My “Norwegianness” has been refined. Ancestry has been updating DNA estimates again, placing me in five distinct subgroups of Norwegian DNA. That’s pretty … specific. This is mostly confirmation of known info, but the named sub-categories should provide more specific clues, especially about the female Norwegian ancestors who are less known to me because their names are less common in the records. Ancestry is also tracing historic migration from Norway to the United States.
Each time Ancestry updates its estimates, it seems to get closer to my documented history. It was never that far off, but it is closer now than it was in the beginning, so they must be doing something right.
This is the second DNA update I’ve had from Ancestry, with this one focused on Scandinavia. My overall Norwegian portion was also slightly reduced in favor of Germanic Europe and England/Northwest Europe. This is probably more accurate. Norway is no longer my largest percentage. Germanic Europe is. These shifts, however, are less than 5 percent one way or another, so … not that dramatic.
My family history says I should be about half Dutch and a quarter Norwegian, with the remaining quarter split between Danish and English. With Ancestry’s most recent update, about half of me comes from Germanic and Northwest Europe (both encompassing at least part of the Netherlands, so right on target), a little more than a quarter is Norwegian (also right on target), and the remainder is English, Swedish, Irish/Scottish. It is almost like magic how accurate this is.
I have no known Swedish ancestors, despite a Swedish percentage of 8 percent, but my working theory is that this “Swedish” percentage is capturing my Danish line, with these two populations being genetically closely related. It helps to look at the map of Swedish DNA (at right), which encompasses most of Denmark, sharing that country with “Germanic Europe.” Ancestry has no separate DNA category for Denmark, as far as I know. I’d be interested in hearing from others with Danish ancestry about how that history is reflected in their DNA results. Sweden? Germanic Europe? Both? Something else?
England/Northwest Europe also covers a lot of territory, including both England and part of the Netherlands, so while it probably includes my actual English ancestors, it will also capture some of my Dutch ones. It makes sense that this would now be one of my three largest categories.
My mother’s previous results reflected a Norwegian percentage of 4 percent … no doubt dating back many generations, as she has no known Norwegian ancestors, only Dutch ones. Her results remain unchanged so far with this update. My late father’s results, by contrast, saw a single percentage point increase in his Norwegian portion. His results have always indicated he was more Norwegian by heritage than anything else. Uff da. He is also in the same five Norwegian subgroups that I am in. No surprise.
One addition to the Norwegian DNA reporting with this update is the tracing of migration patterns from Norway to America (see 1850 and 1875, below). Again, they pretty much nailed my family history. It is interesting to see what Ancestry comes up with each time it updates. Sometimes my results are unchanged, and sometimes they are refined, but they have rarely been dramatically altered (“rarely” is not the same as never, as they have significantly reduced my Irish percentage).
It is fair to question the significance of all of this … all of these categories and sub-categories … beyond idle curiosity. DNA results serve as a check on the accuracy of documented and oral histories, provide historical context for migration patterns … and help to narrow which paths are likely to be the fruitful in finding any still-elusive ancestors. Because of the complexity of Norwegian naming traditions, tracing female Norwegian ancestors has been a particularly daunting task for me. I am hoping this most recent narrowing of geographic areas of origin will help some with that, especially for those ancestors who immigrated to the United States and adopted their husbands’ surnames. From the start, I’ve believed DNA categories should be approached with cautious skepticism, especially if they rely to any extent on self-reported histories, and this is still my approach … despite their surprising accuracy with my own results.