Ancestry Blog » AncestryDNA http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry The official blog of Ancestry Thu, 02 Jul 2015 19:42:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.2 Getting Started with AncestryDNA: Tree Setup and Tools Availablehttp://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/06/24/getting-started-with-ancestrydna-tree-setup-and-tools-available/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=getting-started-with-ancestrydna-tree-setup-and-tools-available http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/06/24/getting-started-with-ancestrydna-tree-setup-and-tools-available/#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 14:30:36 +0000 Anna Swayne http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/?p=23500 Read more]]> You have taken the AncestryDNA test, your results are online, and now you want to do something with them? We can help.

The first thing we recommend is that you link your DNA results to your family tree.link to a tree
AncestryDNA will reveal cousin matches whether you have attached your test results to a tree or not. However, in order to understand more about those cousin matches and encourage them to work with you to uncover your common ancestors, it’s important to have a tree on Ancestry with your AncestryDNA results attached to it. Check to make sure your test is attached to the correct person in your family tree by clicking on the Settings button on your DNA homepage. For step-by-step instructions on how to do that, click here.

Have multiple trees?
I strongly encourage you to have a tree that starts with you. If you have two trees, one that starts with Dad and one with Mom, you will have to choose which tree you want to link to. When you do that, you miss out on the opportunities for connections on the other side of the family. Considering merging the trees and creating one that starts with you. To get step-by-step instruction on how to do this, click here.  (Note that you’ll need Family Tree Maker or another software program to do this.)

You can always build a basic tree from scratch that starts at you, then add your direct-line ancestors (your biological parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents to get started).

Have a private tree?
Consider making it public. If you aren’t comfortable with that, an alternative would be to create a version of your tree that includes names and birth places, but leaves out information you aren’t confident about. If you don’t want to include pictures, that’s not an issue. Call this your DNA tree and link your DNA results to it. That way, if I am one of your DNA matches, I can see some information and know where to start the conversation about how we could potentially be related. If you don’t have a tree linked to your test, or it’s private, your cousin matches won’t know where to start and we’ve found people will often skip those matches.

Adoption in the family?
Put that in your tree. Include any info you have and note that it is an adoption.

Next Steps
Now that your results are linked to a tree, we will do the searching for you to discover:

  • DNA Circles
  • Shared Ancestor Hints
  • Shared Surnames and Birth Locations

DNA CirclesTM

circle and known ancestor

 

DNA Circles re-imagines what DNA matching can do. Circles goes beyond finding a common ancestor with your DNA matches to link you to additional AncestryDNA members with the same common ancestor, thus creating a “circle” of people who are all related.

Each DNA Circle is based on a shared ancestor. Built around each shared ancestor is a network of people who (1) share this same common ancestor and (2) share DNA with multiple people in the Circle. This tool makes it easier to share information and do more with your new-found cousins.

Plus, having a DNA Circle for a common ancestor gives you more confidence that you and others share DNA because you inherited it from this ancestor. Dive deeper into your DNA Circles with this guide.

 

 

 

Shared Ancestor Hintssearch by hint filter

Use the Hint feature to see cousins with whom you have an identified shared ancestor. This is a powerful tool for finding a connection. Review your tree and theirs to ensure that the research is solid. I have found these hints extremely helpful for sharing family pictures and stories.

 

Shared Surnames and Birth Locations  

When the shared ancestor between you and your matches isn’t super obvious, or perhaps you don’t have the ancestor in your tree, what can you do? Use the search by surname or locations functions and look for patterns. Once you’ve identified a match or two with the same common ancestor, spend a little time researching that family. Use the location filter when a possible surname has changed.

search by surname

Remember that all these tools are only available within the AncestryDNA experience if you have linked your DNA results to a family tree. Link your tree and get started today. Good Luck!

