Tag Archives: DNA

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!


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.


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.


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?


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!