Gee, Tell Me Something I Didn’t Know…

First, I wanted to let everyone know that I wrote an article about Feedly over at the A to Z Challenge blog that posted today.

Recently Ancestry.com cut the price of its DNA testing by $20, so Mary and I decided to splurge and have ours done. If you’ve seen the commercials, you hear the stories of people who did it and learned all kinds of weird and wonderful things about themselves, such as the guy who thought he was German but discovered the majority of his DNA showed his ancestors came from Ireland, so he traded in his lederhosen for a kilt.

I’ve been curious about what my DNA would show, because although I’ve heard all my life that I’m Irish, the name Holton is Welsh, and I’ve run into other Holtons that have traced the family’s history to England. For example, Fred Holton, the elderly gentlemen who drove us and a bunch of other tourists up and down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh many years ago, told me he had traced us to Hertfordshire, but was only able to go back 900 years (!), so who knows what might have transpired before then. I’ve also wondered whether I might have some Viking ancestors, because you see the name spelled slightly differently (Halton in Scandinavia, Houlton in France, Holten in Germany, etc.) all over Europe, and the Vikings did a rather thorough job of raping, pillaging, and plundering all over Europe. Plus, my Holton relatives are almost all redheads (Mom insisted that I should have been a ginger, too), as were most of the Vikings, or so I’ve been told.

So, we got our kits a few weeks ago, spit into the little containers they sent, sealed them up, and mailed them off. The other day, I got an email: my results were in. I immediately went to the site and signed in. Here’s what I saw:

ethnicity

Yep! Irish as Paddy’s pig!

irish_paddys_pig_t_shirt_tshirt-p235369423836759935b7i7r_400

Now, I don’t know where that 1% Polynesian comes from, although I thought it might have something to do with “Holton” meaning “man of the forest,” which is also the meaning of the word “orangutan.”

Orangutan 2
A distant relative?

However, orangutans are from Indonesia, not Polynesia.

Mary, whose grandparents were all born in Lithuania, was also curious to see her ethnicity, because her maiden name is Polish, not Lithuanian. Her results were similar: it told her she was 95% Eastern European, 5% Finnish or northwestern Russian. Her results were no more specific than that. Now, that might be a result of the ever-changing borders in the area: parts of Germany, Poland, and Lithuania were at one time Prussia, and the border between Poland and Lithuania moved back and forth a lot. Still, she learned that the Finnish and Lithuanian languages have some things in common, and all of those countries (Finland, Russia, Poland, and Lithuania) have the Baltic Sea in common, so it all figures out.

Having seen these results have made us even more curious about our roots, and we decided to have our DNA tested further using the service 23andMe.com. That was the service used by the PBS program Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, and it seemed to provide a slightly more complete analysis.

Ancestry did try to match my DNA with other members of their site, and was quite accurate on one score: it matched me with my Aunt Alice, who has been doing a fantastic job of building the family tree. I was informed that she was likely a first cousin. Close enough for DNA, I guess.

How about you? Have you had your DNA analyzed? Any surprises?

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Author: John Holton

I'm a writer and blogger who writes and blogs about things that interest me.

8 thoughts on “Gee, Tell Me Something I Didn’t Know…”

    1. Developing ours is one of those things that’s been going on for a couple of generations now. My aunt inherited it from her aunt, as I recall. Never hurts to have someone who can take over in the event the person doing it can’t continue, so be ready to catch the baton…

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  1. I had my DNA tested a few years ago. The results proved that I was of the same lineage as General Stonewall Jackson–not direct, but common ancestry prior to that. My test was paid for by the Jackson Brigade organization, but to my discredit I’ve done little to understand much more about the testing or follow up on any of the regular emails I receive about having another relative match show up. I have family who does a lot with genealogy, but I am negligent on that account.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

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    1. You really have to want to do the family tree because it takes a lot of time and attention to detail, something I’m not especially good at. My great-aunt was working on it, and I think she passed the materials on to my aunt when she didn’t have the energy to continue. I don’t know who will take over from her.

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  2. I had my DNA analyzed through Ancestry, but would like a more detailed analysis. I’m 23% Irish, though I have yet to find an ancestor who actually came from Ireland. The surprise was no Native American DNA, though we do seem to have a documented native ancestor. I learned that this is possible, however, and that some of my siblings might carry her DNA. Last year I was contacted by a fourth cousin, who led me to reconnect with a second cousin I’d lost track of…I love looking at the family history! I wish I had more hours in a day. 🙂

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    1. We’re trying 23andMe; I think theirs is a more detailed analysis. Stay tuned for what we find out.

      From what I remember, every sperm and egg cell contains one strand of your mother’s or father’s DNA. When they connect, the baby’s DNA is formed from the two strands, but there’s a lot of flipping around and splitting and reuniting that takes place before it’s finished, which is why everyone’s is unique. It’s possible the strands that made up your DNA didn’t include the relative. Or something like that. Richard Dawkins talks about it in his book “The Selfish Gene,” which I really need to get back to…

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