Sunday, 20 August 2017

My DNA Analysis -- Part 3

See Part 1 of this series to find out what I knew about my
family background before having a DNA test done. See Part 2 of this series for the results of my first test.

As I mentioned in my previous post in this series, I eventually decided to get my DNA tested again through a different company. It was a difficult decision to make -- the cost was even higher and, to be frank, I think Husband thought I was a little mad. But I had to know.

The second analysis was done through 23andMe, a company based in the U.S. The process was exactly the same as the other test. Because the kit was sent to me and sent back via courier, it was actually much faster than through AncestryDNA. The kit arrived at their lab within 3 days, and I had my results 3 weeks later. The analysis from 23andMe has reports from 4 different areas, not just my ancestry analysis, so I was interested to see what those were, too. (U.S. customers have access to health reports too, but these are not available for Australian customers. Some kind of annoying legal thing, typical...)

Here is my summary result:

And my detailed result:

British & Irish: 55.5% (includes U.K., Irish)
French & German: 15.2% (includes Austrian, French, German, Belgian, Dutch, Swiss)
Scandinavian: 0.8% (includes Danish, Norwegian, Swedish)
Broadly Northwestern European: 27.8%
Broadly European: 0.6%

North African: < 0.1% (includes Algerian, Bahrani, Bedouin, Egyptian, Jordanian, Kuwaiti, Moroccan, Mozabite, Palestinian, Saudi Arabian, Tunisian, Emirati, Yemeni)

Broadly Sub-Saharan African: < 0.1%

Native American: < 0.1% (includes Colombian, Karitiana, Maya, Pima, Surui)

If you've read my previous post about my results from AncestryDNA, you'll notice a few differences!

There is no Caucasian or South Asian DNA in this set of results. There's a lot less British, and barely any Scandinavian. There is no trace of Finnish or Russian in this set. However, there is African and -- a huge surprise -- Native American. However, remembering what I learned from my previous test, I reminded myself that these results are all probabilites, not definites.

The way the analysis is done is different too. My DNA is compared to samples from 31 regions, rather than 26 with AncestryDNA. The regions are split up differently, too -- British and Irish are one entity in this set. "French and German" is broadly equivalent to Western European in the other set, but the boundaries are different. My DNA was compared with 10,000 samples, which is more than Ancestry's sample size of 3,000, and of course the sample set comes from different people, so therefore the results could be different.

When I started looking deeper into these results, I saw that the way probability was handled is different. My data is displayed in the form of a 'Chromosome Painting.' I can choose the probability certainty of the results using a slider: from 50% through to 90%. 50% is the default, and this is what was displayed when I first saw my results. It means that for every piece of DNA examined, there was a 50% chance that it matched with a specific regional group. Actually, 50% doesn't seem a very high percentage to me! When I played with the slider, things looked very different.

Here is the slider set to 80%:

Now, the percentage of British & Irish DNA has dropped to 16.1%. The broader categories have risen. All of the lower-ranked regions have been relegated to the 'Unassigned' basket. Even with the slider set to 60%, the Native American portion of my DNA was shunted over to 'Unassigned'. It took a little while for this to sink in, but eventually this fact clicked in my brain:

Less than 1% of my DNA could be Native American, and
of that less-than-1%, there's a 40-50% chance it's from somewhere else.

And where that 'somewhere else' is, nobody knows. Perhaps I should be upset by this vague and unlikely result, but I'm not. It just confirms how difficult it is to pin down our DNA heritage.

This series of posts isn't meant to be a review or comparison of the two different tests. Both have different criteria, and different ways of displaying the results, neither of which is better than the other, I think. This website has a very comprehensive page on all the companies that offer genetic testing (currently 5). All offer slightly different services, so it's up to the individual to decide which one to choose. Apparently some hardcore genealogy fans have had tests done through all five!

Having a DNA analysis done is an experience that's hard to describe. It's a very emotional experience. Perhaps the emotions are different depending on whether you get along with your family or not, but they're there nevertheless. There's a chance that your DNA heritage could be different from your cultural heritage, and this could impact on your relationship with your family. There's also a financial component -- the test costs between $180 and $250, depending on the company. It's a big investment, and you want it to be worth it.

