DNA–More Surprises

Last post, I shared and explained the results of my mother, two of her sisters, and one brother.  The results were similar enough to show they were related, but each had differences that added color and mystery to our family tree.  I’m still perplexed by the Italian/Greek!

Mom’s first cousin, Marcia, took a test, as did Marcia’s nephew Ryan.  These are all Billingsleys (my mother’s paternal line) and we share the Billingsley-Brown, Morris-Walker ancestry.  What one immediately learns is that if Mom has a match who also matches Marcia and Ryan, then this is almost certainly a Billingsley match.  Note I said “almost.”  There is always a possibility that a random match matches my mom on her mother’s line, and matches Marcia on her mother’s line.  It’s just a coincidence that they show up together, leading me to believe there’s a Billingsley connection when there is not.  This actually has occurred.  My mother has a match on her mother’s Montooth line who is a match on Marcia’s mother’s Ashwood line.  So, the match shows up for both Marcia and Mom, but it is not on their common, shared line of Billingsley.   Our home county of Schuyler (IL) is quite inter-related, so this isn’t a surprise.  (Ancestry does not provide a chromosome browser, but Gedmatch.com does.  At that site and FamilytreeDNA, one can actually see which spot on which chromosome matches and make definite conclusions on relationship.)


The make up our our country is largely from Great Britain and Western Europe–or our immigrant ancestors were mostly from those regions.  It is logical to assume most of our DNA would also come from those regions of the world.  It is not surprising that mom and her siblings would match Marcia (their first cousin) on Western Europe, Ireland, and Great Britain.  There is a significant percentage of Scandinavian, too.  There is also Iberian Peninsula and Italy/Greece.  This would lead us to believe that the Italian/Greek and the Spanish or Portuguese ancestor is from the Billingsley side of the tree.  Obviously, the Finland/Northwest Russia is from Marcia’s mother’s side–that region did not show up on any of my aunts and uncle.

Marcia’s nephew, Ryan, also tested.


He is another generation away from the common ancestors, so his DNA will have the additional mix of his mother, as well as non-Billingsley grandparents.  Definitely, the Finland/Northwest Russian must be from his paternal grandmother’s line–it is not Billingsley blood (it does not show up on my side of the family) but it does show up with his aunt.

The Scandinavian is much higher in Ryan–perhaps his mother has Scandinavian blood too.  Ryan does show European Jewish, but it did not show up with Marcia.  That could mean that the Jewish DNA is not from the Billingsley line, or it could mean that Ryan’s dad got the Jewish DNA while dad’s sister (Marcia) did not.  Jewish only showed up in two of the four tested family members on my side of the family.  (I do believe the Jewish ancestry is on the Billingsley side of our pedigree.)

Ryan and Marcia are from my mother’s paternal side of the family.  Below are the results of Eldon and Ada who are from mom’s maternal side.


Eldons’ results come from FamilytreeDNA.  Their regions are grouped slightly differently.  Ireland is included in the British Isles.  Asia Minor would be part of Ancestry’s Middle Eastern but also the Caucasus.  Eldon’s results show a lot of Scandinavian.  His results also show Middle Eastern ancestry.  It seems clear that my mother’s Middle Eastern DNA comes from the Beghtol side.


Aunt Ada’s DNA starts off like Eldon’s, but with Southern Europe over Western Europe.  Ada also has some Asian DNA–it borders on the Middle Eastern.

Another cousin from the Beghtol line is Don Schroder.


Don is a distant cousin, and the only common line we have is the Beghtol line.  He shows Finland/Northwest Russia–that’s not in my line.   He shows some of the trace regions of my mom.  So it is inconclusive if the Italian/Greek is from the paternal or maternal side, or both.  But Don does show Caucasus.  I suspect that the Middle Eastern, Central Asian, Caucasus designations are actually all one–there’s just an overlap which has not been dissected yet.

