When people look at me, they can’t quite tell where I’m from. Most people guess I’m Hispanic, but my parents are not Hispanic. At least not for a handful of generations. Quite a few people have guessed I’m Indian. I’d never heard of any of my family members I knew of which were from India. A few even assumed I was a vegetarian, which I’m most definitely not.
Then I received my Ancestry.com DNA results. The company had been good at communicating every step, and my results were no exception. I received an e-mail which looked like this:
I was thrilled! I couldn’t wait to see what my heritage was. As far as I can remember and listening to family histories, my family has been from Aruba. Aruba is a Dutch Caribbean island, with a wide variety of mixed populations. As a result, we were all mixed so much we were not all one ethnicity or race. As my father, who sometimes got mistaken for Japanese, used to quip when Americans asked him what race he was, “the human race.” It never was and continues not to be an issue where I’m from. As far as family histories go, I suspected Native American (South American, that is), European, and African origins. I had no idea in what proportions.
Ancestry has a professional and crisp presentation where you can see a pie chart and see the breakdown of your DNA percentages. The map on the right shows you the locations where your ancestors came from.
The bulk of my DNA, as it turns out, is 58%. I’m 58% European, which I find interesting. This is further broken down into percentages as follows:
- 16% Western European (France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany are in this admixed region)
- 12% Iberian Peninsula (comprised of Spain, Portugal)
- 11% Irish (this was a complete surprise!)
- 8% Great Britain (Yes! I’ve always been somewhat of an Anglophile)
- 6% European Jewish (I wasn’t aware of this either. Region includes Poland, Belarus, Lithuania)
The ones I don’t really count, as they’re 2% or less, are:
- 2% Scandinavia (you would never tell by looking at me)
- 2% Italy/Greece (my son was really thrilled about this – he’d love to visit Italy)
- <1% Finland/Northwest Russia
All this and we’re only on Europe! I was somewhat disappointed with “western Europe”, as this group can be so many countries, including Switzerland, Austria, Germany, etc. I suspect I have Dutch and German on this side, but I was curious to see if I had any French, for instance. Apparently this particular region is so admixed, it’s difficult to discern the countries – as per Ancestry.com. I’m thrilled and happy to see all the others – I was surprised to see I was only 12% Iberian Peninsula, especially when I’m confused so many times about a Hispanic heritage. I insisted I was not considered Hispanic (I did learn Spanish in school and on TV as Aruba almost touches the northernmost coast of Venezuela), but I wasn’t entirely sure. I thought maybe 20%, but it turns out the Iberian side is much smaller.
Next is Native American. I’m 26% Native American, which I’m super excited about! I’ve always been intrigued by and sympathetic towards Native Americans, whether in the US or South America. Ancestry.com cannot break this down further yet, so unfortunately all I have is an enormous region which spans North America all the way down to South America – the information Ancestry gives you about Native American is as follows:
“Your genetic ethnicity estimate indicates that you have ancestry from the region that is home to the indigenous people of the Americas. This vast region stretches over two continents to include the rugged territory of Alaska and Canada, mountains and plains of the United States, dry valleys of Mexico, tropical jungles of Central America and South America, and the Patagonian steppes of southern Argentina and Chile.”
Considering my geographical location combined with my limited family stories, I deduce I’m from South American heritage, and likely descended at least partly from the Wayuu [tribe] in the Paraguaná and Guajiran Peninsulas.
Next one up is my African heritage, which I’m proud of. It’s so cool to be made up of many different races! I have 14% African heritage. This percentage is further broken down like so:
- 7% Benin/Togo
- 5% Nigeria
- <1% Senegal
- <1% Ivory Coast/Ghana
I had no idea of this breakdown! All I knew is my great-grandfather was half black. It’s fascinating to see the specific countries in Africa which tend to have a match for my particular African strain.
Lastly, I have only 2% Middle East. A fellow passenger on a plane once told me the last name Eman, which belongs to one of my great grandfathers, comes from the Persian “Imam”, which means something like leader. It’s exotic to think I could have Persian origins. Albeit only 2%, it’s cool to think he was right and it’s in there.
At least now I know I’m not from Indian heritage. I do enjoy Indian food, though.