Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Genealogy Blog Party: DNA Discoveries

DNA testing has led me down a wonderful path of discovery.  Not about me and my family but about European history. 

My DNA was tested by 23andMe back in 2013. I had breast cancer and, for my daughter’s sake, was concerned about BRCA gene mutations. I turned to 23andMe because a $4,000.00 full genetic assay just wasn’t in the budget. I was relieved to find that I don’t have that mutation.

My ethnic mix showed no big surprises, but a couple of small ones.  My favorite surprise is the 3% Neanderthal component.  I love it!  That’s been the subject of a couple of previous blog posts:

And just today came across another article: 

New DNA From a Neanderthal Bone Holds Evidence of a Lost Tribe of Humans

I’ve traced my ancestry back to the late 18th century in Poland. Ethnicity estimates from 23andMe, FTDNA, My Heritage, and Gedmatch all agree that is where my ancestry is centered. But they also show Southern European and Northern European roots, and that got me wondering if those are real or are false positives.

Poring over history books, historical atlases, and Wikipedia gave me quite an education.  The Northern European component may have come from the late 1600’s when Sweden invaded Poland. There are still ruins of Swedish fortifications in Poland.  Possibly this is the source of my Northern European connection.

My mother’s maiden name is Ganas, a name more common among Greeks than among Poles. It seems that in the 12th and 13th centuries merchants from Greece and Turkey plied their trade in Central Europe. My guess is that at least one of them, with the name of Ganas, stayed in Poland.  I have yet to convince any of my male cousins from that line to do a DNA test; but I’d love to see what their Y chromosome could tell us.

The knowledge and insights into history that I’ve gained are priceless.
Here are links to previous posts European history.

As for family discoveries, DNA has helped me find only two previously unknown 2nd cousins – none more remote that that.  I keep hoping to find more. I know they’re out there somewhere.


  1. Mary, So glad that your first DNA news confirmed that you didn't have the BRCA gene. Your family history DNA findings seem to be a lot like mine - not very much that is terribly interesting yet. My closest relatives were also 2nd-4th cousin matches. Guess we have to wait for more people to test.

    1. I must admit to some envy when others tell about their multiple DNA relative finds. The BRCA news was good for my daughter, but I spent 20 weeks in chemo with breast cancer. How's that for irony?

  2. I went back and checked my Neaderthal reports after reading your blog. I have to confess that my kids seem only I interested in their Neanderthal numbers!

    1. I'm not sure why I find it so fascinating, but I've been doing a lot of reading about those ancient ancestors. We keep learning more and more about them.

  3. Could ancestral cousins have migrated to the areas of Europe where you don't have a paper trail when your direct ancestors came to the New World?

  4. Like you, I love the fact that genealogy lets us learn so much about history. It gives us a larger context for our own family stories and makes them that much richer.