Thursday, February 7, 2019

Irish DNA & Genealogy

Pam Schwartz and I went to a presentation about the use of DNA for genealogists. In humans, each cell normally contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, for a total of 46. Twenty-two of these pairs, called autosomes, look the same in both males and females. The 23rd pair, the sex chromosomes, differ between males and females. Females have two copies of the X chromosome, while males have one X and one Y chromosome. Pam has been getting DNA test from all of her oldest living relatives. In particular it is a good idea to get tests from male relatives because they will have both x and Y chromosomes which means the results will be different that a females test.

I have done some family history research and, with the name Thorspecken, I figured that clearly my heritage goes back to Germany. I traveled to Germany and found the Thorspecken home which is now a museum in Wetterburg. A name plate for Jacob Thorspecken was still on an upstairs door. Pam encouraged me to do a DNA test. It involved spitting in a small test tube and sending that off to a lab. The results came back complete with a map that showed where my ancestors immigrated from. The results were surprising. 60% of my ancestors came from Ireland and Scotland with most from Northern Ulster Ireland. 36% came from England, Whales and Northern Europe which included a bit of Western Germany. Only 4% came from Germanic Europe.

Of course I have already proven that the Thorspecken name is from Germany, but this DNA test showed me that that one family name is just a small fraction of the DNA story that defines where I came from. I also see 2nd and 3rd cousins that I didn't know existed before. DNA clearly sheds a whole new light on family history research.  I now have a far greater reason to celebrate my Irish heritage every Saint Patrick's day. At a time when our country is trying to wall off our borders, it is good to look back at the ethnic diversity that makes this country great.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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