Tag Archives: AncestryDNA

A One-Man Global Village (52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 2024 Week 02: Origins)

Aside from a fascination with my origins, the desire to get my DNA tested was really fueled by two other motivators: the ability to (1) confirm research undertaken via traditional channels (essentially a paper trail), and (2) leverage the results in my research to, hopefully, further it and break through some genealogical brick walls.

From South Africa, it was (and still is) a tricky business getting tested through one of the companies that includes family matching since most don’t ship kits to South Africa and returning them is another drama. So I waited patiently(?) for a trip to the UK in 2015 to get tested (you can read about that here).

Spreading the Love

Of course, one test is never enough and I was hooked – now I was after my parents’ DNA! That way, I would be able to determine which family matches came from which branch of my family tree, and what I had inherited from whom. However, DNA has a rather nasty habit of revealing any skeletons in the closet, and so can be a bit of a sensitive subject.

Nevertheless, my parents willingly joined me on this adventure as soon as I was able to get a couple of kits into the country using a freight forwarder. And, guess what? They are my parents. I’m sure we all breathed a collective sigh of relief!

Mum

My Mum’s ethnicity estimate1 really held no great surprises: 86% Scottish, a little Irish, and a sprinkling of Norse – straightforward, tightly ringfenced, nothing particularly unexpected.

Dad

My Dad was generally a quiet man (though he certainly had strong opinions!) He was also a quietly enthusiastic and consistent supporter of my genealogical research and would often ask what new discoveries I’d made and whether I had found out any more about John Nelson (one of the aforementioned brick walls – my 2x great grandfather, with potential links to Ireland).

From research I’d already conducted, I expected Dad’s origins would be around 50 – 75% British and roughly 25% German.

One-Man Global Village

Well, note to self: “Buckle your seatbelt Dorothy, ’cause Kansas is going bye-bye.”

His DNA ethnicity estimate2 soon had me referring to him as a one-man global village! Okay, it’s perhaps not entirely accurate and a little dramatic, but I think that Dad, in his quiet way, was secretly quite pleased with the title and his rather enigmatic origins.

Questions

The English and Scottish influences account for around 55% of his ethnicity, and then there’s that Irish 6% (John Nelson, is that you?) and a touch of Welsh ethnicity, which is also a mystery.

But where, pray tell, does the Scandinavian ethnicity come from and why does the Germanic influence only account for 6% – so much less than expected? Perhaps the German branch is less German than we thought. Could that same branch be responsible for the Baltic, Eastern European, and Basque origins in the estimate, too?

Surprise!

It was the African, Indian, and Filipino origins that really blindsided me, though, but perhaps they shouldn’t have. You see, aforementioned 2x great grandfather, John Nelson, an enigma himself, married a lady by the name of Magdalene and of her we know nothing prior to the birth of her children with John – not a surname, not a date of birth, nothing of parents or siblings, just… nothing. My suspicion is that she may be the ancestor that carries this ethnicity. My theory would seem to be supported by my father’s only DNA match on the testing site with Magdalene in his family tree – he, too, shares a sprinkling of this ethnicity but, still, we have no conclusive evidence.

So, for now, at least half my father’s ethnicity, especially the origins of John and Magdalene Nelson, remain a mystery which, I suspect, will keep me out of mischief for years to come!

DNA of a Champion Santa and Other Creatures

I wake up with all the eagerness of a kid on Christmas Day. On my bed when I arrived at Granny Oxford’s yesterday was the DNA testing kit I had ordered from AncestryDNA. Today, before I eat or drink anything, I’m going to spit in a tube and send my saliva to Ireland for testing – how exciting is that?!

My long-awaited AncestryDNA kit!

My DNA Testing Backstory
I had been itching to have my DNA tested for ages. AncestryDNA was the logical choice since I have a family tree on Ancestry.com. However, they don’t ship kits to South Africa – surprise, surprise – so I’d parked the idea for a bit.

However, through the fabulous Facebook group, South African Genealogy, I virtually (or digitally – whatever the correct term is) bumped into a “brand new” third cousin. She’s related to me through my Dad’s paternal grandmother, Augustina Welhelmina Becker, born to Julius August Wilhelm Becker, who arrived in South Africa from Germany as a child. Brand-new-third-cousin also happens to have her family tree on Ancestry.com and her great grandmother was Augustina’s sister. You’re still tracking with me, right?!

