Derailed

Well, I’m back. Sort of. I took a little time off from blogging, because we were in the midst of a national meltdown, and I was fearful that one of our little debates was going to get misused by someone with an ax to grind.

I’ve turned back to education policy, which has all of the sudden gotten very crowded with new writers. Good for schools, bad for me. I have about seven different topics that I’m working on right now, but nothing solid yet, which is making me feel very unsettled. After I lock down my next article, I’ll be back.

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44 thoughts on “Derailed

  1. “new writers. Good for schools, bad for me” Well, maybe. There’s an old joke about a town in South Dakota with one lawyer and he was starving. A second lawyer moved to town and suddenly they were both rolling in dough.. The more national conversation about education, maybe the more venues want to be a seat at the table. At least, that’s my best wish for you!

  2. What axe? *hides axe behind back*

    Can we talk about Elizabeth Warren’s DNA? I’ve been following the genetic genealogists and they seem to find the conclusions logical and persuasive based on the evidence. Bustamante is definitely an expert in the area. I’m impressed Liz went to him.

    True story. I was talking to one of my genealogy group friends after a meeting once.
    Jane: So I have a friend whose great-great grandmother was Cherokee, but my friend’s DNA test came back and it didn’t show any Native American DNA and …
    Wendy: That’s because she’s not Cherokee.
    Jane: But is there a better test she could do …
    Wendy: No, because she’s not Cherokee.
    Jane: But …
    Wendy: She’s not Cherokee. Everyone thinks they’re Cherokee, but no one ever is.

    I’m honestly kind of surprised that she does have Native American DNA because no one ever does, LOL.

  3. “I’m honestly kind of surprised that she does have Native American DNA because no one ever does,”

    Or, we’re talking 1%.

    It probably varies a lot by part of the country. I actually grew up in an area of WA with a lot of white-ish tribal members–but those people would have their papers in order. And they weren’t “Cherokee.”

    I’ve told Wendy the story, but my parents did their DNA testing and my dad was surprised that the family American Indian story was a complete washout. However, my very Scandi dad did come out 1% North African.

    1. “Or, we’re talking 1%.”

      My third cousin once removed (PERHAPS 1/2 third cousin once removed–I have a theory that my GGG-GF and her GG-GM were half-siblings) and I share the same amount of DNA as Warren has of Native American DNA. 3rd cousins have a 90% chance of sharing DNA.

      Some of the DNA companies give my mom a touch of North African DNA. This is interesting because we’re descended from this guy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Janszoon_van_Salee. But it doesn’t show up in the recent revised Ancestry estimates.

      1. A nice line about aristocratic pedigrees is ‘if you go back ten generations, SOMEBODY fucked the stable boy’. There is a lot of non-paternity in our family trees! And, when the Norsemen lost Sicily and some came back, they likely brought some North Africans with them – there’s AmyP’s puzzling one per cent.

  4. “A nice line about aristocratic pedigrees”

    Ah, but those people are also typically pretty inbred, so there would be multiple lines coming from the same ancestor, so it’s all good!

    Years ago, I was on a Henry VIII kick and flummoxed over how closely he and most of his wives were related. In fact, two of the wives were first cousins to each other.

    https://tudorqueen6.com/2013/05/03/the-hampton-court-pedigrees-the-six-wives-of-henry-viii/

    “All of King Henry’s wives had one thing in common, they all descended from Edward I; some by his first wife Eleanor of Castile or by his second, Marguerite of France; and in some cases both! In Hampton Court Palace in King Henry VIII’s apartment there are six stained glassed windows showing his wives pedigrees from King Edward I. As some were descended multiple times or by both wives the more prominent ancestry was featured.”

    dave s. said,

    “And, when the Norsemen lost Sicily and some came back, they likely brought some North Africans with them – there’s AmyP’s puzzling one per cent.”

    Nice catch!

  5. https://www.nationalreview.com/the-morning-jolt/rebutting-trumps-pocahontas-jab-elizabeth-warren-releases-ancestry-test/

    “What Warren’s rollout dodges is the question of whether one ancestor, six to ten generations ago, justifies listing oneself as “Native American” in faculty guides. Warren has long insisted that her self-description as Native never played a role in any academic acceptance, hiring, or promotion decision. But as the Globe noted, earlier in Warren’s career, Harvard sure liked putting the spotlight on her self-proclaimed ethnic identity:”

    The Boston Globe wrote:

    “Warren also listed herself as a minority in a legal directory published by the Association of American Law Schools from 1986 to 1995. She’s never provided a clear answer on why she stopped self-identifying.