 

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AncestryDNA – The Viking in the roomhttp://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/06/23/ancestrydna-the-viking-in-the-room/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ancestrydna-the-viking-in-the-room http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/06/23/ancestrydna-the-viking-in-the-room/#comments Tue, 23 Jun 2015 09:11:34 +0000 Mike Mulligan http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/?p=25369 Read more]]> At genealogy conferences I’ve spoken about AncestryDNA genetic ethnicity estimates. When the topic of Scandinavian ethnicity comes up, there tends to be an elephant in the room, or more accurately a Viking. At some point I invariably get asked by someone if having Scandinavian genetic ethnicity in their estimate means they are descended from Vikings. With this in mind, it seems like a good time to have a closer look at Scandinavian Ethnicity across the UK & Ireland.

Scandinavian Genetic Ethnicity across Great Britain & Ireland

 

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The map above shows average Scandinavian ethnicity estimates across Great Britain and Ireland. It is based on the AncestryDNA test alone and does not use any historical migration data.

Across Great Britain there is a clear pattern with higher Scandinavian genetic ethnicity in the north east of England decreasing as you get further from that region. From a high of 11.1% in the Northeast of England the average drops to a low of 6.5% in Southern Scotland.

In Ireland we see even lower average Scandinavian ethnicity ranging from 5.3% in Ulster to 2.0% in Munster. At this point, we do not have averages calculated at county level in Ireland. A county level average ethnicity may possibly reveal more subtle variations in the averages.

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 Average Scandinavian genetic ethnicity estimate across UK & Ireland

 

A Matter of Interpretation

Knowing the average amounts of a given genetic ethnicity across Britain can be useful. For example, if you have a high amount of Scandinavian in your estimate, then perhaps you might look towards the north east for your roots. But what about the original question we started with – if you have Scandinavian ethnicity can you say you are descended from Vikings?

The answer I normally give people is to consider it like any other genealogical research. Start with what you know. Any interpretation beyond this should at a minimum be consistent with the facts. In relation to Scandinavian genetic ethnicity estimate we can say the following.

    • If you have Scandinavian ethnicity as part of your estimate, then your DNA is similar to a group of modern day people in our AncestryDNA Reference Panel with deep roots in Scandinavia. That modern distinction is important, the test does not compare your DNA to any ancient group of people. In other words, the test does not compare your DNA to any “Viking DNA” (if this even could be defined).
    • Across the AncestryDNA database, higher amounts of average Scandinavian genetic ethnicity estimates are found in the north east of England than in other parts of Britain or Ireland.

Those are the only facts here. Anything beyond that is interpretation and storytelling. As with any interpretation ask yourself; is this consistent with what I know? Is this a plausible explanation of the facts? Am I pushing the facts to fit an explanation I want to believe?

There is a strong desire in all of us to find simple explanations, simple histories. But it is good to remember that the peopling of Europe is a complicated web of historical events, migrations and stories along many different timelines. The migration of Norse Vikings to Britain and their control of the Danelaw is one such event. But there are others. For example, from the 5th century there was also the Anglo-Saxon migration to Britain. The Anglo-Saxon migration is relevant because some of the Germanic tribes involved in that migration (such as the Jutes and Angles) have their origins in what we refer to today as Denmark, a part of Scandinavia.

How you choose to interpret the facts is ultimately up to you. At the end of the day, this is your DNA, this is your story. There is no one better placed to tell it. Tell it wisely, tell it well.

Background

The Danelaw

1danelaw
Danish Vikings began to invade northern and eastern England in 876 and eventually came to control a third of the country, defeating several smaller Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. The rulers of the Danelaw, as the Viking area became known, struggled for nearly 80 years with the remaining English kings over the region.

Anglo-Saxon Migration

1danglosaxon
As the Romans left Britain from 400 A.D., tribes from northern Germany and Denmark seized the opportunity to step in. The Angles (green) and Saxons (purple) soon controlled much of the territory that had been under Roman rule, while the Jutes (orange) occupied some smaller areas in the south.

