NO Native American and 2% Neanderthal? I Call Shenanigans!
The results of Part 2 of my DNA testing from the National Genome Project have arrived, finally! A little under 6 weeks from cheek swab to results. Actually sooner than I was expecting!
First things first. However exciting it is to uncover early parts of our ancestral heritage, I think it’s time for all us mutted up Americans to embrace “Blended American” as our ethnicity. Unless you’re still as strong as 25-50% of an ethnic group, you’re too diluted to go around calling yourself a GermIrScoWelEnSwiSilNative American (GISWESSiN for short).
Now, that said, I love “knowing” that I’m a GISWESSiN: a German-Irish-Scottish-Welsh-English-Swiss-Silesian-Native American. Of course, we’ve been Americans for too many generations to have carried forward the language or specific customs, but ancestry and genetics are fun, and we each have a right to understand our genetic AND cultural makeup, even if we can’t ever call ourselves a card-carrying member of any one of those ethnic groups.
We ARE the mutted Americans; the mixed breeds. (Here in South Africa the term is “Pavement Special.”)
And if you’re from western Pennsylvania, you get the special distinction of referring to your diluted concoction as “Heinz 57.” And, no, you do not get to use that term if you’re from other parts of the country, even if you like Heinz Ketchup. It belongs to Pittsburgh, and therefore only Pittsburgh mutts get to claim Heinz 57 Heritage.
Ouch. Did that irony sting a little? See how much it hurts to be summarily dismissed from a group because you aren’t considered closely enough affiliated/related to that group?
Okay, cool. Then now that we all understand how it feels to be a watered down mixed breed American who is not allowed to claim the tiny parts of genetic makeup comprising her “self,” let’s move on, shall we?
(See how I did that? I thought it was pretty slick.)
Seriously, it’s okay to identify with a particular group. It’s not okay to try to cash in on any benefits or exploit any minority identification if you really aren’t one.
Okay, enough of the fun and on to the results…
So if you’ve read my posts about my DNA testing before, you might remember that I like to participate in the Genographic Project through National Geographic. I think it’s fascinating to see what they’re uncovering as they map how humans populated the earth, migration routes, etc. And, of course, it has been fun to use stage 1 of the test to compare my DNA with others, finding distant relatives, and even encountering a little mini mystery in Dad’s family tree.
So I signed up for Part 2 of the project, which addresses “Who Am I?” and gives you a rough sketch of the percentage you are based on their outlined “nine ancestral world regions.” (For example, it wouldn’t tell you, definitively, that you’re x-percent Danish, but that you’re x-percent Northern European.)
The nine world ancestral regions are:Northeast Asian Mediterranean (Marla = 37%) Southern African Southwest Asian (Marla = 18%) Native American Oceanian Southeast Asian Northern European (Marla = 43%) Sub-Saharan African (*”Note: In some cases regional percentages may not total 100%) And my Hominid Ancestry? Neaderthal = 2.1% Denisovan = 2.5% (although this phase of genetic testing is still experimental)
I’m kinda’ shocked that our Neanderthal is so low. I mean, if you know anything about me, you know I’m nothing if not under-evolved.
But seriously, about that Native American complaint from earlier… Our family never had any delusions that we were anything more than what I always call “three drops of brown in a gallon of white milk” which wouldn’t even turn us beige.
But there’s no question of that Native American blood in our relatives. One look at my paternal grandfather’s family, and there’s no mistaking the nose, brow, skin and eyes of pre-colonial ancestry.
So why doesn’t it show up?
Here are a few possibilities for that, and I’m sure you smart readers can come up with more:
- The DNA analyzed represents “both parents’ information, going back six generations, and the Native could be earlier than that.
- The 37% Mediterranean, whose populations can look similar to Native Americans, account for the looks and assumption by family that we descended from American Indians. Where this gets tricky is that the family stories of Native American ancestry go back at least four generations. Could it be a case of being embarrassed by a Mediterranean ancestor and claiming Native instead? ; wanting to glamourize the heritage by claiming Mediterranean instead; or hiding a certain ethnicity because it wasn’t as acceptable as Native American
- “Somebody got some ‘splainin’ to do!” Could those relatives who we can easily tell are descended from Native Americans not be blood-related to us? Was one of our Heinz 57’s mixing with a little bit of, uh…Feline 99?
But the above assumptions are based on my father’s heritage, since that’s where the claim of Native American ancestry lies. I’m hoping to convince other relatives into testing for the Genographic project as well. Ideally a couple generations earlier would have stronger clues to unraveling these DNA threads.
Another interesting thread, along my mother’s genetic coding, is that I received an email awhile back from a Jewish woman who said my mother’s mtDNA matched her mtDNA a little more closely than a distant cousin, and wanted to know if our family was Jewish. When I replied we are not, and have no recent Jewish relations to the best of my knowledge and family history search, I asked her if she could share her own family history with me, as well as her DNA. She had not entered her information into the database, which you have the option of doing. You can keep yourself anonymous on the DNA matching sites. In fact, it’s wise to do so until you feel you’re close enough of a match to swap family histories.
She never replied, and the mystery continues…
And wtf is up with “18% Southwest Asian?” Well, as they explain on the results, most likely this is just trace ancestral DNA of migrations from this region.
One way to sort this out, dear relatives, if you’re reading this, would be to get DNA testing on one or two generations earlier in both sides of our family tree (females can have their mtDNA traced (mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s line, while men contain both mtDNA and YDNA! (direct mother’s line and direct father’s line) and BOTH can have their ancestral heritage analyzed.
However it turns out, what matters is that IT DOESN’T MATTER. We are who we learn to be, regardless of our genes. I will always be a GISWESSiN, even if my DNA identifies me otherwise.