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Our Journey: Ancestry.com DNA Test and Results

Updated on April 4, 2018

Do you ever wonder where your ancestors came from?

I have. And my lovely wife has as well. Her maiden name is most assuredly German (Westhoff) but what other nationalities are tied in? Any French, Swiss, or Italian? She loves Italy so who knows. As for me, I know from my research that I should have a fair amount of English, Irish and Scottish but again, what else? So we decided to find out by using a DNA sequencing company to see who we are.

For years I have completely enjoyed shows such as PBS's "Tracing Your Roots" and "Genealogy Roadshow" or TLC's "Who Do You Think You Are?". I love to see these people discovering their personal history and watch how they react. Some are proud and rightfully so. Others are ashamed to find out what their ancestors had done or had been. I recall much the same feeling once when I located a will that was set down by one of my ancestors. In this document were listed such trivial things (to me) as saws and hand tools, chairs and tables, even dishes and tableware and each had a value attached to them. Some money was intended for the various children accounted down to the pence and to be doled out upon reaching their majority or marriage. But there were other items, items that were disturbing to one of today's timeframe: slaves. And again, a value was attached to them as well, with one exception. An old female slave, perhaps in her fifties that had a value of 0; zero: nothing. Worthless to the author of this will. Of that, I stand ashamed today. Times have changed I know but still, to hold a human life as being worthless is something I cannot comprehend.

Upon receiving the results of our tests I thought to do much the same thing with my wife and I. I have traveled down some roads in search of our past, now it was time to see where DNA could take us.

And so, we begin...

Yes, we began to learn what we could about DNA testing, who does it, how effective and informative it was, how expensive it was and who was the best at what we wanted to learn. After some research we found a site online that explained the differences between the several types of testing being done today, what each would tell you and this allowed us to make an informed decision as to which one we would select for our journey.

There are many reasons for researching one's ancestry, ranging from mere interest to lost family members to health information. While we are merely in the interest range, finding lost members of one's family does sound intriguing. And so we set forth on this journey, an adventure both in the past and present, one that will (hopefully) fill in some of the blanks in our past.

Our choice is...

After reading and researching the information available online and deciding just what we were attempting to find out, we made our choice. Ancestry.com is the test we decided to go with for this adventure. I already had a subscription with them and by continuing along this route I hoped to find new avenues to travel in my search for my past. I also had included my wife on my tree (naturally) and to date, had collected information on over 5,000 people and multiple bloodlines dating back several centuries. I thought that by using Ancestry.com to further this research it would be the best use of both money and time, for to go elsewhere would require me to purchase another subscription to another service and to begin from scratch inputting all of our ancestors. Rather not, thank you.

So, we purchased our tests together for the reasonable sum of $69 each on November 27th. The tests were shipped two days later and arrived on December 9th. We immediately opened our "Christmas" presents and read the instructions, then activated our accounts on the website. The instructions were simple and straightforward and we then set out on the journey by supplying the required DNA material (read spitting into a small plastic tube) before adding in the solution that would preserve the DNA until it could reach the lab. Per the instructions, this was to take place the first thing in the morning, before eating, brushing one's teeth or drinking anything. We accomplished this easily and spit into the supplied containers and prepared to close them up.

It was here that our first issue arose. We did mine first and it went fine except for a minor issue with securing the cap tight enough to disperse the preservation solution. I tightened the lid down but the blue stabilizing solution failed to mix. I removed the lid, reset it and tightened once more. It then pierced the barrier and allowed the solution to mix properly upon shaking it vigorously. One down!

We then attempted to follow suit with my wife's test. She had some issue gathering sufficient "spit" (I guess ladies may not have enough practice spitting) but we eventually filled the tube to the line. We attempted to place the cap on, only to have the same issue once more. I removed it, reset it, tightened it once more. Okay, looks good; let's send them off.

In the meantime...

I continued research into our past via Ancestry. Back through the years on both of our families as well as our soon to be son-in-law's. Unfortunately we do not have a great deal to go on for him and thus far the results are few.

