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Does my father have a German ancestor?

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  • Does my father have a German ancestor?

    Hi, I'm trying to understand the results of my dad's DNA test - in particular the "My Origins". His paternal grandfather was German (Bavarian) and the other 3 grandparents were English or of English descent. The My Origins show that he is 99% European (96% British Isles + 3% Iberian) and <1% East European.
    Is this result possible if his grandfather was German?
    Hope someone can help.
    Thanks
    Jill

  • #2
    Jill,
    Ethnicity calculators at the commercial sites have problems differentiating between Northwestern European ethnicities due to so many migrations in many directions over the millennia. So, I think it is a possible result even if he truly was German.

    More important in your case would be to look in his Family Finder list for cousin matches who appear to be full Germans, even (if you're lucky) full Bavarians.

    Another option is to buy a Y-DNA test for your father since that directly tests the line you're interested in. His closest Y-DNA matches might be Bavarians or people from neighboring regions and that would confirm his paternal grandfather wasn't English.

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    • #3
      Jill N: My maternal and paternal grandfathers were German (and each had English wives). My Origins gives me: British Isles 80%, Southeast Europe 9%, Scandanavian 4% and Asia Minor 5%.

      There are many different ethnicity calculators at Gedmatch you can try.
      Last edited by Biblioteque; 18th November 2018, 06:34 AM.

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      • #4
        This is actually quite common!

        An FTDNA group administrator of German ancestry was 99 per cent British Isles at FTDNA, but had a good dose of Western European at Ancestry. I'm glad you said this, because once I asked for other stories of it happening after I had heard his, and now I've got stories! The reason for the mix-up is that the Anglo-Saxons were heavily homogenous to the main German stock of today and even the past 2,000 or so years, and though they did not completely destroy the Celtic population of England, they seem to have ethnically diluted it to an extent that much of today's Englishmen and women look like genuine Germans ( yes, looks CAN reveal ancestry, just don't get hooked on the idea LOL )

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        • #5
          This comes down to ethnicity vs. nationality. Understanding that difference requires knowledge of the historical civilization of Western Europe - and beyond that, depending on the time frame, that of what came before it, of the earlier civilization of the world at large.

          Genealogy embraces all historical disciplines, but mostly those of the most recent time frames involved. What occurred before that is the study of anthropology. Most people who pay to subscribe to genetic genealogy sites just want easy answers. Usually they seek ones concerning nationality, if they are of European ancestry.

          Is there anything wrong with asking about or discovering one's nationality from relatively recent past generations before us? No. Usually we begin with ourselves, then we search backward in time to learn more about who we are, and from where we came.

          To answer your question more directly: Think about England. Think about the Romans who were there several millenia ago. Then think about Norman Conquest of 1066, and all that... Then think about why England became an Anglo-Saxon country.

          Then.. keep thinking.

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          • #6
            Thank-you for all your responses. It makes more sense & I can understand the result. My father had a Y-DNA test, I'll have to study that more. Thanks

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            • #7
              Just to expand on the prior posts: First you need to define what "German" is and what it means.

              One thing that is becoming increasingly clear as more people get sequenced in increasingly detailed ways. Migrations over often considerable distances were far more common than was initially believed.

              The other issue with Germans in particular is the Saxons as somebody already pointed out. Saxons are historically German, and many of them remained as a substantial population in Saxony(and elsewhere in Germany). But then we have these "Anglo-Saxon" types running around all over England and much of the historical British Empire(which includes the United States).

              How exactly do you tell the difference between the "Saxon markers" in a Anglo-Saxon vs those same markers in someone from Saxony(or elsewhere) in Germany?

              Then of course we cycle back to migration and large as well as small scale population movements. Maybe a British trader or sailot hit up a German "lady of the night" 300 years ago and got her pregnant, he's long gone, but the child remained behind. Now that child may or may not be raised with the awareness as to their Father's lineage, and even then, what are the odds of knowledge of "Some Random Brit knocked up our 2x great grandmother Hulda during her days as a prostitute" surviving to see 200 years after the fact?

