Does The Ancestry DNA Test Solve Mysteries?

My daughter with the Ancestry DNA Kit

DSC_0558_Fotor

My AncestryDNA kit.

AncestryDNAStory-Jessie-241217

My DNA Story

DNA1

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.

Advertisements

Long Bay Lane, Sandys

Ferris Simons family on Long Bay Lane in Sandys Late 1930s early 1940s.

Ferris Simons family on Long Bay Lane in Sandys Late 1930s early 1940s.

302

301

300

298

296

289

286

285

284

282I never really understood before where the Simons family lived in Sandys. I always thought they lived next to Springfield in Sandys. Recently though I was chatting with a man called David Jones who used to live next to them as a child. It turns out they lived and farmed on Long Bay Lane then called Chapel Road. My great grandfather, grew watermelons, among other things. I found some recent pictures of Long Bay Lane, including, possibly, the place where they lived. Now derelict and falling apart.
I met another man who has written a little history of Somerset Island between 1900 and 1950 and it really helped to put it all in perspective. Looking through the old photos I now have a context for them. Although so many of them are so rural there are no other buildings around to act as landmarks. You often see trees, fields and farm land and not much else.
Still, I’ve tried to copy some of the old photos today.
Here is the link to Jolene Bean’s photos of Long Bay Lane. Of particular importance to the Simons family would be the long garden at Felicity Hall and the derelict building.
http://www.pbase.com/limestone/west_side_somerset_bermuda

Finding Relatives in Bermuda…

Some time ago a person outside of Bermuda contacted me trying to connect with their birth family. Unfortunately, the birth family wanted nothing to do with them. I felt a bit sorry for the person, but they eventually went away. Ironically, the person failed to comprehend that Bermuda is a very very small place. The surname the person was looking for was not common. In reality, all the person had to do was find a Bermuda phone book and start calling everyone in it with that surname.
As a journalist, when I am trying to find someone, I often use this method. I open the phone book and try to find someone with that surname preferably in the same parish, but not necessarily. Inevitably, I will find some elderly person, and elderly people are usually helpful. I don’t know, but call this person, they will say, and after following a trail of helpful people, I will find the right person.
If you can’t access the phone book trying googling the surname and “Bermuda” and see what you come up with. Facebook the name. Run it through The Royal Gazette website at http://www.theroyalgazette.bm .
Even with a name like Smith, if you call every Smith in the phone book, you will not necessarily find someone related to that person, but you will find someone who knows that person. In Bermuda’s there’s something like two degrees of separation between people rather than six. The population is only around 60,000.
But be mindful that your long lost family members may not want to connect with you. Some families are suspicious. You may be a successful lawyer and they may be dirt poor, but they will insist that you can only be connecting with them to borrow money. Or they don’t want to talk with you because they had a falling out in 1963 with relatives connected to you. Or they know something about you they don’t want to say, or are just preoccupied with their own lives and don’t have time or emotional space to deal with you. I’m not an advocate of stalking. If you make contact and they aren’t interested then give up. Stop. Try to leave your contact details with them. Sometimes people will come back to you when their life situation is less chaotic, or their curiosity has gotten the better of them.
Useful website: http://www.bermudayp.com

Paid genealogy sites

I’m always surprised when people say they have been researching their genealogy for years but aren’t subscribed to any paid genealogy sites. Paid genealogy sites such as ancestry.com and genes.reunited.co.uk are my weaknesses. Some women buy expensive shoes, I sign up to databases. If you have $300 to spare I highly recommend ancestry.com . This is sort of the mega genealogy site and they gobble up genealogy records all over the world. It’s particularly useful if your ancestors have connections in the US, but they also have UK records and access to family trees posted by other members. Warning, it’s easy to subscribe online but you have to call a toll free number to unsubscribe. When you are subscribing to paid genealogy databases always take the time to do the math. Usually the annual rate is cheaper than the quarterly or monthly rate. And the bill will charge to your card until your card expires. You have to watch the British websites. They have a slightly different system of “credits”. They want you to buy credits that buy a certain amount of information. One thing about ancestry, if they add new records while you are subscribed, they will not charge you extra to access them. But I have found with some of the British sites, every time you think you have full membership there is something else you can’t access without paying more for. Argh. Genesreunited.co.uk though has more British records and there are also more British people signed up who have posted British family trees. There are also a lot of Australians on the site. On this site you can access British passenger records entry and exit, which is one of the main reasons I like it.

 

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.