Several years ago, in a fit of insomnia, I bought an Ancestry.com DNA test.
I appointed myself the family historian a decade ago and I’ve done a decent job for a hobbyist of tracing my Irish roots back to County Mayo (the Japanese side is a bit more elusive). But a couple of years ago, I’d hit a wall in my family research. DNA testing for ethnic origins was the new thing, so I decided to give it a shot. I knew that it was new and still-developing and that those sorts of tests were reputedly not accurate and/or not remotely helpful for races other than white. Plus, of course, the way they compare my DNA to people who currently live in the countries isn’t totally reflective of human migration and mating.
The Ancestry.com results:
These are my primary ethnicity estimates, which are correct as far as I know: my mother is Japanese, my dad is Irish-American. Three of my dad’s grandparents were born in Ireland and immigrated to America; one of his grandmothers was born in New Jersey to Irish immigrant parents.
I’d figured with Irish history being what it was that my Irish side was likely quite mixed in a northern European kinda way.
But my God, seriously–50% East Asian? That’s still all Ancestry can give me in terms of that side of my family, by the way. Do you know how big East Asia is?!
|East Asia, from Wikipedia.
The Connacht, Ireland/North Connacht subheadings–which, yes, is the Irish region my family comes from–was added a couple of years after I’d turned in my original DNA test. It’s a very specific region to highlight from DNA, I think, when they can’t even differentiate between various ethnicities on the world’s largest continent.
These are my “low confidence regions”–places my DNA might trace to, but in small amounts:
So, there are parts of this that make sense and parts I have questions about. The Iberian peninsula–Spain and Portgual– kind of makes sense; there was some Spanish migration to Ireland, but equally, the Basque region is Celtic, which Ireland also is so…am I part Spanish or just part Celtic? How was that 7% determined?
Finland? How….? Britain and Scandinavia make sense in a colonization and Vikings-in-Ireland kind of way. I don’t even know about that Asia South thing. I guess it’s on my white side, but how, I have no idea.
I’m not totally sure how recently or distantly Ancestry tests your DNA for–is it eight generations? Ten generations? What branches of the family tree are these trace regions showing up in? I have no idea. What the test did do was connect me on Ancestry to a bunch of people ranging from second cousins (and in fact, I’ve been able to find out through my family tree research how I’m related to second and third cousins) all the way out to 4th-6th cousins, where I have no idea who the common ancestor is because Irish Catholic records don’t go that far back.
This Ancestry test remained a point of bemusement for the whole family for several years. It’s not like being supposedly 1% of something has affected the way I identify myself, after all.
Since I’ve done the Ancestry test, a number of other DNA testing companies have sprung up. 23andme is the other big company offering DNA ancestry tests. Having already done one–and having become more aware of the way these companies make money off your DNA and other issues–I didn’t want to take another one, especially if the company wasn’t offering a decent reference population for Asians. But my mom’s friend’s daughter–also half Japanese, half European–took a 23andme test and got interesting (and accurately Asian) results.
Then I started watching YouTube videos of people taking the 23andme test and not only learning their ethnic origins, but also being able to trace their haplogroups and getting a timeline of when these various ethnicities came into their family gene pool, so to speak.
I was like, “That’d be cool to know my maternal haplogroup. And ooh, timeline! I might find out where that Finnish DNA freaking came from! Or, you know, anything about the Asian side.”
23andme was having a sale, so I bought one, spit in a tube, and sent it off.
And while I was waiting for the 23andme test to get to me, I found out about a Chinese site called WeGene where you can upload your info from Ancestry or 23andme and if you’re Asian, WeGene can help break down those admixture tests by various Chinese and other Asian ethnic and regional groups, which is super cool.
Their reference population for Europeans must be tiny or non-existent because all the DNA that I know is Irish is showing up as French on WeGene. This is the WeGene breakdown of my Ancestry test:
I guess out of that 50% East Asian per Ancestry, I’m 44% Japanese! And I’m a tiny bit Chinese (not surprising), a tiny bit Cambodian (ooh, is that why my great-grandmother was supposedly tanned with wavy hair?), a wee bit Uzbek, and Sindhi, an ethnic group native to present day Pakistan. I mean, who knows if this is remotely true or not–except the 44% Japanese, of course, that’s totes correct–but it’s a lot more interesting than “50% East Asian.”
But because it’s based on my Ancestry results, I’m still not sure of a timeline or how long ago some of this DNA was–and if Irish is coming up as French on WeGene, who knows what else might be something different from the breakdown they’re giving me?
Currently waiting on my 23andme results. I’ll definitely post when I get those!