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Now Connect to Your DNA Cousins in Canada and Australiahttp://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/06/10/now-connect-to-your-dna-cousins-in-canada-and-australia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=now-connect-to-your-dna-cousins-in-canada-and-australia http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/06/10/now-connect-to-your-dna-cousins-in-canada-and-australia/#comments Wed, 10 Jun 2015 21:28:31 +0000 Anna Swayne http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/?p=25225 Read more]]> AncestryDNA FB Cover

AncestryDNA is now available in Australia and Canada. The AncestryDNA database has grown to more than 850,000 people, and now that the test is available in Australia and Canada it will grow even faster, with new possibilities for discovering cousins on both sides of the world. Here are four reasons to be excited about these new international launches of AncestryDNA and what they can mean for you―even if you don’t live there.

  1. Two more melting pots of connections. Both Canada and Australia have been destinations for millions of immigrants over the centuries. And those immigrants came from places far beyond the United Kingdom. Your link to Germany, Ireland, Italy, or even China may pass through Canada or Australia.
  2. Opportunities for more cousin connections. With this expansion to these additional countries for cousin matches, who knows where your research might lead you. Sometimes the paper trail gets lost on the shores of the Atlantic—or the Pacific. Maybe you haven’t been able to find the records that get you back to the old country, maybe they were destroyed, or maybe they never existed. But the genetic record that has continued in your family both here and there might allow you to pick up that trail again, give you new places to look, or connect you with someone who knows the story of the family.
  3. French Canadian Ancestry. As I mentioned earlier, your bridge across the Atlantic doesn’t have to reach back to Great Britain. If you’re among the millions of Americans with French Canadian or Acadian ancestry, you might have cousins—and family stories—waiting just over our northern borders.
  4. Have family in Canada or Australia? Now they can take advantage of all the insights that come from AncestryDNA. If you haven’t tested other family members yet because they live outside the U.S., now is the time to have parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or even cousins get their DNA tested to preserve that family information. Every family member is unique and carries different DNA, so testing as many family members as possible will help you capture your genetic heritage and make more connections.

Every new country opens a whole new pool of opportunity for DNA testing. Who knows, I might just find out a branch of the tree sprang up in the Land Down Under. I’ll share any new discoveries I have here, and if you find a cousin who helps you make a new discovery, share with us on Facebook or below in the comments. Connect to your cousins around the world now.

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AncestryDNA is Now Available in Canadahttp://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/06/09/ancestrydna-is-now-available-in-canada/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ancestrydna-is-now-available-in-canada http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/06/09/ancestrydna-is-now-available-in-canada/#comments Tue, 09 Jun 2015 14:37:54 +0000 Kristie Wells http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/?p=25195 Read more]]> AncestryDNA FB Cover

One simple DNA test opens a world of new discoveries.

By combining the latest advancements in DNA science with the world’s largest online family history resource, AncestryDNA can tell all kinds of amazing stories – including yours.

You might be surprised to find out how rich your ethnic roots are.

The AncestryDNA test looks at more than 700,000 markers in your DNA – allowing us to trace your family back generations.

Whether you’re part British, French, or from elsewhere, AncestryDNA can help you discover the names and places that make you who you are. And that’s not all, even after you receive your test results, we’ll continue to let you know when more cousin matches appear.

DNA + Family Trees + Historical Records = Powerful Combination

When you combine the power of Ancestry with the advanced science of AncestryDNA, the result is an unparalleled family history experience. It’s the only service in the world that can sift through 850,000 DNA samples, 70 million family trees, and 16 billion historical records and pull out relevant, meaningful, and accurate details for every single one of our AncestryDNA users.

AncestryDNA has been a fantastic addition in my own family history ‘tool kit’ and connected me with a paternal 3rd cousin who was able to expand a branch where my paper trail had gone dry. She was able to provide photos and stories about my own great grandfather and his siblings that might have taken me years to find (if ever). It was a wonderful gift to be able to share with my father and the best part is we now have more family to stay connected to!

