14 March 2013

My First Look at DNA

It came! It came!

The results from my father’s AncestryDNA test came back, and I was ever so excited to see it. Here is how the Brown family breaks down in terms of genetic ethnicity:
  • British Isles: 43%
  • Eastern European: 25%
  • Central European: 23%
  • Scandinavian: 9%

AncestryDNA Results

I like how the DNA results compare to the family tree information I currently have on the site in my personal research. When comparing the DNA results to what I have in my database, you can see there are some gaps and some consistencies. The birth locations I have in my family tree currently break down like this:
  • USA 34%
  • Sweden 30%
  • Poland 15%
  • Russia 15%
  • Other 6%
Essentially, I feel really good about how the results came back, because it confirms most of my research on a certain level. It tells me I’m on the right path to finding more clues on my ancestors, and that confirmation is nice to have. No surprises, and although at first I was admittedly a tad disappointed, after some contemplation time, I can see how much positive information I can gain from this evaluation.

The big question for me was this: can DNA help me learn more about my brick wall ancestor, Oscar F. Brown. He was born in New York, but I have not been able to confirm the identity of his parents. (Read all about Oscar here!)  The answer? Yes, I think it will help. I know that I need to continue to focus my search in the same ways that I have been. With a name like Oscar Brown, I have always had in the back of my mind that his origins go back to Central Europe, and the DNA test seems to support that to a degree. The test supports my research plan as it is currently laid out.

Sarah (Evans) Lawrence, presumably
with one of her children.
Photo: Personal Collection of Author
So far, I have been able to find one positive match – a new 4th cousin through my great grandaunt, Mary Josephine Lawrence (sister to Oscar’s wife, Frances E Lawrence). I’m excited to connect with this researcher and learn more about their side of the family, see if they have any new clues on Mary and Frances’ parents: John Horatio Lawrence and Sarah Evans. I have had the pleasure of meeting other descendants from the Lawrence side, and have always had very positive experiences. I hope this turns out the same!

What’s next?

My maternal side. I had one of my Uncles – my Mom’s brother – take a test as well. For him, we utilized a different service, so I could compare notes on the pros/cons of how two of the major players in the DNA game work. Of course, the sale price from FamilyTreeDNA helped convince him. Actually, he was pretty willing from the first moment we asked, and has been very open to the idea. I am hoping to learn more about my Irish heritage with this test, as I have at least one line that can be traced back to the Emerald Isle. My 2nd great-grandfather, Patrick Henry McGowan (1854-1924) and his mother, Bridget (father unknown) were both born there, we think. I’m also hoping to be able to explore more of the German side of the family:  Although I know quite a bit about the Heerten side of the family, all my knowledge begins when they step foot for the first time in the U.S. Before that, I pretty much just have “Germany” and that’s where it stops.  

Perhaps too much to expect from one little test? 

While I wait, I shall read. I have been slowly trying to grasp the major concepts behind the DNA study as it relates to genealogy, and I will continue to do so. I’m looking forward to a DNA session or two at the NGS Conference in Vegas, also.

The only thing so far in this experience that has been negative is the quantity of emails I have been receiving from other AncestryDNA customers. There are as many reasons to take a test like this as there are researchers, so please, stop sending me generic emails telling me to make my family tree on Ancestry.com public (vs the private setting I have now). I have a whole list of reasons to keep it private, and DNA will not change that! I’m more than willing to compare notes to see if there is a connection; I love finding new cousins! But you have to say “please” and “thank you” just like my four year old does. Sorry, that’s just how I roll.

After that, I really want my husband to do a test. We know very little of his birth father, and literally nothing of his paternal history.  I think he might have a bit of Italian in him, so I'm incredibly curious to see what that might tell us. 

What's on your DNA to-do list? Have any awesome websites or learning resources to share? I'd love to see them. 


  1. How exciting! Have you searched for Surname DNA studies? On my husband's side we have found several links that took us further back.
    Re your uncle's DNA test, would that not trace only his paternal line?
    One more thing, Patrick was born and baptised in Pittsburgh. His father James was born in Ireland. Bridget's father was Michael Conlin....but that's a whole nuther blog :-)

  2. Jen,

    I just wanted to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2013/03/follow-fridayfab-finds-for-march-15-2013.html

    Have a great weekend!

    1. Thank you so much, Jana! Very appreciated. Have a great weekend, yourself! ~ Jen

  3. Thank you for sharing these results with us. I'm especially interested to see the correlation with your family tree information. My family tree is private, too, and I see that you've been pressured to make yours public by other AncestryDNA customers. Does this mean AncestryDNA has been sharing your paternal DNA information with them so that you can all compare notes? That's one of the things I think about, and I'm not sure how I feel.

    I too am trying to get my head around the major concepts of DNA study. I registered for FGS, and I see they have three presentations on the subject. I've read MIke Maglio's articles, and that has helped a lot. But once I get to the fan charts, the subject gets a bit overwhelming.

    I notice the test doesn't distinguish English, Irish, and Scots. Our "Irish" ancestry line stops at the water's edge--and past hired genealogists have guessed English, Irish, and Welsh. We don't know. A DNA test wouldn't help us find out, it seems.

    Thanks for your post--it helped "ground" me in this subject.


Please comment! I would love to hear your thoughts!