    “She was also listed as a Native American in federal forms filed by the law schools at Harvard University and University of Pennsylvania where she worked.

    “And in 1996, as Harvard Law School was being criticized for lacking diversity, a spokesman for the law school told the Harvard Crimson that Warren was Native American.”

    Warren has a long history of identifying professionally as Native American.

    1. I don’t think Warren got the Harvard job because of her Native American claims (and 6-10 generations back are just that – claims. According to 23 & me I have more African-American DNA than she has Native American DNA and I have to be one of the whitest people you will ever see.)

      I am angry about her claims to Native American heritage though, because I actually believe in the principles behind affirmative action and diversity. By making this claim, she lets Harvard off the hook. Harvard gets to claim they hired a Native American and that they have a diverse faculty without doing any of the work and when they don’t actually have a diverse faculty.

      Warren isn’t Native American culturally. She’s just another middle class white woman. Her bullshit about suffering because people knew she was native because of her high cheek bones is just that, bullshit. None of the goals of affirmative action or diversity are advanced by her and yet she is perfectly happy to let Harvard use her to benefit by claiming they are addressing those issues and goals.

  6. I did one of those DNA tests. I’ve also done a lot of genealogical research. The results showed me as 1% Nigerian, which was a little surprising. I could think of various explanations, including mistake, or a previously unknown black ancestor among the small Southern portion of my ancestry, or a random black person in early modern Europe (there were a few). What was more surprising was that I had a lot more Scandinavian ancestry and less English than my other research would suggest. Maybe the East Anglian Puritan ancestry is showing as Scandinavian? (East Anglia being part of the Danelaw.)

    1. So I seem to be talking about my DNA, not Elizabeth Warren’s. I actually don’t care about Elizabeth Warren’s DNA, any more than I care about Melania Trump’s shoes, which had the NYT very exercised a few months back. I don’t share Elizabeth Warren’s political views, and I intend to focus my thoughts on those, to the extent I think about her at all.

    2. If you did 23&me, have you visited the site recently? I was all excited because my tests showed Scandinavian ancestry, but then it was ruthlessly removed. Ok, “ruthless” is an exaggeration. It seems to have been adjusted to “broadly European.”

      The Puritans in my ancestry are English. If you have that ancestry, we are likely related.

      The most touching part of the “DNA relatives” menu are the people (well, really, cousins) trying to find ties to the unknown part of their heritage. There are quite a few who were adopted, or whose parents were adopted.

      1. No. I did it for my mother (she had the whole family send it in.) I don’t actually care and really don’t want to be contacted by anyone. Shudders.

      2. Tulip: then presumably you didn’t put a description in the “about me” section stating, “I’m looking for more information about my grandfather’s side of the family (etc.)”

        I’m amused by how very paranoid many of my DNA relatives are about giving details on the site. After all, the people who see them as “DNA relatives” are cousins. Although now that I think about it, some of them could have been submitted by detectives looking for a DNA match. (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/11/science/science-genetic-genealogy-study.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fscience&action=click&contentCollection=science&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=sectionfront)

      3. Yes, my calculations show that any two people with significant (say 1/8 or more) Puritan ancestry–which means pretty much every one with pre-Civil War, New England or Long Island, Protestant ancestry–are traceably related. I’ve amused my daughter and myself by tracing her cousinships with various high school classmates (NYC private schools skew heavily WASP, and NYC WASPS skew heavily to New England ancestry). So Cranberry, if you have that ancestry, we are surely 10th to 12th cousins.

      4. Cranberry said,

        “Although now that I think about it, some of them could have been submitted by detectives looking for a DNA match”

        Yeah.

        There are at least a couple of serial killers who would be peacefully enjoying their golden years were it not for these DNA genealogy sites.

      5. Most likely. Although I wouldn’t extrapolate from NYC private schools. Given the well-known policies on legacy admissions to private schools, I’d assume the student body was quite likely to be more closely related to each other than the norm. You could probably trace the bulk of the families back to the “founding families” in the 19th century for each school.

      6. Re Scandinavian: I have demonstrated Swedish ancestry (my GG-GF) yet have 0% Scandinavian in my latest Ancestry ethnicity estimate. My sister tests with 2% Swedish ancestry. (Suffice it to say, I have demonstrated DNA matches with this ancestor via other cousins.)