I hope you will consider taking the AncestryDNA test as each person submitting a DNA sample is another potential cousin for us to connect to. To learn more about AncestryDNA or to order your kit now, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

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AncestryDNA is Now Available in Australia and New Zealandhttp://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/05/27/ancestrydna-is-now-available-in-australia-and-new-zealand/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ancestrydna-is-now-available-in-australia-and-new-zealand http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/05/27/ancestrydna-is-now-available-in-australia-and-new-zealand/#comments Wed, 27 May 2015 23:05:51 +0000 Brian Gallagher http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/?p=24990 Read more]]> 1badge_0000_CORPORATE BLOG (250x250)  V1

We are excited to announce that AncestryDNA is now available to purchase in Australia and New Zealand!

We sold our first DNA kit in the U.S. in 2012, and since then, hundreds of thousands of people in the US and the UK & Ireland have used AncestryDNA to discover more about their family history. Now you can too.

Why choose AncestryDNA?

AncestryDNA is for everyone! For many people, DNA testing is a starting point that opens the doors to your family story. If you have already researched your family tree, it can provide evidence that supports your research and helps you break down brick walls in your family tree. Learn where your ancestors may have come from, with a detailed estimate of your ethnicity. Our scientific breakthroughs allow us to map your ethnicity across 26 separate worldwide populations including Ireland, England, Europe, Scandinavia, Asia, and South and North Africa.

Discover relatives that you never knew existed with our DNA matching. If someone who shares your DNA has taken the test you could find yourself connecting with a 3rd or 4th cousin and learning about a new branch on your tree. All this combined with the billions of records and family trees available to search on Ancestry make AncestryDNA the ultimate family history tool on the market.

How does it work?

We have taken a very technical and scientific process and created a simple and easy to use test. First you order your kit and follow the instructions within. Then you send in your kit with a small saliva sample for our experts to analyse it for you. Once the analysis has been completed you can log into your secure online Ancestry account to view the results and discover your family story!

For more detailed information on AncestryDNA or to order your kit now, click here.

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How AncestryDNA added new life to my family history research. AncestryDNA – Coming Soon to Australia.http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/05/15/how-ancestrydna-added-new-life-to-my-family-history-research-ancestrydna-coming-soon-to-australia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-ancestrydna-added-new-life-to-my-family-history-research-ancestrydna-coming-soon-to-australia http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/05/15/how-ancestrydna-added-new-life-to-my-family-history-research-ancestrydna-coming-soon-to-australia/#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 23:27:03 +0000 Brian Gallagher http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/?p=24893 Read more]]> 1ComingSoon

I am privileged to work for a company that genuinely makes a difference to the lives of many thousands of people around the world. I have seen first-hand the breakthroughs, connections and family reunions that have been made possible by the records and trees available on Ancestry. Obviously, like many of you, I have used Ancestry to research my own family tree. I am Irish and my family has not left our home place for as far back as I can research, given the limitations of Irish records. Many of my grandparents’ siblings did leave. They traveled, as many Irish emigrants did, across the globe to the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa. As a consequence I am more familiar with being found, than I am with finding others. Year after year throughout my childhood and in recent years too, family after family would arrive in Ireland to see the house where their ancestors were born and from which they had to leave in order to find a future in a foreign land. Thanks to resources like Ancestry these families were able to trace their family history right to my doorstep.

Being unable to go further back than I have with records, I have been anticipating the launch of AncestryDNA to see if it can give me that sense of discovery that I had seen so many times on the faces of my relatives as they returned to the birthplace of their ancestors. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect from my AncestryDNA results. My parents are both Irish, as are their parents and their parents before them. Would it tell me anything?

After carefully reading the instructions, providing my saliva sample and activating my kit on the Ancestry website; I waited. When I got the notification email to advise the results were back I was a little nervous. What would they say? Am I 99% Irish as I suspected? Will I have any cousin matches? I rushed to open my Ancestry account and see my results.

To say I was overwhelmed was an understatement! It was difficult to take it all in at first glance. Not only did I have a cousin match, I had many cousin matches! I had expected to see matches at 4th cousin or more distant but I had a possible 3rd cousin match! Wow! I have since contacted this person and she is my mother’s second cousin. When I told my mother of this discovery, she was astounded. She was aware of her cousin’s name, but the families had lost touch many years ago and my mother had never met any member of that family. That changed yesterday when they spoke on the phone for over an hour. AncestryDNA made this reunion possible. What was previously just a name on a family tree is now a relationship in the real world.

