Question of the Week: If you've taken a DNA test, has it revealed any surprises?

+21 votes

Or should I say, any surprises you're comfortable sharing? :-)

My dad just got his results back, and he was surprised to find that he had more DNA from the British Isles than from Western Europe, specifically, Germany. We've always identified as being from the German immigrants who became known as "Pennsylvania Dutch."

It's going to be interesting applying his test info to his ancestors!

asked Feb 12 in The Tree House by Julie Ricketts G2G6 Pilot (115,110 points)
Very Cool!
Oh boy did it ever!!! Initially I took the test because it served a two-fold purpose. It to date has provided more surprises than expected. It has proven my true lineage which was shocking and mysterious, rare genetic family disorder and who I'm related to but none of us knowing HOW. I would estimate I only have 35% of my tree INTACT. features are wonderful tools that work if you have certain people on common and leads to more people being able to be placed in one's tree.
My grandson participated in Genome-2. His Y-dna turned out to be unique in about 750,000 samples. I ran my Y-dna through FTdna, which resulted in ISOGG assigning me a unique designation  in the R1b Group: R1b-A8041. No matches to date whatsoever anywhere, except for the grandson!). To see the tree, google "R1b1a2_ht35, kumbarov" and follow the link. It shows closest, but not identical Ydna with Burke, Fox, Floyd, James, possibly Sloan (not listed yet). Nevertheless, my genealogical paper trail is solidly in North Brabant, the Netherlands back to about 1590. A-8041 goes back to the mid-Bronze age....
My DNA test threw me for a loop as I was not expecting Scandinavian (on paper I have to go back 1000 years to find anyone from Denmark or Sweden), but once I uploaded to Gedmatch it made so much more sense as in the oracles I related closely with Orcadians and West England. It is the Viking invasion influence that plays in all of this,

I also have a lot of family from Germany (immigrated in the 1600's).

I was also surprised I did not have any Native American show up as I grew up my entire life being told I was part Native on my mom's side. My grandpa Freeborn (mom's dad) claimed Native and may took him to be Native from his coloring and facial features. He died in 1969 so I cannot check out his DNA. My mom died 5 years ago, and her mother 22 years ago, However, I have a maternal aunt (grandmother's sister) who is 90 years old and I got her to take a DNA test. She came back 2 percent Native American and it shows up in all of her tests on Gedmatch and in all of her oracles. Not where I expected to find this ancestry!

Based on her numbers and the "noise" factor of my DNA tests, I realize it is not "noise" but the small amount of Native I inherited that is showing up, though it was not enough to show on Ancestry, I am waiting on a 23andme test and will see if this small amount shows up on there or not,

I wasn't sure I wanted to do another test, but many said you can sometimes find varying ancestry between the two tests and it will be fun to see if all of my ancestry correlates the same on both tests (Ancestry and 23andme). I'll know in a few weeks.

On Ancestry it had a person who was listed as 'very close family' and so I wrote to them on Feb 29, 2016, though it showed they'd not been online since Oct 2015. Right after Thanksgiving this past year (2016), this person answered and said she didn't see any relation with her surnames, but then she wrote me right back and said this was not for her, but for her adopted brother born in 1978. I began to shake and cry from emotion as I knew this was the son my sister gave up for adoption at age 18! We've since met and he is now part of our large extended family! He says he was raised by awesome parents (thank you, Lord!), and I told him now we are his bonus family as his family just added by over 130 people! I was not expecting to find him- but he was looking for bio family. Unfortunately, my sister died 5 1/2 years ago and he will never get to meet her.

Another woman is 3 generations from me, and 2 generations from my dad (cousins). She was adopted in 1947, knows who her bio mom was and had her bio mom's ancestry,  but we cannot find how we are related, though we know it has to be on my dad's mother's side as her bio mom was from Madison County, Ohio, just as my grandmother's family. Neither my dad or my uncles remember any family with last name of Foster, though they were only close to my grandma's maternal grandfather's side of the family,

With all the research I've done on both sides of my family (discounting some of those pesky brick walls), I have found many ancestors who served in the Civil War, War of 1812, Revolutionary War, and even at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. I always figured we came from dirt farmers on all sides, but have been very surprised at all the gentry I have found and all the royalty- going back to Charlamagne and others. I know I am in good company as I know many of you also have these gentry and royal roots.

