Tuesday, May 24, 2016

World Woman -- Ms. Ché Gets Her DNA Test Results

This is really something, as in "we had no idea."

Ms Ché and I have had our DNA tested through Ancestry.com. For years I think their DNA tests were considered borderline fraud since so often the results were at significant variance with documented family history or seemed wildly wrong for other reasons. Their answers to questions about the tests sometimes didn't provide useful information. And the tests were expensive.

Well, they seem to have refined their efforts quite a bit and they've been much better about providing information rather than deflecting, and so, when the price dropped somewhat, we went ahead with the test. 

Mine came back rather quickly, simple as it was -- comparatively speaking.

I'm mainly British (from my mother), Irish (from my father), and there is a smattering of Scandinavian, Eastern European and Iberian -- Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, etc.

Except for the missing German, it seemed OK. Ancestry DNA tends to explain the absence of German ancestry in my DNA with the claim that 1) my father's grandparents were not ethnic Germans at all (possibly); or the German is masked by and is found within the British and/or Scandinavian elements.

Could be.

Ms Ché's test results took longer.

But then, her ancestral DNA is a lot more complicated than mine. In fact, it spans the globe.

What she knew prior to the DNA test was that her father was from the Philippines and her mother was full-blood Cherokee (Yes, they exist!) from Oklahoma.

That seems straightforward enough, but turns out it's not straightforward at all.

From her parents, Ms. Ché inherited 37% Native American and 37% East Asian (which includes Filipino) DNA. But there's a complication: 16% of her DNA is Polynesian. Eh? How does that work? 6% is African. Oh? Interesting. Then there's Central Asian at 3%. And curiously, a trace percentage is Finnish/Northern Russian.

We're thinking the African DNA came through her mother. Some Cherokees had black slaves, and after Emancipation, many stayed among the Cherokee in Oklahoma. They are called Freedmen and are considered tribal members to this day. One of Ms Ché's ancestors was therefore probably a Freedman or descendant of one.

The Polynesian DNA probably came through her father. Filipinos and Polynesians are distinct, but they are ancestrally closely related. It's possible that Spanish or Anglo colonialists brought Polynesians from the Pacific Islands to work in pineapple or other plantations in the Philippines. But if her father knew of a Polynesian ancestor, he never said. On the other hand, it's possible that we're seeing a genetic echo of the ancestral relationship between Polynesians and Filipinos, something that has long been alluded to.

The Central Asian and Finnish/Russian components are relatively slight, but the fact that they are there at all is a head scratcher. Where did they come from? We don't know, and looking into it is a project for the future. Because the percentage is low, whoever contributed these elements probably did so a long time ago. How long ago, and with whom... is mysterious. It could have been anywhere along the line, on any branch.

Ms Ché saw it as possibly a genetic echo of the Asian and Far North origins of Native American peoples. That would be interesting if true. Central Asia has been identified as one of the loci from which ancestral Native Americans made their way into the Americas. They also went west into Europe. But there were other areas of the Asian continent from which Native American ancestors originated, including the Far North, home today to globe-spanning Inuit and related peoples. Could that be where the trace percent of Finnish/Northern Russian DNA comes from? Interesting if it were, but I'm not sure how we'd find out.

So that's what came through on the DNA tests we both took. They raise more questions than they answer to be truthful. I ask "where's the German?" in my ancestry -- for none is identified specifically or more generally in my DNA. In Ms. Ché's case we're asking how the minor and trace elements from so many different ethnic sources came to be found in her DNA.

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