I also had matches on my father’s side of the tree too, at 4th 5th and 6th cousin. I have not had the chance to go through all my cousin matches yet, I have over 50, but so far on my father’s side we have managed to finally find the answer to an old question. My father and a neighbour had always believed that our families were related, but neither of them knew how. Thanks to AncestryDNA I was able view the family tree of one of my matches in the United States and we have finally found out where the link is! My father could not believe that a simple saliva sample could hold the answer to a question he had been unable to find for decades.

Cousin matches are only half of the results process. AncestryDNA also gives you your ethnicity estimate. I was expecting to find out that I am somewhere around 95% Irish based on what I already know from my family tree. I was in for a surprise. I discovered that I am 85% Irish, 7% British, 4% Eastern European and some trace results from Scandinavia, Northwest Russia and Asia making up the remainder. Not what you might describe as a typical Irishman!

While AncestryDNA has answered many questions and solved some mysteries it has also raised new questions for my family history research. Not since I started my family tree have I been this excited about all the discoveries that lie ahead. I would recommend AncestryDNA to everyone who wants to learn more about their family history, not because I work for Ancestry, but because it is truly a revolutionary product that can take your research to the next level.

If you would like to learn more about AncestryDNA, or to add your name to our invite list, click here.

Once you taken the AncestryDNA test, please feel free to share your success stories with us on Facebook and Twitter .

 

 

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Breaking Down the Science Behind Your Ethnicity Resultshttp://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/05/05/breaking-down-the-science-behind-your-ethnicity-results/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=breaking-down-the-science-behind-your-ethnicity-results http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/05/05/breaking-down-the-science-behind-your-ethnicity-results/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 21:16:48 +0000 Anna Swayne http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/?p=24581 Read more]]> Are you Scandinavian? Native American? Or maybe you have some Middle Eastern in you. If you’ve gotten your AncestryDNA results you know your unique ethnicity estimate. But have you ever wondered how we determine those results — and why your results can look so different from another family member’s? In this 6-minute video one of our scientists, Ross Curtis, breaks down the science behind the AncestryDNA ethnicity results.

Have more questions? Leave them in the comments below.

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Where in the World are the Ancestors of DNA Circles?http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/04/25/where-in-the-world-are-the-ancestors-of-dna-circles/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=where-in-the-world-are-the-ancestors-of-dna-circles http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/04/25/where-in-the-world-are-the-ancestors-of-dna-circles/#comments Sat, 25 Apr 2015 13:00:42 +0000 Julie Granka http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/?p=24535 Read more]]> While we often celebrate the discovery of the structure of DNA on DNA Day, today we’ll celebrate those who we got that DNA from: our ancestors.  We can also celebrate all of the people with whom we share DNA from those ancestors: from our siblings to our distant cousins.

AncestryDNA DNA Circles™ recognize both our ancestors as well as all of the connections we’ve made with distant relatives through our shared ancestors.  That’s because a DNA Circle is a group of people who all share DNA with others in the group, and who all also share a particular ancestor in their family trees.

Who are those myriad ancestors connecting more than 30% of AncestryDNA customers?

  • The average birth date of all ancestors of DNA Circles is about 1800, and roughly half of all ancestors of DNA Circles were born between around 1780 and 1820.
  • In the map below, we can see that most DNA Circle ancestors were born in the eastern half of the United States – but also abroad in England, Ireland, and Western Europe.
Approximate birth locations of ancestors of DNA Circles in the AncestryDNA database.  The birth location of each ancestor of a DNA Circle is indicated as a green dot.

Approximate birth locations of ancestors of DNA Circles in the AncestryDNA database. The birth location of each ancestor of a DNA Circle is indicated as a green dot.

In other words, most ancestors who have DNA Circles are people who left a lot of documented descendants living in the United States today.  That’s because most AncestryDNA customers live in the U.S., and in order to have a DNA Circle, an ancestor must have left many descendants – at least three of whom have independently taken an AncestryDNA test. Furthermore, given that the average DNA Circle ancestor was born in 1800, descendants of that ancestor must have extended their family trees at least that far back to include that ancestor, too.

