Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My Family Finder DNA Results Are In ~ Grandma Was Right!

Yep! My Grandma Willis Webster was right! Many years ago, she told my mom that my mom had Mayan ancestry. Grandma Willis was my mom's step-mother. My mom's mother died when my mom was four years old.  Grandma Willis was the only grandma I ever knew on my mom's side of the family, so to me she was simply Grandma. And she was a very sweet and loving grandma.

Anyway, as I was saying, Grandma Willis claimed that my mom had Mayan ancestry through my mom's father (my grandfather) Debs Webster. Debs' mother, Esther Matus Villatoro (pictured below) was born in Arriaga, Chiapas, Mexico on September 18, 1893. She was the wife of my "Traveling Dentist" great-grandfather, Watson (Frederick) Emory Webster, who was born in Coolville, Athens, Ohio on February 14, 1864.

Esther Matus Villatoro

According to History.com (The History Channel's website),
"…the Maya were centered in one geographical block covering all of the Yucatan Peninsula and modern-day Guatemala; Belize and parts of the Mexican states of Tabasco and Chiapas; and the western part of Honduras and El Salvador."
So, while it's true that my great-grandmother was born in Chiapas, and the Maya had lived in parts of Chiapas, and my grandmother claimed that my mom had Mayan ancestry, I still wouldn't have known for sure if part of my ancestry was, in fact, Mayan. Until now. You see, I took Family Tree DNA's autosomal DNA test called Family Finder. And I'd like to share my results with you.

Family Finder DNA Test Results

Here's the Pie Chart from my Family Finder DNA Test:

Family Finder Pie Chart

See that Native American slice? That's where the Mayan ancestry is listed.

Here we have the breakdown of the results by Continent, Population, Percentage and Margin of Error.

Family Finder Details Results

It's kind of hard to read, so here's the transcription:

  • Europe (Finnish, French, Orcadian, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Tuscan) – 79.50% – Margin  of Error:  ±1.84%
  • Middle East (North African) – 12.83% – Margin of Error:  ±1.61%
  • Native American (Colombian, Maya) – 7.66% – Margin of Error:  ±0.67%

My Native American ancestry is populated by both Columbian (which I don't understand) and Mayan ancestry.

And here's a handy map that was provided with the results as well:

Family Finder Population Map

So, what about the rest of my DNA test results?

The Europe Result

I'm not surprised by the large European percentage. My father, Jan Albert Iverson, was half Norwegian and half Swedish. His ancestors go back for generations in both Norway and Sweden. And my great-grandfather on my mom's side, Watson (Frederick) Emory Webster, a.k.a. "The Traveling Dentist," was of English ancestry.

What is intriguing is that Sweden and Norway are not listed in the population list for Europe. Hmm. Orcadian is listed and Orcadians came from the Orkney Islands. According to
Wikipedia, "Orkney was invaded and forcibly annexed by Norway in 875 and settled by the Norse."

Finland borders both Sweden and Norway. According to another article in Wikipedia, "From the 12th until the start of the 19th century, Finland was a part of Sweden."

Do these facts explain how my Norwegian and Swedish ancestry is listed in this DNA test?

The Middle Eastern Result

I have to say that at first I was quite surprised by the Middle East (North African) test result. But, after doing some research, I'm not quite as surprised. My grandmother, Sarah Vasques Madeira (my mom's mother who passed away when my mom was four years old) was of Portuguese descent.

I have Portuguese ancestors from the Azores and Madeira. It's interesting to note how close those islands are to North Africa, especially the Island of Madeira. It's quite close to Morocco, which is in North Africa.

Googlemap for Azores and Madeira

According to an article about the Portuguese Empire in Wikipedia, sailors from Portugal started to explore the coast of Africa in 1419. And the Portuguese colonized several areas around the world, including parts of Africa. Could this explain my North African DNA result?


So it turns out that my Grandma Willis was correct about our Mayan ancestry. Unfortunately, I can't tell her that she was right because she passed away in 1991. I am left to wonder how she knew this interesting bit of information about our family history. Did she discover this when she and my Grandpa Debs visited relatives in Chiapas, Mexico in 1955?

DNA testing is quite fascinating. But, it's just one piece of the family history puzzle. More traditional research is still needed to find and put together all of the puzzle pieces of our family histories.

By the way, I've emailed Family Tree DNA to see if they can answer my questions about why Norway and Sweden were not listed in my Population List for Europe. And I also asked them about the Middle East test result and if that was representative of my Portuguese ancestry. We'll see what they say.

Thanks for reading!


© 2013 Copyright by Jana Last


  1. Jana,
    What a wonderful find for you and your family's genealogy. I know that was exciting to find out. Perhaps that will be something I should check into in the near future. Thank you for sharing your good news.

    1. Hi Betty,

      Thank you! This really is an exciting find for our family's genealogy. =) Thanks for stopping by!

  2. You definitely have interesting ancestry, Jana! And I'm certain your grandmother must have had a story or two in her family, don't you think? This is so exciting to find confirmation about your Mayan ancestry. Some of this research is so new it squeaks when you look at it!! Cheers.

    1. Hi Celia,

      I certainly do wish I knew how my grandmother knew about our Mayan ancestry. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to be content with the knowledge that she was right. =) Thank you so much for your comments!

