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It's DNA, not Speculation

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  • It's DNA, not Speculation

    I began my entry into the world of genealogy at the age of 42 after finding out I was adopted. Since then, I've discovered my nationality and have been piecing together whatever history I can. I'm no DNA expert and have no aspirations of being so, but have learned a few things along the way that may be of help to others. So here are few brief observations. You may find some humorous.

    1) It's a DNA test!
    Excuse me, but it's a DNA test, not a Google search. Life can be full of surprises. If someone shows up in your Relative Finder/Family Finder or whatever match you'd like to call it, like it or not, they are relatives. You can deny it if you want to, but like 'Like Madea says, "DaNA don't lie.'

    2) History
    This was one of my favorite classes in school, and I'm still partial to it to this day. I can't tell you how many wonderful accounts relatives have shared with me that have put a face on what I learned and enriched it. It's one thing to read about something in a book, but to hear it as handed down in family history is quite rich. Just like life, history in itself is both good and bad, but simply something that has happened. Understand it, acknowledge it, but realize that what you do with the relationships between you & people who are now your relatives is entirely up to you.

    3) Get over yourself.
    I've come across several relatives that have gently stated we cannot be related because of some 'purity' claim. That may very well be true on your end, but obviously our 'paths' have crossed somewhere so 'Hello cuz!' I'm thoroughly admixed so I have multiple lineages, cultures, or whatever the proper term is. I am sincerely interested in knowing as much of it as possible, and hope to develop a few genuine relationships along the way. If you have relatives that fall outside your acceptable 'purity range', here's your chance to put aside any biases or stereotypes and get to know your relatives for the people they are. You may find you have a lot in common, share similar experiences, and likes/dislikes. Who knows - you may even discover a new friend (blasphemy!). You don't have to invite them to move in with you or anything, but can at least leave the door open for communication.

    4) We're all linked.
    If you have no intention of communicating with anyone, please post a note to your profile saying 'NO CONTACT WANTED. I JUST TOOK THE TEST FOR WHATEVER REASON & WANT TO BE LEFT ALONE.' One of my relatives has a comment on her page that says (paraphrasing) she will accept any request because even a smidgen of DNA may be a clue to the past. This is so true. Since my journey, I have connected several relatives in which case I was the only link/missing piece in their puzzle. That's pretty powerful for someone who doesn't even know who they are. There have been other items such as genetic markers that identifies me as one of 'theirs' amongst other traits. Before declining a request, consider what YOU may be missing out on. The opportunity to solve your particular 'puzzle' may very well lie in the option you click.

    5) Don't blame the messenger.
    OK - we all know that life can be messy. And everyone has a different reason for having a DNA test done. But just because you may discover something you hadn't intended to, doesn't mean it's not true. After all, this is DNA, not speculation. Between 23 & FTDNA, approximately 250 relatives have been discovered for me. I've come across people who've found out a child is really not theirs, that their parent(s) aren't who they thought they were, and even relatives that have married not knowing they were related. While finding out such information can of course be a shock, remember that the person you are now related to is the result, NOT the cause of whatever situation. Take a moment to get over the initial shock, then forge ahead. What's done is done, and cannot be undone. And what may be uncomfortable now, may eventually turn out to be a blessing. But even if not, you now can hand down actual family history, in addition to the one that was 'manufactured' for you.

  • #2
    Nice thoughts Khrys. Thanks for sharing.

    I am also an adoptee and the hardest ones for me are the matches who say that they don't see how we can possibly be related. It is hard for some to open their mind to the idea that they don't know every single piece of their family genealogical puzzle. On the other hand, I have also had some wonderful matches who are really curious about where I fit in, they see it as a challenge, and want to help me research it. Most people so far have at least been cordial, and quite a few are actively helping.

    Judy

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    • #3
      DNA can not lie but anyone interpreting DNA can lie or unknowingly spread false information. All relative matching is a probability not an exact definite match when beyond 3rd cousins. For example I had someone contacting me calling me a cousin with 4cm , 300 SNP match from gedmatch.com. Yes the DNA does not lie but a "match" like that is really just a speculation and more likely chance than an actual cousin. This is an example someone interpreting DNA not understanding statistical probabilities that are involved.

