Plain English Genetic Genealogy

atDNA 2—DNA testing, Spearmint and Caraway


The other day I mentioned that the tests between different testing firms will produce nonidentical results. Today, I received notification from MyHeritageDNA that my ethnicity results were available. Now, I did not pay their service but MyHeritageDNA (and other sites, like FTDNA but not AncestryDNA) will allow tests from other sites to be uploaded to their site for no fee. So, I uploaded mine some time ago and here are my results.

Heritage Ethnic Breakdown

Here are my results from AncestryDNA.

Ancestry Ethnic Breakdown

And, from DNA.Land.

DNALand Ethnic Breakdown

And from GEDMatch (as best as can be captured on this site).

GEDMatch Ethnic Breakdown

All different but, basically, the same. This is how using different data sets (people whose DNA is on their site creating the pool from which all are compared) and different algorithms (mathematical equations set to match each to different DNA signatures) allow each site to come up with something a little bit different.

The only way to really know where your ancestors came from is to conduct genealogical searches. Find the documentation—wherever possible—to identify where your ancestors lived. In truth, it’s the only way to prove from where you came to be where you are. atDNA testing is one tool. It helps you narrow down—but not confirm—where your ancestors lived.

On a different note, in my last blog, I talked about bags of marbles and how—even if each parent gave the same number of marbles to each of their children, it is not necessarily the same exact marbles. I was watching Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s Inexplicable Universe earlier today and he talked about something that may help some understand this even better. Or *grin* confuse everyone even more. Yes, we’re going to (kinda sorta) dabble in molecular biology and astrophysics (only because Tyson is an astrophysicist) for just a moment.

How many of you have tasted spearmint? Go on, raise your hand, you know you have. Now, how about caraway? Not so many, huh? Would it help if I mentioned caraway is a spice used in rye breads? Ah. There we go.

Very different flavors, eh? And, spearmint has a very recognizable scent, right? Now, picture this.

Spearmint caraway

Absolute mirror images of each other, right? Well, R-(-) carvone is spearmint and S-(+)-carvone is caraway. Same exact components, but laid out differently. Just like DNA. While mirror images of molecular structure is not what I’m getting at, I am showing how two different combinations of the same thing can produce incredibly different results.

Or not. *chuckle*

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