Ethnicity, Race and Pie Charts

Yes, it’s the new year … and how many DNA testing kits did you get as a gift? Yes, it’s a current fad and yes, it is also fun. But let me help to frame some of the issues with DNA, genealogy, testing, ethnicity vs. race and those pretty pie charts.

First, I’m a genealogist AND a scientist. I have two degrees that stress the importance of data, replication as a tool of quality and refinement, and control groups and more. And I value documentation, and proof – more than one document that provides information confirming or refuting what another document says, and a “reasonably exhaustive search” – a standard of utilizing everything that we can access to prove/disprove facts.

Second, let’s be clear – DNA testing is in its early stages. Yes, it has come a VERY long way from the 1980s when it was first used with genealogical information, and tools now available to us is far more extensive, detailed, scientifically-based that ever.

And third, there is NO biological basis for “race”. From a chemical, DNA, or cellular level, we are all 99% the same and we share chemistry, DNA and cellular structures with bananas, trees and other living things. We are carbon-based organisms that have evolved over millenium. To state, because of DNA data, that we are a particular race is just wrong – scientifically, genetically, socially and otherwise. There are plenty of research-based studies and writings that trace every human living on the planet back to Africa…..thousands and thousands of years ago. AND those pretty pie charts – with percentages and lovely colors – stating this or that percentage of DNA from Western Europe or the Iberian peninsula or wherever …. that information is based on a testing database of samples that place the same or similar DNA in a particular geography at a point in time (most of the DNA sites will offer that this ancestral DNA is from approximately a 500 to 800 year old time frame).

So, to keep it simple, if you decide to use the DNA test kits (please at least be sure to use the companies that work very hard to maintain scientific standards, privacy rights, testing protocols and ethics – these are Ancestry, 23 and Me, MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, and FindMyPast), there are some things to consider: 1) Please know that virtually everyone will get a surprise from their results. It may be as simple as “I didn’t know we had Scandinavian ancestors!” to as emotional as “My dad isn’t my dad??!!!” Yours truly is working her way through what a really big revelation means, so don’t take this lightly. 2) The pie chart is the LEAST of it! The database that is used for the testing is always growing and changing, refining and developing. I’ve already seen as least two updates that have changed my results – in the first one, I was Ashkenazi Jewish, then from the Iberian peninsula, and now it’s Scandinavian. The Scandinavian one actually makes sense as I know that my ancestors (from the years of doing research in the paper trails my ancestors left) were from Normandy – a region of France heavily impacted by Norman or Viking invasions … hence “Scandinavian”. THE most important part of your results is the COUSIN matching!! You will find people related to you through the DNA that you didn’t know about (I found someone a half hour from my home!) and you will have a really fun time getting to know them! Trust me – the COUSIN CONNECTION is the BEST part of DNA testing. 3) Follow the instructions. It’s easy, and perhaps a bit yucky, but it’s important. The science is built on a clean sample and your results will make sense. 4) AND know that there is a paper trail that will help you to sort it all out, with lots of helpful people to show you how to look at what you find in your results.

And don’t let anyone tell you what RACE you are – because they can’t! The results can tell you a bit about where geographically your ancestors traveled through on their way to where you are today. It will tell you a bit about ethnicity – the culture of our families, such as customs, favorite foods, holidays, dances and music, clothing styles, and possibly eye and hair colors. The testing information is based in finding clusters, clumps of DNA that reappear over and over again in a particular region, geography, locality in people in that area. I know, for instance, that on my mom’s side, our people were Native, French-Canadian, and Scottish because – and this is important – others with our similar DNA were from these identified groups because of records, documentation, and more. But it doesn’t tell me WHICH tribe, or WHERE in France or Scotland, or that level of detail. At least yet …. as more and more people are tested and can document specifics about these ancestors, we can begin to narrow down migratory trails, immigration routes and track back into time.

So please look beyond the pretty pie charts. Take time to look for the paper trail that your ancestors left to find out about their lives …. their religion, foods, homes, jobs and what made their lives worth living. You are the product of pairs of people who had a relationship that created a child …. I was going to say “pairs of people who loved” but I know that many children were born of affairs, rape and incest. In the context of their lives, the child lived and had children ….. down to you. Think about the blessing of two parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, 16 great-great-grandparents, and more going back into time. Learn about that and don’t worry about whether they wore kilts or lederhosen, a sari or animal skins … find a cousin and learn about your common ancestors’ lives and the courage, stamina, and strength that helped them to thrive. Let me know if I can help ….

RootsTech 2019 – CONTEST for a PASS!!! Enter now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As many of you know I again have the honor of being a Speaker AND an ambassador for the RootsTech 2019 Conference. It is the largest genealogy conference in the world! What an opportunity to see amazing speakers plus be surrounded by those who appreciate the hard work, joy and fun that comes from researching your family’s story.  People who will listen to you talk about your research and NOT have their eyes glaze over – tee hee!!!!

One of the benefits of being both a speaker and an ambassador is that I get to grant one of my lucky winners a FREE 4 day pass to RootsTech to be held from February 27 through March 2, 2019 (a $299 value)!

