Diggin' up Dead People

A Genealogy Blog

DNA Drabbles

Where in the world, and who in the world, do I come from?  That is one of the big questions in genealogy.  Geographically at least, DNA testing has helped me answer part of that questions.

After testing with the Family Tree DNA, 23 and Me, and Ancestry DNA it’s pretty clear I come from Europe.  To be more specific- Western Europe.  Though the results were not the same, they were very consistent among the testing services.



23and Me Ethnicity Results


Family Tree DNA origins

Ancestry.com DNA


Other miscellaneous factoids my DNA testing has revealed:

My eye color is likely brown- but I can see that in the mirror!

My parents were not blood related to one another.

My husband and I are related to each other only by marriage, not by our DNA.

23 and Me also has given me some pretty interesting health data (I tested before the FDA dispute).

Ancestry has given me a “new ancestor discovery”.  I do not know yet how or if this person fits into my tree, but am still looking to find out!

Fast caffeine metabolizer: “drinking coffee didn’t increase subjects’ heart attack risk”  Thats truly a good thing to hear!


How many ancestors can I name?

I’d like to credit Cathy Meder-Dempsey’s post, “My Ancestor Score as of Valentine’s Day 2016” at her blog Opening Doors in Brick Walls as the inspiration for my finding my Ancestor Score.


The idea of “Ancestor Score” is to calculate how many ancestors of you can identify in each generation, starting with yourself, and, in many examples, ending at 10 generations back.  Ten generations back would be 7x great grandparents.  As you go back, the number of ancestors doubles with each generation, so you have 512 7x great-grandparents!  And how far back in time is that?  On average, there are 3-4 generations per century, so 10 generations is between about 250-330 years!

The calculation of the ancestor score is pretty straightforward- it is who you know divided by how many there are.  You can see the score per generation and a total score over all ten generations.  It was a humbling experience!

Generation Relationship Possible # Identified # Percentage
1 Me- Yup I know this one, LOL 1 1 100%
2 Parents 2 2 100%
3 Grandparents 4 4 100%
4 Great-Grandparents 8 8 100%
5 2x   Great-Grandparents 16 12 75%
6 3x   Great-Grandparents 32 20 62.5%
7 4x   Great-Grandparents 64 24 37.5%
8 5x   Great-Grandparents 128 14 10.9%
9 6x   Great-Grandparents 256 3 0.01%
10 7x   Great-Grandparents 512 0 0%
Total   1023 88 0.08%

I was doing really well up through my great grandparents!  Of these great grandparents I was able to name parents for all but 2, so even in generations 5 and then 6, things were solid.

It was looking at the later generations that put things in a different light.  I have tested DNA with the 3 major genetic genealogy companies: Family Tree DNA, Ancestry DNA and 23 and me.  My personal genealogy results have been less than enlightening.  I match a ton of people that I have no idea why we match.  Furthermore, most of these contacts seem to have no clue either!  In a quest to further figure things out I’ve also uploaded my results to GedMatch. It is all a bit overwhelming!  I wondered if my paper trail genealogy contained some huge errors!

My ancestor score chart put some perspective on the situation.  My first cousins match at generation 3, second at generation 4 and so on. Sixth cousins would match at generation 8- we share 5th great grandparents. So someone who matches me at 6th cousin and I have 128 possible common ancestors and I do not know even the names of 114 of these possibilities!  Many of my matches are at the 4th-6th cousin or more distant level.  So, I can see now why I’ve had so much difficulty with reconciling my DNA matches to my known ancestors.  Although I “knew” that the reason matches seemed to be perplexing was because I just hadn’t (and likely neither had the match) gone back far enough in our ancestry- seeing it visually in the chart made that reason much clearer for me!





1 Comment »