View Full Version : Classifications ignore history

05-31-2017, 08:04 PM
I had recently my DNA analyzed by 23andMe and I received a report on my ancestry. The top level result, "69.3% European and 28.6% Middle Eastern" seemed right. My mother's family came from Bithynia (Western Asia Minor) that had a significant Greek presence since pre-historic times and my father's family came from Cappadocia, a region in Central Turkey. But at the next level, the results were quite strange. It was claimed that I am 35.7% Italian and explained: "You most likely had a parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent who was 100% Italian. This person was likely born between 1840 and 1900."

The trouble with this statement is that I know all my ancestors who were born after 1840. (For example, my grandparents were born between 1860 and 1885.) On my father's site I traced my ancestry all the way to 1806 and they were all from Cappadocia. On my mother's site I know of a great-great-grandfather who moved from Crete to Bythinia around 1840, married a local woman and settled there. No trace of Italians.

It turns out that Greek settlements in Italy, Sicily, and Western Asia Minor (Ionia) exhisted as far back as 1000 BCE. Furthermore, Southern Italy, Greece, and Western Asia Minor were all part of the Eastern Roman Empire until about 1100 CE and as a results the populations of these areas were quite mixed. Indeed, Barbujani and Sokal [ "Zones of sharp genetic change in Europe are also linguistic boundaries", Proc. Nat. Acd. Sci. USA, vol. 87, pp. 1816-1819, March 1990.] gathered genetic markers from over 3000 European sites and plotted a surface of their distributions. Then they looked for places where there were discontinuities. There is a boundary in the north of Greece separating Greeks from the Slavs. But there are no boundaries along the Ionian or the Aegean seas (even though there is a boundary between Sicily and Malta).

So I have Eastern Roman Empire ancestry that 23andMe classifies as Italian, probably because they were more Italians in their sample that people from the other regions. (By the way, the official language of the Eastern Roman Empire was Greek, and Greek was still spoken in mountain villages in Southern Italy well into the 20th century.) Greeks and Italians are well aware of their common heritage as exemplified by the adage: "mia fatsa mia ratsa" (In Greek) or"una faccia, una razza" (in Italian).

06-01-2017, 09:33 PM
On ancestry DNA they lump Italian and Greek DNA together as one ethnicity group for example my father is Italian mainland and ancestry DNA tells me I am 36% italian/Greek.. does 23andMe seperate Greeks from Italians? If you had been tested on ancestry they probably would of labeled you Italian/Greek.. if your grandad from Crete was Greek that would work and make rough sense with your 23andMe timeline 👍