  3. This is really interesting - at some point I'd like to do it.

    1. Hi Debi,

      This is my first DNA test I've ever done. And, I have to say, the results have been quite intriguing, to say the least. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Jana, This is one of the most fascinating DNA stories I've run across. Mayan ancestry. How exotic!

    1. Hi Michelle,

      Yes, my DNA test results are all over the map, aren't they? I have to admit to being quite intrigued by the Mayan ancestry result. Thanks for your comments!

  5. Very interesting Jana! Thanks for sharing this. It is also interesting to note that the margin or error for your Native American ancestry is the lowest of all the categories -- which I believes means it is the most reliable slice of your pie at + or - 0.67%.

    Esther was an attractive woman. I love the precision of the posed hand toher head. ;-)

    1. Hi John,

      Yes, that percentage would seem to indicate the Native American pie slice is the most reliable of my DNA results. Thank you!, I also think Esther was quite pretty. It's such a shame she died at such a young age. She was only 26 years old when Tuberculosis claimed her life. So young! Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Do you have any ancestors from Kentucky?
    Would love to trade info! KyGenealogy.com

    1. Hi Roger,

      I'm sorry, I don't have any ancestors from Kentucky. Best of luck with your research. =)

  7. How fascinating, Jana. It's neat that the DNA results validated an old family story that would be hard to prove otherwise. I need to spend some more time understanding my results--although I don't have any stories nearly as exotic as yours! Esther was beautiful, wasn't she?

    1. Hi Shelley,

      Thank you! Yes, I think Esther was a beautiful woman. As I mentioned in a comment above, I wish I knew just how my grandmother knew about our Mayan ancestry. But, as you said, it's neat that these DNA results do verify my grandmother's claim. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  8. This picture of Esther reminds me of you. Mayans are typically short, aren't they? Do you see that trait in your family?

    I'm not sure I follow the Norwegian-Swedish issue either. But maybe it's similar to my issue with the Jolletts. I have always thought they came from France, but I can trace only to one Jollett who came from England. While it might look like I have to accept that they were actually English, it is also possible that they originated in France and moved from there to England. They could have lived in England for weeks or years, who knows.

    1. Hi Wendy,

      Huh! That's interesting that you say Esther reminds you of me. I've wondered if I take after her around the eyes. I don't really know though. Her mouth and nose remind me of my mom. Genes and how they are passed down to future generations are interesting things aren't they?

      So, you have a similar issue with your Jolletts eh? Have you done a DNA test yet? It would be interesting to see what your results are. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. My wife also has a big chunk of Mayan DNA and a Matus in the family tree. They were originally from Nicaragua.

    The Columbia DNA could be from the Caribbean as all the Caribbean islands we colonized by people living in the Columbia/Venezuela area and they island hopped. Since the Maya territory hugs the Caribbean it's safe to say there was some genetic exchange.

    I'm more intrigued by the Finnish/Russian you got as my wife got that as well and she has no known Russian or Finnish ancestry. Do you?

    1. Hi Alex,

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting! I noticed you left a comment on the Family Tree DNA Facebook page as well. I replied to your comment there as well.

      I think it's quite interesting that your wife has a Matus in her family tree. My Matus line goes into Oaxaca. At least that's what I know of at this point. Esther's father was Nicanor Matus and he was born in Oaxaca. I don't know who his parents were at this point in my research.

      Like your wife, I also have no known Finnish or Russian ancestry. My father's Norwegian and Swedish lines go back for generations into Norway and Sweden.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

  10. Loved reading this post! I told my family for my birthday at the end of November I wanted to take a DNA test to see what the results are. You saw my map on RootsMapper. My ancestors are from all over. We also have family "stories" that we have Mayan ancestry on my maternal grandfather's side.

    What made you decide to use Family Tree DNA for your test as opposed to other DNA tests out there? I am leaning towards the 23andMe.com DNA test so am curious. There are so many to choose from!

    1. Hello! Thanks for stopping by and thank you so much for your very kind comments!

      I noticed on your RootsMapper map that your lines went all over the place. How fun! =)

      And how interesting that you also have family stories about Mayan ancestry in your family too.

      DNA testing is really interesting. If I were you, I'd do some research online to find reviews of each company. Here's a link to a chart comparing four DNA testing companies ~ http://www.isogg.org/wiki/Autosomal_DNA_testing_comparison_chart

      Thank you for stopping by and good luck with your DNA testing!

    2. Another question: Which Family Tree DNA test did you do - the mtDNAPlus or the mtFullSequence? We just got our results from 23andme which was completely fascinating but it didn't break down the Native American (which I am 17.8%!) into specific regions or tribes so I'm thinking of ordering a Family Tree test to see what the results would be. Thanks!

    3. Hi Montserrat,

      This blog post was regarding my Family Finder Autosomal DNA test results, but I did do a mtDNAPlus test later. I haven't written a blog post about those results yet. Perhaps I should. Thanks for stopping by! =)

  11. Hi Jana! I only just found this post, but I'm glad I did. I really enjoyed reading it and appreciated the way you did further research to understand the results. You have such an interesting heritage! I have thought about doing the autosomal test but haven't yet overcome my anxiety about privacy. Maybe some day. In the meantime, I enjoy reading about what other people have discovered. Great post.




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