However, ours are not. Thus far we have easily reached back to the 1600's both on these shores and those across the "pond". And one name stood out for me: Doty. I knew this name through my mother's side of the family as her mother's maiden name was Doty. Where did I come across this name, you ask? Well, it was in the strangest place: a book. A book on American History that I had been reading, one by author Nathaniel Philbrick. I first became aware of this author via a movie, In The Heart Of The Sea about the origin story for Moby Dick. As I am an avid reader I read this book then another he authored titled Mayflower. Now I had heard that I had an ancestor who came over on the Mayflower but had no idea who this might have been. Well, when reading it I literally sat upright when I saw the name Doty. Edward Doty to be exact. A bit of searching found this person was in fact my ancestor. He was a man who lost his mother at age five, his father at ten. Indentured servitude was his future, and that future brought him to America on board that ship. He outlived a goodly percentage of those who traveled with him and settled in the new world, passing away in 1655 some thirty-five years after making that historic voyage. In fact, he was one of the people who signed that famous document The Mayflower Compact.

Can you imagine what the life of a newly minted American was like in that first winter of 1620? The hardship, the fear, the knowledge that after one then another of your shipmates died that you could well be the next to die? Of the 102 passengers and approximately 30 crew, half died the first few months. Half.

He was, shall we say, a bit troublesome as well. In fact, he has the dubious honor of being involved in the very first duel fought on these shores, as well as numerous lawsuits brought both by him and against him during his lifetime.

The results are in.

Ancestry sent us an email stating that they received our samples on December 13th. Excitement ran through the house over the next couple of weeks until...

December 27th: Your Ancestry results are in! Well, at least mine were. Nothing on my better half's DNA; strange. Anyway I quickly delved into mine to see what secrets were unlocked, what new avenues I would be traveling in the search for yesterday. I knew from my previous research that there were a lot of Irish and British, with a goodly amount of Scottish thrown in for good measure. Family legends said that there were some Native American in the mix as well, and from finding a step-ancestor with the last name of Mankiller, I thought that there might be something to that legend that was actually in the bloodline. Other than that I had seen names reminiscent of German, Scandinavian and even French so that would be what I was expecting.

And that is what I got, more or less, but the amounts of each surprised me. Most of the names I had seen were English, Scottish or Irish in nature leading me to believe that I would be, for the most part, British more or less. But no, that was not so in the DNA realm. There I was Western European meaning I received, if the percentages are to be believed, 52% of my heritage is from the countries of Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein.

Whaaaattt?! Germany, yeah; France okay but Switzerland? Luxembourg?

Liechtenstein? I was not even sure where that was at! Oh, maybe back in High School I might have; today I would guess it is somewhere near Switzerland but I don't know for sure. Let's see what else this Heinz 57 human is. Next: 27% Ireland, Scotland, Wales. Yeah I can see that through my studies. What else? 9% Scandinavian, okay maybe I suppose; but 9%? I haven't seen more than a name or two thus far that led me in that direction; suppose I better chase that harder. What else, what else? 5% Great Britain; what? Great Britain? I thought Ireland and Scotland were a part of Great Britain? Huh, must be separated somehow, more to study up on I suppose.

Now, on the dregs, the last little bits of Me. Lets see, 52+27+9+5 equals (carry the two) 93%: got 7% more to go.

3% Iberian Peninsula. What the heck is that? Sounds like somewhere out of a Robert E. Howard novel about Conan the Barbarian from the last century. Says that's Spain and Portugal. Well, okay I guess; nothing down that line as of yet. And the final tidbits of me are (drum roll please) Southern Europe, Finland/Northern Russia (what? Somewhere back in me is someone from Mother Russia?!), Eastern Asia (what a mutt!) and the final itty bitty bit of me is...

What!! Where did that come from???

Wait, what? Where? Who? When? You have got to be kidding me! I have a completely new identity! I am now part of a larger universe than I ever thought possible! Things I had been excluded from before I am no longer on the outside looking in! Activities I enjoyed and excelled at in my youth make sense now!

