[DNA] Someone close to me did a DNA test, they had unexpected results... what do we do from here?

+5 votes

Someone close to me (not biologically) had their DNA tested. They have 3 Irish grandparents and 1 German grandparent. Their DNA results were thus:

Ireland 76%
Scotland 16%
England & Northwestern Europe 8%

Their German grandparent(?) we have a full genealogy for that's of German descent from Lehe, Bremerhaven. Their Irish grandparent and German grandparent married on 19 Jan 1928 in NY, and they had their child on 22 Mar 1929.

Here are my thoughts:

  1. Their German grandparent might have been adopted and is 0% German
  2. Their German grandparent is not actually related to them

When I tried breaching the topic with them, they said the DNA test must be wrong... but the DNA test is finding all the matches to their Irish ancestors perfectly well.

Any thoughts? Where do I go from here? The test was on Ancestry.

in Genealogy Help by G. Borrero G2G6 Pilot (109k points)
edited by Ellen Smith
“Ethnicity” is mostly a guess, so I wouldn’t put much stock in the German %. DNA doesn’t disribute evenly, so the grandchild may have simply not inherited much “German” DNA from his or her parent    The bigger question is matches.  Are the people who match the German grandparent the ones you would expect?

laughIf they are satisfied with the results of the tests done and are resisting any advisement by anyone else (including you), and they are presumed to be adult (over age of 18) then I suggest you not try to convert them ...  

Ethnicity is a dicey area for DNA test results, and the results will depend upon the genome pool. What most people seem to do is to have their DNA tested by 3 companies not affiliated with each other

Look at the uncertainty (“experimental error”) in the results.

“Northwestern Europe” could include Germany.
My boyfriends grandfather was from German and his grandmother from Switzerland.

His daughters match him with DNA, but neither show any "german" and he matches his family.  We do know sometime in the last 400 years the last name changed from Pootnam to Worms..

Could be a ton of things, bad family trees contributing to location, or maybe some family members were only in that country for a generation or 2 and came from another.. it's only a "fun" tool..for the most part.

Research and build a tree based on both dna matches and the paper trail -

4 Answers

+6 votes
Best answer

I agree that a person could be 1/4 German on paper, with no funny business in the family line, and still end up with the ethnicity results you posted. However, I will note that I did find an NPE (not the parent expected) for my close friend Aurora (name changed for anonymity). Her grandfather's biological father appears not to have been the man everyone said. The reputed father was 100% Dutch, so in retrospect it was maybe a clue that Aurora's ethnicity results never showed much that could be Dutch.

 The more obvious clue though was that I confirmed cousins who descended from all of her recent ancestors except for that one Dutch "great-grandfather." So I had long thought this was weird. When I got around to examining the remaining close DNA matches who had not been placed, I found common ancestors in their trees who lived in the place and time when Aurora's grandfather was born. I am pretty sure that his father was of this family, and by examining the DNA matching amounts, I even have a good idea who the biological father was.

You absolutely must do this cousin matching if you want to follow this trail. And that requires knowing the tree for this person close to you and doing some time-consuming work on their behalf.

by Barry Smith G2G6 Pilot (240k points)
selected by Richard Drinkall
+12 votes

Like Kathie said, park the "ethnicity estimate" for now and concentrate on the shared matches. The Leeds method works well for grouping them together and you can use the 'group' function with the coloured dots on Ancestry.

by Katie Fuller G2G6 Mach 3 (34.8k points)
I agree with Katie. The absence or presence of shared DNA matches, in conjunction with records, can be revealing as to actual ancestry.
+2 votes

This situation is why I counsel people to be prepared for anything when they take a DNA test. If there is anything that would destroy you to find out -- anything -- then don't take the test. That being said, I agree with other posters when they say it's too early to call -- you need to confirm whether there's an NPE by matching with cousins.

by Jessica Key G2G6 Pilot (254k points)
+4 votes
I have tested with 2 companies (FTDNA and Ancestry) uploaded that to GedMatch, My Heritage, Genetic Affairs and Geneanet.   To be very blunt, not one of those labs or services have the same ethnicity results while they have close DNA matching results.   What this means is the matching is based on real science ethnicity is not.

How they come to ethnicity is to take a pool of people and ask where  they are born.   Then map results.  Well, I could be 100% of one ethnicity and be born in another country..   Populations are not static.  What they report depends on how they define a geographic location.   In short, don't waste your time on ethnicity.  It is a false clue more often than a helpful one.   If you go the the Weekend Chat I posted the results from all the companies..  You can see it for yourself.  

https://www.wikitree.com/g2g/1108073/welcome-weekend-chat-members-invited-september-18th-20th-2020  it is in the opening comments section and you can see mine and a lot of others on WikiTree to draw your own conclusions.  

If the labs wanted to be scientific they would do the following:

1.  Share their results with each other in  one central data base (doubt that will ever happen)

2.  Define areas so everyone is using the same measure and same terminology

3.  Collect at least 3 or more generational views of where people came from and their belief concerning their ethnicity.  (Belief and reality can still be at odds)

4.  Work with genetic anthropologists.   

Then I might believe what they put out on this topic.

You will get your best answers from the matching.  Time spent on that will be rewarded.  Ignore the ethnicity it is marketing hype not real science for the reasons stated above.  Yes you may be one of the lucky ones where it actually looks like it works.  But there are so many others were it doesn't...
by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Pilot (713k points)

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