My Personal Autosomal DNA Results

Just two weeks shy of a year after receiving the results of my first foray into DNA – my mother’s autosomal test, I received the results of my own autosomal test recently. Almost surprisingly, results were pretty much as expected with regards to my paternal side (my father is an adoptee, I blog about my research on that side of my family HERE). And of course, there is nothing new to report on my Latvian family, since I didn’t receive any extra genes that my mother did not. There are, though, a few tidbits to be gleaned from these results.

The first thing that caught my attention was that many of my mother’s DNA matches with deep Latvian roots did not make the cut when I received 50% of her DNA. Most of her matches who were predicted to be closer matches to her based on total shared cM and segments rather than longest solid block of shared DNA have deep Latvian farmer roots, and now I have to guess at an interpretation of that: either a) by chance I didn’t get handed down those particularly Latvian genes, or b) those matches to my mother are predicted to be closer than they really are due to being from a relatively small country/population and likely sharing multiple ancestors further back in time than DNA can “see”. The second thing that made me scratch my head was that, the group I call “my mother’s southern European sticky genes” did pass to me. A Hungarian, Romanian, Croatian, Slovenian, Austrian… There is a pileup on my mother’s 3rd chromosome of people who’s roots are decidedly un-Baltic, and it seems like that segment was passed to me relatively unbroken.

Sticky 3rd

An example of 5 of my “southern” DNA matches on that “sticky” 3rd chromosome.

Which is also interesting because I inherited a fairly large chunk of unbroken Akerfelds DNA on the 7th chromosome also from my mother relatively unbroken. I know this because we also share it with my mother’s third cousin, an Akerfelds 3rd cousin (he genealogically shares only the furthest back set of Akerfelds great grandparents I have found so far with us, so any DNA shared between us is from that couple). The Akerfelds male Y-DNA line is I-P37, which also carries a southern European/Balkan hint. Are both these two segments “strong” or “sticky” genes, by chance passed down many generations and indicative of a northward migration at an earlier point in history?

Akerfelds -Kris

Strong Akerfelds segment on the 7th chromosome. My mother is represented by the orange, me in the blue and my 2nd cousin is green. This chart is shown from our 3rd cousin’s “point of view”, so to say. Myself, my mother, and our 2nd cousin are all his 3rd cousins (I am 1x removed) along the Akerfelds line, meaning any highlighted spots here in any colour represent genes from the parents of Jekabs and Ernests Akerfelds.

Another interesting group of genes that were strong enough to make it to me belong to a defined group of Finns, and another too seems to be a chunk of Polish. This is all well and good and interesting but… I haven’t figured out how this is helpful yet, as all known genealogy is pretty darn Latvian so far!

Thankfully I do have some Latvian DNA matches as well, and I am working on their family trees so that I might find our shared ancestors!

Y4460 Positive

It was suggested after testing my mother’s 3rd cousin’s Y DNA and receiving a haplogroup designation of I-P37 that I test some single SNPs to further categorize our results into more detailed subclades.
First I tested S17250, which grouped us in amongst males possibly descended from the Venedes/Wends/Weneci/Vistula Veneti people. Next it was suggested to me that I test SNP Y4460. Well, I did, and the results just came in as positive for this mutation. This result is consistent with the theory of the project administrator who suggested the Venedes as our ethnic origin. It’s put us into a small subclade that includes one other Latvian male line, one that originated in Riga in the late 1600’s and migrated to Sweden from there.
A few things intrigue me about this – one, there’s that Sweden theory I had in the beginning regarding our origin and the name Akerfelds/Akerfeldt. And two, the surname of the other male line is Sternfelt. I know it’s a longshot, but it is interesting that it’s a “-felt” name, just like Akerfelds. This Sternfelt line is not closely related to ours, since it’s modern day descendant does not show as a cousin autosomally or as a Y DNA match, but they might have shared a male ancestor many hundreds, even thousands of years ago. What’s interesting is the old territory in Latvia populated by Weneci peoples, is pretty much bang on where our Akerfelds have traced back to – Nikrace pagast – and a bit east/south. It seems like this subclade is both foreign and exotic but also deeply Latvian.

To be continued…

Akerfelds Y Haplogroup: I-P37

My mother’s 3rd cousin’s Y DNA test placed him (and therefore the Akerfelds male line) in haplogroup I, the oldest haplogroup originating in Europe. Specifically the I-P37 branch, most commonly found in South Eastern Europe – Croatia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Romania, etc. This I found fairly interesting. The 3rd cousin’s Y DNA cousin matches span a huge expanse in Europe, with the closest being a man from Omsk, Russia. Others are scattered from Italy to Ukraine, Poland to Bulgaria. Intrigued, I joined several Y DNA projects within FamilyTreeDNA’s website. Projects are run by project administrators who are typically researchers of a certain geographical area, haplogroup or surname with which they have a special interest. Many of them are very knowledgeable and aside from being able to help you understand your results, when you join a project you also contribute your results for comparison amongst other project members which can help researchers learn more about the haplogroup, surname, or area in general. They are able to see patterns in Y DNA results and group members together accordingly, another way to learn more about subclades and mutations etc.