              Just because the knowledge of the event is gone doesn't mean the DNA is. But now we're 300 years later, not 200. How many people truly know their ancestors that were alive in 1850 had a "pure" genetic heritage from pesons who lived and died less than 200 miles from where they born? And what exactly is the cutoff for "pure heritage" anyway? Is it years, or generations? How many of each? How much do you want to bet that any randomly chosen ancestor would fail whatever standard you set if you could obtain knowledge from the past by whatever means "works" in the given scenario?

              Then remember the "standard reference panel" many vendors use only goes back 4 generations, not 300 years.

              FTDNA has it mostly right when their favored presentation is that of "population migrations" rather than ethnicity.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by bartarl260 View Post
                Just to expand on the prior posts: First you need to define what "German" is and what it means.

                One thing that is becoming increasingly clear as more people get sequenced in increasingly detailed ways. Migrations over often considerable distances were far more common than was initially believed.

                The other issue with Germans in particular is the Saxons as somebody already pointed out. Saxons are historically German, and many of them remained as a substantial population in Saxony(and elsewhere in Germany). But then we have these "Anglo-Saxon" types running around all over England and much of the historical British Empire(which includes the United States).

                How exactly do you tell the difference between the "Saxon markers" in a Anglo-Saxon vs those same markers in someone from Saxony(or elsewhere) in Germany?

                Then of course we cycle back to migration and large as well as small scale population movements. Maybe a British trader or sailot hit up a German "lady of the night" 300 years ago and got her pregnant, he's long gone, but the child remained behind. Now that child may or may not be raised with the awareness as to their Father's lineage, and even then, what are the odds of knowledge of "Some Random Brit knocked up our 2x great grandmother Hulda during her days as a prostitute" surviving to see 200 years after the fact?

                Just because the knowledge of the event is gone doesn't mean the DNA is. But now we're 300 years later, not 200. How many people truly know their ancestors that were alive in 1850 had a "pure" genetic heritage from pesons who lived and died less than 200 miles from where they born? And what exactly is the cutoff for "pure heritage" anyway? Is it years, or generations? How many of each? How much do you want to bet that any randomly chosen ancestor would fail whatever standard you set if you could obtain knowledge from the past by whatever means "works" in the given scenario?

                Then remember the "standard reference panel" many vendors use only goes back 4 generations, not 300 years.

                FTDNA has it mostly right when their favored presentation is that of "population migrations" rather than ethnicity.
                It is true that affairs, prostitution and adoptions can alter genetics, but I would say that in this case it's just that Germans and Brits are very close genetically (at least, most the English population is, not all of it), because more than one person of German ancestry has had this happen and you can't blame it all on one prostitute or loose woman.
                Last edited by Rhonda Hatton; 25th November 2018, 10:15 AM.

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                • #9
                  Agreed that in this particular case, the more likely cause is trying to distinguish a Saxon from a Anglo-Saxon, which is no small undertaking.

                  More broadly once you move into other populations, it becomes a question about the wandering ancestor scenario. Y-DNA test results are now starting to turn up clades and subclades in unexpected places. So there certainly is evidence to support claims that at least some men "got around."

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by bartarl260 View Post
                    Agreed that in this particular case, the more likely cause is trying to distinguish a Saxon from a Anglo-Saxon, which is no small undertaking.

                    More broadly once you move into other populations, it becomes a question about the wandering ancestor scenario. Y-DNA test results are now starting to turn up clades and subclades in unexpected places. So there certainly is evidence to support claims that at least some men "got around."
                    Yeah, what's with those weird Y-DNA haplogroups like T and G that show up ever so often? Those are relatively rare haplogroups in Europe, according to Wikipedia, but that doesn't mean you don't occasionally see them on an FTDNA chart (though I don't remember that I've ever seen T before).

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