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  1. #1

    Default Surprise American ancestry?

    Hi all,

    Just wanted to share and maybe get insight.

    I finally did a DNA test after researching my genealogy for 8 years on paper.

    I found my DNA mixture pretty expected (70% English, 6 percent Scandinavian likely from Scottish and Northern England ancestors, 1% German, and the rest Northwestern European, generally).

    But what I did find intriguing was the DNA "cousin" matches. I found that many of my genetic relatives (4th/5th cousins) were Americans living in the USA in the South. This was fascinating to me as I'm the first in my family to live in America and am actually a Canadian citizen. My ancestors are all British or settled in Canada fairly recently (last 125 years).

    However, it got more interesting when I looked at the paper trees of these relatives and found they all had roots in the States back to the 1600s! This does not add up at all with my meticulously researched tree. I don't have any clue even what side of my family our common ancestor hails from. There is a group of 6 of us who share the same segments of DNA and they concluded we have a common ancestor from late 1700s... most probably in South Carolina, USA!

    Anyway, this is just fascinating to me. My earliest immigrant ancestor to North America arrived to Canada in 1827 and stayed there, quite well-documented. But 4 of my 8 great-grandparents were physically born in England, so I'm very confused. Anyone else have a similar shock?

  2. #2


    The common ancestor could quite easily have been someone from before they left for the New World - your branch doesn't have to have gone.

    Was this a Y chromosome analysis?

  3. #3


    Agreed Lesley, but the issue was that all of these people had roots in the States back to the early 1700s, so not sure how we could have a more recent common British ancestor. It's very interesting. This was autosomal analysis through 23 and me.

  4. #4
    Knowledgeable and helpful
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland


    This is what Peter Calvert of Lost Cousins commented in June 2016 about DNA testing:

    “Of course, most DNA testing companies will claim to tell you something about your ethnicity - but as I pointed out recently, Ancestry reckon my brother's ancestry is 20% Irish, which is virtually impossible, given how far I've traced back without finding any Irish ancestors in our tree.

    I've uploaded my brother's results to FamilyTreeDNA - they reckon he's 40% Scandinavian, 40% British Isles (including Ireland) and 20% Southern Europe; but they tell me that I'm 59% Western & Central Europe, and 41% Scandinavia. We have the same parents, so how can our ancestry be so different - of course, the answer is that it can't!

    The truth is, DNA tests are pretty poor at telling us about our origins hundreds or thousands of years ago. One of the reasons for this is the simple fact that we haven't inherited any DNA at all from most of our ancestors!”


  5. #5
    Brick wall demolition expert!
    Join Date
    Aug 2007


    I have a similar situation - the majotity of my matches are from the USA who appear to have been in the USA since the begining of time, and none seem to overlap. There are serveral possibilities.

    The first is that their family tree may have an error in it (as is the case for the majority of trees on Ancestry) so i always go back to the match and validate their paper trail as much as possible.

    the second, which I believe is quite probable, is that they may contain "sticky" DNA or descend from an endogomous population (I strongly suspect the Scottish Highlands and probably Ireland were endogomous populations) and therefore, due to the concentrated effect of inter-marriage, a DNA match will appear much closer than they actually are.

  6. #6


    Forgoing the possibility that someone's papa may not really be someone's papa [or mama] .... it is possible that an ancestral group [not just a solo ancestor] from your family went over to the Americas prior to your family. Even if not directly related to your family small town / intermarriage might mean they're related enough by DNA to be considered "cousins". Or by chance an entire side [paper cousins & then more cousins] of the family upped & left.

    However, due to the close knit relationship found among original settler groups the intermarriage oftentimes means "cousins" on DNA sites, autosomal in particular, are closer than they are in reality due to the DNA overlap. I've found this a hassle with my father's mother's Acadian side. There's 2nd & 3rd DNA cousins who, given the trees I can occasionally find on 23&me [it is a poor site for familial trees to be recorded], are more likely 4th or 5th cousins by paper pedigree than what DNA is saying.

    It's something that DNA sites don't really cover in their advertising. How intermarried old families are [not just Americans], not to mention isolated groups due to ethnic, cultural, or religious reasons [immigrants for example, or the Amish as another], and how the intermarriage results in excessive DNA overlap & closer than reality "cousins".

  7. #7
    A fountain of knowledge
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Ontario, Canada


    I read a very interesting book on immigration re the US that many people returned to their homelands after living in the US for awhile. This could apply to colonial immigrants as well, although given the travel hazards, perhaps not as often. A man may have fathered children and then returned home to Britain and married again, leaving descendants on both sides of the Atlantic.

  8. #8
    Valued member of Brit-Gen Barnzzz's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    The middle of Bristol


    I don't think we have any way of knowing everything about our ancestors. We may have a seemingly perfect paper trail but it won't show all sorts of things. If we believe the DNA results we may have to accept that we can't know everything, no matter how hard we try.

  9. #9
    Newcomer to Brit-Gen
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Houston, Texas, USA


    I you are a male I would suggest a Y67 test. If not, have your father, brother or uncle test and your male line origins will be traced back thousands of years.


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