        I have watched with some regret the changing Ancestry ethnicity estimates of one of my “cousins” who shares this ancestor. Allegedly. He started off as 25% Scandinavian and proudly identified himself as a Swede, and his Swedish cousin came over to the US for a visit. (The GG-GF in question had 2 wives; I’m descended from the first Irish wife, and he is “descended” from the second Swedish wife, who is the ancestor of the Swedish cousin.) Anyway, to make a long story short, I am pretty sure that is mother lied to him about who his father was (she lied twice, but that’s part of the long story) and his real father is Puerto Rican not Italian/Swedish. His list of ethnicities in his DNA ethnicity estimate is substantial. He’s now got 15% Portugal. Portugal?! Yes, apparently Portuguese immigrated to Puerto Rico. And he has about 6% various African ethnicities. You can usually tell Puerto Rican by the mix of Iberian (Spanish/Portuguese), Native American and African. Also, for him, he has a first cousin DNA match who lives in Puerto Rico. I’ve traced some of her uncles to living near his mother in New Jersey. I also haven’t told him this yet. He is so invested in the idea of being descended from my GG-GF (Swedish immigrant, Civil War vet), and he loves his new Italian/Swedish cousins, who have embraced him as family.

      7. Tulip, re being contacted by someone:
        I work* a lot with people who are looking for their biological parents or grandparents. It’s a gift to them to help them find answers. They do not necessarily want relationships, but they want to know. They want to understand why they don’t look like their family members. They didn’t ask for this uncertainty in their lives. No one owes anyone a relationship, but I do think there is an ethical obligation to help others with information. So if you are contacted, be kind to the people contacting you.

        *By work I mean that I volunteer to help, but I approach it as a kind of work. I’ve been thinking about turning it into a side gig for money, but maybe next summer. Ethnicity estimates can be a great help in finding biological family. One of the projects I was working on this summer was to locate one missing great-grandmother. There’s some leftover Irish in the ethnicity estimate, so I am assuming that’s her but damned if I can figure out which Irish American woman in the Albany area she is. It helps when you’re trying to narrow down possibilities. In another case of a similarly missing GGM, we know she’s French Canadian and probably she or her mother has the last name of Thibodeau. We only know that from DNA matches/ethnicity estimates.

      8. Wendy, I am on that website with great reluctance. I disagree that the desires of people (to know why they don’t look like their parents etc) who have registered there override mine to be left alone. Despite your claims that people just want information, my sister has been contacted (she asked for it) by people who insist “we’re cousins” and want to share pictures. You are wrong. They are creepy, creeeeppyy.

        Stop telling women that they need to be nice (or ‘kind’) to creepy people.

    3. y81 said,

      “I could think of various explanations, including mistake, or a previously unknown black ancestor among the small Southern portion of my ancestry, or a random black person in early modern Europe (there were a few).”

      Right. Pushkin (the great 19th century Russian poet) famously had an African ancestor who was gifted to Peter the Great and eventually became a general and a serf-owner himself, eventually becoming Pushkin’s great-grandfather.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abram_Petrovich_Gannibal

      It sounds like there was a bit of a fad for Africans at the European courts.

  7. Well, look. If her DNA test is the standard, then I should be able to claim I am an African-American woman. My employer would be thrilled to be able to say they has and African-American in my position.

    My making that claim would be wrong. Warren is wrong. Just because she’s been doing it for a long time doesn’t make it right. She’s wrong and she owes the Cherokees an apology. They have been telling her to stop claiming to be Cherokee for a long time as well. Her test doesn’t show she is Cherokee, by the way.

    1. The Boston Globe has a very extensive look at the issue here:
      https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2018/09/01/did-claiming-native-american-heritage-actually-help-elizabeth-warren-get-ahead-but-complicated/wUZZcrKKEOUv5Spnb7IO0K/story.html

      There is a difference between claiming Native American ancestry and claiming to be Native American. Warren seems to have claimed to be Native American for a short time during a weird period in academia where ethnic background was a poorly understood currency. That said, the Boston Globe convincingly demonstrates that whatever Warren said about her ethnic background did not play a part in her hiring at any institution.

      No DNA test shows that anyone is of a particular tribe. No Cherokee proves through DNA tests that they are Cherokee.