DNA has been a fun thing to do. It has given me a window into my past I would have never known- from my fairly recent to the past. It is fun to learn about ancient people groups I'd never heard of in Europe and Eurasia. As a Christian, I know we all originally hail from Noah and his 3 sons, but how we got to where we are is all fun in the journey,

My sister is waiting to get her test results back from Ancestry, and I am hoping my brother will agree to take his DNA. My dad's was interesting, coming back 100 percent European as there were Native stories on his paternal grandmother's line also, but I do know that the Native American pool is just 131 individuals, most from the SW of USA, Mexico and S America. None of our family stories hail from the Cherokee as so many others claim, and so perhaps there is some hidden ancestry we are not aware of- but regardless, I like who I am and nothing about that will change.
Like many others, I found a cousin that had been put up for adoption. She lives in Mexico, and we have been friends since tbe day I told her who her father was! We even have a very strong family resemblance to each other! I also found that I have a sliver of East Asian/Native American. I'm wondering if that means Pacific Isles? Anyone else have an odd combo with no defined geography?
How fun for you!

We are happy to have our nephew/cousin in our lives, too.

The East Asian/Native American could be hidden in your ancestoral track somewhere. Finding who the donor was can be like finding a needle in a haystack.
I may have found a thread leading to that needle. I have found a 3rd to 4th cousin with the same last name as my great grandmother who came to America. That means he is descended from one of her 7 siblings who stayed in Australia. He has the same amount of the East Asian/Native American as I do! Thats 3 solid generations back! I love the hunt!
That sounds like fun! I love it when I can find a link, corroboration, or family! It will be fun if you can find where that line comes into your family. If you find out, let me know as I think it sounds fun! I love the puzzle of genealogy.
My second cousin and I are not related. Of our over 1,000 matches each none are the same even. Our grandfather's were born at home to the same woman. So something happened with our grandparents or parents to make one of us not of the Willard line. Both of our father's are deceased so they can't test. My mom took the test so I know she is my mom.

Also my husband and I share .07%. Very distant.
That's one of those "oops". One of your other family members might know. It looks like there's a "secret" in the family. Whether or not grandpa knew

That info will be determined if the rest of the family knew. If you are the one who is related, your DNA would match the rest of the family, no problem finding out.

I have a similar case in my family, but everyone knew so I was able to track the line.

40 Answers

+12 votes
Best answer

Still haven't figure out how a descendant of the neighbor of my ggg-grandmother ended up being a match (and it's triangulated, with a 3rd cousin sharing the match as well).  And they were such a religious family!


answered Feb 13 by Gayel Knott G2G6 Mach 1 (10,040 points)
selected 1 day ago by Beatriz Santos
That's hilarious! :)

That's why most elaborate pedigrees are total dream-sheets.
One lying naughty granny every few generations throws every
tree topsy turvy.

Who knew that Poe was speaking about genealogy......."All that we see or seem. Is but a dream within a dream."

+11 votes
According to I don't have any British DNA, in spite of the fact that more than half of my ancestors were from England. This is apparently partly due to the settlement in England of Anglo-Saxons, Scandinavians and Irish.  It's also partly due to the specific DNA I inherited.  It also may result from the difficulty in telling those groups apart genetically.  They are pretty similar and have mixed a lot over the years.
answered Feb 12 by Allen Warner G2G Crew (530 points)
Ancestry only rates a 3 on a 1-10 scale on it's ancestry composition as they only test 26 groups and a total of 3,000 people.
+11 votes
My DNA tests from FTDNA & Ancestry told me I am about 20 % Scandinavian. However, I have never found any ancestors from there. The ancestors I have found, using traditional research, are from England, Scotland, Holland, Germany & France. I always wondered , as a kid, if my family had ancestors from Scandinavia because I looked a lot like the Vikings they used to show in the movies.The DNA tests showed that I have certain genetic mutations only found in Norway/Sweden. I guess they raided these areas, settled & left no records.
answered Feb 12 by Doug Lockwood G2G Astronaut (1,362,200 points)
edited Feb 12 by Doug Lockwood
+16 votes
I took the DNA test looking for family members, and I was told by a few people close to me to not expect to find anything.

I ended up finding my half first cousin thanks to an AncestryDNA test, and consequently, the name of my mother's father. We hadn't known the name of her birth parents as she was adopted and since around mid-2015 or so I've been on this journey to find that side of the family.

That's certainly a happy surprise!
answered Feb 12 by G. Bartomeo G2G6 Mach 3 (37,510 points)
+11 votes
I was surprised that I don't understand hardly any of the results and how much reading and work I need to do to understand even the basics.  :(
answered Feb 12 by Vincent Piazza G2G6 Pilot (200,090 points)
I feel your pain, Vincent! I'm trying to learn, but it's not an easy subject for me.

