My DNA Revisited: Where Did I Come From

On September 17, 2012, I published a post “My DNA–What? Surely you Jest!!  Just a few days earlier I received notification of my DNA results from Ancestry.com.  My photograph of a torn up circle representing my DNA was prominently included in my post.

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For amateur genealogists everywhere, Ancestry.com’s $99 DNA test was probably their (and my) first chance to actually get a sense, scientifically of “where did I come from”.  I bought a test in the Fall of 2012, took the test, received the results and was totally confused.  Nowhere in my DNA test results did I see any support for my research concerning my Western European roots.  Since my own research indicated strong ties to France and Germany, I tore up my test results in frustration.

IMG_3243What a difference a year makes.  On Oct. 17, 2013, I received an e-mail fromAncestry.com notifying me (and, I am sure, everyone else who has taken their DNA test) that “Our breakthrough update is here, with exciting new details and context…”.  The new results more closely mirror my years of research into my family tree.

In many respects the old and new results are similar.  But in terms of my family history research they are miles apart.  Much of the research I had given up as wrong, is now consistent with the new results.

 

My revised DNA test results:                                         My original test results:

Scandinavian                33 %                                              Scandinavia                 43 %

Ireland                            30 % [1]                                         British Isles                  40 %

Europe West                18 %                                                Middle Eastern          10 %

Italy/Greece                 12 %                                                Southern European    7 %

Trace Regions

Iberian Peninsula       4 % [2]

Finland/N. Russia    < 1 %

Great Britain              < 1 %

Caucasus                       1 % [3]

My research is validated in many significant respects:  My Lewis ancestors presumably moved to the colonies in the 1600’s from Wales rather than England.

My Western European DNA is consistent with the Mesle migration from Western France where they lived in St. Maixent, Alencon and Poitou (just North of the Iberian Peninsula) beginning in about 1000.  By the  1300s, Mesles lived in the Normandy Region of France.  By the the 1500s and 1600s, Mesles lived in Germany before relocating to the New World.

My great-grandfather Franz Mesle, nicknamed “the Swab”, almost certainly lived at least briefly in Austria-Hungary.  Germans who settled in Austria-Hungary, (near the Caucasus area) were called Swabs.  Franz married Katharine Kirsch/ner, daughter of Conrad Kirsch/ner.  A Catharine Kirschner was born in Jabuka, Austria-Hungary in the 1800’s to Conradus Kirschner. By 1881 Franz and Catharine lived in Canada and then the U.S.

If my new and enhanced DNA results are correct that I am 1 % English, my maternal great grandparents, John Fox and Jane Bond Fox, both born in England, must be my only English ancestors.

My search continues.  The biggest change in my results are, to be fair, a shift of DNA results from Northern Europe to Northern and Western Europe.  But this seemingly minor change is significant in connecting my research to my DNA.

I now continue my search.  Who am I? Where do I come from?  What difference does it make?  Maybe none.  But my quest continues.

As for my Lumbee ancestors–I still do not have a trace of Native American DNA

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[1] “Ireland” includes Wales for purposes of the DNA results

[2] The Iberian Peninsula includes extreme SW Europe: parts of France, Spain, Portugal, Andorra & Gibraltar

[3] Caucasus is on border between Turkey & Kazakhstan in W. Asia

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Continuing My Search For Ancestors

Hearing from a possible relative is thrilling.  This is how the message begins:

“Hi Ann, Hearing from a newfound family member is always exciting! . . . You and I would be 2nd cousins by marriage.”

Our possible common ancestor was Conrad/us Kirs/ner, father of my great-grandmother, Catherine Barbara Kischner.  Catherine’s children knew her as “Kate”.  This photograph of Kate was taken shortly before her death, on Dec. 28, 1910.  She was living with her daughter, Anna Landes, in Niagara Falls, NY.  My granddad, Frank C. Mesle, Sr., owned the house next door.Kate may have been born June 16, 1850/7.