African Southeastern Bantu!!! I'm a Black Man!!! Yes, somewhere deep inside of me, I am a Black Man! Swahili and Zulu to be exact. Now I know why I could jump so high when playing basketball! Why I could run so fast! At heart I was a warrior, a lion hunter! Who knew?

My DNA Results

Percentage
Region
Information
52%
Europe West
Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland,
27%
Ireland/Scotland/Wales
Ireland, Scotland, Wales
9%
Scandinavia
Sweden, Norway, Denmark. i.e. Vikings
5%
Great Britain
England, Scotland, Wales
3%
Iberian Peninsula
Spain, Portugal
1%
Europe South
Italy, Greece
1%
Finland/Northwest Russia
Finland, Northwest Russia
1%
Asia East
Russia, Mongolia, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam
1%
Africa Southeast Bantu
Kenya, Uganda, Namibia, Zimbabwe

Now for my wife...

Armed with my new identity, I settled in to wait for my wife's. We waited another few days. Nothing. A week. Nothing. Finally she received an email from Ancestry stating they were unable to pull any DNA from her sample. Immediately our son came up with the solution:

She's an alien!! She does not have any DNA that would be recognizable with our primitive analysis. Of course! Now it all makes sense! Of course, she had another thought: are you ready for hers?

She is a direct descendant of Jesus! Yes, if we are to believe her we now know she is the latest in a long line from a marriage such as the book/movie The DaVinci Code suggested! Descended from an alliance between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. I wonder what else is possible?

Anyway, we ordered another test (free of charge) on December 31; received it January 8th. Activated it, followed all of the steps once more (very, very carefully as we do not want to have anything happen again!) and sent it off once more.

It was received by Ancestry on January 11th. We wait. And wait. Daily she checks it. Nothing. A week. Two. Three. What's going on? A month. Still nothing. Five weeks. Six. nothing. Then, on February 26 she gets an email from Ancestry. With excitement she opens it to read and...

They are sorry but they are unable to pull any DNA from her sample. Again. How does that happen? Twice? Seriously? So, I call the Ancestry help line and speak to a young lady. When I stated our issue she relayed that she was sorry, that she could not explain why or how this occurred. Perhaps we did not follow the directions properly (not a chance I said). After a few minutes she informed me that occasionally a person had too much bacteria in the mornings and that could degrade the specimen. She gave me alternate instructions for my wife to follow. She then asked if I would like to take a short survey so Ancestry could hear what I thought.

What I think? Yeah, sure, I can do that! And I did: I told them exactly what we are going through, how their experts are unable to not once but twice extract DNA from her sample using their system; about how long we would be waiting for results that were expected by mid January at the latest; about how unhappy we were with this situation. This was HER present and here we are more than two months later still waiting. Not good business fellas.

At any rate, we ordered and THIRD test (again free thank goodness) and received it. We went through the steps of activating it again and followed the young lady's suggestion of how to gain a valid specimen. This time, we had my wife take a drink to get her through the next hour or so then she brushed her teeth thoroughly. We waited a minimum of thirty (30) minutes (closer to 45) then she gathered her saliva (spit to us guys) and filled the test tube to the prescribed level. I carefully placed the cap on, tightened it firmly (Saints preserve us, it worked the first time!!) and placed it into the package supplied and sealed it.

I then sat down and wrote a note to the person receiving the sample, stating what we have gone through thus far and beseeching this person to please, please not just toss this on the top of the pile: please read the issues we have had and hand carry it to the lab to be placed ahead of the mass of first time tests. This should not be a huge issue, for those people have no idea when they will get their results and a day or two won't make any difference to them; but as we have waited a full three plus months so far, every single day matters more and more to my wife. Will they respond and do something that makes business sense; or will they not care and toss her spit in with thousands of other spit and let the chips fall where they may? It could be a week or two or it could be a month even two more. I pray our note reached someone with a heart and good sense.