If you're thinking of having a DNA analysis done, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

* Decide what kind of results you are looking for first: genetic testing, genealogy research, getting in touch with relatives, etc. and choose your service based on this.
* Don't expect precise results. DNA technology can't (and probably won't ever) be able to give you answers beyond a certain probability.
* Let go of any expectations. You may not be what you thought you were. Treat the analysis as a fact-finding mission, not a confirmation of what you think you know.

I, according to the results, am more Neanderthal than most people:

Thursday, 17 August 2017

My DNA Analysis -- Part 2

See Part 1 of this series to find out what I knew about my family background before having the DNA test done.

Last year, individual ancestry reports via DNA analysis became available in Australia through AncestryDNA. I don't know very much about my ancestry and have always wanted to know more, so as soon as I heard about them, I very much wanted to have the report done.

The details of collecting the sample are slightly unsavoury, so I didn't take any photos. I received a kit with a tube in it, which I had to spit into until it reached a certain level. Then I sealed the tube into a bag and sent it back using the provided post satchel. After approximately 5 weeks, I received an email notifying me that my results were available and ready to see on the website.


Here is the summary graph of my DNA analysis:

Looking at the summary results, I could only come to the conclusion that I'm not what I thought I was. When I emailed the results to my Mum, I think she was a little shocked. She responded "after all you are 50% Dutch and as far as I know, the only mix on that side is some German and Swedish." (I didn't even know about the Swedish part before reading that email!) Surely then, my ancestry should have more Dutch in it and less British? It left me feeling very confused. When I looked further into the results however, I saw that things were much more complicated.

The AncestryDNA test compared my DNA to that of 3,000 samples from 26 regions in the world, and these were the results (most likely result is in brackets):

Great Britain: 40-96% (67%)
Ireland: 0-30% (14%)
Scandinavia: 0-25% (9%)

(The following were listed under "low confidence regions")

EUROPE: cont.
European Jewish: 0-5% (2%)
Italy/Greece: 0-5% (2%)
Western Europe: 0-9% (< 1%)
Finland/Northwest Russia: 0-3% (< 1%)
Iberian Peninsula: 0-2% (< 1%)
Eastern Europe: 0-3% (< 1%)

WEST ASIA: Caucasus: 0-3% (< 1%)

SOUTH ASIA: India and Surrounds: 0-1% (< 1%)

As you can see from the percentages above, the results are both very vague and very specific at the same time. Many of the results have a range starting from zero. This happens because my DNA is chopped into 40 pieces and each piece is analysed separately. So, for example, some pieces had anywhere up to 96% Great British DNA, but none had less than 40%. At least one piece had zero Scandinavian DNA, and the rest anywhere up to 25%, but the average amount was 9%.

Any region that has less than 15% maximum and 4.5% average is listed under "low confidence". This means that I am much less likely to have DNA from these groups than I do from the higher-percentage groups. These regions are shown on the map as a ring rather than a solid circle:

In my report, extensive information about each region can be found by clicking on it. There is a map, and illustrated information about the history of the area, similar to a Wikipedia page. Probability is also plotted on these maps in the form of concentric rings. For example, here is the map for the Great Britain region:

There are 3 concentric circles on the map, reflecting the area that people from this region come from. The probability is highest that people in this DNA group come from the central area. The probability is lower the further out you go. Note that the second ring on the Great Britain map covers the Netherlands, Belgium and northern France.

The map for Western Europe (above) also covers the Netherlands area. So, there's a possibility that I could have Dutch DNA heritage from either of these regions ... or none. And where did the Caucasus and South Asian DNA come from? Did I have an ancestor that travelled to Europe along the Silk Road? It was an exciting thought, but I'll never know the answer.

Other, more sobering thoughts came to me as well. What if I don't have as much Dutch heritage as I thought? Are my Dutch ancestors migrants that came from somewhere else relatively recently? And if so, where did they come from? I never really related to Irish culture much, but I could be up to 30% Irish -- how do I reconcile that? As the website explains, a person can inherit more DNA from one parent than the other ... would I have to acknowledge that more of my DNA comes from the side of my family I don't get along with?

That's the frustrating thing about getting a DNA analysis done. I'll never know for sure. All of the statistics are just probabilities, and statistics can't tell the story of human lives. It niggled at me for a long time. I wondered if the results were correct, if the 40 pieces of DNA were a representative sample. I even wondered if the sample had been contaminated. That's why I eventually decided to get a second opinion.

