After attending two parties last night, on the drive home my wife and I had a very interesting conversation about ancestry, how we’re all connected, and how two of her nephews discovered that they had completely different perspectives on their respective heritages. One saw himself as German (since their father’s direct ancestry is German) and the other brother identified with his lebanese background (since their mother’s ancestors hailed from Lebanon). It was a surprise to both of them.
That sparked a renewed interest in my ancestry so today I invested some time in poking around my 23andMe account to see if I could gain more insight in to my own genetic ancestry.
Like that one nephew of my wife’s, with the surname “Borsch” I’ve also always identified with Germany as my primary ancestry. Imagine my surprise when I saw that new visual representation you see above which clearly shows that the primary concentration of my ancestral DNA is British and Irish! Only 9.2% is closely aligned with French & German. Guess I have to rethink my ancestral beliefs.
But it got even more interesting as I dug deeper and discovered my .007% Jewish DNA and that Hitler and I shared a (thankfully) very distant male as an ancestor…
I started off today’s adventure trying to see how my paternal haplogroup, E1b1b1a2, was related to what 23andMe showed me as “famous” people with whom I am connected. In this case it was Napoleon Bonaparte who has an E1b1 mutation, E1b1b1c1.
Like all DNA, small mutations occur that spawn a new Y “line” which can be traced on a DNA family tree. Since the father’s Y chromosome passes essentially unchanged to the son—with small mutations added to the end over time—this means Napoleon and I share a common male ancestor who had E1b1b1.
So I wondered: With what other “famous” people did I share an E1b1 male ancestor?
Looking just at my paternal E1b1 haplogroup, these four men and I
share a common male ancestor. Two are uplifting and two are “Yikes! Really!?!”
Looks like some ancient father passed his Y chromosome and it came down to me, but only after branching out and creating the descendants above as well as:
- Ramesses III, second Pharaoh of the Twentieth Dynasty and considered to be the last great New Kingdom king to wield any substantial authority over Egypt. He belonged to Y-DNA haplogroup E1b1a
- Napoleon Bonaparte belonged to haplogroup E1b1b1c1*
- Albert Einstein belonged to haplogroup E1b1b1b2*
- Based on researched published in 2004, Adolf Hitler likely belonged to Y-DNA Haplogroup E1b1b1
- Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, belonged to Haplogroup E1b1a
- Desmond Tutu, South African retired Archbishop of Cape Town, according to a study on Southern African genetics belongs to Y-DNA haplogroup E1b1a1g
Check out: List of haplogroups of notable people
I also discovered that just over half of one percent of my DNA (.7%) is shared with Ashkenazi Jews. Even though the 23andMe sample size is small (1,305 people) they state that this percentage “…still clearly shows the connections among those who consider themselves to be Ashkenazi Jewish: two Ashkenazi Jewish people are very likely to be “genetic cousins”, sharing long stretches of identical DNA. This sharing reflects the close knit nature of this population.” So even that fraction of a percentage means an ancestor at some distant point in the past mated with another ancestor of mine.
Fun way to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday. Hope you have a chance to try this out for yourself too.