The Dangers of DNA Testing


All my life I’ve been told I have Cherokee ancestry through my Knighten forebears. There are even a few interesting legends about how John L. Knighten escaped the Removal (a decade before he was born) and of family members visiting from the Cherokee “reservation”. I’ve even comments on them some (here). I’ve even commented on a possible connection to President Obama, who is purported to have descended from the first African slave in America though his mother’s line (here). I’m a natural skeptic, and though I wanted to believe my family stories, I wanted to substantiate the claims. Enter Ancesty.com’s AncestryDNA test. I spit in the cup, mailed it in, and impatiently awaited the results. And today, I received them.

Sadly, based on this DNA test, I can’t substantiate a claim to be anything other than a plain old white guy. I always thought I was a distantly-multiracial mutt, but I’m just a vanilla cracker. Here is what I learned from my results, based on Ancestry.com’s categorizations:

  • Europe West – 53%
  • Scandinavia – 13%
  • Ireland – 12%
  • Great Brittain – 11%
  • Iberian Peninsula – 7%
  • European Jewish –  <1%
  • Finland/ Northwest Russia – <1%
  • Caucasus – 2%

So based on my rank amateur genealogical research, I would have expected the Irish and British results, and I’ve even seen some information that is consistent with the Scandinavian blood. Having a couple of Scottish lines in my family could explain that, and possibly the Iberian markers, given the ancient migration of the Scots (and Irish) from the Iberian Peninsula. But over half of the genetic markers coming from continental Europe? That surprised me more than having trace European Jewish and Rus markers!

So my whole family legendarium is crushed. Not even trace amounts of Native American nor African genetics. I don’t even know how to broach the topic with my family now. I’ll stand as a heretic in their eyes. That Cherokee legend is so ingrained. I’ve had my suspicions over the past couple years, but like Santa Claus, I wanted the stories to be true. Maybe I’ll buy DNA tests for some of my aunts and uncles to see if they get different results. Is this the trap that Ancestry.com hoped to ensnare me in?

12 thoughts on “The Dangers of DNA Testing

  1. have you been to the following website: http://thegeneticgenealogist.com/ ? Also your DNA sample may have been used in a test which won’t give you the info you are seeking Having your aunts & uncles tested is a good alternative so you can compile your own mini data base. There is the mitochondrial DNA which is traced thru the male & female ancestors & then there is the Y-chromosome DNA traced thru the father. there are also some DNA data bases which are public information.
    You may remember that Britain was invaded in 1066 by thousands of soldiers & camp followers from mainland Europe, which may be a possible source of your other DNA.

  2. Ancestry DNA has me as less than 1% native American. Which rumor in my family was there was a black foot Indian. But if my children were to be tested they would most likely be 0% native. I would suggest having the oldest member in your family line that has or is said to have native take the test. They would most likely have a percentage if there is a lineage to be found.

  3. Dr. Doug McDonald can help you. His email address is easy enough to find.
    Put Native American in the question line.
    I sent him my raw DNA and his results helped make sense of gedmatch and 5 other commercial tests.
    I know I have NA on both sides, but the big 3 commercial tests weren’t picking it up.
    Half of each my parents’ sides have been in US since 1600/1700s. In Delaware and New York. Easy places to mix.
    The large commercial testing companies just give Eskimo as a result.
    Then I noticed gedmatch calculators and a couple other smaller tests giving results like iberian/middle eastern/small amounts of Native.
    McDonald confirmed 11% mix of OLDER middle eastern and a strong presence of more recent NA on my chromosomes.
    Good luck!

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