In the next post, I'll talk about my experience with getting a second test done through a different company: 23andMe.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

My DNA Analysis -- Part 1

This post ended up being extremely long, so I've split it up into three parts. Today, I'll be talking about what I knew (or thought I knew...) before having the test done. Part Two will look at the results of my AncestryDNA test and why I decided to get a second test done. Part Three details the results of the 23andMe test and some final thoughts.

I don't know that much about my ancestry. Many of my family members are out of touch, and of the others, mental illness and other factors have led to confusion about what is actually correct. My grandparents on my mother's side never liked to talk about the past because of the bad experiences they went through in World War II, and I always respected that and didn't press them.

{Picture Source}

This is the sum total of what I knew (or thought I knew!) about my ancestry before sending away for the report.

On my father's side, the family comes from England and there was a Scottish connection, and possibly Welsh. I can't remember the details very well as I was told them when I was a small child and possibly remember the details wrongly. The first ancestor on that side of the family to come to Australia was a policeman; he arrived here in the 1850s.

On a side note, this caused some embarrassment to me as a child! In 1988, at the time of the 200-year anniversary of the 'discovery'/invasion of Australia, interest in ancestry surged. A list of the convicts on the First Fleet, the first Europeans to settle in Australia, was released, allowing people to trace their ancestry back to these original founders. It was 'cool' to have a convict ancestor. In that atmosphere, I was almost ashamed at having a policeman as an ancestor!

This isn't my actual ancestor: just for illustration purposes!

{Picture Source}

On my mother's side, my family come from the Netherlands. My mother was born there and travelled to Australia with her family as a baby, arriving in 1956. (I remember that detail precisely because it was the same year the Olympics were in Melbourne!) This makes me a second-generation migrant on one side. I know that my family come from the southern area of the Netherlands, and I still keep in touch with some of my maternal grandmother's family there. I've been told that some of my ancestors were from Belgium and I apparently had an Italian great-auntie, but she wasn't in the direct line of my ancestry.

From these snippets passed on from my family, I would expect my ancestry to be entirely European -- mostly Western and Northern European.

I do have to admit, I've always related to the Dutch side of my ancestry much more than the British side. I'm not in contact with anyone from my father's side and, growing up, I spent a lot more time with my Dutch relatives than my British ones. I was exposed to Dutch customs, food, music and even interior decoration to such an extant that I started thinking of myself as a 'Dutch-Australian' rather than 'half-Dutch Australian'. Even though I knew my DNA would only be half-Dutch at most, I have to confess, I did have a hope going into this adventure that my bias would be confirmed.

In my next post, we'll find out!

{Picture Source}

Sunday, 6 August 2017

My July

As I mentioned in my last post, this Winter has been a very cold one. I was sick through most of July, so I haven't done much. I did start a new craft project though, and have tried to pay attention to the things that make Winter my favourite season. (Or possibly second-favourite behind Autumn, I can never decide!)

What I've been making ...
I started a new crochet project -- a mat for oracle readings. I have a small mat for rune reading, but it's not suitable for cards, so I decided to make a larger one. I'm hoping to make it wide enough to accommodate 5 cards in a row, and perhaps do a border in a contrasting colour. The yarn was salvaged from a scarf that I started and then abandoned last year. It has a lustrous, silky feel to it which adds to the sense of it being special.

What I found ...
I did manage to go for some walks in between my foot getting better and then coming down with a cold. On one of them I found this huge, beautiful pincone, completely intact. What a gift!

Selections from Instagram

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Temperature Scarf : Update #4

I have been working on my scarf for 5 months now! I have to admit, I thought it would be longer by now.

It's been a very cold winter, so there's been a lot of blue (14-16o) and grey (11-13o). A couple of times -- where the red arrows are -- it was under 11o and I had to fish through my stash to find another colour to represent the cold! Melbourne isn't normally that cold, so I hadn't prepared it ahead of time. The grey doesn't stand out very well, so I might weave through a darker grey or silver thread to make it stand out more. One day earlier this week the temperature climbed up to 17o (yellow arrow). I had that feeling in my bones that Spring was coming. Birds sang at dawn, and the warm yet blustery wind that heralds Spring was blowing. It's way too early for Winter to end though, so it was unsettling. I'm glad the weather turned cold again. I want to enjoy Winter for as long as I can!