Two of the projects I’ve joined have been especially helpful so far – the I2a Haplogroup project and the Baltic Sea project. After initial testing was completed (Y37 only, just to try), it was suggested that I could further categorize the Akerfelds line into a more detailed subclade by testing single SNP S17250. Haplogroups have these clades and subclades, which are basically like branches of a tree, sects of people who grouped together and branched off the main line of their original group to mutate a certain way separately. In our case, I is the main haplogroup, but through time it split up off into other directions with unique mutations, much like a tree . We started with I, then split off with I-P37, then we tested negative for S17250 which threw us into another subclade.

At this level of testing, I received an email from a project administrator suggesting that the patterns in our Y DNA together with the negative result for S17250 could mean that our male ancestral line traces back to the Venedes, Vistula Veneti, Weneci, Wends, a smaller tribe that lived within the land that is now Latvia between the 12th and 16th centuries. The cities of Cesis (German: Wenden) and Ventspils (German: Windau) as well as the river Venta are named for these people. They also have a claim in the creation of the Latvian flag. They are actually a bit mysterious, but are thought to have originated south, on the Adriatic sea, moving up along the Amber Road to the Baltic, around the river Vistula. This could help explain all the southern matches, anyway!

Comparing Cousins

Part of my research I have been slacking on posting about is my ongoing adventure with DNA testing. In addition to my mother’s autosomal testing, her third cousin has completed autosomal and Y DNA testing now (including two separate single SNP tests, S17250 and Y4460), as well as a second cousin along the Akerfelds line and now myself! I recently took an autosomal test and am excitedly awaiting the results.

The autosomal tests between the 3 cousins so far definitely show them as being related, within the correct estimated ranges of shared DNA for 2nd and 3rd cousins. Interestingly, the 2nd cousin is sort of a “double cousin” to my mother, as her grandparents (Janis and Anna Akerfelds) are brother and sister to his grandparents (Arturs and Katte Ziverts), meaning they share 4/8 great grandparents, while 2nd cousins usually share 2/8. This means they should have even more DNA in common, and they are indeed in the higher range of values for a second cousin relationship. What else is interesting is my mother and her 2nd cousin share more total DNA, across many more smaller segments, while my mother and her 3rd cousin (he shares 2/16 great great grandparents) share a much longer unbroken segment (57cM). My interpretation of that is that longer segments shared between two people indicate a strong inheritance from less people while a greater number of smaller segments shows two people share many of the same more recent ancestors – this could either mean two people are closer cousins and therefore share more ancestral lines OR they may be more distant cousins along several different family lines without knowing it.

Having these other tests to compare known relationships to is handy when looking at unknown cousin matches. Size and amount of DNA segments can be compared to interpret genetic distance, or to compare other unknown matches and where they share DNA segments – chances are good a shared segment amongst two known cousins and a third unknown could all come from the same ancestor, same family line. The 3rd cousin only shares one known family line with my mother and the 2nd cousin – Akerfelds, while my mother and her 2nd cousin share Akerfelds, Ziverts, Dzerve and Bitners – her entire paternal side and his entire maternal side (which is his only Latvian side, his father is a different ethnicity, making it even easier because this tidbit means that ANY Latvian cousin matches he has is from a line he shares with my mother).


Chromosome browser for my mother and the two cousins mentioned above. Orange is the 2nd cousin while blue is the 3rd cousin. Note the long matching segment on chromosome 7 shared with the 3rd cousin, and the multiple smaller segments shared with the 2nd.

Potential Jewish Connection

So in a shocking (to me, anyways) plot twist, a totally new direction…

In comparing the DNA of my mother and her third cousin from the Akerfelds line, it seems that the only other people matching the both of them (ie. sharing a common ancestor at some point) are of Ashkenazi Jewish lineage. However these Jewish matches appear to be fairly close cousins – 2nd to 4th cousins. This could indicate that either the father or mother of Jekabs and Ernests Akerfelds was the child of Jewish parents who must have been converts to Lutheranism.

Interestingly though, the third cousin has a lot more Jewish matches than my mother does. I started investigating this a little bit…

One reason could simply be that the third cousin has another Latvian ancestor from a different line not shared with my mother who is also of Ashkenazi descent.

