Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Fee fi fo fum .........I smell blood of an Englishman- DNA for beginners

My husband and I bought Ancestry DNA kits for each other for Christmas. We wanted to expand our family history.

What the testing entails is spitting into a little test tube/spit cup. The resulting saliva sample gets mailed to a test lab in either USA or Dublin for analysis. The wait is around 6 to 8 weeks. The results are then reported under you membership of the Ancestry DNA website.

I've decided to do a series of blogs on DNA for beginners (the things I've learnt) and believe me I'm just at (Introduction to ) DNA101 level.

Firstly my results are reported as an Ethnicity Estimate which was as follows

British (English/Scottish) 58%

Irish 34%

Other- Europe East 4%, Iberian Peninsula 2%, Scandinavian 1% and Italy/ Greece and Europe West <1% each

Looking at my tree six and seven generations back I have strong English lines and very strong Irish lines which would account for my Irish %. Note my results show I have no African Asian, Melanesian or native American. Neither do I have European Jewish.

One line may have been Huguenot explaining my Western Europe/ Eastern Europe % and my Irish great grandmother was very dark so that probably accounts for the Portuguese/Iberian%

Mary Ann Murphy was probably descended from the Spanish invasion
However it is my husband who has turned up the interesting results. Having felt that he was more Irish than English. His results are so strongly English that you can definitely say “Fee fi fo fum..... I smell the blood of an English man”.

Having said that, he actually has four likely Irish lines at 5th generation stage. Although I had already dispelled the family myth that his grandfather was Irish having proved that Sidney Ford and his siblings who were born in Ireland were born of English parents stationed in Ireland with the Coastguard.
“Fee fi fo fum..... I smell the blood of an English man”. 
His results are

British 91%

Irish 6%

Other-Europe West  2% and Scandinavian 1%

After reporting your Ethnicity, Ancestry tries to match up people with similar DNA characteristics by using your tree and other trees to show up similar names to project and predict relationships with others of similar DNA. They further suggest matches of characteristics through their DNA circles.
"you need to have an extensive and public tree"

To make the whole project worthwhile you need to have an extensive and public tree on this site to obtain any meaningful information. The site also indicates the strength of matches which are recorded as fourth cousins or closer with “high” or “good” confidence ratings. For each match where there is a public tree shared names are also listed. Most of mine were Smith or Murphy! With shared surnames of direct ancestors on my tree is possible also to find distant cousins in the fifth to eighth cousin ranges.

Purpose of doing a DNA test is to find potential new ancestors. Finding a match from the test would allow me to find traces of people, who came before me with the opportunity to explore my family more widely, share stories, compare trees and increase the richness of my family identity . 

It's still relatively early days in the DNA story-results are being added to as more people come on board. Many more do the test and are under prepared with no trees to add to the site or perhaps they fear the unknown and don't wish to  share information by locking their trees. I was in the later category until I realised I would get no results.

I was hoping that DNA would expand my genealogical research finding relatives stuck behind brick walls. Quite possibly that will come but overcoming obstacles is easier said than done with a DNA test. I’m jealous of a relative who has been to Ireland visiting her new cousins already.

With nothing jumping out at us I need to build both my husband’s and my trees further both wider and deeper to take into account marriages and therefore surname changes of children and childrens’ children into the 18th, 19, 20th and 21st Centuries.

So it is back to the drawing board to pursue some lines where the English, Irish and Scottish relatives dispersed into other areas immigrating into the new frontiers of USA, Canada, NZ and Australia. Basically I need to follow up those have disappeared possibly to parts unknown and those previously under pursued. Only then will I see better results from these tests. As they say in the advertisements. “Come find me”
DNA 101..... To be continued


  1. Interesting that John's 2nd cousin is only 6% Irish. My daughter is 41% Irish ( which means Irish, Scottish and Welsh) thus lending weight to the English Hayes originating in Ireland ������