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

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!

In Search of My Roots–the Lewis Family

At 6:50 this morning I am off on a great adventure.  My sister and I fly to Boston.  We pick up our rental car there and have charmed three cousins to meet us in New York?  In New York we plan to spend three days with cousins, searching for our roots.  We have not been together as a group in more than 50 years.  What a treat.

From the late 1700’s until the early 1900’s, 5 generations of our family lived in and around Norwich, Chenango County, NY.  My great-grandfather, Horatio Lewis, and his brothers, Hiram and Harris, owned mills in the area.  Here is a picture of their mill in Pharsalia, NY., before it was destroyed in a fire in the late 1880’s.

Tuesday morning we will drive to Norwich.  Our agenda is to visit the Mt. Hope Cemetery to try to find the Lewis and Terry Family Plots, located in Section A. I thought it would be relatively simply until I learned that Section A is 10 acres.  Well, we can only try! Since our family members were among the first people buried there, I am hoping we have a chance.  Then on to the Guernsey Memorial Library and the Norwich Historical Society.

Wednesday we drive to Sherrill, NY, where my grandparents lived by 1912.  Granddad was superintendent of silver-plating operations for Oneida Silver, back in the day when it was a power to be reckoned with in Oneida County.  We plan to visit the family home on Willow Road, walk down to the school and the plant on the same road.  Dad (on the right), his brother Dick (the baby) and Aunt Dot (on the left) were all raised in the house in Sherrill.

We will spend one night in rooms at the Mansion House, the home of a utopian community that eventually founded the silver company.

In the midst of indulging my family history adventures I hope to catch up on years of missed time with my cousins.  Hopefully, we will see some wonderful places, share great memories and return home refreshed and armed with photographs for new posts.

The Politics of Faith–Who Speaks for God

I’m a preacher’s kid (that is “PK” for short).  I was raised in church, or it seemed that way.  We were taught that we were part of the one “true” church.  But we were also raised to believe in loving one another, treating others with respect, working hard and following the adage that “to whom much is given, much is expected”.  God was the center of the family.

My family history is replete with relatives who were part of minority Christian religions.  My Mayflower ancestors , Thomas Rogers, John and Francis Cooke were Separatists who moved to the Leiden, Netherlands because of religious persecution in England, before sailing to a better life in Plymouth.  More recent ancestors participated in the Seventh Day Baptist Church, the Free Will Baptist Church, and the Methodist Episcopal Church.  I was always mindful of the ways in which my beliefs compared, and contrasted, with those of more vocal participants in public life.

My grandparents were “God-fearing” people, active in their religion. Unique for their time, they believed, as part of their faith, in equality of the sexes and equality of people of different races.   With the benefit of a rich religious heritage I have been privileged throughout my life to interact with people representing a wide variety of religious and moral perspectives. Many of my closest friends are not Christian.  I have been privileged to see glimpses of the world through their eyes.  I do not find their faith or their morality to be in any way deficient.

As an observer in the political process, I ask myself, what is the role of faith in public life?  How do we remain true to our beliefs, whatever they are, while also remaining true to the other teachings I remember from childhood about respect for others?  How do we  work for a better world when our own understandings of how to make such a world are so limited.  How do we appropriately show respect for the beliefs of others while remaining faithful to our own world views and beliefs.  As I struggled with these issues, it occurred to me that there were two books in my collection I could turn to for wisdom. They are Faith and Politics, by former U.S. Senator John Danforth, and The Mighty and the Almighty” by former U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.  I hope  that my exploration of these books will be of interest to our followers.