Ancestry DNA : who did I think I was?

Inheritance is a recurring theme on Pebble Soup. A theme which is deeply rooted in concepts such as family, ancestry, ethnicity. During the past few month, I took an AncestryDNA test with the view to understand my ethnic background. I spat in the tube, send the test back to the lab, dabbled a little in the Ancestry DNA website but all in all, I was pretty sure of where I came from.

Who did I think I was?

My estimation of my ethnic ancestry DNA came from the knowledge that each individual inherits half of their DNA from their parents.

wedding photo, photo de mariage
My parents, Michel and Suzanne, on their wedding day
My father's family originated from a small village in the Departement de l'Ain, an area named after its river, situated on the Eastern edge of France. The first inhabitants settled in the territory of today's Ain about 15000 BC. 

In the cemetery in the small village of Pollet where the Berchemins  came from, you can't move without bumping into the tomb of an ancestor of mine. My surname is proof of my roots. All Berchemins, not a very common name, come from the same area.

Therefore I was expecting the result of my ethnic DNA to show that I was 50% Western European. That's the group which contains Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein

The other half, my mum's side, was always going to be slightly more volatile. My mother was born in France of the union of two Moroccan jews. In these days, it can't have been very easy to marry outside their respective religions but they were both madly attracted by one another. 

So throw in the mix a good dose of North African, a little bit of Spanish as along the route, one may have dilly-dallied, some Middle-Eastern blood on account of the family Jewishness. Add a wee bit of Teutonic ancestry from my maternal grandmother and Bob 'z your uncle. 

Here is the scientific bit again: Each individual inherits about 25% from each grandparent, 12.5% from each great-grandparent and approximately half the previous amount for each subsequent generation.
conclusion: when getting the results, surprises can be expected. And surprise I was.

The test results

Genetic Ancestry

The test results taught me that it's really impossible to predict what your DNA profile will look like. I would go as far as saying, "Predictions,  forget it!. In the long run, predicting your genetic ancestry without proof will only make you look plain stupid".

My 50% French turned out to be non-existent. Vanished, disparus.

It would appear that I have less than 1% of Western-European DNA. To everyone who refers to me as The French Woman, ethnically, I ain't. Mind you, I am not much more Moroccan either, I have only 3% of North African DNA.

But I am BRITISH, and that I can't explain.

15% is a large percentage in this context. Ancestry DNA website contains some interesting facts and figures such as, "A native Brit will have 60% British DNA maximum and I have got 25% of that percentage. Goes to show we are all of mixed origins and, whoever says, "Not me, gov! I know where my ancestors came from", I dare them to take the test.

Population and DNA matching

In other words, what is the baseline for the DNA tests?. Here is what Ancestry DNA says, "Your ethnicity estimate shows where your ancestors came from hundreds to thousands of years ago. We calculate it by comparing your DNA to the DNA of a reference panel of people with deep roots to specific places around the world.
As science improves and our DNA database grows, our ability to estimate your ethnicity gets better and better. You may get updated results that include a new mix of ethnicities" to know more population and DNA matching click here

What did I think of my genetic communities experience?

Taking the test left me with a humongous question. Why is there over 51% Greek and Italian DNA present in my genetic makeup and where do the 15% British come from? Thankfully, being a bit of a travelling chameleon, I have always felt an integral part of the population of humans around me, even when xenophobia raises its ugly head and tries hard to exclude me. So puzzling as they are the results have not disturbed me. I still as I always have, belong to where my home and the people I love are. I'm not saying that it doesn't hurt because of course, it does, obscurantism is designed to hurt.

In many ways, the test results enthral and puzzle me in equal measure and even though I can't easily disentangle my ethnic DNA from my passports or my beliefs, where I come from matters less now than it did when I first agreed to take the test. Because, what matters to me, right now, are the discussions the test results are generating and the individual reactions the results provoke. The ethnic DNA test is a fascinating conversation piece.


At the time of printing AncestryDNA test cost £79

Together with Margot of Coffee and Vanilla, we run an Inheritance Recipes challenge, a monthly event, click on the link and join us.

Margot and her husband took the Ancestry DNA test. Read their fascinating story

DISCLOSURE: I have received complementary AncestryDNA test kit for review purposes.  I was not financially compensated for this post. All opinions expressed here are our own and I retained full editorial control.

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