Pass includes the following:

  • Over 300 classes
  • Keynote/General Session
  • Expo Hall
  • Evening Events

Pass does not include the following:

  • Transportation to and from Salt Lake City, Utah and/or the Salt Palace Convention Center
  • Lodging and Food
  • Paid Lunches
  • Paid Labs

If you have already purchased your ticket, please still enter! You will be reimbursed your ticket price. A great chance to WIN!!!!

To enter my giveaway??  Please just provide your email on my website Lineage Journeys!!!   I will randomly draw a winner’s name from the submitted emails (if you are already following my blog and have submitted your email, just let me know that you want IN!) – drawing on Tuesday, October 30th!  The winner will be notified by email (and then I want to talk with them!) and everyone else will find out here in a post.  So sign up to win!!!!  Yes, YOU!!

Honoring Passover and Easter

How is this night different from all other nights?  One of the four questions of the Passover Seder …. While I’m not Jewish, I am reflecting on this weekend beginning with Passover tonight and its story, and what I have learned about the Seder from dear friends who have shared some of the traditions and foods of this important event.  As a genealogist, I’m recognizing that in the long history of my ancestors over thousands of years, I have Jewish ancestors.  My AncestryDNA results also indicate that I have Ashkenazi Jewish heritage – a low percentage (<5%) indicating a distant connection – but nonetheless, it doesn’t surprise me as early Christians were Jewish.  And, because of my Eastern European DNA, it is likely that it comes from there.

So I’m celebrating the beginning of an ancient commemoration.

Earlier this month, we celebrated the spring Equinox, honoring our relationship to the Earth, the changing of seasons and our Native heritage, family and friends.  AND I will be celebrating Easter in my faith community and with mom on Sunday.  

Whatever your beliefs, faith tradition or thoughts about all things spiritual or religious, wishing you the beauty and freshness of the spring growth, earth awakening and return of green grass, baseball and flowers.  May you have love, peace and beauty in your life!

MyHeritage announces new tools – DNA Browser!

MyHeritage made some great announcements about new features in their DNA work!  One, the DNAQuest.org is an effort by the company to help adoptees – using this site address, MyHeritage is offering FREE testing for those experiencing hardships (you have to apply for the free testing) but they have dedicated money to this effort and it should help many.  Just before coming to #RootsTech, I had a great conversation with a woman who used DNA to find three sisters (two half-sisters, one full) and, within a year, they all met and are expanding their family relationships in a loving way!

The other great update from MyHeritage included their new tool – DNA Chromosome Browser.

MyHeritage announced #RootsTech in Salt Lake City a major upgrade of its chromosome browser that makes it easier for users to analyze their DNA matches!  If you’ve taken a MyHeritage DNA test or those who have uploaded their raw data from other DNA companies, you can check out this feature in the MyHeritage DNA drop-down menu.  I’ve checked it out on my own DNA and it is fun, and I’ve been spending alot of time playing with it.

I have to say that the advances in DNA research and the opportunities it provides to family historians and genealogists was SO on display at #RootsTech … the power we all have to break through brick walls and discover relatives, history, migration patterns, and family stories is phenomenal!!!  If you aren’t on board with these tools (AncestryDNA, FindMyPast, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritageDNA and more), you are truly missing an opportunity!

Arrived at RootsTech … wow!

OMG …. this is AMAZING!!  RootsTech 2018 … I made it and I’m so excited!!!

While it is just Tuesday night, I’m attending the Media Dinner, sponsored by FamilySearch, and an opportunity to get an advance look at what will be happening during the week.  In addition to being an Ambassador ( you post stuff on social media), as a Speaker and participant, I want to be “in the know” about it all as a First-Timer!!!

Meeting up with friends is a big, fun part of the conference and having some time to settle in was great.  The lines, while long, at registration moved fast AND I got to go to the really short (no one ahead of me!) VIP line to check in.

Then the Media Dinner!!  Some tools here at the conference are the overall conference app – guides you to the workshops, helps with what is in Expo Hall, and more!  You can see a list of attendees and connect with them if you are tracking someone down …. and who the keynote speakers are, where there is food, the day’s happenings, alerts and more!!!

A REALLY fun thing this year – using your family tree from FamilySearch to link to all of the attendees at the conference who have linked their trees – and you get a list of everyone attending who is your COUSIN!!!!!  OMG!!  I have over 200 people here who are related to me (mostly through my French-Canadians!) and I’ve reached out to see if we can meet …. stay tuned for possible pictures of “Cousin Connections”!!

We saw a teaser film of Relative Race too!!!  It’s from BYU TV … while you can get it easily here in Utah, the rest of us can view it on Google TV and other programs that pull from around the country.  The show is based on four teams of two family members.  They provide their DNA which is tested.  Family members from around the country then are found and the teams are given clues and maps (NO GPS allowed!!) to find the locations of relatives in the United States and must drive there the fastest to win.  When they knock on the door at the address provided, the person that opens the door is a previously-unknown relative!  It kinda got me choked up watching it as some of the meetings were very impactful.  I’m looking for this when I get home!

Well, that’s it for day one at RootsTech 2018!!!  Watch for more!