Since my last update two years back, there's been another iteration of my Ancestry DNA result. And I took a Y-DNA test to help me break through the brick wall of my Burnett line. Get comfy, put on your lab coat, and let's do some science!
First, the Ancestry update, pictured here:
Germanic Europe also dropped, from 12% to just 2%
And Finland and Eastern Europe/Russia both popped up at 1%
My current Scandinavian mix is definitely odd. I am legitimately 37.5% Swedish and Danish; those countries represent three of my eight great grandparents. Ergo, 37.5%! But that's it, no other ancestors are geographically close. So even if all of their genetic contribution made it into my DNA, a near statistical impossibility, it really should be closer to that previous 36%. And that doesn't even take into account Norway, which I mentioned in my previous update.
Anyway. Ancestry's DNA test is an autosomal DNA test, which takes into account both sides of your family tree, but only for about five or six generations. Which makes those geographic anomalies all the more perplexing if you have a well-documented family tree for the last couple hundred years. Apart from some brick walls, mine is. And between what's documented and what's historically known about migration patterns (e.g., if you find three consecutive generations born in Sweden in the 1800s, for example, it's pretty likely the previous generation was from there too) there shouldn't be too many geographic surprises.
While waiting for Ancestry's last biennial update, I was also persuaded to take a Y-DNA test, which only tests Y (male) chromosomes. So rather than including your entire family tree, it basically goes from your father to his father to his father, and for centuries rather than a few generations. With my Burnett line coming to a dead end in exactly six generations at Isaac Burnett (1780 - May 1860), I need help.
Isaac had ten children, and they--and their spouses and children--are all accounted for. His wife, Deborah Grindle (25 Feb 1784 - bef 1870), through her mother, Hannah Lowell (23 Jan 1759 - 1802), leads me back to my "Gateway" ancestor, whose line takes me all the way back to English royalty, which I wrote about here. Yet, despite researching for years to find Isaac Burnett's parents, or a sibling, or anyone, I've had no success. He just shows up in Maine in 1780, apparently out of nowhere.
Diligent readers will note a couple things: that these are Irish surnames, and I have no Irish DNA. And that out of over two hundred matches, just two had the surname Burnett, when the majority should have. Your father then his father then his father, remember?
Despite the "Burnett Project" having 37 distinct Haplogroup categories, with further subgroups ("Descendants of Thomas Burnett b 1785 Workington England & Sarah Outterside," or "John Burnett and his wife Lucretia"), I fit into none of them. No other Burnetts son of Burnetts match with me. So either I was a fascinating anomaly, an entirely new line!--possible, but unlikely, as Grandpa Isaac had ten children, and they all had between four and ten (so many Nathaniels and Isaacs and Marys and Deborahs), the broods decreasing slightly through the generations--or...
My mentor did have one suggestion, and out popped another bit of genealogical argot, this one an acronym: "NPE." It's short for "Non-Paternal Event," a polite way of saying "oopsie." Or bastard. That one I understood.
Apparently that is one of the most common consequences of a surprising, if historical Y-DNA test result. It's like an episode of "Springer," but on PBS. She discretely asked if I had considered this--which I hadn't.
What then? The next suggestion was to try to locate another living, male Burnett descendant (through male descendants) of Isaac Burnett, and have them get a Y-DNA test as well. If we matched, then we were a brand new Burnett line! It seems like more of an honor than it is, though, because it would get us no further in our lineage. I've tried a few leads, but none of them have responded.
That would explain the autosomal DNA matches to Isaac's children; the DNA would be from wife Deborah, or possibly even Isaac, as he would actually be my 5x gg, not 4x. But the male to male to male Y-DNA would no longer be Burnett.
I dug through the US Federal Census pages for Newport, Maine for 1820 and 1830. The population now of Newport is about 3500; it was even less then. I expanded my search to the few neighboring cities, looking for any likely Grandpa Martin, Donnelly, Mullican, O'Toole.... I didn't find any.
|Newport, Maine a few generations later. |
No Burnetts, or any other relevant surnames.
I may never know. Science keeps improving, more records get discovered and digitized every day, more people are becoming interested in finding their roots. So I'm hopeful.
If nothing else, we've got another Ancestry update next year to look forward to.