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My Origins - reliable science or science fiction ?

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  • My Origins - reliable science or science fiction ?

    I get it that we do not receive our DNA makeup in directly proportional doses from each of our ancestors or any other directly lineal method. But we just received my wife’s kit back from FTDNA and they are showing her as having not even a trace of Swedish ancestry when it is known with virtual absolute certainty that her maternal grandmother was born in Sweden and migrated to the U.S. in the 1880s. This is her mother’s mother’s mother – so we do not even have to think about who the fathers might be because we are only dealing with the females. We have her immigration papers, her death certificate, American passport, and Parish birth records to confirm her origin. And yet, FTDNA says she absolutely has no Scandinavian history. On a linear basis, you would expect maybe 12% but given the nature of passing down DNA, something less would be understandable. – but not a trace whatsoever ?? Is this “origins” feature truly science fiction and just a guess or is it that we really do not know very much about how DNA behaves when it is passed down through the generations and thus cannot differentiate between Swedish DNA and English DNA. Please someone give me a pearl of wisdom to help understand this massive variation from reality.

  • #2
    The British Isles saw settlement by various people who were quite similar. Examples being the Anglo-Saxons from Northern Germany, Denmark, Vikings from Scandinavia, etc.

    That and Northern Europeans are all fairly similar genetically.

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    • #3
      It sounds like your are saying that even though FTDNA has separate "Origins" categories for the British Isles and Scandanavia, they cannot reliably differentiate between people from these points of origin. ??? Or am I not understanding.

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      • #4
        Yes that is basically it.

        In my own myOrigins results a significant amount of my ancestry as seen in my paper trail originates in the British Isles and the Netherlands, however it has me fairly evenly split between "British Isles" and "Western-Central Europe" and I even have a Scandinavian result (but I have no known ancestry from Scandinavia).

        The inability to differentiate isn't due to technological flaws in my opinion, but it is due to the fact that these populations are so similar and people within Europe have been migrating for thousands of years. Take for example the migration of Germanic tribes to Britain after Rome pulled out of Britain, these Germanic newcomers were similar to the future Viking raiders yet also to some degree not all that much different from the indigenous Britons. This makes it difficult to determine where certain mutations came from.

        Once the Vikings arrive and the slave (thrall) trade they participated in we can see people of Gaelic and Anglo-Saxon origins being shuffled around the North Sea, which again stirs the pot some more.

        What is more important with the FamilyFinder results is your matches, are your matches members of one's family, are they of Scandinavian origin? Etc.

        All the best.

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        • #5
          Thank you for your comments. I too believe the value in the Family Finder test is in finding cousins and trying to fill in missing branches of one's tree. It was just that the My Origins piece that FTDNA gives us is hyped up (as is the Ancestry sites similar test) purporting that they can provide us with an accurate proportional picture of our geographical and cultural makeup when it certainly looks like they can not. I wish they would just say that the results are only a guess with very large margins of error. In my wife's case that I used to start this treat, It is very clear as to the erroneous nature of the autosomal findings when applied to one's cultural-geographical origins. The fact that their test completely missed her Scandinavian descent, which in her DNA is probably in the range of 5 to 15 percent of the total, speaks volumes of their margins of error. Sorry for getting on a soap box but it bothers me when something is presented as good science when it is really just a guess. I guess I am answering my own question and that it certainly looks like science fiction.

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          • #6
            If you scan through YouTube you will see people crying because Ancestry or MyOrigins does not confirm a family story or even documentary evidence, while some are ecstatic that they now know their roots. It is all too sad.

            This is all marketing, and the random distribution of autosomal DNA through recombinations shows that such "proof" is more of a somewhat possible clue: the basis for these distinctions are not scientific except in the sense of statistal probabilty, which as we all know can easily become a pseudo-science when based on questionable sources. If you watch presentations of Who Do You Think You Are of any nationality, US, UK or Australia, you will see "experts" stating confidently that admixtures derived from these labs are a form of "proof," which is nonsense.

            Note that WDYTYA cannot rely on the far more accurate Y DNA for confirming some notions of lineage through surnames, because Ancestry does not sell that product.
            Last edited by clintonslayton76; 3rd June 2018, 03:44 PM. Reason: spelling

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            • #7
              Originally posted by clintonslayton76 View Post
              If you scan through YouTube you will see people crying because Ancestry or MyOrigins does not confirm a family story or even documentary evidence, while some are ecstatic that they now know their roots. It is all too sad.

              This is all marketing, and the random distribution of autosomal DNA through recombinations shows that such "proof" is more of a somewhat possible clue: the basis for these distinctions are not scientific except in the sense of statistal probabilty, which as we all know can easily become a pseudo-science when based on questionable sources. If you watch presentations of Who Do You Think You Are of any nationality, US, UK or Australia, you will see "experts" stating confidently that admixtures derived from these labs are a form of "proof," which is nonsense.

              Note that WDYTYA cannot rely on the far more accurate Y DNA for confirming some notions of lineage through surnames, because Ancestry does not sell that product.
              Agreed, it is disappointing that it all comes down to marketing. But I suppose being an informed customer can go a long way.

              Frankly, I've never been disappointed by any ethnicity estimates I have received as I believe they are simply a rough clue, or pointer in one direction.

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