Tag Archive for: Ancestry.com

Am I German?

When I took the ancestry.com DNA test a few years back, I was expecting to be quite a bit German. All of my paternal grandmother’s grandparents were born in Germany. I also have many other lines where Germans appear. When I opened my results, German wasn’t even an option, it was lumped in with all of Western Europe, and I was only 5%. I was instead over 60% British. This shocked me a little, what was I going to do when someone called me stubborn, could I no longer blame my German ancestry? 

A lot of people get results they find confusing. The first thing you need to understand is reference samples. The companies are comparing your DNA to reference samples of people today who can show they have been in the area for generations. That is not the same as comparing your DNA to all Germans. In fact, in 2018 Ancestry updated and expanded their reference samples and my ethnicity results now show 10% Germanic Europe. No, my DNA did not change; the interpretation of it did. The other thing to note is migration. We tend to think of our ancestors as being from one place, but human beings have been migrating for centuries. If you read about the region of Great Britain on ancestry.com, you will notice that the Germanic tribes of Angles and Saxons are part of the genetic makeup of the area. 
It is also essential to understand how DNA is passed down. You inherited 50% of each of your parent’s DNA, meaning that 50% of their DNA you did not inherit. This is why siblings can have very different ethnicity results. Confused?  Here is a video from ancestry that explains it. 

While DNA is never wrong, our interpretations and understanding of it can be. So it is important to use DNA as a tool along with traditional paper research. And why the cousin matches are a much more critical part of your results than ethnicity. A cousin match helped me to find an Irish ancestor with a common name. And all the cousins I expect to have on the German side are matches and getting the same low percentage I am, so I know that the Germans in the paper trail are my ancestors.