Friday, August 2, 2013
One benefit of testing with Family Tree DNA is that it hosts thousands of projects—7,620 at last count, devoted to surnames and geographic areas large and small. Joining a project allows you to view your test results in relation to those of people with whom you may share some factor in common, such as ancestry in the same part of the globe. By putting your results in a bigger context, a DNA project can offer insight into your origins that you might not otherwise discover. Quite simply, it can help you figure out how and where you fit in.
A number of excellent Family Tree DNA projects focus on eastern European ancestry. Some broadly relate to countries of origin. Some concentrate on dynasties, nobility lines, or clans; others, on ethnicities. Some are quite large: the Polish project currently has 3,330 members. All projects are overseen by volunteer administrators. These projects are well worth joining. Through my own mtDNA test results, I joined the Cossack DNA, Lithuanian DNA, Lituania Propria, Polish, RussiaDNA, and Russia-Slavic DNA projects.
And because I have a particular interest in the Lida region and in the Prokopowicz surname, I submitted proposals to FTDNA to create projects focusing on those two themes.
About the Belarus-Lida Region geographic project
Belarus-Lida Region project was that this area has had a complicated history, evident in the ever-changing national borders that have encompassed it; and that its population has similarly comprised several distinct ethnic groups. Belarus-Lida Region is a dual geographic project, meaning that it accommodates both Y-DNA and mtDNA test results. The goals are twofold:
To help members identify a common male ancestor and/or a common female ancestor in the Lida region.
To help identify relationships between family branches that in recent generations may have become separated or estranged due to emigration, war, deportation, resettlement, etc. These upheavals have scattered people with Lida roots throughout the world.
About the Prokopowicz project
My original rationale for the Prokopowicz surname project was that this was a common patronymic surname in my particular region of interest, the lands of the onetime Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth—today's Poland, Lithuania, and Belarus. It is also common in Ukraine, Russia, and other Slavic nations; variant spellings of Prokopowicz appear throughout eastern and central Europe. And emigration, war, deportation, and resettlement have carried it worldwide, far from its families' places of origin.
Because a primary goal of this project is to help determine which families bearing this surname may share a common male ancestor at some point in the past, Y-DNA testing is required for membership.
Both the Belarus-Lida Region and the Prokopowicz projects are small. I welcome and encourage anyone with relevant ancestry to join them.
Monday, July 29, 2013
I am 99.9% European. I would have guessed that, even if I had never spit into tiny vials for autosomal DNA analysis. Test results from 23andMe confirmed it, though, and took me a step further with its website's Ancestry Composition feature, presenting several different scenarios of what that 99.9% signifies.
Ancestry Composition basically enables you to consider your own DNA heritage in relation to the world's geographic/ethnic populations, which 23andMe has assigned to 22 different groupings. The data "includes DNA you received from all of your ancestors, on both sides of your family. The results reflect where your ancestors lived 500 years ago, before ocean-crossing ships and airplanes came on the scene," the website says.
The primary element is a table that tallies up the percentages of the various world populations reflected in your DNA. A resolution option allows you to see those percentages in three different breakdowns. Here are mine:
Global resolution: 99.9% European + 0.1%miscellaneous = 100% Barbara
Regional resolution: that 99.9% more specifically signifies 75.5% Eastern European, 4.2% Northern European, 0.2% Ashkenazi, 0.2% Southern European, and 19.8% nonspecific European
Subregional resolution: the 0.2% Southern European is more exactly described as representing the Iberian, Italian, and Balkan peninsulas and Sardinia
How does 23andMe define these categories? Eastern Europe encompasses Ukraine, Russia, Poland, and Hungary, and is "bordered on the east by the Ural Mountains." Northern Europe extends "as far west as Ireland, as far north as Norway, as far east as Finland, and as far south as France."
It is unclear to me where Lithuania and Belarus fit into the mix. As one of the Baltic countries, I'm guessing Lithuania falls into the Northern European classification. But what about Belarus? It is bordered by both Slavic countries (Poland, Ukraine, and Russia) and Baltic (Lithuania and Latvia). The population samples cited with these classifications do not include Belarus.
The regional resolution resonates with me. The 75.5% Eastern European DNA makes sense, in terms of my paper-trail genealogical research. Since the 1790s at least, my ancestors are documented as Polish Roman Catholics. I'm comfortable basically attributing the 24% of Northern and nonspecific European DNA to my maternal grandmother's H27 mtDNA, my paternal grandmother's mother's T2b mtDNA, and my paternal grandfather's mystery-man father's unknown but very likely Lithuanian roots. If this doesn't seem completely logical or mathematically accurate, I'm okay with that.
The 0.2% Southern European DNA holds little interest for me. If a stray Sardinian ever shows up in one of my family's marriage records, I will rethink this.
The best-fitting estimate
Another approach to examining the population percentages is via three different estimates: conservative, standard, or speculative.
Personally, I don't feel a need to spend much time mulling the conservative option, which labels 56.5% of my DNA as Eastern European and 42% as nonspecific European with a smattering of other populations contributing 1.5%. All four of my grandparents came from the same small geographic area, an arc that sweeps across western Belarus up into southern Lithuania. I have done reasonably extensive genealogical research on their ancestors—or at least 7/8 of them, my paternal grandfather's paternal line being that one brick wall. And judging from that line's Y-DNA test results, even that great-grandfather fits comfortably into the ethnic populations of the Grodno-Lida-Vilnius region (probably closest to Vilnius).
The standard estimate mirrors the regional resolution detailed above.
The speculative estimate considers my DNA as 87.1% Eastern and Northern European; 1.3% British and Irish (ah, could that account for my love of Celtic music?), 1.2% French and German: 6.1% nonspecific Northern European; and 4.2% a mix of Southern European, Ashkenazi, and general nonspecific European. It is intriguing, and it seems possible, but I have no records to document such fine distinctions, so I'll stick with the standard estimate.
The graphic here displays my standard estimate/regional resolution autosomal DNA analysis, indicating my ancestry is at least 75% Eastern European. It also highlights one aspect of the 23andMe website that I particularly like: it has a visually appealing, colorful, user-friendly design that is accessible even to a nonscientist like me.