Friday, July 11, 2014

A Twist in the DNA Journey -- Part Two

In the previous post we met "Sven", a new cousin from Sweden, identified through DNA testing. A few weeks after Sven and I connected, his father's DNA results had an unexpected match. Sven had no match and my Dad had no match.

The new match is for a woman of Chinese heritage who has moved from Taiwan to the USA. Let's call her "Lucy". How could Lucy from Taiwan share DNA with a man from Sweden at the 5th cousin to Distant Cousin level?

Let's expand the Ekstrom-Fors-Nyström family tree a bit.

Extending the family tree from the last post, we add Martin Nyström, a Swedish missionary to China. Martin, along with his wife and infant daughter, Ruth, disappeared in China during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. Their story can be found on the website of the China Inland Mission. Martin's brother also was a missionary to China; however, he and his family escaped to safety.

Several European nations sent armies to protect their interests. It was a terrible time of chaos and violence in China. The Europeans raped and killed women and children, while the Boxers killed Europeans and Chinese Christians.

There are three possibilities for a Chinese woman to have enough Swedish heritage to be a match to the Nyström family:
  • The infant Ruth survived the slaughter and grew up to have her own family. 
  • Martin or his brother Fritiof fathered a child with a Chinese woman.
  • An unknown Swedish soldier, related to Sven's father, impregnated a Chinese woman.

What a mystery! With all the upheaval in China over the past 100 years, can this mystery ever be solved?

There is a bit of a DNA lesson in this story. Little Ruth and Sven's Dad were first cousins, but did not have the same grandmother. They were half-cousins. Instead of sharing 25 percent of their DNA, they would have shared closer to 12 percent. If "Lucy" is a Nyström descendant, her percentage of matching DNA would be similarly decreased. The Family Tree DNA estimate of 5th cousin (or further) makes a bit more sense when we consider that reduction. Rather than 5th cousin, a better estimate would be half-first-cousin 3 times removed.

Who would have thought that a simple genealogical DNA test could crack open a door that was thought closed over a century ago!

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