Does The Ancestry DNA Test Solve Mysteries?

My daughter with the Ancestry DNA Kit

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My AncestryDNA kit.

AncestryDNAStory-Jessie-241217

My DNA Story

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The package containing the tube you spit in on the right, and the blue liquid you add before capping.

The other day a lady told me she wanted to try Ancestry’s DNA kit so she could finally solve the mystery of why she looked Asian. She was from South America. I had to tell her that if you’re looking to solve a mystery by trying Ancestry’s DNA kit, then you might be sorely disappointed. It creates  more mysteries than it solves.

You can buy all sorts of DNA kits online. You can find out whether your dad is your dad and even look at your dog’s lineage. Ancestry.com’s AncestryDNA kit tells you the geographic breakdown of your DNA. It also links you with other relatives who have taken the test. It sells for $79. I spent that and $69 sending my sample back through a mail courier.

They send you a box with everything you need. To give your sample, you spit into a plastic tube, then put this blue liquid in and cap it up. Honestly, the hardest part about it is just hawking up enough spit. You can’t eat or drink anything for an hour before taking the test, so your mouth might feel quite dry. Your kit comes with a number, and you have to register that on ancestry.com so that they can tell whose kit is whose.

You are given an option to share your DNA with scientists doing research projects. Some people are quite concerned that this data could later be used against you in some way. I ticked “no”, I did not wish to share my DNA.

When I sent it off I was pretty prepared for just about anything. The one thing I was pretty confident about was that I didn’t have any Anglo ancestry. Most of my family came to Bermuda from the Azores around 1893 with a few exceptions, or at least so I thought.

After a five-week waiting period, I finally got my results. SURPRISE! My highest percentage was 27% Great Britain. It came up only 18% Iberian, the region that includes Portugal. The rest was a mishmash of western and southern European. I thought of my aunt saying that her paternal grandmother (Anna Ponte DeSilva) wasn’t Portuguese but French. I never took her entirely seriously on that one. Anna Ponte sounds pretty solidly Portuguese, but maybe that explained the western European DNA. My paternal grandmother’s mother, Rose, was a Young from the St Johns Road/Spanish Point area and her father was reported to be an Irish police officer. (She never knew him). Could Rose’s DNA account for the majority of my DNA?

One of the nicest things about the test is that it connects you to family members who have also taken the test. It breaks it down into first cousin, second cousin and so on. I found a cousin who was equally shocked by her results. She got 37% Great Britain. However, it’s important to note that if you don’t already know the cousin, Ancestry doesn’t tell you what side of the family the cousin is on.

And unfortunately a lot of people take the test, then never come back to Ancestry.com to see if any new relatives have popped up. I have a mystery 2nd cousin “Margaret Ruth”. I have no idea how we are related, and she hasn’t been back to check on her results since April.  It would help to get other people in the family to also do the test. That way you can compare results and figure out which side of the family your results come from.

In the future I’d like to try other tests like 23 And Me to compare results.

I was surprised by how little of any one thing I really was. Twenty-seven % doesn’t account for much, really. Taking the test, certainly didn’t solve any mysteries. I wouldn’t use it to replace good old-fashioned genealogy research techniques, like talking with older family members and going to the record office to gather concrete data. But it’s definitely interesting, and if it creates new mysteries, which isn’t a bad thing at all.

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Grandma Nogueira’s Devil Dump Cake

A couple of years ago I purchased a book online. It was a sort of scrap book called Our Familia Cookbook and Customs by Alvera Leal. It came from California. The book is handmade full of recipes with some info about the Azores and the Leal, Homen and Nogueira family. Someone must have pitched it, but their loss was my gain. It is clearly made by a mother or grandmother for her children. The other day my daughter pulled it off the shelf and brought it to me. I thought it might be interesting to share some of Mrs Leal’s recipes here. I’ve never tried it myself as I don’t eat eggs. If you make the recipe please send me a photo of you and your family enjoying it to bdapooh@hotmail.com . Don’t forget to check out my Facebook Page under “Portuguese Bermudian History” .

Grandma Nogueira’s Dump Devil Cake
1 cup of sour or sweet milk
1/2 cup of chocolate
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup of sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup of oil
1 tsp soda
1 tsp salt

Mix all together and beat well. Bake in greased pan in 350F oven until done.

The filling includes one small can of chopped pineapple, add a little water, 4 tbsp of sugar, 1 tbsp of butter, 1 tbsp of cornstarch. Mix all together and spread on cool cake.

You don’t need to go back to Portugal.

Many newcomers to genealogy often assume they have to go back to the old country to access vital records. Actually, this isn’t necessarily so. In case you didn’t know the Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS) are trying to baptise your dead ancestors. Maybe you object to people messing with the souls of your long dead dearly departed. Quite frankly my grandparents kept to their opinions in life, and I can’t imagine them caving now that they are dead. Anyway, the good news is that in order to baptise your ancestors, the LDS have to know who they were and where they lived. They do this by travelling around the world transcribing parish records. In their attempts to convert the dead they have created a very very useful genealogy tool. Warning though, it’s not always 100 percent accurate. They have a FREE online website with searchable databases at http://www.familysearch.org . They have also created family history centres around the world that contain family history data including microfiche versions of parish records. Although it’s nice to go back to the old country, to get to Parish records from the Azores you can go to the LDS family history centre in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. The majority of their records are from Sao Miguel and some from Madeira. When I was living in Boston my husband and I took a trip down there. My aunt has family living nearby. In Boston the streets are always cleared and salted. I went in sneakers in the middle of winter and that was an experience. I forgot my winter boots in Boston. The centre was a little building with a sheet of ice in front of it. Once we slid our way across, it was warm and cozy inside. There were a few regulars there to help. Now let me tell you the bad news. The records are in Portuguese script. They are very difficult to wade through if you don’t know exactly what you are looking for. Even if you know Portuguese if you are looking at the 1880s the handwriting is quite different. So be warned that you may not come out knowing anything more than you did when you went in. You might want to stay in the neighbourhood a few days and keep plugging away at it. Their telephone number is: 508-994-8215 , according to the family history centre website. The atmosphere is very friendly and no body tried to convert us or preach or anything.