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Craft Is Important

Last year I wrote a post called Art Is Important. Of course, I believe that craft is important too, but I've suddenly realised that I'd lost sight of that in the last couple of years. I'd forgotten how important craft is in my life, and in society. I'd convinced myself that it doesn't matter if I use a five-dollar blanket from the supermarket instead of one I crocheted myself. That it's okay to settle for plastic coathangers in my wardrobe instead of ones with colourful knitted covers. That my clothes are so cheap and unloved, there's no point in embroidering them. I let impulse-bought junk pile up on my sewing table until it was unusable. I'd found myself saying things to my friends like, "oh, I'm too impatient to finish anything anymore." And I'd succumbed to the voices in my head that told me I can never make anything as nice as the things I see on the internet, so why bother even trying?

I tried to snap out of it with different plans and systems, creating elaborate spreadsheets with colour-coded sections and spending hours checking and tweaking them. I tried re-organising my projects to make it easier to access them. Nothing quite seemed to work. It would take more than a spreadsheet or fancy storage basket to change my mindset.

Slowly, a combination of influences has built up to create a change, though. Throughout this year I've been reading about fabric dyeing and embroidery on Rhiannon's blog, as well as many more talented crafters. I've had reason to go through my old blog posts from 10-12 years ago recently, and found myself thinking, "wow, I used to make so many good things!" Mentioning to my friend last week that "I don't finish anything anymore" was more than a little saddening, when I reflected on it. The "final straw" came a few days ago when I read a blog post by Bjørn Bull-Hansen: Your Viking Hands. He writes about the importance of knowing how to do and make things with your hands.

I daydream about leading a traditional lifestyle and enjoy reading about people who embody them. Bjørn's post is about Viking crafts, but it got me thinking about traditional crafts in general. I have a bit of a survivalist streak in me (more so recently), and I often think about things like permaculture, bartering, and local currencies. I realised that I haven't learned many of the traditional crafts that were vital to societies in the past, such as spinning, weaving and woodworking. I'm very glad I know how to knit, but I'd also like to learn crafts such as nalbinding, repairing clothes and bushcraft. I haven't even gotten around to learning how to light a fire yet! (Sure, I've been Bear Grylls do it on TV, but watching is very different to doing.)

Now I'm looking through the List of Handicrafts on Wikipedia for more inspiration. I did a ceramics class many years ago, and it would be nice to do some more, if I can get access to the equipment. I learned felting when I was a kid and the process is easy enough to remember, so I've got that covered. Basketmaking, bookbinding, tablet weaving and lucet cording look very interesting. Then there's the whole world of Japanese Crafts.
(I'm sticking to practical crafts in my thinking right now, not decorative ones.)

I got so excited that yesterday I ordered a drop spindle from Etsy. It's something I've been meaning to do for a long time, but if I don't do and learn things now, then when will I ever do them? In a world where it's so easy to spend a few dollars on something made thousands of kilometres away in near-slavery conditions, I believe we need to stand up and say, no, there's a better way. I want to be useful to society, not just for my ability to sit in a chair all day and check 10,000 lines on a spreadsheet, but for making practical things with my hands that will improve the lives of those around me.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Surprise Parcel from Belladonna & Bones

[This article was also posted at House With 3 Eyes].

When I heard last week that Belladonna & Bones was offering a limited edition surprise parcel, I jumped at the chance to secure one for myself. I subscribed to Raheli's monthly herb boxes before they disappeared into the aether, and it's always a thrill to receive such quality herbcrafted items from a local.

As always, the parcel was generous and accompanied by a thought-provoking card. The brown paper wrapping tied with string was a pleasing vintage touch. Here's what it contained:

+ dried mugwort
+ dried marshmallow
+ dried amanita muscaria mushroom
+ Conpluria flying ointment balm
+ Aureus enchanter's divination balm
+ a hand-dipped divination candle
+ a hand-crafted stoneware offering bowl
+ two glass vials

I'm famously bad at growing herbs, so to be able to obtain some from a local source that I know I can trust is a huge plus. The herb-encrusted divination candle is just wonderful. So much care and work has been put into these products.

I was especially excited when I saw the Aureus balm with its citrine crystal and gold leaf embellishment. I need to find a special occasion to use it for very soon!

