Taking an autosomal DNA test with AncestryDNA (Part Three)

lego dna

About 18 months ago, I undertook the Ancestry autosomal DNA test. I’d been completely sceptical of what use it would give me, but after seeing lots of talks from Ancestry, other DNA test providers, and genealogists at Who Do You Think You Are? Live in 2015, I decided to pick up a test for me and for my mother.

We both took the test and after about 6 weeks received our results.

At the Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016 show, I picked up a third test – again avoiding the expensive P&P cost, and this time for my father. He’d been interested when my mother and I received our results, and had enjoyed reading the historical analysis of how our DNA had gotten into such a mixture through invasion, war, and trade routes.

After dribbling into the AncestryDNA tube just before lunch (in a bid to avoid me seem to descend from a ham and mustard sandwich!), I posted it off.

My parents are Daily Mail newspaper readers. This irritates me a lot, as it is somewhat of a toxic, bigoted, racist, baby-boomer brain-washer (and i’m being polite here), so their news always comes with poorly written and sensational stories that show people of other countries, but mostly Eastern Europe, in a truly horrific way. The only justice in their newspaper habit is that the paper either gets used to light fires, or to line their cat litter tray.

My mother’s DNA result gave her a 1% Eastern European, and 2% Finn and Russian DNA ethnicity, which amused me endlessly, given her newspaper reading habits.

Mother's AncestryDNA Ethnicity Result in Lego
My Mother’s AncestryDNA Ethnicity Result.

I didn’t inherit the Eastern European DNA, but I did benefit from the Finn and Russian.

My AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimate in Lego
My AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimate

But what might my father have?

I received the results.

My father’s AncestryDNA result

I picked up the phone, taught my mother how to go hands-free, and then said (in Daily Mail language) ‘Mother, you’ve only gone and married a bloody foreigner’ – we all laughed.

My father, who has an affinity with Scotland (but no known ancestral connection), actually turned out to be just 46% Great Briton, and yet 24% Irish. Compared to my 61% GB and my mother’s 68% GB, that’s quite a difference.

My Father's AncestryDNA Ethnicity result in Lego
My Father’s AncestryDNA Ethnicity result.

My father was somewhat pleased to see that Ireland (24%) and Scandinavia (19%) made up for where his GB DNA had decreased. He feels even more Celt/Viking than ever, even if I’ve yet to find any ancestor with a hint of Irish ancestry in them. My only suspicions might be our Newman (which seems more German to me), Tingey (which seems more French to me), or Clarke ancestors.

My Mother’s DNA remains the most varied, with 7 ethnicities estimated (and they are estimates, remember).

What you can see above, courtesy of my Lego depictions of the three of us, is that I dodged Iberian Peninsula DNA despite it being present in my mother (5%) and my father (3%).

My sister – who has not been tested – has a darker complexion to me, so maybe Iberia plays more of a role in her DNA, or maybe the Italian/Greek? Obviously, she could easily have none of those ethnicities at all – as it’s completely a 50/50 gamble as to what DNA you inherit, and which ones fall by the way-side.

My (decreasing) blond hair, and my gingery beard suggests that I’m a carrier of the red hair gene, and science has found that it has a high frequency in Ireland and Scotland. Maybe this suggests that I have inherited that from my father’s DNA. It’s also clear that I inherited my 4% Italian/Greek ethnicity from my father (his was 3%).

My mother’s high Western European DNA ethnicity (13%), and my father’s lower 5%, played little role in my DNA, which came as a surprise to me, as I’d have guessed that I had some Germanic DNA via my Moden or Gothard ancestors.

What next?

I could try to test some other relatives – they’re certainly curious, but the more distant I get in a bid to see results, the more ‘other’ DNA is being introduced via non-biological Uncles and Aunts.

I was pleased to see Ancestry match me up with a paternal second cousin, once removed, who I already knew their position of in my tree, but had never had contact with before. There’s also a few more distant cousins emerging, which is allowing me to fill in some contemporary generations from distant relatives.

The whole DNA testing exercise has been interesting for us as a family, and it’s a great conversation piece. I’m guessing my parents are having a great time telling their friends about what they’ve discovered. It’s certainly nice to find people who have a link to you, although there’s so many test results that match, and yet the users don’t have trees, or they never reply.

I guess to some degree, it’s a bit of a genetic tourism. Pay > Wait > Oh wow, i’m XYZ > Done.

I think I’ll keep my mind open, and see who else I can cajole into being tested (hopefully either my maternal aunt, or my sister).

Thanks for reading,


Author: Andrew Martin

Andrew Martin is a British author, family historian, tech nerd, AFOL, and host of The Family Histories Podcast.

6 thoughts on “Taking an autosomal DNA test with AncestryDNA (Part Three)”

  1. Oh my, Andrew! I am totally chuckling at your description of your parents Daily News reading habit! I, too, am a baby-boomer, however, I hold the same view as you from across the pond. I will have nothing to do with mainstream media. Period.

    I so appreciate your writing about your personal experience with AncestryDNA. I have been a member, on-and-off, for over a decade building my family tree, as well as trees for others. One of my husband’s sisters recently received her results from Ancestry. There were a few surprises in the mix. Several other members of the famiy are following her lead, including my husband!

    I have been biting at the bullet to send off for one myself (waiting for the next discount to come along). A year ago, I broke through the huge brick wall on my father’s side of the family. His father never spoke about his life before making his trek from Poland to England, starting his business, meeting and marrying my grandmother, losing three children in infancy and then making his way to the USA prior to my grandmother and surviving Uncle joining him.

    I am fascinated to learn more about the percentage of my mixtures, as well as the possibility of finding new ones and/or new relatives! I have already been in contact with a first cousin, once removed and a third cousin, once removed by way of my persistent research in locating my paternal great-Grandfather’s roots. To say that I have been over the moon a time or two is an understatement.

    So happy to have found your posts in my inbox! Looking forward to working backward and reading further your reviews on AncestryDNA.



    1. Thanks a lot for reading, and I’m glad that you enjoyed the post.

      It took me a long time to feel that having a DNA test for genealogy would actually be worthwhile – I mean, okay, so maybe I descend from an ancient siberian, but how on earth would documented evidence get me anywhere near that? It wouldn’t.

      After listening to lots of Ancestry and others talking about DNA at Who Do You Think You Are? Live, I decided that it wasn’t about that, and actually it can have a role in finding connections with distant living cousins. That’s the bit I’m enjoying right now, and AncestryDNA has been able to identify previously known cousins who’ve done the test, proven my parents’ connection (phew), and also found clearly documented cousins too. There’s a whole load of mystery matches as well, which is quite exciting – some that I’ve yet to explore, some with scant detail or only moderate likelihood of a connection, and many whom are yet to reply to my message via Ancestry. There’s also always someone new each time i log in, so it feels quite fun.

      If you give DNA testing a go, let me know how you get on.


  2. Nobody replies to messages about being related. All is not lost however as you can work out who a good percentage of them are by stealth. I have identified 10-15% of my matches so far.


    1. Yes, it’s frustrating when there’s no reply. I do get a few really nice and helpful messages back, so not all is lost. Also, if you can work out a few, you can use that knowledge when it turns up in the ‘related matches’ to help you whittle down the likelihood of where the other matches fit. I do have a number of prominent DNA-matching family groups though which just keep turning up – I sometimes wonder whether those families are just genetically driven to being tested!


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