I now have my dad's DNA results to work through, too. I think I'm going to need some help.
Take a deep breath and allow yourself to be confused.  I know it sounds bad, but in a year you will understand so much more!  I, too, felt like I'd been dropped into the middle of a wild, stormy ocean of information and details. Build your tree; send out lots of emails to DNA cousins and in a while, you will have enough knowledge for some of it to make sense.

I walked through the DNA Confirmation help page today and managed to confirm both parents using my Dad's DNA and a cousin's. Working on some more distant cousins on my mom's side. It's starting to get a little clearer how to understand this. Just a little, though. ;-)

It's a long journey which requires patience and attention to detail, not unlike adding sources to profiles!  Persevere, all will become clearer over time!
+9 votes

Well this may sound a bit paranoid.  But I have little desire to get a DNA test.  The surprise I imagine is, the authorities showing up at my door to take me away because my DNA was found at some murder/crime scene. : )  

I know that sounds silly.  If someone really wanted somebody else's DNA.  There are a number of ways to get it.  

But I am only half joking!  

answered Feb 12 by Mary Cole G2G6 Mach 4 (49,180 points)
Fortunately for our sake, the DNA tests that we use for genealogy have very limited (if any) value as evidence in law enforcement cases:
Since I'm in the bone marrow registry for both civilian and military databases, I don't worry too much about crime scene dna, since they could find me that way and I'm comforted the know if I'm ever a missing person, my dna tests could verify my identity
I want to have my DNA tested as well, but there is a question with regard whether some day this information will be sold to insurance companies with regard to genetically predispositions toward certain illness.  I too am paranoid.  Could my information some day end up in the wrong hands?  Banks and businesses have problems with their data banks targeted and vital financial info stolen, what is to say that our information won't be stolen as well?  Neva
+17 votes

If I were you, I wouldn't take ethnicity percentages on the British Isles vs. Western Europe (Germany) as serious evidence of anything.  Judy Russell writes a DNA genealogy blog every Sunday and regularly warns against taking ethnicity percentages seriously - particularly at the country level in Europe:

The example she covers in the entry linked above is pretty similar to what you are describing.

Here is an older blog entry that goes into detail:

We do have hope though with ethncity predictions.  Ancestry just had a study published in a refereed academic journal on the methodology behind a new feature that it will be rolling out this Spring - genetic communities.  This sounds very promising with respect to providing analysis related to ethnicity that we can use in our genealogy research:

answered Feb 12 by Ray Jones G2G6 Mach 9 (98,230 points)
Really great advice, Ray! I need to share these articles with my father.
I agree.   DNA ethnic analysis is not yet ready for primetime.   But promise of ethnic analysis is one of their biggest sales gimmicks.

Why is it that over 1/2 of your new matches have no trees?   IMO, most test to learn if they are a rare descendant of the Lost Colony, or the 2nd cousin 11 times removed from Pocahontas.   They apparently are clueless to the fact that genealogy requires some personal effort.
+21 votes
I found someone who shares 26% of my DNA. It turns out she is my half-sister who was adopted and looking for birth relatives. I'm 55 and she is 61.
answered Feb 12 by Jill Steinberg G2G Crew (830 points)
Jill, I thought of you and Lisa just as soon as I read this Question of the Week. I'm so glad you both decided to join!
+9 votes
Ancestry recently advised me that a fifth cousin Robinson Chlcote had been found.

I've already posted six Robinson Chilcotes, none of them 5th cousins. a couple of 1sts, 4 or 4 removes, even one 8th, but no 5ths. Since all they gave me was his name, and I'm no longer in Ancestry, I'm at a loss.  My 4th GGF was a Robinson, he was the first, his mother's maiden name was Robinson. Yeah, a surprise.
answered Feb 12 by Tom Bredehoft G2G6 Pilot (152,720 points)

DNA predicted degree of kinship is very often not equal to your actual familial kinship.   Actual kinship and DNA likeness are 2 different things....usually similar, but sometimes quite different.

DNA kinship prediction is still an art, not yet a science...if it ever will be.
That's why you get different predictions of kinship from Ancestry, FTDNA, and MyHeritage......all from the same raw data.

I have an actual 3rd cousin, whom Ancestry gives DNA estimate of 5th - 8th cousin.   