Our family history, and the 1910 U.S. Census, are consistent that she was born in Germany.  Sources at Ancestry.com, including my newly connected second cousin, disagree, and believe she was born in Glogon, Austria-Hungary.

Glogon (now Glogonj) is currently part of Serbia. Between the mid-1800’s and the present, Glogon has been part of Austria-Hungary, Hungary, Yugoslavia and, now, Serbia.  It is strategically located between what was, in the 1700 and 1800’s, a buffer area between Christian Austria-Hungary and the Moslem world.  Apparently settlers were given free land to entice them to move there to provide a buffer between the two cultures.  It was certainly a bad bargain. They lived a difficult life at best. Apparently death rarely resulted from old age, but instead from disease, starvation or warfare.  By the late 1800’s there was a massive exodus from Glogon to other areas of Europe and to the U.S.

Selfishly, for me, my probable link to Glogon helps explain my DNA test results, that indicates I have DNA markers for Southern Europe and, perhaps, the Caucasus, near the Black Sea.  Obviously Glogon is located far closer to Italy than to the country I had believed to be her home, Germany.

Kate received a series of letters from her family between 1896 and 1911. All were addressed from Germany.  Each includes some tidbit of news pertinent to the family history.  They are as follows:

Letter from C. Kirsch (probably her brother) dated Jan. 22, 1897 from Ludwigshafen (at the Rhein), to the Kaisers German Consulate in Toronto, Canada: He identifies Barbara Kirsch as his sister, states his father’s third wife “died last year” and that his father, who is very weak, will be 76 in March.  He states that of the “brothers and sisters there are , besides myself: a sister, Elise Fromhold, a widow, who lives in Neckargemund.  Elise was Conrad’s daughter by his first wife, as was Kate. A brother Frederick[1] Kirsch, was a teacher in Sonborn, Elberfeld, of the second wife.

Letter from C. Kirsch dated July 16, 1901, from Ludwigshafen to Barbara Mesle, born Kirsch, in Niagara Falls, NY:  He explained he was sending Barbara her 1/4 share of her father’s estate, 2000 marks, ($478.16).  He identified his eldest daughter as Lenchen, and his son as Fredrick.

Letter from Elisa Fromhold dated July 29, 1907, from Neckargemund: It is addressed to “Dear Sister” and  identified her daughter, Marin, as nurse in Mannheim, another child as Jungfer, who lived in  Durtheim (Durbheim?).

Letter from Elise Fromhold dated August 1, 1911, from Neckargemund: It is addressed “Dear Aunt”(?) and was received by the family several months after Barbara’s death. It identified the author’s children, Dina, Karl, Uncle Konrad and Uncle Friedrich.  I assume, but do not know, that this is from a daughter of Catherine’s sister, also Elisa/e.

The correspondence from a possible cousin, who I have never met, is exciting.  She identified another brother of Kate’s, Josephus Kirschner, born September 8, 1855, in Glogon.  He has long been identified on the margins of my notes as a possible relative. Her ability to give me what may well be another piece of my great-grandmother’s history assists me, piece by piece, to trace the history of my family.

Have a great week.

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Frederick is also the name of one of Kate’s sons

My DNA–What? Surely you Jest!!

Seriously.  I do a little DNA test and what do I get?   Total confusion.  I mean, seriously, who did I think I was?? Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Based on more than 5 years of research relying on Ancestry.com, google, family records, public records, photographs and other research, I expected my DNA results to look something like this:

British Isles: 60%, Western Europe: 35 %, Other: 5 %.

Ancestry.com even includes on its site a clever little circle graph showing the nature of the information that members would receive about their genetic markers.  It seemed so simple.  Once again, wrong, wrong, wrong.