      I recommend reading the genetic genealogists on the topic. Roberta Estes as an explainer on her blog: https://dna-explained.com/2018/10/16/elizabeth-warrens-native-american-dna-results-what-they-mean/

      1. I said her claim didn’t help her get the job. The problem I have with her claims is it lets Harvard off the hook. You are giving her an extremely generous reading. I am not so inclined and neither is the Cherokee nation.

  8. “There is a difference between claiming Native American ancestry and claiming to be Native American.” That’s a good characterization, and, 23 & me has done an analysis for African — and says that something like 3-4% of Americans who identify themselves as white, and have no known ancestor from sub-saharan Africa have some detectable African ancestry, dating back some 200 years (that is, not from ancient common ancestors). I couldn’t find a similar analysis for Cherokee (i.e. the percent of White Americans with traceable Cherokee ancestry), but it would be interesting to see.

    And, looking white doesn’t preclude ancestry from other races, because which genes you get is pretty random (hence the twins where one “looks black, the other white”). And, “looks” is part of the social construct, based on which characteristics one chooses to focus on.

    I refuse to talk about the ridiculous argument about Warren’s ancestry, except to note that I believe that Trump owes the charity of Senator Warren’s choice a million dollars. If I were her, I’d pick the ACLU Foundation.

    1. bj said,

      “I refuse to talk about the ridiculous argument about Warren’s ancestry, except to note that I believe that Trump owes the charity of Senator Warren’s choice a million dollars. If I were her, I’d pick the ACLU Foundation.”

      I like the twitter suggestion to give 1/1024th of the promised amount.

      1. “I like the twitter suggestion to give 1/1024th of the promised amount.”

        But that’s not what he said. But anyone who ever expected Trump to keep a promise was a moron, so the whole point is moot.

        I’d ask for a donation to Planned Parenthood or the Native American Rights Fund.

      2. But the Trump statement was, I promise you I’ll do this: I will take, you know those little kits they sell on television… learn your heritage!”

        “A guy says he was born in Scotland, turns out h was born in Puerto Rico, that’s okay, that’s good, you know. A guy ways he was born in Germany, he was born someplace else.”

        “And in the middle of the debate, when she proclaims that she is of Indian heritage because her mother said she has high cheek bones, that is her only evidence, her mother said we have high cheek bones,” Trump continued.

        “We will take that little kit — but we have to do it gently. Because we’re in the #MeToo generation, we have to do it gently,” the president trolled. And we will very genlty take that kit, and slowly toss it, hoping it doesn’t injure her arm, and we will say: I will give you a million dollars to your favorite charity, paid for by Trump, if you take the test and it shows you’re an Indian.”https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2018/07/05/trump_offers_1_million_for_pocahontas_elizabeth_warren_to_take_dna_test.html

        So, she took a test, but the interpretation is from a professor, not from one of the commercial outfits. And the results do not show “you’re an Indian.”

        It’s possible her team submitted a sample to a commercial service, but it did not report any Native American ancestry. Here’s a few answers from 23andme’s FAQ for disappointed clients:

        There are a few common reasons why you may not see the Native American population in your Ancestry Composition results:

        If your most recent Native American ancestor was more than five generations ago, you may have inherited little or no DNA directly from them. The farther back in your history you look, the less likely you are to have inherited DNA directly from every single one of your ancestors. This means that you can be directly descended from a Native American without having any Native American DNA.
        Your Native American ancestry may be assigned to the Broadly East Asian & Native American population. Even using state-of-the-art science, the Native American and East Asian populations are genetically similar, and sometimes they can’t be distinguished from each other with high confidence.

      3. “So, she took a test, but the interpretation is from a professor, not from one of the commercial outfits. And the results do not show “you’re an Indian.”

        Oh, I wanted to address this.

        Bustamante works with Ancestry as a consultant and also, according to Cece Moore, has worked with her on Finding Your Roots.

        Warren seems *not* to have gone the route of simply spitting into a tube and mailing in her test. There are actually decent reasons for choosing not to do it that way if you have the proivilege/connections. She probably contacted Ancestry directly, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Gates didn’t give some help in directing her to the right person because of their Harvard connection.

        Ancestry probably then went to Bustamante and said they had a special case for him to look at. He says they didn’t tell him the person’s name. If I were him I might have guessed it was Warren, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they have a lot of VIP testing requests so it’s possible he really had no idea. If you’re a celeb/well-known in some way, you really don’t want your name or even your pseudonym up on some genealogy site. I can usually get enough info even on people who have pseudonyms and no trees to make good guesses on who they are.