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      • #4
        @Khrys

        One of the very interesting things about DNA testing is that beyond about third cousins, it's largely a matter of speculation as to how long ago the common ancestors are. Some may be fourth cousins, while some are 12th.

        As a colonial person with a fairly well developed family tree, that is something I like. The fuzziness in degree of relationship makes me feel a little closer to all humanity.

        For another, it's interesting to know which ancestors make the "genetic me" up, which is not the same as the "family tree" me. Each is pretty international, but in a different way. It turns out, for example, that while only a very tiny proportion of my paper-trail ancestry is Dutch, I seemed to pick up a little bit of DNA from there. The odds of this happening were quite low, but low-probability events happen all the time.

        Unless people have impeccably researched pedigrees along every single line back to 1550 -- and even then -- it is very hard to say what anyone's ancestors were like before the records. They may have been locals, or they may just have arrived from elsewhere a few years before records end. And the locals themselves may descend from an atypical population for the area that settled and in-bred and kept many genetic characteristics of their earlier place of origin until the present day (say, Romani in England).

        Humans project a continuum: we assume a continuous line of our ancestry indefinitely into the past (e.g. "My father was German so my ancestors were all always German"). DNA does sometimes show these lines to be discontinuous -- for example, self-identifying Germans who lived in Eastern Europe may often have acquired genes from a local group such as Ukrainians.

        Of course any two people in the world could be related in a genealogical timeframe. I hope you will not let that get you down. I have encountered this perception myself several times, but I do think it is a minority of the people invovled in family research. I have even seen this attitude in an adoptee or two who cannot believe one of their parents was Ethnicity A...though most adoptees are quite open to different possibilities about their family origins.

        Perhaps you can console yourself by remembering that people who cannot keep an open mind about their ancestry have no business getting into genealogy in the first place. You _will_ discover interesting things: thieves, bigamists, deserters, etc. That's a large part of the thrill.

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        • #5
          Nicely put, Khyrs.

          A few things I've learned about genealogy in general:

          * You can't change a person's firmly held beliefs about kin, regardless of the facts
          * Ancestry.com family trees are largely tapestries of fiction
          * Getting even one potential relative to DNA-test is a minor miracle

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          • #6
            I know there is a lot of bad (much of it just plain silly and ridiculous) information on ancestry.com. That being said, there's a lot of good information there too, and I am very indebted to the many serious researchers who share their information. We have to teach our kids not to trust or believe everything they encounter on the Internet; I think we just need to put into practice that watchword when we use ancestry.com for genealogy.

            Originally posted by gtc View Post
            Nicely put, Khyrs.

            A few things I've learned about genealogy in general:

            * You can't change a person's firmly held beliefs about kin, regardless of the facts
            * Ancestry.com family trees are largely tapestries of fiction
            * Getting even one potential relative to DNA-test is a minor miracle

            Comment


            • #7
              Thanks to everyone for responding. I posted this same message at 23&Me and it has generated quite an active discussion as well. It's good to see a discussion where people are actually talking to eachother rather than a disrespectful free for all so common in today's forum.

              You all rock!
              Khrys

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              • #8
                I had to learn the hard way that the kind of DNA done with these YDNA surname tests is NOT exact. It's a guess. That's all. My results from this website tell me I have 2 exact matches on 37 markers but I'm not about to call either one of them "cousin" simply because FTDNA cannot narrow anything down or tell us anything for certain. Maybe our common ancestor was 5 generations ago, maybe 50 generations ago, who knows ? All FTDNA knows is that we had a common ancestor. I kinda figured that. Were both humans. I was excited at one time, not really excited anymore.

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                • #9
                  An exact 37 marker match is certainly much closer then 50 generations back. I have an exact 37 marker match who is also a 66/67 match. He's my 7th cousin twice removed. Our common ancestor was born in 1700. Our last names are slightly different but close and are known variations of the name.

                  If you would not be so pessimistic you might learn actually learn something about your ancestry. Most likely there are one or more unknown non-paternal events in the family that easily explain different last surnames. I realize in our instant on society you expect immediate gratification, but genealogy and ancestry research just does not work like that.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by 507 View Post
                    My results from this website tell me I have 2 exact matches on 37 markers but I'm not about to call either one of them "cousin" simply because FTDNA cannot narrow anything down or tell us anything for certain. Maybe our common ancestor was 5 generations ago, maybe 50 generations ago, who knows ? All FTDNA knows is that we had a common ancestor.
                    Do you share a common surname, or surname variant, with those exact matches at 37 markers?

