As I’ve said here before, I did my first ancestral DNA test last year.
The results have been posted up on the company’s Web site – via my own member page – for over 9 months. Based on the speculative nature of the tests, I have over 400 genetic relatives.
But going through the list of “matches”, my fellow members belong to all sorts of haplogroups – a number of them aren’t even close to mine. Some of them were able to do the male lineage – or Y-DNA – tests, so their genetic pictures are a bit more complete than mine.
One would like to hope to stumble across someone who could realistically be a family member. But when the closest “relative” shares less than 0.5 percent on one segment of a teeny, tiny shred of DNA, it’s hard not to be skeptical.
Well, for some people.
Twelve days ago, I got an email from someone on the Web site, asking to share ancestral genetic information. She was American, didn’t have a photo, and didn’t have any ancestral surnames that seemed to match mine. I couldn’t even see which haplogroup she belonged to.
I did think about not accepting the invitation. But I thought, what the hell. Maybe there’s more information on her profile that I can’t see without accepting the invitation.
So I accepted.
The next day, I received a message. It began:
“I am very happy to know that I am sharing this life with a new found cousin …”
I read it a second time, along with the rest of the message, which instructed me to contact the woman’s brother – it seems that he was the one who managed the account on the Web site, and that I could get in touch with him for more information.
I sent a friendly, but somewhat neutral email in response, and promptly emailed the brother. I explained that his sister emailed me, that I was still fairly new to genealogy and DNA tests (which is true, in that I’m no expert in this at all, other than paying money to take them), that my family lineage was Jamaican, and that I was curious to see how I was related to his family.
At the very least, I figured that perhaps he’d take a look at my profile on the ancestral DNA account and see that we weren’t really all that related.
He wrote back a lengthy response. He talked about his own foray into genealogy and genetic testing (he’s a novice like me). And I suppose, given how I had written my original email, he’d assumed that I was starting from scratch — he then explained how hard it is to search for African-American ancestors because of records, that one had to be patient, etc. And then he asked me for ancestors’ names and dates to start the search.
Admittedly, I read the email and let out a deep sigh.
I don’t begrudge the guy or his sister for trying to connect the dots in their family tree – it’s exactly what I’ve tried to do, what many others are doing as I write this. And what he said about finding records for ancestors lost to time is true, and it’s no easy task.
But I read this email and thought, there is no way on this Earth that there are any links between his family and mine – UNLESS, there is some unnamed, unidentified ancestor who was either taken from Jamaica to the U.S., or vice-versa. The links would have to be extremely distant.
Just to be sure, I went back to the DNA testing Web site to see if this woman and I were in fact from the same haplogroup.
How do I explain this? We come from the same tree limb, but we sit on two completely different branches. Or maybe, we’re from different twigs sprouted from different branches of the same limb. Something like that. Either way, it doesn’t completely add up for me, so my skepticism is deep.
As of last week, the woman’s brother said he’d start looking into ye olde family research at the beginning of April.
This is either going to confirm what I already knew. Or this is going to get … messy.