Ashkenazi ancestry and DNA testing gets fairly complicated though, since the population is infamous for their endogamy – basically the population increased very rapidly from a smaller core group of people, who all married within their own faith and localities – which means inevitably, to varying degrees, cousin marriages and interbreeding. This happens in all cultures and religions, and yes if you look hard enough you will see it in your family tree too – every generation you move backward in time, you multiply the number of ancestors you have by two (ie 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, etc). At the 20th generation level, you have 1,048,576 ancestors… were there 1 million people in the areas nearby to your family who were completely unrelated? Good luck!

Another thing complicating Ashkenazi genealogy is that for the most part they had young hereditary surnames – for example in Kurzeme, surnames were not required until 1835, which in my Akerfelds case points to either the father or grandfather of Jekabs and Ernests being the first to bear their name, which means genetically we could match people of all different surnames at a fairly close level…

So after signing up at JewishGen, I checked their Latvia database for the only surnames that I do know my mother and her third cousin share – those are Akerfelds and Grinbergs. That ever elusive “Grinbergs alias Akerfelds”. Well, GREENBERG…(Grinbergs is prounounced the same and also means the same thing, it’s just the Latvian spelling) is definitely a name used by some Jews in Courland. And other surnames connected to the Jewish DNA matches of my mother and third cousin also appear in Courland, some as close to the Akerfelds’ origin point as Aizpute.

But then I was reading about Jews converting to other religions in the 1800’s on the Roots=Saknes site, which mentions that often when Jews converted they were encouraged to choose more Lutheran/Christian names, both first and last names. So perhaps this Jewish line of mine is a totally new surname all together?

Luckily my mother’s third cousin has also completed some Y-Chromosome DNA testing, which should give us some strong hints as to whether or not this Jewish link follows the direct male Akerfelds line, or if it was perhaps a wife with a different surname who married into the Akerfelds family. It should also answer whether or not the Akerfelds line has anything to do with Sweden and if not, where that male line originates.

His Y-DNA test results should be in any day now… I’m waiting!!!

DNA Verifies my Akerfelds Puzzle Theory!

Well the first of some really big mysteries I’ve been working on for years has finally been solved by DNA and genetic genealogy. One of my longest standing theories has been that all living Akerfeldses with roots in Latvia were related. All seem to be descended from either Jekabs Grinbergs alias Akerfelds, born around 1870, Ernests Grinbergs alias Akerfelds, born around 1863, or Lata Grinbergs, who’s children are named after Ernests and Jekabs and although were baptized as Grinbergs, began using Akerfelds throughout their lifetime, as do their descendants. Jekabs, Ernests and Lata all hail from Lieldzelda estate in Aizpute aprinki, ~1862-1872. And while there are no records of any Akerfeldses in the area prior to that time, there are several Grinbergs families, not likely all related. Because the church records are missing from Embute parish 1853-1870, and Lieldzelda estate did not leave any revision lists behind as clues, I have not been able to prove Jekabs, Ernests and Lata are related, nor who there parents are, or where they came from, if their surname was originally Grinbergs or originally Akerfelds, nothing like that.

But now… my mother, a great granddaughter of Jekabs, and an Australian born great grandchild of Ernests have both completed autosomal DNA testing and… they’re a close cousin match! They share several large segments of DNA with an estimated most common recent ancestor at 3.5 generations from themselves. Jekabs and Ernests are the third generation, and their parents would be the fourth generation. So it seems pretty accurate to say that at least Jekabs and Ernests are brothers, just as suspected. Still no proof for Lata yet, although the coincidences seem to be too great to imagine she’s not related at least somehow.

The odd thing about the Lata connection though, is she was born in 1872, and I was able to find her baptism. Her mother is named as Ilze Grinbergs, but there is no father in the picture – Lata was born out of wedlock at Lieldzelda estate. Perhaps Lata is a half-sister to Jekabs and Ernests, maybe their father passed away at an early age and a widowed Ilze had Lata after with another man. Or maybe Lata, Jekabs and Ernests are all illegitimate children of a Ilze Grinbergs, and the “alias Akerfelds” they added to their name somehow reflects their father(s)?

Another curiosity is Ernests Grinbergs alias Akerfelds’ first wife was named Ieva Haase, the two were married and 9 months later had a baby girl named Anlize after her godmother, also named Anlize Grinbergs. Ieva died a few weeks after Anlize’s birth, and Anlize only lived to be about 3 months old. That same year Ernests Grinbergs alias Akerfelds remarried to Anlize Grinbergs, the godmother (who also later died in childbirth). Were Ernests and Anlize related?? Or does their marriage suggest that they were from different Grinbergs families and this is why Ernests chose to add an alias? Or were they from the same Grinbergs and this is the reason for the alias??