                    If it were me, I'd be very happy to have one such match, let alone two, and would actively pursue the possibilities.

                    FTDNA says (and note the bit that I have bolded):


                    A 37/37 match between two men who share a common surname (or variant) means they share a common male ancestor. Their relatedness is extremely close with the common ancestor predicted, 50% of the time, in 5 generations or less and over a 95% probability within 8 generations. Very few people achieve this close level of a match.

                    All confidence levels are well within the time frame that surnames were adopted in Western Europe.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by gtc View Post
                      Do you share a common surname, or surname variant, with those exact matches at 37 markers?

                      If it were me, I'd be very happy to have one such match, let alone two, and would actively pursue the possibilities.

                      FTDNA says (and note the bit that I have bolded):


                      A 37/37 match between two men who share a common surname (or variant) means they share a common male ancestor. Their relatedness is extremely close with the common ancestor predicted, 50% of the time, in 5 generations or less and over a 95% probability within 8 generations. Very few people achieve this close level of a match.

                      All confidence levels are well within the time frame that surnames were adopted in Western Europe.
                      No the last names are different. All 3 of us have different last names. All 3 of us are 37 of 37 marker matches. Not sure what to pursue because my paperwork and their paperwork is totally different all the way back .

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by thetick View Post
                        An exact 37 marker match is certainly much closer then 50 generations back. I have an exact 37 marker match who is also a 66/67 match. He's my 7th cousin twice removed. Our common ancestor was born in 1700. Our last names are slightly different but close and are known variations of the name.

                        If you would not be so pessimistic you might learn actually learn something about your ancestry. Most likely there are one or more unknown non-paternal events in the family that easily explain different last surnames. I realize in our instant on society you expect immediate gratification, but genealogy and ancestry research just does not work like that.
                        "immediate gratification" ? LOL I have the gratification of knowing we match on 37 markers, supposedly. THat doesn't tell us anything. And no one can say "for certain" that we are related anymore than any other 2 random people in this world. It's a guess. THat's all. Not trying to be pessimistic, just trying to be real about it.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by 507 View Post
                          "immediate gratification" ? LOL I have the gratification of knowing we match on 37 markers, supposedly. THat doesn't tell us anything. And no one can say "for certain" that we are related anymore than any other 2 random people in this world. It's a guess. THat's all. Not trying to be pessimistic, just trying to be real about it.
                          Sounds like you or someone else could have an "Opps or NPE in the family. No telling unless all of you extend your markers to 67. I have people who match their surname and paper and people who dont. I have several Y lines tested and its accurate on who your related to. It proves and disproves paper. Most of my Y lines have tested 67 marker

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                          • #14
                            There are many reasons (beyond non parental events) for closely related males to NOT share a common surname.

                            I have several examples from both sides of my family:

                            --after emigrating and fighting with his brother, my maternal grandfather ditched his ancestral surname and created his own, based on an obscure name associated with the original family crest
                            --a family named Benvenuti in Milan on my maternal side suddenly changed their surname to Olivieri when they moved to Fano, Italy
                            --two of my paternal grandfather's brothers changed their surnames
                            --in parts of Lithuania, Tatar males often took on the Christian surnames of their brides

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                            • #15
                              I have found that the vast majority of people who contact me are open to the possibility that they are "something" other than what family tradition has taught them. However, yes, there are some who will tell you they have a solid family tree and can't see any relationship, no matter what the DNA test says. I was lucky enough to have wonderful grandmothers and other older relatives who sat me and other family members down and told us the truth about basic family history (the good, the bad and the ugly). The DNA tests I have taken through FamilyTreeDNA have confirmed what we were told years ago -- and I learn more each time new people are added to my list of distant cousins. False information spreaders? My goodness, I haven't met one yet. More likely, they are the people giving distant cousins a wake-up call as to who they actually are, genetically. I'm not an adoptee, but as a person with a background in biology, you can hardly imagine what a "we can't possibly be related" response sounds like to me. Oftentimes those who deny a family relationship read something false about genetic testing somewhere and have incorporated that false information into his or her belief system.

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