        The genetic genealogist groups I’ve been on are getting really pissy about Bustamante’s professionalism being questioned and the politicization of this. It’s all about the SCIENCE.

      4. “Wendy, are you turning genealogy into a side gig? ”

        Thinking about it. The weird thing is the ethics of it. Weirdly, Tulip’s concerns about creepy requests for photos are the least of it. What is happening is an intervention into and revisiting of the past for people who never expected to have to deal with it again. They acted as they did not knowing that DNA testing would exist in their lifetimes. Perhaps they would have made different choices if they’d known. Or maybe not. But as I said, I think the children* are innocent, and I lean towards their rights to know the truth.
        *By children, I mean the adults who are the children born of these premarital or extramarital relationships.

  9. bj,

    I grew up in easy commuting distance of several different WA tribes, went to a school with a lot of American Indians, and in that environment, one just naturally picks up information about how the tribes operate with regard to membership. You just learn it by osmosis.

    Elizabeth Warren is from Oklahoma. She knew better than to claim to be Native American professionally–but she did it anyway. The stuff she did in the 1980s and 1990s is right on par with Donald Trump’s various silly lies about his personal accomplishments.

    1. “The stuff she did in the 1980s and 1990s is right on par with Donald Trump’s various silly lies about his personal accomplishments.”

      Warren admits she was wrong to do that now. Trump continues with his silly lies and doubles down on them repeatedly.

      1. Was that before or after she refused to meet any representatives from the Cherokee nation? Of course, that wasn’t in the 1980s or 1990s, it was much more recently.

    2. Yes, I am quite familiar with the rules as well, and have sitting on my desk a from for claiming Indian registration (for school purposes) — and, no I didn’t fill it out, though I did briefly wonder why they were keeping track of that :-). Seattle Public School’s new superintendent is a Blackfeet Indian. She looks white, as far as I can tell, but, she graduated from a high school on the Blackfeet reservation.

      No, Elizabeth Warren’s claims about Native American ancestry, are no where in the same league as the tax fraud the Trump family committed to transfer wealth to Donald Trump.

  10. O, I’m not extrapolating from the NYC private schools: that’s just an application. (And few of the girls have 19th century ancestors in common, it’s usually 17th century.) If you want to see the math, the Puritan Migration was 10-plus generations ago and involved about 8000 heads of household. There was little migration to New England for several centuries thereafter, but a very high birthrate. Ten generations is 1024 ancestors, and one-eighth of that is 128. If A and B each have 128 randomly-selected ancestors of a pool of 8000 candidates, the chance that they have one in common is: 1-[(7872/8000)^128]=.87. So there is an 87 percent chance that A and B are related.

    1. That’s assuming consistent intermarriage within the pool, isn’t it?

      But yeah, it sounds like you should get pretty high numbers.

    2. It’s also assuming that the Puritan markers were conveyed through the generations, which is random. The 23 & me folks make a point of saying that the absence of a native american marker gene does not mean that you do not have native american ancestry, because you might have just not inherited the gene variant that’s being tracked.

      1. “The 23 & me folks make a point of saying that the absence of a native american marker gene does not mean that you do not have native american ancestry, because you might have just not inherited the gene variant that’s being tracked.”

        Exactly. But you also have to think about DNA as like a jar of sand. If you have 2 people procreate, the child gets 1/2 their DNA sand from each person. Every time you put new DNA sand into the “jar,” some of that sand has to be taken out, and it doesn’t happen in an entirely orderly way. For every bit of sand that goes in, one *has* to come out. You can’t just expand the jar to fit more sand.

        Warren has been tested with the best science we have right now, and in the future, we may know more and there might be a new understanding of her DNA and what it’s telling us. But that doesn’t mean she lied or anyone lied. We do what we can with what we have.

    3. “Ten generations is 1024 ancestors”

      Btw, the 1/1024 refers to this. That’s different from how much DNA she shares.

      If you have 23andMe and look at the percentage of DNA you share with cousins, it’s instructive and can put things in perspective. For example, here is a 4th cousin of mine: https://imgur.com/CekI6Iw We know how we are related. But notice how we share .55% DNA. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren has .35% DNA. That should put into perspective how close Warren’s family story is to being true.

      6 to 10 generations back means that anywhere from 1/64 to 1/1024 of Warren’s ancestors is Native American. Carolyn and I share 2 of 64 (Thomas and Margaret Kelly, in case you’re wondering :D).

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