Our DNA Testing Timeline

Date
Action
Additional Action
November 27, 2017
Ordered kits
 
November 29, 2017
Kits shipped
 
December 9, 2017
Kits received
Kits activated, samples sent
December 13, 2017
Samples rec'd by Ancestry
 
December 27, 2017
My results received
 
December 31, 2017
Need new sample (wife)
Kit ordered
January 8, 2018
Kit received
Kit activated, sample sent
January 11, 2018
Sample rec'd by Ancestry
 
February 26, 2018
Need new sample (wife)
Kit ordered
March 5, 2018
Kit received
 
March 6, 2018
Kit activated
Sample sent
March 8, 2018
Sample rec'd by Ancestry
 
March 29, 2018
Sample submitted for analysis
 
April 2, 2018
SUCCESS!!!
 

Success at last!!

Finally, FINALLY we received her results. A mere four months after beginning this journey, two failed tests, two additional tests (provided free by Ancestry thank goodness); a full 125 days after the initial order, she knows her DNA results. And to be sure, there are a couple of surprises hidden in her blood.

Her DNA Results

Region
Percentage
Information
Europe West
39%
Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein
Ireland/Scotland/Wales
24%
Ireland, Scotland, Wales
Great Britain
23%
England, Scotland, Wales
Iberian Peninsula
4%
Spain, Portugal
Europe South
3%
Italy, Greece
Europe East
2%
Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Austria, Russia, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Lithuania, Latvia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia
Scandanivia
2%
Sweden, Norway, Denmark
Native American
1%
North America, Central America, South America
Asia Central
1%
Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
Mali
1%
Mali, Guinea

And the winner is....

First and foremost, we now know she is NOT an alien, as her DNA has been recognized (this was a huge relief for my son and I); additionally, she is not (probably) a descendant of Jesus (although she still holds out that hope). So what is she?

A hodgepodge like all of us it appears, albeit one with a different mix than most. Primarily she is descended from Western Europe which was no surprise as her maiden name is Westhoff, and we have traced her family to Germany.

She also has a goodly amount of Scottish, Irish and Welsh blood, as do I. She has been saying how ironic it would be if she were to have more Irish than I, being as how I have the names to back it up but not nearly as much as I thought would be true. And, in fact, she came close: 27% to 24%. Close, but no cigar honey.

However she does have significantly more Great Britain blood than I, 23% to my 5%. This means that she has far more British Isles blood in her background than I do; what else that means I have yet to decipher.

From there, the percentages get smaller. Iberian Peninsula (basically Spain) 4%; Europe South (there's her Italy!) 3%; Eastern European 2% (Russian? Pole? Unsure thus far); Scandinavia 2% (with her name and blond hair blue eyes I did expect more). Then came the surprise. Again, she had teased me as my story through my father's side had been there was some Indian (aka Native American)somewhere down the line yet none surfaced in my DNA results; wouldn't it be strange if she had some? Well, she does. Only 1% but still it was totally unexpected. And so the search for this result begins.

Rounding out her lineage is Asia Central (Afghan???) and of all things, Mali. I had to look this up as well and found it was an African nation. Hmmm, now how did that get here? Although, in researching this country I found that the name Mali means "the place where the king lives". This suits her to me as she is a strong person, fully capable of being descended from kings.

Whither now?

And now, where do we go? I have gained access to her DNA as I have a subscription with Ancestry and she does not; no need, why duplicate efforts? But she cannot find any matches as I can due no doubt to that fact: she has no subscription and I do. So I can proceed yet she cannot, at least not fully. There are a myriad of directions to proceed and few ideas as to how to do so. I suppose I will learn and from there who knows?

So, there it is: our journey to find our DNA story. Now comes the learning curve and more journeys, both together and separately. Together we will create a story for our children to follow should they desire to do so.

© 2018 Mr Archer

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    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James-MizBejabbers 

      5 months ago from Beautiful South

      Mr. Archer, this is a very interesting read, and so was Shauna's comment. I have one explanation as to why DNA tests aren't showing up our Native Åmerican genes, but if it is correct, why are so many people's African ties from way back (like yours) detected? Those shouldn't show up either if the explanation is true. 23andMe says their test won't detect anything past grandparents.

