I got my results from the AncestryDNA test, which offered a few surprises and a few non-surprises. In brief: my DNA is 52% British Isles (England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales), 46% Scandinavian (Norway, Sweden, Denmark), and 2% uncertain (but still Earth, presumably).
What can I conclude from these results, which look back “hundreds—perhaps even thousands—of years ago” (according to the report)?
Not surprising—British Isles: I was expecting to see a British Isles heritage. Three of my great-grandparents were born in the British Isles (Ireland in particular). Another four are known or strongly suspected to have English ancestry. That leaves only one great-grandparent with no known British Isles ancestry. I could have had a very high percentage of DNA matching the British Isles.
Conclusion—British Isles on both sides: The fact that I’m more than 50% British Isles proves that both of my parents have this ancestry. If one of my parents never had this in their heritage, my British Isles percentage couldn’t have been more than 50%. I can’t tell how much I got from which parent, but I can be certain I got some from each.
Surprising (at first)—only 52% British Isles: With a British Isles heritage in 7 of 8 great-grandparents, why is my British Isles DNA “only” 52%? That was surprising at first, because 7/8 = 87.5%, but that’s now how DNA works. You get half of your DNA from your father and half from your mother, but you don’t know which half each parent contributes. Each child gets a different DNA mix. The half of my father’s DNA I received could have included very little of his British Isles DNA, or lots of it. Likewise for my mother. In other words, having 52% British Isles DNA is completely plausible.
Surprising—Scandinavian: Where did I get 46% Scandinavian DNA? Looking back through the last several generations, I don’t find a single Scandinavian in my family tree. I have some far-reaching branches of the family tree that find Scandinavians born over 1100 years ago, but a) there are some iffy genealogical connections between now and then, so I’m not entirely certain they belong in my family tree at all, and b) if I have to go that far back to find any Scandinavians, it seems unlikely that almost half of my DNA would be from IKEA.
Conclusion—got Scandinavians: I’ve probably got Scandinavian ancestors I don’t know about, probably within the last 1000 years. I could have gotten all of my Scandinavian ancestry from one parent, because it’s less than 50%, but the test doesn’t tell me how much came from one parent or the other. Possibly, the Scandinavian connection is a false positive, meaning it’s a mistake in the AncestryDNA data and I don’t have Scandinavian ancestors after all, but I’m not going to assume they blew it without further evidence.
Surprising—no German DNA:The DNA results didn’t show any German ancestry. The Becker surname is German. My Becker great-great-grandfather and his wife were born in Germany, and so were their parents. (To be precise, my great-great-grandfather was born in the Grand Duchy of Hesse — Großherzogtum Hessen in German — before there was a Germany. It was part of what would become Germany.) Why don’t I have any German DNA?
Conclusion—lack of German DNA is not a lack of German ancestors: Does my lack of German DNA mean I don’t really have German ancestry? No. This sort of DNA testing can prove what’s present in your ancestry, but it can’t prove what’s missing. My German great-great-grandfather Valentine Becker married Anna, a woman who was probably German. Their son Edward probably had lots of German DNA. Edward married Ethel, a woman with no known German ancestry. Their son Lester probably had 50% or less German DNA. Lester married another non-German, Mary. Their son Earl (my father) could have anywhere from 0 to 50% German DNA. Dad married a non-German too, so it’s completely plausible that I received no German DNA despite the fact that I have German ancestors.
Not surprising—my cousin is my cousin: The AncestryDNA site says my cousin Ellen appears to be my cousin! Our mothers were sisters, after all, and Ellen did the test too, so this accurate AncestryDNA match lends credibility to the results.
Surprising—my cousin is just like me: The AncestryDNA match say Ellen is 54% British Isles and 46% Scandinavian — very close to my results. We’re first cousins, so some DNA overlap is possible and likely, but I’m surprised our results were that close. Two of my grandparents have no connection to two of Ellen’s, so I would have expected some non-matching elements too.
Speculation—Scandinavian on Mom’s side: The similarity of our results raises the possibility that our Scandinavian DNA came from the grandparents we have in common. It’s something to pursue, but we’ve hit some genealogical dead ends in that part of the family, so I’m not sure how we’re going to solve this puzzle. However, it’s also possible that our Scandinavian DNA is a coincidence, if Ellen’s father and my father just happened to have Scandinavian ancestry, even though they weren’t related. It’s also possible that we each got a mix from both parents. Basically, while the Scandinavian ancestry could be in our common ancestry, it might not be.
Comparison to Other DNA Tests
This AncestryDNA test is in particular an autosomal DNA test (atDNA). A few years ago, I did the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) test and the Y chromosome (Y-DNA) test. The mtDNA test placed my maternal line in Haplogroup H, which showed up in Europe during the Stone Age. This group spread all over Europe. The Y-DNA test looks only at the paternal line, and it put my paternal line in Haplogroup R1b, which also came to Europe from western Asia during the Stone Age. They wound up all over western Europe and the British Isles.
The results are consistent. Based on the mtDNA and Y-DNA tests, which look back tens of thousands of years, it’s no surprise that the atDNA test, which looks back centuries instead of millennia, found European ancestry. It’s official: I’m European-American.