Anyway, during some e-mail correspondence with brand-new-third-cousin, it transpired that she had her DNA tested and, quite astonishingly, it revealed her ethnicity to be almost 40% Jewish. She believed it to be from one of the German branches in her family tree and so the desire to have my DNA tested was renewed: I figured it could either confirm or eliminate the Becker line as the potential source for third cousin’s ethnicity surprise! Consequently, when my trip to the UK was confirmed and my itinerary was starting to come together, one of the first things I did was order an AncestryDNA kit online.

Now, here I was, carefully depositing just the right amount of saliva into a test tube, sealing it, shaking it to release the stabilising fluid, and popping it into the collection bag and then into the prepaid mailing box provided, all ready for the postman to pick up on his way past.

A Warm WI Welcome
After a lovely, late-ish, leisurely breakfast and a quiet morning with a few cups of coffee thrown in, we slowly begin preparing ourselves for the Sibford WI meeting, which means gathering platefuls of scrumptious eats from the larder and the freshly-finished Christmas stocking, before making our way to the Sibford Village Hall.
Granny Oxford has obviously prepared ahead: during the announcements, apologies and welcomes, I’m warmly introduced as “her adopted granddaughter from South Africa.”

The new Sibford WI banner, beautifully embroidered for the WI centenary by Mollie, one of the local members, is on display, and Mollie explains the symbolism and elements of The Sibfords she so skilfully incorporated into the work.

The new Sibford WI banner.

What Makes a Santa?
Having initiated the process to gain insight into my own DNA just this morning, I’m about to discover the DNA of a Santa. The Sibford WI speaker today is Santa Ron from Luton, who has been Santa-ing for decades – just over five of them, in fact. That’s a fairly substantial career to compress into a short talk but a champion Santa has got to have some serious time management skills, right?

Santa Ron, although not a very good photo, I’m afraid. However, it hopefully gives a feel for the jolliness of the man and a sample of his jolly wardrobe!

He takes us on a flypast of some of his red-suit-donning-work, which started when he dressed up as Santa to deliver gifts to his own son. Since then, he has brought festive cheer to countless youngsters, raised funds for charities, travelled the world and attended a myriad of conventions and functions around the globe. If you’ve ever wondered what Santas do in the summer (Northern Hemisphere summer, that is), they apparently descend on Denmark for the Annual World Santa Claus Congress held in Bakken (the oldest amusement park in the world, established in 1583)!

Undoubtedly, one of the highlights of Santa Ron’s career was winning “World’s Best Santa” at the Santa Claus Winter Games in 2004 on his first attempt, and that against veteran Santas! Held in Lapland, qualifying Santas from several countries arrive to battle it out for the coveted title. Aspiring Santas, if you want to know what it takes to become a champion, listen up! You’ll be expected to eat porridge while ensuring your ample white whiskers remain spotless, forge friendships with and harness grumpy reindeer, climb chimneys, gift wrap like a pro, exhibit nerves of steel in hair-raising sledge and reindeer sleigh races, and more, all in the icy temperatures of the Arctic Circle while maintaining a jolly, personable demeanour!

In keeping with the Christmas theme, the meeting wraps up with the judging of the Christmas stocking competition. Predictably (in my humble opinion!), Granny Oxford’s entry takes top honours 🙂 After helping with the cleaning, washing and packing up, we head home to prepare for our next engagement!

I Heard the Bells…
Granny Oxford is quite musical and, although she takes piano lessons, we’re making our way to something a little more unusual this evening: hand bell ringing! Yes, it’s a thing, and quite beautiful (if one knows what one’s doing, I guess!). I don’t, sadly, and don’t even read music, so can’t fill in for the absent bell ringers. Instead, after helping them set up, I simply watch, intrigued, as this group of ladies work together to coax magical, fairy-like melodies from a vast array of brass bells.

The bell ringers in action. Granny Oxford is on the front right (in the jersey with olive green patterns).

As we drive the dark lanes back to Sibford, I mull over what has been a day of eclectic and extraordinary experiences and, once again, marvel at the privilege of being a part of them, even as I look forward to my bucket list plans for tomorrow 😉