      My husband and I also gave ourselves DNA tests for Çhristmas, but we went through 23andMe because my DAR chapter had a speaker on DNÅ testing who recommended that site, and I also wanted the health report. My husband did not, so we paid $69 each on special for the DNA tests, and a month or so later I got the health report on special for, I think it was, 20% or so off its regular $100. Mine sailed through, but my husband had the same problem as your wife. It is a nice thing that she got her 3rd test free because 23andMe only gives one free replacement. Anyway, I believe the problem was that he didn't produce enough spit for the test. The second time he was more careful to follow instructions.

      The results: very disappointing. Neither of us had any Native Åmerican genes to show up. My great grandmother was a high percentage of Choctaw and another great grandmother was Native American (unknown tribe) and Jewish (no Jewish either but I had less than 1% unassigned DNA). My husband has always been told that he is one-half Çherokee. He used to visit his great grandmother on the Cherokee reservation in Oklahoma when he was a child, so we know he has Cherokee ties. We both have more Native American physical characteristics than we do Caucasian, and we have the health problems and allergies that Native Americans are prone to have. Anyway, according to 23andMe, we are both 100% European, mainly Scottish, Irish, and German with French thrown into the pot for me. My grandfather had a French surname.

      According to 23andMe, since the test won't find genes past one's grandparents, that would leave out my two great grandmothers. But that doesn't explain the absence of hubby's Cherokee grandparents' genes. According to my father-in-law, my husband should have had Cherokee Y-DNA. You know the gal in the AncestryDNA ad who claims she's 26% Native American? Both of us look as NA as she does.I don't get it either.

      My husband thinks it's just another ruse by the government to stamp out Native Åmerican claims. He thinks they're afraid of what would happen if half the country turned up with Native genes.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 

      6 months ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Interesting results. Someday maybe I'll get my dna tested and learn if my ancestry is as varied as your wife's and yours.

    • Mr Archer profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr Archer 

      6 months ago from Missouri

      Hey, Bravewarrior (aka Shauna)! How in the world, if you know your grandparents have Cherokee, does it NOT show up?!? I know that these sites say that not always will you get everything from your parents but come on! Some of that had to creep through to you. As for Ancestry the site it is doing well except for the price to keep it going (over $400 a year for full access) so I have to decide if I will keep it year round or only do it six months at a time and only when a special is running. For me, my current subscription runs out the end of the month and I am not sure if I will do it once more or wait a few months until another cut rate special comes out.

      As for our lineage yes we have some amazing finds, such as the Mayflower passenger I detailed here. Man, was that exciting! Not only did I see his name in that book I mentioned but another historical fiction novel I read later. It is so damn cool to see your ancestor used in a setting for a book!!

      Regarding the government angle you mentioned, according to the fine print your DNA is supposed to be kept absolutely secure (so they say). I had the same thought, George Orwell Big Brother conspiracy theorist I am, about how my DNA might be used to solve a crime, or even one of my children or grandchildren, as some of my DNA will be in theirs and what if some of my DNA matches a crime sometime in the future and my descendant gets the blame even if they are not guilty but one of my nieces or nephews really committed the crime!

      Hmm, interesting idea for a book, ya think?

      Take care Cheyenne! Thanks and stay safe!

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      6 months ago from Central Florida

      Mike, I went through the same thing with 23&Me. I was gravely disappointed with the results, not to mention the $79 I spent (blew). I know I'm Italian, English, Irish, German, Scottish and Cherokee. I did the test because I wanted to know the percentage of Cherokee in my blood. You see, both of my maternal grandparents were part Cherokee.

      My results came back in vague-ories: blah blah percent Eastern European, blah blah percent Western European, a minuscule percentage of South African (what??????) and ZERO percent Native American! WTF???? I was trepidatious about doing this in the first place because I suspected it was a way for the government to collect DNA from citizens who haven't had to provide their DNA as evidence in a court action. Now I'm convinced that not only was I duped but I was duped!

      I know I have a Cherokee chief in my history. I know Stonewall Jackson was my grandmother's uncle (great uncle?); her maiden name was Jackson.

      These tests are bullshit. I'm so glad you posted this article.

      On another note, did the Ancestry website work for you? I remember a while back you were doing research on your family history and found some amazing discoveries.

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