completely different type of results and is working out well for me. So, a person has to just ignore the Ethnicity result of the test and concentrate on the "cousins matching" results. My Ethnicity DNA results give me 0% British Isle and at least half of my ancestors are from England, Scotland, Ireland. And, I mostly match with "distant cousins" where I shared ancestors in common with all of their "British Isle" ancestors, and all of them have a large percentage of British Isle Ethnicity. I have 13 documented Mayflower Pilgrim great, gr, gr, gr.........grandparents. And I share these Pilgrims with other "distant cousins DNA" So according to my Ethnicity results all of my Mayflower Pilgrims from England (which are completely documented through the Mayflower Society are Scandinavian. And all of my Scot-Irish ancestors are Scandinavian. You see it doesn't even make good sense.

  4. According to, its Ethnicity DNA test shows you what ethnicity traits you inherited from your ancestors. So let's say you have blue eyes and red hair, but your brother has brown hair and green eyes. You both have inherited different ethnicity traits, but you still have the same ancestors. So your Ethnicity DNA test results would probably vary some from sibling to sibling, depending on the traits inherited by each person. You could be 20% Scandinavian, but it is entirely possible that your brother could be 50%, 10% or even 0%.