Ancestry, 23 and Me, Family Tree DNA, and Me
I suppose it is natural for people, men in particular, to view their heritage primarily based on their surname. After all, it is the male line that typically carried, and continues to carry, the family name through generation after generation without nearly as much regard for the equally important (perhaps more important) maternal lines back to the past. I know I have, until recently, thought of my surname as my primary link to my ancestors, and that is where I have always concentrated my genealogy research. Of course, I have always been aware that my ancestors follow many family lines back into the past. But it wasn’t until the results of my Ancestry and 23 and Me results were available that I could fully appreciate that my surname is not anywhere near the whole truth, in fact it is only a small part of the truth. Thanks in no small way to these DNA tests I can no longer think of my ancestry as primarily having one path back to the past; I now better appreciate and understand that my lineage is complex and diverse. I am the result of many lines, all of which contributed to the unique DNA that describes me. And, thanks to the DNA tests and the tools they have available, I can now more fully explore and understand all the genealogical threads that live within my DNA.
I do not profess to be knowledgeable with regard to DNA testing, genetics, etc. In fact, what I know amounts to about a teaspoon out of the ocean of knowledge that exists. But the little I now understand has opened my eyes much wider to a complex world of knowledge about my relatives and their origins.
Up until I received my DNA test results, I believed that I was primarily of Dutch descent. After all, the generally accepted progenitor of the Sutfin/Sutphen/Sutphin families in this country was Dirck Jansen van Zutphen who apparently immigrated to the U.S. from Holland circa 1645. There have been tons of genealogical research detailing Dirck’s various descendants and their families. Much of this research is proven and well documented, but a lot of it is still in the realm of thought-to-be-true, strong circumstantial evidence, or just out-and-out speculation. But all that is not the point of my discourse, so I will move on to some of what I have learned about the results of my DNA studies.
One of my major goals is to see if I can establish for certain that I descend from Dirck Jansen van Zutphen. With that in mind, I will primarily be dealing with my Dutch origins.
Using my Ancestry and 23 and Me DNA results with their associated tools, as well as information from folks with whom I share some amount of DNA and who participate in these efforts, I am hoping that one day I can reasonably be sure of my Sutphin ancestry. [Warning: information in the family trees of many folks is based on speculation, hearsay, and family lore and is not substantiated by factual documentation; proceed with caution is my motto.] So let’s see what these resources can do to help in my quest.
My Sutphin line is well established and proven back to my great-great-great-grandfather William Sutphin, Sr. (born in New Jersey circa 1761). While there is some pretty good circumstantial evidence that his father was Christopher Sutphin (born 1737 in New Jersey and later located in Northern Virginia), that has not been proven. With that in mind, off we go into the results of my genetic testing.
My Ancestry findings indicate that my ethnicity is as follows:
England, Wales, and Northwestern Europe – 87%
Ireland and Scotland – 6%
France – 4%
Norway – 3%
According to these results and the associated Ancestry ethnicity map (when expanded to show more detail), the Northwestern Europe portion does include central and southern Holland. Whew!! At least there is a little Dutch in me to go along with my surname, according to Ancestry.
Looking at my Ancestry DNA matches and Ancestry Thrulines, I find over 105,500 folks with whom I share some portion of my DNA. Of that number some 5700 are listed as having more DNA in common with me, i.e. closer relatives. Of course, these matches include people from all my familial lines, both paternal and maternal relatives. Trying to establish which of these folks are just in my paternal line is quite a challenge, one that is posing an ongoing struggle. I obviously need some learned guidance if I am going to pursue this line or research. Since most of the researchers that show some sort of DNA match have surnames other than mine, how do I refine and focus on just those people who have Sutfin/Sutphen/Sutphin DNA? Thrulines do help, but I have found very few folks who seem to link to the above-mentioned Christopher Sutphin outside of what I believe to be my direct line back to him. They must exist, but how do I find them?
Now for the 23 and Me results.
Percent British & Irish ancestry – 60.3.
United Kingdom – Highly Likely Match
Ireland – Likely Match
Percent French & German ancestry: 19.0.
Match Confidence level for Germany – Highly Likely Match
Match Confidence level for Switzerland – Likely Match
Match Confidence level for Austria – Not Detected
Match Confidence level for Belgium – Not Detected
Match Confidence level for France – Not Detected
Match Confidence level for Luxembourg – Not Detected
Match Confidence level for Netherlands – Not Detected
Yikes, no Dutch here!!
Percent Scandinavian ancestry: 5.2.
Percent Broadly Northwestern European ancestry: 13.2.
The remaining 3% or so is a sprinkling of other areas.
So, what am I to believe now? Ancestry says I have some Dutch DNA… but 23 and Me says no way.
But wait, if you read the 23 and Me definition of Broadly Assigned Categories (in my case Broadly Northwestern European) it states: “Some pieces (or segments) of your DNA may resemble those of reference populations from multiple places around the world. For example, if a segment of your DNA matches reference DNA from many different European countries but not from outside of Europe, then we label your DNA “Broadly European.” Further it states: “Broadly assigned ancestry can tell a different story about your genetic history than narrowly assigned ancestry. Your DNA segments with broadly assigned ancestry may match reference individuals from a relatively wide range of ancestral populations – possibly reflecting widespread migrations that occurred earlier than the timeframe for our Ancestry Composition algorithm. However, broadly assigned ancestries could also be capturing unique populations for which we don’t currently have data.”
Are there any lawyers out there that can help me interpret all that ‘cover their hind parts’ jargon?
Okay, so let me see if I can get this straight… on the one hand they say no Dutch was detected, but on the other hand they say my DNA could be broadly associated with Northwestern Europe which does include Holland. Scratching my head here. Guess I will have to wait and see if 23 and Me refines their analysis or if Ancestry recants their results at some point. At this time, I still think I have some Dutch in me. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it for now.
23 and Me indicates that there are some 1400 relatives to me in their database. When I search for my surname or Sutfin and Sutphen, there are no matches. I do see some relatives there that I know are in my direct line, but how do I determine if any of the other matches tie back to Christopher Sutphin, or Dirck Jansen van Zutphen. I haven’t a clue and I would love some guidance as to how I can narrow my search.
If only I had a list of Sutfins/Sutphens/Sutphins who are not in my direct line and who have DNA results that have been documented back to Christopher, that would go a long way in proving that he is indeed my 4th great-grandfather.
So far, I have not discussed the results from Family Tree DNA. I participated in this study many years ago, and there are DNA matches there… but only very distant ones. I share DNA with a few Sutfins/Sutphens/Sutphins at that resource, but it is not clear to me how closely we are related. From what I see they are distant relationships at best. As a novice at genealogy, this resource has not been of much help to me thus far. This may well be due to my ignorance of how to interpret the results from that resource.
After all the testing I have more questions than answers. If anyone out there can provide some guidance I would certainly appreciate the help.
Thanks for reading this and best of luck if you are tracing your roots.