Please help me interpret my 23andMe ancestry results

My brothers and I are trying to convince my 90 year old dad to do it. He’s the last one on his side left and our mom has passed too.

One of his problems with it, is that my results are not as Italian as he thinks they should be. Below are the pertinent results. I’m wondering if there is something about the testing itself or Italy as a country to come from that would explain it and convince him that it would support his proud Italian heritage.

Italian … 1.5%
French/German… 38.9
British/Irish …30.3
Broadly NW European…17.8
Broadly Southern Euro…5.3
Broadly European …2.5

Medical Genetic tests are private, by law.
23 And Me is a recreational genetic test.
You family’s DNA is now available, for cash.
Interpret that.

My Italian uncle took one of these tests - which being a proud Italian American (and somewhat of a racist) he expected to come back as 100% Italian.

Turns out he’s Italian, and a ton of a lot of other Mediterranean - including a lot of Greek and some African (which is what set him off).

DNA tracks back to when we all crawled out of the cradle of humanity. We mere humans look at our heritage as where our grandparents - maybe our great grandparents or great great grandparents - came from. This is especially true of Americans - who are - with the exception of Native Americans - all immigrants and “what nationality are you” is a question that doesn’t get answered American, but gets answered “Irish and German.”

It makes sense that an Italian living South of Rome on the Coast would have a hell of a lot of other Mediterranean DNA running through them. It isn’t just recent generations that moved and settled.

I would guess that unlike my family, yours is from somewhere in Northern Italy - and inland. Somewhere where borders have changed quite a bit over the last 1000 years, where invading armies moved back and forth, some soldiers settling, some bringing wives back. (I’m also guessing Mom was mostly British/Irish).

I find this whole thing to be mystifying - I believe one of my biological great grandparents immigrated from a part of Europe that has changed names three times in my own lifetime alone - somewhere near modern Serbia. Even if there had been no migration of my ancestors over the previous 1000 years, the name of the place has changed so often to be meaningless. And note the biological - that Italian part of me - that’s from the man who stepped in and adopted my father after WWII when my grandmother was a twenty year old divorcee with a child.

That probably won’t convince your father to do it - it might convince you to let go of the idea as it doesn’t necessarily convey a lot of meaning into heritage.

I’m not sure what you’re implying here but I’ve never understood the people who criticize these DNA tests on the basis that “they have your DNA now” or whatever. I’ve gotten this from people when the subject of the 23andMe test comes up…“dude, how could you just give them your DNA?” OK, so “they” have my DNA, what the hell is anyone going to do with it? Why should I be concerned?

  1. Obtain everyone’s DNA results.
  2. ???
  3. Profit!

My wife expecting her test to come back showing substantial Italian genetics from her mother’s side of the family. The result: 0% Italian. After a period of time where we assumed the testing was junk, she got in contact with a distant cousin big into geneology. Apparently great-great-grandfather Giuseppe and family fled legal trouble in Switzerland, assuming new identities after settling down one country south. We got our money’s worth in entertainment value from that!

I hoped for some similar revelation in my test. Nope. Everything as expected.

Napoleon both I and III did a lot of meddling in Italy before and after unification. Ditto with Austria and Spain via the Hapsburgs, so coming up with French and German (Austrian) is probably right.

I suppose if a health insurance company analyzes your DNA they could claim that you’re a high risk for something, and raise your rates, or deny your insurance, or change your policy or something. I don’t know if insurance companies could conceivably get your DNA anyway from lab tests you’ve done with an HMO.

Anyway, why is everyone so obsessed with being “Italian,” (whatever that means genetically)?

“Italy” is nation-state composed of many different genetic pools, isn’t it? Isn’t it pointless to take a genetic test just to see if you’re genetically “Italian”?

Sometimes it is just a question of history. For example, there might not be any question that your great grandfather emigrated from Italy, but where did his parents and grandparents come from? Maybe they came to Italy from Germany or the UK, or lived on the French border.

Also, those percentages are just based on probabilities. Certain regions of your DNA are best matches for DNA regions that have been seen before in people of Irish heritage, for example. That doesn’t mean that those same sequences can’t come from Italians, just that isn’t the most likely conclusion.

It also could be simple dilution. If your great grandfather, who might have been 75% Italian, emigrated from Italy, then had kids with an American of British/Irish origin, and your 1-time grandparent married another European mutt, and your dad married a half German woman, by the time things get to you, much of the Italian DNA regions might have been lost.

Finally, the estimates are only as good as the reference panel which is used. I expect 23andme will have a very good reference panel, but if for some reason they don’t have many Italians in the panel, then they will have a hard time identifying Italian-ness. For example, I did my own ancestry using 1000 genomes (a public database) as my reference panel, but 1000 genomes doesn’t have any Eastern European people in it. So my ancestry came back as something like 66% Western European, and 33% random other stuff (middle eastern, African, Finnish, South Asian) which are almost certainly wrong. What happened was, the DNA that Eastern and Western Europeans share came back as Western European, but the parts that are uniquely Eastern European came back as whatever was closest in the reference panel.
Anyway, that is several explanations for how both the ancestry results can be correct (within the limit of the technology) and the family lore of being Italian can also be true. It’s also possible that your grandparents told your dad he was Italian, because that was somehow better than the truth…

I wouldn’t put much stock in the ancestry those tests come up with. Some of my aunts took one, and got back no German ancestry at all, despite Grandma being nothing but German on any of her lines of ancestry at least four generations back.

They’re also not percentage ancestry, but percentage expressed. To simplify it incredibly, let’s pretend your dad is half polish, half irish and your mom is half german and half italian. Your DNA test will not necessarily come back 1/4 all things. You might end up getting all of your dad’s irish markers and all of your mom’s german genes so you show up as half irish, half german and your last name is Wiklanski. Of course, the odds of that are low, but over multiple generations, little things like that happen.

Why not? Out of all the countries in Europe, Italy seems to have, for lack of a better word, all the coolest shit. The best food, the best art, the best climate, the coolest cars, the finest clothes…arguably the most melodic sounding language…the most well-documented connections to ancient history probably of any country in Europe…

…even if your ancestors from Italy were poor peasants, you can still claim SOME kind of a connection to all this illustrious culture, because without farmers, none of it could have existed.

My daughter recently sent her DNA to 23andMe for analysis. When she texted me about it, I replied, “so, who’s your daddy?”

It was cool to see. Her results were exactly what I’d have predicted. Plus, they notified her about two first cousins (my brother’s son and daughter had their DNA done last year) as well as a second cousin who must be on her mom’s side and who I do not know.

indeed yes. The Modern national borders =/= genetics. Simple as that. no such thing as the ‘german genes’ only ‘some variations that are higher frequency in the populations in the modern germany.’ But it is statistical frequency.

The results of these tests, they are showing the statistical clumping based on the body of results they have.

very useful for people to read to understand.

Well, the French will certainly argue about the best food, clothes and art, the Germans about the cars…:stuck_out_tongue:

Mid Hat On

If you think the 23andMe tests are problematic or not worth doing skip this thread. Coming in an announcing it is threadshitting.

And the Italians will beat them both at arguing, too.

My apologies.

My kids are doing it. I may. When I see what they have. It’s kinda scary. Secrets will be revealed. The location of the cabbage patch I picked them from might surprise. Eeekk!

Your percentages may change as they expand and reinterpret their database. I took the test through Ancestry, and my results showed a substantial amount of Nigerian heritage, about 30%. A few months ago, they updated their methods and sent new results. That 30% had decreased by 29%. That was the most dramatic shift, but every one of the percentages changed, and some of the regions dropped entirely out of my results and were replaced with others.