With that in mind, it fits that we see a higher concentration of DNA Circle ancestors born in the eastern U.S., where more people living in the 1700’s and 1800’s had enough children to now have many descendants in the U.S. today.  With regards to DNA Circle ancestors abroad, it also makes sense that we see many born in England, Ireland, and Western Europe.  Many ancestors from these regions of Europe migrated across the Atlantic (or had descendants who did), subsequently leaving a lot of U.S. descendants who can now trace their roots back to them.

While these patterns explain the general distribution of DNA Circles across the globe, a closer inspection of the map shows that we also find DNA Circle ancestors in other parts of the world – for example in Russia, China, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.  These diverse origins of DNA Circle ancestors emphasize the power of over 850,000 AncestryDNA members and their family trees to connect us to both our ancestors as well as our living relatives.

Even better than this map of birth locations of DNA Circle ancestors is the fact that every day, the map looks different.  As we expand into new markets, new individuals take DNA tests, and AncestryDNA members build out their family trees, we’ll discover new DNA Circles.  Some of those new Circles may even be centered around ancestors born in places where we’ve never before found one, because we didn’t yet have enough of those ancestors’ descendants tested at AncestryDNA.

These new discoveries will be more than just new dots on the map. Over time, they will allow DNA Circles and their associated New Ancestor Discoveries to connect even more individuals, with diverse family histories from around the globe, to their ancestors and distant relatives.  That too is something to celebrate on DNA Day.

In honor of DNA Day, AncestryDNA is extending 20% off AncestryDNA kits thru Monday, April 27th. To learn more and purchase an AncestryDNA kit visit here.

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Celebrate DNA Day with Your Own Discoverieshttp://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/04/24/celebrate-dna-day-with-your-own-discoveries/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=celebrate-dna-day-with-your-own-discoveries http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/04/24/celebrate-dna-day-with-your-own-discoveries/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 20:42:05 +0000 Anna Swayne http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/?p=24518 Read more]]> DNA Day comes every year, April 25th and it’s a great time to celebrate the amazing discoveries we’ve made about the human race. It’s also a great time to make a few new discoveries of your own. In honor of DNA Day, now through Monday, we have a limited time offer to get 20% off the AncestryDNA test. To take advantage of this great deal, click here.

We’d also like to share a new way to learn about DNA. Last week we announced the launch of Ancestry Academy. It’s a new educational website that offers exclusive, high-quality video courses taught by genealogy and family history experts.

Among the many topics being covered, we have an entire section on DNA. Want to know why you should take a DNA test, what you get from a DNA test, or what you do with all the cousins you’ll find? Drop by the Academy. Start from the beginning of the course or take five minutes and watch a video on “Genetic Inheritance” and learn how your DNA results can be different than a sibling’s. The best part is you can access this DNA course for free.  Each topic is broken up into 2-5 minute videos and there are several to choose from. Click on the video below to get a preview of the course, and then go sign into Ancestry Academy and start exploring today.

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Take time on DNA Day to learn about the power of DNA and how it can unlock the stories of your past. If you haven’t taken a DNA test, see how easy it is to take the test (watch the ‘demo’ video to get the tips and tricks) or how to buy a DNA kit online. This DNA 101 course is just the beginning of many other courses around DNA so stay tuned. We will let you know when new material is available.

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AncestryDNA Gives Me a Sense of Selfhttp://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/04/24/ancestrydna-gives-me-a-sense-of-self/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ancestrydna-gives-me-a-sense-of-self http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2015/04/24/ancestrydna-gives-me-a-sense-of-self/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 09:29:03 +0000 Jerome de Groot http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/?p=24479 Read more]]>  

Intl_UK_DNA_250x250_BadgeI’m just about to undertake a DNA test. I’m both terrified and exhilarated about what it might find. DNA testing for genealogy is a powerful tool, and is gaining attention at the moment. DNA sequencing makes the subject of your investigation – your own cells, the stuff inside you. It is inescapable and accurate.