In the beginning of my DNA studies, I lamented that all the kits did was create more brick walls in my research, connections that I could not explain.  That is quite true.  But DNA also has the ability to unlock secrets and reveal something you never knew.  It looks like all the participants have Scandinavian ancestors, and probably on both maternal and paternal lines.  Aunt Ada has 33% Scandinavian which suggests a close ancestor was from Norway.  I know of no such ancestor on Ada’s line, but now I will be on the look out for one.  There is one Norwegian ancestor on the Billingsley side–Hans Hansen van Bergen from Bergen, Norway.  He came to the colonies in the 1600s.  There must be other Scandinavians in the family–hiding up in the branches of the family tree.

It’s fun to speculate, but we really want answers.  As science perfects its understanding of DNA, we will get solid answers.  As more people test, we will get better analysis.

One of the goals of modern-day family historians is to DNA test the oldest members of your family first–before it’s too late and they are gone.  My grandparents were gone by the time DNA came around, but I did test my maternal grandmother’s brother and her aunt before they passed away.  Another cousin is working on testing my grandfather’s brothers or sisters.  My paternal grandparents are also deceased.  My grandpa has a couple of half-brothers in California–I’d like to see one of them test.  My paternal grandmother was the only daughter of her parents, but she had many half-brothers and sisters.  I will have to rely on the children and grandchildren of these half-siblings to carry on our DNA studies.  Even if you are not a genealogist, you probably know someone in your family who is–I bet they would love for you to test, or pay for a great-aunt/uncle or grandparent to test.

I am fortunate to have near relatives interested enough in the family history to have tested and shared their results with me.  I say a special “Thank you” to these cousins for allowing me to include their results in this article.


DNA–What Surprises We Find

DNA genealogy is still new; but if you are researching your family without it, you are missing out.  There are connections that can be made that only DNA can uncover and prove.  It’s scientific!

Of course, there’s the possibility of uncovering something that is not pleasant, but that is all part of the journey of discovering our ancestors.

I have the privilege to have my mother, three of her siblings, her uncle, and his aunt (mom’s great-aunt) to all participate in DNA collection for genealogical purposes.  Swabbing your cheeks or spitting in a vial are not necessarily pretty requests; I thank all who have participated.

Ethnicity results are a popular draw for doing these tests.  Finding out what percentage White, Black, Native American, Asian, and so on, is intriguing to many.  Surprising to some!  Even, sometimes, upsetting to a few.

So, what have we learned?

Here is my mother’s ethnicity break down.


Billingsley is an old English surname, so seeing Great Britain is no shocker, but only 3% British?  That seems low.  Her most represented areas are Western Europe (that could include England, but definitely France), Ireland, and Scandinavia.  The trace regions are the surprises, and the mysteries:  Italy/Greece–I have no idea which ancestor that could be; Eastern Europe–maybe a clue. Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) and European Jewish–well, there is a legend:  Two of my mother’s ancestral families, the Rapaljes and the OpDenGraeffs (and those two names can be spelled many different ways) are purported to have been Cryptic Jews.  They left Spain in the late 1400s when the Catholic king ordered all Jews to convert to Christianity or leave.  Some stayed and secretly practiced their faith.  Others fled to North Africa, the Netherlands, France, and elsewhere, eventually making it to the colonies of the future United States. According to a 2010 article by Vicky Moon, link here http://www.genealogy.com/forum/surnames/topics/roosa/415/, my ancestor, Joris Jansen Raplaje may have been the descendant of Jews who fled the Spanish Inquisition.  Another family in our lineage, the OpDenGraeffs are also described as originally Jews from Spain or Portugal.  A link here http://familypedia.wikia.com/wiki/Op_den_Graeff_(surname) will help those interested in studying this line.

So, the Spanish and Jewish percentages might be true.  At less than one percent, this connection is more than seven generations back, and our link to the Rapaljes is 13 generations back through our Morris-Aten line.

Perhaps most surprising is my mother’s  indication of Middle Eastern ancestry.  Notice from the map that Middle Eastern includes part of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, north to Turkey and Georgia.  There are overlapping areas in these cultural boundaries.  Middle Eastern might mean Egyptian or Arabian, but it might mean Turkish.

