Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Cheney love child and related weirdness

This past week was too funny to just ignore...

Many times, when things seem weird... on careful further examination, they turn out to be even weirder than they seemed at first. But sometimes... they turn out to be totally spurious.  This one does seem to be in the second category... (though I will do some checking if I can to be absolutely certain).

It starts with my wife suggesting we both take a simple DNA test. We went to,
paid about $160 for two DNA test kits. When they came in the mail, we basically just spit a cubic centimeter in a tube, and put it back into the self-addressed box, and waited for an email.
The results come back on the web, via log in to a "health" tab and an "ancestry tab" with lots and lots of detail, tabulated based on different ways of analyzing the data. (In fact, not all the detail is up quite yet.)

Zinger number one: region of ancestry tab says that 30% of my relevant genes are uniquely identifiable
as British or Irish, less than one percent French or German; also less than one percent Balkan, but more of that than French/German.


I though I was half Irish (mother's side) and half German  (father's side).

But there was a "speculative" tab, stretching a bit on fuzzy evidence... that could see as much as 7% French/German...  but 60% British/Irish. (By the way, 100.0 percent European. Also, no long-lost Jewish connections.)

Zinger number two: another tool, nation of ancestry, homes in on what they have learned to predict that. For that one... the evidence was... 55% Scotch-English, 45% Irish, a tiny bit of Slovenian and even tinier of Swedish. No German or French whatsoever. (Yet my wife and father both did independent computer searches on where my father's family came from... basically putting it in the Mosel/Alsace.Trier/Luxemborg area.)

And then another database, comparing my DNA with other DNA, and reporting just the location of "closest relatives" (with names only in the few cases where people chose to openly share).
Outside the US -- all were Scotland, England or Ireland, except for one Australian woman who sent an email saying we seem to be long-lost relatives... and noted she is descended from the Stuart/Stewart royal family.

Oops. What's going on?

Is my father my real father? If not, then whom? Where are my real origins?

One more tab compares your DNA to the clusters defined by a very long list of possible surnames.
There was a clear lead, a closest fit: "Cheney."


Is that really my real father? It gives a whole new meaning to some of the stuff from Star Wars. I did know that Ryan is on my mother's side, so I did a quick google of "Ryan Cheney," and found some evidence of some mutual support between those two...

There was an ordered list of other options after that... but all in the Irish/Scotch/English category.
(For example, Reid/Read, which was in the Australian woman's list.)
The paternal haplogroup was also totally northern (i.e. coming to Europe via Sweden, Norway and Finland, with high --4% -- Neanderthal components for other folks in the group... though I don't have that datum yet.)

Now in fact, my mother has always been very strict about her own Catholic principles.
I knew enough about the story of the time when I was born to really doubt what the DNA seems to be telling... and if I stretch my memory..... I can say that anyone else she ever talked about was from a Freemason family... but it gets to be too weird even for me, even for an obscure web site.

But in fact...

The Irish side of the family was much more inbred over the past 500 years (what most of this data focuses on). The cosmopolitan population around the Low Countries around Luxemborg (approximately the area which the Norman invasion of England came from) would simply not have as many unique, specific markers as the Irish side would.  All the more specific clues I mentioned above can be explained from the Irish side.

There was another cluster chart which compared my point to others self-reported in the categories Irish, German, French and English, among others. I was distinctly far from even the furthest outlier in the "German" cluster, which had a pretty decent representation.  But I was only a little less distinctly out of the English cluster.  (The French cluster was pretty close to the German cluster.) This last suggests that there is decisive data supporting an Irish side, but no real discriminating power between Scotch/English and German here; given prior information, as a Bayesian, I do not believe those initial indications,
amusing as they were.

Yet proper Bayesians also believe in buying information, at times, even when the preponderance of information is on one side. Trust but verify and all that.  But I guess a Cheney would say the same...

Best of luck,


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