Ancestry have just launched the service in the UK & Ireland. What does it actually mean to do it? Does it change your life?

 

Before

I am an academic. I am a scholar. I write about things, I don’t do them! So what am I doing spitting in a test tube and sending it off for analysis? Why am I having my DNA sequenced for genealogical purposes? What will it change in me, if anything? DNA sequencing promises something final, a set of data that is not negotiable. It makes historical research like genealogy into something scientific. It takes research out of the archive and into the lab.

Having this kind of personal interest in your research is a very new thing for me. I am literally putting my research money where my mouth is. Yet I have decided to do this for a number of reasons.

I can hardly talk about the way that this kind of approach affects you if I have not done it, can I? I need to understand the strangeness that this might create in a sense of self. I need to experience how those who undertake DNA tests feel about the results. I need to know whether they do change their way of defining themselves.

I first spoke on this subject in Amsterdam, which is the city my Opa (Grandfather) was born in. He was a somewhat distant figure to me and I walked the streets and canals wondering if I could somehow gain a connection or an insight into this strange man who spoke with a thick accent and whose eyebrows were astonishingly bushy.

Can I get closer to him? Will DNA testing throw up some kind of shock, something that I hadn’t known, something I didn’t want to know? Would it change me?

I am interested in the blending of body and archive that is now happening on Ancestry. In my work I look at the way that the human body is becoming part of historical investigation, and providing evidence for family historians. How does DNA data change our way of understanding the past? We generally understand DNA through popular scientific versions of genetics, or through paternity tests undertaken on the Jeremy Kyle show. It is a promise of revelation – good and bad. This was shown powerfully recently when White Supremacist Craig Cobb discovered on live television that he was 14% African American.

Yet I guess the point is that the DNA information lies there whether we access it or not, whether we leave it dormant or begin to start looking at it. It offers a new way of understanding the huge, terrifying thing that is the past.

 

After

The process of collecting DNA is a bit of a faff – spitting in a tube, shaking it about. I’ve just done some exercise so I have hardly any saliva. It certainly does not feel like ‘research’ or that I am engaging in some kind of important journey. It is an anti-climax! I forget about the whole thing until an email pings into my inbox suddenly. I am scared to open it….

Have I changed?

My ethnicity is pretty much what I had expected, and it is very solidly European. I’m 40% from Great Britain, 28% from West Europe and 15% from Ireland. This is all kind of predictable for me – I have maternal great-grandparents from Ireland, and my Opa, as I’ve said, was from the Netherlands. The test confirmed what I knew from my own research into my family conducted along more traditional – archival, textual – lines. It confirms that I am incredibly European, and I’m not too surprised. My 6% Italian DNA allows me to follow, for instance, my maternal great-great grandfather, the Merchant Seaman from Genoa, through my physical physiology and also my archival family tree. I have a sense of the past as something found in documents but also residing in my innermost cells.

Jerome1

I have, though, got little bits of other things that I can’t identify as easily. 6% is from Finland/ Northwest Russia. 3% is from the Iberian Peninsula, and a final 1% is from Scandinavia. These are more problematic to find in the physical archive, and perhaps they are multiple generations ago. I like the fact that it is such a mix, and that there are these strange little bits of me that come from all over the edges of Europe.

In some ways it demonstrates powerfully how, in a contemporary world of great mobility, migration and displacement, many of our ancestors did not move or travel a great deal outside of Europe.

The DNA data confirms my sense of my self in some way. In terms of new family, I have some interesting connections. My nearest DNA matches is a 4th cousin. That Italian great-great grandfather is the link between us. I find it amazing and strange that there is someone living who shares some of their basic cellular information with mine. It doesn’t change my sense of my family but it alters my sense of singularity somehow. It opens up a new sense of things. These DNA matches – to 4th, 5th, and even 6th cousins – can be very useful in making research breakthroughs.

 

You can follow Dr. Jerome de Groot on Twitter @deggy21

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