My mother’s sister, Diann, tested last year.  Her results are below.


Aunt Di shows Western Europe, Ireland, and a much larger percentage of Great Britain than my mother.  Trace regions include Scandinavia and the Iberian Peninsula.  No Jewish is found; neither is any Middle Eastern or Asian.

Aunt Gina’s results are next.


Aunt Gina shows up more Irish than her sisters.  Western Europe, Great Britian, Scandinavia and Italy/Greece show up, similar to my mother.  Aunt Gina’s West Asian ancestry states Caucasus.  Looking at the graphic, we see that according to the map, it overlaps a large portion of my mother’s Middle Eastern area.

I was sharing my results with a class, and the obvious question arose:  If they are sisters, why are their results different?  I heard a chuckle, and one student whispered, “Maybe different dads.”  Before we disparage my grandmother, let me explain that DNA is a tricky entity.  It breaks down and recombines differently each time a baby is conceived.  You get half of your DNA from your father (that’s the Y) and half from your mother (that’s the X).  But, you have to remember that your parents are half of Grandpa and half of Grandma.  If you are only receiving half of your parent, you could (and will) receive different portions of that half.  My mother’s grandparents were Billingsley, Morris, Beghtol, and Phillips.  Mom might get more Beghtol DNA, whereas Aunt Di might get more Morris, and Aunt Gina more Phillips.  The DNA tests will show that they are all related, but they might not all have the same Beghtol genes in their blood (or saliva, as tested by AncestryDNA).  Furthermore, let’s say that the Middle Eastern comes from the Beghtol side, but Aunt Di got very little DNA from her grandfather’s Beghtol side and mostly from his mother’s side.  Mom will show that Middle Eastern Beghtol, while Aunt Diann will show none.

All of that is to point out that, IF one of the sisters has Middle Eastern or Asian in her DNA, they all have Middle Eastern and Asian in their ancestry–it just didn’t show up in the test.  But we also must remember, the overlapping geographical areas and migration of groups throughout history.

Recently, mom’s brother, Mike, was tested.  Mike

His ethnic percentages, although different amounts, certainly confirm an Italian or Greek ancestor somewhere in the family tree.  Which branch?  Uncle Mike showed a little more Spanish or Portuguese than Mom.  And then, matching Aunt Gina, he also shows West Asian, Caucasus, as a trace region.

Here is a five-generation chart of my mother’s family tree.


If you are 50% of each parent, then roughly you would be 25% of your grandparents, 12.5 of the greats, 6.25 of the great-greats, and you can figure out the math from there.  Robert Joseph Billingsley’s mother and father were both of English families, but his grandmother had one strange last name, Mewshaw–it’s origin is still a mystery.  Brown is Irish, Grewell is French.  Morris is likely Welsh, and the Atens were from Belgium.  Walker is direct from England.  Ackman is probably Dutch.  Beghtol is German, but the y-DNA goes back to the Middle East.  Collins is unknown.  Fry is supposedly German.  The Green line sounds English, and up that line are the Shavers–no idea, but that line is my best link to Native American.  The Phillips line is definitely Welsh.  Oh, look, a second Billingsley line, so one of the brothers or sisters could get a little more Billingsley than the rest.  Montooth is from Donegal, Ireland; Sloan is from Dublin.

Why do I not have any Native American in my ancestry?  It’s always been reported that the Beghtol side was part Indian.  Well, so far, DNA shows that there is no Native DNA in my family’s blood.  But recall that as the generations descend, the DNA is thinned out.  If I had a Native American ancestor past eight or nine generations, it almost surely would not show up unless it were my father’s y-DNA or my mother’s mitochondrial-DNA line.

This has been very exciting.  It is intriguing to wonder who those mystery ancestors might be.  It is also nice to have some confirmation of French ancestry.

In the next blog, I’ll share details of mom’s uncle’s and great-aunt’s ethnicity percentages, and how some first and second cousins matched up.