+12 votes
In a very roundabout way. I got a 4th cousin match on Ancestry and there were no shared matches, so I was quite curious. It turned out that he was descended from my gg-aunt Hampson. Her husband was named Padwick, but he joined the British Army under the name Hale (his mother's maiden name), married as Padwick, and their daughters were registered as Hale. My match only knew as far back back as his g-grandmother, one of these daughters. All very nice, but nothing special. But as a result of this I added to my Ancestry tree and wrote up profiles on WikiTree, including a description of his tattoos from his Army records. And then, shortly after, I got an email from a young lady in NZ who had just joined Ancestry and was getting hints for Mr. Padwick in my tree. Turns out he had left England, and his family, and ended up in NZ in 1919. He married there and had another family; his daughter (grandmother of the young lady) recognized the tattoos I had included in his profile. He had told a completely untrue story of his life before NZ. If I hadn't followed up on that DNA match they might never have discovered his background ;)
answered Feb 12 by Chris Hampson G2G6 Mach 4 (47,940 points)
It's interesting to discover the scoundrels in our ancestry - I have a 6th great grandfather that left his wife and 9 children in New Hampshire, went to New York, married another woman and had 4 more children.  That wife died and he moved to Ohio and married another woman, she died within a year of their marriage, and he moved to Indiana and married yet another woman.
+6 votes
Like you I also found my ethnicity was predominately from Great Britain. I always thought I was mostly German since my paternal side is solid German.  However, my maternal side is solid English and Scottish.  I'm sure my siblings have a different mixture. My most useful DNA has been autosomal. My DNA matches opened up a whole new dimension to my genealogy this past year including direct Protestant ancestors from Rhode Island, and a Borden connection. I was able to confirm it also with documentation.  I'm currently finding another DNA match on an entirely different branch of my tree that would link me to President James Knox Polk. I want further validation however before I make that connection confidently.
answered Feb 13 by James Stratman G2G6 Mach 1 (16,440 points)
+5 votes

I found out my hapaloup group was I-M253, further reading on it I found that there is a Viking disease associated with it and I have it. It's commonly known as Dupertryns Contracture it affects the hands. The DNA maps from FTDNA push to the British isles, Sweden, Switzerland, So far i've connected with one 2nd cousin and another 2 to 4 will be getting back to me in a few days, he was at the rootstech conference and manages a couple of kits that link to my mothers side, DNA interesting stuff.

answered Feb 13 by Steve Stobaugh G2G6 (9,830 points)
+4 votes
The thing that's surprised me most in DNA is that there are so many matches on GEDmatch.  Literally thousands of certain matches of which only a small number of do I know how they connect to me.  It's a little better on AncestryDNA since many of them have trees for which I can look for surnames I can look for.  Another surprise is that i haven't been able to match with another active WikiTreer, though there are a few I know are relatives; just not close enough or the same link to mark as confirmed.  Some like you, Julie, have a connection, but I believe it's not a blood connection.
answered Feb 13 by Dave Dardinger G2G6 Pilot (246,410 points)
+8 votes
Not so much surprises but a deep satisfaction in finally knowing for sure. See, my mom was an "early" baby. The second DNA cousin I connected with, a third cousin once removed, comes in from her Dad's side so there's now no doubt. I wish she were here to tell but I like to imagine that she watches over my shoulder.
answered Feb 13 by Debi Hoag G2G6 Mach 6 (63,200 points)
+6 votes
My husband gave me an autosomal test over a year ago now through FTDNA.  I also uploaded GedMatch and found even more matches.  I also uploaded it to  Promethease for medical analysis.  I was surprised to find out that I was 45% British Isles (25% of my paper line is Scottish so I would have thought in the 20s to 30s...  but history may play a part here...  I have 12.5% French on paper and some showing as part of the British Isles.  

I have 26% Scandinavian which surprised me but it probably led to my paper German and Prussian ancestors.  One of my Gebhardt / Gebhart / Gebhard male cousins did a Y test and he had a lot of Scandinavian too.

I have 25% Southern Europe which makes sense for my glass makers who likely came from Italy up into Switzerland, Austria, Germany and France.  My glass makers make up 25% of my paper line and while they were French since the 1600s we know they came from Germany and Austria for at least the Stenger surname line and Feisthauer came from Faistau Austria.  

Finally I have 6% Finland and Northern Siberia which is probably a deep throw back because I have no idea who may have come from there.  

That completes my 98% European genes.   Then I have 2% Asia Minor which covers Turkey, Northern Syria, Cyprus, very Northern Iran, Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.  Once again, I can see the glass makers in my deep deep past moving from this area into Southern Europe like Greece and Italy.  Then in the 1400s and 1500s into Switzerland, Austria, Germany and by the 1600s those genes have hit France.  