As always I was thrilled with my purchase from Belladonna & Bones. It's not every day that you can find such well-made products, and more importantly: authentic, from a hugely knowledgeable source. Raheli has hinted that she's working on some new products to be released in the near future -- I can't wait to see what they are.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

My June and an Announcement

The last few months have been very, very cold -- well, cold for Australia, anyway! I've been busy at my job still and until this week, haven't felt like doing much. I spend a lot of time wandering around the big park next to my work at lunchtimes. It's something l look forward to and which makes me happy.

I have done one noteworthy thing recently -- I enrolled in the Grey School, which is an online school for studying spiritual topics. In honour of the occasion, I've started a second blog to document my studies and the spiritual side of things in general. It's called House With 3 Eyes. I will probably cross-post anything related to arts, crafts and hobbies here as well. So you don't miss out on anything. =)

Selections from Instagram

(I went to a gluten-free food festival and
had a burger, amongst other things.)

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Exhibition : Van Gogh and the Seasons

A few weeks ago I went to see Van Gogh and the Seasons at the National Gallery of Victoria. It was a typical Winter day in Melbourne: sunny and clear but cold. There was a lot of excitement surrounding this exhibition, as it's the first time that many of the paintings have travelled outside Europe. I have to give credit to the NGV for securing agreements like this one in the last few years. It allows us on the far side of the world to see influential works of art without having to travel the long distances we would normally.

But back to the exhibition. I went with Husband and my Mum. She made a special trip down from the country and spent the weekend at our house in order to see the exhibition, so I was hoping it would be good! We purchased tickets online beforehand and I was very glad I did, as there was a long queue to purchase tickets, and a second, even longer queue to get in for people who already had tickets. Thankfully it moved quite quickly though.

The first room we encountered was a cinema showing a short movie of Vincent Van Gogh's life. I was looking forward to this as I'd heard it was narrated by David Stratton (a famous Australian movie critic) with the actor David Wenham as the voice of Van Gogh. I was too impatient to stay until the end though, I have to admit. Next, we had to negotiate a corridor with textual displays of biography and quotes which felt a bit like a laboratory maze, before we could enter the first room. It was rather slow going as we had to wait for space to free up in front of us each step of the way.

As is usually the case, the rooms were overcrowded and there was a wait to see each artwork. (Unless you wanted to see it like this:)

The first gallery contained prints of 19th-century European paintings and illustrations that had influenced Van Gogh, and the second Japanese prints. While these were interesting, it wasn't clear at first that these works weren't actually by Van Gogh himself without reading the information cards. In the end I bypassed them, as the wait to see them up close was so long and I believe most of them were from the NGV's collection so I could see them another time.

Finally, we reached the main event. Unlike most exhibitions I've been to, the artworks were arranged not chronologically, but by season, starting with Autumn. I found this very appealing as someone who has always been attuned with nature and the seasons. Van Gogh's emotions were always affected by the seasons, and he let this show in his work -- from the melancholic greys and browns of Winter, to the bright, joyful blues and yellows of Summer. Despite the distractions of tour groups, selfie-takers and pushy children, I found myself becoming entranced by this progression of the seasons. As we moved into Winter with its stark, bare branches, I started to feel melancholic myself, and longed for the lighter colours and blossoms of Spring. While a little incongruous with the Australian Winter outside, I'm glad the exhibition ended with Summer -- it would have been too depressing otherwise.

The final work was a self-portait, one of many that Van Gogh painted, but the only time his face is seen in the exhibition. Because of this perhaps, I found it especially poignant. Painted only a few months before his suicide, the sharp strokes of pink, yellow and blue paint seem to reflect a mind in turmoil.

Providing an almost absurd contrast, to exit I had to step over some children sitting in the doorway doing their Van Gogh colouring-in books, and found myself, of course, in the gift shop. (Those of us who know the work of Bansky like to think we do that ironically but in reality it's more like helplessly.) I came away with a catalogue, a fridge magnet and some postcards for my inspo wall.

While some of Van Gogh's iconic paintings were notably absent (Starry Night and Irises come to mind), I found the selection of works from throughout his career to be representative and satisfying. I'm certainly glad I went. While it was a struggle to deal with the crowds, it shows how much the artist's vision is valued today. Van Gogh died unrecognised and penniless. Not long before his suicide, his brother Theo wrote to him: "in the course of time they will become more beautiful and they will undoubtedly be appreciated some day."(1) I'm sure both brothers would be astounded and very pleased by how much Vincent's work is loved today.