When my Mum was diagnosed with a double case of breast cancer several years ago, we knew that a long battle was about to start. What we didn’t know is that DNA, or genealogy for that matter, would come into the equation.
We might have known that the fact that the numerous cases of cancer within the last four or five generations were probably all linked, but it was not until recently that the doctors confirmed my Mum carries a genetic mutation (oddly enough, common among the Jewish populations of Eastern Europe) that a pattern began to emerge. What if all those cancer patients in our family tree carried the same genetic mutation? If so, where does it come from? Could we really have some Jewish blood in us?
When I took my AncestryDNA test back in spring, I was very surprised to find that I have a small but perhaps poignant 3% of European Jewish genes. I therefore bought an AncestryDNA kit for my Mum and sent her sample through a few weeks ago. Earlier this week, at long last, her results came in!
You may remember from my post back in May that, as far as I know, my Mum’s side is almost all 100% Spanish, save for an ancestor of hers in her 8th generation who was Genoese (that’s from Genoa, in NW Italy). That means that of my Mum’s 128 ancestors in the 8th generation, one of them was not Spanish-born and all the rest were (until I can prove it otherwise).
With such a prognosis, I would have expected my Mum’s DNA results to be fairly straightforward. A large chunk of Iberian Peninsula, perhaps some Mediterranean, and that’s it. Imagine my surprise when she turned out to be (brace yourselves) 41% Iberian Peninsula, 18% Mediterranean, 13% Great Britain (where did that come from?), 13% European West, 5% European Jewish (bingo!), and a sprinkling of African North, Scandinavia and Middle East.
Although by no means conclusive, and by no means indicative that the dreaded cancerous gene does come through the “Jewish” line we apparently have flowing in our veins, it may appear that my Mum’s Jewish inheritance (which is stronger than my feeble 3%) could really hold the key to our medical history.
While I ponder how we could have British or even African blood through my Mum’s side, I am now tempted to have two great-aunts tested, one from each side, as there are few others left to ask from the previous generations, and it may go a long way in explaining how on earth did we manage to get 1/10 of our genes from an East European Jewish ancestor of whom we know nothing!