I expected, and found, strong evidence of family roots in the British Isles.  Mom’s family (Harrises, Bayes and Wrights) and my maternal grandmother’s family, (Lewises), all have strong ancestral ties there.  But where I expected my heritage to be dominated by British and Western European ancestors, instead I now understand I have lots of ancestors from Scandinavian countries.  I had not anticipated a single Swede, Dane or Norwegian in my entire family tree.  My Middle Eastern and Southern European roots–seriously, where do they come from. My anticipated heritage is so different from the heritage established by my DNA.  I am intrigued.

The question I raised in my last post about my DNA test indicated I expected to see some data in the “other” column as a result of the somewhat obscure origins of the Lumbee “tribe” of North Carolina.  My ancestor, Morris Teeter, who was born in 1737 and died in 1812, was buried in the Cummings Cemetery near Pembroke, NC.  Apparently, he was a Lumbee or married to a Lumbee.  If that information is correct, then I certainly have no native American DNA indicators.  Perhaps the rumors that the Lumbee are descended from early sailors to the New World (obviously Scandinavian and maybe Persian) is true.  I don’t know.  I don’t want the Lumbee tribe to take my word for it.  But they may want to be DNA tested themselves. Really.

But I digress–kind of!

Where are the Mesle/Kirsch Western European ancestors?  What about the centuries I expected granddad’s family to have lived in Western Europe before moving from Germany to the United States?  Nowhere.  Absolutely nowhere. I have 5 years invested in learning about the migration of the Mesle name from St. Maixent, France, spreading throughout France and into Germany, Belgium.  5 years trying to determine where in the small world of Mesles my own family had its origins before appearing in the record books in Stuttgart, Germany in the early 1800s.  Now, I do not know whether I am, at all, connected by blood to those Mesles.  Maybe they are, as I once read, descended from Vikings. But could they have lived in Western Europe for 800 years without picking up even a hint of German or French DNA markers?  Of course not.

The question, of course, is “Does it matter?”  If my interest is in tracing the religious, ethical and educational history of my family, it may not matter at all.  If my interest is in my blood line, then maybe the most important message is that none of us may be who we think we are.

Now that, is something to chew on!

Who are the Lumbee and Who am I?

Who is my tribe?  That question has long fascinated me.  Family history research only takes me so far.  Now there is another tool in my search.  DNA testing.

Ancestry.com recently offered its  members a DNA test for a cost of $99.  In the blink of an eye, I paid my money and received a packet in the mail to begin the process. My saliva sample was sent back to Ancestry.com by return mail.   I now wait approximately 6 weeks. Then I will see whether a DNA test will actually help unlock the secrets of my heritage.

I have some experience with the power of DNA evidence.  Experts tell us they can determine from a saliva specimen, or blood or sweat, the one person in history who could have committed a crime down the block last Saturday night.  Seriously.  But can such a test tell me about my own past?  Can it tell me when my Mesle ancestors left France?  I don’t know?  Can it tell me whether I have Jewish ancestors?  I will see.

Can it tell me whether I am descended from the Lumbee tribe in the North Carolina?  Yes.  I think so. Why do I believe I can learn whether I am part Lumbee and what that really means?  Simple.  If I am part Lumbee, through Morris Teeter, my DNA should include markers distinctively associated with a Lumbee heritage.

But what is a Lumbee heritage?  I first heard of the Lumbees less than a year ago while researching my mother’s family line.  The tribal origins are unclear.  Lumbees are recognized as a Native American tribe by North Carolina but not by the federal government. They are not primarily descended from European stock–like all of my other known ancestors.  My Lumbee markers would almost certainly include evidence of Native American ancestors.  But my DNA could also provide some evidence as to whether the Lumbee tribe is pure Native American blood, or whether their ancestors–and  mine–are from a mix of races who created their own unique culture and ethnicity hundreds of years ago.

So, who is my tribe?  Does it matter?  Does it make me any difference to an understanding of who I am?  What about the Lumbee?  I don’t know.  But, maybe it does.  I will let you know when I figure it out.

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According to Wikipedia, the above photograph of members of the Lumbee tribe is in the public domain.