So my paper line of 25% Scottish, 12.5% French, 12.5% Swiss and 50% combination of Germany, Austria, Prussia makes sense when I look at the DNA migration patterns.  

What is really fun is meeting all the really wonderful genealogy family oriented folks out there that I am cousins with!  Yeah!
answered Feb 13 by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Mach 2 (28,760 points)
From building my tree, I discovered that some lifelong friends that are twins, are my 3rd cousins!  Such a treat to discover that!
+5 votes
So far no unexpected close relatives showing up...

I'm 100% Euoropean which is divided in 73.4% Scandinavian, 8.9% British & Irish, 1.1% Finnish, 14.6% Broadly Northwestern European, 1.5% Eastern European, 0.4% Broadly European.

Living in Sweden, the high percentage of Scandinavian is no surprise but since I've found a Finnish ancestor in the 1600-something so I expected that to be higher.

Not to say that there can't be any surprises to come, one ancestor was a sailor...
answered Feb 13 by Maggie Andersson G2G6 (8,040 points)
edited 2 days ago by Maggie Andersson
+5 votes
I am searching for an unknown paternal line great grandfather.  I found a 67/67 YDNA match indicating a 90% probability of having a common ancestor in the last 5 generations but the auDNA shows basically no shared DNA (two pieces - 3cM and 1cM - don't count)  So either the YDNA is very stable in this family or random chance that these two share no auDNA.
answered Feb 14 by Catherine Ryan G2G1 (1,630 points)
Catherine, yDNA can provide useful information many generations further back than auDNA. So the fact that there's no shared auDNA likely just means that the yDNA connection is more than 5-7 generations further back.
+6 votes
I have done DNA tests on myself, my husband and both my parents. My mom found a cousin we never knew existed through a DNA match.

My mother's father is Irish, her mom is full German. For whatever reason, my mother has always identified more with her Irish side.

My father's father is from a long English ancestry, but his mother was from Ireland. She died when my grandfather was young and there with issues with living relatives about her Irish heritage, so he had a very uncomfortable relationship with her heritage.

They were absolutely stunned when the results showed that my Dad's DNA is more Irish than my mother's.

And I was surprised that because of the specific genes I got from each of them, I am more English than either of them.

All fascinating stuff!
answered Feb 14 by Laura Harlow G2G5 (5,250 points)
+7 votes
I have tested myself, both my parents, and my maternal grandmother. I am hoping to get more of my grandparents on board.

When I first got my results, I was surprised to see 24% Irish, as I have only found one Irish ancestress who lived long ago. All my identifiable ancestors from present day UK were English or Scottish. I'd originally assumed my British percentage would be much higher (It's less than 1%).

I also didn't quite expect the 20% Scandinavian. I'd expected to be mostly Eastern European (which I am, at 44%) and Western European (which ended up only being 9%). Now that I understand ethnicity results better, I don't take much stock in it.

Ethnicity wise, it was a surprise to see some African on my mother's DNA results. After seeing her mother's results and doing some DNA phasing on GEDMatch, I believe this is on her father's side. Definitely a surprise.

The other thing I got from my DNA results wasn't necessarily a surprise but a correction. My second great grandfather had a mystery mother. After being given his birth certificate, I finally had her name, age, and birthplace. I found a woman who fit this exact description and of course assumed her to be my 3rd great grandmother (maiden name Hoover, from Dayton, OH). After taking a close look at my matches, I saw someone who was a fairly close match and had ancestors named Hooven from Dayton. I looked into it on a whim and found ANOTHER woman named Nettie HooveN (not HooveR), same birthdate, birthplace, etc. I ended up being able to figure out that this Nettie Hooven was my actual ancestor, all from DNA. I'm still quite pleasantly surprised that I was able to do this.

My grandfather's grandmother was adopted, so I'm still hoping something will pop up to help me learn more about her origins and/or family.
answered Feb 14 by Chloe Stevens G2G1 (1,690 points)
+5 votes
I was so surprised to have 20% Irish.  I actually don't know of any Irish ancestors back through many generations -- so it might be there is some more searching to do -- I'm sure it was those rascally Armstrongs & Leadmans from Ohio that are driving me crazy.

All of your stories are so very interesting.  Thank you all for sharing!
answered Feb 14 by Kathy Zipperer G2G6 Mach 6 (63,930 points)

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