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i'm not the person i was before

can you see the family resemblance?
i've just had an experience that brings new meaning to the phrase "new year, new you". as i mentioned in an earlier post, i took a genetic test from 23 and me a little while back and while it confirmed everything that i thought about the vast majority of my dna strands emanating from pasty countries, i found that there was also a trace amount of dna from the middle east/ northern africa region. as i mentioned at the time, this provided a tantalizing possibility for explaining a noticeably dark-skinned line in my family that persists from the earliest photos we have [dating from the nineteenth century] to the present day.

i noted in the previous post that i knew my results would change as 23 and me got a larger sample population and, indeed, on january 3rd of this new year, they did. they just changed rather more than i was expecting.

the breakdown of my european heritage got a little more... broken down. there's less that falls into the umbrella of "broadly european" or even "broadly northwestern european". that's because the database has grown to the size where more of me can be assigned to more specific regions of europe. interestingly, that also means that there are parts of europe in my genetic makeup that weren't there before. i now have a small chunk that comes from southern europe. now, i knew that there was some spanish and basque in there, but that's just a little too far back to register on this sort of test. and as it happens, the other changes may be instructive in this regard.

as of 2019, i have a significant chunk of genetic material that can now be classified as "greek and balkan" and an equal amount that is "sardinian". that's the nice thing about islands. their isolation yields some pretty distinctive genetic quirks. i have no idea where any of this stuff enters my family tree, but that's partly because i haven't ever looked for links to either of those places. i've been busy looking for some clue to the source of the arab dna which, as of the new report, is no longer there.

that's right. my mysterious progenitors from the levant or the maghreb have been eliminated by science and a larger sample size.

now, there is some wiggle room there. those southern european bits reflect the dna of people who had trade and tribal links to the middle east and north africa. so maybe what looks like north african dna at first glance looks more like the admixture you get in southern europe on further reflection. what's interesting is that the combination of broadly southern european, greek/ balkan and sardinian elements are far larger than the middle eastern/ north african part. so it's not a straight "swap". the totality of the result was re-analyzed based on more information and a bunch of my genetic crumbs were reconstituted into a new dna dumpling.

the takeaway? i don't so much show traces of an arab [broadly speaking] ancestor so much as i have a portion of a fairly recent southern european ancestor who passed on traces of their own arab ancestor considerably further back.

so now i've found more rabbits to chase down their various historical holes.

the good news is that when i reviewed my new and improved genetic breakdown, i noticed something that both explained part of the breakdown and lent some credibility to its findings. part of my genetic composition was listed as "french and german", enough to be indicative of a relative from that region some time in the last 200-250 years. i was a little unsure about this, since i know a lot of my family heritage going that far back and the only person who could have fit the bill was a relative with a french name but who probably came from the island of jersey*. however, looking at the details and maps again, i noticed that "french and german" in genetic terms includes the low countries of belgium, luxembourg and the netherlands. as it happens, i do know of a single relative who fits the bill in that case, a dutch woman who was likely born in massachussets to recent immigrants. i swear it's a coincidence that i discovered this scant days after mentioning the benelux countries in a completely unrelated post.

[*side note :: funnily enough, the new and improved dna report had a wee bit of increased detail on the british and irish components of my family. they were able to say with reasonably good confidence that i do not show genetic traits from the island of guernsey. but still nothing to confirm or refute the theory that part of my family emigrated to canada from the adjacent island of jersey.]

so now, if you'll excuse me, i'm off to reorient my search for family members and to find out what it is that makes sardinians so genetically peculiar. does it mean i'm actually part sardine? because i really like the ocean and i really like fish. that's what it means, isn't it, 23 and me? one of my ancestors bumped uglies with a sardine. this is me in 2019.


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