Definitely a victory to confirm a relation between Jekabs and Ernests, but still many more questions yet to be answered!!!

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 23: Martins Akerfelds

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

My next “trend” I’d like to write about are NOT my direct ancestors, but are siblings of direct ancestors, with rather incredible stories.

Martins Akerfelds was born in 1902 near the village of Tomsk in Tomsk oblast, Siberia. His family – mother, father, two older brothers and a sister – had moved there a few years prior, from Latvia – the Kurland province of the Russian empire at the time. This Kurland-Siberia trip is a path quite a few Latvians took at this time in history – land was very cheap in Siberia, especially because the Russian empire was keen to grow the population and work the land, colonize the vast expanse to the east. Tomsk was a growing city at the time, with two universities, the Trans-Siberian Railway nearby, and the discovery of gold to boost the economy. It must have seemed like a golden opportunity at the time.

The opportunity was lost though, because Martins’ father Jekabs became ill shortly after his birth, and the family made a quick move back to their original home in Nikrace pagast, Latvia. Martins’ mother Ieva was pregnant with his little sister when his father Jekabs died in July 1904, apparently of kidney disease. Ieva gave birth soon after to a daughter she named Katte. The family lived at Cepli farm on the old Lieldzelda estate and Ieva remarried in 1908 to a fellow widower named Janis Blazgis. Martins attended Nikrace pamatskola (elementary school). He eventually married his half-brother’s widow, Anna Zveja sometime in the early 1930’s and lived at Jaunzemji farm which was owned by Anna’s parents. His brother (my great grandfather Janis) and sister lived on an adjacent farm with their large families. Martins himself became a stepfather to Anna’s three children, his half-nephews.

Martins was a young man when Latvia gained her first stint of independence. The Latvian people had more freedom and opportunity than ever before, new political parties were formed as Latvians were finally able to begin to choose their own types of government (as opposed to being ruled by German land barons or the Tzar). Having been an agricultural laborer his entire life, Martins became a supporter of a new political party called the Farmer’s Union, like many other Latvians, who were a very agricultural people. His became the owner of Jaunzemji after his parents-in-law passed away sometime before 1935 and he joined the local Aizsargi unit – a small, local defense police force. Martins and Anna added one more child to their family, a daughter born in 1937. Things seemed to be going well for Martins at this time.

This period of Latvian independence Martins grew up under came to a sad end when World War Two started. Soviet Russia occupied the country, and under their communist regime began to effectively squash any future attempts to regain sovereignty by Latvia. They did this by declaring Latvians in any position of power or wealth enemies of the state. This included all Latvian military personnel and political figures, right down to bank managers, large-scale land owners, the Aizsargi and people deemed in support of the Farmer’s Union political party. This was a dangerous time for these people, and who began to slowly be arrested or go missing.

The arrests and disappearances culminated on the night of June 14, 1941. In a well-organized and planned move, Soviets stormed the houses of a huge list of people, “enemies” all over Latvia. These arrestees were given a few minutes to pack some essentials, then taken to the local train station. Not just the men who had been deemed enemies, their entire families. Wives, children, infants, elderly. Women and children were herded into train cars designed for hauling cattle, and then men separated and put into different cattle cars. Family units were separated in this way, and many (if not, most) never saw their loved ones again. The trains were bound for Siberian gulags – strings of prison labour camps in the harsh Siberian landscape. The journey to prison was a harsh one. With many being unprepared for such long travel, the sick, weak, very young and very old were most at risk at this point. Many died on the way. The camps were notoriously brutal – disgusting cesspools of filth, long hours of labor every day, and little food or shelter. While the Nazis were committing gross atrocities against Jews in western Europe, another genocide was taking place in the east – a slow, sad and painful genocide that has somehow missed the history books.

Martins, Anna and their 4 year old daughter were arrested the night of June 14th, 1941. Anna and her young daughter were sent to the Krasnojarsk camp, and Martins went to Vyatlag camp in Kirov. Anna and her daughter were eventually released, separately in different years, mind you – 1946 and 1947. But Martins had tragically died of exhaustion and exposure in Vyatlag on May 17, 1943, aged 41 years old. Martins was coincidentally born and had died in Siberia.

I had assumed the worst for Anna and her daughter, 9 years old at her release (imagine a child growing up in a prison labor camp, then being released alone without her mother and no father) but recently I discovered some of their descendants, which shed a little happiness on this very sad story. Martins’ 9 year old daughter had made it back home to Latvia and had grown up, married and had three children of her own.